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Chapter 51

  • 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.
  • 'She'll do.'
  • 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?'
  • 'Nothing.'
  • '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,'
  • said Sampson.
  • '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.