A faint light, twinkling from the window of the counting-house on Quilp’s wharf, and looking inflamed and red through the night-fog, as though it suffered from it like an eye, forewarned Mr. Sampson Brass, as he approached the wooden cabin with a cautious step, that the excellent proprietor, his esteemed client, was inside, and probably waiting with his patience and sweetness of temper the fulfilment of the appointment which now brought Mr. Brass within his fair domain.
“A treacherous place to pick one’s steps in, of a dark night,” muttered Sampson, as he stumbled for the twentieth time over some 382 stray lumber, and limped in pain. “I believe that boy strews the ground differently every day, on purpose to bruise and maim one; unless his master does it with his own hands, which is more than likely. I hate to come to this place without Sally. She’s more protection than a dozen men.”
As he paid this compliment to the merit of the absent charmer, Mr. Brass came to a halt; looking doubtfully towards the light, and over his shoulder.
“What’s he about, I wonder?” murmured the lawyer, standing on tip-toe and endeavouring to obtain a glimpse of what was passing inside, which at that distance was impossible—“drinking, I suppose,—making himself more fiery and furious, and heating his malice and mischievousness till they boil. I’m always afraid to come here by myself, when his account’s a pretty large one. I don’t believe he’d mind throttling me, and dropping me softly into the river when the tide was at its strongest, any more than he’d mind killing a rat—indeed I don’t know whether he wouldn’t consider it a pleasant joke. Hark! Now he’s singing!”
Mr. Quilp was certainly entertaining himself with vocal exercise, but it was rather a kind of chant than a song; being a monotonous repetition of one sentence in a very rapid manner, with a long stress upon the last word, which he swelled into a dismal roar. Nor did the burden of this performance bear any reference to love, or war, or wine, or loyalty, or any other, the standard topics of song, but to a subject not often set to music or generally known in ballads; the words being these:—“The worthy magistrate, after remarking that the prisoner would find some difficulty in persuading a jury to believe his tale, committed him to take his trial at the approaching sessions; and directed the customary recognisances to be entered into for the pros-e-cu-tion.”
Every time he came to this concluding word, and had exhausted all possible stress upon it, Quilp burst into a shriek of laughter, and began again.
“He’s dreadfully imprudent,” muttered Brass, after he had listened to two or three repetitions of the chant. “Horribly imprudent. I wish he was dumb. I wish he was deaf. I wish he was blind. Hang him,” cried Brass, as the chant began again. “I wish he was dead!”
Giving utterance to these friendly aspirations in behalf of his client, Mr. Sampson composed his face into its usual state of smoothness, and waiting until the shriek came again and was dying away, went up to the wooden house, and knocked at the door.
“Come in!” cried the dwarf.
“How do you do to-night sir?” said Sampson, peeping in. “Ha ha ha! How do you do sir? Oh dear me, how very whimsical! Amazingly whimsical to be sure!”
“Come in, you fool!” returned the dwarf, “and don’t stand there 383 shaking your head and showing your teeth. Come in, you false witness, you perjurer, you suborner of evidence, come in!”
“He has the richest humour!” cried Brass, shutting the door behind him; “the most amazing vein of comicality! But isn’t it rather injudicious sir——?”
“What?” demanded Quilp. “What, Judas?”
“Judas!” cried Brass. “He has such extraordinary spirits! His humour is so extremely playful! Judas! Oh yes dear me, how very good! Ha ha ha!”
Quilp’s Portrait Gallery.
All this time, Sampson was rubbing his hands, and staring, with ludicrous surprise and dismay, at a great, goggle-eyed, blunt-nosed figure-head of some old ship, which was reared up against the wall in a corner near the stove, looking like a goblin or hideous idol whom the dwarf worshipped. A mass of timber on its head, carved into the dim and distant semblance of a cocked hat, together with a representation of a star on the left breast and epaulettes on the shoulders, denoted that it was intended for the effigy of some famous admiral; but, without those helps, any observer might have supposed it the authentic portrait of a distinguished merman, or great sea-monster. Being originally much too large for the apartment which it was now employed to decorate, it had been sawn short off at the waist. Even in this state it reached from floor to ceiling; and thrusting itself forward, with that excessively wide-awake aspect, and air of somewhat obtrusive politeness, by which figure-heads are usually characterised, seemed to reduce everything else to mere pigmy proportions.
“Do you know it?” said the dwarf, watching Sampson’s eyes. “Do you see the likeness?”
“Eh?” said Brass, holding his head on one side and throwing it a little back, as connoisseurs do. “Now I look at it again, I fancy I see a—yes, there certainly is something in the smile that reminds me of—and yet upon my word I——”
Now, the fact was, that Sampson, having never seen anything in the smallest degree resembling this substantial phantom, was much perplexed; being uncertain whether Mr. Quilp considered it like himself, and had therefore bought it for a family portrait; or whether he was pleased to consider it as the likeness of some enemy. He was not very long in doubt; for, while he was surveying it with that knowing look which people assume when they are contemplating for the first time portraits which they ought to recognise but don’t, the dwarf threw down the newspaper from which he had been chanting the words already quoted, and seizing a rusty iron bar, which he used in lieu of poker, dealt the figure such a stroke on the nose that it rocked again.
“Is it like Kit—is it his picture, his image, his very self?” cried the dwarf, aiming a shower of blows at the insensible countenance, and covering it with deep dimples. “Is it the exact model and counterpart of the dog—is it—is it—is it?” And with every repetition 384 of the question, he battered the great image, until the perspiration streamed down his face with the violence of the exercise.
Although this might have been a very comical thing to look at from a secure gallery, as a bull-fight is found to be a comfortable spectacle by those who are not in the arena, and a house on fire is better than a play to people who don’t live near it, there was something in the earnestness of Mr. Quilp’s manner which made his legal adviser feel that the counting-house was a little too small, and a deal too lonely, for the complete enjoyment of these humours. Therefore, he stood as far off as he could, while the dwarf was thus engaged; whimpering out but feeble applause; and when Quilp left off and sat down again from pure exhaustion, approached with more obsequiousness than ever.
“Excellent indeed!” cried Brass. “He he! Oh, very good sir. You know,” said Sampson, looking round as if in appeal to the bruised animal, “he’s quite a remarkable man—quite!”
“Sit down,” said the dwarf. “I bought the dog yesterday. I’ve been screwing gimlets into him, and sticking forks in his eyes, and cutting my name on him. I mean to burn him at last.”
“Ha ha!” cried Brass. “Extremely entertaining, indeed!”
“Come here,” said Quilp, beckoning him to draw near. “What’s injudicious, hey?”
“Nothing sir—nothing. Scarcely worth mentioning sir; but I thought that song—admirably humorous in itself you know—was perhaps rather——”
“Yes,” said Quilp, “rather what?”
“Just bordering, or as one may say remotely verging, upon the confines of injudiciousness perhaps sir,” returned Brass, looking timidly at the dwarf’s cunning eyes, which were turned towards the fire and reflected its red light.
“Why?” inquired Quilp, without looking up.
“Why, you know sir,” returned Brass, venturing to be more familiar: “—the fact is sir, that any allusion to these little combinings together, of friends, for objects in themselves extremely laudable, but which the law terms conspiracies, are—you take me sir?—best kept snug and among friends, you know.”
“Eh?” said Quilp, looking up with a perfectly vacant countenance. “What do you mean?”
“Cautious, exceedingly cautious, very right and proper!” cried Brass, nodding his head. “Mum sir, even here—my meaning sir, exactly.”
“Your meaning exactly, you brazen scarecrow,—what’s your meaning?” retorted Quilp. “Why do you talk to me of combining together? Do I combine? Do I know anything about your combinings?”
“No no, sir—certainly not; not by any means,” returned Brass.
“If you so wink and nod at me,” said the dwarf, looking about him 385 as if for his poker, “I’ll spoil the expression of your monkey’s face, I will.”
Mr. Quilp and his Legal Adviser.
“Don’t put yourself out of the way I beg sir,” rejoined Brass, checking himself with great alacrity. “You’re quite right sir, quite right. I shouldn’t have mentioned the subject sir. It’s much better not to. You’re quite right sir. Let us change it, if you please. You were asking, sir, Sally told me, about our lodger. He has not returned sir.”
“No?” said Quilp, heating some rum in a little saucepan, and watching it to prevent its boiling over. “Why not?”
“Why sir,” returned Brass, “he—dear me, Mr. Quilp sir——”
“What’s the matter?” said the dwarf, stopping his hand in the act of carrying the saucepan to his mouth.
“You have forgotten the water, sir,” said Brass. “And excuse me sir—but it’s burning hot.”
Deigning no other than a practical answer to this remonstrance, Mr. Quilp raised the hot saucepan to his lips, and deliberately drank off all the spirit it contained, which might have been in quantity about half-a-pint, and had been but a moment before, when he took it off the fire, bubbling and hissing fiercely. Having swallowed this gentle stimulant, and shaken his fist at the admiral, he bade Mr. Brass proceed.
“But first,” said Quilp, with his accustomed grin, “have a drop yourself—a nice drop—a good, warm, fiery drop.”
“Why sir,” replied Brass, “if there was such a thing as a mouthful of water that could be got without trouble——”
“There’s no such thing to be had here,” cried the dwarf. “Water for lawyers! Melted lead and brimstone, you mean, nice hot blistering pitch and tar—that’s the thing for them—eh Brass, eh?”
“Ha ha ha!” laughed Mr. Brass. “Oh very biting! and yet it’s like being tickled—there’s a pleasure in it too, sir!”
“Drink that,” said the dwarf, who had by this time heated some more. “Toss it off, don’t leave any heel-tap, scorch your throat and be happy!”
The wretched Sampson took a few short sips of the liquor, which immediately distilled itself into burning tears, and in that form came rolling down his cheeks into the pipkin again, turning the colour of his face and eye-lids to a deep red, and giving rise to a violent fit of coughing, in the midst of which he was still heard to declare, with the constancy of a martyr, that it was “beautiful indeed!” While he was yet in unspeakable agonies, the dwarf renewed their conversation.
“The lodger,” said Quilp,—“what about him?”
“He is still, sir,” returned Brass, with intervals of coughing, “stopping with the Garland family. He has only been home once, sir, since the day of the examination of that culprit. He informed Mr. Richard sir, that he couldn’t bear the house after what had taken 386 place; that he was wretched in it; and that he looked upon himself as being in a certain kind of way the cause of the occurrence.—A very excellent lodger sir. I hope we may not lose him.”
“Yah!” cried the dwarf. “Never thinking of anybody but yourself—why don’t you retrench then—scrape up, hoard, economise, eh?”
“Why sir,” replied Brass, “upon my word I think Sarah’s as good an economiser as any going. I do indeed, Mr. Quilp.”
“Moisten your clay, wet the other eye, drink man!” cried the dwarf. “You took a clerk to oblige me.”
“Delighted sir, I am sure, at any time,” replied Sampson. “Yes sir, I did.”
“Then now you may discharge him,” said Quilp. “There’s a means of retrenchment for you at once.”
“Discharge Mr. Richard sir?” cried Brass.
“Have you more than one clerk, you parrot, that you ask the question? Yes.”
“Upon my word sir,” said Brass, “I wasn’t prepared for this——”
“How could you be?” sneered the dwarf, “when I wasn’t? How often am I to tell you that I brought him to you that I might always have my eye on him and know where he was and that I had a plot, a scheme, a little quiet piece of enjoyment afoot, of which the very cream and essence was, that this old man and grandchild (who have sunk underground I think) should be, while he and his precious friend believed them rich, in reality as poor as frozen rats?”
“I quite understood that sir,” rejoined Brass. “Thoroughly.”
“Well sir,” retorted Quilp, “and do you understand now, that they’re not poor—that they can’t be, if they have such men as your lodger searching for them, and scouring the country far and wide?”
“Of course I do sir,” said Sampson.
“Of course you do,” retorted the dwarf, viciously snapping at his words. “Of course do you understand then, that it’s no matter what comes of this fellow? of course do you understand that for any other purpose he’s no man for me, nor for you?”
