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Chapter 13

  • Daniel Quilp of Tower Hill, and Sampson Brass of Bevis Marks in the city o_ondon, Gentleman, one of her Majesty's attornies of the Courts of the King'_ench and Common Pleas at Westminster and a solicitor of the High Court o_hancery, slumbered on, unconscious and unsuspicious of any mischance, until _nocking on the street door, often repeated and gradually mounting up from _odest single rap to a perfect battery of knocks, fired in long discharge_ith a very short interval between, caused the said Daniel Quilp to struggl_nto a horizontal position, and to stare at the ceiling with a drows_ndifference, betokening that he heard the noise and rather wondered at th_ame, and couldn't be at the trouble of bestowing any further thought upon th_ubject.
  • As the knocking, however, instead of accommodating itself to his lazy state, increased in vigour and became more importunate, as if in earnest remonstranc_gainst his falling asleep again, now that he had once opened his eyes, Danie_uilp began by degrees to comprehend the possibility of there being somebod_t the door; and thus he gradually came to recollect that it was Frida_orning, and he had ordered Mrs Quilp to be in waiting upon him at an earl_our.
  • Mr Brass, after writhing about, in a great many strange attitudes, and ofte_wisting his face and eyes into an expression like that which is usuall_roduced by eating gooseberries very early in the season, was by this tim_wake also. Seeing that Mr Quilp invested himself in his every-day garments, he hastened to do the like, putting on his shoes before his stockings, an_hrusting his legs into his coat sleeves, and making such other small mistake_n his toilet as are not uncommon to those who dress in a hurry, and labou_nder the agitation of having been suddenly roused. While the attorney wa_hus engaged, the dwarf was groping under the table, muttering desperat_mprecations on himself, and mankind in general, and all inanimate objects t_oot, which suggested to Mr Brass the question, 'what's the matter?'
  • 'The key,' said the dwarf, looking viciously about him, 'the door-key—that'_he matter. D'ye know anything of it?'
  • 'How should I know anything of it, sir?' returned Mr Brass.
  • 'How should you?' repeated Quilp with a sneer. 'You're a nice lawyer, an'_ou? Ugh, you idiot!'
  • Not caring to represent to the dwarf in his present humour, that the loss of _ey by another person could scarcely be said to affect his (Brass's) lega_nowledge in any material degree, Mr Brass humbly suggested that it must hav_een forgotten over night, and was, doubtless, at that moment in its nativ_ey-hole. Notwithstanding that Mr Quilp had a strong conviction to th_ontrary, founded on his recollection of having carefully taken it out, he wa_ain to admit that this was possible, and therefore went grumbling to the doo_here, sure enough, he found it.
  • Now, just as Mr Quilp laid his hand upon the lock, and saw with grea_stonishment that the fastenings were undone, the knocking came again with th_ost irritating violence, and the daylight which had been shining through th_ey-hole was intercepted on the outside by a human eye. The dwarf was ver_uch exasperated, and wanting somebody to wreak his ill-humour upon, determined to dart out suddenly, and favour Mrs Quilp with a gentl_cknowledgment of her attention in making that hideous uproar.
  • With this view, he drew back the lock very silently and softly, and openin_he door all at once, pounced out upon the person on the other side, who ha_t that moment raised the knocker for another application, and at whom th_warf ran head first: throwing out his hands and feet together, and biting th_ir in the fulness of his malice.
  • So far, however, from rushing upon somebody who offered no resistance an_mplored his mercy, Mr Quilp was no sooner in the arms of the individual who_e had taken for his wife than he found himself complimented with tw_taggering blows on the head, and two more, of the same quality, in the chest; and closing with his assailant, such a shower of buffets rained down upon hi_erson as sufficed to convince him that he was in skilful and experience_ands. Nothing daunted by this reception, he clung tight to his opponent, an_it and hammered away with such good-will and heartiness, that it was at leas_ couple of minutes before he was dislodged. Then, and not until then, Danie_uilp found himself, all flushed and dishevelled, in the middle of the street, with Mr Richard Swiveller performing a kind of dance round him and requirin_o know 'whether he wanted any more?'
  • 'There's plenty more of it at the same shop,' said Mr Swiveller, by turn_dvancing and retreating in a threatening attitude, 'a large and extensiv_ssortment always on hand—country orders executed with promptitude an_espatch—will you have a little more, Sir— don't say no, if you'd rather not.'
  • 'I thought it was somebody else,' said Quilp, rubbing his shoulders, 'wh_idn't you say who you were?'
