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The Pickwick Papers 92







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the widow, he would sell off all the furniture, and run away. What would be the consequence? She would be deserted and reduced to ruin, and I should catch my death of cold in some brokers shop." "Yes, but--" "Dont interrupt me," said the old gentleman. "Of you, Tom, I entertain a very different opinion; for I well know that if you once settled yourself in a public-house, you would never leave it, as long as there was anything to drink within its walls." "I am very much obliged to you for your good opinion, Sir," said Tom Smart. "Therefore," resumed the old gentleman, in a dictatorial tone, "you shall have her, and he shall not." "What is to prevent it?" said Tom Smart eagerly. "This disclosure," replied the old gentleman; "he is already married." "How can I prove it?" said Tom, starting half out of bed. The old gentleman untucked his arm from his side, and having pointed to one of the oaken presses, immediately replaced it, in its old position. "He little thinks," said the old gentleman, "that in the right- hand pocket of a pair of trousers in that press, he has left a letter, entreating him to return to his disconsolate wife, with six--mark me, Tom--six babes, and all of them small ones." As the old gentleman solemnly uttered these words, his features grew less and less distinct, and his figure more shadowy. A film came over Tom Smarts eyes. The old man seemed gradually blending into the chair, the damask waistcoat to resolve into a cushion, the red slippers to shrink into little red cloth bags. The light faded gently away, and Tom Smart fell back on his pillow, and dropped asleep. Morning aroused Tom from the lethargic slumber, into which he had fallen on the disappearance of the old man. He sat up in bed, and for some minutes vainly endeavoured to recall the events of the preceding night. Suddenly they rushed upon him. He looked at the chair; it was a fantastic and grim-looking piece of furniture, certainly, but it must have been a remarkably ingenious and lively imagination, that could have discovered any resemblance between it and an old man. "How are you, old boy?" said Tom. He was bolder in the daylight--most men are. The chair remained motionless, and spoke not a word. "Miserable morning," said Tom. No. The chair would not be drawn into conversation. "Which press did you point to?--you can tell me that," said Tom. Devil a word, gentlemen, the chair would say. "Its not much trouble to open it, anyhow," said Tom, getting out of bed very deliberately. He walked up to one of the presses. The key was in the lock; he turned it, and opened the door. There was a pair of trousers there. He put his hand into the pocket, and drew forth the identical letter the old gentleman had described! "Queer sort of thing, this," said Tom Smart, looking first at the chair and then at the press, and then at the letter, and then at the chair again. "Very queer," said Tom. But, as there was nothing in either, to lessen the queerness, he thought he might as well dress himself, and settle the tall mans business at once-- just to put him out of his misery. Tom surveyed the rooms he passed through, on his way downstairs, with the scrutinising eye of a landlord; thinking it not impossible, that before long, they and their contents would be his property. The tall man was standing in the snug little bar, with his hands behind him, quite at home. He grinned vacantly at Tom. A casual observer might have supposed he did it, only to show his white teeth; but Tom Smart thought that a consciousness of triumph was passing through the place where the tall mans mind would have been, if he had had any. Tom laughed in his face; and summoned the landlady. "Good-morning maam," said Tom Smart, closing the door of the little parlour as the widow entered. "Good-morning, Sir," said the widow. "What will you take for breakfast, sir?" Tom was thinking how he should open the case, so he made no answer. "Theres a very nice ham," said the widow, "and a beautiful cold larded fowl. Shall I send em in, Sir?" These words roused Tom from his reflections. His admiration of the widow increased as she spoke. Thoughtful creature! Comfortable provider! "Who is that gentleman in the bar, maam?" inquired

The Pickwick Papers page 91        The Pickwick Papers page 93