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Chapter 33

  • As the course of this tale requires that we should become acquainted, somewhere hereabouts, with a few particulars connected with the domesti_conomy of Mr Sampson Brass, and as a more convenient place than the presen_s not likely to occur for that purpose, the historian takes the friendl_eader by the hand, and springing with him into the air, and cleaving the sam_t a greater rate than ever Don Cleophas Leandro Perez Zambullo and hi_amiliar travelled through that pleasant region in company, alights with hi_pon the pavement of Bevis Marks.
  • The intrepid aeronauts alight before a small dark house, once the residence o_r Sampson Brass.
  • In the parlour window of this little habitation, which is so close upon th_ootway that the passenger who takes the wall brushes the dim glass with hi_oat sleeve—much to its improvement, for it is very dirty—in this parlou_indow in the days of its occupation by Sampson Brass, there hung, all awr_nd slack, and discoloured by the sun, a curtain of faded green, so threadbar_rom long service as by no means to intercept the view of the little dar_oom, but rather to afford a favourable medium through which to observe i_ccurately. There was not much to look at. A rickety table, with spare bundle_f papers, yellow and ragged from long carriage in the pocket, ostentatiousl_isplayed upon its top; a couple of stools set face to face on opposite side_f this crazy piece of furniture; a treacherous old chair by the fire-place, whose withered arms had hugged full many a client and helped to squeeze hi_ry; a second-hand wig box, used as a depository for blank writs an_eclarations and other small forms of law, once the sole contents of the hea_hich belonged to the wig which belonged to the box, as they were now of th_ox itself; two or three common books of practice; a jar of ink, a pounce box, a stunted hearth-broom, a carpet trodden to shreds but still clinging with th_ightness of desperation to its tacks—these, with the yellow wainscot of th_alls, the smoke-discoloured ceiling, the dust and cobwebs, were among th_ost prominent decorations of the office of Mr Sampson Brass.
  • But this was mere still-life, of no greater importance than the plate, 'BRASS, Solicitor,' upon the door, and the bill, 'First floor to let to a singl_entleman,' which was tied to the knocker. The office commonly held tw_xamples of animated nature, more to the purpose of this history, and in who_t has a stronger interest and more particular concern.
  • Of these, one was Mr Brass himself, who has already appeared in these pages.
  • The other was his clerk, assistant, housekeeper, secretary, confidentia_lotter, adviser, intriguer, and bill of cost increaser, Miss Brass—a kind o_mazon at common law, of whom it may be desirable to offer a brie_escription.
  • Miss Sally Brass, then, was a lady of thirty-five or thereabouts, of a gaun_nd bony figure, and a resolute bearing, which if it repressed the softe_motions of love, and kept admirers at a distance, certainly inspired _eeling akin to awe in the breasts of those male strangers who had th_appiness to approach her. In face she bore a striking resemblance to he_rother, Sampson—so exact, indeed, was the likeness between them, that had i_onsorted with Miss Brass's maiden modesty and gentle womanhood to hav_ssumed her brother's clothes in a frolic and sat down beside him, it woul_ave been difficult for the oldest friend of the family to determine which wa_ampson and which Sally, especially as the lady carried upon her upper li_ertain reddish demonstrations, which, if the imagination had been assisted b_er attire, might have been mistaken for a beard. These were, however, in al_robability, nothing more than eyelashes in a wrong place, as the eyes of Mis_rass were quite free from any such natural impertinencies. In complexion Mis_rass was sallow—rather a dirty sallow, so to speak—but this hue was agreeabl_elieved by the healthy glow which mantled in the extreme tip of her laughin_ose. Her voice was exceedingly impressive—deep and rich in quality, and, onc_eard, not easily forgotten. Her usual dress was a green gown, in colour no_nlike the curtain of the office window, made tight to the figure, an_erminating at the throat, where it was fastened behind by a peculiarly larg_nd massive button. Feeling, no doubt, that simplicity and plainness are th_oul of elegance, Miss Brass wore no collar or kerchief except upon her head, which was invariably ornamented with a brown gauze scarf, like the wing of th_abled vampire, and which, twisted into any form that happened to sugges_tself, formed an easy and graceful head-dress.
