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saw that her shrewdest observation was concentrated on her new
guest, had more useful possession of her wits than either of us;
for she held him in conversation, and made it necessary for him to
talk, whether he liked it or not.

'You are a very old friend of my nephew's, Mr. Micawber,' said my
aunt. 'I wish I had had the pleasure of seeing you before.'

'Madam,' returned Mr. Micawber, 'I wish I had had the honour of
knowing you at an earlier period. I was not always the wreck you
at present behold.'

'I hope Mrs. Micawber and your family are well, sir,' said my aunt.

Mr. Micawber inclined his head. 'They are as well, ma'am,' he
desperately observed after a pause, 'as Aliens and Outcasts can
ever hope to be.'

'Lord bless you, sir!' exclaimed my aunt, in her abrupt way. 'What
are you talking about?'

'The subsistence of my family, ma'am,' returned Mr. Micawber,
'trembles in the balance. My employer -'

Here Mr. Micawber provokingly left off; and began to peel the
lemons that had been under my directions set before him, together
with all the other appliances he used in making punch.

'Your employer, you know,' said Mr. Dick, jogging his arm as a
gentle reminder.

'My good sir,' returned Mr. Micawber, 'you recall me, I am obliged
to you.' They shook hands again. 'My employer, ma'am - Mr. Heep
- once did me the favour to observe to me, that if I were not in
the receipt of the stipendiary emoluments appertaining to my
engagement with him, I should probably be a mountebank about the
country, swallowing a sword-blade, and eating the devouring
element. For anything that I can perceive to the contrary, it is
still probable that my children may be reduced to seek a livelihood
by personal contortion, while Mrs. Micawber abets their unnatural
feats by playing the barrel-organ.'

Mr. Micawber, with a random but expressive flourish of his knife,
signified that these performances might be expected to take place
after he was no more; then resumed his peeling with a desperate
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