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The Pickwick Papers 276







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last year or two of his life. Opposite him, engaged in stirring the fire with the toe of his right boot, was a coarse, vulgar young man of about thirty, with a sallow face and harsh voice; evidently possessed of that knowledge of the world, and captivating freedom of manner, which is to be acquired in public-house parlours, and at low billiard tables. The third tenant of the apartment was a middle-aged man in a very old suit of black, who looked pale and haggard, and paced up and down the room incessantly; stopping, now and then, to look with great anxiety out of the window as if he expected somebody, and then resuming his walk. Youd better have the loan of my razor this morning, Mr. Ayresleigh, said the man who was stirring the fire, tipping the wink to his friend the boy. Thank you, no, I shant want it; I expect I shall be out, in the course of an hour or so, replied the other in a hurried manner. Then, walking again up to the window, and once more returning disappointed, he sighed deeply, and left the room; upon which the other two burst into a loud laugh. Well, I never saw such a game as that, said the gentleman who had offered the razor, whose name appeared to be Price. Never! Mr. Price confirmed the assertion with an oath, and then laughed again, when of course the boy (who thought his companion one of the most dashing fellows alive) laughed also. Youd hardly think, would you now, said Price, turning towards Mr. Pickwick, that that chaps been here a week yesterday, and never once shaved himself yet, because he feels so certain hes going out in half an hours time, thinks he may as well put it off till he gets home? Poor man! said Mr. Pickwick. Are his chances of getting out of his difficulties really so great? Chances be d--d, replied Price; he hasnt half the ghost of one. I wouldnt give THAT for his chance of walking about the streets this time ten years. With this, Mr. Price snapped his fingers contemptuously, and rang the bell. Give me a sheet of paper, Crookey, said Mr. Price to the attendant, who in dress and general appearance looked something between a bankrupt glazier, and a drover in a state of insolvency; and a glass of brandy-and-water, Crookey, dye hear? Im going to write to my father, and I must have a stimulant, or I shant be able to pitch it strong enough into the old boy. At this facetious speech, the young boy, it is almost needless to say, was fairly convulsed. Thats right, said Mr. Price. Never say die. All fun, aint it? Prime! said the young gentleman. Youve got some spirit about you, you have, said Price. Youve seen something of life. I rather think I have! replied the boy. He had looked at it through the dirty panes of glass in a bar door. Mr. Pickwick, feeling not a little disgusted with this dialogue, as well as with the air and manner of the two beings by whom it had been carried on, was about to inquire whether he could not be accommodated with a private sitting-room, when two or three strangers of genteel appearance entered, at sight of whom the boy threw his cigar into the fire, and whispering to Mr. Price that they had come to make it all right for him, joined them at a table in the farther end of the room. It would appear, however, that matters were not going to be made all right quite so speedily as the young gentleman anticipated; for a very long conversation ensued, of which Mr. Pickwick could not avoid hearing certain angry fragments regarding dissolute conduct, and repeated forgiveness. At last, there were very distinct allusions made by the oldest gentleman of the party to one Whitecross Street, at which the young gentleman, notwithstanding his primeness and his spirit, and his knowledge of life into the bargain, reclined his head upon the table, and howled dismally. Very much satisfied with this sudden bringing down of the youths valour, and this effectual lowering of his tone, Mr. Pickwick rang the bell, and was shown, at his own request, into a private room furnished with a carpet, table, chairs, sideboard and sofa, and ornamented with a looking-glass, and various old prints. Here he had the advantage of hearing Mrs. Nambys performance on a square piano overhead, while the breakfast was getting ready; when

The Pickwick Papers page 275        The Pickwick Papers page 277