The Old Curiosity Shop
Part 11 out of 13
'Both,' replied the notary.
'Two Kits?' said Brass smiling. 'Dear me!'
'One Kit, sir,' returned Mr Witherden angrily, 'who is employed by
both gentlemen. What of him?'
'This of him, sir,' rejoined Brass, dropping his voice
impressively. 'That young man, sir, that I have felt unbounded and
unlimited confidence in, and always behaved to as if he was my
equal--that young man has this morning committed a robbery in my
office, and been taken almost in the fact.'
'This must be some falsehood!' cried the notary.
'It is not possible,' said Mr Abel.
'I'll not believe one word of it,' exclaimed the old gentleman.
Mr Brass looked mildly round upon them, and rejoined,
'Mr Witherden, sir, YOUR words are actionable, and if I was a man
of low and mean standing, who couldn't afford to be slandered, I
should proceed for damages. Hows'ever, sir, being what I am, I
merely scorn such expressions. The honest warmth of the other
gentleman I respect, and I'm truly sorry to be the messenger of
such unpleasant news. I shouldn't have put myself in this painful
position, I assure you, but that the lad himself desired to be
brought here in the first instance, and I yielded to his prayers.
Mr Chuckster, sir, will you have the goodness to tap at the window
for the constable that's waiting in the coach?'
The three gentlemen looked at each other with blank faces when
these words were uttered, and Mr Chuckster, doing as he was
desired, and leaping off his stool with something of the excitement
of an inspired prophet whose foretellings had in the fulness of
time been realised, held the door open for the entrance of the
Such a scene as there was, when Kit came in, and bursting into the
rude eloquence with which Truth at length inspired him, called
Heaven to witness that he was innocent, and that how the property
came to be found upon him he knew not! Such a confusion of
tongues, before the circumstances were related, and the proofs
disclosed! Such a dead silence when all was told, and his three
friends exchanged looks of doubt and amazement!
'Is it not possible,' said Mr Witherden, after a long pause, 'that
this note may have found its way into the hat by some accident,--
such as the removal of papers on the desk, for instance?'
But this was clearly shown to be quite impossible. Mr Swiveller,
though an unwilling witness, could not help proving to
demonstration, from the position in which it was found, that it
must have been designedly secreted.
'It's very distressing,' said Brass, 'immensely distressing, I am
sure. When he comes to be tried, I shall be very happy to
recommend him to mercy on account of his previous good character.
I did lose money before, certainly, but it doesn't quite follow
that he took it. The presumption's against him--strongly against
him--but we're Christians, I hope?'
'I suppose,' said the constable, looking round, 'that no gentleman
here can give evidence as to whether he's been flush of money of
late, Do you happen to know, Sir?'
'He has had money from time to time, certainly,' returned Mr
Garland, to whom the man had put the question. 'But that, as he
always told me, was given him by Mr Brass himself.'
'Yes to be sure,' said Kit eagerly. 'You can bear me out in that,
'Eh?' cried Brass, looking from face to face with an expression of
'The money you know, the half-crowns, that you gave me--from the
lodger,' said Kit.
'Oh dear me!' cried Brass, shaking his head and frowning heavily.
'This is a bad case, I find; a very bad case indeed.'
'What! Did you give him no money on account of anybody, Sir?'
asked Mr Garland, with great anxiety.
'I give him money, Sir!' returned Sampson. 'Oh, come you know,
this is too barefaced. Constable, my good fellow, we had better be
'What!' shrieked Kit. 'Does he deny that he did? ask him,
somebody, pray. Ask him to tell you whether he did or not!'
'Did you, sir?' asked the notary.
'I tell you what, gentlemen,' replied Brass, in a very grave
manner, 'he'll not serve his case this way, and really, if you feel
any interest in him, you had better advise him to go upon some
other tack. Did I, sir? Of course I never did.'
