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tree, that makes a show of putting forth a few leaves late in
autumn when other trees shed theirs, and, drooping in the effort,
lingers on, all crackled and smoke-dried, till the following season,
when it repeats the same process, and perhaps, if the weather be
particularly genial, even tempts some rheumatic sparrow to
chirrup in its branches. People sometimes call these dark yards
‘gardens’; it is not supposed that they were ever planted, but
rather that they are pieces of unreclaimed land, with the withered
vegetation of the original brick-field. No man thinks of walking in
this desolate place, or of turning it to any account. A few hampers,
half-a-dozen broken bottles, and such-like rubbish, may be thrown
there, when the tenant first moves in, but nothing more; and there
they remain until he goes away again: the damp straw taking just
as long to moulder as it thinks proper: and mingling with the
scanty box, and stunted everbrowns, and broken flower-pots, that
are scattered mournfully about--a prey to ‘blacks’ and dirt.

It was into a place of this kind that Mr Ralph Nickleby gazed, as
he sat with his hands in his pockets looking out of the window. He
had fixed his eyes upon a distorted fir tree, planted by some
former tenant in a tub that had once been green, and left there,
years before, to rot away piecemeal. There was nothing very
inviting in the object, but Mr Nickleby was wrapt in a brown
study, and sat contemplating it with far greater attention than, in a
more conscious mood, he would have deigned to bestow upon the
rarest exotic. At length, his eyes wandered to a little dirty window
on the left, through which the face of the clerk was dimly visible;
that worthy chancing to look up, he beckoned him to attend.

In obedience to this summons the clerk got off the high stool (to
which he had communicated a high polish by countless gettings

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