The Old Curiosity Shop
Part 4 out of 13
the child as well as he could under the skirts of his own coat, and
they were nearly breathless from the haste they had made. But their
steps were no sooner heard upon the road than the landlord, who had
been at the outer door anxiously watching for their coming, rushed
into the kitchen and took the cover off. The effect was electrical.
They all came in with smiling faces though the wet was dripping
from their clothes upon the floor, and Short's first remark was,
'What a delicious smell!'
It is not very difficult to forget rain and mud by the side of a
cheerful fire, and in a bright room. They were furnished with
slippers and such dry garments as the house or their own bundles
afforded, and ensconcing themselves, as Mr Codlin had already done,
in the warm chimney-corner, soon forgot their late troubles or only
remembered them as enhancing the delights of the present time.
Overpowered by the warmth and comfort and the fatigue they had
undergone, Nelly and the old man had not long taken their seats
here, when they fell asleep.
'Who are they?' whispered the landlord. Short shook his head, and
wished he knew himself. 'Don't you know?' asked the host, turning
to Mr Codlin. 'Not I,' he replied. 'They're no good, I suppose.'
'They're no harm,' said Short. 'Depend upon that. I tell you what--
it's plain that the old man an't in his right mind--'
'If you haven't got anything newer than that to say,' growled Mr
Codlin, glancing at the clock, 'you'd better let us fix our minds
upon the supper, and not disturb us.'
'Here me out, won't you?' retorted his friend. 'It's very plain to
me, besides, that they're not used to this way of life. Don't tell
me that that handsome child has been in the habit of prowling about
as she's done these last two or three days. I know better.'
'Well, who DOES tell you she has?' growled Mr Codlin, again
glancing at the clock and from it to the cauldron, 'can't you think
of anything more suitable to present circumstances than saying
things and then contradicting 'em?'
'I wish somebody would give you your supper,' returned Short, 'for
there'll be no peace till you've got it. Have you seen how anxious
the old man is to get on--always wanting to be furder away--
furder away. Have you seen that?'
'Ah! what then?' muttered Thomas Codlin.
'This, then,' said Short. 'He has given his friends the slip. Mind
what I say--he has given his friends the slip, and persuaded this
delicate young creetur all along of her fondness for him to be his
guide and travelling companion--where to, he knows no more than
the man in the moon. Now I'm not a going to stand that.'
'YOU'RE not a going to stand that!' cried Mr Codlin, glancing at
the clock again and pulling his hair with both hands in a kind of
frenzy, but whether occasioned by his companion's observation or
the tardy pace of Time, it was difficult to determine. 'Here's a
world to live in!'
'I,' repeated Short emphatically and slowly, 'am not a-going to
stand it. I am not a-going to see this fair young child a falling
into bad hands, and getting among people that she's no more fit
for, than they are to get among angels as their ordinary chums.
Therefore when they dewelope an intention of parting company from
us, I shall take measures for detaining of 'em, and restoring 'em
to their friends, who I dare say have had their disconsolation
pasted up on every wall in London by this time.'
'Short,' said Mr Codlin, who with his head upon his hands, and his
elbows on his knees, had been shaking himself impatiently from side
to side up to this point and occasionally stamping on the ground,
but who now looked up with eager eyes; 'it's possible that there
may be uncommon good sense in what you've said. If there is, and
there should be a reward, Short, remember that we're partners in
His companion had only time to nod a brief assent to this position,
for the child awoke at the instant. They had drawn close together
during the previous whispering, and now hastily separated and were
rather awkwardly endeavouring to exchange some casual remarks in
their usual tone, when strange footsteps were heard without, and
fresh company entered.
These were no other than four very dismal dogs, who came pattering
in one after the other, headed by an old bandy dog of particularly
mournful aspect, who, stopping when the last of his followers had
got as far as the door, erected himself upon his hind legs and
looked round at his companions, who immediately stood upon their
hind legs, in a grave and melancholy row. Nor was this the only
remarkable circumstance about these dogs, for each of them wore a
kind of little coat of some gaudy colour trimmed with tarnished
spangles, and one of them had a cap upon his head, tied very
carefully under his chin, which had fallen down upon his nose and
completely obscured one eye; add to this, that the gaudy coats were
all wet through and discoloured with rain, and that the wearers
were splashed and dirty, and some idea may be formed of the unusual
appearance of these new visitors to the Jolly Sandboys.
Neither Short nor the landlord nor Thomas Codlin, however, was in
the least surprised, merely remarking that these were Jerry's dogs
and that Jerry could not be far behind. So there the dogs stood,
patiently winking and gaping and looking extremely hard at the
boiling pot, until Jerry himself appeared, when they all dropped
down at once and walked about the room in their natural manner.
This posture it must be confessed did not much improve their
appearance, as their own personal tails and their coat tails--both
capital things in their way--did not agree together.
Jerry, the manager of these dancing dogs, was a tall black-
whiskered man in a velveteen coat, who seemed well known to the
landlord and his guests and accosted them with great cordiality.
Disencumbering himself of a barrel organ which he placed upon a
chair, and retaining in his hand a small whip wherewith to awe his
company of comedians, he came up to the fire to dry himself, and
entered into conversation.
'Your people don't usually travel in character, do they?' said
Short, pointing to the dresses of the dogs. 'It must come expensive
if they do?'
'No,' replied Jerry, 'no, it's not the custom with us. But we've
been playing a little on the road to-day, and we come out with a
new wardrobe at the races, so I didn't think it worth while to stop
to undress. Down, Pedro!'
This was addressed to the dog with the cap on, who being a new
member of the company, and not quite certain of his duty, kept his
unobscured eye anxiously on his master, and was perpetually
starting upon his hind legs when there was no occasion, and falling
'I've got a animal here,' said Jerry, putting his hand into the
capacious pocket of his coat, and diving into one corner as if he
were feeling for a small orange or an apple or some such article,
'a animal here, wot I think you know something of, Short.'
'Ah!' cried Short, 'let's have a look at him.'
'Here he is,' said Jerry, producing a little terrier from his
pocket. 'He was once a Toby of yours, warn't he!'
In some versions of the great drama of Punch there is a small dog--
a modern innovation--supposed to be the private property of that
gentleman, whose name is always Toby. This Toby has been stolen in
youth from another gentleman, and fraudulently sold to the
confiding hero, who having no guile himself has no suspicion that
it lurks in others; but Toby, entertaining a grateful recollection
of his old master, and scorning to attach himself to any new
patrons, not only refuses to smoke a pipe at the bidding of Punch,
but to mark his old fidelity more strongly, seizes him by the nose
and wrings the same with violence, at which instance of canine
attachment the spectators are deeply affected. This was the
character which the little terrier in question had once sustained;
if there had been any doubt upon the subject he would speedily have
resolved it by his conduct; for not only did he, on seeing Short,
give the strongest tokens of recognition, but catching sight of the
flat box he barked so furiously at the pasteboard nose which he
knew was inside, that his master was obliged to gather him up and
put him into his pocket again, to the great relief of the whole
The landlord now busied himself in laying the cloth, in which
process Mr Codlin obligingly assisted by setting forth his own
knife and fork in the most convenient place and establishing
himself behind them. When everything was ready, the landlord took
off the cover for the last time, and then indeed there burst forth
such a goodly promise of supper, that if he had offered to put it
on again or had hinted at postponement, he would certainly have
been sacrificed on his own hearth.
However, he did nothing of the kind, but instead thereof assisted
a stout servant girl in turning the contents of the cauldron into
a large tureen; a proceeding which the dogs, proof against various
hot splashes which fell upon their noses, watched with terrible
eagerness. At length the dish was lifted on the table, and mugs of
ale having been previously set round, little Nell ventured to say
grace, and supper began.