  • Such was Miss Brass in person. In mind, she was of a strong and vigorous turn, having from her earliest youth devoted herself with uncommon ardour to th_tudy of law; not wasting her speculations upon its eagle flights, which ar_are, but tracing it attentively through all the slippery and eel-lik_rawlings in which it commonly pursues its way. Nor had she, like many person_f great intellect, confined herself to theory, or stopped short wher_ractical usefulness begins; inasmuch as she could ingross, fair-copy, fill u_rinted forms with perfect accuracy, and, in short, transact any ordinary dut_f the office down to pouncing a skin of parchment or mending a pen. It i_ifficult to understand how, possessed of these combined attractions, sh_hould remain Miss Brass; but whether she had steeled her heart agains_ankind, or whether those who might have wooed and won her, were deterred b_ears that, being learned in the law, she might have too near her fingers'
  • ends those particular statutes which regulate what are familiarly terme_ctions for breach, certain it is that she was still in a state of celibacy, and still in daily occupation of her old stool opposite to that of her brothe_ampson. And equally certain it is, by the way, that between these two stool_ great many people had come to the ground.
  • One morning Mr Sampson Brass sat upon his stool copying some legal process, and viciously digging his pen deep into the paper, as if he were writing upo_he very heart of the party against whom it was directed; and Miss Sally Bras_at upon her stool making a new pen preparatory to drawing out a little bill, which was her favourite occupation; and so they sat in silence for a lon_ime, until Miss Brass broke silence.
  • 'Have you nearly done, Sammy?' said Miss Brass; for in her mild and feminin_ips, Sampson became Sammy, and all things were softened down.
  • 'No,' returned her brother. 'It would have been all done though, if you ha_elped at the right time.'
  • 'Oh yes, indeed,' cried Miss Sally; 'you want my help, don't you? — YOU, too, that are going to keep a clerk!'
  • 'Am I going to keep a clerk for my own pleasure, or because of my own wish, you provoking rascal!' said Mr Brass, putting his pen in his mouth, an_rinning spitefully at his sister. 'What do you taunt me about going to keep _lerk for?'
  • It may be observed in this place, lest the fact of Mr Brass calling a lady _ascal, should occasion any wonderment or surprise, that he was so habituate_o having her near him in a man's capacity, that he had gradually accustome_imself to talk to her as though she were really a man. And this feeling wa_o perfectly reciprocal, that not only did Mr Brass often call Miss Brass _ascal, or even put an adjective before the rascal, but Miss Brass looked upo_t as quite a matter of course, and was as little moved as any other lad_ould be by being called an angel.
  • 'What do you taunt me, after three hours' talk last night, with going to kee_ clerk for?' repeated Mr Brass, grinning again with the pen in his mouth, like some nobleman's or gentleman's crest. Is it my fault?'
  • 'All I know is,' said Miss Sally, smiling drily, for she delighted in nothin_o much as irritating her brother, 'that if every one of your clients is t_orce us to keep a clerk, whether we want to or not, you had better leave of_usiness, strike yourself off the roll, and get taken in execution, as soon a_ou can.'
  • 'Have we got any other client like him?' said Brass. 'Have we got anothe_lient like him now—will you answer me that?'
  • 'Do you mean in the face!' said his sister.
  • 'Do I mean in the face!' sneered Sampson Brass, reaching over to take up th_ill-book, and fluttering its leaves rapidly. 'Look here—Daniel Quilp, Esquire—Daniel Quilp, Esquire—Daniel Quilp, Esquire—all through. Whethe_hould I take a clerk that he recommends, and says, "this is the man for you,"
  • or lose all this, eh?'
  • Miss Sally deigned to make no reply, but smiled again, and went on with he_ork.
  • 'But I know what it is,' resumed Brass after a short silence. 'You're afrai_ou won't have as long a finger in the business as you've been used to have.
  • Do you think I don't see through that?'
  • 'The business wouldn't go on very long, I expect, without me,' returned hi_ister composedly. 'Don't you be a fool and provoke me, Sammy, but mind wha_ou're doing, and do it.'
  • Sampson Brass, who was at heart in great fear of his sister, sulkily bent ove_is writing again, and listened as she said:
  • 'If I determined that the clerk ought not to come, of course he wouldn't b_llowed to come. You know that well enough, so don't talk nonsense.'
  • Mr Brass received this observation with increased meekness, merely remarking, under his breath, that he didn't like that kind of joking, and that Miss Sall_ould be 'a much better fellow' if she forbore to aggravate him. To thi_ompliment Miss Sally replied, that she had a relish for the amusement, an_ad no intention to forego its gratification. Mr Brass not caring, as i_eemed, to pursue the subject any further, they both plied their pens at _reat pace, and there the discussion ended.
  • While they were thus employed, the window was suddenly darkened, as by som_erson standing close against it. As Mr Brass and Miss Sally looked up t_scertain the cause, the top sash was nimbly lowered from without, and Quil_hrust in his head.
  • 'Hallo!' he said, standing on tip-toe on the window-sill, and looking dow_nto the room. 'is there anybody at home? Is there any of the Devil's war_ere? Is Brass at a premium, eh?'
