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Chapter 2

  • After combating, for nearly a week, the feeling which impelled me to revisi_he place I had quitted under the circumstances already detailed, I yielded t_t at length; and determining that this time I would present myself by th_ight of day, bent my steps thither early in the morning.
  • I walked past the house, and took several turns in the street, with that kin_f hesitation which is natural to a man who is conscious that the visit he i_bout to pay is unexpected, and may not be very acceptable. However, as th_oor of the shop was shut, and it did not appear likely that I should b_ecognized by those within, if I continued merely to pass up and down befor_t, I soon conquered this irresolution, and found myself in the Curiosit_ealer's warehouse.
  • The old man and another person were together in the back part, and ther_eemed to have been high words between them, for their voices which wer_aised to a very high pitch suddenly stopped on my entering, and the old ma_dvancing hastily towards me, said in a tremulous tone that he was very glad _ad come.
  • 'You interrupted us at a critical moment,' said he, pointing to the man whom _ad found in company with him; 'this fellow will murder me one of these days.
  • He would have done so, long ago, if he had dared.'
  • 'Bah! You would swear away my life if you could,' returned the other, afte_estowing a stare and a frown on me; 'we all know that!'
  • 'I almost think I could,' cried the old man, turning feebly upon him. 'I_aths, or prayers, or words, could rid me of you, they should. I would be qui_f you, and would be relieved if you were dead.'
  • 'I know it,' returned the other. 'I said so, didn't I? But neither oaths, o_rayers, nor words, WILL kill me, and therefore I live, and mean to live.'
  • 'And his mother died!' cried the old man, passionately clasping his hands an_ooking upward; 'and this is Heaven's justice!'
  • The other stood lunging with his foot upon a chair, and regarded him with _ontemptuous sneer. He was a young man of one-and-twenty or thereabouts; wel_ade, and certainly handsome, though the expression of his face was far fro_repossessing, having in common with his manner and even his dress, _issipated, insolent air which repelled one.
  • 'Justice or no justice,' said the young fellow, 'here I am and here I shal_top till such time as I think fit to go, unless you send for assistance t_ut me out—which you won't do, I know. I tell you again that I want to see m_ister.'
  • 'YOUR sister!' said the old man bitterly.
  • 'Ah! You can't change the relationship,' returned the other. 'If you could, you'd have done it long ago. I want to see my sister, that you keep cooped u_ere, poisoning her mind with your sly secrets and pretending an affection fo_er that you may work her to death, and add a few scraped shillings every wee_o the money you can hardly count. I want to see her; and I will.'
  • 'Here's a moralist to talk of poisoned minds! Here's a generous spirit t_corn scraped-up shillings!' cried the old man, turning from him to me. '_rofligate, sir, who has forfeited every claim not only upon those who hav_he misfortune to be of his blood, but upon society which knows nothing of hi_ut his misdeeds. A liar too,' he added, in a lower voice as he drew closer t_e, 'who knows how dear she is to me, and seeks to wound me even there, because there is a stranger nearby.'
  • 'Strangers are nothing to me, grandfather,' said the young fellow catching a_he word, 'nor I to them, I hope. The best they can do, is to keep an eye t_heir business and leave me to mind. There's a friend of mine waiting outside, and as it seems that I may have to wait some time, I'll call him in, with you_eave.'
  • Saying this, he stepped to the door, and looking down the street beckone_everal times to some unseen person, who, to judge from the air of impatienc_ith which these signals were accompanied, required a great quantity o_ersuasion to induce him to advance. At length there sauntered up, on th_pposite side of the way—with a bad pretense of passing by accident—a figur_onspicuous for its dirty smartness, which after a great many frowns and jerk_f the head, in resistence of the invitation, ultimately crossed the road an_as brought into the shop.
  • 'There. It's Dick Swiveller,' said the young fellow, pushing him in. 'Si_own, Swiveller.'
  • 'But is the old min agreeable?' said Mr Swiveller in an undertone.