“I have frequently said to Sarah sir,” returned Brass, “that he was of no use at all in the business. You can’t put any confidence in him sir. If you’ll believe me I’ve found that fellow, in the commonest little matters of the office that have been trusted to him, blurting out the truth, though expressly cautioned. The aggravation of that chap sir, has exceeded anything you can imagine, it has indeed. Nothing but the respect and obligation I owe to you sir——”
As it was plain that Sampson was bent on a complimentary harangue, unless he received a timely interruption, Mr. Quilp politely tapped him on the crown of his head with the little saucepan, and requested that he would be so obliging as to hold his peace.
“Practical, sir, practical,” said Brass, rubbing the place and smiling; “but still extremely pleasant—immensely so?”
“Hearken to me, will you?” returned Quilp, “or I’ll be a little 387 more pleasant, presently. There’s no chance of his comrade and friend returning. The scamp has been obliged to fly, as I learn, for some knavery, and has found his way abroad. Let him rot there.”
“Certainly sir. Quite proper.—Forcible!” cried Brass, glancing at the admiral again, as if he made a third in company. “Extremely forcible!”
Mr. Swiveller going out of Office.
“I hate him,” said Quilp between his teeth, “and have always hated him for family reasons. Besides he was an intractable ruffian; otherwise he would have been of use. This fellow is pigeon-hearted, and light-headed. I don’t want him any longer. Let him hang or drown—starve—go to the devil.”
“By all means, sir,” returned Brass. “When would you wish him sir, to—ha ha!—to make that little excursion?”
“When this trial’s over,” said Quilp. “As soon as that’s ended, send him about his business.”
“It shall be done, sir,” returned Brass; “by all means. It will be rather a blow to Sarah, sir, but she has all her feelings under control. Ah, Mr. Quilp, I often think sir, if it had only pleased Providence to bring you and Sarah together, in earlier life, what blessed results would have flowed from such a union! You never saw our dear father, sir?—A charming gentleman. Sarah was his pride and joy, sir. He would have closed his eyes in bliss, would Foxey, Mr. Quilp, if he could have found her such a partner. You esteem her, sir?”
“I love her,” croaked the dwarf.
“You’re very good, sir,” returned Brass, “I am sure. Is there any other order, sir, that I can take a note of, besides this little matter of Mr. Richard?”
“None,” replied the dwarf, seizing the saucepan. “Let us drink the lovely Sarah.”
“If we could do it in something, sir, that wasn’t quite boiling,” suggested Brass humbly, “perhaps it would be better. I think it will be more agreeable to Sarah’s feelings, when she comes to hear from me of the honour you have done her, if she learns it was in liquor rather cooler than the last, sir.”
But to these remonstrances, Mr. Quilp turned a deaf ear. Sampson Brass, who was, by this time, anything but sober, being compelled to take further draughts of the same strong bowl, found that, instead of at all contributing to his recovery, they had the novel effect of making the counting-house spin round and round with extreme velocity, and causing the floor and ceiling to heave in a very distressing manner. After a brief stupor, he awoke to a consciousness of being partly under the table and partly under the grate. This position not being the most comfortable one he could have chosen for himself, he managed to stagger to his feet, and, holding on by the admiral, looked round for his host.
Mr. Brass’s first impression was, that his host was gone and had left him there alone—perhaps locked him in for the night. A strong 388 smell of tobacco, however, a new train of ideas, he looked upward, and saw that the dwarf was smoking in his hammock.
“Good-bye, sir,” cried Brass faintly. “Good-bye, sir.”
“Won’t you stop all night?” said the dwarf, peeping out. “Do stop all night!”
“I couldn’t indeed, sir,” replied Brass, who was almost dead from nausea and the closeness of the room. “If you’d have the goodness to show me a light, so that I may see my way across the yard, sir——”
Quilp was out in an instant; not with his legs first, or his head first, or his arms first, but bodily—altogether.
“To be sure,” he said, taking up a lantern, which was now the only light in the place. “Be careful how you go, my dear friend. Be sure to pick your way among the timber, for all the rusty nails are upwards. There’s a dog in the lane. He bit a man last night, and a woman the night before, and last Tuesday he killed a child—but that was in play. Don’t go too near him.”
“Which side of the road is he, asked Brass, in great dismay.
“He lives on the right-hand,” said Quilp, “but sometimes he hides on the left, ready for a spring. He’s uncertain in that respect. Mind you take care of yourself. I’ll never forgive you if you don’t. There’s the light out—never mind—you know the way—straight on!”
Quilp had slightly shaded the light by holding it against his breast, and now stood chuckling and shaking from head to foot in rapture of delight, as he heard the lawyer stumbling up the yard, and now and then falling heavily down. At length, however, he got quit of the place, and was out of hearing.
The dwarf shut himself up again, and sprang once more into his hammock.
The professional gentleman who had given Kit that consolatory piece of information relative to the settlement of his trifle of business at the Old Bailey, and the probability of its being very soon disposed of, turned out to be quite correct in his prognostications. In eight days’ time, the sessions commenced. In one day afterwards, the Grand Jury found a True Bill against Christopher Nubbles for felony; and in two days from that finding, the aforesaid Christopher Nubbles was called upon to plead Guilty or Not Guilty to an Indictment for that he the said Christopher did feloniously abstract and steal from the dwelling-house and office of one Sampson Brass, gentleman, one Bank-note for Five Pounds issued by the Governor and Company of the Bank of England; in contravention of the Statutes in that case made and provided, 389 and against the peace of our Sovereign Lord the King, his crown and dignity.
Trial of Kit.
To this indictment Christopher Nubbles, in a low and trembling voice, pleaded Not Guilty: and here, let those who are in the habit of forming hasty judgments from appearances, and who would have had Christopher, if innocent, speak out very strong and loud, observe, that confinement and anxiety will subdue the stoutest hearts; and that to one who has been close shut up, though it be only for ten or eleven days, seeing but stone walls and a very few stony faces, the sudden entrance into a great hall filled with life, is a rather disconcerting and startling circumstance. To this, it must be added, that life in a wig, is, to a large class of people, much more terrifying and impressive than life with its own head of hair; and if, in addition to these considerations, there be taken into account Kit’s natural emotion on seeing the two Mr. Garlands and the little notary looking on with pale and anxious faces, it will perhaps seem matter of no very great wonder that he should have been rather out of sorts, and unable to make himself quite at home.
Although he had never seen either of the Mr. Garlands, or Mr. Witherden, since the time of his arrest, he had been given to understand that they had employed counsel for him. Therefore, when one of the gentlemen in wigs got up and said “I am for the prisoner my Lord,” Kit made him a bow; and when another gentleman in a wig got up and said “And I’m against him my Lord,” Kit trembled very much, and bowed to him too. And didn’t he hope in his own heart that his gentleman was a match for the other gentleman, and would make him ashamed of himself in no time!
The gentleman who was against him had to speak first, and being in dreadfully good spirits (for he had, in the last trial, very nearly procured the acquittal of a young gentleman who had had the misfortune to murder his father) he spoke up, you may be sure; telling the Jury that if they acquitted this prisoner they must expect to suffer no less pangs and agonies than he had told the other Jury they would certainly undergo if they convicted that prisoner. And when he had told them all about the case, and that he had never known a worse case, he stopped a little while, like a man who had something terrible to tell them, and then said that he understood an attempt would be made by his learned friend (and here he looked sideways at Kit’s gentleman) to impeach the testimony of those immaculate witnesses whom he should call before them; but he did hope and trust that his learned friend would have a greater respect and veneration for the character of the prosecutor; than whom, as he well knew, there did not exist, and never had existed, a more honourable member of that most honourable profession to which he was attached. And then he said, did the Jury know Bevis Marks? And if they did know Bevis Marks (as he trusted for their own character, they did) did they know the historical and elevating associations connected with that most 390 remarkable spot? Did they believe that a man like Brass could reside in a place like Bevis Marks, and not be a virtuous and most upright character? And when he had said a great deal to them on this point, he remembered that it was an insult to their understandings to make any remarks on what they must have felt so strongly without him, and therefore called Sampson Brass into the witness-box, straightway.
Then up comes Mr. Brass, very brisk and fresh; and, having bowed to the judge, like a man who has had the pleasure of seeing him before, and who hopes he has been pretty well since their last meeting, folds his arms, and looks at his gentleman as much as to say “Here I am—full of evidence—Tap me!” And the gentleman does tap him presently, and with great discretion too; drawing off the evidence by little and little, and making it run quite clear and bright in the eyes of all present. Then, Kit’s gentleman takes him in hand, but can make nothing of him; and after a great many very long questions and very short answers, Mr. Sampson Brass goes down in glory.
To him succeeds Sarah, who in like manner is easy to be managed by Mr. Brass’s gentleman, but very obdurate to Kit’s. In short, Kit’s gentleman can get nothing out of her but a repetition of what she has said before (only a little stronger this time, as against his client), and therefore lets her go, in some confusion. Then, Mr. Brass’s gentleman calls Richard Swiveller, and Richard Swiveller appears accordingly.
Now, Mr. Brass’s gentleman has it whispered in his ear that this witness is disposed to be friendly to the prisoner—which, to say the truth, he is rather glad to hear, as his strength is considered to lie in what is familiarly termed badgering. Wherefore, he begins by requesting the officer to be quite sure that this witness kisses the book, and then goes to work at him, tooth and nail.
“Mr. Swiveller,” says this gentleman to Dick, when he had told his tale with evident reluctance and a desire to make the best of it: “Pray sir, where did you dine yesterday?”—“Where did I dine yesterday?”—“Aye sir, where did you dine yesterday—was it near here sir?”—“Oh to be sure—yes—just over the way.”—“To be sure. Yes. Just over the way,” repeats Mr. Brass’s gentleman, with a glance at the court—“Alone sir?”—“I beg your pardon,” says Mr. Swiveller, who has not caught the question—“Alone sir?” repeats Mr. Brass’s gentleman in a voice of thunder, “did you dine alone? Did you treat anybody sir? Come!”—“Oh yes to be sure—yes, I did,” says Mr. Swiveller with a smile. “Have the goodness to banish a levity, sir, which is very ill-suited to the place in which you stand (though perhaps you have reason to be thankful that it’s only that place),” said Mr. Brass’s gentleman, with a nod of the head, insinuating that the dock is Mr. Swiveller’s legitimate sphere of action; “and attend to me. You were waiting about here, yesterday, in expectation that this trial was coming on. You dined over the way. You treated somebody. Now, was that somebody brother to the 391 prisoner at the bar?”—Mr. Swiveller is proceeding to explain—“Yes or No sir,” cries Mr. Brass’s gentleman—“But will you allow me——”—“Yes or No, sir”—“Yes it was, but——”—“Yes it was,” cries the gentleman, taking him up short—“And a very pretty witness you are!”
Forensic Ingenuity and Verdict.
Down sits Mr. Brass’s gentleman. Kit’s gentleman, not knowing how the matter really stands, is afraid to pursue the subject. Richard Swiveller retires abashed. Judge, jury, and spectators have visions of his lounging about, with an ill-looking, large-whiskered, dissolute young fellow of six feet high. The reality is, little Jacob, with the calves of his legs exposed to the open air, and himself tied up in a shawl. Nobody knows the truth; everybody believes a falsehood: and all because of the ingenuity of Mr. Brass’s gentleman.
Then, come the witnesses to character, and here Mr. Brass’s gentleman shines again. It turns out that Mr. Garland has had no character with Kit, no recommendation of him but from his own mother, and that he was suddenly dismissed by his former master for unknown reasons. “Really Mr. Garland,” says Mr. Brass’s , “for a person who has arrived at your time of life, you are, to say the least of it, singularly indiscreet, I think.” The Jury think so too, and find Kit guilty. He is taken off, humbly protesting his innocence. The spectators settle themselves in their places with renewed attention, for there are several female witnesses to be examined in the next case, and it has been rumoured that Mr. Brass’s gentleman will make great fun in cross-examining them for the prisoner.
