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Chapter 50

  • Matrimonial differences are usually discussed by the parties concerned in th_orm of dialogue, in which the lady bears at least her full half share. Thos_f Mr and Mrs Quilp, however, were an exception to the general rule; th_emarks which they occasioned being limited to a long soliloquy on the part o_he gentleman, with perhaps a few deprecatory observations from the lady, no_xtending beyond a trembling monosyllable uttered at long intervals, and in _ery submissive and humble tone. On the present occasion, Mrs Quilp did no_or a long time venture even on this gentle defence, but when she ha_ecovered from her fainting-fit, sat in a tearful silence, meekly listening t_he reproaches of her lord and master.
  • Of these Mr Quilp delivered himself with the utmost animation and rapidity, and with so many distortions of limb and feature, that even his wife, althoug_olerably well accustomed to his proficiency in these respects, was well-nig_eside herself with alarm. But the Jamaica rum, and the joy of havin_ccasioned a heavy disappointment, by degrees cooled Mr Quilp's wrath; whic_rom being at savage heat, dropped slowly to the bantering or chuckling point, at which it steadily remained.
  • 'So you thought I was dead and gone, did you?' said Quilp. 'You thought yo_ere a widow, eh? Ha, ha, ha, you jade."
  • 'Indeed, Quilp,' returned his wife. 'I'm very sorry—'
  • 'Who doubts it!' cried the dwarf. 'You very sorry! to be sure you are. Wh_oubts that you're VERY sorry!'
  • 'I don't mean sorry that you have come home again alive and well,' said hi_ife, 'but sorry that I should have been led into such a belief. I am glad t_ee you, Quilp; indeed I am.'
  • In truth Mrs Quilp did seem a great deal more glad to behold her lord tha_ight have been expected, and did evince a degree of interest in his safet_hich, all things considered, was rather unaccountable. Upon Quilp, however, this circumstance made no impression, farther than as it moved him to snap hi_ingers close to his wife's eyes, with divers grins of triumph and derision.
  • 'How could you go away so long, without saying a word to me or letting me hea_f you or know anything about you?' asked the poor little woman, sobbing. 'Ho_ould you be so cruel, Quilp?'
  • 'How could I be so cruel! cruel!' cried the dwarf. 'Because I was in th_umour. I'm in the humour now. I shall be cruel when I like. I'm going awa_gain.'
  • 'Not again!'
  • 'Yes, again. I'm going away now. I'm off directly. I mean to go and liv_herever the fancy seizes me—at the wharf—at the counting-house—and be a joll_achelor. You were a widow in anticipation. Damme,' screamed the dwarf, 'I'l_e a bachelor in earnest.'
  • 'You can't be serious, Quilp,' sobbed his wife.
  • 'I tell you,' said the dwarf, exulting in his project, 'that I'll be _achelor, a devil-may-care bachelor; and I'll have my bachelor's hall at th_ounting-house, and at such times come near it if you dare. And mind too tha_ don't pounce in upon you at unseasonable hours again, for I'll be a spy upo_ou, and come and go like a mole or a weazel. Tom Scott—where's Tom Scott?'
  • 'Here I am, master,' cried the voice of the boy, as Quilp threw up the window.
  • 'Wait there, you dog,' returned the dwarf, 'to carry a bachelor's portmanteau.
  • Pack it up, Mrs Quilp. Knock up the dear old lady to help; knock her up.
  • Halloa there! Halloa!'
  • With these exclamations, Mr Quilp caught up the poker, and hurrying to th_oor of the good lady's sleeping-closet, beat upon it therewith until sh_woke in inexpressible terror, thinking that her amiable son-in-law surel_ntended to murder her in justification of the legs she had slandered.
  • Impressed with this idea, she was no sooner fairly awake than she screame_iolently, and would have quickly precipitated herself out of the window an_hrough a neighbouring skylight, if her daughter had not hastened in t_ndeceive her, and implore her assistance. Somewhat reassured by her accoun_f the service she was required to render, Mrs Jiniwin made her appearance i_ flannel dressing-gown; and both mother and daughter, trembling with terro_nd cold—for the night was now far advanced—obeyed Mr Quilp's directions i_ubmissive silence. Prolonging his preparations as much as possible, for thei_reater comfort, that eccentric gentleman superintended the packing of hi_ardrobe, and having added to it with his own hands, a plate, knife and fork, spoon, teacup and saucer, and other small household matters of that nature, strapped up the portmanteau, took it on his shoulders, and actually marche_ff without another word, and with the case-bottle (which he had never onc_ut down) still tightly clasped under his arm. Consigning his heavier burde_o the care of Tom Scott when he reached the street, taking a dram from th_ottle for his own encouragement, and giving the boy a rap on the head with i_s a small taste for himself, Quilp very deliberately led the way to th_harf, and reached it at between three and four o'clock in the morning.
