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Chapter 64

  • Tossing to and fro upon his hot, uneasy bed; tormented by a fierce thirs_hich nothing could appease; unable to find, in any change of posture, _oment's peace or ease; and rambling, ever, through deserts of thought wher_here was no resting-place, no sight or sound suggestive of refreshment o_epose, nothing but a dull eternal weariness, with no change but the restles_hiftings of his miserable body, and the weary wandering of his mind, constan_till to one ever-present anxiety—to a sense of something left undone, of som_earful obstacle to be surmounted, of some carking care that would not b_riven away, and which haunted the distempered brain, now in this form, now i_hat, always shadowy and dim, but recognisable for the same phantom in ever_hape it took: darkening every vision like an evil conscience, and makin_lumber horrible— in these slow tortures of his dread disease, the unfortunat_ichard lay wasting and consuming inch by inch, until, at last, when he seeme_o fight and struggle to rise up, and to be held down by devils, he sank int_ deep sleep, and dreamed no more.
  • He awoke. With a sensation of most blissful rest, better than sleep itself, h_egan gradually to remember something of these sufferings, and to think what _ong night it had been, and whether he had not been delirious twice or thrice.
  • Happening, in the midst of these cogitations, to raise his hand, he wa_stonished to find how heavy it seemed, and yet how thin and light it reall_as. Still, he felt indifferent and happy; and having no curiosity to pursu_he subject, remained in the same waking slumber until his attention wa_ttracted by a cough. This made him doubt whether he had locked his door las_ight, and feel a little surprised at having a companion in the room. Still, he lacked energy to follow up this train of thought; and unconsciously fell, in a luxury of repose, to staring at some green stripes on the bed-furniture, and associating them strangely with patches of fresh turf, while the yello_round between made gravel-walks, and so helped out a long perspective of tri_ardens.
  • He was rambling in imagination on these terraces, and had quite lost himsel_mong them indeed, when he heard the cough once more. The walks shrunk int_tripes again at the sound, and raising himself a little in the bed, an_olding the curtain open with one hand, he looked out.
  • The same room certainly, and still by candlelight; but with what unbounde_stonishment did he see all those bottles, and basins, and articles of line_iring by the fire, and such-like furniture of a sick chamber—all very clea_nd neat, but all quite different from anything he had left there, when h_ent to bed! The atmosphere, too, filled with a cool smell of herbs an_inegar; the floor newly sprinkled; the—the what? The Marchioness?
  • Yes; playing cribbage with herself at the table. There she sat, intent upo_er game, coughing now and then in a subdued manner as if she feared t_isturb him—shuffling the cards, cutting, dealing, playing, counting, pegging—going through all the mysteries of cribbage as if she had been in ful_ractice from her cradle! Mr Swiveller contemplated these things for a shor_ime, and suffering the curtain to fall into its former position, laid hi_ead on the pillow again.
  • 'I'm dreaming,' thought Richard, 'that's clear. When I went to bed, my hand_ere not made of egg-shells; and now I can almost see through 'em. If this i_ot a dream, I have woke up, by mistake, in an Arabian Night, instead of _ondon one. But I have no doubt I'm asleep. Not the least.'
  • Here the small servant had another cough.
  • 'Very remarkable!' thought Mr Swiveller. 'I never dreamt such a real cough a_hat before. I don't know, indeed, that I ever dreamt either a cough or _neeze. Perhaps it's part of the philosophy of dreams that one never does.
  • There's another—and another—I say!—I'm dreaming rather fast!'
  • For the purpose of testing his real condition, Mr Swiveller, after som_eflection, pinched himself in the arm.
  • 'Queerer still!' he thought. 'I came to bed rather plump than otherwise, an_ow there's nothing to lay hold of. I'll take another survey.'
  • The result of this additional inspection was, to convince Mr Swiveller tha_he objects by which he was surrounded were real, and that he saw them, beyon_ll question, with his waking eyes.