At this juncture the poor dogs were standing on their hind
legs quite surprisingly; the child, having pity on them, was about
to cast some morsels of food to them before she tasted it herself,
hungry though she was, when their master interposed.
'No, my dear, no, not an atom from anybody's hand but mine if you
please. That dog,' said Jerry, pointing out the old leader of the
troop, and speaking in a terrible voice, 'lost a halfpenny to-day.
He goes without his supper.'
The unfortunate creature dropped upon his fore-legs directly,
wagged his tail, and looked imploringly at his master.
'You must be more careful, Sir,' said Jerry, walking coolly to the
chair where he had placed the organ, and setting the stop. 'Come
here. Now, Sir, you play away at that, while we have supper, and
leave off if you dare.'
The dog immediately began to grind most mournful music. His master
having shown him the whip resumed his seat and called up the
others, who, at his directions, formed in a row, standing upright
as a file of soldiers.
'Now, gentlemen,' said Jerry, looking at them attentively. 'The dog
whose name's called, eats. The dogs whose names an't called, keep
The lucky individual whose name was called, snapped up the morsel
thrown towards him, but none of the others moved a muscle. In this
manner they were fed at the discretion of their master. Meanwhile
the dog in disgrace ground hard at the organ, sometimes in quick
time, sometimes in slow, but never leaving off for an instant. When
the knives and forks rattled very much, or any of his fellows got
an unusually large piece of fat, he accompanied the music with a
short howl, but he immediately checked it on his master looking
round, and applied himself with increased diligence to the Old
Supper was not yet over, when there arrived at the Jolly Sandboys
two more travellers bound for the same haven as the rest, who had
been walking in the rain for some hours, and came in shining and
heavy with water. One of these was the proprietor of a giant, and
a little lady without legs or arms, who had jogged forward in a
van; the other, a silent gentleman who earned his living by showing
tricks upon the cards, and who had rather deranged the natural
expression of his countenance by putting small leaden lozenges into
his eyes and bringing them out at his mouth, which was one of his
professional accomplishments. The name of the first of these
newcomers was Vuffin; the other, probably as a pleasant satire upon
his ugliness, was called Sweet William. To render them as
comfortable as he could, the landlord bestirred himself nimbly, and
in a very short time both gentlemen were perfectly at their ease.
'How's the Giant?' said Short, when they all sat smoking round the
'Rather weak upon his legs,' returned Mr Vuffin. 'I begin to be
afraid he's going at the knees.'
'That's a bad look-out,' said Short.
'Aye! Bad indeed,' replied Mr Vuffin, contemplating the fire with
a sigh. 'Once get a giant shaky on his legs, and the public care no
more about him than they do for a dead cabbage stalk.'
'What becomes of old giants?' said Short, turning to him again
after a little reflection.
'They're usually kept in carawans to wait upon the dwarfs,' said Mr
'The maintaining of 'em must come expensive, when they can't be
shown, eh?' remarked Short, eyeing him doubtfully.
'It's better that, than letting 'em go upon the parish or about the
streets," said Mr Vuffin. 'Once make a giant common and giants will
never draw again. Look at wooden legs. If there was only one man
with a wooden leg what a property he'd be!'
'So he would!' observed the landlord and Short both together.
'That's very true.'
'Instead of which,' pursued Mr Vuffin, 'if you was to advertise
Shakspeare played entirely by wooden legs,' it's my belief you
wouldn't draw a sixpence.'
'I don't suppose you would,' said Short. And the landlord said so
'This shows, you see,' said Mr Vuffin, waving his pipe with an
argumentative air, 'this shows the policy of keeping the used-up
giants still in the carawans, where they get food and lodging for
nothing, all their lives, and in general very glad they are to stop
there. There was one giant--a black 'un--as left his carawan some
year ago and took to carrying coach-bills about London, making
himself as cheap as crossing-sweepers. He died. I make no
insinuation against anybody in particular,' said Mr Vuffin, looking
solemnly round, 'but he was ruining the trade;--and he died.'
The landlord drew his breath hard, and looked at the owner of the
dogs, who nodded and said gruffly that he remembered.
'I know you do, Jerry,' said Mr Vuffin with profound meaning. 'I
know you remember it, Jerry, and the universal opinion was, that it
served him right. Why, I remember the time when old Maunders as had
three-and-twenty wans--I remember the time when old Maunders had
in his cottage in Spa Fields in the winter time, when the season
was over, eight male and female dwarfs setting down to dinner every
day, who was waited on by eight old giants in green coats, red
smalls, blue cotton stockings, and high-lows: and there was one
dwarf as had grown elderly and wicious who whenever his giant
wasn't quick enough to please him, used to stick pins in his legs,
not being able to reach up any higher. I know that's a fact, for
Maunders told it me himself.'
'What about the dwarfs when they get old?' inquired the landlord.
'The older a dwarf is, the better worth he is,' returned Mr Vuffin;
'a grey-headed dwarf, well wrinkled, is beyond all suspicion. But
a giant weak in the legs and not standing upright!--keep him in
the carawan, but never show him, never show him, for any persuasion
that can be offered.'
While Mr Vuffin and his two friends smoked their pipes and beguiled
the time with such conversation as this, the silent gentleman sat
in a warm corner, swallowing, or seeming to swallow, sixpennyworth
of halfpence for practice, balancing a feather upon his nose, and
rehearsing other feats of dexterity of that kind, without paying
any regard whatever to the company, who in their turn left him
utterly unnoticed. At length the weary child prevailed upon her
grandfather to retire, and they withdrew, leaving the company yet
seated round the fire, and the dogs fast asleep at a humble
After bidding the old man good night, Nell retired to her poor
garret, but had scarcely closed the door, when it was gently tapped
at. She opened it directly, and was a little startled by the sight
of Mr Thomas Codlin, whom she had left, to all appearance, fast
asleep down stairs.
'What is the matter?' said the child.
'Nothing's the matter, my dear,' returned her visitor. 'I'm your
friend. Perhaps you haven't thought so, but it's me that's your
'Not who?' the child inquired.
'Short, my dear. I tell you what,' said Codlin, 'for all his having
a kind of way with him that you'd be very apt to like, I'm the
real, open-hearted man. I mayn't look it, but I am indeed.'
The child began to be alarmed, considering that the ale had taken
effect upon Mr Codlin, and that this commendation of himself was
'Short's very well, and seems kind,' resumed the misanthrope, 'but
he overdoes it. Now I don't.'
Certainly if there were any fault in Mr Codlin's usual deportment,
it was that he rather underdid his kindness to those about him,
than overdid it. But the child was puzzled, and could not tell what
'Take my advice,' said Codlin: 'don't ask me why, but take it.
As long as you travel with us, keep as near me as you can. Don't
offer to leave us--not on any account--but always stick to me and
say that I'm your friend. Will you bear that in mind, my dear, and
always say that it was me that was your friend?'
'Say so where--and when?' inquired the child innocently.
'O, nowhere in particular,' replied Codlin, a little put out as it
seemed by the question; 'I'm only anxious that you should think me
so, and do me justice. You can't think what an interest I have in
you. Why didn't you tell me your little history--that about you
and the poor old gentleman? I'm the best adviser that ever was, and
so interested in you--so much more interested than Short. I think
they're breaking up down stairs; you needn't tell Short, you know,
that we've had this little talk together. God bless you. Recollect
the friend. Codlin's the friend, not Short. Short's very well as
far as he goes, but the real friend is Codlin--not Short.'
Eking out these professions with a number of benevolent and
protecting looks and great fervour of manner, Thomas Codlin stole
away on tiptoe, leaving the child in a state of extreme surprise.
She was still ruminating upon his curious behaviour, when the floor
of the crazy stairs and landing cracked beneath the tread of the
other travellers who were passing to their beds. When they had all
passed, and the sound of their footsteps had died away, one of them
returned, and after a little hesitation and rustling in the
passage, as if he were doubtful what door to knock at, knocked at
'Yes,' said the child from within.
