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Hard Times

BOOK I: 6. Sleary's Horsemanship
THE name of the public-house was the Pegasus's Arms. The Pegasus's legs might
have been more to the purpose; but, underneath the winged horse upon the sign-board,
the Pegasus's Arms was inscribed in Roman letters. Beneath that inscription again, in a
flowing scroll, the painter had touched off the lines:
Good malt makes good beer, Walk in, and they'll draw it here; Good wine makes good
brandy, Give us a call, and you'll find it handy.
Framed and glazed upon the wall behind the dingy little bar, was another Pegasus - a
theatrical one - with real gauze let in for his wings, golden stars stuck on all over him,
and his ethereal harness made of red silk.
As it had grown too dusky without, to see the sign, and as it had not grown light enough
within to see the picture, Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Bounderby received no offence from
these idealities. They followed the girl up some steep corner-stairs without meeting any
one, and stopped in the dark while she went on for a candle. They expected every
moment to hear Merrylegs give tongue, but the highly trained performing dog had not
barked when the girl and the candle appeared together.
'Father is not in our room, sir,' she said, with a face of great surprise. 'If you wouldn't
mind walking in, I'll find him directly.' They walked in; and Sissy, having set two chairs
for them, sped away with a quick light step. It was a mean, shabbily furnished room,
with a bed in it. The white night-cap, embellished with two peacock's feathers and a
pigtail bolt upright, in which Signor Jupe had that very afternoon enlivened the varied
performances with his chaste Shaksperean quips and retorts, hung upon a nail; but no
other portion of his wardrobe, or other token of himself or his pursuits, was to be seen
anywhere. As to Merrylegs, that respectable ancestor of the highly trained animal who
went aboard the ark, might have been accidentally shut out of it, for any sign of a dog
that was manifest to eye or ear in the Pegasus's Arms.
They heard the doors of rooms above, opening and shutting as Sissy went from one to
another in quest of her father; and presently they heard voices expressing surprise. She
came bounding down again in a great hurry, opened a battered and mangy old hair
trunk, found it empty, and looked round with her hands clasped and her face full of
terror.
'Father must have gone down to the Booth, sir. I don't know why he should go there, but
he must be there; I'll bring him in a minute!' She was gone directly, without her bonnet;
with her long, dark, childish hair streaming behind her.
'What does she mean!' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'Back in a minute? It's more than a mile off.'
 
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