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The Pickwick Papers 135







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and night after night, till their reason wandered beneath their midnight studies; till their mental powers were exhausted; till mornings light brought no freshness or health to them; and they sank beneath the unnatural devotion of their youthful energies to their dry old books? Coming down to a later time, and a very different day, what do YOU know of the gradual sinking beneath consumption, or the quick wasting of fever--the grand results of "life" and dissipation--which men have undergone in these same rooms? How many vain pleaders for mercy, do you think, have turned away heart-sick from the lawyers office, to find a resting-place in the Thames, or a refuge in the jail? They are no ordinary houses, those. There is not a panel in the old wainscotting, but what, if it were endowed with the powers of speech and memory, could start from the wall, and tell its tale of horror--the romance of life, Sir, the romance of life! Common- place as they may seem now, I tell you they are strange old places, and I would rather hear many a legend with a terrific- sounding name, than the true history of one old set of chambers. There was something so odd in the old mans sudden energy, and the subject which had called it forth, that Mr. Pickwick was prepared with no observation in reply; and the old man checking his impetuosity, and resuming the leer, which had disappeared during his previous excitement, said-- Look at them in another light--their most common-place and least romantic. What fine places of slow torture they are! Think of the needy man who has spent his all, beggared himself, and pinched his friends, to enter the profession, which is destined never to yield him a morsel of bread. The waiting--the hope-- the disappointment--the fear--the misery--the poverty--the blight on his hopes, and end to his career--the suicide perhaps, or the shabby, slipshod drunkard. Am I not right about them? And the old man rubbed his hands, and leered as if in delight at having found another point of view in which to place his favourite subject. Mr. Pickwick eyed the old man with great curiosity, and the remainder of the company smiled, and looked on in silence. Talk of your German universities, said the little old man. Pooh, pooh! theres romance enough at home without going half a mile for it; only people never think of it. I never thought of the romance of this particular subject before, certainly, said Mr. Pickwick, laughing. To be sure you didnt, said the little old man; of course not. As a friend of mine used to say to me, "What is there in chambers in particular?" "Queer old places," said I. "Not at all," said he. "Lonely," said I. "Not a bit of it," said he. He died one morning of apoplexy, as he was going to open his outer door. Fell with his head in his own letter-box, and there he lay for eighteen months. Everybody thought hed gone out of town. And how was he found out at last? inquired Mr. Pickwick. The benchers determined to have his door broken open, as he hadnt paid any rent for two years. So they did. Forced the lock; and a very dusty skeleton in a blue coat, black knee-shorts, and silks, fell forward in the arms of the porter who opened the door. Queer, that. Rather, perhaps; rather, eh?The little old man put his head more on one side, and rubbed his hands with unspeakable glee. I know another case, said the little old man, when his chuckles had in some degree subsided. It occurred in Cliffords Inn. Tenant of a top set--bad character--shut himself up in his bedroom closet, and took a dose of arsenic. The steward thought he had run away: opened the door, and put a bill up. Another man came, took the chambers, furnished them, and went to live there. Somehow or other he couldnt sleep--always restless and uncomfortable. "Odd," says he. "Ill make the other room my bedchamber, and this my sitting-room." He made the change, and slept very well at night, but suddenly found that, somehow, he couldnt read in the evening: he got nervous and uncomfortable, and used to be always snuffing his candles and staring about him. "I cant make this out," said he, when he came home from the play one night, and was drinking a glass of cold grog, with

The Pickwick Papers page 134        The Pickwick Papers page 136