'Gentlemen,' cried Kit, on whom a light broke suddenly, 'Master, Mr
Abel, Mr Witherden, every one of you--he did it! What I have done
to offend him, I don't know, but this is a plot to ruin me. Mind,
gentlemen, it's a plot, and whatever comes of it, I will say with
my dying breath that he put that note in my hat himself! Look at
him, gentlemen! see how he changes colour. Which of us looks the
guilty person--he, or I?'
'You hear him, gentlemen?' said Brass, smiling, 'you hear him.
Now, does this case strike you as assuming rather a black
complexion, or does it not? Is it at all a treacherous case, do
you think, or is it one of mere ordinary guilt? Perhaps,
gentlemen, if he had not said this in your presence and I had
reported it, you'd have held this to be impossible likewise, eh?'
With such pacific and bantering remarks did Mr Brass refute the
foul aspersion on his character; but the virtuous Sarah, moved by
stronger feelings, and having at heart, perhaps, a more jealous
regard for the honour of her family, flew from her brother's side,
without any previous intimation of her design, and darted at the
prisoner with the utmost fury. It would undoubtedly have gone hard
with Kit's face, but that the wary constable, foreseeing her
design, drew him aside at the critical moment, and thus placed Mr
Chuckster in circumstances of some jeopardy; for that gentleman
happening to be next the object of Miss Brass's wrath; and rage
being, like love and fortune, blind; was pounced upon by the fair
enslaver, and had a false collar plucked up by the roots, and his
hair very much dishevelled, before the exertions of the company
could make her sensible of her mistake.
The constable, taking warning by this desperate attack, and
thinking perhaps that it would be more satisfactory to the ends of
justice if the prisoner were taken before a magistrate, whole,
rather than in small pieces, led him back to the hackney-coach
without more ado, and moreover insisted on Miss Brass becoming an
outside passenger; to which proposal the charming creature, after
a little angry discussion, yielded her consent; and so took her
brother Sampson's place upon the box: Mr Brass with some reluctance
agreeing to occupy her seat inside. These arrangements perfected,
they drove to the justice-room with all speed, followed by the
notary and his two friends in another coach. Mr Chuckster alone
was left behind--greatly to his indignation; for he held the
evidence he could have given, relative to Kit's returning to work
out the shilling, to be so very material as bearing upon his
hypocritical and designing character, that he considered its
suppression little better than a compromise of felony.
At the justice-room, they found the single gentleman, who had gone
straight there, and was expecting them with desperate impatience.
But not fifty single gentlemen rolled into one could have helped
poor Kit, who in half an hour afterwards was committed for trial,
and was assured by a friendly officer on his way to prison that
there was no occasion to be cast down, for the sessions would soon
be on, and he would, in all likelihood, get his little affair
disposed of, and be comfortably transported, in less than a
Let moralists and philosophers say what they may, it is very
questionable whether a guilty man would have felt half as much
misery that night, as Kit did, being innocent. The world, being in
the constant commission of vast quantities of injustice, is a
little too apt to comfort itself with the idea that if the victim
of its falsehood and malice have a clear conscience, he cannot fail
to be sustained under his trials, and somehow or other to come
right at last; 'in which case,' say they who have hunted him down,
'--though we certainly don't expect it--nobody will be better
pleased than we.' Whereas, the world would do well to reflect,
that injustice is in itself, to every generous and properly
constituted mind, an injury, of all others the most insufferable,
the most torturing, and the most hard to bear; and that many clear
consciences have gone to their account elsewhere, and many sound
hearts have broken, because of this very reason; the knowledge of
their own deserts only aggravating their sufferings, and rendering
them the less endurable.
The world, however, was not in fault in Kit's case. But Kit was
innocent; and knowing this, and feeling that his best friends
deemed him guilty--that Mr and Mrs Garland would look upon him as
a monster of ingratitude--that Barbara would associate him with
all that was bad and criminal--that the pony would consider
himself forsaken--and that even his own mother might perhaps yield
to the strong appearances against him, and believe him to be the
wretch he seemed--knowing and feeling all this, he experienced, at
first, an agony of mind which no words can describe, and walked up
and down the little cell in which he was locked up for the night,
almost beside himself with grief.
