Mr. Stevens awoke at a very early hour the ensuing morning, and quite unceremoniously shook his wife to arouse her also. This he accomplished after considerable labour; for Mrs. Stevens was much more sleepy than usual, in consequence of her husband’s restlessness the previous night.
“I declare,” said she, rubbing her eyes, “I don’t get any peace of my life. You lie awake, kicking about, half the night, muttering and whispering about no one knows what, and then want me to rise before day. What are you in such, a hurry for this morning,—no more mysteries, I hope?”
“Oh, come, Jule, get up!” said her husband, impatiently. “I must be off to my business very early; I am overburthened with different things this morning.”
Mrs. Stevens made a very hasty toilette, and descended to the kitchen, where the little charity-girl was bustling about with her eyes only half open. With her assistance, the breakfast was soon prepared, and Mr. Stevens called downstairs. He ate rapidly and silently, and at the conclusion of his meal, put on his hat, and wished his amiable spouse an abrupt good morning.
After leaving his house, he did not take the usual course to his office, but turned his steps toward the lower part of the city. Hastening onward, he soon left the improved parts of it in his rear, and entered upon a shabby district.
The morning was very chilly, and as it was yet quite early, but few people were stirring: they were labourers hurrying to their work, milkmen, and trundlers of breadcarts.
At length he stopped at the door of a tavern, over which was a large sign, bearing the name of Whitticar. On entering, he found two or three forlorn-looking wretches clustering round the stove, endeavouring to receive some warmth upon their half-clothed bodies,—their red and pimpled noses being the only parts about them that did not look cold. They stared wonderingly at Mr. Stevens as he entered; for a person so respectable as himself in appearance was but seldom seen in that house.
The boy who attended the bar inquired from behind the counter what he would take.
“Mr. Whitticar, if you please,” blandly replied Mr. Stevens.
Hearing this, the boy bolted from the shop, and quite alarmed the family, by stating that there was a man in the shop, who said he wanted to take Mr. Whitticar, and he suspected that he was a policeman.
Whitticar, who was seldom entirely free from some scrape, went through another door to take a survey of the new comer, and on ascertaining who it was, entered the room.
“You’ve quite upset the family; we all took you for a constable,” said he, approaching Mr. Stevens, who shook hands with him heartily, and then, laying his arm familiarly on his shoulder, rejoined,—
“I say, Whitticar, I want about five minutes’ conversation with you. Haven’t you some room where we can be quite private for a little while?”