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The Battle of Life. Charles Dickens

Now you know my purpose, and wants. When must I leave here?′

′In a week,′ said Snitchey. ′Mr. Craggs?′

′In something less, I should say,′ responded Craggs.

′In a month,′ said the client, after attentively watching the two faces. ′This day month. To-day is Thursday. Succeed or fail, on this day month I go.′

′It′s too long a delay,′ said Snitchey; ′much too long. But let it be so. I thought he′d have stipulated for three,′ he murmured to himself. ′Are you going? Good night, sir!′

′Good night!′ returned the client, shaking hands with the Firm.

′You′ll live to see me making a good use of riches yet. Henceforth the star of my destiny is, Marion!′

′Take care of the stairs, sir,′ replied Snitchey; ′for she don′t shine there. Good night!′

′Good night!′

So they both stood at the stair-head with a pair of office-candles, watching him down. When he had gone away, they stood looking at each other.

′What do you think of all this, Mr. Craggs?′ said Snitchey.

Mr. Craggs shook his head.

′It was our opinion, on the day when that release was executed, that there was something curious in the parting of that pair; I recollect,′ said Snitchey.

′It was,′ said Mr. Craggs.

′Perhaps he deceives himself altogether,′ pursued Mr. Snitchey, locking up the fireproof box, and putting it away; ′or, if he don′t, a little bit of fickleness and perfidy is not a miracle, Mr. Craggs. And yet I thought that pretty face was very true. I thought,′ said Mr. Snitchey, putting on his great-coat (for the weather was very cold), drawing on his gloves, and snuffing out one candle, ′that I had even seen her character becoming stronger and more resolved of late. More like her sister′s.′

′Mrs. Craggs was of the same opinion,′ returned Craggs.

′I′d really give a trifle to-night,′ observed Mr. Snitchey, who was a good-natured man, ′if I could believe that Mr. Warden was reckoning without his host; but, light-headed, capricious, and unballasted as he is, he knows something of the world and its people (he ought to, for he has bought what he does know, dear enough); and I can′t quite think that. We had better not interfere: we can do nothing, Mr. Craggs, but keep quiet.′

′Nothing,′ returned Craggs.

′Our friend the Doctor makes light of such things,′ said Mr. Snitchey, shaking his head. ′I hope he mayn′t stand in need of his philosophy. Our friend Alfred talks of the battle of life,′ he shook his head again, ′I hope he mayn′t be cut down early in the day. Have you got your hat, Mr. Craggs? I am going to put the other candle out.′ Mr. Craggs replying in the affirmative, Mr. Snitchey suited the action to the word, and they groped their way out of the council-chamber, now dark as the subject, or the law in general.

My story passes to a quiet little study, where, on that same night, the sisters and the hale old Doctor sat by a cheerful fireside. Grace was working at her needle. Marion read aloud from a book before her. The Doctor, in his dressing-gown and slippers, with his feet spread out upon the warm rug, leaned back in his easy- chair, and listened to the book, and looked upon his daughters.

They were very beautiful to look upon. Two better faces for a fireside, never made a fireside bright and sacred.

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Overall 51 pages


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