Chapter 43Has an influence on the fortunes of several people. Mr. Pecksniff is exhibited in the plenitude of power, and wields the same with fortitude and magnanimity
ON THE NIGHT OF THE STORM, Mrs. Lupin, hostess of the Blue Dragon, sat by herself in her little bar. Her solitary condition, or the bad weather, or both united, made Mrs. Lupin thoughtful, not to say sorrowful. As she sat with her chin upon her hand, looking out through a low back lattice, rendered dim in the brightest day-time by clustering vine-leaves, she shook her head very often, and said, `Dear me! Oh, dear, dear me!'
It was a melancholy time, even in the snugness of the Dragon bar. The rich expanse of corn-field, pasture- land, green slope, and gentle undulation, with its sparkling brooks, its many hedgerows, and its clumps of beautiful trees, was black and dreary, from the diamond panes of the lattice away to the far horizon, where the thunder seemed to roll along the hills. The heavy rain beat down the tender branches of vine and jessamine, and trampled on them in its fury; and when the lightning gleamed it showed the tearful leaves shivering and cowering together at the window, and tapping at it urgently as if beseeching to be sheltered from the dismal night.
As a mark of her respect for the lightning, Mrs. Lupin had removed her candle to the chimney-piece. Her basket of needle-work stood unheeded at her elbow; her supper, spread on a round table not far off, was untasted; and the knives had been removed for fear of attraction. She had sat for a long time with her chin upon her hand, saying to herself at intervals, `Dear me! Ah, dear, dear me!'
She was on the eve of saying so, once more, when the latch of the house-door (closed to keep the rain out), rattled on its well-worn catch, and a traveller came in, who, shutting it after him, and walking straight up to the half-door of the bar, said rather gruffly:
`A pint of the best old beer here.'
He had some reason to be gruff, for if he had passed the day in a waterfall, he could scarcely have been wetter than he was. He was wrapped up to the eyes in a rough blue sailor's coat, and had an oil-skin hat on, from the capacious brim of which the rain fell trickling down upon his breast, and back, and shoulders. Judging from a certain liveliness of chin -- he had so pulled down his hat, and pulled up his collar, to defend himself from the weather, that she could only see his chin, and even across that he drew the wet sleeve of his shaggy coat, as she looked at him -- Mrs. Lupin set him down for a good- natured fellow, too.
`A bad night!' observed the hostess cheerfully.
The traveller shook himself like a Newfoundland dog, and said it was, rather.
`There's a fire in the kitchen,' said Mrs. Lupin, `and very good company there. Hadn't you better go and dry yourself?'
`No, thankee,' said the man, glancing towards the kitchen as he spoke; he seemed to know the way.
`It's enough to give you your death of cold,' observed the hostess.
`I don't take my death easy,' returned the traveller; `or I should most likely have took it afore to-night. Your health, ma'am!'
Mrs. Lupin thanked him; but in the act of lifting the tankard to his mouth, he changed his mind, and put it down again. Throwing his body back, and looking about him stiffly, as a man does who is wrapped up, and has his hat low down over his eyes, he said,
`What do you call this house? Not the Dragon, do you?'
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