  • 'It's an Arabian Night; that's what it is,' said Richard. 'I'm in Damascus o_rand Cairo. The Marchioness is a Genie, and having had a wager with anothe_enie about who is the handsomest young man alive, and the worthiest to be th_usband of the Princess of China, has brought me away, room and all, t_ompare us together. Perhaps,' said Mr Swiveller, turning languidly round o_is pillow, and looking on that side of his bed which was next the wall, 'th_rincess may be still—No, she's gone.'
  • Not feeling quite satisfied with this explanation, as, even taking it to b_he correct one, it still involved a little mystery and doubt, Mr Swivelle_aised the curtain again, determined to take the first favourable opportunit_f addressing his companion. An occasion presented itself. The Marchiones_ealt, turned up a knave, and omitted to take the usual advantage; upon whic_r Swiveller called out as loud as he could—'Two for his heels!'
  • The Marchioness jumped up quickly and clapped her hands. 'Arabian Night, certainly,' thought Mr Swiveller; 'they always clap their hands instead o_inging the bell. Now for the two thousand black slaves, with jars of jewel_n their heads!'
  • It appeared, however, that she had only clapped her hands for joy; fo_irectly afterward she began to laugh, and then to cry; declaring, not i_hoice Arabic but in familiar English, that she was 'so glad, she didn't kno_hat to do.'
  • 'Marchioness,' said Mr Swiveller, thoughtfully, 'be pleased to draw nearer.
  • First of all, will you have the goodness to inform me where I shall find m_oice; and secondly, what has become of my flesh?'
  • The Marchioness only shook her head mournfully, and cried again; whereupon M_wiveller (being very weak) felt his own eyes affected likewise.
  • 'I begin to infer, from your manner, and these appearances, Marchioness,' sai_ichard after a pause, and smiling with a trembling lip, 'that I have bee_ll.'
  • 'You just have!' replied the small servant, wiping her eyes. 'And haven't yo_een a talking nonsense!'
  • 'Oh!' said Dick. 'Very ill, Marchioness, have I been?'
  • 'Dead, all but,' replied the small servant. 'I never thought you'd get better.
  • Thank Heaven you have!'
  • Mr Swiveller was silent for a long while. By and bye, he began to talk again, inquiring how long he had been there.
  • 'Three weeks to-morrow,' replied the servant.
  • 'Three what?' said Dick.
  • 'Weeks,' returned the Marchioness emphatically; 'three long, slow weeks.'
  • The bare thought of having been in such extremity, caused Richard to fall int_nother silence, and to lie flat down again, at his full length. Th_archioness, having arranged the bed-clothes more comfortably, and felt tha_is hands and forehead were quite cool— a discovery that filled her wit_elight—cried a little more, and then applied herself to getting tea ready, and making some thin dry toast.
  • While she was thus engaged, Mr Swiveller looked on with a grateful heart, ver_uch astonished to see how thoroughly at home she made herself, an_ttributing this attention, in its origin, to Sally Brass, whom, in his ow_ind, he could not thank enough. When the Marchioness had finished he_oasting, she spread a clean cloth on a tray, and brought him some cris_lices and a great basin of weak tea, with which (she said) the doctor ha_eft word he might refresh himself when he awoke. She propped him up wit_illows, if not as skilfully as if she had been a professional nurse all he_ife, at least as tenderly; and looked on with unutterable satisfaction whil_he patient—stopping every now and then to shake her by the hand—took his poo_eal with an appetite and relish, which the greatest dainties of the earth, under any other circumstances, would have failed to provoke. Having cleare_way, and disposed everything comfortably about him again, she sat down at th_able to take her own tea.
  • 'Marchioness,' said Mr Swiveller, 'how's Sally?'
  • The small servant screwed her face into an expression of the very uttermos_ntanglement of slyness, and shook her head.
  • 'What, haven't you seen her lately?' said Dick.
  • 'Seen her!' cried the small servant. 'Bless you, I've run away!'
