|Back||1 2 3 4 5 6||Next|
"I hope number two's as good?" snarls the old man.
"Why, no. It's more of a selfish reason. If I had found him, I must have gone to the other world to look. He was there."
"How do you know he was there?"
"He wasn't here."
"How do you know he wasn't here?"
"Don't lose your temper as well as your money," says Mr. George, calmly knocking the ashes out of his pipe. "He was drowned long before. I am convinced of it. He went over a ship's side. Whether intentionally or accidentally, I don't know. Perhaps your friend in the city does. Do you know what that tune is, Mr. Smallweed?" he adds after breaking off to whistle one, accompanied on the table with the empty pipe.
"Tune!" replied the old man. "No. We never have tunes here."
"That's the Dead March in Saul. They bury soldiers to it, so it's the natural end of the subject. Now, if your pretty granddaughter --excuse me, miss--will condescend to take care of this pipe for two months, we shall save the cost of one next time. Good evening, Mr. Smallweed!"
"My dear friend!" the old man gives him both his hands.
"So you think your friend in the city will be hard upon me if I fall in a payment?" says the trooper, looking down upon him like a giant.
"My dear friend, I am afraid he will," returns the old man, looking up at him like a pygmy.
Mr. George laughs, and with a glance at Mr. Smallweed and a parting salutation to the scornful Judy, strides out of the parlour, clashing imaginary sabres and other metallic appurtenances as he goes.
"You're a damned rogue," says the old gentleman, making a hideous grimace at the door as he shuts it. "But I'll lime you, you dog, I'll lime you!"
After this amiable remark, his spirit soars into those enchanting regions of reflection which its education and pursuits have opened to it, and again he and Mrs. Smallweed while away the rosy hours, two unrelieved sentinels forgotten as aforesaid by the Black Serjeant.
While the twain are faithful to their post, Mr. George strides through the streets with a massive kind of swagger and a grave- enough face. It is eight o'clock now, and the day is fast drawing in. He stops hard by Waterloo Bridge and reads a playbill, decides to go to Astley's Theatre. Being there, is much delighted with the horses and the feats of strength; looks at the weapons with a critical eye; disapproves of the combats as giving evidences of unskilful swordsmanship; but is touched home by the sentiments. In the last scene, when the Emperor of Tartary gets up into a cart and condescends to bless the united lovers by hovering over them with the Union Jack, his eyelashes are moistened with emotion.
The theatre over, Mr. George comes across the water again and makes his way to that curious region lying about the Haymarket and Leicester Square which is a centre of attraction to indifferent foreign hotels and indifferent foreigners, racket-courts, fighting- men, swordsmen, footguards, old china, gaming-houses, exhibitions, and a large medley of shabbiness and shrinking out of sight. Penetrating to the heart of this region, he arrives by a court and a long whitewashed passage at a great brick building composed of bare walls, floors, roof-rafters, and skylights, on the front of which, if it can be said to have any front, is painted GEORGE'S SHOOTING GALLERY, &c.
Into George's Shooting Gallery, &c., he goes; and in it there are gaslights (partly turned off now), and two whitened targets for rifle-shooting, and archery accommodation, and fencing appliances, and all necessaries for the British art of boxing. None of these sports or exercises being pursued in George's Shooting Gallery to- night, which is so devoid of company that a little grotesque man with a large head has it all to himself and lies asleep upon the floor.
The little man is dressed something like a gunsmith, in a green- baize apron and cap; and his face and hands are dirty with gunpowder and begrimed with the loading of guns. As he lies in the light before a glaring white target, the black upon him shines again. Not far off is the strong, rough, primitive table with a vice upon it at which he has been working. He is a little man with a face all crushed together, who appears, from a certain blue and speckled appearance that one of his cheeks presents, to have been blown up, in the way of business, at some odd time or times.
"Phil!" says the trooper in a quiet voice.
"All right!" cries Phil, scrambling to his feet.
"Anything been doing?"
"Flat as ever so much swipes," says Phil. "Five dozen rifle and a dozen pistol. As to aim!" Phil gives a howl at the recollection.
"Shut up shop, Phil!"
As Phil moves about to execute this order, it appears that he is lame, though able to move very quickly. On the speckled side of his face he has no eyebrow, and on the other side he has a bushy black one, which want of uniformity gives him a very singular and rather sinister appearance. Everything seems to have happened to his hands that could possibly take place consistently with the retention of all the fingers, for they are notched, and seamed, and crumpled all over. He appears to be very strong and lifts heavy benches about as if he had no idea what weight was. He has a curious way of limping round the gallery with his shoulder against the wall and tacking off at objects he wants to lay hold of instead of going straight to them, which has left a smear all round the four walls, conventionally called "Phil's mark."
This custodian of George's Gallery in George's absence concludes his proceedings, when he has locked the great doors and turned out all the lights but one, which he leaves to glimmer, by dragging out from a wooden cabin in a corner two mattresses and bedding. These being drawn to opposite ends of the gallery, the trooper makes his own bed and Phil makes his.
"Phil!" says the master, walking towards him without his coat and waistcoat, and looking more soldierly than ever in his braces. "You were found in a doorway, weren't you?"
"Gutter," says Phil. "Watchman tumbled over me."
"Then vagabondizing came natural to you from the beginning."
"As nat'ral as possible," says Phil.
"Good night, guv'ner."
Phil cannot even go straight to bed, but finds it necessary to shoulder round two sides of the gallery and then tack off at his mattress. The trooper, after taking a turn or two in the rifle- distance and looking up at the moon now shining through the skylights, strides to his own mattress by a shorter route and goes to bed too.
|Back||1 2 3 4 5 6||Next|
Bleak House -- by Charles DickensBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.