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Mr. James Nesbit, merchant of Philadelphia, stood leaning against the long, polished desk at the farther end of which two clerks were hard at work copying entries into a ponderous ledger. On Mr. Nesbit's face there was a look of preoccupation. He drew a deep breath, rapped nervously with his finger on the desk, and, reaching behind his ear, under the folds of his heavy white wig, threw down a large quill pen. Then, taking a big silver snuff-box out of his pocket, he helped himself neatly to a pinch of snuff. Having done this he waited anxiously, as if the expected sneeze might jar his mind into better working order. It seemed to answer, for, after a preliminary rumbling gasp and an explosion, he blew his nose violently, and turning addressed one of the clerks. "If Mr. Conyngham comes during the next few minutes, tell him I shall be at 'The Old Clock' coffee-house", he said. With that he took down a great cloak from one of the wooden pegs that lined the wall and stepped to the door. It was raining torrents, and the gutters were running full. With an agility that was surprising in so heavy a man and one of his years, he gathered the cloak about him, and picking up his heels ran swiftly around the corner. Just as he turned he collided with another man much younger and slightly smaller, who was hurrying in the opposite direction. They grasped each other in order to keep their feet, and at once burst into laughter. "Well met, indeed, David!" cried Mr. Nesbit, even before he had uttered a word of apology, "but you've well-nigh knocked the breath out of me." "And me also," responded the smaller man. "You charged around the corner like a squadron of horse. Why such a hurry, sir?" "A short explanation," was the answer, "'tis past my meal hour, and I had waited for you till I could stand it no longer. Years ago, methinks, I must have swallowed a wolf, and at feeding hours he's wont to grow rapacious and must be satisfied. Come, here we are at 'The Old Clock.' In with us out of the rain and we'll satisfy the ravenous one." As he was speaking Mr. Nesbit almost pushed his friend ahead of him through a doorway and entered the grill-room of the tavern. A mingled odor of roast beef, ale, and tobacco smoke saluted their nostrils, and the proprietor, his wide waistcoat covered by a gleaming new apron, greeted them cheerfully.

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  • Print Length: 160 Pages
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