  • Mr Swiveller immediately laid himself down again quite flat, and so remaine_or about five minutes. By slow degrees he resumed his sitting posture afte_hat lapse of time, and inquired:
  • 'And where do you live, Marchioness?'
  • 'Live!' cried the small servant. 'Here!'
  • 'Oh!' said Mr Swiveller.
  • And with that he fell down flat again, as suddenly as if he had been shot.
  • Thus he remained, motionless and bereft of speech, until she had finished he_eal, put everything in its place, and swept the hearth; when he motioned he_o bring a chair to the bedside, and, being propped up again, opened a farthe_onversation.
  • 'And so,' said Dick, 'you have run away?'
  • 'Yes,' said the Marchioness, 'and they've been a tizing of me.'
  • 'Been—I beg your pardon,' said Dick—'what have they been doing?'
  • 'Been a tizing of me—tizing you know—in the newspapers,' rejoined th_archioness.
  • 'Aye, aye,' said Dick, 'advertising?'
  • The small servant nodded, and winked. Her eyes were so red with waking an_rying, that the Tragic Muse might have winked with greater consistency. An_o Dick felt.
  • 'Tell me,' said he, 'how it was that you thought of coming here.'
  • 'Why, you see,' returned the Marchioness, 'when you was gone, I hadn't an_riend at all, because the lodger he never come back, and I didn't know wher_ither him or you was to be found, you know. But one morning, when I was-'
  • 'Was near a keyhole?' suggested Mr Swiveller, observing that she faltered.
  • 'Well then,' said the small servant, nodding; 'when I was near the offic_eyhole—as you see me through, you know—I heard somebody saying that she live_ere, and was the lady whose house you lodged at, and that you was took ver_ad, and wouldn't nobody come and take care of you. Mr Brass, he says, "It'_o business of mine," he says; and Miss Sally, she says, "He's a funny chap, but it's no business of mine;" and the lady went away, and slammed the doo_o, when she went out, I can tell you. So I run away that night, and com_ere, and told 'em you was my brother, and they believed me, and I've bee_ere ever since.'
  • 'This poor little Marchioness has been wearing herself to death!' cried Dick.
  • 'No I haven't,' she returned, 'not a bit of it. Don't you mind about me. _ike sitting up, and I've often had a sleep, bless you, in one of them chairs.
  • But if you could have seen how you tried to jump out o' winder, and if yo_ould have heard how you used to keep on singing and making speeches, yo_ouldn't have believed it—I'm so glad you're better, Mr Liverer.'
  • 'Liverer indeed!' said Dick thoughtfully. 'It's well I am a liverer. _trongly suspect I should have died, Marchioness, but for you.'
  • At this point, Mr Swiveller took the small servant's hand in his again, an_eing, as we have seen, but poorly, might in struggling to express his thank_ave made his eyes as red as hers, but that she quickly changed the theme b_aking him lie down, and urging him to keep very quiet.
  • 'The doctor,' she told him, 'said you was to be kept quite still, and ther_as to be no noise nor nothing. Now, take a rest, and then we'll talk again.
  • I'll sit by you, you know. If you shut your eyes, perhaps you'll go to sleep.
  • You'll be all the better for it, if you do.'
  • The Marchioness, in saying these words, brought a little table to the bedside, took her seat at it, and began to work away at the concoction of some coolin_rink, with the address of a score of chemists. Richard Swiveller being indee_atigued, fell into a slumber, and waking in about half an hour, inquired wha_ime it was.
  • 'Just gone half after six,' replied his small friend, helping him to sit u_gain.
  • 'Marchioness,' said Richard, passing his hand over his forehead and turnin_uddenly round, as though the subject but that moment flashed upon him, 'wha_as become of Kit?'
  • He had been sentenced to transportation for a great many years, she said.
  • 'Has he gone?' asked Dick—'his mother—how is she,—what has become of her?'
  • His nurse shook her head, and answered that she knew nothing about them. 'But, if I thought,' said she, very slowly, 'that you'd keep quiet, and not pu_ourself into another fever, I could tell you— but I won't now.'
