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'Vy,' responded the factotum, 'it's one of the rummiest rigs you ever heard on. He come in here last Vensday, which by-the-bye he's a-going over the water to-night - hows'ever that's neither here nor there. You see I've been a going back'ards and for'ards about his business, and ha' managed to pick up some of his story from the servants and them; and so far as I can make it out, it seems to be summat to this here effect - '
'Cut it short, old fellow,' interrupted Walker, who knew from former experience that he of the top-boots was neither very concise nor intelligible in his narratives.
'Let me alone,' replied Ikey, 'and I'll ha' wound up, and made my lucky in five seconds. This here young gen'lm'n's father - so I'm told, mind ye - and the father o' the young voman, have always been on very bad, out-and-out, rig'lar knock-me-down sort o' terms; but somehow or another, when he was a wisitin' at some gentlefolk's house, as he knowed at college, he came into contract with the young lady. He seed her several times, and then he up and said he'd keep company with her, if so be as she vos agreeable. Vell, she vos as sweet upon him as he vos upon her, and so I s'pose they made it all right; for they got married 'bout six months arterwards, unbeknown, mind ye, to the two fathers - leastways so I'm told. When they heard on it - my eyes, there was such a combustion! Starvation vos the very least that vos to be done to 'em. The young gen'lm'n's father cut him off vith a bob, 'cos he'd cut himself off vith a wife; and the young lady's father he behaved even worser and more unnat'ral, for he not only blow'd her up dreadful, and swore he'd never see her again, but he employed a chap as I knows - and as you knows, Mr. Valker, a precious sight too well - to go about and buy up the bills and them things on which the young husband, thinking his governor 'ud come round agin, had raised the vind just to blow himself on vith for a time; besides vich, he made all the interest he could to set other people agin him. Consequence vos, that he paid as long as he could; but things he never expected to have to meet till he'd had time to turn himself round, come fast upon him, and he vos nabbed. He vos brought here, as I said afore, last Vensday, and I think there's about - ah, half-a-dozen detainers agin him down-stairs now. I have been,' added Ikey, 'in the purfession these fifteen year, and I never met vith such windictiveness afore!'
'Poor creeturs!' exclaimed the coal-dealer's wife once more: again resorting to the same excellent prescription for nipping a sigh in the bud. 'Ah! when they've seen as much trouble as I and my old man here have, they'll be as comfortable under it as we are.'
'The young lady's a pretty creature,' said Walker, 'only she's a little too delicate for my taste - there ain't enough of her. As to the young cove, he may be very respectable and what not, but he's too down in the mouth for me - he ain't game.'
'Game!' exclaimed Ikey, who had been altering the position of a green-handled knife and fork at least a dozen times, in order that he might remain in the room under the pretext of having something to do. 'He's game enough ven there's anything to be fierce about; but who could be game as you call it, Mr. Walker, with a pale young creetur like that, hanging about him? - It's enough to drive any man's heart into his boots to see 'em together - and no mistake at all about it. I never shall forget her first comin' here; he wrote to her on the Thursday to come - I know he did, 'cos I took the letter. Uncommon fidgety he was all day to be sure, and in the evening he goes down into the office, and he says to Jacobs, says he, "Sir, can I have the loan of a private room for a few minutes this evening, without incurring any additional expense - just to see my wife in?" says he. Jacobs looked as much as to say - "Strike me bountiful if you ain't one of the modest sort!" but as the gen'lm'n who had been in the back parlour had just gone out, and had paid for it for that day, he says - werry grave - "Sir," says he, "it's agin our rules to let private rooms to our lodgers on gratis terms, but," says he, "for a gentleman, I don't mind breaking through them for once." So then he turns round to me, and says, "Ikey, put two mould candles in the back parlour, and charge 'em to this gen'lm'n's account," vich I did. Vell, by-and-by a hackney-coach comes up to the door, and there, sure enough, was the young lady, wrapped up in a hopera-cloak, as it might be, and all alone. I opened the gate that night, so I went up when the coach come, and he vos a waitin' at the parlour door - and wasn't he a trembling, neither? The poor creetur see him, and could hardly walk to meet him. "Oh, Harry!" she says, "that it should have come to this; and all for my sake," says she, putting her hand upon his shoulder. So he puts his arm round her pretty little waist, and leading her gently a little way into the room, so that he might be able to shut the door, he says, so kind and soft-like - "Why, Kate," says he - '
'Here's the gentleman you want,' said Ikey, abruptly breaking off in his story, and introducing Mr. Gabriel Parsons to the crest- fallen Watkins Tottle, who at that moment entered the room. Watkins advanced with a wooden expression of passive endurance, and accepted the hand which Mr. Gabriel Parsons held out.
'I want to speak to you,' said Gabriel, with a look strongly expressive of his dislike of the company.
'This way,' replied the imprisoned one, leading the way to the front drawing-room, where rich debtors did the luxurious at the rate of a couple of guineas a day.
'Well, here I am,' said Mr. Watkins, as he sat down on the sofa; and placing the palms of his hands on his knees, anxiously glanced at his friend's countenance.
'Yes; and here you're likely to be,' said Gabriel, coolly, as he rattled the money in his unmentionable pockets, and looked out of the window.
'What's the amount with the costs?' inquired Parsons, after an awkward pause.
'Have you any money?'
'Nine and sixpence halfpenny.'
Mr. Gabriel Parsons walked up and down the room for a few seconds, before he could make up his mind to disclose the plan he had formed; he was accustomed to drive hard bargains, but was always most anxious to conceal his avarice. At length he stopped short, and said, 'Tottle, you owe me fifty pounds.'
'And from all I see, I infer that you are likely to owe it to me.'
'I fear I am.'
'Though you have every disposition to pay me if you could?'
'Then,' said Mr. Gabriel Parsons, 'listen: here's my proposition. You know my way of old. Accept it - yes or no - I will or I won't. I'll pay the debt and costs, and I'll lend you 10L. more (which, added to your annuity, will enable you to carry on the war well) if you'll give me your note of hand to pay me one hundred and fifty pounds within six months after you are married to Miss Lillerton.'
'My dear - '
'Stop a minute - on one condition; and that is, that you propose to Miss Lillerton at once.'
'At once! My dear Parsons, consider.'
'It's for you to consider, not me. She knows you well from reputation, though she did not know you personally until lately. Notwithstanding all her maiden modesty, I think she'd be devilish glad to get married out of hand with as little delay as possible. My wife has sounded her on the subject, and she has confessed.'
'What - what?' eagerly interrupted the enamoured Watkins.
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Sketches by Boz -- by Charles Dickens