Kit’s mother, poor woman, is waiting at the grate below-stairs, accompanied by Barbara’s mother (who, honest soul! never does anything but cry, and hold the baby), and a sad interview ensues. The newspaper-reading turnkey has told them all. He don’t think it will be transportation for life, because there’s time to prove the good character yet, and that is sure to serve him. He wonders what he did it for. “He never did it!” cries Kit’s mother. “Well,” said the turnkey, “I won’t contradict you. It’s all one, now, whether he did it or not.”
Kit’s mother can reach his hand through the bars, and she clasps it—God, and those to whom he has given such tenderness, only know in how much agony. Kit bids her keep a good heart, and, under pretence of having the children lifted up to kiss him, prays Barbara’s mother in a whisper to take her home.
“Some friend will rise up for as, mother,” cried Kit, “I am sure. If not now, before long. My innocence will come out, mother, and I shall be brought back again; I feel confidence in that. You must teach little Jacob and the baby how all this was, for if they thought I had ever been dishonest, when they grew old enough to understand, it would break my heart to know it, if I was thousands of miles away.—Oh! is there no good gentleman here, who will take care of her?”
The hand slips out of his, for the poor creature sinks down upon 392 the earth, insensible. Richard Swiveller comes hastily up, elbows the bystanders out of the way, takes her (after some trouble) in one arm after the manner of theatrical ravishers, and, nodding to Kit, and commanding Barbara’s mother to follow, for he has a coach waiting, bears her swiftly off.
Well; Richard took her home. And what astonishing absurdities in the way of quotation from song and poem, he perpetrated on the road, no man knows. He took her home, and stayed till she was recovered; and, having no money to pay the coach, went back in state to Bevis Marks, bidding the driver (for it was Saturday night) wait at the door while he went in for “change.”
“Mr. Richard sir,” said Brass cheerfully, “good-evening!”
Monstrous as Kit’s tale had appeared, at first, Mr. Richard did, that night, half suspect his affable employer of some deep villainy. Perhaps it was but the misery he had just witnessed which gave his careless nature this impulse; but, be that as it may, it was very strong upon him, and he said in as few words as possible, what he wanted.
“Money?” cried Brass, taking out his purse. “Ha ha! To be sure Mr. Richard, to be sure sir. All men must live. You haven’t change for a five-pound note, have you sir?”393
Mr. Swiveller is taken ill.
“No,” returned Dick, shortly.
“Oh!” said Brass, “here’s the very sum. That saves trouble. You’re very welcome I’m sure.—Mr. Richard sir——”
Dick, who had by this time reached the door, turned round.
“You needn’t,” said Brass, “trouble yourself to come back any more sir.”
“You see, Mr. Richard,” said Brass, thrusting his hands in his pockets, and rocking himself to and fro on his stool, “the fact is, that a man of your abilities is lost sir, quite lost, in our dry and mouldy line. It’s terrible drudgery—shocking. I should say, now, that the stage, or the—or the army Mr. Richard—or something very superior in the licensed victualling way—was the kind of thing that would call out the genius of such a man as you. I hope you’ll look in to see us now and then. Sally, sir, will be delighted I’m sure. She’s extremely sorry to lose you Mr. Richard, but a sense of her duty to society reconciles her. An amazing creature that, sir! You’ll find the money quite correct, I think. There’s a cracked window sir, but I’ve not made any deduction on that account. Whenever we part with friends, Mr. Richard, let us part liberally. A delightful sentiment sir!”
To all these rambling observations, Mr. Swiveller answered not one word, but, returning for the aquatic jacket, rolled it into a tight round ball: looking steadily at Brass meanwhile as if he had some intention of bowling him down with it. He only took it under his arm, however, and marched out of the office in profound silence. When he had closed the door, he re-opened it, stared in again for a few moments with the same portentous gravity, and nodding his head once, in a slow and ghostlike manner, vanished.
He paid the coachman, and turned his back on Bevis Marks, big with great designs for the comforting of Kit’s mother and the aid of Kit himself.
But the lives of gentlemen devoted to such pleasures as Richard Swiveller, are extremely precarious. The spiritual excitement of the last fortnight, working upon a system affected in no slight degree by the spirituous excitement of some years, proved a little too much for him. That very night, Mr. Richard was seized with an alarming illness, and in twenty-four hours was stricken with a raging fever.394
Tossing to and fro upon his hot, uneasy bed; tormented by a fierce thirst which nothing could appease; unable to find, in any change of posture, a moment’s peace or ease; and rambling, ever, through deserts of thought where there was no resting-place, no sight or sound suggestive of refreshment or repose, nothing but a dull eternal weariness, with no change but the restless shiftings of his miserable body, and the weary wandering of his mind, constant still to one ever-present anxiety—to a sense of something left undone, of some fearful obstacle to be surmounted, of some carking care that would not be driven away, and which haunted the distempered brain, now in this form, now in that, always shadowy and dim, but recognisable for the same phantom in every shape it took: darkening every vision like an evil conscience, and making slumber horrible—in these slow tortures of his dread disease, the unfortunate Richard lay wasting and consuming inch by inch, until, at last, when he seemed to fight and struggle to rise up, and to be held down by devils, he sank into a deep sleep, and dreamed no more.
He awoke. With a sensation of most blissful rest, better than sleep itself, he began gradually to remember something of these sufferings, and to think what a long 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 was astonished to find how heavy it seemed, and yet how thin and light it really was. Still, he felt indifferent and happy; and having no curiosity to pursue the subject, remained in the same waking slumber until his attention was attracted by a cough. This made him doubt whether he had locked his door last night, 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 yellow ground between, made gravel-walks, and so helped out a long perspective of trim gardens.
He was rambling in imagination on these terraces, and had quite lost himself among them indeed, when he heard the cough once more. The walks shrunk into stripes again at the sound, and raising himself a little in the bed, and holding the curtain open with one hand, he looked out.
A Strange Awakening.
The same room certainly, and still by candlelight; but with what unbounded astonishment did he see all those bottles, and basins, and articles of linen airing by the fire, and such-like furniture of a sick-chamber—all very clean and neat, but all quite different from anything he had left there, when he went to bed! The atmosphere, too, filled with a cool smell of herbs and vinegar; the floor newly sprinkled; the—the what? The Marchioness?
Yes; playing cribbage with herself at the table. There she sat, intent upon her game, coughing now and then in a subdued manner as if she feared to disturb him—shuffling the cards, cutting, dealing, playing, counting, pegging—going through all the mysteries of cribbage as if she had been in full practice from her cradle!
Mr. Swiveller contemplated these things for a short time, and suffering the curtain to fall into its former position, laid his head on the pillow again.
“I’m dreaming,” thought Richard, “that’s clear. When I went to bed, my hands were not made of egg-shells; and now I can almost see through ’em. If this is not a dream, I have woke up, by mistake, in an Arabian Night, instead of a London 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 as that, before. I don’t know, indeed, that I ever dreamt either a cough or a sneeze. 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 some reflection, pinched himself in the arm.
“Queerer still!” he thought. “I came to bed rather plump than otherwise, and now there’s nothing to lay hold of. I’ll take another survey.”
The result of this additional inspection was, to convince Mr. Swiveller that the objects by which he was surrounded were real, and that he saw them, beyond all question, with his waking eyes.
“It’s an Arabian Night; that’s what it is,” said Richard. “I’m in Damascus or Grand Cairo. The Marchioness is a Genie, and having had a wager with another Genie about who is the handsomest young man alive, and the worthiest to be the husband of the Princess of China, has brought me away, room and all, to compare us together. Perhaps,” said Mr. Swiveller, turning languidly round on his pillow, and looking on that side of his bed which was next the wall, “the Princess may be still—No, she’s gone.”
Not feeling quite satisfied with this explanation, as, even taking it to be the correct one, it still involved a little mystery and doubt, Mr. Swiveller raised the curtain again, determined to take the first favourable opportunity of addressing his companion. An occasion soon presented itself. The Marchioness dealt, turned up a knave, and omitted to take the usual advantage; upon which Mr. 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 of ringing the bell. Now for the two thousand black slaves, with jars of jewels on their heads!”
It appeared, however, that she had only clapped her hands for joy; 396 as, directly afterwards she began to laugh, and then to cry; declaring, not in choice Arabic but in familiar English, that she was “so glad, she didn’t know what 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 my voice; and secondly, what has become of my flesh?”
The Marchioness only shook her head mournfully, and cried again; whereupon Mr. Swiveller (being very weak) felt his own eyes affected likewise.
“I begin to infer, from your manner, and these appearances, Marchioness,” said Richard after a pause, and smiling with a trembling lip, “that I have been ill.”
“You just have!” replied the small servant, wiping her eyes. “And haven’t you been 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-by, he began to talk again: inquiring how long he had been there.
“Three weeks to-morrow,” replied the small 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 into another silence, and to lie flat down again, at his full length. The Marchioness, having arranged the bed-clothes more comfortably, and felt that his hands and forehead were quite cool—a discovery that filled her with delight—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, very much astonished to see how thoroughly at home she made herself, and attributing this attention, in its origin, to Sally Brass, whom, in his own mind, he could not thank enough. When the Marchioness had finished her toasting, she spread a clean cloth on a tray, and brought him some crisp slices and a great basin of weak tea, with which (she said) the doctor had left word he might refresh himself when he awoke. She propped him up with pillows, if not as skilfully as if she had been a professional nurse all her life, at least as tenderly; and looked on with unutterable satisfaction while the patient—stopping every now and then to shake her by the hand—took his poor meal with an appetite and relish, which the greatest dainties of the earth, under any other circumstances, would have failed to provoke. Having cleared away, and disposed everything comfortably about him again, she sat down at the table to take her own tea.
“Marchioness,” said Mr. Swiveller, “how’s Sally?”
The small servant screwed her face into an expression of the very uttermost entanglement of slyness, and shook her head.397
The Marchioness explains.
“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 remained for about five minutes. By slow degrees he resumed his sitting posture after that 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 her meal, put everything in its place, and swept the hearth; when he motioned her to bring a chair to the bedside, and, being propped up again, opened a farther
“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 the Marchioness.
“Aye, aye,” said Dick, “advertising?”
The small servant nodded, and winked. Her eyes were so red with waking and crying, that the Tragic Muse might have winked with greater consistency. And so 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 any friend at all, because the lodger he never come back, and I didn’t know where either him or you was to be found, you know. But one morning, when I was——”
“Was near a key-hole?” suggested Mr. Swiveller, observing that she faltered.
“Well then,” said the small servant, nodding; “when I was near the office key-hole—as you see me through, you know—I heard somebody saying that she lived here, and was the lady whose house you lodged at, and that you was took very bad, and wouldn’t nobody come and take care of you. Mr. Brass, he says, ‘It’s no 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 door to, when she went out, I can tell you. So I run away that night, and come here, and told ’em you was my brother, and they believed me, and I’ve been here 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. I like 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 you could have heard how you used to keep 398 on singing and making speeches, you wouldn’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. I strongly suspect I should have died, Marchioness, but for you.”
At this point, Mr. Swiveller took the small servant’s hand in his, again, and being, as we have seen, but poorly, might in struggling to express his thanks have made his eyes as red as hers, but that she quickly changed the theme by making him lie down, and urging him to keep very quiet.
“The doctor,” she told him, “said you was to be kept quite still, and there was 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 cooling drink, with the address of a score of chemists. Richard Swiveller, being indeed fatigued, fell into a slumber, and waking in about half-an-hour, inquired what time it was.
“Just gone half after six,” replied his small friend, helping him to sit up again.
“Marchioness,” said Richard, passing his hand over his forehead and turning suddenly round, as though the subject but that moment flashed upon him, “what has 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 put yourself 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. “I know 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 and hollow from illness, assisted the expression so much, that she was quite frightened, and besought him not to think any more about it. What had already fallen from her, however, had not only piqued his curiosity, but seriously alarmed 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 do with you.”
