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Chapter 14

  • As it was very easy for Kit to persuade himself that the old house was in hi_ay, his way being anywhere, he tried to look upon his passing it once more a_ matter of imperative and disagreeable necessity, quite apart from any desir_f his own, to which he could not choose but yield. It is not uncommon fo_eople who are much better fed and taught than Christopher Nubbles had eve_een, to make duties of their inclinations in matters of more doubtfu_ropriety, and to take great credit for the self-denial with which the_ratify themselves.
  • There was no need of any caution this time, and no fear of being detained b_aving to play out a return match with Daniel Quilp's boy. The place wa_ntirely deserted, and looked as dusty and dingy as if it had been so fo_onths. A rusty padlock was fastened on the door, ends of discoloured blind_nd curtains flapped drearily against the half-opened upper windows, and th_rooked holes cut in the closed shutters below, were black with the darknes_f the inside. Some of the glass in the window he had so often watched, ha_een broken in the rough hurry of the morning, and that room looked mor_eserted and dull than any. A group of idle urchins had taken possession o_he door-steps; some were plying the knocker and listening with delighte_read to the hollow sounds it spread through the dismantled house; others wer_lustered about the keyhole, watching half in jest and half in earnest for
  • 'the ghost,' which an hour's gloom, added to the mystery that hung about th_ate inhabitants, had already raised. Standing all alone in the midst of th_usiness and bustle of the street, the house looked a picture of col_esolation; and Kit, who remembered the cheerful fire that used to burn ther_n a winter's night and the no less cheerful laugh that made the small roo_ing, turned quite mournfully away.
  • It must be especially observed in justice to poor Kit that he was by no mean_f a sentimental turn, and perhaps had never heard that adjective in all hi_ife. He was only a soft-hearted grateful fellow, and had nothing genteel o_olite about him; consequently, instead of going home again, in his grief, t_ick the children and abuse his mother (for, when your finely strung peopl_re out of sorts, they must have everybody else unhappy likewise), he turne_is thoughts to the vulgar expedient of making them more comfortable if h_ould.
  • Bless us, what a number of gentlemen on horseback there were riding up an_own, and how few of them wanted their horses held! A good city speculator o_ parliamentary commissioner could have told to a fraction, from the crowd_hat were cantering about, what sum of money was realised in London, in th_ourse of a year, by holding horses alone. And undoubtedly it would have bee_ very large one, if only a twentieth part of the gentlemen without grooms ha_ad occasion to alight; but they had not; and it is often an ill-nature_ircumstance like this, which spoils the most ingenious estimate in the world.
  • Kit walked about, now with quick steps and now with slow; now lingering a_ome rider slackened his horse's pace and looked about him; and now darting a_ull speed up a bye-street as he caught a glimpse of some distant horsema_oing lazily up the shady side of the road, and promising to stop, at ever_oor. But on they all went, one after another, and there was not a penn_tirring. 'I wonder,' thought the boy, 'if one of these gentlemen knew ther_as nothing in the cupboard at home, whether he'd stop on purpose, and mak_elieve that he wanted to call somewhere, that I might earn a trifle?'
  • He was quite tired out with pacing the streets, to say nothing of repeate_isappointments, and was sitting down upon a step to rest, when ther_pproached towards him a little clattering jingling four-wheeled chaise' draw_y a little obstinate-looking rough-coated pony, and driven by a little fa_lacid-faced old gentleman. Beside the little old gentleman sat a little ol_ady, plump and placid like himself, and the pony was coming along at his ow_ace and doing exactly as he pleased with the whole concern. If the ol_entleman remonstrated by shaking the reins, the pony replied by shaking hi_ead. It was plain that the utmost the pony would consent to do, was to go i_is own way up any street that the old gentleman particularly wished t_raverse, but that it was an understanding between them that he must do thi_fter his own fashion or not at all.
  • As they passed where he sat, Kit looked so wistfully at the little turn-out,
  • that the old gentleman looked at him. Kit rising and putting his hand to hi_at, the old gentleman intimated to the pony that he wished to stop, to whic_roposal the pony (who seldom objected to that part of his duty) graciousl_cceded.
  • 'I beg your pardon, sir,' said Kit. 'I'm sorry you stopped, sir. I only mean_id you want your horse minded.'
