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Chapter 21

  • Kit turned away and very soon forgot the pony, and the chaise, and the littl_ld lady, and the little old gentleman, and the little young gentleman t_oot, in thinking what could have become of his late master and his lovel_randchild, who were the fountain-head of all his meditations. Still castin_bout for some plausible means of accounting for their non-appearance, and o_ersuading himself that they must soon return, he bent his steps towards home, intending to finish the task which the sudden recollection of his contract ha_nterrupted, and then to sally forth once more to seek his fortune for th_ay.
  • When he came to the corner of the court in which he lived, lo and behold ther_as the pony again! Yes, there he was, looking more obstinate than ever; an_lone in the chaise, keeping a steady watch upon his every wink, sat Mr Abel, who, lifting up his eyes by chance and seeing Kit pass by, nodded to him a_hough he would have nodded his head off.
  • Kit wondered to see the pony again, so near his own home too, but it neve_ccurred to him for what purpose the pony might have come there, or where th_ld lady and the old gentleman had gone, until he lifted the latch of th_oor, and walking in, found them seated in the room in conversation with hi_other, at which unexpected sight he pulled off his hat and made his best bo_n some confusion.
  • 'We are here before you, you see, Christopher,' said Mr Garland smiling.
  • 'Yes, sir,' said Kit; and as he said it, he looked towards his mother for a_xplanation of the visit.
  • 'The gentleman's been kind enough, my dear,' said she, in reply to this mut_nterrogation, 'to ask me whether you were in a good place, or in any place a_ll, and when I told him no, you were not in any, he was so good as to sa_hat—'
  • '—That we wanted a good lad in our house,' said the old gentleman and the ol_ady both together, 'and that perhaps we might think of it, if we foun_verything as we would wish it to be.'
  • As this thinking of it, plainly meant the thinking of engaging Kit, h_mmediately partook of his mother's anxiety and fell into a great flutter; fo_he little old couple were very methodical and cautious, and asked so man_uestions that he began to be afraid there was no chance of his success.
  • 'You see, my good woman,' said Mrs Garland to Kit's mother, 'that it'_ecessary to be very careful and particular in such a matter as this, fo_e're only three in family, and are very quiet regular folks, and it would b_ sad thing if we made any kind of mistake, and found things different fro_hat we hoped and expected.'
  • To this, Kit's mother replied, that certainly it was quite true, and quit_ight, and quite proper, and Heaven forbid that she should shrink, or hav_ause to shrink, from any inquiry into her character or that of her son, wh_as a very good son though she was his mother, in which respect, she was bol_o say, he took after his father, who was not only a good son to HIS mother, but the best of husbands and the best of fathers besides, which Kit could an_ould corroborate she knew, and so would little Jacob and the baby likewise i_hey were old enough, which unfortunately they were not, though as they didn'_now what a loss they had had, perhaps it was a great deal better that the_hould be as young as they were; and so Kit's mother wound up a long story b_iping her eyes with her apron, and patting little Jacob's head, who wa_ocking the cradle and staring with all his might at the strange lady an_entleman.
  • When Kit's mother had done speaking, the old lady struck in again, and sai_hat she was quite sure she was a very honest and very respectable person o_he never would have expressed herself in that manner, and that certainly th_ppearance of the children and the cleanliness of the house deserved grea_raise and did her the utmost credit, whereat Kit's mother dropped a curtse_nd became consoled. Then the good woman entered in a long and minute accoun_f Kit's life and history from the earliest period down to that time, no_mitting to make mention of his miraculous fall out of a back-parlour windo_hen an infant of tender years, or his uncommon sufferings in a state o_easles, which were illustrated by correct imitations of the plaintive manne_n which he called for toast and water, day and night, and said, 'don't cry, mother, I shall soon be better;' for proof of which statements reference wa_ade to Mrs Green, lodger, at the cheesemonger's round the corner, and diver_ther ladies and gentlemen in various parts of England and Wales (and one M_rown who was supposed to be then a corporal in the East Indies, and who coul_f course be found with very little trouble), within whose personal knowledg_he circumstances had occurred. This narration ended, Mr Garland put som_uestions to Kit respecting his qualifications and general acquirements, whil_rs Garland noticed the children, and hearing from Kit's mother certai_emarkable circumstances which had attended the birth of each, related certai_ther remarkable circumstances which had attended the birth of her own son, M_bel, from which it appeared that both Kit's mother and herself had been, above and beyond all other women of what condition or age soever, peculiarl_emmed in with perils and dangers. Lastly, inquiry was made into the natur_nd extent of Kit's wardrobe, and a small advance being made to improve th_ame, he was formally hired at an annual income of Six Pounds, over and abov_is board and lodging, by Mr and Mrs Garland, of Abel Cottage, Finchley.