'It's me--Short'--a voice called through the keyhole. 'I only
wanted to say that we must be off early to-morrow morning, my dear,
because unless we get the start of the dogs and the conjuror, the
villages won't be worth a penny. You'll be sure to be stirring
early and go with us? I'll call you.'
The child answered in the affirmative, and returning his 'good
night' heard him creep away. She felt some uneasiness at the
anxiety of these men, increased by the recollection of their
whispering together down stairs and their slight confusion when she
awoke, nor was she quite free from a misgiving that they were not
the fittest companions she could have stumbled on. Her uneasiness,
however, was nothing, weighed against her fatigue; and she soon
forgot it in sleep. Very early next morning, Short fulfilled his
promise, and knocking softly at her door, entreated that she would
get up directly, as the proprietor of the dogs was still snoring,
and if they lost no time they might get a good deal in advance both
of him and the conjuror, who was talking in his sleep, and from
what he could be heard to say, appeared to be balancing a donkey in
his dreams. She started from her bed without delay, and roused the
old man with so much expedition that they were both ready as soon
as Short himself, to that gentleman's unspeakable gratification and
After a very unceremonious and scrambling breakfast, of which the
staple commodities were bacon and bread, and beer, they took leave
of the landlord and issued from the door of the jolly Sandboys. The
morning was fine and warm, the ground cool to the feet after the
late rain, the hedges gayer and more green, the air clear, and
everything fresh and healthful. Surrounded by these influences,
they walked on pleasantly enough.
They had not gone very far, when the child was again struck by the
altered behaviour of Mr Thomas Codlin, who instead of plodding on
sulkily by himself as he had heretofore done, kept close to her,
and when he had an opportunity of looking at her unseen by his
companion, warned her by certain wry faces and jerks of the head
not to put any trust in Short, but to reserve all confidences for
Codlin. Neither did he confine himself to looks and gestures, for
when she and her grandfather were walking on beside the aforesaid
Short, and that little man was talking with his accustomed
cheerfulness on a variety of indifferent subjects, Thomas Codlin
testified his jealousy and distrust by following close at her
heels, and occasionally admonishing her ankles with the legs of the
theatre in a very abrupt and painful manner.
All these proceedings naturally made the child more watchful and
suspicious, and she soon observed that whenever they halted to
perform outside a village alehouse or other place, Mr Codlin while
he went through his share of the entertainments kept his eye
steadily upon her and the old man, or with a show of great
friendship and consideration invited the latter to lean upon his
arm, and so held him tight until the representation was over and
they again went forward. Even Short seemed to change in this
respect, and to mingle with his good-nature something of a desire
to keep them in safe custody. This increased the child's
misgivings, and made her yet more anxious and uneasy.
Meanwhile, they were drawing near the town where the races were to
begin next day; for, from passing numerous groups of gipsies and
trampers on the road, wending their way towards it, and straggling
out from every by-way and cross-country lane, they gradually fell
into a stream of people, some walking by the side of covered carts,
others with horses, others with donkeys, others toiling on with
heavy loads upon their backs, but all tending to the same point.
The public-houses by the wayside, from being empty and noiseless as
those in the remoter parts had been, now sent out boisterous shouts
and clouds of smoke; and, from the misty windows, clusters of broad
red faces looked down upon the road. On every piece of waste or
common ground, some small gambler drove his noisy trade, and
bellowed to the idle passersby to stop and try their chance; the
crowd grew thicker and more noisy; gilt gingerbread in
blanket-stalls exposed its glories to the dust; and often a
four-horse carriage, dashing by, obscured all objects in the gritty
cloud it raised, and left them, stunned and blinded, far behind.
It was dark before they reached the town itself, and long indeed
the few last miles had been. Here all was tumult and confusion; the
streets were filled with throngs of people--many strangers were
there, it seemed, by the looks they cast about--the church-bells
rang out their noisy peals, and flags streamed from windows and
house-tops. In the large inn-yards waiters flitted to and fro and
ran against each other, horses clattered on the uneven stones,
carriage steps fell rattling down, and sickening smells from many
dinners came in a heavy lukewarm breath upon the sense. In the
smaller public-houses, fiddles with all their might and main were
squeaking out the tune to staggering feet; drunken men, oblivious
of the burden of their song, joined in a senseless howl, which
drowned the tinkling of the feeble bell and made them savage for
their drink; vagabond groups assembled round the doors to see the
stroller woman dance, and add their uproar to the shrill flageolet
and deafening drum.
Through this delirious scene, the child, frightened and repelled by
all she saw, led on her bewildered charge, clinging close to her
conductor, and trembling lest in the press she should be separated
from him and left to find her way alone. Quickening their steps to
get clear of all the roar and riot, they at length passed through
the town and made for the race-course, which was upon an open
heath, situated on an eminence, a full mile distant from its
Although there were many people here, none of the best favoured or
best clad, busily erecting tents and driving stakes in the ground,
and hurrying to and fro with dusty feet and many a grumbled oath--
although there were tired children cradled on heaps of straw
between the wheels of carts, crying themselves to sleep--and poor
lean horses and donkeys just turned loose, grazing among the men
and women, and pots and kettles, and half-lighted fires, and ends
of candles flaring and wasting in the air--for all this, the child
felt it an escape from the town and drew her breath more freely.
After a scanty supper, the purchase of which reduced her little
stock so low, that she had only a few halfpence with which to buy
a breakfast on the morrow, she and the old man lay down to rest in
a corner of a tent, and slept, despite the busy preparations that
were going on around them all night long.
And now they had come to the time when they must beg their bread.
Soon after sunrise in the morning she stole out from the tent, and
rambling into some fields at a short distance, plucked a few wild
roses and such humble flowers, purposing to make them into little
nosegays and offer them to the ladies in the carriages when the
company arrived. Her thoughts were not idle while she was thus
employed; when she returned and was seated beside the old man in
one corner of the tent, tying her flowers together, while the two
men lay dozing in another corner, she plucked him by the sleeve,
and slightly glancing towards them, said, in a low voice--
'Grandfather, don't look at those I talk of, and don't seem as if
I spoke of anything but what I am about. What was that you told me
before we left the old house? That if they knew what we were going
to do, they would say that you were mad, and part us?'
The old man turned to her with an aspect of wild terror; but she
checked him by a look, and bidding him hold some flowers while she
tied them up, and so bringing her lips closer to his ear, said--
'I know that was what you told me. You needn't speak, dear. I
recollect it very well. It was not likely that I should forget it.
Grandfather, these men suspect that we have secretly left our
friends, and mean to carry us before some gentleman and have us
taken care of and sent back. If you let your hand tremble so, we
can never get away from them, but if you're only quiet now, we
shall do so, easily.'
'How?' muttered the old man. 'Dear Nelly, how? They will shut me up
in a stone room, dark and cold, and chain me up to the wall, Nell--
flog me with whips, and never let me see thee more!'
'You're trembling again,' said the child. 'Keep close to me all
day. Never mind them, don't look at them, but me. I shall find a
time when we can steal away. When I do, mind you come with me, and
do not stop or speak a word. Hush! That's all.'
'Halloa! what are you up to, my dear?' said Mr Codlin, raising his
head, and yawning. Then observing that his companion was fast
asleep, he added in an earnest whisper, 'Codlin's the friend,
'Making some nosegays,' the child replied; 'I am going to try and
sell some, these three days of the races. Will you have one--as a
present I mean?'
Mr Codlin would have risen to receive it, but the child hurried
towards him and placed it in his hand. He stuck it in his
buttonhole with an air of ineffable complacency for a misanthrope,
and leering exultingly at the unconscious Short, muttered, as he
laid himself down again, 'Tom Codlin's the friend, by G--!'
