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Chapter 49

  • Kit's mother might have spared herself the trouble of looking back so often, for nothing was further from Mr Quilp's thoughts than any intention o_ursuing her and her son, or renewing the quarrel with which they had parted.
  • He went his way, whistling from time to time some fragments of a tune; an_ith a face quite tranquil and composed, jogged pleasantly towards home; entertaining himself as he went with visions of the fears and terrors of Mr_uilp, who, having received no intelligence of him for three whole days an_wo nights, and having had no previous notice of his absence, was doubtless b_hat time in a state of distraction, and constantly fainting away with anxiet_nd grief.
  • This facetious probability was so congenial to the dwarf's humour, and s_xquisitely amusing to him, that he laughed as he went along until the tear_an down his cheeks; and more than once, when he found himself in a bye- street, vented his delight in a shrill scream, which greatly terrifying an_onely passenger, who happened to be walking on before him expecting nothin_o little, increased his mirth, and made him remarkably cheerful and light- hearted.
  • In this happy flow of spirits, Mr Quilp reached Tower Hill, when, gazing up a_he window of his own sitting-room, he thought he descried more light than i_sual in a house of mourning. Drawing nearer, and listening attentively, h_ould hear several voices in earnest conversation, among which he coul_istinguish, not only those of his wife and mother-in-law, but the tongues o_en.
  • 'Ha!' cried the jealous dwarf, 'What's this! Do they entertain visitors whil_'m away!'
  • A smothered cough from above, was the reply. He felt in his pockets for hi_atch-key, but had forgotten it. There was no resource but to knock at th_oor.
  • 'A light in the passage,' said Quilp, peeping through the keyhole. 'A ver_oft knock; and, by your leave, my lady, I may yet steal upon you unawares.
  • Soho!'
  • A very low and gentle rap received no answer from within. But after a secon_pplication to the knocker, no louder than the first, the door was softl_pened by the boy from the wharf, whom Quilp instantly gagged with one hand, and dragged into the street with the other.
  • 'You'll throttle me, master,' whispered the boy. 'Let go, will you.'
  • 'Who's up stairs, you dog?' retorted Quilp in the same tone. 'Tell me. An_on't speak above your breath, or I'll choke you in good earnest.'
  • The boy could only point to the window, and reply with a stifled giggle, expressive of such intense enjoyment, that Quilp clutched him by the throa_nd might have carried his threat into execution, or at least have made ver_ood progress towards that end, but for the boy's nimbly extricating himsel_rom his grasp, and fortifying himself behind the nearest post, at which, after some fruitless attempts to catch him by the hair of the head, his maste_as obliged to come to a parley.
  • 'Will you answer me?' said Quilp. 'What's going on, above?'
  • 'You won't let one speak,' replied the boy. 'They—ha, ha, ha!— they thin_ou're—you're dead. Ha ha ha!'
  • 'Dead!' cried Quilp, relaxing into a grim laugh himself. 'No. Do they? Do the_eally, you dog?'
  • 'They think you're—you're drowned,' replied the boy, who in his maliciou_ature had a strong infusion of his master. 'You was last seen on the brink o_he wharf, and they think you tumbled over. Ha ha!'
  • The prospect of playing the spy under such delicious circumstances, and o_isappointing them all by walking in alive, gave more delight to Quilp tha_he greatest stroke of good fortune could possibly have inspired him with. H_as no less tickled than his hopeful assistant, and they both stood for som_econds, grinning and gasping and wagging their heads at each other, on eithe_ide of the post, like an unmatchable pair of Chinese idols.
  • 'Not a word,' said Quilp, making towards the door on tiptoe. 'Not a sound, no_o much as a creaking board, or a stumble against a cobweb. Drowned, eh, Mr_uilp! Drowned!'
  • So saying, he blew out the candle, kicked off his shoes, and groped his way u_tairs; leaving his delighted young friend in an ecstasy of summersets on th_avement.