“Has it anything to do with—is it anything you heard through chinks or key-holes—and that you were not intended to hear?” asked Dick, in a breathless state.399
The Marchioness explains further.
“Yes,” replied the small servant.
“In—in Bevis Marks?” pursued Dick hastily. “Conversations between Brass and Sally?”
“Yes,” cried the small servant again.
Richard Swiveller thrust his lank arm out of bed, and, gripping her by the wrist and drawing her close to him, bade her out with it, and freely too, or he would not answer for the consequences; being wholly unable to endure that state of excitement and expectation. She, seeing that he was greatly agitated, and that the effects of postponing her revelation might be much more injurious than any that were likely to ensue from its being made at once, promised compliance, on condition that the patient kept himself perfectly quiet, and abstained from starting up or tossing about.
“But if you begin to do that,” said the small servant, “I’ll leave off. And so I 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 out as 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 played cards, you know. Miss Sally used to keep the key of the kitchen-door in her pocket, and she always come down at night to take away the candle and rake out the fire. When she had done that, she left me to go to bed in the dark, locked the door on the outside, put the key in her pocket again, and kept me locked up 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, I thought 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 would fit 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 small servant immediately pausing in her talk, he subsided again, and pleading a momentary forgetfulness of their compact, entreated her to proceed.
“They kept me very short,” said the small servant. “Oh! you can’t think how short 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 left in the office, or even pieces of orange-peel to put into cold water and make believe it was wine. Did you ever taste orange-peel and water?”
Mr. Swiveller replied that he had never tasted that ardent liquor; and once more urged his friend to resume the thread of her narrative.
“If you make believe very much, it’s quite nice,” said the small 400 servant, “but if 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, and sometimes before, you know; and one or two nights before there was all that precious noise in the office—when the young man was took, I mean—I come up-stairs while Mr. Brass and Miss Sally was a sittin’ at the office fire; and I’ll tell 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 the bed-clothes, and conveyed into his countenance an expression of the utmost concern. But, the small servant pausing, and holding up her finger, the cone gently disappeared, though the look of concern did not.
“There was him and her,” said the small servant, “a sittin’ by the fire, and talking 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 I don’t half like it.’ She says—you know her way—she says, ’You’re the chickenest-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,’ she says, ‘our principal support?’ ‘He certainly is,’ says Mr. Brass. ‘And an’t we,’ she says, ‘constantly ruining somebody or other in the way of business?’ ‘We certainly are,’ says Mr. Brass. ‘Then does it signify,’ she says, ‘about ruining this Kit when Quilp desires it?’ ‘It certainly does not signify,’ says Mr. Brass. Then, they whispered and laughed for a long time about there being no danger if it was well done, and then Mr. Brass pulls out his pocket-book, and says, ‘Well,’ he says, ‘here it is—Quilp’s own five-pound note. We’ll agree that way, then,’ he says. ‘Kit’s coming to-morrow morning, I know. While he’s up-stairs, you’ll get out of the way, and I’ll clear off Mr. Richard. Having Kit 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, and be the evidence. And if that don’t get Christopher out of Mr. Quilp’s way, and satisfy 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 was afraid to stop any longer, I went down-stairs again.—There!”
The small servant had gradually worked herself into as much agitation as Mr. Swiveller, and therefore made no effort to restrain him when he sat up in bed and 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 found him guilty of what he didn’t do, you was gone, and so was the lodger—though I think I should have been frightened to tell him, even if he’d been there. Ever since I come here, you’ve been out of your senses, and what would have been the good of telling you then?”401
The Marchioness an accredited Agent.
“Marchioness,” said Mr. Swiveller, plucking off his night-cap and flinging it to the other end of the room; “if you’ll do me the favour to retire for a few minutes 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 my clothes?”
“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 ordered for you. But don’t take on about that,” urged the Marchioness, as Dick fell back 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 to take would be to communicate with one of the Mr. Garlands instantly. It was very possible that Mr. Abel had not yet left the office. In as little time as it takes to tell it, the small servant had the address in pencil on a piece of paper; a verbal description of father and son, which would enable her to recognise either, without difficulty; and a special caution to be shy of Mr. Chuckster, in consequence of that gentleman’s known antipathy to Kit. Armed with these slender powers, she hurried away, commissioned to bring either old Mr. Garland or Mr. Abel, bodily, to that apartment.
“I suppose,” said Dick, as she closed the door slowly, and peeped into the room again, to make sure that he was comfortable, “I suppose there’s nothing left—not so much as a waistcoat even?”
“It’s embarrassing,” said Mr. Swiveller, “in case of fire—even an umbrella would be something—but you did quite right, dear Marchioness. I should have died without you!”
It was well for the small servant that she was of a sharp, quick nature, or the consequence of sending her out alone, from the very neighbourhood in which it was most dangerous for her to appear, would probably have been the restoration of Miss Sally Brass to the supreme authority over her person. Not unmindful of the risk she ran, however, the Marchioness no sooner left the house than she dived into the first dark by-way that presented itself, and, without any present reference to the point to which her journey tended, made it 402 her first business to put two good miles of brick and mortar between herself and Bevis Marks.
When she had accomplished this object, she began to shape her course for the notary’s office, to which—shrewdly inquiring of apple-women and oyster-sellers at street-corners, rather than in lighted shops or of well-dressed people, at the hazard of attracting notice—she easily procured a direction. As carrier-pigeons, on being first let loose in a strange place, beat the air at random for a short time, before darting off towards the spot for which they are designed, so did the Marchioness flutter round and round until she believed herself in safety, and then bear swiftly down upon the port for which she was bound.
She had no bonnet—nothing on her head but a great cap which, in some old time, had been worn by Sally Brass, whose taste in head-dresses was, as we have seen, peculiar—and her speed was rather retarded than assisted by her shoes, which, being extremely large and slipshod, flew off every now and then, and were difficult to find again, among the crowd of passengers. Indeed, the poor little creature experienced so much trouble and delay from having to grope for these articles of dress in mud and kennel, and suffered in these researches so much jostling, pushing, squeezing, and bandying from hand to hand, that by the time she reached the street in which the notary lived, she was fairly worn out and exhausted, and could not refrain from tears.
But to have got there at last, was a great comfort, especially as there were lights still burning in the office-window, and therefore some hope that she was not too late. So, the Marchioness dried her eyes with the backs of her hands, and, stealing softly up the steps, peeped in through the glass door.
Mr. Chuckster was standing behind the lid of his desk, making such preparations towards finishing off for the night, as pulling down his wristbands and pulling up his shirt-collar, settling his neck more gracefully in his stock, and secretly arranging his whiskers by the aid of a little triangular bit of looking-glass. Before the ashes of the fire, stood two gentlemen, one of whom she rightly judged to be the notary, and the other (who was buttoning his great-coat and was evidently about to depart immediately) Mr. Abel Garland.
Having made these observations, the small spy took counsel with herself, and resolved to wait in the street until Mr. Abel came out, as there would be then no fear of having to speak before Mr. Chuckster, and less difficulty in delivering her message. With this purpose she slipped out again, and crossing the road, sat down upon a door-step just opposite.
The Marchioness astonishes Mr. Abel.
She had hardly taken this position, when there came dancing up the street, with his legs all wrong, and his head everywhere by turns, a pony. This pony had a little phaeton behind him, and a man in it; but neither man nor phaeton seemed to embarrass him in the least, as 403 he reared up on his hind-legs, or stopped, or went on, or stood still again, or backed, or went sideways, without the smallest reference to them,—just as the fancy seized him, and as if he were the freest animal in creation. When they came to the notary’s door, the man called out in a very respectful manner, “Woa then,”—intimating that if he might venture to express a wish, it would be that they stopped there. The pony made a moment’s pause; but, as if it occurred to him that to stop when he was required might be to establish an inconvenient and dangerous precedent, he immediately started off again, rattled at a fast trot to the street-corner, wheeled round, came back, and then stopped of his own accord.
“Oh! you’re a precious creatur!” said the man—who didn’t venture by the bye to come out in his true colours until he was safe on the pavement. “I wish I had the rewarding of you,—I do.”
“What has he been doing?” said Mr. Abel, tying a shawl round his neck as he came down the steps.
“He’s enough to fret a man’s heart out,” replied the hostler. “He is the most wicious rascal—— Woa then, will you?”
“He’ll never stand still, if you call him names,” said Mr. Abel, getting in, and taking the reins. “He’s a very good fellow if you know how to manage him. This is the first time he has been out, this long while, for he has lost his old driver and wouldn’t stir for anybody else, till this morning. The lamps are right, are they? That’s well. Be here to take him to-morrow, if you please. Good-night!”
And, after one or two strange plunges, quite of his own invention, the pony yielded to Mr. Abel’s mildness, and trotted gently off.
All this time Mr. Chuckster had been standing at the door, and the small servant had been afraid to approach. She had nothing for it now, therefore, but to run after the chaise, and to call to Mr. Abel to stop. Being out of breath when she came up with it, she was unable to make him hear. The case was desperate; for the pony was quickening his pace. The Marchioness hung on behind for a few moments, and, feeling that she could go no farther, and must soon yield, clambered by a vigorous effort into the hinder seat, and in so doing lost one of the shoes for ever.
Mr. Abel being in a thoughtful frame of mind, and having quite enough to do to keep the pony going, went jogging on without looking round: little dreaming of the strange figure that was close behind him, until the Marchioness, having in some degree recovered her breath, and the loss of her shoe, and the novelty of her position, uttered close into his ear, the words—
“I say, sir——”
He turned his head quickly enough then, and stopping the pony, cried, with some trepidation, “God bless me, what is this?”
“Don’t be frightened, sir,” replied the still-panting messenger. “Oh I’ve run such a way after you!”404
“What do you want with me?” said Mr. Abel. “How did you come here?”
“I got in behind,” replied the Marchioness. “Oh please drive on, sir—don’t stop—and go towards the City, will you? And oh do please make haste, because it’s of consequence. There’s somebody wants to see you there. He sent me to say would you come directly, and that he knowed all about Kit, and could save him yet, and prove his innocence.”
“What do you tell me, child?”
“The truth, upon my word and honour I do. But please to drive on—quick, please! I’ve been such a time gone, he’ll think I’m lost.”
Mr. Abel involuntarily urged the pony forward. The pony, impelled by some secret sympathy or some new caprice, burst into a great pace, and neither slackened it, nor indulged in any eccentric performances, until they arrived at the door of Mr. Swiveller’s lodging, where, marvellous to relate, he consented to stop when Mr. Abel checked him.
“See! It’s that room up there,” said the Marchioness, pointing to one where there was a faint light. “Come!”
Mr. Abel, who was one of the simplest and most retiring creatures in existence, and naturally timid withal, hesitated; for he had heard 405 of people being decoyed into strange places to be robbed and murdered, under circumstances very like the present, and, for anything he knew to the contrary, by guides very like the Marchioness. His regard for Kit, however, overcame every other consideration. So, entrusting Whisker to the charge of a man who was lingering hard by in expectation of the job, he suffered his companion to take his hand, and to lead him up the dark and narrow stairs.
Solemn Disclosure of the Marchioness.
He was not a little surprised to find himself conducted into a dimly-lighted sick chamber, where a man was sleeping tranquilly in bed.
“An’t it nice to see him lying there so quiet?” said his guide, in an earnest whisper. “Oh! you’d say it was, if you had only seen him two or three days ago.”
Mr. Abel made no answer, and, to say the truth, kept a long way from the bed and very near the door. His guide, who appeared to understand his reluctance, trimmed the candle, and taking it in her hand, approached the bed. As she did so, the sleeper started up, and he recognised in the wasted face the features of Richard Swiveller.
“Why, how is this?” said Mr. Abel kindly, as he hurried towards him. “You have been ill?”
“Very,” replied Dick. “Nearly dead. You might have chanced to hear of your Richard on his bier, but for the friend I sent to fetch you. Another shake of the hand, Marchioness, if you please. Sit down, sir.”