  • 'Ha, ha, ha!' laughed the lawyer in an affected ecstasy. 'Oh, very good, Sir!
  • Oh, very good indeed! Quite eccentric! Dear me, what humour he has!'
  • 'Is that my Sally?' croaked the dwarf, ogling the fair Miss Brass. 'Is i_ustice with the bandage off her eyes, and without the sword and scales? Is i_he Strong Arm of the Law? Is it the Virgin of Bevis?'
  • 'What an amazing flow of spirits!' cried Brass. 'Upon my word, it's quit_xtraordinary!'
  • 'Open the door,' said Quilp, 'I've got him here. Such a clerk for you, Brass, such a prize, such an ace of trumps. Be quick and open the door, or if there'_nother lawyer near and he should happen to look out of window, he'll snap hi_p before your eyes, he will.'
  • It is probable that the loss of the phoenix of clerks, even to a riva_ractitioner, would not have broken Mr Brass's heart; but, pretending grea_lacrity, he rose from his seat, and going to the door, returned, introducin_is client, who led by the hand no less a person than Mr Richard Swiveller.
  • 'There she is,' said Quilp, stopping short at the door, and wrinkling up hi_yebrows as he looked towards Miss Sally; 'there is the woman I ought to hav_arried—there is the beautiful Sarah— there is the female who has all th_harms of her sex and none of their weaknesses. Oh Sally, Sally!'
  • To this amorous address Miss Brass briefly responded 'Bother!'
  • 'Hard-hearted as the metal from which she takes her name,' said Quilp. 'Wh_on't she change it—melt down the brass, and take another name?'
  • 'Hold your nonsense, Mr Quilp, do,' returned Miss Sally, with a grim smile. '_onder you're not ashamed of yourself before a strange young man.'
  • 'The strange young man,' said Quilp, handing Dick Swiveller forward, 'is to_usceptible himself not to understand me well. This is Mr Swiveller, m_ntimate friend—a gentleman of good family and great expectations, but who, having rather involved himself by youthful indiscretion, is content for a tim_o fill the humble station of a clerk—humble, but here most enviable. What _elicious atmosphere!'
  • If Mr Quilp spoke figuratively, and meant to imply that the air breathed b_iss Sally Brass was sweetened and rarefied by that dainty creature, he ha_oubtless good reason for what he said. But if he spoke of the delights of th_tmosphere of Mr Brass's office in a literal sense, he had certainly _eculiar taste, as it was of a close and earthy kind, and, besides bein_requently impregnated with strong whiffs of the second-hand wearing appare_xposed for sale in Duke's Place and Houndsditch, had a decided flavour o_ats and mice, and a taint of mouldiness. Perhaps some doubts of its pur_elight presented themselves to Mr Swiveller, as he gave vent to one or tw_hort abrupt sniffs, and looked incredulously at the grinning dwarf.
  • 'Mr Swiveller,' said Quilp, 'being pretty well accustomed to the agricultura_ursuits of sowing wild oats, Miss Sally, prudently considers that half a loa_s better than no bread. To be out of harm's way he prudently thinks i_omething too, and therefore he accepts your brother's offer. Brass, M_wiveller is yours.'
  • 'I am very glad, Sir,' said Mr Brass, 'very glad indeed. Mr Swiveller, Sir, i_ortunate enough to have your friendship. You may be very proud, Sir, to hav_he friendship of Mr Quilp.'
  • Dick murmured something about never wanting a friend or a bottle to give him, and also gasped forth his favourite allusion to the wing of friendship and it_ever moulting a feather; but his faculties appeared to be absorbed in th_ontemplation of Miss Sally Brass, at whom he stared with blank and ruefu_ooks, which delighted the watchful dwarf beyond measure. As to the divin_iss Sally herself, she rubbed her hands as men of business do, and took a fe_urns up and down the office with her pen behind her ear.
  • 'I suppose,' said the dwarf, turning briskly to his legal friend, 'that M_wiveller enters upon his duties at once? It's Monday morning.'
  • 'At once, if you please, Sir, by all means,' returned Brass.
  • 'Miss Sally will teach him law, the delightful study of the law,' said Quilp;
  • 'she'll be his guide, his friend, his companion, his Blackstone, his Coke upo_ittleton, his Young Lawyer's Best Companion.'
  • 'He is exceedingly eloquent,' said Brass, like a man abstracted, and lookin_t the roofs of the opposite houses, with his hands in his pockets; 'he has a_xtraordinary flow of language. Beautiful, really.'
  • 'With Miss Sally,' Quilp went on, 'and the beautiful fictions of the law, hi_ays will pass like minutes. Those charming creations of the poet, John Do_nd Richard Roe, when they first dawn upon him, will open a new world for th_nlargement of his mind and the improvement of his heart.'
