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The Pickwick Papers 86







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The Pickwick Papers

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say, it was a large, bare-looking room, the furniture of which had no doubt been better when it was newer, with a spacious table in the centre, and a variety of smaller dittos in the corners; an extensive assortment of variously shaped chairs, and an old Turkey carpet, bearing about the same relative proportion to the size of the room, as a ladys pocket-handkerchief might to the floor of a watch-box. The walls were garnished with one or two large maps; and several weather-beaten rough greatcoats, with complicated capes, dangled from a long row of pegs in one corner. The mantel-shelf was ornamented with a wooden inkstand, containing one stump of a pen and half a wafer; a road- book and directory; a county history minus the cover; and the mortal remains of a trout in a glass coffin. The atmosphere was redolent of tobacco-smoke, the fumes of which had communicated a rather dingy hue to the whole room, and more especially to the dusty red curtains which shaded the windows. On the sideboard a variety of miscellaneous articles were huddled together, the most conspicuous of which were some very cloudy fish-sauce cruets, a couple of driving-boxes, two or three whips, and as many travelling shawls, a tray of knives and forks, and the mustard. Here it was that Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass were seated on the evening after the conclusion of the election, with several other temporary inmates of the house, smoking and drinking. Well, gents, said a stout, hale personage of about forty, with only one eye--a very bright black eye, which twinkled with a roguish expression of fun and good-humour, our noble selves, gents. I always propose that toast to the company, and drink Mary to myself. Eh, Mary! Get along with you, you wretch, said the hand-maiden, obviously not ill-pleased with the compliment, however. Dont go away, Mary, said the black-eyed man. Let me alone, imperence, said the young lady. Never mind, said the one-eyed man, calling after the girl as she left the room. Ill step out by and by, Mary. Keep your spirits up, dear. Here he went through the not very difficult process of winking upon the company with his solitary eye, to the enthusiastic delight of an elderly personage with a dirty face and a clay pipe. Rum creeters is women, said the dirty-faced man, after a pause. Ah! no mistake about that, said a very red-faced man, behind a cigar. After this little bit of philosophy there was another pause. Theres rummer things than women in this world though, mind you, said the man with the black eye, slowly filling a large Dutch pipe, with a most capacious bowl. Are you married? inquired the dirty-faced man. Cant say I am. I thought not. Here the dirty-faced man fell into ecstasies of mirth at his own retort, in which he was joined by a man of bland voice and placid countenance, who always made it a point to agree with everybody. Women, after all, gentlemen, said the enthusiastic Mr. Snodgrass, are the great props and comforts of our existence. So they are, said the placid gentleman. When theyre in a good humour, interposed the dirty-faced man. And thats very true, said the placid one. I repudiate that qualification, said Mr. Snodgrass, whose thoughts were fast reverting to Emily Wardle. I repudiate it with disdain--with indignation. Show me the man who says anything against women, as women, and I boldly declare he is not a man. And Mr. Snodgrass took his cigar from his mouth, and struck the table violently with his clenched fist. Thats good sound argument, said the placid man. Containing a position which I deny, interrupted he of the dirty countenance. And theres certainly a very great deal of truth in what you observe too, Sir, said the placid gentleman. Your health, Sir, said the bagman with the lonely eye, bestowing an approving nod on Mr. Snodgrass. Mr. Snodgrass acknowledged the compliment. I always like to hear a good argument,continued the bagman, a sharp one, like this: its very improving; but this little argument about women brought to my mind a story I have heard an old uncle of mine tell, the recollection of which, just now, made me say there were rummer things than women to be met with, sometimes. I should like to hear that same story, said the red-faced man with the cigar. Should you? was the only reply of the bagman, who continued to smoke with great vehemence. So should I, said Mr. Tupman, speaking for the first time. He was always anxious to

The Pickwick Papers page 85        The Pickwick Papers page 87