As the morning wore on, the tents assumed a gayer and more
brilliant appearance, and long lines of carriages came rolling
softly on the turf. Men who had lounged about all night in
smock-frocks and leather leggings, came out in silken vests and
hats and plumes, as jugglers or mountebanks; or in gorgeous
liveries as soft-spoken servants at gambling booths; or in sturdy
yeoman dress as decoys at unlawful games. Black-eyed gipsy girls,
hooded in showy handkerchiefs, sallied forth to tell fortunes, and
pale slender women with consumptive faces lingered upon the
footsteps of ventriloquists and conjurors, and counted the
sixpences with anxious eyes long before they were gained. As many
of the children as could be kept within bounds, were stowed away,
with all the other signs of dirt and poverty, among the donkeys,
carts, and horses; and as many as could not be thus disposed of ran
in and out in all intricate spots, crept between people's legs and
carriage wheels, and came forth unharmed from under horses' hoofs.
The dancing-dogs, the stilts, the little lady and the tall man, and
all the other attractions, with organs out of number and bands
innumerable, emerged from the holes and corners in which they had
passed the night, and flourished boldly in the sun.
Along the uncleared course, Short led his party, sounding the
brazen trumpet and revelling in the voice of Punch; and at his
heels went Thomas Codlin, bearing the show as usual, and keeping
his eye on Nelly and her grandfather, as they rather lingered in
the rear. The child bore upon her arm the little basket with her
flowers, and sometimes stopped, with timid and modest looks, to
offer them at some gay carriage; but alas! there were many bolder
beggars there, gipsies who promised husbands, and other adepts in
their trade, and although some ladies smiled gently as they shook
their heads, and others cried to the gentlemen beside them 'See,
what a pretty face!' they let the pretty face pass on, and never
thought that it looked tired or hungry.
There was but one lady who seemed to understand the child, and she
was one who sat alone in a handsome carriage, while two young men
in dashing clothes, who had just dismounted from it, talked and
laughed loudly at a little distance, appearing to forget her,
quite. There were many ladies all around, but they turned their
backs, or looked another way, or at the two young men (not
unfavourably at them), and left her to herself. She motioned away
a gipsy-woman urgent to tell her fortune, saying that it was told
already and had been for some years, but called the child towards
her, and taking her flowers put money into her trembling hand, and
bade her go home and keep at home for God's sake.
Many a time they went up and down those long, long lines, seeing
everything but the horses and the race; when the bell rang to clear
the course, going back to rest among the carts and donkeys, and not
coming out again until the heat was over. Many a time, too, was
Punch displayed in the full zenith of his humour, but all this
while the eye of Thomas Codlin was upon them, and to escape without
notice was impracticable.
At length, late in the day, Mr Codlin pitched the show in a
convenient spot, and the spectators were soon in the very triumph
of the scene. The child, sitting down with the old man close behind
it, had been thinking how strange it was that horses who were such
fine honest creatures should seem to make vagabonds of all the men
they drew about them, when a loud laugh at some extemporaneous
witticism of Mr Short's, having allusion to the circumstances of
the day, roused her from her meditation and caused her to look
If they were ever to get away unseen, that was the very moment.
Short was plying the quarter-staves vigorously and knocking the
characters in the fury of the combat against the sides of the show,
the people were looking on with laughing faces, and Mr Codlin had
relaxed into a grim smile as his roving eye detected hands going
into waistcoat pockets and groping secretly for sixpences. If they
were ever to get away unseen, that was the very moment. They seized
it, and fled.
They made a path through booths and carriages and throngs of
people, and never once stopped to look behind. The bell was ringing
and the course was cleared by the time they reached the ropes, but
they dashed across it insensible to the shouts and screeching that
assailed them for breaking in upon its sanctity, and creeping under
the brow of the hill at a quick pace, made for the open fields.
Day after day as he bent his steps homeward, returning from some
new effort to procure employment, Kit raised his eyes to the window
of the little room he had so much commended to the child, and hoped
to see some indication of her presence. His own earnest wish,
coupled with the assurance he had received from Quilp, filled him
with the belief that she would yet arrive to claim the humble
shelter he had offered, and from the death of each day's hope
another hope sprung up to live to-morrow.
'I think they must certainly come to-morrow, eh mother?' said Kit,
laying aside his hat with a weary air and sighing as he spoke.
'They have been gone a week. They surely couldn't stop away more
than a week, could they now?'
The mother shook her head, and reminded him how often he had been
'For the matter of that,' said Kit, 'you speak true and sensible
enough, as you always do, mother. Still, I do consider that a week
is quite long enough for 'em to be rambling about; don't you say
'Quite long enough, Kit, longer than enough, but they may not come
back for all that.'
Kit was for a moment disposed to be vexed by this contradiction,
and not the less so from having anticipated it in his own mind and
knowing how just it was. But the impulse was only momentary, and
the vexed look became a kind one before it had crossed the room.
'Then what do you think, mother, has become of 'em? You don't think
they've gone to sea, anyhow?'
'Not gone for sailors, certainly,' returned the mother with a
smile. 'But I can't help thinking that they have gone to some
'I say,' cried Kit with a rueful face, 'don't talk like that,
'I am afraid they have, and that's the truth,' she said. 'It's the
talk of all the neighbours, and there are some even that know of
their having been seen on board ship, and can tell you the name of
the place they've gone to, which is more than I can, my dear, for
it's a very hard one.'
'I don't believe it,' said Kit. 'Not a word of it. A set of idle
chatterboxes, how should they know!'
'They may be wrong of course,' returned the mother, 'I can't tell
about that, though I don't think it's at all unlikely that they're
in the right, for the talk is that the old gentleman had put by a
little money that nobody knew of, not even that ugly little man you
talk to me about--what's his name--Quilp; and that he and Miss
Nell have gone to live abroad where it can't be taken from them,
and they will never be disturbed. That don't seem very far out of
the way now, do it?'
Kit scratched his head mournfully, in reluctant admission that it
did not, and clambering up to the old nail took down the cage and
set himself to clean it and to feed the bird. His thoughts
reverting from this occupation to the little old gentleman who had
given him the shilling, he suddenly recollected that that was the
very day--nay, nearly the very hour--at which the little old
gentleman had said he should be at the Notary's house again. He no
sooner remembered this, than he hung up the cage with great
precipitation, and hastily explaining the nature of his errand,
went off at full speed to the appointed place.
It was some two minutes after the time when he reached the spot,
which was a considerable distance from his home, but by great good
luck the little old gentleman had not yet arrived; at least there
was no pony-chaise to be seen, and it was not likely that he had
come and gone again in so short a space. Greatly relieved to find
that he was not too late, Kit leant against a lamp-post to take
breath, and waited the advent of the pony and his charge.
Sure enough, before long the pony came trotting round the corner of
the street, looking as obstinate as pony might, and picking his
steps as if he were spying about for the cleanest places, and would
by no means dirty his feet or hurry himself inconveniently. Behind
the pony sat the little old gentleman, and by the old gentleman's
side sat the little old lady, carrying just such a nosegay as she
had brought before.
The old gentleman, the old lady, the pony, and the chaise, came up
the street in perfect unanimity, until they arrived within some
half a dozen doors of the Notary's house, when the pony, deceived
by a brass-plate beneath a tailor's knocker, came to a halt, and
maintained by a sturdy silence, that that was the house they
'Now, Sir, will you ha' the goodness to go on; this is not the
place,' said the old gentleman.
The pony looked with great attention into a fire-plug which was
near him, and appeared to be quite absorbed in contemplating it.
'Oh dear, such a naughty Whisker" cried the old lady. 'After being
so good too, and coming along so well! I am quite ashamed of him.
I don't know what we are to do with him, I really don't.'