  • The bedroom-door on the staircase being unlocked, Mr Quilp slipped in, an_lanted himself behind the door of communication between that chamber and th_itting-room, which standing ajar to render both more airy, and having a ver_onvenient chink (of which he had often availed himself for purposes o_spial, and had indeed enlarged with his pocket-knife), enabled him not onl_o hear, but to see distinctly, what was passing.
  • Applying his eye to this convenient place, he descried Mr Brass seated at th_able with pen, ink, and paper, and the case-bottle of rum—his own case- bottle, and his own particular Jamaica— convenient to his hand; with ho_ater, fragrant lemons, white lump sugar, and all things fitting; from whic_hoice materials, Sampson, by no means insensible to their claims upon hi_ttention, had compounded a mighty glass of punch reeking hot; which he was a_hat very moment stirring up with a teaspoon, and contemplating with looks i_hich a faint assumption of sentimental regret, struggled but weakly with _land and comfortable joy. At the same table, with both her elbows upon it, was Mrs Jiniwin; no longer sipping other people's punch feloniously wit_easpoons, but taking deep draughts from a jorum of her own; while he_aughter—not exactly with ashes on her head, or sackcloth on her back, bu_reserving a very decent and becoming appearance of sorrow nevertheless—wa_eclining in an easy chair, and soothing her grief with a smaller allowance o_he same glib liquid. There were also present, a couple of water-side men, bearing between them certain machines called drags; even these fellows wer_ccommodated with a stiff glass a-piece; and as they drank with a grea_elish, and were naturally of a red-nosed, pimple-faced, convivial look, thei_resence rather increased than detracted from that decided appearance o_omfort, which was the great characteristic of the party.
  • 'If I could poison that dear old lady's rum and water,' murmured Quilp, 'I'_ie happy.'
  • 'Ah!' said Mr Brass, breaking the silence, and raising his eyes to the ceilin_ith a sigh, 'Who knows but he may be looking down upon us now! Who knows bu_e may be surveying of us from—from somewheres or another, and contemplatin_s with a watchful eye! Oh Lor!'
  • Here Mr Brass stopped to drink half his punch, and then resumed; looking a_he other half, as he spoke, with a dejected smile.
  • 'I can almost fancy,' said the lawyer shaking his head, 'that I see his ey_listening down at the very bottom of my liquor. When shall we look upon hi_ike again? Never, never!' One minute we are here' —holding his tumbler befor_is eyes—'the next we are there'— gulping down its contents, and strikin_imself emphatically a little below the chest—'in the silent tomb. To thin_hat I should be drinking his very rum! It seems like a dream.'
  • With the view, no doubt, of testing the reality of his position, Mr Bras_ushed his tumbler as he spoke towards Mrs Jiniwin for the purpose of bein_eplenished; and turned towards the attendant mariners.
  • 'The search has been quite unsuccessful then?'
  • 'Quite, master. But I should say that if he turns up anywhere, he'll com_shore somewhere about Grinidge to-morrow, at ebb tide, eh, mate?'
  • The other gentleman assented, observing that he was expected at the Hospital, and that several pensioners would be ready to receive him whenever he arrived.
  • 'Then we have nothing for it but resignation,' said Mr Brass; 'nothing bu_esignation and expectation. It would be a comfort to have his body; it woul_e a dreary comfort.'
  • 'Oh, beyond a doubt,' assented Mrs Jiniwin hastily; 'if we once had that, w_hould be quite sure.'
  • 'With regard to the descriptive advertisement,' said Sampson Brass, taking u_is pen. 'It is a melancholy pleasure to recall his traits. Respecting hi_egs now—?'
  • 'Crooked, certainly,' said Mrs Jiniwin. 'Do you think they WERE crooked?' sai_rass, in an insinuating tone. 'I think I see them now coming up the stree_ery wide apart, in nankeen' pantaloons a little shrunk and without straps.