  • 'I'm going to get down in the next street,' returned the old gentleman. 'I_ou like to come on after us, you may have the job.'
  • Kit thanked him, and joyfully obeyed. The pony ran off at a sharp angle t_nspect a lamp-post on the opposite side of the way, and then went off at _angent to another lamp-post on the other side. Having satisfied himself tha_hey were of the same pattern and materials, he came to a stop apparentl_bsorbed in meditation. 'Will you go on, sir,' said the old gentleman,
  • gravely, 'or are we to wait here for you till it's too late for ou_ppointment?'
  • The pony remained immoveable.
  • 'Oh you naughty Whisker,' said the old lady. 'Fie upon you! I'm ashamed o_uch conduct.'
  • The pony appeared to be touched by this appeal to his feelings, for he trotte_n directly, though in a sulky manner, and stopped no more until he came to _oor whereon was a brass plate with the words 'Witherden—Notary.' Here the ol_entleman got out and helped out the old lady, and then took from under th_eat a nosegay resembling in shape and dimensions a full-sized warming-pa_ith the handle cut short off. This, the old lady carried into the house wit_ staid and stately air, and the old gentleman (who had a club-foot) followe_lose upon her.
  • They went, as it was easy to tell from the sound of their voices, into th_ront parlour, which seemed to be a kind of office. The day being very war_nd the street a quiet one, the windows were wide open; and it was easy t_ear through the Venetian blinds all that passed inside.
  • At first there was a great shaking of hands and shuffling of feet, succeede_y the presentation of the nosegay; for a voice, supposed by the listener t_e that of Mr Witherden the Notary, was heard to exclaim a great many times,
  • 'oh, delicious!' 'oh, fragrant, indeed!' and a nose, also supposed to be th_roperty of that gentleman, was heard to inhale the scent with a snuffle o_xceeding pleasure.
  • 'I brought it in honour of the occasion, Sir,' said the old lady.
  • 'Ah! an occasion indeed, ma'am, an occasion which does honour to me, ma'am,
  • honour to me,' rejoined Mr Witherden, the notary. 'I have had many a gentlema_rticled to me, ma'am, many a one. Some of them are now rolling in riches,
  • unmindful of their old companion and friend, ma'am, others are in the habit o_alling upon me to this day and saying, "Mr Witherden, some of the pleasantes_ours I ever spent in my life were spent in this office—were spent, Sir, upo_his very stool"; but there was never one among the number, ma'am, attached a_ have been to many of them, of whom I augured such bright things as I do o_our only son.'
  • 'Oh dear!' said the old lady. 'How happy you do make us when you tell us that,
  • to be sure!'
  • 'I tell you, ma'am,' said Mr Witherden, 'what I think as an honest man, which,
  • as the poet observes, is the noblest work of God. I agree with the poet i_very particular, ma'am. The mountainous Alps on the one hand, or a humming-
  • bird on the other, is nothing, in point of workmanship, to an honest man—o_oman—or woman.'
  • 'Anything that Mr Witherden can say of me,' observed a small quiet voice, '_an say, with interest, of him, I am sure.'
  • 'It's a happy circumstance, a truly happy circumstance,' said the Notary, 't_appen too upon his eight-and-twentieth birthday, and I hope I know how t_ppreciate it. I trust, Mr Garland, my dear Sir, that we may mutuall_ongratulate each other upon this auspicious occasion.'
  • To this the old gentleman replied that he felt assured they might. Ther_ppeared to be another shaking of hands in consequence, and when it was over,
  • the old gentleman said that, though he said it who should not, he believed n_on had ever been a greater comfort to his parents than Abel Garland had bee_o his.
  • 'Marrying as his mother and I did, late in life, sir, after waiting for _reat many years, until we were well enough off—coming together when we wer_o longer young, and then being blessed with one child who has always bee_utiful and affectionate—why, it's a source of great happiness to us both,
  • sir.'
  • 'Of course it is, I have no doubt of it,' returned the Notary in _ympathising voice. 'It's the contemplation of this sort of thing, that make_e deplore my fate in being a bachelor. There was a young lady once, sir, th_aughter of an outfitting warehouse of the first respectability—but that's _eakness. Chuckster, bring in Mr Abel's articles.'
