Chapter 26Is fraught with some danger to Miss Nickleby's peace of mind
THE PLACE WAS a handsome suite of private apartments in Regent Street; the time was three o'clock in the afternoon to the dull and plodding, and the first hour of morning to the gay and spirited; the persons were Lord Frederick Verisopht, and his friend Sir Mulberry Hawk.
These distinguished gentlemen were reclining listlessly on a couple of sofas, with a table between them, on which were scattered in rich confusion the materials of an untasted breakfast. Newspapers lay strewn about the room, but these, like the meal, were neglected and unnoticed; not, however, because any flow of conversation prevented the attractions of the journals from being called into request, for not a word was exchanged between the two, nor was any sound uttered, save when one, in tossing about to find an easier resting-place for his aching head, uttered an exclamation of impatience, and seemed for a moment to communicate a new restlessness to his companion.
These appearances would in themselves have furnished a pretty strong clue to the extent of the debauch of the previous night, even if there had not been other indications of the amusements in which it had been passed. A couple of billiard balls, all mud and dirt, two battered hats, a champagne bottle with a soiled glove twisted round the neck, to allow of its being grasped more surely in its capacity of an offensive weapon; a broken cane; a card-case without the top; an empty purse; a watch-guard snapped asunder; a handful of silver, mingled with fragments of half-smoked cigars, and their stale and crumbled ashes;--these, and many other tokens of riot and disorder, hinted very intelligibly at the nature of last night's gentlemanly frolics.
Lord Frederick Verisopht was the first to speak. Dropping his slippered foot on the ground, and, yawning heavily, he struggled into a sitting posture, and turned his dull languid eyes towards his friend, to whom he called in a drowsy voice.
`Hallo!' replied Sir Mulberry, turning round.
`Are we going to lie here all da-a-y?' said the lord.
`I don't know that we're fit for anything else,' replied Sir Mulberry; `yet awhile, at least. I haven't a grain of life in me this morning.'
`Life!' cried Lord Verisopht. `I feel as if there would be nothing so snug and comfortable as to die at once.'
`Then why don't you die?' said Sir Mulberry.
With which inquiry he turned his face away, and seemed to occupy himself in an attempt to fall asleep.
His hopeful fiend and pupil drew a chair to the breakfast-table, and essayed to eat; but, finding that impossible, lounged to the window, then loitered up and down the room with his hand to his fevered head, and finally threw himself again on his sofa, and roused his friend once more.
`What the devil's the matter?' groaned Sir Mulberry, sitting upright on the couch.
Although Sir Mulberry said this with sufficient ill-humour, he did not seem to feel himself quite at liberty to remain silent; for, after stretching himself very often, and declaring with a shiver that it was `infernal cold,' he made an experiment at the breakfast-table, and proving more successful in it than his less- seasoned friend, remained there.
`Suppose,' said Sir Mulberry, pausing with a morsel on the point of his fork, `suppose we go back to the subject of little Nickleby, eh?'
`Which little Nickleby; the money-lender or the ga-a-l?' asked Lord Verisopht.
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