Not on a summer evening did she come to her little shop-door, when a certain man standing over against the house on the opposite side of the street took notice of her. That was on a cold shrewd windy evening, after dark. Pleasant Riderhood shared with most of the lady inhabitants of the Hole, the peculiarity that her hair was a ragged knot, constantly coming down behind, and that she never could enter upon any undertaking without first twisting it into place. At that particular moment, being newly come to the threshold to take a look out of doors, she was winding herself up with both hands after this fashion. And so prevalent was the fashion, that on the occasion of a fight or other disturbance in the Hole, the ladies would be seen flocking from all quarters universally twisting their back-hair as they came along, and many of them, in the hurry of the moment, carrying their back-combs in their mouths.
It was a wretched little shop, with a roof that any man standing in it could touch with his hand; little better than a cellar or cave, down three steps. Yet in its ill-lighted window, among a flaring handkerchief or two, an old peacoat or so, a few valueless watches and compasses, a jar of tobacco and two crossed pipes, a bottle of walnut ketchup, and some horrible sweets these creature discomforts serving as a blind to the main business of the Leaving Shop was displayed the inscription SEAMANS BOARDING- HOUSE.
Taking notice of Pleasant Riderhood at the door, the man crossed so quickly that she was still winding herself up, when he stood close before her.
Is your father at home? said he.
I think he is, returned Pleasant, dropping her arms; come in.
It was a tentative reply, the man having a seafaring appearance. Her father was not at home, and Pleasant knew it. Take a seat by the fire, were her hospitable words when she had got him in; men of your calling are always welcome here.
Thankee, said the man.
His manner was the manner of a sailor, and his hands were the hands of a sailor, except that they were smooth. Pleasant had an eye for sailors, and she noticed the unused colour and texture of the hands, sunburnt though they were, as sharply as she noticed their unmistakable looseness and suppleness, as he sat himself down with his left arm carelessly thrown across his left leg a little above the knee, and the right arm as carelessly thrown over the elbow of the wooden chair, with the hand curved, half open and half shut, as if it had just let go a rope.
Might you be looking for a Boarding-House? Pleasant inquired, taking her observant stand on one side of the fire.
I dont rightly know my plans yet, returned the man.
You aint looking for a Leaving Shop?
No, said the man.
No, assented Pleasant, youve got too much of an outfit on you for that. But if you should want either, this is both.
Ay, ay! said the man, glancing round the place. I know. Ive been here before.
Did you Leave anything when you were here before? asked Pleasant, with a view to principal and interest.
No. The man shook his head.
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