  • 'Oh, beautiful, beautiful! Beau-ti-ful indeed!' cried Brass. 'It's a treat t_ear him!'
  • 'Where will Mr Swiveller sit?' said Quilp, looking round.
  • 'Why, we'll buy another stool, sir,' returned Brass. 'We hadn't any thought_f having a gentleman with us, sir, until you were kind enough to suggest it, and our accommodation's not extensive. We'll look about for a second-han_tool, sir. In the meantime, if Mr Swiveller will take my seat, and try hi_and at a fair copy of this ejectment, as I shall be out pretty well all th_orning—'
  • 'Walk with me,' said Quilp. 'I have a word or two to say to you on points o_usiness. Can you spare the time?'
  • 'Can I spare the time to walk with you, sir? You're joking, sir, you're jokin_ith me,' replied the lawyer, putting on his hat. 'I'm ready, sir, quit_eady. My time must be fully occupied indeed, sir, not to leave me time t_alk with you. It's not everybody, sir, who has an opportunity of improvin_imself by the conversation of Mr Quilp.'
  • The dwarf glanced sarcastically at his brazen friend, and, with a short dr_ough, turned upon his heel to bid adieu to Miss Sally. After a very gallan_arting on his side, and a very cool and gentlemanly sort of one on hers, h_odded to Dick Swiveller, and withdrew with the attorney.
  • Dick stood at the desk in a state of utter stupefaction, staring with all hi_ight at the beauteous Sally, as if she had been some curious animal whos_ike had never lived. When the dwarf got into the street, he mounted agai_pon the window-sill, and looked into the office for a moment with a grinnin_ace, as a man might peep into a cage. Dick glanced upward at him, but withou_ny token of recognition; and long after he had disappeared, still stoo_azing upon Miss Sally Brass, seeing or thinking of nothing else, and roote_o the spot.
  • Miss Brass being by this time deep in the bill of costs, took no notic_hatever of Dick, but went scratching on, with a noisy pen, scoring down th_igures with evident delight, and working like a steam-engine. There stoo_ick, gazing now at the green gown, now at the brown head-dress, now at th_ace, and now at the rapid pen, in a state of stupid perplexity, wondering ho_e got into the company of that strange monster, and whether it was a drea_nd he would ever wake. At last he heaved a deep sigh, and began slowl_ulling off his coat.
  • Mr Swiveller pulled off his coat, and folded it up with great elaboration, staring at Miss Sally all the time; then put on a blue jacket with a doubl_ow of gilt buttons, which he had originally ordered for aquatic expeditions, but had brought with him that morning for office purposes; and, still keepin_is eye upon her, suffered himself to drop down silently upon Mr Brass'_tool. Then he underwent a relapse, and becoming powerless again, rested hi_hin upon his hand, and opened his eyes so wide, that it appeared quite out o_he question that he could ever close them any more.
  • When he had looked so long that he could see nothing, Dick took his eyes of_he fair object of his amazement, turned over the leaves of the draft he wa_o copy, dipped his pen into the inkstand, and at last, and by slo_pproaches, began to write. But he had not written half-a-dozen words when, reaching over to the inkstand to take a fresh dip, he happened to raise hi_yes. There was the intolerable brown head-dress—there was the gree_own—there, in short, was Miss Sally Brass, arrayed in all her charms, an_ore tremendous than ever.
  • This happened so often, that Mr Swiveller by degrees began to feel strang_nfluences creeping over him—horrible desires to annihilate this Sall_rass—mysterious promptings to knock her head-dress off and try how she looke_ithout it. There was a very large ruler on the table; a large, black, shinin_uler. Mr Swiveller took it up and began to rub his nose with it.
  • From rubbing his nose with the ruler, to poising it in his hand and giving i_n occasional flourish after the tomahawk manner, the transition was easy an_atural. In some of these flourishes it went close to Miss Sally's head; th_agged edges of the head- dress fluttered with the wind it raised; advance i_ut an inch, and that great brown knot was on the ground: yet still th_nconscious maiden worked away, and never raised her eyes.
  • Well, this was a great relief. It was a good thing to write doggedly an_bstinately until he was desperate, and then snatch up the ruler and whirl i_bout the brown head-dress with the consciousness that he could have it off i_e liked. It was a good thing to draw it back, and rub his nose very hard wit_t, if he thought Miss Sally was going to look up, and to recompense himsel_ith more hardy flourishes when he found she was still absorbed. By thes_eans Mr Swiveller calmed the agitation of his feelings, until hi_pplications to the ruler became less fierce and frequent, and he could eve_rite as many as half-a-dozen consecutive lines without having recourse t_t—which was a great victory.