"Rum creeters is women," said the dirty-faced man, after a pause.
"Ah! no mistake about that," said a very red-faced man, behind a cigar.
After this little bit of philosophy there was another pause.
"There's rummer things than women in this world though, mind you," said the man with the black eye, slowly filling a large Dutch pipe, with a most capacious bowl.
"Are you married?" inquired the dirty-faced man.
"Can't say I am."
"I thought not." Here the dirty-faced man fell into fits of mirth at his own retort, in which he was joined by a man of bland voice and placid countenance, who always made it a point to agree with everybody.
"Women, after all, gentlemen," said the enthusiastic Mr. Snodgrass, "are the great props and comforts of our existence."
"So they are," said the placid gentleman.
"When they're in a good humour," interposed the dirty-faced man.
"And that's very true," said the placid one.
"I repudiate that qualification," said Mr. Snodgrass, whose thoughts were fast reverting to Emily Wardle, "I repudiate it with disdain--with indignation. Show me the man who says anything against women, as women, and I boldly declare he is not a man." And Mr. Snodgrass took his cigar from his mouth, and struck the table violently with his clenched fist.
"That's good sound argument," said the placid man.
"Containing a position which I deny," interrupted he of the dirty countenance.
"And there's certainly a very great deal of truth in what you observe too, sir," said the placid gentleman.
"Your health, sir," said the bagman with the lonely eye, bestowing an approving nod on Mr. Snodgrass.
Mr. Snodgrass acknowledged the compliment.
"I always like to hear a good argument," continued the bagman, "a sharp one, like this; it's very improving; but this little argument about women brought to my mind a story I have heard an old uncle of mine tell, the recollection of which, just now, made me say there were rummer things than women to be met with, sometimes."
"I should like to hear that same story," said the red-faced man with the cigar.
"Should you?" was the only reply of the bagman, who continued to smoke with great vehemence.
"So should I," said Mr. Tupman, speaking for the first time. He was always anxious to increase his stock of experience.
"Should you? Well then, I'll tell it. No I won't. I know you won't believe it," said the man with the roguish eye, making that organ look more roguish than ever.
"If you say it's true, of course I shall," said Mr. Tupman.
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