  • 'You see, Mr Witherden,' said the old lady, 'that Abel has not been brought u_ike the run of young men. He has always had a pleasure in our society, an_lways been with us. Abel has never been absent from us, for a day; has he, m_ear?'
  • 'Never, my dear,' returned the old gentleman, 'except when he went to Margat_ne Saturday with Mr Tomkinley that had been a teacher at that school he wen_o, and came back upon the Monday; but he was very ill after that, yo_emember, my dear; it was quite a dissipation.'
  • 'He was not used to it, you know,' said the old lady, 'and he couldn't bea_t, that's the truth. Besides he had no comfort in being there without us, an_ad nobody to talk to or enjoy himself with.'
  • 'That was it, you know,' interposed the same small quiet voice that had spoke_nce before. 'I was quite abroad, mother, quite desolate, and to think tha_he sea was between us—oh, I never shall forget what I felt when I firs_hought that the sea was between us!'
  • 'Very natural under the circumstances,' observed the Notary. 'Mr Abel'_eelings did credit to his nature, and credit to your nature, ma'am, and hi_ather's nature, and human nature. I trace the same current now, flowin_hrough all his quiet and unobtrusive proceedings.—I am about to sign my name,
  • you observe, at the foot of the articles which Mr Chuckster will witness; an_lacing my finger upon this blue wafer with the vandyked corners, I a_onstrained to remark in a distinct tone of voice—don't be alarmed, ma'am, i_s merely a form of law—that I deliver this, as my act and deed. Mr Abel wil_lace his name against the other wafer, repeating the same cabalistic words,
  • and the business is over. Ha ha ha! You see how easily these things are done!'
  • There was a short silence, apparently, while Mr Abel went through th_rescribed form, and then the shaking of hands and shuffling of feet wer_enewed, and shortly afterwards there was a clinking of wine-glasses and _reat talkativeness on the part of everybody. In about a quarter of an hour M_huckster (with a pen behind his ear and his face inflamed with wine) appeare_t the door, and condescending to address Kit by the jocose appellation of
  • 'Young Snob,' informed him that the visitors were coming out.
  • Out they came forthwith; Mr Witherden, who was short, chubby, fresh-coloured,
  • brisk, and pompous, leading the old lady with extreme politeness, and th_ather and son following them, arm in arm. Mr Abel, who had a quaint old-
  • fashioned air about him, looked nearly of the same age as his father, and bor_ wonderful resemblance to him in face and figure, though wanting something o_is full, round, cheerfulness, and substituting in its place a timid reserve.
  • In all other respects, in the neatness of the dress, and even in the club-
  • foot, he and the old gentleman were precisely alike.
  • Having seen the old lady safely in her seat, and assisted in the arrangemen_f her cloak and a small basket which formed an indispensable portion of he_quipage, Mr Abel got into a little box behind which had evidently been mad_or his express accommodation, and smiled at everybody present by turns,
  • beginning with his mother and ending with the pony. There was then a great to-
  • do to make the pony hold up his head that the bearing-rein might be fastened;
  • at last even this was effected; and the old gentleman, taking his seat and th_eins, put his hand in his pocket to find a sixpence for Kit.
  • He had no sixpence, neither had the old lady, nor Mr Abel, nor the Notary, no_r Chuckster. The old gentleman thought a shilling too much, but there was n_hop in the street to get change at, so he gave it to the boy.
  • 'There,' he said jokingly, 'I'm coming here again next Monday at the sam_ime, and mind you're here, my lad, to work it out.'
  • 'Thank you, Sir,' said Kit. 'I'll be sure to be here.'
  • He was quite serious, but they all laughed heartily at his saying so,
  • especially Mr Chuckster, who roared outright and appeared to relish the jok_mazingly. As the pony, with a presentiment that he was going home, or _etermination that he would not go anywhere else (which was the same thing)
  • trotted away pretty nimbly, Kit had no time to justify himself, and went hi_ay also. Having expended his treasure in such purchases as he knew would b_ost acceptable at home, not forgetting some seed for the wonderful bird, h_astened back as fast as he could, so elated with his success and great goo_ortune, that he more than half expected Nell and the old man would hav_rrived before him.