  • 'Yes, do,' said Dick. 'It will amuse me.'
  • 'Oh! would it though!' rejoined the small servant, with a horrified look. '_now better than that. Wait till you're better and then I'll tell you.'
  • Dick looked very earnestly at his little friend: and his eyes, being large an_ollow from illness, assisted the expression so much, that she was quit_rightened, and besought him not to think any more about it. What had alread_allen from her, however, had not only piqued his curiosity, but seriousl_larmed him, wherefore he urged her to tell him the worst at once.
  • 'Oh there's no worst in it,' said the small servant. 'It hasn't anything to d_ith you.'
  • 'Has it anything to do with—is it anything you heard through chinks o_eyholes—and that you were not intended to hear?' asked Dick, in a breathles_tate.
  • 'Yes,' replied the small servant.
  • 'In—in Bevis Marks?' pursued Dick hastily. 'Conversations between Brass an_ally?'
  • 'Yes,' cried the small servant again.
  • Richard Swiveller thrust his lank arm out of bed, and, gripping her by th_rist and drawing her close to him, bade her out with it, and freely too, o_e would not answer for the consequences; being wholly unable to endure th_tate of excitement and expectation. She, seeing that he was greatly agitated, and that the effects of postponing her revelation might be much more injuriou_han any that were likely to ensue from its being made at once, promise_ompliance, on condition that the patient kept himself perfectly quiet, an_bstained from starting up or tossing about.
  • 'But if you begin to do that,' said the small servant, 'I'll leave off. And s_ tell you.'
  • 'You can't leave off, till you have gone on,' said Dick. 'And do go on, there's a darling. Speak, sister, speak. Pretty Polly say. Oh tell me when, and tell me where, pray Marchioness, I beseech you!'
  • Unable to resist these fervent adjurations, which Richard Swiveller poured ou_s passionately as if they had been of the most solemn and tremendous nature, his companion spoke thus:
  • 'Well! Before I run away, I used to sleep in the kitchen—where we playe_ards, you know. Miss Sally used to keep the key of the kitchen door in he_ocket, and she always come down at night to take away the candle and rake ou_he fire. When she had done that, she left me to go to bed in the dark, locke_he door on the outside, put the key in her pocket again, and kept me locke_p till she come down in the morning—very early I can tell you—and let me out.
  • I was terrible afraid of being kept like this, because if there was a fire, _hought they might forget me and only take care of themselves you know. So, whenever I see an old rusty key anywhere, I picked it up and tried if it woul_it the door, and at last I found in the dust cellar a key that did fit it.'
  • Here, Mr Swiveller made a violent demonstration with his legs. But the smal_ervant immediately pausing in her talk, he subsided again, and pleading _omentary forgetfulness of their compact, entreated her to proceed.
  • 'They kept me very short,' said the small servant. 'Oh! you can't think ho_hort they kept me! So I used to come out at night after they'd gone to bed, and feel about in the dark for bits of biscuit, or sangwitches that you'd lef_n the office, or even pieces of orange peel to put into cold water and mak_elieve it was wine. Did you ever taste orange peel and water?'
  • Mr Swiveller replied that he had never tasted that ardent liquor; and onc_ore urged his friend to resume the thread of her narrative.
  • 'If you make believe very much, it's quite nice,' said the small servant, 'bu_f you don't, you know, it seems as if it would bear a little more seasoning, certainly. Well, sometimes I used to come out after they'd gone to bed, an_ometimes before, you know; and one or two nights before there was all tha_recious noise in the office—when the young man was took, I mean—I com_pstairs while Mr Brass and Miss Sally was a-sittin' at the office fire; and _ell you the truth, that I come to listen again, about the key of the safe.'
  • Mr Swiveller gathered up his knees so as to make a great cone of th_edclothes, and conveyed into his countenance an expression of the utmos_oncern. But the small servant pausing, and holding up her finger, the con_ently disappeared, though the look of concern did not.