Even when the violence of these emotions had in some degree
subsided, and he was beginning to grow more calm, there came into
his mind a new thought, the anguish of which was scarcely less.
The child--the bright star of the simple fellow's life--she, who
always came back upon him like a beautiful dream--who had made
the poorest part of his existence, the happiest and best--who had
ever been so gentle, and considerate, and good--if she were ever
to hear of this, what would she think! As this idea occurred to
him, the walls of the prison seemed to melt away, and the old place
to reveal itself in their stead, as it was wont to be on winter
nights--the fireside, the little supper table, the old man's hat,
and coat, and stick--the half-opened door, leading to her little
room--they were all there. And Nell herself was there, and he--
both laughing heartily as they had often done--and when he had got
as far as this, Kit could go no farther, but flung himself upon his
poor bedstead and wept.
It was a long night, which seemed as though it would have no end;
but he slept too, and dreamed--always of being at liberty, and
roving about, now with one person and now with another, but ever
with a vague dread of being recalled to prison; not that prison,
but one which was in itself a dim idea--not of a place, but of a
care and sorrow: of something oppressive and always present, and
yet impossible to define. At last, the morning dawned, and there
was the jail itself--cold, black, and dreary, and very real
He was left to himself, however, and there was comfort in that. He
had liberty to walk in a small paved yard at a certain hour, and
learnt from the turnkey, who came to unlock his cell and show him
where to wash, that there was a regular time for visiting, every
day, and that if any of his friends came to see him, he would be
fetched down to the grate. When he had given him this information,
and a tin porringer containing his breakfast, the man locked him up
again; and went clattering along the stone passage, opening and
shutting a great many other doors, and raising numberless loud
echoes which resounded through the building for a long time, as if
they were in prison too, and unable to get out.
This turnkey had given him to understand that he was lodged, like
some few others in the jail, apart from the mass of prisoners;
because he was not supposed to be utterly depraved and
irreclaimable, and had never occupied apartments in that mansion
before. Kit was thankful for this indulgence, and sat reading the
church catechism very attentively (though he had known it by heart
from a little child), until he heard the key in the lock, and the
man entered again.
'Now then,' he said, 'come on!'
'Where to, Sir?' asked Kit.
The man contented himself by briefly replying 'Wisitors;' and
taking him by the arm in exactly the same manner as the constable
had done the day before, led him, through several winding ways and
strong gates, into a passage, where he placed him at a grating and
turned upon his heel. Beyond this grating, at the distance of
about four or five feet, was another exactly like it. In the space
between, sat a turnkey reading a newspaper, and outside the further
railing, Kit saw, with a palpitating heart, his mother with the
baby in her arms; Barbara's mother with her never-failing umbrella;
and poor little Jacob, staring in with all his might, as though he
were looking for the bird, or the wild beast, and thought the men
were mere accidents with whom the bars could have no possible
But when little Jacob saw his brother, and, thrusting his arms
between the rails to hug him, found that he came no nearer, but
still stood afar off with his head resting on the arm by which he
held to one of the bars, he began to cry most piteously; whereupon,
Kit's mother and Barbara's mother, who had restrained themselves as
much as possible, burst out sobbing and weeping afresh. Poor Kit
could not help joining them, and not one of them could speak a
word. During this melancholy pause, the turnkey read his newspaper
with a waggish look (he had evidently got among the facetious
paragraphs) until, happening to take his eyes off for an instant,
as if to get by dint of contemplation at the very marrow of some
joke of a deeper sort than the rest, it appeared to occur to him,
for the first time, that somebody was crying.
'Now, ladies, ladies,' he said, looking round with surprise, 'I'd
advise you not to waste time like this. It's allowanced here, you
know. You mustn't let that child make that noise either. It's
against all rules.'
'I'm his poor mother, sir,'--sobbed Mrs Nubbles, curtseying humbly,
'and this is his brother, sir. Oh dear me, dear me!'