The pony having thoroughly satisfied himself as to the nature and
properties of the fire-plug, looked into the air after his old
enemies the flies, and as there happened to be one of them tickling
his ear at that moment he shook his head and whisked his tail,
after which he appeared full of thought but quite comfortable and
collected. The old gentleman having exhausted his powers of
persuasion, alighted to lead him; whereupon the pony, perhaps
because he held this to be a sufficient concession, perhaps because
he happened to catch sight of the other brass-plate, or perhaps
because he was in a spiteful humour, darted off with the old lady
and stopped at the right house, leaving the old gentleman to come
panting on behind.
It was then that Kit presented himself at the pony's head, and
touched his hat with a smile.
'Why, bless me,' cried the old gentleman, 'the lad is here! My
dear, do you see?'
'I said I'd be here, Sir,' said Kit, patting Whisker's neck. 'I
hope you've had a pleasant ride, sir. He's a very nice little
'My dear,' said the old gentleman. 'This is an uncommon lad; a good
lad, I'm sure.'
'I'm sure he is,' rejoined the old lady. 'A very good lad, and I am
sure he is a good son.'
Kit acknowledged these expressions of confidence by touching his
hat again and blushing very much. The old gentleman then handed the
old lady out, and after looking at him with an approving smile,
they went into the house--talking about him as they went, Kit
could not help feeling. Presently Mr Witherden, smelling very hard
at the nosegay, came to the window and looked at him, and after
that Mr Abel came and looked at him, and after that the old
gentleman and lady came and looked at him again, and after that
they all came and looked at him together, which Kit, feeling very
much embarrassed by, made a pretence of not observing. Therefore he
patted the pony more and more; and this liberty the pony most
The faces had not disappeared from the window many moments, when Mr
Chuckster in his official coat, and with his hat hanging on his
head just as it happened to fall from its peg, appeared upon the
pavement, and telling him he was wanted inside, bade him go in and
he would mind the chaise the while. In giving him this direction Mr
Chuckster remarked that he wished that he might be blessed if he
could make out whether he (Kit) was 'precious raw' or 'precious
deep,' but intimated by a distrustful shake of the head, that he
inclined to the latter opinion.
Kit entered the office in a great tremor, for he was not used to
going among strange ladies and gentlemen, and the tin boxes and
bundles of dusty papers had in his eyes an awful and venerable air.
Mr Witherden too was a bustling gentleman who talked loud and fast,
and all eyes were upon him, and he was very shabby.
'Well, boy,' said Mr Witherden, 'you came to work out that
shilling;--not to get another, hey?'
'No indeed, sir,' replied Kit, taking courage to look up. 'I never
thought of such a thing.'
'Father alive?' said the Notary.
Kit made answer, not without some indignation, that she was a widow
with three children, and that as to her marrying again, if the
gentleman knew her he wouldn't think of such a thing. At this reply
Mr Witherden buried his nose in the flowers again, and whispered
behind the nosegay to the old gentleman that he believed the lad
was as honest a lad as need be.
'Now,' said Mr Garland when they had made some further inquiries of
him, 'I am not going to give you anything--'
'Thank you, sir,' Kit replied; and quite seriously too, for this
announcement seemed to free him from the suspicion which the Notary
'--But,' resumed the old gentleman, 'perhaps I may want to know
something more about you, so tell me where you live, and I'll put
it down in my pocket-book.'
Kit told him, and the old gentleman wrote down the address with his
pencil. He had scarcely done so, when there was a great uproar in
the street, and the old lady hurrying to the window cried that
Whisker had run away, upon which Kit darted out to the rescue, and
the others followed.
It seemed that Mr Chuckster had been standing with his hands in his
pockets looking carelessly at the pony, and occasionally insulting
him with such admonitions as 'Stand still,'--'Be quiet,'--
'Wo-a-a,' and the like, which by a pony of spirit cannot be borne.
Consequently, the pony being deterred by no considerations of duty
or obedience, and not having before him the slightest fear of the
human eye, had at length started off, and was at that moment
rattling down the street--Mr Chuckster, with his hat off and a
pen behind his ear, hanging on in the rear of the chaise and making
futile attempts to draw it the other way, to the unspeakable
admiration of all beholders. Even in running away, however, Whisker
was perverse, for he had not gone very far when he suddenly
stopped, and before assistance could be rendered, commenced backing
at nearly as quick a pace as he had gone forward. By these means Mr
Chuckster was pushed and hustled to the office again, in a most
inglorious manner, and arrived in a state of great exhaustion and
The old lady then stepped into her seat, and Mr Abel (whom they had
come to fetch) into his. The old gentleman, after reasoning with
the pony on the extreme impropriety of his conduct, and making the
best amends in his power to Mr Chuckster, took his place also, and
they drove away, waving a farewell to the Notary and his clerk, and
more than once turning to nod kindly to Kit as he watched them from
Kit turned away and very soon forgot the pony, and the chaise, and
the little old lady, and the little old gentleman, and the little
young gentleman to boot, in thinking what could have become of his
late master and his lovely grandchild, who were the fountain-head
of all his meditations. Still casting about for some plausible
means of accounting for their non-appearance, and of persuading
himself that they must soon return, he bent his steps
towards home, intending to finish the task which the sudden
recollection of his contract had interrupted, and then to sally
forth once more to seek his fortune for the day.
When he came to the corner of the court in which he lived, lo and
behold there was the pony again! Yes, there he was, looking more
obstinate than ever; and alone in the chaise, keeping a steady
watch upon his every wink, sat Mr Abel, who, lifting up his eyes by
chance and seeing Kit pass by, nodded to him as though he would
have nodded his head off.
Kit wondered to see the pony again, so near his own home too, but
it never occurred to him for what purpose the pony might have come
there, or where the old lady and the old gentleman had gone, until
he lifted the latch of the door, and walking in, found them seated
in the room in conversation with his mother, at which unexpected
sight he pulled off his hat and made his best bow in some
'We are here before you, you see, Christopher,' said Mr Garland
'Yes, sir,' said Kit; and as he said it, he looked towards his
mother for an explanation of the visit.
'The gentleman's been kind enough, my dear,' said she, in reply to
this mute interrogation, 'to ask me whether you were in a good
place, or in any place at all, and when I told him no, you were not
in any, he was so good as to say that--'
'--That we wanted a good lad in our house,' said the old gentleman
and the old lady both together, 'and that perhaps we might think of
it, if we found everything as we would wish it to be.'
As this thinking of it, plainly meant the thinking of engaging Kit,
he immediately partook of his mother's anxiety and fell into a
great flutter; for the little old couple were very methodical and
cautious, and asked so many questions that he began to be afraid
there was no chance of his success.
'You see, my good woman,' said Mrs Garland to Kit's mother, 'that
it's necessary to be very careful and particular in such a matter
as this, for we're only three in family, and are very quiet regular
folks, and it would be a sad thing if we made any kind of mistake,
and found things different from what we hoped and expected.'
To this, Kit's mother replied, that certainly it was quite true,
and quite right, and quite proper, and Heaven forbid that she
should shrink, or have cause to shrink, from any inquiry into her
character or that of her son, who was a very good son though she
was his mother, in which respect, she was bold to say, he took
after his father, who was not only a good son to HIS mother, but
the best of husbands and the best of fathers besides, which Kit
could and would corroborate she knew, and so would little Jacob and
the baby likewise if they were old enough, which unfortunately they
were not, though as they didn't know what a loss they had had,
perhaps it was a great deal better that they should be as young as
they were; and so Kit's mother wound up a long story by wiping her
eyes with her apron, and patting little Jacob's head, who was
rocking the cradle and staring with all his might at the strange
lady and gentleman.
