HomeCharles DickensThe Battle of Life

The Battle of Life. Charles Dickens

′To starve for six or seven years!′ said the client with a fretful laugh, and an impatient change of his position.

′To starve for six or seven years, Mr. Warden,′ said Snitchey, ′would be very uncommon indeed. You might get another estate by showing yourself, the while. But, we don′t think you could do it - speaking for Self and Craggs - and consequently don′t advise it.′

′What DO you advise?′

′Nursing, I say,′ repeated Snitchey. ′Some few years of nursing by Self and Craggs would bring it round. But to enable us to make terms, and hold terms, and you to keep terms, you must go away; you must live abroad. As to starvation, we could ensure you some hundreds a-year to starve upon, even in the beginning - I dare say, Mr. Warden.′

′Hundreds,′ said the client. ′And I have spent thousands!′

′That,′ retorted Mr. Snitchey, putting the papers slowly back into the cast-iron box, ′there is no doubt about. No doubt about,′ he repeated to himself, as he thoughtfully pursued his occupation.

The lawyer very likely knew HIS man; at any rate his dry, shrewd, whimsical manner, had a favourable influence on the client′s moody state, and disposed him to be more free and unreserved. Or, perhaps the client knew HIS man, and had elicited such encouragement as he had received, to render some purpose he was about to disclose the more defensible in appearance. Gradually raising his head, he sat looking at his immovable adviser with a smile, which presently broke into a laugh.

′After all,′ he said, ′my iron-headed friend - ′

Mr. Snitchey pointed out his partner. ′Self and - excuse me - Craggs.′

′I beg Mr. Craggs′s pardon,′ said the client. ′After all, my iron- headed friends,′ he leaned forward in his chair, and dropped his voice a little, ′you don′t know half my ruin yet.′

Mr. Snitchey stopped and stared at him. Mr. Craggs also stared.

′I am not only deep in debt,′ said the client, ′but I am deep in - ′

′Not in love!′ cried Snitchey.

′Yes!′ said the client, falling back in his chair, and surveying the Firm with his hands in his pockets. ′Deep in love.′

′And not with an heiress, sir?′ said Snitchey.

′Not with an heiress.′

′Nor a rich lady?′

′Nor a rich lady that I know of - except in beauty and merit.′

′A single lady, I trust?′ said Mr. Snitchey, with great expression.

′Certainly.′

′It′s not one of Dr. Jeddler′s daughters?′ said Snitchey, suddenly squaring his elbows on his knees, and advancing his face at least a yard.

′Yes!′ returned the client.

′Not his younger daughter?′ said Snitchey.

′Yes!′ returned the client.

′Mr. Craggs,′ said Snitchey, much relieved, ′will you oblige me with another pinch of snuff? Thank you! I am happy to say it don′t signify, Mr. Warden; she′s engaged, sir, she′s bespoke. My partner can corroborate me. We know the fact.′

′We know the fact,′ repeated Craggs.

′Why, so do I perhaps,′ returned the client quietly. ′What of that! Are you men of the world, and did you never hear of a woman changing her mind?′

′There certainly have been actions for breach,′ said Mr. Snitchey, ′brought against both spinsters and widows, but, in the majority of cases - ′

′Cases!′ interposed the client, impatiently. ′Don′t talk to me of cases.

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