  • Mr Swiveller complied, and looking about him with a propritiatory smile, observed that last week was a fine week for the ducks, and this week was _ine week for the dust; he also observed that whilst standing by the post a_he street-corner, he had observed a pig with a straw in his mouth issuing ou_f the tobacco-shop, from which appearance he augured that another fine wee_or the ducks was approaching, and that rain would certainly ensue. H_urthermore took occasion to apologize for any negligence that might b_erceptible in his dress, on the ground that last night he had had 'the su_ery strong in his eyes'; by which expression he was understood to convey t_is hearers in the most delicate manner possible, the information that he ha_een extremely drunk.
  • 'But what,' said Mr Swiveller with a sigh, 'what is the odds so long as th_ire of soul is kindled at the taper of conwiviality, and the wing o_riendship never moults a feather! What is the odds so long as the spirit i_xpanded by means of rosy wine, and the present moment is the least happies_f our existence!'
  • 'You needn't act the chairman here,' said his friend, half aside.
  • 'Fred!' cried Mr Swiveller, tapping his nose, 'a word to the wise i_ufficient for them—we may be good and happy without riches, Fred. Say no_nother syllable. I know my cue; smart is the word. Only one little whisper, Fred—is the old min friendly?'
  • 'Never you mind,' repled his friend.
  • 'Right again, quite right,' said Mr Swiveller, 'caution is the word, an_aution is the act.' with that, he winked as if in preservation of some dee_ecret, and folding his arms and leaning back in his chair, looked up at th_eiling with profound gravity.
  • It was perhaps not very unreasonable to suspect from what had already passed, that Mr Swiveller was not quite recovered from the effects of the powerfu_unlight to which he had made allusion; but if no such suspicion had bee_wakened by his speech, his wiry hair, dull eyes, and sallow face would stil_ave been strong witnesses against him. His attire was not, as he had himsel_inted, remarkable for the nicest arrangement, but was in a state of disorde_hich strongly induced the idea that he had gone to bed in it. It consisted o_ brown body-coat with a great many brass buttons up the front and only on_ehind, a bright check neckerchief, a plaid waistcoat, soiled white trousers, and a very limp hat, worn with the wrong side foremost, to hide a hole in th_rim. The breast of his coat was ornamented with an outside pocket from whic_here peeped forth the cleanest end of a very large and very ill-favoure_andkerchief; his dirty wristbands were pulled on as far as possible an_stentatiously folded back over his cuffs; he displayed no gloves, and carrie_ yellow cane having at the top a bone hand with the semblance of a ring o_ts little finger and a black ball in its grasp. With all these persona_dvantages (to which may be added a strong savour of tobacco-smoke, and _revailing greasiness of appearance) Mr Swiveller leant back in his chair wit_is eyes fixed on the ceiling, and occasionally pitching his voice to th_eedful key, obliged the company with a few bars of an intensely dismal air, and then, in the middle of a note, relapsed into his former silence.
  • The old man sat himself down in a chair, and with folded hands, looke_ometimes at his grandson and sometimes at his strange companion, as if h_ere utterly powerless and had no resource but to leave them to do as the_leased. The young man reclined against a table at no great distance from hi_riend, in apparent indifference to everything that had passed; and I—who fel_he difficulty of any interference, notwithstanding that the old man ha_ppealed to me, both by words and looks—made the best feint I could of bein_ccupied in examining some of the goods that were disposed for sale, an_aying very little attention to a person before me.
  • The silence was not of long duration, for Mr Swiveller, after favouring u_ith several melodious assurances that his heart was in the Highlands, an_hat he wanted but his Arab steed as a preliminary to the achievement of grea_eats of valour and loyalty, removed his eyes from the ceiling and subside_nto prose again.
  • 'Fred,' said Mr Swiveller stopping short, as if the idea had suddenly occurre_o him, and speaking in the same audible whisper as before, 'is the old mi_riendly?'
  • 'What does it matter?' returned his friend peevishly.
  • 'No, but IS he?' said Dick.
  • 'Yes, of course. What do I care whether he is or not?'
  • Emboldened as it seemed by this reply to enter into a more genera_onversation, Mr Swiveller plainly laid himself out to captivate ou_ttention.
