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|Book The Second - Reaping||Charles Dickens|
Chapter I - Effects In The Bank
|Page 7 of 9||
'I believe, sir,' quoth Mrs. Sparsit, 'you wished to see me.'
'I beg your pardon,' he said, turning and removing his hat; 'pray excuse me.'
'Humph!' thought Mrs. Sparsit, as she made a stately bend. 'Five and thirty, good-looking, good figure, good teeth, good voice, good breeding, well-dressed, dark hair, bold eyes.' All which Mrs. Sparsit observed in her womanly way - like the Sultan who put his head in the pail of water - merely in dipping down and coming up again.
'Please to be seated, sir,' said Mrs. Sparsit.
'Thank you. Allow me.' He placed a chair for her, but remained himself carelessly lounging against the table. 'I left my servant at the railway looking after the luggage - very heavy train and vast quantity of it in the van - and strolled on, looking about me. Exceedingly odd place. Will you allow me to ask you if it's always as black as this?'
'In general much blacker,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, in her uncompromising way.
'Is it possible! Excuse me: you are not a native, I think?'
'No, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit. 'It was once my good or ill fortune, as it may be - before I became a widow - to move in a very different sphere. My husband was a Powler.'
'Beg your pardon, really!' said the stranger. 'Was - ?'
Mrs. Sparsit repeated, 'A Powler.'
'Powler Family,' said the stranger, after reflecting a few moments. Mrs. Sparsit signified assent. The stranger seemed a little more fatigued than before.
'You must be very much bored here?' was the inference he drew from the communication.
'I am the servant of circumstances, sir,' said Mrs. Sparsit, 'and I have long adapted myself to the governing power of my life.'
'Very philosophical,' returned the stranger, 'and very exemplary and laudable, and - ' It seemed to be scarcely worth his while to finish the sentence, so he played with his watch-chain wearily.
'May I be permitted to ask, sir,' said Mrs. Sparsit, 'to what I am indebted for the favour of - '
'Assuredly,' said the stranger. 'Much obliged to you for reminding me. I am the bearer of a letter of introduction to Mr. Bounderby, the banker. Walking through this extraordinarily black town, while they were getting dinner ready at the hotel, I asked a fellow whom I met; one of the working people; who appeared to have been taking a shower-bath of something fluffy, which I assume to be the raw material - '
Mrs. Sparsit inclined her head.
' - Raw material - where Mr. Bounderby, the banker, might reside. Upon which, misled no doubt by the word Banker, he directed me to the Bank. Fact being, I presume, that Mr. Bounderby the Banker does not reside in the edifice in which I have the honour of offering this explanation?'
'No, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, 'he does not.'
'Thank you. I had no intention of delivering my letter at the present moment, nor have I. But strolling on to the Bank to kill time, and having the good fortune to observe at the window,' towards which he languidly waved his hand, then slightly bowed, 'a lady of a very superior and agreeable appearance, I considered that I could not do better than take the liberty of asking that lady where Mr. Bounderby the Banker does live. Which I accordingly venture, with all suitable apologies, to do.'
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