  • 'Why didn't you say who YOU were?' returned Dick, 'instead of flying out o_he house like a Bedlamite ?'
  • 'It was you that—that knocked,' said the dwarf, getting up with a short groan,
  • 'was it?'
  • 'Yes, I am the man,' replied Dick. 'That lady had begun when I came, but sh_nocked too soft, so I relieved her.' As he said this, he pointed towards Mr_uilp, who stood trembling at a little distance.
  • 'Humph!' muttered the dwarf, darting an angry look at his wife, 'I thought i_as your fault! And you, sir—don't you know there has been somebody ill here, that you knock as if you'd beat the door down?'
  • 'Damme!' answered Dick, 'that's why I did it. I thought there was somebod_ead here.'
  • 'You came for some purpose, I suppose,' said Quilp. 'What is it you want?'
  • 'I want to know how the old gentleman is,' rejoined Mr Swiveller, 'and to hea_rom Nell herself, with whom I should like to have a little talk. I'm a frien_f the family, sir—at least I'm the friend of one of the family, and that'_he same thing.'
  • 'You'd better walk in then,' said the dwarf. 'Go on, sir, go on. Now, Mr_uilp—after you, ma'am.'
  • Mrs Quilp hesitated, but Mr Quilp insisted. And it was not a contest o_oliteness, or by any means a matter of form, for she knew very well that he_usband wished to enter the house in this order, that he might have _avourable opportunity of inflicting a few pinches on her arms, which wer_eldom free from impressions of his fingers in black and blue colours. M_wiveller, who was not in the secret, was a little surprised to hear _uppressed scream, and, looking round, to see Mrs Quilp following him with _udden jerk; but he did not remark on these appearances, and soon forgot them.
  • 'Now, Mrs Quilp,' said the dwarf when they had entered the shop, 'go you u_tairs, if you please, to Nelly's room, and tell her that she's wanted.'
  • 'You seem to make yourself at home here,' said Dick, who was unacquainted wit_r Quilp's authority.
  • 'I AM at home, young gentleman,' returned the dwarf.
  • Dick was pondering what these words might mean, and still more what th_resence of Mr Brass might mean, when Mrs Quilp came hurrying down stairs, declaring that the rooms above were empty.
  • 'Empty, you fool!' said the dwarf.
  • 'I give you my word, Quilp,' answered his trembling wife, 'that I have bee_nto every room and there's not a soul in any of them.'
  • 'And that,' said Mr Brass, clapping his hands once, with an emphasis,
  • 'explains the mystery of the key!'
  • Quilp looked frowningly at him, and frowningly at his wife, and frowningly a_ichard Swiveller; but, receiving no enlightenment from any of them, hurrie_p stairs, whence he soon hurried down again, confirming the report which ha_lready been made.
  • 'It's a strange way of going,' he said, glancing at Swiveller, 'very strang_ot to communicate with me who am such a close and intimate friend of his! Ah!
  • he'll write to me no doubt, or he'll bid Nelly write—yes, yes, that's wha_e'll do. Nelly's very fond of me. Pretty Nell!'
  • Mr Swiveller looked, as he was, all open-mouthed astonishment. Still glancin_urtively at him, Quilp turned to Mr Brass and observed, with assume_arelessness, that this need not interfere with the removal of the goods.
  • 'For indeed,' he added, 'we knew that they'd go away to-day, but not tha_hey'd go so early, or so quietly. But they have their reasons, they hav_heir reasons.'
  • 'Where in the devil's name are they gone?' said the wondering Dick.
  • Quilp shook his head, and pursed up his lips, in a manner which implied tha_e knew very well, but was not at liberty to say.
  • 'And what,' said Dick, looking at the confusion about him, 'what do you mea_y moving the goods?'
  • 'That I have bought 'em, Sir,' rejoined Quilp. 'Eh? What then?'
  • 'Has the sly old fox made his fortune then, and gone to live in a tranquil co_n a pleasant spot with a distant view of the changing sea?' said Dick, i_reat bewilderment.
  • 'Keeping his place of retirement very close, that he may not be visited to_ften by affectionate grandsons and their devoted friends, eh?' added th_warf, rubbing his hands hard; 'I say nothing, but is that your meaning?'
  • Richard Swiveller was utterly aghast at this unexpected alteration o_ircumstances, which threatened the complete overthrow of the project in whic_e bore so conspicuous a part, and seemed to nip his prospects in the bud.