  • 'Snug!' said Quilp, when he had groped his way to the wooden counting-house, and opened the door with a key he carried about with him. 'Beautifully snug!
  • Call me at eight, you dog.'
  • With no more formal leave-taking or explanation, he clutched the portmanteau, shut the door on his attendant, and climbing on the desk, and rolling himsel_p as round as a hedgehog, in an old boat-cloak, fell fast asleep.
  • Being roused in the morning at the appointed time, and roused with difficulty, after his late fatigues, Quilp instructed Tom Scott to make a fire in the yar_f sundry pieces of old timber, and to prepare some coffee for breakfast; fo_he better furnishing of which repast he entrusted him with certain smal_oneys, to be expended in the purchase of hot rolls, butter, sugar, Yarmout_loaters, and other articles of housekeeping; so that in a few minutes _avoury meal was smoking on the board. With this substantial comfort, th_warf regaled himself to his heart's content; and being highly satisfied wit_his free and gipsy mode of life (which he had often meditated, as offering, whenever he chose to avail himself of it, an agreeable freedom from th_estraints of matrimony, and a choice means of keeping Mrs Quilp and he_other in a state of incessant agitation and suspense), bestirred himself t_mprove his retreat, and render it more commodious and comfortable.
  • With this view, he issued forth to a place hard by, where sea- stores wer_old, purchased a second-hand hammock, and had it slung in seamanlike fashio_rom the ceiling of the counting-house. He also caused to be erected, in th_ame mouldy cabin, an old ship's stove with a rusty funnel to carry the smok_hrough the roof; and these arrangements completed, surveyed them wit_neffable delight.
  • 'I've got a country-house like Robinson Crusoe," said the dwarf, ogling th_ccommodations; 'a solitary, sequestered, desolate-island sort of spot, wher_ can be quite alone when I have business on hand, and be secure from al_pies and listeners. Nobody near me here, but rats, and they are fine stealth_ecret fellows. I shall be as merry as a grig among these gentry. I'll loo_ut for one like Christopher, and poison him—ha, ha, ha! Busines_hough—business—we must be mindful of business in the midst of pleasure, an_he time has flown this morning, I declare.'
  • Enjoining Tom Scott to await his return, and not to stand upon his head, o_hrow a summerset, or so much as walk upon his hands meanwhile, on pain o_ingering torments, the dwarf threw himself into a boat, and crossing to th_ther side of the river, and then speeding away on foot, reached M_wiveller's usual house of entertainment in Bevis Marks, just as tha_entleman sat down alone to dinner in its dusky parlour.
  • 'Dick'- said the dwarf, thrusting his head in at the door, 'my pet, my pupil, the apple of my eye, hey, hey!'
  • 'Oh you're there, are you?' returned Mr Swiveller; 'how are you?'
  • 'How's Dick?' retorted Quilp. 'How's the cream of clerkship, eh?'
  • 'Why, rather sour, sir,' replied Mr Swiveller. 'Beginning to border upo_heesiness, in fact.'
  • 'What's the matter?' said the dwarf, advancing. 'Has Sally proved unkind. "O_ll the girls that are so smart, there's none like—" eh, Dick!'
  • 'Certainly not,' replied Mr Swiveller, eating his dinner with great gravity,
  • 'none like her. She's the sphynx of private life, is Sally B.'
  • 'You're out of spirits,' said Quilp, drawing up a chair. 'What's the matter?'
  • 'The law don't agree with me,' returned Dick. 'It isn't moist enough, an_here's too much confinement. I have been thinking of running away.'
  • 'Bah!' said the dwarf. 'Where would you run to, Dick?'
  • 'I don't know' returned Mr Swiveller. 'Towards Highgate, I suppose. Perhap_he bells might strike up "Turn again Swiveller, Lord Mayor of London."
  • Whittington's name was Dick. I wish cats were scarcer."
  • Quilp looked at his companion with his eyes screwed up into a comica_xpression of curiosity, and patiently awaited his further explanation; upo_hich, however, Mr Swiveller appeared in no hurry to enter, as he ate a ver_ong dinner in profound silence, finally pushed away his plate, threw himsel_ack into his chair, folded his arms, and stared ruefully at the fire, i_hich some ends of cigars were smoking on their own account, and sending up _ragrant odour.
  • 'Perhaps you'd like a bit of cake'—said Dick, at last turning to the dwarf.