Mr. Abel seemed rather astonished to hear of the quality of his guide, and took a chair by the bedside.
“I have sent for you, sir,” said Dick—“but she told you on what account?”
“She did. I am quite bewildered by all this. I really don’t know what to say or think,” replied Mr. Abel.
“You’ll say that presently,” retorted Dick. “Marchioness, take a seat on the bed, will you? Now, tell this gentleman all that you told me; and be particular. Don’t you speak another word, sir.”
The story was repeated; it was, in effect, exactly the same as before, without any deviation or omission. Richard Swiveller kept his eyes fixed on his visitor during its narration, and directly it was concluded, took the word again.
“You have heard it all, and you’ll not forget it. I’m too giddy and too queer to suggest anything; but you and your friends will know what to do. After this long delay, every minute is an age. If ever you went home fast in your life, go home fast to-night. Don’t stop to say one word to me, but go. She will be found here, whenever she’s wanted; and as to me, you’re pretty sure to find me at home, for a week or two. There are more reasons than one for that. Marchioness, a light! If you lose another minute in looking at me, sir, I’ll never forgive you!”
Mr. Abel needed no more remonstrance or persuasion. He was gone in an instant; and the Marchioness, returning from lighting him 406 down-stairs, reported that the pony, without any preliminary objection whatever, had dashed away at full gallop.
“That’s right!” said Dick; “and hearty of him; and I honour him from this time. But get some supper and a mug of beer, for I am sure you must be tired. Do have a mug of beer. It will do me as much good to see you take it as if I might drink it myself.”
Nothing but this assurance could have prevailed upon the small nurse to indulge in such a luxury. Having eaten and drunk to Mr. Swiveller’s extreme contentment, given him his drink, and put everything in neat order, she wrapped herself in an old coverlet and lay down upon the rug before the fire.
Mr. Swiveller was by that time murmuring in his sleep, “Strew then, oh strew, a bed of rushes. Here will we stay, till morning blushes. Good-night, Marchioness!”
On awaking in the morning, Richard Swiveller became conscious, by slow degrees, of whispering voices in his room. Looking out between the curtains, he espied Mr. Garland, Mr. Abel, the notary, and the single gentleman, gathered round the Marchioness, and talking to her with great earnestness but in very subdued tones—fearing, no doubt, to disturb him. He lost no time in letting them know that this precaution was unnecessary, and all four gentlemen directly approached his bedside. Old Mr. Garland was the first to stretch out his hand, and inquire how he felt.
Dick was about to answer that he felt much better, though still as weak as need be, when his little nurse, pushing the visitors aside and pressing up to his pillow as if in jealousy of their interference, set his breakfast before him, and insisted on his taking it before he underwent the fatigue of speaking or of being spoken to. Mr. Swiveller, who was perfectly ravenous, and had had, all night, amazingly distinct and consistent dreams of mutton-chops, double stout, and similar delicacies, felt even the weak tea and dry toast such irresistible temptations, that he consented to eat and drink on one condition.
“And that is,” said Dick, returning the pressure of Mr. Garland’s hand, “that you answer me this question truly, before I take a bit or drop. Is it too late?”
“For completing the work you began so well last night?” returned the old gentleman. “No. Set your mind at rest on that point. It is not, I assure you.”
Visitors in the Sick Room.
Comforted by this intelligence, the patient applied himself to his food with a keen appetite, though evidently not with a greater zest in the eating than his nurse appeared to have in seeing him eat. The 407 manner of his meal was this:—Mr. Swiveller, holding the slice of toast or cup of tea in his left-hand, and taking a bite or drink, as the case might be, constantly kept, in his right, one palm of the Marchioness tight locked; and to shake, or even to kiss this imprisoned hand, he would stop every now and then, in the very act of swallowing, with perfect seriousness of intention, and the utmost gravity. As often as he put anything into his mouth, whether for eating or drinking, the face of the Marchioness lighted up beyond all description; but, whenever he gave her one or other of these tokens of recognition, her countenance became overshadowed, and she began to sob. Now, whether she was in her laughing joy, or in her crying one, the Marchioness could not help turning to the visitors with an appealing look, which seemed to say, “You see this fellow—can I help this?”—and they, being thus made, as it were, parties to the scene, as regularly answered by another look, “No. Certainly not.” This dumb-show, taking place during the whole time of the invalid’s breakfast, and the invalid himself, pale and emaciated, performing no small part of the same, it may be fairly questioned whether at any meal, where no word, good or bad, was spoken from beginning to end, so much was expressed by gestures in themselves so slight and unimportant.
At length—and to say the truth before very long—Mr. Swiveller had despatched as much toast and tea as in that stage of his recovery it was discreet to let him have. But, the cares of the Marchioness did not stop here; for, disappearing for an instant and presently returning with a basin of fair water, she laved his face and hands, brushed his hair, and in short made him as spruce and smart as anybody under such circumstances could be made; and all this, in as brisk and business-like a manner, as if he were a very little boy, and she his grown-up nurse. To these various attentions, Mr. Swiveller submitted in a kind of grateful astonishment beyond the reach of language. When they were at last brought to an end, and the Marchioness had withdrawn into a distant corner to take her own poor breakfast (cold enough by that time), he turned his face away for some few moments, and shook hands heartily with the air.
“Gentlemen,” said Dick, rousing himself from this pause, and turning round again, “you’ll excuse me. Men who have been brought so low as I have been, are easily fatigued. I am fresh again now, and fit for talking. We’re short of chairs here, among other trifles, but if you’ll do me the favour to sit upon the bed——”
“What can we do for you?” said Mr. Garland, kindly.
“If you could make the Marchioness yonder, a Marchioness, in real, sober earnest,” returned Dick, “I’d thank you to get it done off-hand. But as you can’t, and as the question is not what you will do for me, but what you will do for somebody else who has a better claim upon you, pray sir let me know what you intend doing.”
“It’s chiefly on that account that we have come just now,” said the 408 single gentleman, “for you will have another visitor presently. We feared you would be anxious unless you knew from ourselves what steps we intended to take, and therefore came to you before we stirred in the matter.”
“Gentlemen,” returned Dick, “I thank you. Anybody in the helpless state that you see me in, is naturally anxious. Don’t let me interrupt you, sir.”
“Then, you see, my good fellow,” said the single gentleman, “that while we have no doubt whatever of the truth of this disclosure, which has so providentially come to light——”
“Meaning hers?” said Dick, pointing towards the Marchioness.
“—Meaning hers, of course. While we have no doubt of that, or that a proper use of it would procure the poor lad’s immediate pardon and liberation, we have a great doubt whether it would, by itself, enable us to reach Quilp, the chief agent in this villainy. I should tell you that this doubt has been confirmed into something very nearly approaching certainty by the best opinions we have been enabled, in this short space of time, to take upon the subject. You’ll agree with us, that to give him even the most distant chance of escape, if we could help it, would be monstrous. You say with us, no doubt, if somebody must escape, let it be anyone but he.”
“Yes,” returned Dick, “certainly. That is if somebody must—but upon my word, I’m unwilling that anybody should. Since laws were made for every degree, to curb vice in others as well as in me—and so forth you know—doesn’t it strike you in that light?”
The single gentleman smiled as if the light in which Mr. Swiveller had put the question were not the clearest in the world, and proceeded to explain that they contemplated proceeding by stratagem in the first instance; and that their design was to endeavour to extort a confession from the gentle Sarah.
“When she finds how much we know, and how we know it,” he said, “and that she is clearly compromised already, we are not without strong hopes that we may be enabled through her means to punish the other two effectually. If we could do that, she might go scot-free for aught I cared.”
Comforts for the Invalid.
Dick received this project in anything but a gracious manner, representing with as much warmth as he was then capable of showing, that they would find the old buck (meaning Sarah) more difficult to manage than Quilp himself—that, for any tampering, terrifying, or cajolery, she was a very unpromising and unyielding subject—that, she was of a kind of brass not easily melted or moulded into shape—in short, that they were no match for her, and would be signally defeated. But, it was in vain to urge them to adopt some other course. The single gentleman has been described as explaining their joint intentions, but it should have been written that they all spoke together; that if any one of them by chance held his peace for a moment, he stood gasping and panting for an opportunity to strike in again: in 409 a word, that they had reached that pitch of impatience and anxiety where men can neither be persuaded nor reasoned with; and that it would have been as easy to turn the most impetuous wind that ever blew, as to prevail on them to reconsider their determination. So, after telling Mr. Swiveller how they had not lost sight of Kit’s mother and the children; how they had never once even lost sight of Kit himself, but had been unremitting in their endeavours to procure a mitigation of his sentence; how they had been perfectly distracted between the strong proofs of his guilt, and their own fading hopes of his innocence; and how he, Richard Swiveller, might keep his mind at rest, for everything should be happily adjusted between that time and night;—after telling him all this, and adding a great many kind and cordial expressions, personal to himself, which it is unnecessary to recite, Mr. Garland, the notary, and the single gentleman, took their leaves at a very critical time, or Richard Swiveller must assuredly have been driven into another fever, whereof the results might have been fatal.
Mr. Abel remained behind, very often looking at his watch and at the room-door, until Mr. Swiveller was roused from a short nap, by the setting-down on the landing-place outside, as from the shoulders of a porter, of some giant load, which seemed to shake the house, and made the little physic-bottles on the mantelshelf ring again. Directly this sound reached his ears, Mr. Abel started up, and hobbled to the door, and opened it; and behold! there stood a strong man, with a mighty hamper, which, being hauled into the room and presently unpacked, disgorged such treasures of tea, and coffee, and wine, and rusks, and oranges, and grapes, and fowls ready trussed for boiling, and calves’-foot jelly, and arrow-root, and sago, and other delicate restoratives, that the small servant, who had never thought it possible that such things could be, except in shops, stood rooted to the spot in her one shoe, with her mouth and eyes watering in unison, and her power of speech quite gone. But, not so Mr. Abel; or the strong man who emptied the hamper, big as it was, in a twinkling; and not so the nice old lady, who appeared so suddenly that she might have come out of the hamper too (it was quite large enough), and who, bustling about on tip-toe and without noise—now here, now there, now everywhere at once—began to fill out the jelly in tea-cups, and to make chicken-broth in small saucepans, and to peel oranges for the sick man and to cut them up in little pieces, and to ply the small servant with glasses of wine and choice bits of everything until more substantial meat could be prepared for her refreshment. The whole of which appearances were so unexpected and bewildering, that Mr. Swiveller, when he had taken two oranges and a little jelly, and had seen the strong man walk off with the empty basket, plainly leaving all that abundance for his use and benefit, was fain to lie down and fall asleep again, from sheer inability to entertain such wonders in his mind.
Meanwhile, the single gentleman, the notary, and Mr. Garland, 410 repaired to a certain coffee-house, and from that place indited and sent a letter to Miss Sally Brass, requesting her, in terms mysterious and brief, to favour an unknown friend who wished to consult her, with her company there, as speedily as possible. The communication performed its errand so well, that within ten minutes of the messenger’s return and report of its delivery, Miss Brass herself was announced.
“Pray ma’am,” said the single gentleman, whom she found alone in the room, “take a chair.”
Miss Brass sat herself down, in a very stiff and frigid state, and seemed—as indeed she was—not a little astonished to find that the lodger and her mysterious correspondent were one and the same person.
“You did not expect to see me?” said the single gentleman.
“I didn’t think much about it,” returned the beauty. “I supposed it was business of some kind or other. If it’s about the apartments, of course you’ll give my brother regular notice, you know—or money. That’s very easily settled. You’re a responsible party, and in such a case lawful money and lawful notice are pretty much the same.”
“I am obliged to you for your good opinion,” retorted the single gentleman, “and quite concur in these sentiments. But, that is not the subject on which I wish to speak with you.”
“Oh!” said Sally. “Then just state the particulars, will you? I suppose it’s professional business?”
“Why it is connected with the law, certainly.”
