“I thought you was never coming,” said she, querulously, as he entered the room; “I have been waiting tea until I am almost starved.”
“You needn’t have waited a moment, for you will be obliged to eat alone after all; I’m going out. Pour me out a cup of tea—I’ll drink it whilst I’m dressing; and,” continued Mr. Stevens, “I want you to get me that old brown over-coat and those striped trowsers I used to wear occasionally.”
“Why, you told me,” rejoined Mrs. Stevens, “that you did not require them again, and so I exchanged them for this pair of vases to-day.”
“The devil you did!” said Mr. Stevens, angrily; “you let them lie about the house for nearly a year—and now, just as they were likely to be of some service to me, you’ve sold them. It’s just like you—always doing something at the wrong time.”
“How on earth, Stevens, was I to know you wanted them?”
“Well, there, Jule, they’re gone; don’t let’s have any more talk about it. Get me another cup of tea; I must go out immediately.” After hastily swallowing the second cup, Mr. Stevens left his home, and walked to an omnibus-station, from whence he was quickly transported to a street in the lower part of the city, in which were a number of second-hand clothing stores. These places were supported principally by the country people who attended the market in the same street, and who fancied that the clothing they purchased at these shops must be cheap, because it was at second-hand.
Mr. Stevens stopped at the door of one of these establishments, and paused to take a slight survey of the premises before entering. The doorway was hung with coats of every fashion of the last twenty years, and all in various stages of decay. Some of them looked quite respectable, from much cleaning and patching; and others presented a reckless and forlorn aspect, as their worn and ragged sleeves swung about in the evening air. Old hats, some of which were, in all probability, worn at a period anterior to the Revolution, kept company with the well-blacked shoes that were ranged on shelves beside the doorway, where they served in the capacity of signs, and fairly indicated the style of goods to be purchased within.
Seeing that there were no buyers in the store, Mr. Stevens opened the door, and entered. The sounds of his footsteps drew from behind the counter no less a personage than our redoubtable friend Kinch, who, in the absence of his father, was presiding over the establishment.
“Well, Snowball,” said Mr. Stevens, “do you keep this curiosity-shop?”
“My name is not Snowball, and this ain’t a curiosity-shop,” replied Kinch. “Do you want to buy anything?”
“I believe I do,” answered Mr. Stevens. “Let me look at some coats—one that I can get on—I won’t say fit me, I’m indifferent about that—let me see some of the worst you’ve got.”
Kinch looked surprised at this request from a gentleman of Mr. Stevens’s appearance, and handed out, quite mechanically, a coat that was but slightly worn. “Oh, that won’t do—I want something like this,” said Mr. Stevens, taking down from a peg a very dilapidated coat, of drab colour, and peculiar cut. What do you ask for this?”