  • It would be difficult to say which party appeared most pleased with thi_rrangement, the conclusion of which was hailed with nothing but pleasan_ooks and cheerful smiles on both sides. It was settled that Kit should repai_o his new abode on the next day but one, in the morning; and finally, th_ittle old couple, after bestowing a bright half-crown on little Jacob an_nother on the baby, took their leaves; being escorted as far as the street b_heir new attendant, who held the obdurate pony by the bridle while they too_heir seats, and saw them drive away with a lightened heart.
  • 'Well, mother,' said Kit, hurrying back into the house, 'I think my fortune'_bout made now.'
  • 'I should think it was indeed, Kit,' rejoined his mother. 'Six pound a year!
  • Only think!'
  • 'Ah!' said Kit, trying to maintain the gravity which the consideration of suc_ sum demanded, but grinning with delight in spite of himself. 'There's _roperty!'
  • Kit drew a long breath when he had said this, and putting his hands deep int_is pockets as if there were one year's wages at least in each, looked at hi_other, as though he saw through her, and down an immense perspective o_overeigns beyond.
  • 'Please God we'll make such a lady of you for Sundays, mother! such a schola_f Jacob, such a child of the baby, such a room of the one up stairs! Si_ound a year!'
  • 'Hem!' croaked a strange voice. 'What's that about six pound a year? Wha_bout six pound a year?' And as the voice made this inquiry, Daniel Quil_alked in with Richard Swiveller at his heels.
  • 'Who said he was to have six pound a year?' said Quilp, looking sharply round.
  • 'Did the old man say it, or did little Nell say it? And what's he to have i_or, and where are they, eh!' The good woman was so much alarmed by the sudde_pparition of this unknown piece of ugliness, that she hastily caught the bab_rom its cradle and retreated into the furthest corner of the room; whil_ittle Jacob, sitting upon his stool with his hands on his knees, looked ful_t him in a species of fascination, roaring lustily all the time. Richar_wiveller took an easy observation of the family over Mr Quilp's head, an_uilp himself, with his hands in his pockets, smiled in an exquisite enjoymen_f the commotion he occasioned.
  • 'Don't be frightened, mistress,' said Quilp, after a pause. 'Your son know_e; I don't eat babies; I don't like 'em. It will be as well to stop tha_oung screamer though, in case I should be tempted to do him a mischief.
  • Holloa, sir! Will you be quiet?'
  • Little Jacob stemmed the course of two tears which he was squeezing out of hi_yes, and instantly subsided into a silent horror.
  • 'Mind you don't break out again, you villain,' said Quilp, looking sternly a_im, 'or I'll make faces at you and throw you into fits, I will. Now you sir, why haven't you been to me as you promised?'
  • 'What should I come for?' retorted Kit. 'I hadn't any business with you, n_ore than you had with me.'
  • 'Here, mistress,' said Quilp, turning quickly away, and appealing from Kit t_is mother. 'When did his old master come or send here last? Is he here now?
  • If not, where's he gone?'
  • 'He has not been here at all,' she replied. 'I wish we knew where they hav_one, for it would make my son a good deal easier in his mind, and me too. I_ou're the gentleman named Mr Quilp, I should have thought you'd have known, and so I told him only this very day.'
  • 'Humph!' muttered Quilp, evidently disappointed to believe that this was true.
  • 'That's what you tell this gentleman too, is it?'
  • 'If the gentleman comes to ask the same question, I can't tell him anythin_lse, sir; and I only wish I could, for our own sakes,' was the reply.
  • Quilp glanced at Richard Swiveller, and observed that having met him on th_hreshold, he assumed that he had come in search of some intelligence of th_ugitives. He supposed he was right?
  • 'Yes,' said Dick, 'that was the object of the present expedition. I fancied i_ossible—but let us go ring fancy's knell. I'll begin it.'
  • 'You seem disappointed,' observed Quilp.
  • 'A baffler, Sir, a baffler, that's all,' returned Dick. 'I have entered upon _peculation which has proved a baffler; and a Being of brightness and beaut_ill be offered up a sacrifice at Cheggs's altar. That's all, sir.'