“Very well,” returned Miss Brass. “My brother and I are just the same. I can take any instructions, or give you any advice.”
“As there are other parties interested besides myself,” said the single gentleman, rising and opening the door of an inner room, “we had better confer together. Miss Brass is here, gentlemen.”
Mr. Garland and the notary walked in, looking very grave: and, drawing up two chairs, one on each side of the single gentleman, formed a kind of fence round the gentle Sarah, and penned her into a corner. Her brother Sampson under such circumstances would certainly have evinced some confusion or anxiety, but she—all composure—pulled out the tin box, and calmly took a pinch of snuff.
“Miss Brass,” said the notary, taking the word at this crisis, “we professional people understand each other, and, when we choose, can say what we have to say, in very few words. You advertised a runaway servant, the other day?”
“Well,” returned Miss Sally, with a sudden flush overspreading her features, “what of that?”
“She is found, ma’am,” said the notary, pulling out his pocket-handkerchief with a flourish. “She is found.”
“Who found her?” demanded Sarah hastily.
“We did, ma’am—we three. Only last night, or you would have heard from us before.”411
Conference with Sally Brass.
“And now I have heard from you,” said Miss Brass, folding her arms as though she were about to deny something to the death, “what have you got to say? Something you have got into your heads about her, of course. Prove it, will you—that’s all. Prove it. You have found her, you say. I can tell you (if you don’t know it) that you have found the most artful, lying, pilfering, devilish little minx that was ever born.—Have you got her here?” she added, looking sharply round.
“No, she is not here at present,” returned the notary. “But she is quite safe.”
“Ha!” cried Sally, twitching a pinch of snuff out of her box, as spitefully as if she were in the very act of wrenching off the small servant’s nose; “she shall be safe enough from this time, I warrant you.”
“I hope so,” replied the notary.—“Did it occur to you for the first time, when you found she had run away, that there were two keys to your kitchen-door?”
Miss Sally took another pinch, and putting her head on one side, looked at her questioner, with a curious kind of spasm about her mouth, but with a cunning aspect of immense expression.
“Two keys,” repeated the notary; “one of which gave her the opportunities of roaming through the house at nights when you supposed her fast locked up, and of overhearing confidential consultations—among others, that particular conference, to be described to-day before a justice, which you will have an opportunity of hearing her relate; that conference which you and Mr. Brass held together, on the night before that most unfortunate and innocent young man was accused of robbery, by a horrible device of which I will only say that it may be characterised by the epithets which you have applied to this wretched little witness, and by a few stronger ones besides.”
Sally took another pinch. Although her face was wonderfully composed, it was apparent that she was wholly taken by surprise, and that what she had expected to be taxed with, in connection with her small servant, was something very different from this.
“Come, come, Miss Brass,” said the notary, “you have great command of feature, but you feel, I see, that by a chance which never entered your imagination, this base design is revealed, and two of its plotters must be brought to justice. Now, you know the pains and penalties you are liable to, and so I need not dilate upon them, but I have a proposal to make to you. You have the honour of being sister to one of the greatest scoundrels unhung; and, if I may venture to say so to a lady, you are in every respect quite worthy of him. But, connected with you two is a third party, a villain of the name of Quilp, the prime mover of the whole diabolical device, who I believe to be worse than either. For his sake, Miss Brass, do us the favour to reveal the whole history of this affair. Let me remind you that your doing so, at our instance, will place you in a safe and comfortable 412 position—your present one is not desirable—and cannot injure your brother; for against him and you we have quite sufficient evidence (as you hear) already. I will not say to you that we suggest this course in mercy (for, to tell you the truth, we do not entertain any regard for you), but it is a necessity to which we are reduced, and I recommend it to you as a matter of the very best policy. Time,” said Mr. Witherden, pulling out his watch, “in a business like this, is exceedingly precious. Favour us with your decision as speedily as possible, ma’am.”
With a smile upon her face, and looking at each of the three by turns, Miss Brass took two or three more pinches of snuff, and having by this time very little left, travelled round and round the box with her fore-finger and thumb, scraping up another. Having disposed of this likewise and put the box carefully in her pocket, she said—
“I am to accept or reject at once, am I?”
“Yes,” said Mr. Witherden.
The charming creature was opening her lips to speak in reply, when the door was hastily opened too, and the head of Sampson Brass was thrust into the room.
“Excuse me,” said that gentleman hastily. “Wait a bit!”
So saying, and quite indifferent to the astonishment his presence occasioned, he crept in, shut the door, kissed his greasy glove as servilely as if it were the dust, and made a most abject bow.
“Sarah,” said Brass, “hold your tongue if you please, and let me speak. Gentlemen, if I could express the pleasure it gives me to see three such men in a happy unity of feeling and concord of sentiment, I think you would hardly believe me. But though I am unfortunate—nay, gentlemen, criminal, if we are to use harsh expressions in a company like this—still, I have my feelings like other men. I have heard of a poet, who remarked that feelings were the common lot of all. If he could have been a pig, gentlemen, and have uttered that sentiment, he would still have been immortal.”
“If you’re not an idiot,” said Miss Brass harshly, “hold your peace.”
“Sarah, my dear,” returned her brother, “thank you. But I know what I am about, my love, and will take the liberty of expressing myself accordingly. Mr. Witherden, sir, your handkerchief is hanging out of your pocket—would you allow me to——”
As Mr. Brass advanced to remedy this accident, the notary shrunk from him with an air of disgust. Brass, who over and above his usual prepossessing qualities, had a scratched face, a green shade over one eye, and a hat grievously crushed, stopped short, and looked round with a pitiful smile.
“He shuns me,” said Sampson, “even when I would, as I may say, heap coals of fire upon his head. Well! Ah! But I am a falling house, and the rats (if I may be allowed the expression in reference to a gentleman I respect and love beyond everything) fly from me! 413 Gentlemen—regarding your conversation just now, I happened to see my sister on her way here, and, wondering where she could be going to, and being—may I venture to say?—naturally of a suspicious turn, followed her. Since then, I have been listening.”
Mr. Brass offers his Assistance—
“If you’re not mad,” interposed Miss Sally, “stop there, and say no more.”
“Sarah, my dear,” rejoined Brass with undiminished politeness, “I thank you kindly, but will still proceed. Mr. Witherden, sir, as we have the honour to be members of the same profession—to say nothing of that other gentleman having been my lodger, and having partaken, as one may say, of the hospitality of my roof—I think you might have given me the refusal of this offer in the first instance. I do indeed. Now, my dear sir,” cried Brass, seeing that the notary was about to interrupt him, “suffer me to speak, I beg.”
Mr. Witherden was silent, and Brass went on.
“If you will do me the favour,” he said, holding up the green shade, and revealing an eye most horribly discoloured, “to look at this, you will naturally inquire, in your own minds, how did I get it. If you look from that, to my face, you will wonder what could have been the cause of all these scratches. And if from them to my hat, how it came into the state in which you see it. Gentlemen,” said Brass, striking the hat fiercely with his clenched hand, “to all these questions I answer—Quilp!”
The three gentlemen looked at each other, but said nothing.
“I say,” pursued Brass, glancing aside, at his sister, as though he were talking for her information, and speaking with a snarling malignity, in violent contrast to his usual smoothness, “that I answer to all these questions,—Quilp—Quilp, who deludes me into his infernal den, and takes a delight in looking on and chuckling while I scorch and burn, and bruise, and maim myself—Quilp, who never once, no never once, in all our communications together, has treated me otherwise than as a dog—Quilp, whom I have always hated with my whole heart, but never so much as lately. He gives me the cold shoulder on this very matter as if he had had nothing to do with it, instead of being the first to propose it. I can’t trust him. In one of his howling, raving, blazing humours, I believe he’d let it out, if it was murder, and never think of himself so long as he could terrify me. Now,” said Brass, picking up his hat again and replacing the shade over his eye, and actually crouching down, in the excess of his servility, “What does all this lead to?—what should you say it led me to, gentlemen?—could you guess at all near the mark?”
Nobody spoke. Brass stood smirking for a little while, as if he had propounded some choice conundrum; and then said—
“To be short with you, then, it leads me to this. If the truth has come out, as it plainly has in a manner that there’s no standing up against—and a very sublime and grand thing is Truth, gentlemen, in its way, though like other sublime and grand things, such as thunderstorms 414 and that, we’re not always over and above glad to see it—I had better turn upon this man than let this man turn upon me. It’s clear to me that I am done for. Therefore, if anybody is to split, I had better be the person and have the advantage of it. Sarah, my dear, comparatively speaking you’re safe. I relate these circumstances for my own profit.”
With that, Mr. Brass, in a great hurry, revealed the whole story; bearing as heavily as possible on his amiable employer, and making himself out to be rather a saintlike and holy character, though subject—he acknowledged—to human weaknesses. He concluded thus—
“Now, gentlemen, I am not a man who does things by halves. Being in for a penny, I am ready, as the saying is, to be in for a pound. You must do with me what you please, and take me where you please. If you wish to have this in writing, we’ll reduce it into manuscript immediately. You will be tender with me, I am sure. I am quite confident you will be tender with me. You are men of honour, and have feeling hearts. I yielded from necessity to Quilp, for though necessity has no law, she has her lawyers. I yield to you from necessity too; from policy besides; and because of feelings that have been a pretty long time working within me. Punish Quilp, gentlemen. Weigh heavily upon him. Grind him down. Tread him under foot. He has done as much by me, for many and many a day.”
Having now arrived at the conclusion of his discourse, Sampson checked the current of his wrath, kissed his glove again, and smiled as only parasites and cowards can.
“And this,” said Miss Brass, raising her head, with which she had hitherto sat resting on her hands, and surveying him from head to foot with a bitter sneer, “this is my brother, is it? This is my brother, that I have worked and toiled for, and believed to have had something of the man in him!”
“Sarah, my dear,” returned Sampson, rubbing his hands feebly; “you disturb our friends. Besides you—you’re disappointed, Sarah, and, not knowing what you say, expose yourself.”
“Yes, you pitiful dastard,” retorted the lovely damsel, “I understand you. You feared that I should be beforehand with you. But do you think that I would have been enticed to say a word! I’d have scorned it, if they had tried and tempted me for twenty years.”
—And secures his own Safety.
“He he!” simpered Brass, who, in his deep debasement, really seemed to have changed sexes with his sister, and to have made over to her any spark of manliness he might have possessed. “You think so, Sarah, you think so perhaps; but you would have acted quite different, my good fellow. You will not have forgotten that it was a maxim with Foxey—our revered father, gentlemen—‘Always suspect everybody.’ That’s the maxim to go through life with! If you were not actually about to purchase your own safety when I showed myself, I suspect you’d have done it by this time. And therefore I’ve done 415 it myself, and spared you the trouble as well as the shame. The shame, gentlemen,” added Brass, allowing himself to be slightly overcome, “if there is any, is mine. It’s better that a female should be spared it.”
With deference to the better opinion of Mr. Brass, and more particularly to the authority of his Great Ancestor, it may be doubted, with humility, whether the elevating principle laid down by the latter gentleman, and acted upon by his descendant, is always a prudent one, or attended in practice with the desired results. This is, beyond question, a bold and presumptuous doubt, inasmuch as many distinguished characters, called men of the world, long-headed customers, knowing dogs, shrewd fellows, capital hands at business, and the like, have made, and do daily make, this axiom their polar star and compass. Still, the doubt may be gently insinuated. And in illustration it may be observed, that if Mr. Brass, not being over-suspicious, had, without prying and listening, left his sister to manage the conference on their joint behalf, or prying and listening, had not been in such a mighty hurry to anticipate her (which he would not have been, but for his distrust and jealousy), he would probably have found himself much better off in the end. Thus, it will always happen that these men of the world, who go through it in armour, defend themselves from quite as much good as evil; to say nothing of the inconvenience and absurdity of mounting guard with a microscope at all times, and of wearing a coat of mail on the most innocent occasions.
