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'By no means,' said I. 'I like it - in somebody else's pipe.'

'What, not in your own, eh?' Mr. Omer returned, laughing. 'All the
better, sir. Bad habit for a young man. Take a seat. I smoke,
myself, for the asthma.'

Mr. Omer had made room for me, and placed a chair. He now sat down
again very much out of breath, gasping at his pipe as if it
contained a supply of that necessary, without which he must perish.

'I am sorry to have heard bad news of Mr. Barkis,' said I.

Mr. Omer looked at me, with a steady countenance, and shook his

'Do you know how he is tonight?' I asked.

'The very question I should have put to you, sir,' returned Mr.
Omer, 'but on account of delicacy. It's one of the drawbacks of
our line of business. When a party's ill, we can't ask how the
party is.'

The difficulty had not occurred to me; though I had had my
apprehensions too, when I went in, of hearing the old tune. On its
being mentioned, I recognized it, however, and said as much.

'Yes, yes, you understand,' said Mr. Omer, nodding his head. 'We
dursn't do it. Bless you, it would be a shock that the generality
of parties mightn't recover, to say "Omer and Joram's compliments,
and how do you find yourself this morning?" - or this afternoon -
as it may be.'

Mr. Omer and I nodded at each other, and Mr. Omer recruited his
wind by the aid of his pipe.

'It's one of the things that cut the trade off from attentions they
could often wish to show,' said Mr. Omer. 'Take myself. If I have
known Barkis a year, to move to as he went by, I have known him
forty years. But I can't go and say, "how is he?"'

I felt it was rather hard on Mr. Omer, and I told him so.

'I'm not more self-interested, I hope, than another man,' said Mr.
Omer. 'Look at me! My wind may fail me at any moment, and it
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