  • 'You're quite welcome to it. You ought to be, for it's of your making.'
  • 'What do you mean?' said Quilp.
  • Mr Swiveller replied by taking from his pocket a small and very greasy parcel, slowly unfolding it, and displaying a little slab of plum-cake extremel_ndigestible in appearance, and bordered with a paste of white sugar an inc_nd a half deep.
  • 'What should you say this was?' demanded Mr Swiveller.
  • 'It looks like bride-cake,' replied the dwarf, grinning.
  • 'And whose should you say it was?' inquired Mr Swiveller, rubbing the pastr_gainst his nose with a dreadful calmness. 'Whose?'
  • 'Not—'
  • 'Yes,' said Dick, 'the same. You needn't mention her name. There's no suc_ame now. Her name is Cheggs now, Sophy Cheggs. Yet loved I as man never love_hat hadn't wooden legs, and my heart, my heart is breaking for the love o_ophy Cheggs.'
  • With this extemporary adaptation of a popular ballad to the distressin_ircumstances of his own case, Mr Swiveller folded up the parcel again, bea_t very flat between the palms of his hands, thrust it into his breast, buttoned his coat over it, and folded his arms upon the whole.
  • 'Now, I hope you're satisfied, sir,' said Dick; 'and I hope Fred's satisfied.
  • You went partners in the mischief, and I hope you like it. This is the triump_ was to have, is it? It's like the old country-dance of that name, wher_here are two gentlemen to one lady, and one has her, and the other hasn't, but comes limping up behind to make out the figure. But it's Destiny, an_ine's a crusher.'
  • Disguising his secret joy in Mr Swiveller's defeat, Daniel Quilp adopted th_urest means of soothing him, by ringing the bell, and ordering in a supply o_osy wine (that is to say, of its usual representative), which he put abou_ith great alacrity, calling upon Mr Swiveller to pledge him in various toast_erisive of Cheggs, and eulogistic of the happiness of single men. Such wa_heir impression on Mr Swiveller, coupled with the reflection that no ma_ould oppose his destiny, that in a very short space of time his spirits ros_urprisingly, and he was enabled to give the dwarf an account of the receip_f the cake, which, it appeared, had been brought to Bevis Marks by the tw_urviving Miss Wackleses in person, and delivered at the office door with muc_iggling and joyfulness.
  • 'Ha!' said Quilp. 'It will be our turn to giggle soon. And that reminds me—yo_poke of young Trent—where is he?'
  • Mr Swiveller explained that his respectable friend had recently accepted _esponsible situation in a locomotive gaming-house, and was at that tim_bsent on a professional tour among the adventurous spirits of Great Britain.
  • 'That's unfortunate,' said the dwarf, 'for I came, in fact, to ask you abou_im. A thought has occurred to me, Dick; your friend over the way—'
  • 'Which friend?'
  • 'In the first floor.'
  • 'Yes?'
  • 'Your friend in the first floor, Dick, may know him.'
  • 'No, he don't,' said Mr Swiveller, shaking his head.
  • 'Don't! No, because he has never seen him,' rejoined Quilp; 'but if we were t_ring them together, who knows, Dick, but Fred, properly introduced, woul_erve his turn almost as well as little Nell or her grandfather—who knows bu_t might make the young fellow's fortune, and, through him, yours, eh?'
  • 'Why, the fact is, you see,' said Mr Swiveller, 'that they HAVE been brough_ogether.'
  • 'Have been!' cried the dwarf, looking suspiciously at his companion. 'Throug_hose means?' 'Through mine,' said Dick, slightly confused. 'Didn't I mentio_t to you the last time you called over yonder?'
  • 'You know you didn't,' returned the dwarf.
  • 'I believe you're right,' said Dick. 'No. I didn't, I recollect. Oh yes, _rought 'em together that very day. It was Fred's suggestion.'
  • 'And what came of it?'
  • 'Why, instead of my friend's bursting into tears when he knew who Fred was, embracing him kindly, and telling him that he was his grandfather, or hi_randmother in disguise (which we fully expected), he flew into a tremendou_assion; called him all manner of names; said it was in a great measure hi_ault that little Nell and the old gentleman had ever been brought to poverty; didn't hint at our taking anything to drink; and—and in short rather turned u_ut of the room than otherwise.'
  • 'That's strange,' said the dwarf, musing.
  • 'So we remarked to each other at the time,' returned Dick coolly, 'but quit_rue.'
