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shot into his present retreat by means of a kick, and complimented
by having the slippers flung about his ears afterwards.
The coffee-room customers, and the waiters, and the coachmen,
and the helpers--not to mention a barmaid who was looking on
from behind an open sash window--seemed at that moment, if a
spectator might judge from their winks, nods, and muttered
exclamations, strongly disposed to take part against the young
gentleman in the stockings. Observing this, and that the young
gentleman was nearly of his own age and had in nothing the
appearance of an habitual brawler, Nicholas, impelled by such
feelings as will influence young men sometimes, felt a very strong
disposition to side with the weaker party, and so thrust himself at
once into the centre of the group, and in a more emphatic tone,
perhaps, than circumstances might seem to warrant, demanded
what all that noise was about.
‘Hallo!’ said one of the men from the yard, ‘this is somebody in
disguise, this is.’
‘Room for the eldest son of the Emperor of Roosher, gen’l’men!’
cried another fellow.
Disregarding these sallies, which were uncommonly well
received, as sallies at the expense of the best-dressed persons in a
crowd usually are, Nicholas glanced carelessly round, and
addressing the young gentleman, who had by this time picked up
his slippers and thrust his feet into them, repeated his inquiries
with a courteous air.
‘A mere nothing!’ he replied.
At this a murmur was raised by the lookers-on, and some of the
boldest cried, ‘Oh, indeed!--Wasn’t it though?--Nothing, eh?--He
called that nothing, did he? Lucky for him if he found it nothing.’