'Well!' replied the turnkey, folding his paper on his knee, so as
to get with greater convenience at the top of the next column. 'It
can't be helped you know. He ain't the only one in the same fix.
You mustn't make a noise about it!'
With that he went on reading. The man was not unnaturally cruel or
hard-hearted. He had come to look upon felony as a kind of
disorder, like the scarlet fever or erysipelas: some people had it--
some hadn't--just as it might be.
'Oh! my darling Kit,' said his mother, whom Barbara's mother had
charitably relieved of the baby, 'that I should see my poor boy
'You don't believe that I did what they accuse me of, mother dear?'
cried Kit, in a choking voice.
'I believe it!' exclaimed the poor woman, 'I that never knew you
tell a lie, or do a bad action from your cradle--that have never
had a moment's sorrow on your account, except it was the poor meals
that you have taken with such good humour and content, that I
forgot how little there was, when I thought how kind and thoughtful
you were, though you were but a child!--I believe it of the son
that's been a comfort to me from the hour of his birth until this
time, and that I never laid down one night in anger with! I
believe it of you Kit!--'
'Why then, thank God!' said Kit, clutching the bars with an
earnestness that shook them, 'and I can bear it, mother! Come what
may, I shall always have one drop of happiness in my heart when I
think that you said that.'
At this the poor woman fell a-crying again, and Barbara's mother
too. And little Jacob, whose disjointed thoughts had by this time
resolved themselves into a pretty distinct impression that Kit
couldn't go out for a walk if he wanted, and that there were no
birds, lions, tigers or other natural curiosities behind those bars--
nothing indeed, but a caged brother--added his tears to theirs
with as little noise as possible.
Kit's mother, drying her eyes (and moistening them, poor soul, more
than she dried them), now took from the ground a small basket, and
submissively addressed herself to the turnkey, saying, would he
please to listen to her for a minute? The turnkey, being in the
very crisis and passion of a joke, motioned to her with his hand to
keep silent one minute longer, for her life. Nor did he remove his
hand into its former posture, but kept it in the same warning
attitude until he had finished the paragraph, when he paused for a
few seconds, with a smile upon his face, as who should say 'this
editor is a comical blade--a funny dog,' and then asked her what
'I have brought him a little something to eat,' said the good
woman. 'If you please, Sir, might he have it?'
'Yes,--he may have it. There's no rule against that. Give it to
me when you go, and I'll take care he has it.'
'No, but if you please sir--don't be angry with me sir--I am his
mother, and you had a mother once--if I might only see him eat a
little bit, I should go away, so much more satisfied that he was
And again the tears of Kit's mother burst forth, and of Barbara's
mother, and of little Jacob. As to the baby, it was crowing and
laughing with its might--under the idea, apparently, that the
whole scene had been invented and got up for its particular
The turnkey looked as if he thought the request a strange one and
rather out of the common way, but nevertheless he laid down his
paper, and coming round where Kit's mother stood, took the basket
from her, and after inspecting its contents, handed it to Kit, and
went back to his place. It may be easily conceived that the
prisoner had no great appetite, but he sat down on the ground, and
ate as hard as he could, while, at every morsel he put into his
mouth, his mother sobbed and wept afresh, though with a softened
grief that bespoke the satisfaction the sight afforded her.
While he was thus engaged, Kit made some anxious inquiries about
his employers, and whether they had expressed any opinion
concerning him; but all he could learn was that Mr Abel had himself
broken the intelligence to his mother, with great kindness and
delicacy, late on the previous night, but had himself expressed no
opinion of his innocence or guilt. Kit was on the point of
mustering courage to ask Barbara's mother about Barbara, when the
turnkey who had conducted him, reappeared, a second turnkey
appeared behind his visitors, and the third turnkey with the
newspaper cried 'Time's up!'--adding in the same breath 'Now for
the next party!' and then plunging deep into his newspaper again.
Kit was taken off in an instant, with a blessing from his mother,
and a scream from little Jacob, ringing in his ears. As he was
crossing the next yard with the basket in his hand, under the
guidance of his former conductor, another officer called to them to
stop, and came up with a pint pot of porter in his hand.