  • He began by remarking that soda-water, though a good thing in the abstract, was apt to lie cold upon the stomach unless qualified with ginger, or a smal_nfusion of brandy, which latter article he held to be preferable in al_ases, saving for the one consideration of expense. Nobody venturing t_ispute these positions, he proceeded to observe that the human hair was _reat retainer of tobacco-smoke, and that the young gentlemen of Westminste_nd Eton, after eating vast quantities of apples to conceal any scent o_igars from their anxious friends, were usually detected in consequence o_heir heads possessing this remarkable property; when he concluded that if th_oyal Society would turn their attention to the circumstance, and endeavour t_ind in the resources of science a means of preventing such untowar_evelations, they might indeed be looked upon as benefactors to mankind. Thes_pinions being equally incontrovertible with those he had already pronounced, he went on to inform us that Jamaica rum, though unquestionably an agreeabl_pirit of great richness and flavour, had the drawback of remaining constantl_resent to the taste next day; and nobody being venturous enough to argue thi_oint either, he increased in confidence and became yet more companionable an_ommunicative.
  • 'It's a devil of a thing, gentlemen,' said Mr Swiveller, 'when relations fal_ut and disagree. If the wing of friendship should never moult a feather, th_ing of relationship should never be clipped, but be always expanded an_erene. Why should a grandson and grandfather peg away at each other wit_utual wiolence when all might be bliss and concord. Why not jine hands an_orgit it?'
  • 'Hold your tongue,' said his friend.
  • 'Sir,' replied Mr Swiveller, 'don't you interrupt the chair. Gentlemen, ho_oes the case stand, upon the present occasion? Here is a jolly ol_randfather—I say it with the utmost respect—and here is a wild, youn_randson. The jolly old grandfather says to the wild young grandson, 'I hav_rought you up and educated you, Fred; I have put you in the way of getting o_n life; you have bolted a little out of course, as young fellows often do; and you shall never have another chance, nor the ghost of half a one.' Th_ild young grandson makes answer to this and says, 'You're as rich as rich ca_e; you have been at no uncommon expense on my account, you're saving up pile_f money for my little sister that lives with you in a secret, stealthy, hugger-muggering kind of way and with no manner of enjoyment—why can't yo_tand a trifle for your grown-up relation?' The jolly old grandfather unt_his, retorts, not only that he declines to fork out with that cheerfu_eadiness which is always so agreeable and pleasant in a gentleman of his tim_f life, but that he will bow up, and call names, and make reflection_henever they meet. Then the plain question is, an't it a pity that this stat_f things should continue, and how much better would it be for the gentlema_o hand over a reasonable amount of tin, and make it all right an_omfortable?'
  • Having delivered this oration with a great many waves and flourishes of th_and, Mr Swiveller abruptly thrust the head of his cane into his mouth as i_o prevent himself from impairing the effect of his speech by adding one othe_ord.
  • 'Why do you hunt and persecute me, God help me!' said the old man turning t_is grandson. 'Why do you bring your prolifigate companions here? How often a_ to tell you that my life is one of care and self-denial, and that I a_oor?'
  • 'How often am I to tell you,' returned the other, looking coldly at him, 'tha_ know better?'
  • 'You have chosen your own path,' said the old man. 'Follow it. Leave Nell an_e to toil and work.'
  • 'Nell will be a woman soon,' returned the other, 'and, bred in your faith, she'll forget her brother unless he shows himself sometimes.'
  • 'Take care,' said the old man with sparkling eyes, 'that she does not forge_ou when you would have her memory keenest. Take care that the day don't com_hen you walk barefoot in the streets, and she rides by in a gay carriage o_er own.'
  • 'You mean when she has your money?' retorted the other. 'How like a poor ma_e talks!'
  • 'And yet,' said the old man dropping his voice and speaking like one wh_hinks aloud, 'how poor we are, and what a life it is! The cause is a youn_hild's guiltless of all harm or wrong, but nothing goes well with it! Hop_nd patience, hope and patience!'
  • These words were uttered in too low a tone to reach the ears of the young men.
  • Mr Swiveller appeared to think the they implied some mental struggl_onsequent upon the powerful effect of his address, for he poked his frien_ith his cane and whispered his conviction that he had administered '_lincher,' and that he expected a commission on the profits. Discovering hi_istake after a while, he appeared to grow rather sleeply and discontented, and had more than once suggested the proprieity of an immediate departure, when the door opened, and the child herself appeared.