A Rogue's Life (Chapter 5, page 1 of 9)


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Chapter 5

HE led the way into the street as he spoke. I felt the irresistible
force of his logic. I sympathized with the ardent philanthropy of his
motives. I burned with a noble ambition to extend the sphere of the Old
Masters. In short, I took the tide at the flood, and followed Dick.

We plunged into some by-streets, struck off sharp into a court, and
entered a house by a back door. A little old gentleman in a black velvet
dressing-gown met us in the passage. Dick instantly presented me: "Mr.
Frank Softly--Mr. Ishmael Pickup." The little old gentleman stared at
me distrustfully. I bowed to him with that inexorable politeness which
I first learned under the instructive fist of Gentleman Jones, and which
no force of adverse circumstances has ever availed to mitigate in after
life. Mr. Ishmael Pickup followed my lead. There is not the least need
to describe him--he was a Jew.

"Go into the front show-room, and look at the pictures, while I speak to
Mr. Pickup," said Dick, familiarly throwing open a door, and pushing me
into a kind of gallery beyond. I found myself quite alone, surrounded by
modern-antique pictures of all schools and sizes, of all degrees of dirt
and dullness, with all the names of all the famous Old Masters, from
Titian to Teniers, inscribed on their frames. A "pearly little gem," by
Claude, with a ticket marked "Sold" stuck into the frame, particularly
attracted my attention. It was Dick's last ten-pound job; and it did
credit to the youthful master's abilities as a workman-like maker of
Claudes.

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