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.