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The Pickwick Papers 136







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his back to the wall, in order that he mightnt be able to fancy there was any one behind him--"I cant make it out," said he; and just then his eyes rested on the little closet that had been always locked up, and a shudder ran through his whole frame from top to toe. "I have felt this strange feeling before," said he, "I cannot help thinking theres something wrong about that closet." He made a strong effort, plucked up his courage, shivered the lock with a blow or two of the poker, opened the door, and there, sure enough, standing bolt upright in the corner, was the last tenant, with a little bottle clasped firmly in his hand, and his face--well! As the little old man concluded, he looked round on the attentive faces of his wondering auditory with a smile of grim delight. What strange things these are you tell us of, Sir, said Mr. Pickwick, minutely scanning the old mans countenance, by the aid of his glasses. Strange! said the little old man. Nonsense; you think them strange, because you know nothing about it. They are funny, but not uncommon. Funny! exclaimed Mr. Pickwick involuntarily. Yes, funny, are they not? replied the little old man, with a diabolical leer; and then, without pausing for an answer, he continued-- I knew another man--let me see--forty years ago now--who took an old, damp, rotten set of chambers, in one of the most ancient inns, that had been shut up and empty for years and years before. There were lots of old womens stories about the place, and it certainly was very far from being a cheerful one; but he was poor, and the rooms were cheap, and that would have been quite a sufficient reason for him, if they had been ten times worse than they really were. He was obliged to take some mouldering fixtures that were on the place, and, among the rest, was a great lumbering wooden press for papers, with large glass doors, and a green curtain inside; a pretty useless thing for him, for he had no papers to put in it; and as to his clothes, he carried them about with him, and that wasnt very hard work, either. Well, he had moved in all his furniture--it wasnt quite a truck- full--and had sprinkled it about the room, so as to make the four chairs look as much like a dozen as possible, and was sitting down before the fire at night, drinking the first glass of two gallons of whisky he had ordered on credit, wondering whether it would ever be paid for, and if so, in how many years time, when his eyes encountered the glass doors of the wooden press. "Ah," says he, "if I hadnt been obliged to take that ugly article at the old brokers valuation, I might have got something comfortable for the money. Ill tell you what it is, old fellow," he said, speaking aloud to the press, having nothing else to speak to, "if it wouldnt cost more to break up your old carcass, than it would ever be worth afterward, Id have a fire out of you in less than no time." He had hardly spoken the words, when a sound resembling a faint groan, appeared to issue from the interior of the case. It startled him at first, but thinking, on a moments reflection, that it must be some young fellow in the next chamber, who had been dining out, he put his feet on the fender, and raised the poker to stir the fire. At that moment, the sound was repeated; and one of the glass doors slowly opening, disclosed a pale and emaciated figure in soiled and worn apparel, standing erect in the press. The figure was tall and thin, and the countenance expressive of care and anxiety; but there was something in the hue of the skin, and gaunt and unearthly appearance of the whole form, which no being of this world was ever seen to wear. "Who are you?" said the new tenant, turning very pale; poising the poker in his hand, however, and taking a very decent aim at the countenance of the figure. "Who are you?" "Dont throw that poker at me," replied the form; "if you hurled it with ever so sure an aim, it would pass through me, without resistance, and expend its force on the wood behind. I am a spirit." "And pray, what

The Pickwick Papers page 135        The Pickwick Papers page 137