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Our Mutual Friend

BOOK III
1. Lodgers In Queer Stree
It was a foggy day in London, and the fog was heavy and dark. Animate London,
with smarting eyes and irritated lungs, was blinking, wheezing, and choking;
inanimate London was a sooty spectre, divided in purpose between being visible
and invisible, and so being wholly neither. Gaslights flared in the shops with a
haggard and unblest air, as knowing themselves to be night- creatures that had
no business abroad under the sun; while the sun itself when it was for a few
moments dimly indicated through circling eddies of fog, showed as if it had gone
out and were collapsing flat and cold. Even in the surrounding country it was a
foggy day, but there the fog was grey, whereas in London it was, at about the
boundary line, dark yellow, and a little within it brown, and then browner, and
then browner, until at the heart of the City-- which call Saint Mary Axe--it was
rusty-black. From any point of the high ridge of land northward, it might have
been discerned that the loftiest buildings made an occasional struggle to get their
heads above the foggy sea, and especially that the great dome of Saint Paul's
seemed to die hard; but this was not perceivable in the streets at their feet,
where the whole metropolis was a heap of vapour charged with muffled sound of
wheels, and enfolding a gigantic catarrh.
At nine o'clock on such a morning, the place of business of Pubsey and Co. was
not the liveliest object even in Saint Mary Axe--which is not a very lively spot--
with a sobbing gaslight in the counting- house window, and a burglarious stream
of fog creeping in to strangle it through the keyhole of the main door. But the light
went out, and the main door opened, and Riah came forth with a bag under his
arm.
Almost in the act of coming out at the door, Riah went into the fog, and was lost
to the eyes of Saint Mary Axe. But the eyes of this history can follow him
westward, by Cornhill, Cheapside, Fleet Street, and the Strand, to Piccadilly and
the Albany. Thither he went at his grave and measured pace, staff in hand, skirt
at heel; and more than one head, turning to look back at his venerable figure
already lost in the mist, supposed it to be some ordinary figure indistinctly seen,
which fancy and the fog had worked into that passing likeness.
Arrived at the house in which his master's chambers were on the second floor,
Riah proceeded up the stairs, and paused at Fascination Fledgeby's door.
Making free with neither bell nor knocker, he struck upon the door with the top of
his staff, and, having listened, sat down on the threshold. It was characteristic of
his habitual submission, that he sat down on the raw dark staircase, as many of
 
 
 
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