ABSTRACT

Having taken an a ectionate leave of my uncle and bestowed a mute malediction on his good lady, who lay blaspheming in her chamber, I made the best of my way to Stork Court, a snug locality situated in one of those narrow streets that appear like winding cracks or ssures made by the sun in the great mass of buildings that constitute the right hand portion of Cheapside.166 On my entrance into the dim and silent o ce of Mr. Jabez Snavel, which looked like a small nook into which a portion of the past had hidden itself, a young man, seated at an elevated desk by the side of a dingy window, demanded my pleasure. It were, methought, presumptuous to explain at once that I had come hither for the purpose of dividing the sway of this small monarchy; I contented myself, therefore, by stating that I wished to see Mr. Snavel; whereupon, being informed that he had not yet made his appearance, I was requested to sit down. While I thus waited with my hat between my knees – a custom sanctioned by immemorial usage, but which I preferred as a temporary means of concealing its numberless failings on the respectable score – I had full leisure to examine the future sanctum, or congenial studio, in which my ulterior designs were, as I believed, to be prepared for the London market. Upon looking around me I saw, and as my eyes accustomed themselves to this new light, which was as darkness, I saw distinctly that I was sitting in a room about nine feet by seven, furnished with a double desk, two stools, the chair I occupied, and a number of square boxes piled one upon the other. Over the re-place hung a law almanack, marked with long stripes of ink in several places to denote the periods of term;167 and by its side depended a small paper on which were noti ed the several sittings. A door led out of this melancholy dungeon into a lesser cell, which having for its bowels a square table and an arm-chair, was accustomed to receive and digest, as I rightly surmised, the daily person of Mr. Jabez Snavel himself. Having completed my survey of these surrounding circumstances, the monotonous scratching of a pen directed my attention to the young man engaged in wielding it, in whom I began to feel that natural interest excited and claimed by those with whom we feel that we are about to be indirectly or otherwise, slightly or intimately, associated. He was of a spare form, or, as it is called, habit of body; tall, but with a stoop in the shoulders

and a contraction of the chest. rough his lantern jaws a light beamed, as of consumption; and the eager expression of his eyes might have been mistaken for acute intelligence, if it did not too plainly indicate acute hunger. His head was surmounted by a plentiful quantity of dusty hair, apparently seldom teased by the comb or con ned by a night-cap; for it stuck out in all the fanciful directions which the quaint vagaries of slumber pleased to point out for it. is capillary coronal, being of a hue resembling mud or brick dust, or rather a mixture of the two, was not ill-matched by his brown coat, which, buttoned close up to his chin, came only half as far down as a metal-buttoned waistcoat of evanescent yellow, and possessed sleeves which were far too aristocratic to descend low enough to cover his wrist bones. ere was an anxious folding of the dirty check neck-cloth, also, which disclosed too plainly that in whatever sum he might be indebted to his washerwoman, the debt had not been contracted recently. is scrutiny being completed, I was becoming impatient for the appearance of my new master, and had begun to play with my heels in the manner usual upon such occasions, when the young man descended from his desk, and placed himself by the re-place.