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Often and often we pursued these debates until the clock pointed to
midnight, and the candles were burning down. The result of so much
good practice was, that by and by I began to keep pace with
Traddles pretty well, and should have been quite triumphant if I
had had the least idea what my notes were about. But, as to
reading them after I had got them, I might as well have copied the
Chinese inscriptions of an immense collection of tea-chests, or the
golden characters on all the great red and green bottles in the
chemists' shops!

There was nothing for it, but to turn back and begin all over
again. It was very hard, but I turned back, though with a heavy
heart, and began laboriously and methodically to plod over the same
tedious ground at a snail's pace; stopping to examine minutely
every speck in the way, on all sides, and making the most desperate
efforts to know these elusive characters by sight wherever I met
them. I was always punctual at the office; at the Doctor's too:
and I really did work, as the common expression is, like a

One day, when I went to the Commons as usual, I found Mr. Spenlow
in the doorway looking extremely grave, and talking to himself. As
he was in the habit of complaining of pains in his head - he had
naturally a short throat, and I do seriously believe he
over-starched himself - I was at first alarmed by the idea that he
was not quite right in that direction; but he soon relieved my

Instead of returning my 'Good morning' with his usual affability,
he looked at me in a distant, ceremonious manner, and coldly
requested me to accompany him to a certain coffee-house, which, in
those days, had a door opening into the Commons, just within the
little archway in St. Paul's Churchyard. I complied, in a very
uncomfortable state, and with a warm shooting all over me, as if my
apprehensions were breaking out into buds. When I allowed him to
go on a little before, on account of the narrowness of the way, I
observed that he carried his head with a lofty air that was
particularly unpromising; and my mind misgave me that he had found
out about my darling Dora.

If I had not guessed this, on the way to the coffee-house, I could
hardly have failed to know what was the matter when I followed him
into an upstairs room, and found Miss Murdstone there, supported by
a background of sideboard, on which were several inverted tumblers
sustaining lemons, and two of those extraordinary boxes, all
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