  • The dwarf eyed Richard with a sarcastic smile, but Richard, who had bee_aking a rather strong lunch with a friend, observed him not, and continued t_eplore his fate with mournful and despondent looks. Quilp plainly discerne_hat there was some secret reason for this visit and his uncommo_isappointment, and, in the hope that there might be means of mischief lurkin_eneath it, resolved to worm it out. He had no sooner adopted this resolution, than he conveyed as much honesty into his face as it was capable o_xpressing, and sympathised with Mr Swiveller exceedingly.
  • 'I am disappointed myself,' said Quilp, 'out of mere friendly feeling fo_hem; but you have real reasons, private reasons I have no doubt, for you_isappointment, and therefore it comes heavier than mine.'
  • 'Why, of course it does,' Dick observed, testily.
  • 'Upon my word, I'm very sorry, very sorry. I'm rather cast down myself. As w_re companions in adversity, shall we be companions in the surest way o_orgetting it? If you had no particular business, now, to lead you in anothe_irection,' urged Quilp, plucking him by the sleeve and looking slyly up int_is face out of the corners of his eyes, 'there is a house by the water-sid_here they have some of the noblest Schiedam—reputed to be smuggled, bu_hat's between ourselves—that can be got in all the world. The landlord know_e. There's a little summer-house overlooking the river, where we might take _lass of this delicious liquor with a whiff of the best tobacco—it's in thi_ase, and of the rarest quality, to my certain knowledge—and be perfectly snu_nd happy, could we possibly contrive it; or is there any very particula_ngagement that peremptorily takes you another way, Mr Swiveller, eh?'
  • As the dwarf spoke, Dick's face relaxed into a compliant smile, and his brow_lowly unbent. By the time he had finished, Dick was looking down at Quilp i_he same sly manner as Quilp was looking up at him, and there remained nothin_ore to be done but to set out for the house in question. This they did, straightway. The moment their backs were turned, little Jacob thawed, an_esumed his crying from the point where Quilp had frozen him.
  • The summer-house of which Mr Quilp had spoken was a rugged wooden box, rotte_nd bare to see, which overhung the river's mud, and threatened to slide dow_nto it. The tavern to which it belonged was a crazy building, sapped an_ndermined by the rats, and only upheld by great bars of wood which wer_eared against its walls, and had propped it up so long that even they wer_ecaying and yielding with their load, and of a windy night might be heard t_reak and crack as if the whole fabric were about to come toppling down. Th_ouse stood—if anything so old and feeble could be said to stand—on a piece o_aste ground, blighted with the unwholesome smoke of factory chimneys, an_choing the clank of iron wheels and rush of troubled water. Its interna_ccommodations amply fulfilled the promise of the outside. The rooms were lo_nd damp, the clammy walls were pierced with chinks and holes, the rotte_loors had sunk from their level, the very beams started from their places an_arned the timid stranger from their neighbourhood.
  • To this inviting spot, entreating him to observe its beauties as they passe_long, Mr Quilp led Richard Swiveller, and on the table of the summer-house, scored deep with many a gallows and initial letter, there soon appeared _ooden keg, full of the vaunted liquor. Drawing it off into the glasses wit_he skill of a practised hand, and mixing it with about a third part of water, Mr Quilp assigned to Richard Swiveller his portion, and lighting his pipe fro_n end of a candle in a very old and battered lantern, drew himself togethe_pon a seat and puffed away.
  • 'Is it good?' said Quilp, as Richard Swiveller smacked his lips, 'is it stron_nd fiery? Does it make you wink, and choke, and your eyes water, and you_reath come short—does it?'
  • 'Does it?' cried Dick, throwing away part of the contents of his glass, an_illing it up with water, 'why, man, you don't mean to tell me that you drin_uch fire as this?'
  • 'No!' rejoined Quilp, 'Not drink it! Look here. And here. And here again. No_rink it!'
  • As he spoke, Daniel Quilp drew off and drank three small glassfuls of the ra_pirit, and then with a horrible grimace took a great many pulls at his pipe, and swallowing the smoke, discharged it in a heavy cloud from his nose. Thi_eat accomplished he drew himself together in his former position, and laughe_xcessively.
  • 'Give us a toast!' cried Quilp, rattling on the table in a dexterous manne_ith his fist and elbow alternately, in a kind of tune, 'a woman, a beauty.
  • Let's have a beauty for our toast and empty our glasses to the last drop. He_ame, come!'
  • 'If you want a name,' said Dick, 'here's Sophy Wackles.'
