The gentleman was of that order of appearance which is currently termed shabby-genteel, though in respect of his dress he can hardly be said to have been in any extremities, as his fingers were a long way out of his gloves, and the soles of his feet were at an inconvenient distance from the upper leather of his boots. His nether garments were of a bluish grey--violent in its colours once, but sobered now by age and dinginess--and were so stretched and strained in a tough conflict between his braces and his straps, that they appeared every moment in danger of flying asunder at the knees. His coat, in colour blue and of a military cut, was buttoned and frogged up to his chin. His cravat was, in hue and pattern, like one of those mantles which hairdressers are accustomed to wrap about their clients, during the progress of the professional mysteries. His hat had arrived at such a pass that it would have been hard to determine whether it was originally white or black. But he wore a moustache--a shaggy moustache too; nothing in the meek and merciful way, but quite in the fierce and scornful style; the regular Satanic sort of thing--and he wore, besides, a vast quantity of unbrushed hair. He was very dirty and very jaunty; very bold and very mean; very swaggering and very slinking; very much like a man who might have been something better, and unspeakably like a man who deserved to be something worse.
'You were eaves-dropping at that door, you vagabond!' said this gentleman.
Mr Pecksniff cast him off, as Saint George might have repudiated the Dragon in that animal's last moments, and said:
'Where is Mrs Lupin, I wonder! can the good woman possibly be aware that there is a person here who--'
'Stay!' said the gentleman. 'Wait a bit. She DOES know. What then?'
'What then, sir?' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'What then? Do you know, sir, that I am the friend and relative of that sick gentleman? That I am his protector, his guardian, his--'
'Not his niece's husband,' interposed the stranger, 'I'll be sworn; for he was there before you.'
'What do you mean?' said Mr Pecksniff, with indignant surprise. 'What do you tell me, sir?'
'Wait a bit!' cried the other, 'Perhaps you are a cousin--the cousin who lives in this place?'
'I AM the cousin who lives in this place,' replied the man of worth.
'Your name is Pecksniff?' said the gentleman.
'I am proud to know you, and I ask your pardon,' said the gentleman, touching his hat, and subsequently diving behind his cravat for a shirt-collar, which however he did not succeed in bringing to the surface. 'You behold in me, sir, one who has also an interest in that gentleman upstairs. Wait a bit.'
As he said this, he touched the tip of his high nose, by way of intimation that he would let Mr Pecksniff into a secret presently; and pulling off his hat, began to search inside the crown among a mass of crumpled documents and small pieces of what may be called the bark of broken cigars; whence he presently selected the cover of an old letter, begrimed with dirt and redolent of tobacco.
'Read that,' he cried, giving it to Mr Pecksniff.
'This is addressed to Chevy Slyme, Esquire,' said that gentleman.
'You know Chevy Slyme, Esquire, I believe?' returned the stranger.
Mr Pecksniff shrugged his shoulders as though he would say 'I know there is such a person, and I am sorry for it.'
'Very good,' remarked the gentleman. 'That is my interest and business here.' With that he made another dive for his shirt-collar and brought up a string.
'Now, this is very distressing, my friend,' said Mr Pecksniff, shaking his head and smiling composedly. 'It is very distressing to me, to be compelled to say that you are not the person you claim to be. I know Mr Slyme, my friend; this will not do; honesty is the best policy you had better not; you had indeed.'
'Stop' cried the gentleman, stretching forth his right arm, which was so tightly wedged into his threadbare sleeve that it looked like a cloth sausage.