  • Having only received from Frederick Trent, late on the previous night, information of the old man's illness, he had come upon a visit of condolenc_nd inquiry to Nell, prepared with the first instalment of that long train o_ascinations which was to fire her heart at last. And here, when he had bee_hinking of all kinds of graceful and insinuating approaches, and meditatin_n the fearful retaliation which was slowly working against Sophy Wackles—her_ere Nell, the old man, and all the money gone, melted away, decamped he kne_ot whither, as if with a fore-knowledge of the scheme and a resolution t_efeat it in the very outset, before a step was taken.
  • In his secret heart, Daniel Quilp was both surprised and troubled by th_light which had been made. It had not escaped his keen eye that som_ndispensable articles of clothing were gone with the fugitives, and knowin_he old man's weak state of mind, he marvelled what that course of proceedin_ight be in which he had so readily procured the concurrence of the child. I_ust not be supposed (or it would be a gross injustice to Mr Quilp) that h_as tortured by any disinterested anxiety on behalf of either. His uneasines_rose from a misgiving that the old man had some secret store of money whic_e had not suspected; and the idea of its escaping his clutches, overwhelme_im with mortification and self-reproach.
  • In this frame of mind, it was some consolation to him to find that Richar_wiveller was, for different reasons, evidently irritated and disappointed b_he same cause. It was plain, thought the dwarf, that he had come there, o_ehalf of his friend, to cajole or frighten the old man out of some smal_raction of that wealth of which they supposed him to have an abundance.
  • Therefore, it was a relief to vex his heart with a picture of the riches th_ld man hoarded, and to expatiate on his cunning in removing himself eve_eyond the reach of importunity.
  • 'Well,' said Dick, with a blank look, 'I suppose it's of no use my stayin_ere.'
  • 'Not the least in the world,' rejoined the dwarf.
  • 'You'll mention that I called, perhaps?' said Dick.
  • Mr Quilp nodded, and said he certainly would, the very first time he saw them.
  • 'And say,' added Mr Swiveller, 'say, sir, that I was wafted here upon th_inions of concord; that I came to remove, with the rake of friendship, th_eeds of mutual violence and heart-burning, and to sow in their place, th_erms of social harmony. Will you have the goodness to charge yourself wit_hat commission, Sir?'
  • 'Certainly!' rejoined Quilp.
  • 'Will you be kind enough to add to it, Sir,' said Dick, producing a very smal_imp card, 'that that is my address, and that I am to be found at home ever_orning. Two distinct knocks, sir, will produce the slavey at any time. M_articular friends, Sir, are accustomed to sneeze when the door is opened, t_ive her to understand that they ARE my friends and have no interested motive_n asking if I'm at home. I beg your pardon; will you allow me to look at tha_ard again?'
  • 'Oh! by all means,' rejoined Quilp.
  • 'By a slight and not unnatural mistake, sir,' said Dick, substituting anothe_n its stead, 'I had handed you the pass- ticket of a select convivial circl_alled the Glorious Apollers of which I have the honour to be Perpetual Grand.
  • That is the proper document, Sir. Good morning.'
  • Quilp bade him good day; the perpetual Grand Master of the Glorious Apollers, elevating his hat in honour of Mrs Quilp, dropped it carelessly on the side o_is head again, and disappeared with a flourish.
  • By this time, certain vans had arrived for the conveyance of the goods, an_ivers strong men in caps were balancing chests of drawers and other trifle_f that nature upon their heads, and performing muscular feats whic_eightened their complexions considerably. Not to be behind-hand in th_ustle, Mr Quilp went to work with surprising vigour; hustling and driving th_eople about, like an evil spirit; setting Mrs Quilp upon all kinds of arduou_nd impracticable tasks; carrying great weights up and down, with no apparen_ffort; kicking the boy from the wharf, whenever he could get near him; an_nflicting, with his loads, a great many sly bumps and blows on the shoulder_f Mr Brass, as he stood upon the door-steps to answer all the inquiries o_urious neighbours, which was his department. His presence and exampl_iffused such alacrity among the persons employed, that, in a few hours, th_ouse was emptied of everything, but pieces of matting, empty porter-pots, an_cattered fragments of straw.
  • Seated, like an African chief, on one of these pieces of matting, the dwar_as regaling himself in the parlour, with bread and cheese and beer, when h_bserved without appearing to do so, that a boy was prying in at the oute_oor. Assured that it was Kit, though he saw little more than his nose, M_uilp hailed him by his name; whereupon Kit came in and demanded what h_anted.
  • 'Come here, you sir,' said the dwarf. 'Well, so your old master and youn_istress have gone?'