When Kit's mother had done speaking, the old lady struck in again,
and said that she was quite sure she was a very honest and very
respectable person or she never would have expressed herself in
that manner, and that certainly the appearance of the children and
the cleanliness of the house deserved great praise and did her the
utmost credit, whereat Kit's mother dropped a curtsey and became
consoled. Then the good woman entered in a long and minute account
of Kit's life and history from the earliest period down to that
time, not omitting to make mention of his miraculous fall out of a
back-parlour window when an infant of tender years, or his uncommon
sufferings in a state of measles, which were illustrated by correct
imitations of the plaintive manner in which he called for toast and
water, day and night, and said, 'don't cry, mother, I shall soon be
better;' for proof of which statements reference was made to Mrs
Green, lodger, at the cheesemonger's round the corner, and divers
other ladies and gentlemen in various parts of England and Wales
(and one Mr Brown who was supposed to be then a corporal in the
East Indies, and who could of course be found with very little
trouble), within whose personal knowledge the circumstances had
occurred. This narration ended, Mr Garland put some questions to
Kit respecting his qualifications and general acquirements, while
Mrs Garland noticed the children, and hearing from Kit's mother
certain remarkable circumstances which had attended the birth of
each, related certain other remarkable circumstances which had
attended the birth of her own son, Mr Abel, from which it appeared
that both Kit's mother and herself had been, above and beyond all
other women of what condition or age soever, peculiarly hemmed in
with perils and dangers. Lastly, inquiry was made into the nature
and extent of Kit's wardrobe, and a small advance being made to
improve the same, he was formally hired at an annual income of Six
Pounds, over and above his board and lodging, by Mr and Mrs
Garland, of Abel Cottage, Finchley.
It would be difficult to say which party appeared most pleased with
this arrangement, the conclusion of which was hailed with nothing
but pleasant looks and cheerful smiles on both sides. It was
settled that Kit should repair to his new abode on the next day but
one, in the morning; and finally, the little old couple, after
bestowing a bright half-crown on little Jacob and another on the
baby, took their leaves; being escorted as far as the street by
their new attendant, who held the obdurate pony by the bridle while
they took their seats, and saw them drive away with a lightened
'Well, mother,' said Kit, hurrying back into the house, 'I think my
fortune's about made now.'
'I should think it was indeed, Kit,' rejoined his mother. 'Six
pound a year! Only think!'
'Ah!' said Kit, trying to maintain the gravity which the
consideration of such a sum demanded, but grinning with delight in
spite of himself. 'There's a property!'
Kit drew a long breath when he had said this, and putting his hands
deep into his pockets as if there were one year's wages at least in
each, looked at his mother, as though he saw through her, and down
an immense perspective of sovereigns beyond.
'Please God we'll make such a lady of you for Sundays, mother! such
a scholar of Jacob, such a child of the baby, such a room of the
one up stairs! Six pound a year!'
'Hem!' croaked a strange voice. 'What's that about six pound a
year? What about six pound a year?' And as the voice made this
inquiry, Daniel Quilp walked in with Richard Swiveller at his
'Who said he was to have six pound a year?' said Quilp, looking
sharply round. 'Did the old man say it, or did little Nell say it?
And what's he to have it for, and where are they, eh!' The good
woman was so much alarmed by the sudden apparition of this unknown
piece of ugliness, that she hastily caught the baby from its cradle
and retreated into the furthest corner of the room; while little
Jacob, sitting upon his stool with his hands on his knees, looked
full at him in a species of fascination, roaring lustily all the
time. Richard Swiveller took an easy observation of the family over
Mr Quilp's head, and Quilp himself, with his hands in his pockets,
smiled in an exquisite enjoyment of the commotion he occasioned.
'Don't be frightened, mistress,' said Quilp, after a pause. 'Your
son knows me; I don't eat babies; I don't like 'em. It will be as
well to stop that young screamer though, in case I should be
tempted to do him a mischief. Holloa, sir! Will you be quiet?'
Little Jacob stemmed the course of two tears which he was squeezing
out of his eyes, and instantly subsided into a silent horror.
'Mind you don't break out again, you villain,' said Quilp, looking
sternly at him, 'or I'll make faces at you and throw you into fits,
I will. Now you sir, why haven't you been to me as you promised?'
'What should I come for?' retorted Kit. 'I hadn't any business with
you, no more than you had with me.'
'Here, mistress,' said Quilp, turning quickly away, and appealing
from Kit to his mother. 'When did his old master come or send here
last? Is he here now? If not, where's he gone?'
'He has not been here at all,' she replied. 'I wish we knew where
they have gone, for it would make my son a good deal easier in his
mind, and me too. If you're the gentleman named Mr Quilp, I should
have thought you'd have known, and so I told him only this very
'Humph!' muttered Quilp, evidently disappointed to believe that
this was true. 'That's what you tell this gentleman too, is it?'
'If the gentleman comes to ask the same question, I can't tell him
anything else, sir; and I only wish I could, for our own sakes,'
was the reply.
Quilp glanced at Richard Swiveller, and observed that having met
him on the threshold, he assumed that he had come in search of some
intelligence of the fugitives. He supposed he was right?
'Yes,' said Dick, 'that was the object of the present expedition.
I fancied it possible--but let us go ring fancy's knell. I'll
'You seem disappointed,' observed Quilp.
'A baffler, Sir, a baffler, that's all,' returned Dick. 'I have
entered upon a speculation which has proved a baffler; and a Being
of brightness and beauty will be offered up a sacrifice at Cheggs's
altar. That's all, sir.'
The dwarf eyed Richard with a sarcastic smile, but Richard, who had
been taking a rather strong lunch with a friend, observed him not,
and continued to deplore his fate with mournful and despondent
looks. Quilp plainly discerned that there was some secret reason
for this visit and his uncommon disappointment, and, in the hope
that there might be means of mischief lurking beneath it, resolved
to worm it out. He had no sooner adopted this resolution, than he
conveyed as much honesty into his face as it was capable of
expressing, and sympathised with Mr Swiveller exceedingly.
'I am disappointed myself,' said Quilp, 'out of mere friendly
feeling for them; but you have real reasons, private reasons I have
no doubt, for your disappointment, and therefore it comes heavier
'Why, of course it does,' Dick observed, testily.
'Upon my word, I'm very sorry, very sorry. I'm rather cast down
myself. As we are companions in adversity, shall we be companions
in the surest way of forgetting it? If you had no particular
business, now, to lead you in another direction,' urged Quilp,
plucking him by the sleeve and looking slyly up into his face out
of the corners of his eyes, 'there is a house by the water-side
where they have some of the noblest Schiedam--reputed to be
smuggled, but that's between ourselves--that can be got in all the
world. The landlord knows me. There's a little summer-house
overlooking the river, where we might take a glass of this
delicious liquor with a whiff of the best tobacco--it's in this
case, and of the rarest quality, to my certain knowledge--and be
perfectly snug and happy, could we possibly contrive it; or is
there any very particular engagement that peremptorily takes you
another way, Mr Swiveller, eh?'
As the dwarf spoke, Dick's face relaxed into a compliant smile, and
his brows slowly unbent. By the time he had finished, Dick was
looking down at Quilp in the same sly manner as Quilp was looking
up at him, and there remained nothing more to be done but to set
out for the house in question. This they did, straightway. The
moment their backs were turned, little Jacob thawed, and resumed
his crying from the point where Quilp had frozen him.
The summer-house of which Mr Quilp had spoken was a rugged wooden
box, rotten and bare to see, which overhung the river's mud, and
threatened to slide down into it. The tavern to which it belonged
was a crazy building, sapped and undermined by the rats, and only
upheld by great bars of wood which were reared against its walls,
and had propped it up so long that even they were decaying and
yielding with their load, and of a windy night might be heard to
creak and crack as if the whole fabric were about to come toppling
down. The house stood--if anything so old and feeble could be said
to stand--on a piece of waste ground, blighted with the unwholesome
smoke of factory chimneys, and echoing the clank of iron wheels and
rush of troubled water. Its internal accommodations amply fulfilled
the promise of the outside. The rooms were low and damp, the clammy
walls were pierced with chinks and holes, the rotten floors had sunk
from their level, the very beams started from their places and warned
the timid stranger from their neighbourhood.
