The bland and open-hearted proprietor of Bachelor's Hall slept on amidst th_ongenial accompaniments of rain, mud, dirt, damp, fog, and rats, until lat_n the day; when, summoning his valet Tom Scott to assist him to rise, and t_repare breakfast, he quitted his couch, and made his toilet. This dut_erformed, and his repast ended, he again betook himself to Bevis Marks.
This visit was not intended for Mr Swiveller, but for his friend and employe_r Sampson Brass. Both gentlemen however were from home, nor was the life an_ight of law, Miss Sally, at her post either. The fact of their join_esertion of the office was made known to all comers by a scrap of paper i_he hand-writing of Mr Swiveller, which was attached to the bell-handle, an_hich, giving the reader no clue to the time of day when it was first posted, furnished him with the rather vague and unsatisfactory information that tha_entleman would 'return in an hour.'
'There's a servant, I suppose,' said the dwarf, knocking at the house-door.
After a sufficiently long interval, the door was opened, and a small voic_mmediately accosted him with, 'Oh please will you leave a card or message?'
'Eh?' said the dwarf, looking down, (it was something quite new to him) upo_he small servant.
To this, the child, conducting her conversation as upon the occasion of he_irst interview with Mr Swiveller, again replied, 'Oh please will you leave _ard or message?'
'I'll write a note,' said the dwarf, pushing past her into the office; 'an_ind your master has it directly he comes home.' So Mr Quilp climbed up to th_op of a tall stool to write the note, and the small servant, carefull_utored for such emergencies, looked on with her eyes wide open, ready, if h_o much as abstracted a wafer, to rush into the street and give the alarm t_he police.
As Mr Quilp folded his note (which was soon written: being a very short one) he encountered the gaze of the small servant. He looked at her, long an_arnestly.
'How are you?' said the dwarf, moistening a wafer with horrible grimaces.
The small servant, perhaps frightened by his looks, returned no audible reply; but it appeared from the motion of her lips that she was inwardly repeatin_he same form of expression concerning the note or message.
'Do they use you ill here? is your mistress a Tartar?' said Quilp with _huckle.
In reply to the last interrogation, the small servant, with a look of infinit_unning mingled with fear, screwed up her mouth very tight and round, an_odded violently. Whether there was anything in the peculiar slyness of he_ction which fascinated Mr Quilp, or anything in the expression of he_eatures at the moment which attracted his attention for some other reason; o_hether it merely occurred to him as a pleasant whim to stare the smal_ervant out of countenance; certain it is, that he planted his elbows squar_nd firmly on the desk, and squeezing up his cheeks with his hands, looked a_er fixedly.
'Where do you come from?' he said after a long pause, stroking his chin.
'I don't know.'
'What's your name?'
'Nonsense!' retorted Quilp. 'What does your mistress call you when she want_ou?'
'A little devil,' said the child.
She added in the same breath, as if fearful of any further questioning, 'Bu_lease will you leave a card or message?'
These unusual answers might naturally have provoked some more inquiries.
Quilp, however, without uttering another word, withdrew his eyes from th_mall servant, stroked his chin more thoughtfully than before, and then, bending over the note as if to direct it with scrupulous and hair-breadt_icety, looked at her, covertly but very narrowly, from under his bush_yebrows. The result of this secret survey was, that he shaded his face wit_is hands, and laughed slyly and noiselessly, until every vein in it wa_wollen almost to bursting. Pulling his hat over his brow to conceal his mirt_nd its effects, he tossed the letter to the child, and hastily withdrew.
Once in the street, moved by some secret impulse, he laughed, and held hi_ides, and laughed again, and tried to peer through the dusty area railings a_f to catch another glimpse of the child, until he was quite tired out. A_ast, he travelled back to the Wilderness, which was within rifle-shot of hi_achelor retreat, and ordered tea in the wooden summer-house that afternoo_or three persons; an invitation to Miss Sally Brass and her brother t_artake of that entertainment at that place, having been the object both o_is journey and his note.
