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|Chapter I--Barbox Brothers||Charles Dickens|
|Page 8 of 9||
Looking out, full of interest, she answered, "Seven."
"Seven," said Barbox Brothers, watching her with a grave smile. "Well! I propose to myself at once to reduce the gross number to those very seven, and gradually to fine them down to one--the most promising for me--and to take that."
"But how will you know, sir, which IS the most promising?" she asked, with her brightened eyes roving over the view.
"Ah!" said Barbox Brothers with another grave smile, and considerably improving in his ease of speech. "To be sure. In this way. Where your father can pick up so much every day for a good purpose, I may once and again pick up a little for an indifferent purpose. The gentleman for Nowhere must become still better known at the Junction. He shall continue to explore it, until he attaches something that he has seen, heard, or found out, at the head of each of the seven roads, to the road itself. And so his choice of a road shall be determined by his choice among his discoveries."
Her hands still busy, she again glanced at the prospect, as if it comprehended something that had not been in it before, and laughed as if it yielded her new pleasure.
"But I must not forget," said Barbox Brothers, "(having got so far) to ask a favour. I want your help in this expedient of mine. I want to bring you what I pick up at the heads of the seven roads that you lie here looking out at, and to compare notes with you about it. May I? They say two heads are better than one. I should say myself that probably depends upon the heads concerned. But I am quite sure, though we are so newly acquainted, that your head and your father's have found out better things, Phoebe, than ever mine of itself discovered."
She gave him her sympathetic right hand, in perfect rapture with his proposal, and eagerly and gratefully thanked him.
"That's well!" said Barbox Brothers. "Again I must not forget (having got so far) to ask a favour. Will you shut your eyes?"
Laughing playfully at the strange nature of the request, she did so.
"Keep them shut," said Barbox Brothers, going softly to the door, and coming back. "You are on your honour, mind, not to open you eyes until I tell you that you may?"
"Yes! On my honour."
"Good. May I take your lace-pillow from you for a minute?"
Still laughing and wondering, she removed her hands from it, and he put it aside.
"Tell me. Did you see the puffs of smoke and steam made by the morning fast-train yesterday on road number seven from here?"
"Behind the elm-trees and the spire?"
"That's the road," said Barbox Brothers, directing his eyes towards it.
"Yes. I watched them melt away."
"Anything unusual in what they expressed?"
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