To this inviting spot, entreating him to observe its beauties as
they passed along, Mr Quilp led Richard Swiveller, and on the table
of the summer-house, scored deep with many a gallows and initial
letter, there soon appeared a wooden keg, full of the vaunted
liquor. Drawing it off into the glasses with the skill of a
practised hand, and mixing it with about a third part of water, Mr
Quilp assigned to Richard Swiveller his portion, and lighting his
pipe from an end of a candle in a very old and battered lantern,
drew himself together upon a seat and puffed away.
'Is it good?' said Quilp, as Richard Swiveller smacked his lips,
'is it strong and fiery? Does it make you wink, and choke, and your
eyes water, and your breath come short--does it?'
'Does it?' cried Dick, throwing away part of the contents of his
glass, and filling it up with water, 'why, man, you don't mean to
tell me that you drink such fire as this?'
'No!' rejoined Quilp, 'Not drink it! Look here. And here. And here
again. Not drink it!'
As he spoke, Daniel Quilp drew off and drank three small glassfuls
of the raw spirit, and then with a horrible grimace took a great
many pulls at his pipe, and swallowing the smoke, discharged it in
a heavy cloud from his nose. This feat accomplished he drew himself
together in his former position, and laughed excessively.
'Give us a toast!' cried Quilp, rattling on the table in a
dexterous manner with his fist and elbow alternately, in a kind of
tune, 'a woman, a beauty. Let's have a beauty for our toast and
empty our glasses to the last drop. Her name, come!'
'If you want a name,' said Dick, 'here's Sophy Wackles.'
'Sophy Wackles,' screamed the dwarf, 'Miss Sophy Wackles that is--
Mrs Richard Swiveller that shall be--that shall be--ha ha ha!'
'Ah!' said Dick, 'you might have said that a few weeks ago, but it
won't do now, my buck. Immolating herself upon the shrine of Cheggs--'
'Poison Cheggs, cut Cheggs's ears off,' rejoined Quilp. 'I won't
hear of Cheggs. Her name is Swiveller or nothing. I'll drink her
health again, and her father's, and her mother's; and to all her
sisters and brothers--the glorious family of the Wackleses--all
the Wackleses in one glass--down with it to the dregs!'
'Well,' said Richard Swiveller, stopping short in the act of
raising the glass to his lips and looking at the dwarf in a species
of stupor as he flourished his arms and legs about: 'you're a jolly
fellow, but of all the jolly fellows I ever saw or heard of, you
have the queerest and most extraordinary way with you, upon my life
This candid declaration tended rather to increase than restrain Mr
Quilp's eccentricities, and Richard Swiveller, astonished to see
him in such a roystering vein, and drinking not a little himself,
for company--began imperceptibly to become more companionable and
confiding, so that, being judiciously led on by Mr Quilp, he grew
at last very confiding indeed. Having once got him into this mood,
and knowing now the key-note to strike whenever he was at a loss,
Daniel Quilp's task was comparatively an easy one, and he was
soon in possession of the whole details of the scheme contrived
between the easy Dick and his more designing friend.
'Stop!' said Quilp. 'That's the thing, that's the thing. It can be
brought about, it shall be brought about. There's my hand upon it;
I am your friend from this minute.'
'What! do you think there's still a chance?' inquired Dick, in
surprise at this encouragement.
'A chance!' echoed the dwarf, 'a certainty! Sophy Wackles may
become a Cheggs or anything else she likes, but not a Swiveller.
Oh you lucky dog! He's richer than any Jew alive; you're a
made man. I see in you now nothing but Nelly's husband, rolling
in gold and silver. I'll help you. It shall be done. Mind my words,
it shall be done.'
'But how?' said Dick.
'There's plenty of time,' rejoined the dwarf, 'and it shall be
done. We'll sit down and talk it over again all the way through.
Fill your glass while I'm gone. I shall be back directly--
directly.' With these hasty words, Daniel Quilp withdrew into a
dismantled skittle-ground behind the public-house, and, throwing
himself upon the ground actually screamed and rolled about in
'Here's sport!' he cried, 'sport ready to my hand, all invented and
arranged, and only to be enjoyed. It was this shallow-pated fellow
who made my bones ache t'other day, was it? It was his friend and
fellow-plotter, Mr Trent, that once made eyes at Mrs Quilp, and
leered and looked, was it? After labouring for two or three years
in their precious scheme, to find that they've got a beggar at
last, and one of them tied for life. Ha ha ha! He shall marry
Nell. He shall have her, and I'll be the first man, when the
knot's tied hard and fast, to tell 'em what they've gained and
what I've helped 'em to. Here will be a clearing of old scores,
here will be a time to remind 'em what a capital friend I was, and
how I helped them to the heiress. Ha ha ha!'
In the height of his ecstasy, Mr Quilp had like to have met with a
disagreeable check, for rolling very near a broken dog-kennel,
there leapt forth a large fierce dog, who, but that his chain was
of the shortest, would have given him a disagreeable salute. As it
was, the dwarf remained upon his back in perfect safety, taunting
the dog with hideous faces, and triumphing over him in his
inability to advance another inch, though there were not a couple
of feet between them.
'Why don't you come and bite me, why don't you come and tear me to
pieces, you coward?' said Quilp, hissing and worrying the animal
till he was nearly mad. 'You're afraid, you bully, you're afraid,
you know you are.'
The dog tore and strained at his chain with starting eyes and
furious bark, but there the dwarf lay, snapping his fingers with
gestures of defiance and contempt. When he had sufficiently
recovered from his delight, he rose, and with his arms a-kimbo,
achieved a kind of demon-dance round the kennel, just without
the limits of the chain, driving the dog quite wild. Having by this
means composed his spirits and put himself in a pleasant train, he
returned to his unsuspicious companion, whom he found looking at
the tide with exceeding gravity, and thinking of that same gold and
silver which Mr Quilp had mentioned.
The remainder of that day and the whole of the next were a busy
time for the Nubbles family, to whom everything connected with
Kit's outfit and departure was matter of as great moment as if he
had been about to penetrate into the interior of Africa, or to take
a cruise round the world. It would be difficult to suppose that
there ever was a box which was opened and shut so many times within
four-and-twenty hours, as that which contained his wardrobe and
necessaries; and certainly there never was one which to two small
eyes presented such a mine of clothing, as this mighty chest with
its three shirts and proportionate allowance of stockings and
pocket-handkerchiefs, disclosed to the astonished vision of little
Jacob. At last it was conveyed to the carrier's, at whose house at
Finchley Kit was to find it next day; and the box being gone, there
remained but two questions for consideration: firstly, whether the
carrier would lose, or dishonestly feign to lose, the box upon the
road; secondly, whether Kit's mother perfectly understood how to
take care of herself in the absence of her son.
'I don't think there's hardly a chance of his really losing it, but
carriers are under great temptation to pretend they lose things, no
doubt,' said Mrs Nubbles apprehensively, in reference to the first
'No doubt about it,' returned Kit, with a serious look; 'upon my
word, mother, I don't think it was right to trust it to itself.
Somebody ought to have gone with it, I'm afraid.'
'We can't help it now,' said his mother; 'but it was foolish and
wrong. People oughtn't to be tempted.'
Kit inwardly resolved that he would never tempt a carrier any more,
save with an empty box; and having formed this Christian
determination, he turned his thoughts to the second question.
'YOU know you must keep up your spirits, mother, and not be
lonesome because I'm not at home. I shall very often be able to
look in when I come into town I dare say, and I shall send you a
letter sometimes, and when the quarter comes round, I can get a
holiday of course; and then see if we don't take little Jacob to
the play, and let him know what oysters means.'
