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A ROUND OF STORIES BY THE CHRISTMAS FIRE
THE POOR RELATION'S STORY.

HE was very reluctant to take precedence
of so many respected members of the family,
by beginning the round of stories they were
to relate as they sat in a goodly circle by the
Christmas fire; and he modestly suggested
that it would be more correct if "John our
esteemed host" (whose health he begged to
drink) would have the kindness to begin.
For as to himself, he said, he was so little
used to lead the way, that reallyBut as
they all cried out here, that he must begin,
and agreed with one voice that he might,
could, would, and should begin, he left off
rubbing his hands, and took his legs out from
under his armchair, and did begin.

I have no doubt (said the poor relation)
that I shall surprise the assembled members
of our family, and particularly John our
esteemed host to whom we are so much
indebted for the great hospitality with which
he has this day entertained us, by the
confession I am going to make. But, if you do
me the honor to be surprised at anything that
falls from a person so unimportant in the
family as I am, I can only say that I shall be
scrupulously accurate in all I relate.

I am not what I am supposed to be. I am
quite another thing. Perhaps before I go
farther, I had better glance at what I am
supposed to be.

It is supposed, unless I mistakethe
assembled members of our family will correct
me if I do, which is very likely (here the poor
relation looked mildly about him for
contradiction); that I am nobody's enemy but my
own. That I never met with any particular
success in anything. That I failed in
business because I was unbusiness-like and
credulousin not being prepared for the
interested designs of my partner. That I
failed in love, because I was ridiculously
trustfulin thinking it impossible that
Christiana could deceive me. That I failed
in my expectations from my uncle Chill, on
account of not being as sharp as he could
have wished in worldly matters. That,
through life, I have been rather put upon
and disappointed, in a general way. That I
am at present a bachelor of between fifty-nine
and sixty years of age, living on a limited
income in the form of a quarterly allowance,
to which I see that John our esteemed host
wishes me to make no further allusion.

The supposition as to my present pursuits
and habits is to the following effect.

I live in a lodging in the Clapham Road
a very clean back room, in a very respectable
housewhere I am expected not to be at
home in the day-time, unless poorly; and
which I usually leave in the morning at nine
o'clock, on pretence of going to business. I
take my breakfastmy roll and butter, and
my half-pint of coffeeat the old established
coffee-shop near Westminster Bridge; and
then I go into the CityI don't know why
and sit in Garraway's Coffee House, and on
'Change, and walk about, and look into a few
offices and counting-houses where some of
my relations or acquaintance are so good as
to tolerate me, and where I stand by the fire
if the weather happens to be cold. I get
through the day in this way until five o'clock,
and then I dine: at a cost, on the average, of
one and threepence. Having still a little
money to spend on my evening's entertainment,
I look into the old-established coffee-
shop as I go home, and take my cup of tea,
and perhaps my bit of toast. So, as the
large hand of the clock makes its way
round to the morning hour again, I make my
way round to the Clapham Road again, and
go to bed when I get to my lodgingfire
being expensive, and being objected to by the
family on account of its giving trouble and
making a dirt.

Sometimes, one of my relations or acquaintances
is so obliging as to ask me to dinner.
Those are holiday occasions, and then I
generally walk in the Park. I am a solitary
man, and seldom walk with anybody. Not

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