  • 'There was him and her,' said the small servant, 'a-sittin' by the fire, an_alking softly together. Mr Brass says to Miss Sally, "Upon my word," he says
  • "it's a dangerous thing, and it might get us into a world of trouble, and _on't half like it." She says— you know her way—she says, "You're th_hickenest-hearted, feeblest, faintest man I ever see, and I think," she says,
  • "that I ought to have been the brother, and you the sister. Isn't Quilp," sh_ays, "our principal support?" "He certainly is," says Mr Brass, "And an'_e," she says, "constantly ruining somebody or other in the way of business?"
  • "We certainly are," says Mr Brass. "Then does it signify," she says, "abou_uining this Kit when Quilp desires it?" "It certainly does not signify," say_r Brass. Then they whispered and laughed for a long time about there being n_anger if it was well done, and then Mr Brass pulls out his pocket-book, an_ays, "Well," he says, 'here it is—Quilp's own five-pound note. We'll agre_hat way, then," he says. "Kit's coming to-morrow morning, I know. While he'_p-stairs, you'll get out of the way, and I'll clear off Mr Richard. Havin_it alone, I'll hold him in conversation, and put this property in his hat.
  • I'll manage so, besides," he says, 'that Mr Richard shall find it there, an_e the evidence. And if that don't get Christopher out of Mr Quilp's way, an_atisfy Mr Quilp's grudges," he says, "the Devil's in it." Miss Sally laughed, and said that was the plan, and as they seemed to be moving away, and I wa_fraid to stop any longer, I went down-stairs again.—There!'
  • The small servant had gradually worked herself into as much agitation as M_wiveller, and therefore made no effort to restrain him when he sat up in be_nd hastily demanded whether this story had been told to anybody.
  • 'How could it be?' replied his nurse. 'I was almost afraid to think about it, and hoped the young man would be let off. When I heard 'em say they had foun_im guilty of what he didn't do, you was gone, and so was the lodger—though _hink I should have been frightened to tell him, even if he'd been there. Eve_ince I come here, you've been out of your senses, and what would have bee_he good of telling you then?'
  • 'Marchioness,' said Mr Swiveller, plucking off his nightcap and flinging it t_he other end of the room; 'if you'll do me the favour to retire for a fe_inutes and see what sort of a night it is, I'll get up.'
  • 'You mustn't think of such a thing,' cried his nurse.
  • 'I must indeed,' said the patient, looking round the room. 'Whereabouts are m_lothes?'
  • 'Oh, I'm so glad—you haven't got any,' replied the Marchioness.
  • 'Ma'am!' said Mr Swiveller, in great astonishment.
  • 'I've been obliged to sell them, every one, to get the things that was ordere_or you. But don't take on about that,' urged the Marchioness, as Dick fel_ack upon his pillow. 'You're too weak to stand, indeed.'
  • 'I am afraid,' said Richard dolefully, 'that you're right. What ought I to do!
  • what is to be done!'
  • It naturally occurred to him on very little reflection, that the first step t_ake would be to communicate with one of the Mr Garlands instantly. It wa_ery possible that Mr Abel had not yet left the office. In as little time a_t takes to tell it, the small servant had the address in pencil on a piece o_aper; a verbal description of father and son, which would enable her t_ecognise either, without difficulty; and a special caution to be shy of M_huckster, in consequence of that gentleman's known antipathy to Kit. Arme_ith these slender powers, she hurried away, commissioned to bring either ol_r Garland or Mr Abel, bodily, to that apartment.
  • 'I suppose,' said Dick, as she closed the door slowly, and peeped into th_oom again, to make sure that he was comfortable, 'I suppose there's nothin_eft—not so much as a waistcoat even?'
  • 'No, nothing.'
  • 'It's embarrassing,' said Mr Swiveller, 'in case of fire—even an umbrell_ould be something—but you did quite right, dear Marchioness. I should hav_ied without you!'