It was not precisely the kind of weather in which people usually take tea i_ummer-houses, far less in summer-houses in an advanced state of decay, an_verlooking the slimy banks of a great river at low water. Nevertheless, i_as in this choice retreat that Mr Quilp ordered a cold collation to b_repared, and it was beneath its cracked and leaky roof that he, in due cours_f time, received Mr Sampson and his sister Sally.
'You're fond of the beauties of nature,' said Quilp with a grin. 'Is thi_harming, Brass? Is it unusual, unsophisticated, primitive?'
'It's delightful indeed, sir,' replied the lawyer.
'Cool?' said Quilp.
'N-not particularly so, I think, sir,' rejoined Brass, with his teet_hattering in his head.
'Perhaps a little damp and ague-ish?' said Quilp.
'Just damp enough to be cheerful, sir,' rejoined Brass. 'Nothing more, sir, nothing more.'
'And Sally?' said the delighted dwarf. 'Does she like it?'
'She'll like it better,' returned that strong-minded lady, 'when she has tea; so let us have it, and don't bother.'
'Sweet Sally!' cried Quilp, extending his arms as if about to embrace her.
'Gentle, charming, overwhelming Sally.'
'He's a very remarkable man indeed!' soliloquised Mr Brass. 'He's quite _roubadour, you know; quite a Troubadour!'
These complimentary expressions were uttered in a somewhat absent an_istracted manner; for the unfortunate lawyer, besides having a bad cold i_is head, had got wet in coming, and would have willingly borne some pecuniar_acrifice if he could have shifted his present raw quarters to a warm room, and dried himself at a fire. Quilp, however—who, beyond the gratification o_is demon whims, owed Sampson some acknowledgment of the part he had played i_he mourning scene of which he had been a hidden witness, marked thes_ymptoms of uneasiness with a delight past all expression, and derived fro_hem a secret joy which the costliest banquet could never have afforded him.
It is worthy of remark, too, as illustrating a little feature in the characte_f Miss Sally Brass, that, although on her own account she would have born_he discomforts of the Wilderness with a very ill grace, and would probably, indeed, have walked off before the tea appeared, she no sooner beheld th_atent uneasiness and misery of her brother than she developed a gri_atisfaction, and began to enjoy herself after her own manner. Though the we_ame stealing through the roof and trickling down upon their heads, Miss Bras_ttered no complaint, but presided over the tea equipage with imperturbabl_omposure. While Mr Quilp, in his uproarious hospitality, seated himself upo_n empty beer-barrel, vaunted the place as the most beautiful and comfortabl_n the three kingdoms, and elevating his glass, drank to their next merry- meeting in that jovial spot; and Mr Brass, with the rain plashing down int_is tea-cup, made a dismal attempt to pluck up his spirits and appear at hi_ase; and Tom Scott, who was in waiting at the door under an old umbrella, exulted in his agonies, and bade fair to split his sides with laughing; whil_ll this was passing, Miss Sally Brass, unmindful of the wet which drippe_own upon her own feminine person and fair apparel, sat placidly behind th_ea-board, erect and grizzly, contemplating the unhappiness of her brothe_ith a mind at ease, and content, in her amiable disregard of self, to si_here all night, witnessing the torments which his avaricious and grovellin_ature compelled him to endure and forbade him to resent. And this, it must b_bserved, or the illustration would be incomplete, although in a busines_oint of view she had the strongest sympathy with Mr Sampson, and would hav_een beyond measure indignant if he had thwarted their client in any on_espect.
In the height of his boisterous merriment, Mr Quilp, having on some pretenc_ismissed his attendant sprite for the moment, resumed his usual manner all a_nce, dismounted from his cask, and laid his hand upon the lawyer's sleeve.
'A word,' said the dwarf, 'before we go farther. Sally, hark'ee for a minute.'
Miss Sally drew closer, as if accustomed to business conferences with thei_ost which were the better for not having air.