  • Ah! what a vale of tears we live in. Do we say crooked?'
  • 'I think they were a little so,' observed Mrs Quilp with a sob.
  • 'Legs crooked,' said Brass, writing as he spoke. 'Large head, short body, leg_rooked—'
  • Very crooked,' suggested Mrs Jiniwin.
  • 'We'll not say very crooked, ma'am,' said Brass piously. 'Let us not bear har_pon the weaknesses of the deceased. He is gone, ma'am, to where his legs wil_ever come in question. —We will content ourselves with crooked, Mrs Jiniwin.'
  • 'I thought you wanted the truth,' said the old lady. 'That's all.'
  • 'Bless your eyes, how I love you,' muttered Quilp. 'There she goes again.
  • Nothing but punch!'
  • 'This is an occupation,' said the lawyer, laying down his pen and emptying hi_lass, 'which seems to bring him before my eyes like the Ghost of Hamlet'_ather, in the very clothes that he wore on work-a-days. His coat, hi_aistcoat, his shoes and stockings, his trousers, his hat, his wit and humour, his pathos and his umbrella, all come before me like visions of my youth. Hi_inen!' said Mr Brass smiling fondly at the wall, 'his linen which was alway_f a particular colour, for such was his whim and fancy—how plain I see hi_inen now!'
  • 'You had better go on, sir,' said Mrs Jiniwin impatiently.
  • 'True, ma'am, true,' cried Mr Brass. 'Our faculties must not freeze wit_rief. I'll trouble you for a little more of that, ma'am. A question no_rises, with relation to his nose.'
  • 'Flat,' said Mrs Jiniwin.
  • 'Aquiline!' cried Quilp, thrusting in his head, and striking the feature wit_is fist. 'Aquiline, you hag. Do you see it? Do you call this flat? Do you?
  • Eh?'
  • 'Oh capital, capital!' shouted Brass, from the mere force of habit.
  • 'Excellent! How very good he is! He's a most remarkable man—so extremel_himsical! Such an amazing power of taking people by surprise!'
  • Quilp paid no regard whatever to these compliments, nor to the dubious an_rightened look into which the lawyer gradually subsided, nor to the shriek_f his wife and mother-in-law, nor to the latter's running from the room, no_o the former's fainting away. Keeping his eye fixed on Sampson Brass, h_alked up to the table, and beginning with his glass, drank off the contents, and went regularly round until he had emptied the other two, when he seize_he case-bottle, and hugging it under his arm, surveyed him with a mos_xtraordinary leer.
  • 'Not yet, Sampson,' said Quilp. 'Not just yet!'
  • 'Oh very good indeed!' cried Brass, recovering his spirits a little. 'Ha h_a! Oh exceedingly good! There's not another man alive who could carry it of_ike that. A most difficult position to carry off. But he has such a flow o_ood-humour, such an amazing flow!'
  • 'Good night,' said the dwarf, nodding expressively.
  • 'Good night, sir, good night,' cried the lawyer, retreating backwards toward_he door. 'This is a joyful occasion indeed, extremely joyful. Ha ha ha! o_ery rich, very rich indeed, remarkably so!'
  • Waiting until Mr Brass's ejaculations died away in the distance (for h_ontinued to pour them out, all the way down stairs), Quilp advanced toward_he two men, who yet lingered in a kind of stupid amazement.
  • 'Have you been dragging the river all day, gentlemen?' said the dwarf, holdin_he door open with great politeness.
  • 'And yesterday too, master.'
  • 'Dear me, you've had a deal of trouble. Pray consider everything yours tha_ou find upon the—upon the body. Good night!'
  • The men looked at each other, but had evidently no inclination to argue th_oint just then, and shuffled out of the room. The speedy clearance effected, Quilp locked the doors; and still embracing the case-bottle with shrugged-u_houlders and folded arms, stood looking at his insensible wife like _ismounted nightmare.