  • 'Sophy Wackles,' screamed the dwarf, 'Miss Sophy Wackles that is— Mrs Richar_wiveller that shall be—that shall be—ha ha ha!'
  • 'Ah!' said Dick, 'you might have said that a few weeks ago, but it won't d_ow, my buck. Immolating herself upon the shrine of Cheggs—'
  • 'Poison Cheggs, cut Cheggs's ears off,' rejoined Quilp. 'I won't hear o_heggs. Her name is Swiveller or nothing. I'll drink her health again, and he_ather's, and her mother's; and to all her sisters and brothers—the gloriou_amily of the Wackleses—all the Wackleses in one glass—down with it to th_regs!'
  • 'Well,' said Richard Swiveller, stopping short in the act of raising the glas_o his lips and looking at the dwarf in a species of stupor as he flourishe_is arms and legs about: 'you're a jolly fellow, but of all the jolly fellow_ ever saw or heard of, you have the queerest and most extraordinary way wit_ou, upon my life you have.'
  • This candid declaration tended rather to increase than restrain Mr Quilp'_ccentricities, and Richard Swiveller, astonished to see him in such _oystering vein, and drinking not a little himself, for company—bega_mperceptibly to become more companionable and confiding, so that, bein_udiciously led on by Mr Quilp, he grew at last very confiding indeed. Havin_nce got him into this mood, and knowing now the key-note to strike wheneve_e was at a loss, Daniel Quilp's task was comparatively an easy one, and h_as soon in possession of the whole details of the scheme contrived betwee_he easy Dick and his more designing friend.
  • 'Stop!' said Quilp. 'That's the thing, that's the thing. It can be brough_bout, it shall be brought about. There's my hand upon it; I am your frien_rom this minute.'
  • 'What! do you think there's still a chance?' inquired Dick, in surprise a_his encouragement.
  • 'A chance!' echoed the dwarf, 'a certainty! Sophy Wackles may become a Chegg_r anything else she likes, but not a Swiveller. Oh you lucky dog! He's riche_han any Jew alive; you're a made man. I see in you now nothing but Nelly'_usband, rolling in gold and silver. I'll help you. It shall be done. Mind m_ords, it shall be done.'
  • 'But how?' said Dick.
  • 'There's plenty of time,' rejoined the dwarf, 'and it shall be done. We'll si_own and talk it over again all the way through. Fill your glass while I'_one. I shall be back directly— directly.' With these hasty words, Danie_uilp withdrew into a dismantled skittle-ground behind the public-house, and, throwing himself upon the ground actually screamed and rolled about i_ncontrollable delight.
  • 'Here's sport!' he cried, 'sport ready to my hand, all invented and arranged, and only to be enjoyed. It was this shallow-pated fellow who made my bone_che t'other day, was it? It was his friend and fellow-plotter, Mr Trent, tha_nce made eyes at Mrs Quilp, and leered and looked, was it? After labourin_or two or three years in their precious scheme, to find that they've got _eggar at last, and one of them tied for life. Ha ha ha! He shall marry Nell.
  • He shall have her, and I'll be the first man, when the knot's tied hard an_ast, to tell 'em what they've gained and what I've helped 'em to. Here wil_e a clearing of old scores, here will be a time to remind 'em what a capita_riend I was, and how I helped them to the heiress. Ha ha ha!'
  • In the height of his ecstasy, Mr Quilp had like to have met with _isagreeable check, for rolling very near a broken dog-kennel, there leap_orth a large fierce dog, who, but that his chain was of the shortest, woul_ave given him a disagreeable salute. As it was, the dwarf remained upon hi_ack in perfect safety, taunting the dog with hideous faces, and triumphin_ver him in his inability to advance another inch, though there were not _ouple of feet between them.
  • 'Why don't you come and bite me, why don't you come and tear me to pieces, yo_oward?' said Quilp, hissing and worrying the animal till he was nearly mad.
  • 'You're afraid, you bully, you're afraid, you know you are.'
  • The dog tore and strained at his chain with starting eyes and furious bark, but there the dwarf lay, snapping his fingers with gestures of defiance an_ontempt. When he had sufficiently recovered from his delight, he rose, an_ith his arms a-kimbo, achieved a kind of demon-dance round the kennel, jus_ithout the limits of the chain, driving the dog quite wild. Having by thi_eans composed his spirits and put himself in a pleasant train, he returned t_is unsuspicious companion, whom he found looking at the tide with exceedin_ravity, and thinking of that same gold and silver which Mr Quilp ha_entioned.