'This is Christopher Nubbles, isn't it, that come in last night for
felony?' said the man.
His comrade replied that this was the chicken in question.
'Then here's your beer,' said the other man to Christopher. 'What
are you looking at? There an't a discharge in it.'
'I beg your pardon,' said Kit. 'Who sent it me?'
'Why, your friend,' replied the man. 'You're to have it every day,
he says. And so you will, if he pays for it.'
'My friend!' repeated Kit.
'You're all abroad, seemingly,' returned the other man. 'There's
his letter. Take hold!'
Kit took it, and when he was locked up again, read as follows.
'Drink of this cup, you'll find there's a spell in its every drop
'gainst the ills of mortality. Talk of the cordial that sparkled
for Helen! HER cup was a fiction, but this is reality (Barclay and
Co.'s).--If they ever send it in a flat state, complain to the
Governor. Yours, R. S.'
'R. S.!' said Kit, after some consideration. 'It must be Mr
Richard Swiveller. Well, its very kind of him, and I thank him
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 accustomed 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
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
tiptoe, 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
'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
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
'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!'
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 of the question, he battered the great image,
until the perspiration streamed down his face with the violence of
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
'Nothing Sir--nothing. Scarcely worth mentioning Sir; but I
thought that song--admirably humorous in itself you know--was
'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,
'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
'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
as if for his poker, 'I'll spoil the expression of your monkey's
face, I will.'
'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,
'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 heeltap, 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 eyelids 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 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
'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
'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
'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
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
'Certainly, sir. Quite proper.--Forcible!' cried Brass, glancing
at the admiral again, as if he made a third in company. 'Extremely
'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
'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
'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 smell of tobacco, however, suggested a new train of ideas,
he looked upward, and saw that the dwarf was smoking in his
'Good bye, Sir,' cried Brass faintly. 'Good bye, Sir.'
'Won't you stop all night?' said the dwarf, peeping out. 'Do stop
'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,
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, sir?' 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--
Quilp had slily shaded the light by holding it against his breast,
and now stood chuckling and shaking from head to foot in a 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
The professional gentleman who had given Kit the 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, and
against the peace of our Sovereign Lord the King, his crown and
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 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
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, 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),' says 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
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
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
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 gentleman, '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
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,'
says 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 us, 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
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 villany.
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
'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?'
'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,
'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 ghost-like 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
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
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.
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
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 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;
for directly afterward 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
The Marchioness only shook her head mournfully, and cried again;
whereupon Mr Swiveller (being very weak) felt his own eyes affected
'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 bye, he began to
talk again, inquiring how long he had been there.
'Three weeks to-morrow,' replied the servant.
'Three what?' said Dick.
'Weeks,' returned the Marchioness emphatically; 'three long, slow
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
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.
'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 keyhole?' suggested Mr Swiveller, observing that she
'Well then,' said the small servant, nodding; 'when I was near the
office keyhole--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!'
'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 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
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
'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
'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 keyholes--and that you were not intended to hear?' asked
Dick, in a breathless state.
'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 the 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
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
'If you make believe very much, it's quite nice,' said the small
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 upstairs
while Mr Brass and Miss Sally was a-sittin' at the office fire; and
I tell you the truth, that I come to listen again, about the key of
Mr Swiveller gathered up his knees so as to make a great cone of
the bedclothes, 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
'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?'
'Marchioness,' said Mr Swiveller, plucking off his nightcap 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 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
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.
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 he reared up on his hind legs, or stopped, or went on, or
stood still again, or backed, or went side-ways, 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
'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.
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!'
'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
'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
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 the 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
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
He was not a little surprised to find himself conducted into a
dimly-lighted sick chamber, where a man was sleeping tranquilly in
'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
'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
'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
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.'
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 manner of this 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 in 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
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 villany.
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 any one 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.'
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 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 mantel-shelf 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 as 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 tiptoe 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
Meanwhile, the single gentleman, the Notary, and Mr Garland,
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
'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.'
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