THE TIDINGS OF my high fortunes having had a heavy fall, had got down to my native place and its neighbourhood, before I got there. I found the Blue Boar in possession of the intelligence, and I found that it made a great change in the Boar's demeanour. Whereas the Boar had cultivated my good opinion with warm assiduity when I was coming into property, the Boar was exceedingly cool on the subject now that I was going out of property.
It was evening when I arrived, much fatigued by the journey I had so often made so easily. The Boar could not put me into my usual bedroom, which was engaged (probably by some one who had expectations), and could only assign me a very indifferent chamber among the pigeons and post-chaises up the yard. But, I had as sound a sleep in that lodging as in the most superior accommodation the Boar could have given me, and the quality of my dreams was about the same as in the best bedroom.
Early in the morning while my breakfast was getting ready, I strolled round by Satis House. There were printed bills on the gate and on bits of carpet hanging out of the windows, announcing a sale by auction of the Household Furniture and Effects, next week. The House itself was to be sold as old building materials, and pulled down. LOT 1 was marked in whitewashed knock-knee letters on the brewhouse; LOT 2 on that part of the main building which had been so long shut up. Other lots were marked off on other parts of the structure, and the ivy had been torn down to make room for the inscriptions, and much of it trailed low in the dust and was withered already. Stepping in for a moment at the open gate and looking around me with the uncomfortable air of a stranger who had no business there, I saw the auctioneer's clerk walking on the casks and telling them off for the information of a catalogue compiler, pen in hand, who made a temporary desk of the wheeled chair I had so often pushed along to the tune of Old Clem.
When I got back to my breakfast in the Boar's coffee-room, I found Mr. Pumblechook conversing with the landlord. Mr. Pumblechook (not improved in appearance by his late nocturnal adventure) was waiting for me, and addressed me in the following terms.
“Young man, I am sorry to see you brought low. But what else could be expected! what else could be expected!”
As he extended his hand with a magnificently forgiving air, and as I was broken by illness and unfit to quarrel, I took it.
“William,” said Mr. Pumblechook to the waiter, “put a muffin on table. And has it come to this! Has it come to this!”
I frowningly sat down to my breakfast. Mr. Pumblechook stood over me and poured out my tea—before I could touch the teapot—with the air of a benefactor who was resolved to be true to the last.
“William,” said Mr. Pumblechook, mournfully, “put the salt on. In happier times,” addressing me, “I think you took sugar? And did you take milk? You did. Sugar and milk. William, bring a watercress.”
“Thank you,” said I shortly, “but I don't eat watercresses.”
“You don't eat 'em,” returned Mr. Pumblechook, sighing and nodding his head several times, as if he might have expected that, and as if abstinence from watercresses were consistent with my downfall. “True. The simple fruits of the earth. No. You needn't bring any, William.”
I went on with my breakfast, and Mr. Pumblechook continued to stand over me, staring fishily and breathing noisily, as he always did.
“Little more than skin and bone!” mused Mr. Pumblechook, aloud. “And yet when he went away from here (I may say with my blessing), and I spread afore him my humble store, like the Bee, he was as plump as a Peach!”
This reminded me of the wonderful difference between the servile manner in which he had offered his hand in my new prosperity, saying, “May I?” and the ostentatious clemency with which he had just now exhibited the same fat five fingers.
“Hah!” he went on, handing me the bread-and-butter. “And air you a going to...
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