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The Pickwick Papers 88







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The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf




Smart, would ever have been fit for service again. "Well, damn my straps and whiskers," says Tom Smart (Tom sometimes had an unpleasant knack of swearing)-- "damn my straps and whiskers," says Tom, "if this aint pleasant, blow me!" Youll very likely ask me why, as Tom Smart had been pretty well blown already, he expressed this wish to be submitted to the same process again. I cant say--all I know is, that Tom Smart said so--or at least he always told my uncle he said so, and its just the same thing. "Blow me," says Tom Smart; and the mare neighed as if she were precisely of the same opinion. "Cheer up, old girl," said Tom, patting the bay mare on the neck with the end of his whip. "It wont do pushing on, such a night as this; the first house we come to well put up at, so the faster you go the sooner its over. Soho, old girl--gently--gently." Whether the vixenish mare was sufficiently well acquainted with the tones of Toms voice to comprehend his meaning, or whether she found it colder standing still than moving on, of course I cant say. But I can say that Tom had no sooner finished speaking, than she pricked up her ears, and started forward at a speed which made the clay-coloured gig rattle until you would have supposed every one of the red spokes were going to fly out on the turf of Marlborough Downs; and even Tom, whip as he was, couldnt stop or check her pace, until she drew up of her own accord, before a roadside inn on the right-hand side of the way, about half a quarter of a mile from the end of the Downs. Tom cast a hasty glance at the upper part of the house as he threw the reins to the hostler, and stuck the whip in the box. It was a strange old place, built of a kind of shingle, inlaid, as it were, with cross-beams, with gabled-topped windows projecting completely over the pathway, and a low door with a dark porch, and a couple of steep steps leading down into the house, instead of the modern fashion of half a dozen shallow ones leading up to it. It was a comfortable-looking place though, for there was a strong, cheerful light in the bar window, which shed a bright ray across the road, and even lighted up the hedge on the other side; and there was a red flickering light in the opposite window, one moment but faintly discernible, and the next gleaming strongly through the drawn curtains, which intimated that a rousing fire was blazing within. Marking these little evidences with the eye of an experienced traveller, Tom dismounted with as much agility as his half-frozen limbs would permit, and entered the house. In less than five minutes time, Tom was ensconced in the room opposite the bar--the very room where he had imagined the fire blazing--before a substantial, matter-of-fact, roaring fire, composed of something short of a bushel of coals, and wood enough to make half a dozen decent gooseberry bushes, piled half-way up the chimney, and roaring and crackling with a sound that of itself would have warmed the heart of any reasonable man. This was comfortable, but this was not all; for a smartly-dressed girl, with a bright eye and a neat ankle, was laying a very clean white cloth on the table; and as Tom sat with his slippered feet on the fender, and his back to the open door, he saw a charming prospect of the bar reflected in the glass over the chimney-piece, with delightful rows of green bottles and gold labels, together with jars of pickles and preserves, and cheeses and boiled hams, and rounds of beef, arranged on shelves in the most tempting and delicious array. Well, this was comfortable too; but even this was not all--for in the bar, seated at tea at the nicest possible little table, drawn close up before the brightest possible little fire, was a buxom widow of somewhere about eight-and-forty or thereabouts, with a face as comfortable as the bar, who was evidently the landlady of the house, and the supreme ruler over all these agreeable possessions. There was only one drawback to the beauty of the whole picture, and that was a tall man--a very tall man--in a brown coat and bright basket buttons, and black whiskers and wavy black hair, who was seated at tea with the widow, and who it

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