The three gentlemen spoke together apart, for a few moments. At the end of their consultation, which was very brief, the notary pointed to the writing materials on the table, and informed Mr. Brass that if he wished to make any statement in writing, he had the opportunity of doing so. At the same time he felt bound to tell him that they would require his attendance, presently, before a justice of the peace, and that in what he did or said, he was guided entirely by his own discretion.
“Gentlemen,” said Brass, drawing off his gloves, and crawling in spirit upon the ground before them, “I will justify the tenderness with which I know I shall be treated; and as, without tenderness, I should, now that this discovery has been made, stand in the worst position of the three, you may depend upon it I will make a clean breast. Mr. Witherden, sir, a kind of faintness is upon my spirits—if you would do me the favour to ring the bell and order up a glass of something warm and spicy, I shall, notwithstanding what has passed, have a melancholy pleasure in drinking your good health. I had hoped,” said Brass, looking round with a mournful smile, “to have seen you three gentlemen, one day or another, with your legs under the mahogany in my humble parlour in the Marks. But hopes are fleeting. Dear me!”
Mr. Brass found himself so exceedingly affected, at this point, that he could say or do nothing more until some refreshment arrived. 416 Having partaken of it, pretty freely for one in his agitated state, he sat down to write.
The lovely Sarah, now with her arms folded, and now with her hands clasped behind her, paced the room with manly strides while her brother was thus employed, and sometimes stopped to pull out her snuff-box and bite the lid. She continued to pace up and down until she was quite tired, and then fell asleep on a chair near the door.
It has been since supposed, with some reason, that this slumber was a sham or feint, as she contrived to slip away unobserved in the dusk of the afternoon. Whether this was an intentional and waking departure, or a somnambulistic leave-taking and walking in her sleep, may remain a subject of contention; but, on one point (and indeed the main one) all parties are agreed. In whatever state she walked away, she certainly did not walk back again.
Mention having been made of the dusk of the afternoon, it will be inferred that Mr. Brass’s task occupied some time in the completion. It was not finished until evening; but, being done at last, that worthy person and the three friends adjourned in a hackney-coach to the private office of a Justice, who, giving Mr. Brass a warm reception and detaining him in a secure place that he might insure to himself the pleasure of seeing him on the morrow, dismissed the others with the cheering assurance that a warrant could not fail to be granted next day for the apprehension of Mr. Quilp, and that a proper application and statement of all the circumstances to the secretary of state (who was fortunately in town), would no doubt procure Kit’s free pardon and liberation without delay.
And now, indeed, it seemed that Quilp’s malignant career was drawing to a close, and that retribution, which often travels slowly—especially when heaviest—had tracked his footsteps with a sure and certain scent and was gaining on him fast. Unmindful of her stealthy tread, her victim holds his course in fancied triumph. Still at his heels she comes, and once afoot, is never turned aside!
Their business ended, the three gentlemen hastened back to the lodgings of Mr. Swiveller, whom they found progressing so favourably in his recovery as to have been able to sit up for half-an-hour, and to have conversed with cheerfulness. Mrs. Garland had gone home some time since, but Mr. Abel was still sitting with him. After telling him all they had done, the two Mr. Garlands and the single gentleman, as if by some previous understanding, took their leaves for the night, leaving the invalid alone with the notary and the small servant.
“As you are so much better,” said Mr. Witherden, sitting down at the bedside, “I may venture to communicate to you a piece of news which has come to me professionally.”
A Legacy for Mr. Swiveller.
The idea of any professional intelligence from a gentleman connected with legal matters, appeared to afford Richard anything but a pleasing anticipation. Perhaps he connected it in his own mind 417 with one or two outstanding accounts, in reference to which he had already received divers threatening letters. His countenance fell as he replied—
“Certainly, sir. I hope it’s not anything of a very disagreeable nature, though?”
“If I thought it so, I should choose some better time for communicating it,” replied the notary. “Let me tell you, first, that my friends who have been here to-day, know nothing of it, and that their kindness to you has been quite spontaneous and with no hope of return. It may do a thoughtless, careless man, good, to know that.”
Dick thanked him, and said he hoped it would.
“I have been making some inquiries about you,” said Mr. Witherden, “little thinking that I should find you under such circumstances as those which have brought us together. You are the nephew of Rebecca Swiveller, spinster, deceased, of Cheselbourne in Dorsetshire.”
“Deceased!” cried Dick.
“Deceased. If you had been another sort of nephew, you would have come into possession (so says the will, and I see no reason to doubt it) of five-and-twenty thousand pounds. As it is, you have fallen into an annuity of one hundred and fifty pounds a year; but I think I may congratulate you even upon that.”
“Sir,” said Dick, sobbing and laughing together, “you may. For, please God, we’ll make a scholar of the poor Marchioness yet! And she shall walk in silk attire, and siller have to spare, or may I never rise from this bed again!”
Unconscious of the proceedings faithfully narrated in the last chapter, and little dreaming of the mine which had been sprang beneath him (for, to the end that he should have no warning of the business afoot, the profoundest secrecy was observed in the whole transaction), Mr. Quilp remained shut up in his hermitage, undisturbed by any suspicion, and extremely well satisfied with the result of his machinations. Being engaged in the adjustment of some accounts—an occupation to which the silence and solitude of his retreat were very favourable—he had not strayed from his den for two whole days. The third day of his devotion to this pursuit found him still hard at work, and little disposed to stir abroad.
It was the day next after Mr. Brass’s confession, and, consequently, that which threatened the restriction of Mr. Quilp’s liberty, and the abrupt communication to him of some very unpleasant and unwelcome facts. Having no intuitive perception of the cloud which lowered 418 upon his house, the dwarf was in his ordinary state of cheerfulness; and, when he found he was becoming too much engrossed by business with a due regard to his health and spirits, he varied its monotonous routine with a little screeching, or howling, or some other innocent relaxation of that nature.
He was attended, as usual, by Tom Scott, who sat crouching over the fire after the manner of a toad, and, from time to time, when his master’s back was turned, imitating his grimaces with a fearful exactness. The figure-head had not yet disappeared, but remained in its old place. The face, horribly seared by the frequent application of the red-hot poker, and further ornamented by the insertion, in the tip of the nose, of a tenpenny nail, yet smiled blandly in its less lacerated parts, and seemed, like a sturdy martyr, to provoke its tormentor to the commission of new outrages and insults.
The day, in the highest and brightest quarters of the town, was damp, dark, cold, and gloomy. In that low and marshy spot, the fog filled every nook and corner with a thick dense cloud. Every object was obscure at one or two yards’ distance. The warning lights and fires upon the river were powerless beneath this pall, and, but for a raw and piercing chillness in the air, and now and then the cry of some bewildered boatman as he rested on his oars and tried to make out where he was, the river itself might have been miles away.
The mist, though sluggish and slow to move, was of a keenly searching kind. No muffling up in furs and broadcloth kept it out. It seemed to penetrate into the very bones of the shrinking wayfarers, and to rack them with cold and pains. Everything was wet and clammy to the touch. The warm blaze alone defied it, and leaped and sparkled merrily. It was a day to be at home, crowding about the fire, telling stories of travellers who had lost their way in such weather on heaths and moors; and to love a warm hearth more than ever.
The dwarf’s humour, as we know, was to have a fireside to himself; and when he was disposed to be convivial, to enjoy himself alone. By no means insensible to the comfort of being within doors, he ordered Tom Scott to pile the little stove with coals, and, dismissing his work for that day, determined to be jovial.
To this end, he lighted up fresh candles and heaped more fuel on the fire; and having dined off a beefsteak, which he cooked himself in somewhat of a savage and cannibal-like manner, brewed a great bowl of hot punch, lighted his pipe, and sat down to spend the evening.
At this moment, a low knocking at the cabin-door arrested his attention. When it had been twice or thrice repeated, he softly opened the little window, and thrusting his head out, demanded who was there.
Mrs. Quilp at Quilp Castle.
“Only me, Quilp,” replied a woman’s voice.
“Only you!” cried the dwarf, stretching his neck to obtain a better 419 view of his visitor. “And what brings you here, you jade? How dare you approach the ogre’s castle, eh?”
“I have come with some news,” rejoined his spouse. “Don’t be angry with me.”
“Is it good news, pleasant news, news to make a man skip and snap his fingers?” said the dwarf. “Is the dear old lady dead?”
“I don’t know what news it is, or whether it’s good or bad,” rejoined his wife.
“Then she’s alive,” said Quilp, “and there’s nothing the matter with her. Go home again, you bird of evil note, go home!”
“I have brought a letter,” cried the meek little woman.
“Toss it in at the window here, and go your ways,” said Quilp, interrupting her, “or I’ll come out and scratch you.”
“No, but please, Quilp—do hear me speak,” urged his submissive wife, in tears. “Please do!”
“Speak then,” growled the dwarf with a malicious grin. “Be quick and short about it. Speak, will you?”
“It was left at our house this afternoon,” said Mrs. Quilp, trembling, “by a boy who said he didn’t know from whom it came, but that it was given to him to leave, and that he was told to say it must be brought on to you directly, for it was of the very greatest consequence.—But please,” she added, as her husband stretched out his hand for it, “please let me in. You don’t know how wet and cold I am, or how many times I have lost my way in coming here through this thick fog. Let me dry myself at the fire for five minutes. I’ll go away directly you tell me to, Quilp. Upon my word I will.”
Her amiable husband hesitated for a few moments; but, bethinking himself that the letter might require some answer, of which she could be the bearer, closed the window, opened the door, and bade her enter. Mrs. Quilp obeyed right willingly, and, kneeling down before the fire to warm her hands, delivered into his, a little packet.
“I’m glad you’re wet,” said Quilp, snatching it, and squinting at her. “I’m glad you’re cold. I’m glad you lost your way. I’m glad your eyes are red with crying. It does my heart good to see your little nose so pinched and frosty.”
“Oh Quilp!” sobbed his wife. “How cruel it is of you!”
“Did she think I was dead?” said Quilp, wrinkling his face into a most extraordinary series of grimaces. “Did she think she was going to have all the money, and to marry somebody she liked? Ha ha ha! Did she?”
These taunts elicited no reply from the poor little woman, who remained on her knees, warming her hands, and sobbing, to Mr. Quilp’s great delight. But, just as he was contemplating her, and chuckling excessively, he happened to observe that Tom Scott was delighted too; wherefore, that he might have no presumptuous partner in his glee, the dwarf instantly collared him, dragged him to the door, and after a short scuffle, kicked him into the yard. In return 420 for this mark of attention, Tom immediately walked upon his hands to the window, and—if the expression be allowable—looked in with his shoes: besides rattling his feet upon the glass like a Banshee upside down. As a matter of course, Mr. Quilp lost no time in resorting to the infallible poker, with which, after some dodging and lying in ambush, he paid his young friend one or two such unequivocal compliments that he vanished precipitately, and left him in quiet possession of the field.
“So! That little job being disposed of,” said the dwarf, coolly, “I’ll read my letter. Humph!” he muttered, looking at the direction. “I ought to know this writing. Beautiful Sally!”
Opening it, he read, in a fair, round, legal hand, as follows—
“Sammy has been practised upon, and has broken confidence. It has all come out. You had better not be in the way, for strangers are going to call upon you. They have been very quiet as yet, because they mean to surprise you. Don’t lose time. I didn’t. I am not to be found anywhere. If I was you, I wouldn’t be, either. S. B., late of B. M.”
To describe the changes that passed over Quilp’s face, as he read this letter half-a-dozen times, would require some new language: such, for power of expression, as was never written, read, or spoken. For a long time he did not utter one word; but, after a considerable interval, during which Mrs. Quilp was almost paralysed with the alarm his looks engendered, he contrived to gasp out—
“If I had him here. If I only had him here——”
“Oh Quilp!” said his wife, “what’s the matter? Who are you angry with?”
