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'Tom gazed at the chair; and, suddenly as he looked at it, a most extraordinary change seemed to come over it. The carving of the back gradually assumed the lineaments and expression of an old, shrivelled human face; the damask cushion became an antique, flapped waistcoat; the round knobs grew into a couple of feet, encased in red cloth slippers; and the whole chair looked like a very ugly old man, of the previous century, with his arms akimbo. Tom sat up in bed, and rubbed his eyes to dispel the illusion. No. The chair was an ugly old gentleman; and what was more, he was winking at Tom Smart.
'Tom was naturally a headlong, careless sort of dog, and he had had five tumblers of hot punch into the bargain; so, although he was a little startled at first, he began to grow rather indignant when he saw the old gentleman winking and leering at him with such an impudent air. At length he resolved that he wouldn't stand it; and as the old face still kept winking away as fast as ever, Tom said, in a very angry tone--
'"What the devil are you winking at me for?"
'"Because I like it, Tom Smart," said the chair; or the old gentleman, whichever you like to call him. He stopped winking though, when Tom spoke, and began grinning like a superannuated monkey.
'"How do you know my name, old nut-cracker face?" inquired Tom Smart, rather staggered; though he pretended to carry it off so well.
'"Come, come, Tom," said the old gentleman, "that's not the way to address solid Spanish mahogany. Damme, you couldn't treat me with less respect if I was veneered." When the old gentleman said this, he looked so fierce that Tom began to grow frightened.
'"I didn't mean to treat you with any disrespect, Sir," said Tom, in a much humbler tone than he had spoken in at first.
'"Well, well," said the old fellow, "perhaps not--perhaps not. Tom--"
'"I know everything about you, Tom; everything. You're very poor, Tom."
'"I certainly am," said Tom Smart. "But how came you to know that?"
'"Never mind that," said the old gentleman; "you're much too fond of punch, Tom."
'Tom Smart was just on the point of protesting that he hadn't tasted a drop since his last birthday, but when his eye encountered that of the old gentleman he looked so knowing that Tom blushed, and was silent.
'"Tom," said the old gentleman, "the widow's a fine woman-- remarkably fine woman--eh, Tom?" Here the old fellow screwed up his eyes, cocked up one of his wasted little legs, and looked altogether so unpleasantly amorous, that Tom was quite disgusted with the levity of his behaviour--at his time of life, too! '"I am her guardian, Tom," said the old gentleman.
'"Are you?" inquired Tom Smart.
'"I knew her mother, Tom," said the old fellow: "and her grandmother. She was very fond of me--made me this waistcoat, Tom."
'"Did she?" said Tom Smart.
'"And these shoes," said the old fellow, lifting up one of the red cloth mufflers; "but don't mention it, Tom. I shouldn't like to have it known that she was so much attached to me. It might occasion some unpleasantness in the family." When the old rascal said this, he looked so extremely impertinent, that, as Tom Smart afterwards declared, he could have sat upon him without remorse.
'"I have been a great favourite among the women in my time, Tom," said the profligate old debauchee; "hundreds of fine women have sat in my lap for hours together. What do you think of that, you dog, eh!" The old gentleman was proceeding to recount some other exploits of his youth, when he was seized with such a violent fit of creaking that he was unable to proceed.
'"Just serves you right, old boy," thought Tom Smart; but he didn't say anything.
'"Ah!" said the old fellow, "I am a good deal troubled with this now. I am getting old, Tom, and have lost nearly all my rails. I have had an operation performed, too--a small piece let into my back--and I found it a severe trial, Tom."
'"I dare say you did, Sir," said Tom Smart.
'"However," said the old gentleman, "that's not the point. Tom! I want you to marry the widow."
'"Me, Sir!" said Tom.
'"You," said the old gentleman.
'"Bless your reverend locks," said Tom (he had a few scattered horse-hairs left)--"bless your reverend locks, she wouldn't have me." And Tom sighed involuntarily, as he thought of the bar.
'"Wouldn't she?" said the old gentleman firmly.
'"No, no," said Tom; "there's somebody else in the wind. A tall man--a confoundedly tall man--with black whiskers."
'"Tom," said the old gentleman; "she will never have him."
'"Won't she?" said Tom. "If you stood in the bar, old gentleman, you'd tell another story." '"Pooh, pooh," said the old gentleman. "I know all about that. "
'"About what?" said Tom.
'"The kissing behind the door, and all that sort of thing, Tom," said the old gentleman. And here he gave another impudent look, which made Tom very wroth, because as you all know, gentlemen, to hear an old fellow, who ought to know better, talking about these things, is very unpleasant--nothing more so.
'"I know all about that, Tom," said the old gentleman. "I have seen it done very often in my time, Tom, between more people than I should like to mention to you; but it never came to anything after all."
'"You must have seen some queer things," said Tom, with an inquisitive look.
'"You may say that, Tom," replied the old fellow, with a very complicated wink. "I am the last of my family, Tom," said the old gentleman, with a melancholy sigh.
'"Was it a large one?" inquired Tom Smart.
'"There were twelve of us, Tom," said the old gentleman; "fine, straight-backed, handsome fellows as you'd wish to see. None of your modern abortions--all with arms, and with a degree of polish, though I say it that should not, which it would have done your heart good to behold."
'"And what's become of the others, Sir?" asked Tom Smart--
'The old gentleman applied his elbow to his eye as he replied, "Gone, Tom, gone. We had hard service, Tom, and they hadn't all my constitution. They got rheumatic about the legs and arms, and went into kitchens and other hospitals; and one of 'em, with long service and hard usage, positively lost his senses--he got so crazy that he was obliged to be burnt. Shocking thing that, Tom."
'"Dreadful!" said Tom Smart.
'The old fellow paused for a few minutes, apparently struggling with his feelings of emotion, and then said--
'"However, Tom, I am wandering from the point. This tall man, Tom, is a rascally adventurer. The moment he married 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 broker's shop."
'"Don't 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."
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The Pickwick Papers -- by Charles Dickens