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THE TRAIL OF THE SERPENT Book the First A RESPECTABLE YOUNG MAN. CHAPTER I. THE GOOD SCHOOLMASTER. I don't suppose it rained harder in the good town of Slopperton- on-the-Sloshy than it rained anywhere else. But it did rain. There was scarcely an umbrella in Slopperton that could hold its own against the rain that came pouring down that Novem- ber afternoon, between the hours of four and five. Every gutter in High Street, Slopperton ; every gutter in Broad Street (which was of course the narrowest street) ; in New Street (which by the same rule was the oldest street) ; in East Street, West Street, Blue Dragon Street, and Windmill Street ; every gutter in every one of these thoroughfares was a little Niagara, with a maelstrom at the corner, down which such small craft as bits of orange-peel, old boots and shoes, scraps of paper, and fragments of rag were absorbed — as better ships have been in the great northern whirlpool. That dingy stream, the Sloshy, was swollen into a kind of dirty Mississippi, and the graceful coal-barge?) which adorned its bosom were stripped of the clothes-lines and fluttering linen which usually were to be seen on their decks. A bad, determined, black-minded November day. A day on which the fog shaped itself into a demon, and lurked behind men's shoulders, whispering into their ears, " Cut your throat ' — you know you've got a razor, and can't shave with it, because you've been drinking and your hand shakes ; one little gash under the left ear, and the business is done. It's the best thing you can do. It is, really." A day on which the rain, the monotonous ceaseless persevering rain. has a voice as it comes