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The Pickwick Papers 137







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The Pickwick Papers

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do you want here?" faltered the tenant. "In this room," replied the apparition, "my worldly ruin was worked, and I and my children beggared. In this press, the papers in a long, long suit, which accumulated for years, were deposited. In this room, when I had died of grief, and long-deferred hope, two wily harpies divided the wealth for which I had contested during a wretched existence, and of which, at last, not one farthing was left for my unhappy descendants. I terrified them from the spot, and since that day have prowled by night--the only period at which I can revisit the earth--about the scenes of my long-protracted misery. This apartment is mine: leave it to me." "If you insist upon making your appearance here," said the tenant, who had had time to collect his presence of mind during this prosy statement of the ghosts, "I shall give up possession with the greatest pleasure; but I should like to ask you one question, if you will allow me." "Say on," said the apparition sternly. "Well," said the tenant, "I dont apply the observation personally to you, because it is equally applicable to most of the ghosts I ever heard of; but it does appear to me somewhat inconsistent, that when you have an opportunity of visiting the fairest spots of earth--for I suppose space is nothing to you-- you should always return exactly to the very places where you have been most miserable." "Egad, thats very true; I never thought of that before," said the ghost. "You see, Sir," pursued the tenant, "this is a very uncomfortable room. From the appearance of that press, I should be disposed to say that it is not wholly free from bugs; and I really think you might find much more comfortable quarters: to say nothing of the climate of London, which is extremely disagreeable." "You are very right, Sir," said the ghost politely, "it never struck me till now; Ill try change of air directly"--and, in fact, he began to vanish as he spoke; his legs, indeed, had quite disappeared. "And if, Sir," said the tenant, calling after him, "if you WOULD have the goodness to suggest to the other ladies and gentlemen who are now engaged in haunting old empty houses, that they might be much more comfortable elsewhere, you will confer a very great benefit on society." "I will," replied the ghost; "we must be dull fellows-- very dull fellows, indeed; I cant imagine how we can have been so stupid." With these words, the spirit disappeared; and what is rather remarkable, added the old man, with a shrewd look round the table, he never came back again. That aint bad, if its true, said the man in the Mosaic studs, lighting a fresh cigar. IF! exclaimed the old man, with a look of excessive contempt. I suppose, he added, turning to Lowten, hell say next, that my story about the queer client we had, when I was in an attorneys office, is not true either--I shouldnt wonder. I shant venture to say anything at all about it, seeing that I never heard the story, observed the owner of the Mosaic decorations. I wish you would repeat it, Sir, said Mr. Pickwick. Ah, do, said Lowten, nobody has heard it but me, and I have nearly forgotten it. The old man looked round the table, and leered more horribly than ever, as if in triumph, at the attention which was depicted in every face. Then rubbing his chin with his hand, and looking up to the ceiling as if to recall the circumstances to his memory, he began as follows:-- THE OLD MANS TALE ABOUT THE QUEER CLIENT It matters little, said the old man, where, or how, I picked up this brief history. If I were to relate it in the order in which it reached me, I should commence in the middle, and when I had arrived at the conclusion, go back for a beginning. It is enough for me to say that some of its circumstances passed before my own eyes; for the remainder I know them to have happened, and there are some persons yet living, who will remember them but too well. In the Borough High Street, near St. Georges Church, and on the same side of the way, stands, as most people know, the smallest of our debtors prisons, the Marshalsea. Although in later times it has been a very different place

The Pickwick Papers page 136        The Pickwick Papers page 138