  • 'Where?' rejoined Kit, looking round.
  • 'Do you mean to say you don't know where?' answered Quilp sharply. 'Where hav_hey gone, eh?'
  • 'I don't know,' said Kit.
  • 'Come,' retorted Quilp, 'let's have no more of this! Do you mean to say tha_ou don't know they went away by stealth, as soon as it was light thi_orning?'
  • 'No,' said the boy, in evident surprise.
  • 'You don't know that?' cried Quilp. 'Don't I know that you were hanging abou_he house the other night, like a thief, eh? Weren't you told then?'
  • 'No,' replied the boy.
  • 'You were not?' said Quilp. 'What were you told then; what were you talkin_bout?'
  • Kit, who knew no particular reason why he should keep the matter secret now, related the purpose for which he had come on that occasion, and the proposa_e had made.
  • 'Oh!' said the dwarf after a little consideration. 'Then, I think they'll com_o you yet.'
  • 'Do you think they will?' cried Kit eagerly.
  • 'Aye, I think they will,' returned the dwarf. 'Now, when they do, let me know; d'ye hear? Let me know, and I'll give you something. I want to do 'em _indness, and I can't do 'em a kindness unless I know where they are. You hea_hat I say?'
  • Kit might have returned some answer which would not have been agreeable to hi_rascible questioner, if the boy from the wharf, who had been skulking abou_he room in search of anything that might have been left about by accident, had not happened to cry, 'Here's a bird! What's to be done with this?'
  • 'Wring its neck,' rejoined Quilp.
  • 'Oh no, don't do that,' said Kit, stepping forward. 'Give it to me.'
  • 'Oh yes, I dare say,' cried the other boy. 'Come! You let the cage alone, an_et me wring its neck will you? He said I was to do it. You let the cage alon_ill you.'
  • 'Give it here, give it to me, you dogs,' roared Quilp. 'Fight for it, yo_ogs, or I'll wring its neck myself!'
  • Without further persuasion, the two boys fell upon each other, tooth and nail, while Quilp, holding up the cage in one hand, and chopping the ground with hi_nife in an ecstasy, urged them on by his taunts and cries to fight mor_iercely. They were a pretty equal match, and rolled about together, exchanging blows which were by no means child's play, until at length Kit, planting a well-directed hit in his adversary's chest, disengaged himself, sprung nimbly up, and snatching the cage from Quilp's hands made off with hi_rize.
  • He did not stop once until he reached home, where his bleeding face occasione_reat consternation, and caused the elder child to howl dreadfully.
  • 'Goodness gracious, Kit, what is the matter, what have you been doing?' crie_rs Nubbles.
  • 'Never you mind, mother,' answered her son, wiping his face on the jack-towe_ehind the door. 'I'm not hurt, don't you be afraid for me. I've been _ightin' for a bird and won him, that's all. Hold your noise, little Jacob. _ever see such a naughty boy in all my days!'
  • 'You have been fighting for a bird!' exclaimed his mother.
  • 'Ah! Fightin' for a bird!' replied Kit, 'and here he is—Miss Nelly's bird, mother, that they was agoin' to wring the neck of! I stopped that though—ha h_a! They wouldn't wring his neck and me by, no, no. It wouldn't do, mother, i_ouldn't do at all. Ha ha ha!'
  • Kit laughing so heartily, with his swoln and bruised face looking out of th_owel, made little Jacob laugh, and then his mother laughed. and then the bab_rowed and kicked with great glee, and then they all laughed in concert: partly because of Kit's triumph, and partly because they were very fond o_ach other. When this fit was over, Kit exhibited the bird to both children, as a great and precious rarity—it was only a poor linnet—and looking about th_all for an old nail, made a scaffolding of a chair and table and twisted i_ut with great exultation.
  • 'Let me see,' said the boy, 'I think I'll hang him in the winder, because it'_ore light and cheerful, and he can see the sky there, if he looks up ver_uch. He's such a one to sing, I can tell you!'
  • So, the scaffolding was made again, and Kit, climbing up with the poker for _ammer, knocked in the nail and hung up the cage, to the immeasurable deligh_f the whole family. When it had been adjusted and straightened a great man_imes, and he had walked backwards into the fire-place in his admiration o_t, the arrangement was pronounced to be perfect.
  • 'And now, mother,' said the boy, 'before I rest any more, I'll go out and se_f I can find a horse to hold, and then I can buy some birdseed, and a bit o_omething nice for you, into the bargain.'