“—I should drown him,” said the dwarf, not heeding her. “Too easy a death, too short, too quick—but the river runs close at hand. Oh! if I had him here! Just to take him to the brink coaxingly and pleasantly,—holding him by the button-hole—joking with him,—and, with a sudden push, to send him splashing down! Drowning men come to the surface three times they say. Ah! To see him those three times, and mock him as his face came bobbing up,—oh, what a rich treat that would be!”
“Quilp!” stammered his wife, venturing at the same time to touch him on the shoulder: “what has gone wrong?”
She was so terrified by the relish with which he pictured this pleasure to himself, that she could scarcely make herself intelligible.
“Such a bloodless cur!” said Quilp, rubbing his hands very slowly, and pressing them tight together. “I thought his cowardice and servility were the best guarantee for his keeping silence. Oh Brass, Brass—my dear, good, affectionate, faithful, complimentary, charming friend—if I only had you here!”
His wife, who had retreated lest she should seem to listen to these mutterings, ventured to approach him again, and was about to speak, when he hurried to the door, and called Tom Scott, who, remembering 421 his late gentle admonition, deemed it prudent to appear immediately.
Quilp’s Precautionary Measures.
“There!” said the dwarf, pulling him in. “Take her home. Don’t come here to-morrow, for this place will be shut up. Come back no more till you hear from me or see me. Do you mind?”
Tom nodded sulkily, and beckoned Mrs. Quilp to lead the way.
“As for you,” said the dwarf, addressing himself to her, “ask no questions about me, make no search for me, say nothing concerning me. I shall not be dead, mistress, and that’ll comfort you. He’ll take care of you.”
“But, What is the matter? Where are you going? Do say something ”
“I’ll say that,” said the dwarf, seizing her by the arm, “and do that too, which undone and unsaid would be best for you, unless you go directly.”
“Has anything happened?” cried his wife. “Oh! Do tell me ”
“Yes,” snarled the dwarf. “No. What matter which? I have told you what to do. Woe betide you if you fail to do it, or disobey me by a hair’s breadth. Will you go?”
“I am going, I’ll go directly; but,” faltered his wife, “answer me one question first. Has this letter any connection with dear little Nell? I must ask you that—I must indeed, Quilp. You cannot think what days and nights of sorrow I have had through having once deceived that child. I don’t know what harm I may have brought about, but, great or little, I did it for you, Quilp. My conscience misgave me when I did it. Do answer me this question, if you ”
The exasperated dwarf returned no answer, but turned round and caught up his usual weapon with such vehemence, that Tom Scott dragged his charge away, by main force, and as swiftly as he could. It was well he did so, for Quilp, who was nearly mad with rage, pursued them to the neighbouring lane, and might have prolonged the chase but for the dense mist which obscured them from his view, and appeared to thicken every moment.
“It will be a good night for travelling anonymously,” he said, as he returned slowly: being pretty well breathed with his run. “Stay. We may look better here. This is too hospitable and free.”
By a great exertion of strength, he closed the two old gates, which were deeply sunken in the mud, and barred them with a heavy beam. That done, he shook his matted hair from about his eyes, and tried them.—Strong and fast.
“The fence between this wharf and the next is easily climbed,” said the dwarf, when he had taken these precautions. “There’s a back-lane, too, from there. That shall be my way out. A man need know his road well, to find it in this lovely place to night. I need fear no unwelcome visitors while this lasts, I think.”422
Almost reduced to the necessity of groping his way with his hands (it had grown so dark and the fog had so much increased), he returned to his lair; and, after musing for some time over the fire, busied himself in preparations for a speedy departure.
While he was collecting a few necessaries and cramming them into his pockets, he never once ceased communing with himself in a low voice, or unclenched his teeth: which he had ground together on finishing Miss Brass’s note.
“Oh Sampson!” he muttered, “good worthy creature—if I could but hug you! If I could only fold you in my arms, and squeeze your ribs, as I could squeeze them if I once had you tight—what a meeting there would be between us! If we ever do cross each other again, Sampson, we’ll have a greeting not easily to be forgotten, trust me. This time, Sampson, this moment when all had gone on so well, was so nicely chosen! It was so thoughtful of you, so penitent, so good. Oh, if we were face to face in this room again, my white-livered man of law, how well contented one of us would be!”
There he stopped; and raising the bowl of punch to his lips, drank a long deep draught, as if it were fair water and cooling to his parched mouth. Setting it down abruptly, and resuming his preparations, he went on with his soliloquy.
“There’s Sally,” he said, with flashing eyes; “the woman has spirit, determination, purpose—was she asleep, or petrified? She could have stabbed him—poisoned him safely. She might have seen this coming on. Why does she give me notice when it’s too late? When he sat there,—yonder there, over there,—with his white face, and red head, and sickly smile, why didn’t I know what was passing in his heart? It should have stopped beating, that night, if I had been in his secret, or there are no drugs to lull a man to sleep, or no fire to burn him!”
Another draught from the bowl; and, cowering over the fire with a ferocious aspect, he muttered to himself again.
“And this, like every other trouble and anxiety I have had of late times, springs from that old dotard and his darling child—two wretched feeble wanderers! I’ll be their evil genius yet. And you, sweet Kit, honest Kit, virtuous, innocent Kit, look to yourself. Where I hate, I bite. I hate you, my darling fellow, with good cause, and proud as you are to-night, I’ll have my turn.—What’s that?”
A knocking at the gate he had closed. A loud and violent knocking. Then, a pause; as if those who knocked had stopped to listen. Then, the noise again, more clamorous and importunate than before.
“So soon!” said the dwarf. “And so eager! I am afraid I shall disappoint you. It’s well I’m quite prepared. Sally, I thank you!”
As he spoke, he extinguished the candle. In his impetuous attempts to subdue the brightness of the fire, he overset the stove, which came tumbling forward, and fell with a crash upon the burning embers it had shot forth in its descent, leaving the room in pitchy darkness. 423 The noise at the gate still continuing, he felt his way to the door, and stepped into the open air.
At that moment the knocking ceased. It was about eight o’clock; but the dead of the darkest night would have been as noon-day in comparison with the thick cloud which then rested upon the earth, and shrouded everything from view. He darted forward for a few paces, as if into the mouth of some dim, yawning cavern; then, thinking he had gone wrong, changed the direction of his steps; then, stood still, not knowing where to turn.
“If they would knock again,” said Quilp, trying to peer into the gloom by which he was surrounded, “the sound might guide me! Come! Batter the gate once more!”
He stood listening intently, but the noise was not renewed. Nothing was to be heard in that deserted place, but, at intervals, the distant barkings of dogs. The sound was far away—now in one quarter, now answered in another—nor was it any guide, for it often came from shipboard, as he knew.
“If I could find a wall or fence,” said the dwarf, stretching out his arms, and walking slowly on, “I should know which way to turn. A good, black, devil’s night this, to have my dear friend here! If I had but that wish, it might, for anything I cared, never be day again.”
As the word passed his lips, he staggered and fell—and next moment was fighting with the cold dark water!
For all its bubbling up and rushing in his ears, he could hear the knocking at the gate again—could hear a shout that followed it—could recognise the voice. For all his struggling and plashing, he could understand that they had lost their way, and had wandered back to the point from which they started; that they were all but looking on, while he was drowned; that they were close at hand, but could not make an effort to save him; that he himself had shut and barred them out. He answered the shout—with a yell, which seemed to make the hundred fires that danced before his eyes tremble and flicker, as if a gust of wind had stirred them. It was of no avail. The strong tide filled his throat, and bore him on, upon its rapid current.
Another mortal struggle, and he was up again, beating the water with his hands, and looking out, with wild and glaring eyes that showed him some black object he was drifting close upon. The hull of a ship! He could touch its smooth and slippery surface with his hand. One loud cry now—but the resistless water bore him down before he could give it utterance, and, driving him under it, carried away a corpse.
It toyed and sported with its ghastly freight, now bruising it against the slimy piles, now hiding it in mud or long rank grass, now dragging it heavily over rough stones and gravel, now feigning to yield it to its own element, and in the same action luring it away, until, tired of the ugly plaything, it flung it on a swamp—a dismal 424 place where pirates had swung in chains, through many a wintry night—and left it there to bleach.
And there it lay, alone. The sky was red with flame, and the water that bore it there had been tinged with the sullen light as it flowed along. The place the deserted carcase had left so recently, a living man, was now a blazing ruin. There was something of the glare upon its face. The hair, stirred by the damp breeze, played in a kind of mockery of death—such a mockery as the dead man himself would have delighted in when alive—about its head, and its dress fluttered idly in the night wind.
waiting with his accustomed patience and sweetness of temper
text has accumstomed
The wretched Sampson
[I don’t think we have ever been given any explanation of why the attorney is so subservient to his client. It ought to be the other way around.]
suggesting a new train of ideas
text has suggested
[Corrected from 1st edition.]
“Which side of the road is he, sir?” asked Brass, in great dismay.
close quote missing
against the peace of our Sovereign Lord the King, his crown and dignity
[Deduction: the relevant law was enacted before June of 1837. (And after August of 1714, but that probably goes without saying.)]
“Really Mr. Garland,” says Mr. Brass’s gentleman
“en” in “gentleman” invisible
He don’t think it will be transportation for life
[Most transportation sentences were 7 or 14 years. At the expiration of that time, convicts were perfectly free to return to England. Provided, that is, they were able to find passage—in a region with little passenger transport other than the convict ships—and pay for it—in a cash-poor economy.]
And what astonishing absurdities in the way of quotation from song and poem, he perpetrated on the road, no man knows.
[Charles, you have disappointed your readers.]
being propped up again, opened a farther conversation.
final . missing
Pretty Polly say.
[In the Beggar’s Opera (1729) it has the name “Pretty Parrot, Say”; the song itself is even older.]
Oh tell me when, and tell me where
[He’s definitely feeling better. As published (unattributed) in 1758:
Dearest Kitty! kind and fair!
Tell me when, and tell me where,
Tell thy fond and faithful swain,
When we thus shall meet again?
And so on.]
I’ve been obliged to sell them, every one, to get the things that was ordered for you.
[Well done, Mr Dickens. All chapter long I’ve been wondering how the doctor was paid, and why Dick hadn’t been evicted—on his sickbed—for non-payment of rent.]
Strew then, oh strew
[Our old standby, Thomas Moore, “Oh Lady Fair”, ending:
Strew, then, oh! strew our bed of rushes;
Here we must rest till morning blushes.]
Since laws were made for every degree
[From the Beggar’s Opera. The song is alarmingly called “Tyburn Tree”, though “transport ship” would fit the metre just as well.]
[Illustration] The small servant . . . stood rooted to the spot [in her one shoe].
[Look closely. On the Marchioness’s right foot is a shoe—barely. On her left foot is only a stocking with a great hole over the toe.]
It may do a thoughtless, careless man, good, to know that.
[The first edition doesn’t have a comma after “good”, but there still seem to be too many of them.]
And she shall walk in silk attire
[With this we meet a new author, poet and songwriter Susanna Blamire (1747–1794). Although she died a half-century ago, her works weren’t collected until 1842, a year or so after The Old Curiosity Shop. Dick Swiveller—whose literary preferences are definitely not arcane or esoteric—quotes her best-known song.]
In this chapter the typesetter seems to have found himself with a surplus of question marks. Corrections are made from the first edition, the 1876 edition or both.
“But, Quilp! What is the matter? Where are you going? Do say something more.”
punctuation as printed: “But, Quilp? What is the matter? Where are you going? Do say something more?”
[The ! (exclamation mark) is taken from the 1876 edition; the first edition and 1876 both have a . (full stop) at the end.]
“Oh! Do tell me that!”
text has ? for !
[Exclamation mark supplied from the 1876 edition. The 1st edition has a period (full stop), which seems inadequate.]
Do answer me this question, if you please.”
text has ? for .
[The first edition and 1876 agree on the simple . (full stop).]
And there it lay, alone.
[I hope someone finds the body while it can still be identified. Considering the events of Chapter XLIX, and considering that Quilp plainly told his wife “I shall not be dead”, it’s going to take a lot to make her believe she really is a widow this time.]
The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.