  • Quilp was plainly staggered by this intelligence, over which he brooded fo_ome time in moody silence, often raising his eyes to Mr Swiveller's face, an_harply scanning its expression. As he could read in it, however, n_dditional information or anything to lead him to believe he had spoke_alsely; and as Mr Swiveller, left to his own meditations, sighed deeply, an_as evidently growing maudlin on the subject of Mrs Cheggs; the dwarf soo_roke up the conference and took his departure, leaving the bereaved one t_is melancholy ruminations.
  • 'Have been brought together, eh?' said the dwarf as he walked the street_lone. 'My friend has stolen a march upon me. It led him to nothing, an_herefore is no great matter, save in the intention. I'm glad he has lost hi_istress. Ha ha! The blockhead mustn't leave the law at present. I'm sure o_im where he is, whenever I want him for my own purposes, and, besides, he's _ood unconscious spy on Brass, and tells, in his cups, all that he sees an_ears. You're useful to me, Dick, and cost nothing but a little treating no_nd then. I am not sure that it may not be worth while, before long, to tak_redit with the stranger, Dick, by discovering your designs upon the child; but for the present we'll remain the best friends in the world, with your goo_eave.'
  • Pursuing these thoughts, and gasping as he went along, after his own peculia_ashion, Mr Quilp once more crossed the Thames, and shut himself up in hi_achelor's Hall, which, by reason of its newly-erected chimney depositing th_moke inside the room and carrying none of it off, was not quite so agreeabl_s more fastidious people might have desired. Such inconveniences, however, instead of disgusting the dwarf with his new abode, rather suited his humour; so, after dining luxuriously from the public-house, he lighted his pipe, an_moked against the chimney until nothing of him was visible through the mis_ut a pair of red and highly inflamed eyes, with sometimes a dim vision of hi_ead and face, as, in a violent fit of coughing, he slightly stirred the smok_nd scattered the heavy wreaths by which they were obscured. In the midst o_his atmosphere, which must infallibly have smothered any other man, Mr Quil_assed the evening with great cheerfulness; solacing himself all the time wit_he pipe and the case-bottle; and occasionally entertaining himself with _elodious howl, intended for a song, but bearing not the faintest resemblanc_o any scrap of any piece of music, vocal or instrumental, ever invented b_an. Thus he amused himself until nearly midnight, when he turned into hi_ammock with the utmost satisfaction.
  • The first sound that met his ears in the morning—as he half opened his eyes, and, finding himself so unusually near the ceiling, entertained a drowsy ide_hat he must have been transformed into a fly or blue-bottle in the course o_he night, —was that of a stifled sobbing and weeping in the room. Peepin_autiously over the side of his hammock, he descried Mrs Quilp, to whom, afte_ontemplating her for some time in silence, he communicated a violent start b_uddenly yelling out—'Halloa!'
  • 'Oh, Quilp!' cried his poor little wife, looking up. 'How you frightened me!'
  • 'I meant to, you jade,' returned the dwarf. 'What do you want here? I'm dead, an't I?'
  • 'Oh, please come home, do come home,' said Mrs Quilp, sobbing; 'we'll never d_o any more, Quilp, and after all it was only a mistake that grew out of ou_nxiety.'
  • 'Out of your anxiety,' grinned the dwarf. 'Yes, I know that—out of you_nxiety for my death. I shall come home when I please, I tell you. I shal_ome home when I please, and go when I please. I'll be a Will o' the Wisp, no_ere, now there, dancing about you always, starting up when you least expec_e, and keeping you in a constant state of restlessness and irritation. Wil_ou begone?'
  • Mrs Quilp durst only make a gesture of entreaty.
  • 'I tell you no,' cried the dwarf. 'No. If you dare to come here again unles_ou're sent for, I'll keep watch-dogs in the yard that'll growl and bite—I'l_ave man-traps, cunningly altered and improved for catching women—I'll hav_pring guns, that shall explode when you tread upon the wires, and blow yo_nto little pieces. Will you begone?'
  • 'Do forgive me. Do come back,' said his wife, earnestly.
  • 'No-o-o-o-o!' roared Quilp. 'Not till my own good time, and then I'll retur_gain as often as I choose, and be accountable to nobody for my goings o_omings. You see the door there. Will you go?'
  • Mr Quilp delivered this last command in such a very energetic voice, an_oreover accompanied it with such a sudden gesture, indicative of an intentio_o spring out of his hammock, and, night-capped as he was, bear his wife hom_gain through the public streets, that she sped away like an arrow. Her worth_ord stretched his neck and eyes until she had crossed the yard, and then, no_t all sorry to have had this opportunity of carrying his point, and assertin_he sanctity of his castle, fell into an immoderate fit of laughter, and lai_imself down to sleep again.