'Business,' said the dwarf, glancing from brother to sister. 'Very privat_usiness. Lay your heads together when you're by yourselves.'
'Certainly, sir,' returned Brass, taking out his pocket-book and pencil. 'I'l_ake down the heads if you please, sir. Remarkable documents,' added th_awyer, raising his eyes to the ceiling, 'most remarkable documents. He state_is points so clearly that it's a treat to have 'em! I don't know any act o_arliament that's equal to him in clearness.'
'I shall deprive you of a treat,' said Quilp. 'Put up your book. We don't wan_ny documents. So. There's a lad named Kit—'
Miss Sally nodded, implying that she knew of him.
'Kit!' said Mr Sampson. —'Kit! Ha! I've heard the name before, but I don'_xactly call to mind—I don't exactly—'
'You're as slow as a tortoise, and more thick-headed than a rhinoceros,'
returned his obliging client with an impatient gesture.
'He's extremely pleasant!' cried the obsequious Sampson. 'His acquaintanc_ith Natural History too is surprising. Quite a Buffoon, quite!'
There is no doubt that Mr Brass intended some compliment or other; and it ha_een argued with show of reason that he would have said Buffon, but made us_f a superfluous vowel. Be this as it may, Quilp gave him no time fo_orrection, as he performed that office himself by more than tapping him o_he head with the handle of his umbrella.
'Don't let's have any wrangling,' said Miss Sally, staying his hand. 'I'v_howed you that I know him, and that's enough.'
'She's always foremost!' said the dwarf, patting her on the back and lookin_ontemptuously at Sampson. 'I don't like Kit, Sally.'
'Nor I,' rejoined Miss Brass.
'Nor I,' said Sampson.
'Why, that's right!' cried Quilp. 'Half our work is done already. This Kit i_ne of your honest people; one of your fair characters; a prowling pryin_ound; a hypocrite; a double- faced, white- livered, sneaking spy; a crouchin_ur to those that feed and coax him, and a barking yelping dog to al_esides.'
'Fearfully eloquent!' cried Brass with a sneeze. 'Quite appalling!'
'Come to the point,' said Miss Sally, 'and don't talk so much.'
'Right again!' exclaimed Quilp, with another contemptuous look at Sampson,
'always foremost! I say, Sally, he is a yelping, insolent dog to all besides, and most of all, to me. In short, I owe him a grudge.' 'That's enough, sir,'
'No, it's not enough, sir,' sneered Quilp; 'will you hear me out? Besides tha_ owe him a grudge on that account, he thwarts me at this minute, and stand_etween me and an end which might otherwise prove a golden one to us all.
Apart from that, I repeat that he crosses my humour, and I hate him. Now, yo_now the lad, and can guess the rest. Devise your own means of putting him ou_f my way, and execute them. Shall it be done?'
'It shall, sir,' said Sampson.
'Then give me your hand,' retorted Quilp. 'Sally, girl, yours. I rely as much, or more, on you than him. Tom Scott comes back. Lantern, pipes, more grog, an_ jolly night of it!'
No other word was spoken, no other look exchanged, which had the slightes_eference to this, the real occasion of their meeting. The trio were wel_ccustomed to act together, and were linked to each other by ties of mutua_nterest and advantage, and nothing more was needed. Resuming his boisterou_anner with the same ease with which he had thrown it off, Quilp was in a_nstant the same uproarious, reckless little savage he had been a few second_efore. It was ten o'clock at night before the amiable Sally supported he_eloved and loving brother from the Wilderness, by which time he needed th_tmost support her tender frame could render; his walk being from some unknow_eason anything but steady, and his legs constantly doubling up in unexpecte_laces.
Overpowered, notwithstanding his late prolonged slumbers, by the fatigues o_he last few days, the dwarf lost no time in creeping to his dainty house, an_as soon dreaming in his hammock. Leaving him to visions, in which perhaps th_uiet figures we quitted in the old church porch were not without their share, be it our task to rejoin them as they sat and watched.