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on a little way, and then back, and then on again; at length, after
pausing irresolutely several times before the door of the General
Agency Office, he made up his mind, and stepped in.

He found himself in a little floor-clothed room, with a high desk
railed off in one corner, behind which sat a lean youth with
cunning eyes and a protruding chin, whose performances in
capital-text darkened the window. He had a thick ledger lying
open before him, and with the fingers of his right hand inserted
between the leaves, and his eyes fixed on a very fat old lady in a
mob-cap--evidently the proprietress of the establishment--who
was airing herself at the fire, seemed to be only waiting her
directions to refer to some entries contained within its rusty

As there was a board outside, which acquainted the public that
servants-of-all-work were perpetually in waiting to be hired from
ten till four, Nicholas knew at once that some half-dozen strong
young women, each with pattens and an umbrella, who were
sitting upon a form in one corner, were in attendance for that
purpose: especially as the poor things looked anxious and weary.
He was not quite so certain of the callings and stations of two
smart young ladies who were in conversation with the fat lady
before the fire, until--having sat himself down in a corner, and
remarked that he would wait until the other customers had been
served--the fat lady resumed the dialogue which his entrance had

‘Cook, Tom,’ said the fat lady, still airing herself as aforesaid.
‘Cook,’ said Tom, turning over some leaves of the ledger. ‘Well!’
‘Read out an easy place or two,’ said the fat lady.

‘Pick out very light ones, if you please, young man,’ interposed

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