'I hope plays mayn't be sinful, Kit, but I'm a'most afraid,' said
'I know who has been putting that in your head,' rejoined her son
disconsolately; 'that's Little Bethel again. Now I say, mother,
pray don't take to going there regularly, for if I was to see your
good-humoured face that has always made home cheerful, turned into
a grievous one, and the baby trained to look grievous too, and to
call itself a young sinner (bless its heart) and a child of the
devil (which is calling its dead father names); if I was to see
this, and see little Jacob looking grievous likewise, I should so
take it to heart that I'm sure I should go and list for a soldier,
and run my head on purpose against the first cannon-ball I saw
coming my way.'
'Oh, Kit, don't talk like that.'
'I would, indeed, mother, and unless you want to make me
feel very wretched and uncomfortable, you'll keep that bow on your
bonnet, which you'd more than half a mind to pull off last week.
Can you suppose there's any harm in looking as cheerful and being
as cheerful as our poor circumstances will permit? Do I see
anything in the way I'm made, which calls upon me to be a
snivelling, solemn, whispering chap, sneaking about as if I
couldn't help it, and expressing myself in a most unpleasant
snuffle? on the contrary, don't I see every reason why I shouldn't?
just hear this! Ha ha ha! An't that as nat'ral as walking, and as
good for the health? Ha ha ha! An't that as nat'ral as a sheep's
bleating, or a pig's grunting, or a horse's neighing, or a bird's
singing? Ha ha ha! Isn't it, mother?'
There was something contagious in Kit's laugh, for his mother, who
had looked grave before, first subsided into a smile, and then fell
to joining in it heartily, which occasioned Kit to say that he knew
it was natural, and to laugh the more. Kit and his mother, laughing
together in a pretty loud key, woke the baby, who, finding that
there was something very jovial and agreeable in progress, was no
sooner in its mother's arms than it began to kick and laugh, most
vigorously. This new illustration of his argument so tickled Kit,
that he fell backward in his chair in a state of exhaustion,
pointing at the baby and shaking his sides till he rocked again.
After recovering twice or thrice, and as often relapsing, he wiped
his eyes and said grace; and a very cheerful meal their scanty
With more kisses, and hugs, and tears, than many young gentlemen
who start upon their travels, and leave well-stocked homes behind
them, would deem within the bounds of probability (if matter so low
could be herein set down), Kit left the house at an early hour next
morning, and set out to walk to Finchley; feeling a sufficient
pride in his appearance to have warranted his excommunication from
Little Bethel from that time forth, if he had ever been one of that
Lest anybody should feel a curiosity to know how Kit was clad, it
may be briefly remarked that he wore no livery, but was dressed in
a coat of pepper-and-salt with waistcoat of canary colour, and
nether garments of iron-grey; besides these glories, he shone in
the lustre of a new pair of boots and an extremely stiff and shiny
hat, which on being struck anywhere with the knuckles, sounded like
a drum. And in this attire, rather wondering that he attracted so
little attention, and attributing the circumstance to the insensibility
of those who got up early, he made his way towards Abel Cottage.
Without encountering any more remarkable adventure on the road,
than meeting a lad in a brimless hat, the exact counterpart of his
old one, on whom he bestowed half the sixpence he possessed, Kit
arrived in course of time at the carrier's house, where, to the
lasting honour of human nature, he found the box in safety.
Receiving from the wife of this immaculate man, a direction to Mr
Garland's, he took the box upon his shoulder and repaired thither
To be sure, it was a beautiful little cottage with a thatched roof
and little spires at the gable-ends, and pieces of stained glass in
some of the windows, almost as large as pocket-books. On one side
of the house was a little stable, just the size for the pony, with
a little room over it, just the size for Kit. White curtains were
fluttering, and birds in cages that looked as bright as if they
were made of gold, were singing at the windows; plants were
arranged on either side of the path, and clustered about the door;
and the garden was bright with flowers in full bloom, which shed a
sweet odour all round, and had a charming and elegant appearance.
Everything within the house and without, seemed to be the
perfection of neatness and order. In the garden there was not a
weed to be seen, and to judge from some dapper gardening-tools, a
basket, and a pair of gloves which were lying in one of the walks,
old Mr Garland had been at work in it that very morning.
Kit looked about him, and admired, and looked again, and this a
great many times before he could make up his mind to turn his head
another way and ring the bell. There was abundance of time to look
about him again though, when he had rung it, for nobody came, so
after ringing it twice or thrice he sat down upon his box, and
He rang the bell a great many times, and yet nobody came. But at
last, as he was sitting upon the box thinking about giants'
castles, and princesses tied up to pegs by the hair of their heads,
and dragons bursting out from behind gates, and other incidents of
the like nature, common in story-books to youths of low degree on
their first visit to strange houses, the door was gently opened,
and a little servant-girl, very tidy, modest, and demure, but very
pretty too, appeared. 'I suppose you're Christopher,sir,' said the
Kit got off the box, and said yes, he was.
'I'm afraid you've rung a good many times perhaps,' she rejoined,
'but we couldn't hear you, because we've been catching the pony.'
Kit rather wondered what this meant, but as he couldn't stop there,
asking questions, he shouldered the box again and followed the girl
into the hall, where through a back-door he descried Mr Garland
leading Whisker in triumph up the garden, after that self-willed
pony had (as he afterwards learned) dodged the family round a small
paddock in the rear, for one hour and three quarters.
The old gentleman received him very kindly and so did the old lady,
whose previous good opinion of him was greatly enhanced by his
wiping his boots on the mat until the soles of his feet burnt
again. He was then taken into the parlour to be inspected in his
new clothes; and when he had been surveyed several times, and had
afforded by his appearance unlimited satisfaction, he was taken
into the stable (where the pony received him with uncommon
complaisance); and thence into the little chamber he had already
observed, which was very clean and comfortable: and thence into the
garden, in which the old gentleman told him he would be taught to
employ himself, and where he told him, besides, what great things
he meant to do to make him comfortable, and happy, if he found he
deserved it. All these kindnesses, Kit acknowledged with various
expressions of gratitude, and so many touches of the new hat, that
the brim suffered considerably. When the old gentleman had said all
he had to say in the way of promise and advice, and Kit had said
all he had to say in the way of assurance and thankfulness, he was
handed over again to the old lady, who, summoning the little
servant-girl (whose name was Barbara) instructed her to take him
down stairs and give him something to eat and drink, after his
Down stairs, therefore, Kit went; and at the bottom of the stairs
there was such a kitchen as was never before seen or heard of out
of a toy-shop window, with everything in it as bright and glowing,
and as precisely ordered too, as Barbara herself. And in this
kitchen, Kit sat himself down at a table as white as a tablecloth,
to eat cold meat, and drink small ale, and use his knife and fork
the more awkwardly, because there was an unknown Barbara looking on
and observing him.
It did not appear, however, that there was anything remarkably
tremendous about this strange Barbara, who having lived a very
quiet life, blushed very much and was quite as embarrassed and
uncertain what she ought to say or do, as Kit could possibly be.
When he had sat for some little time, attentive to the ticking of
the sober clock, he ventured to glance curiously at the dresser,
and there, among the plates and dishes, were Barbara's little
work-box with a sliding lid to shut in the balls of cotton, and
Barbara's prayer-book, and Barbara's hymn-book, and Barbara's
Bible. Barbara's little looking-glass hung in a good light near the
window, and Barbara's bonnet was on a nail behind the door. From
all these mute signs and tokens of her presence, he
naturally glanced at Barbara herself, who sat as mute as they,
shelling peas into a dish; and just when Kit was looking at her
eyelashes and wondering--quite in the simplicity of his heart--
what colour her eyes might be, it perversely happened that Barbara
raised her head a little to look at him, when both pair
of eyes were hastily withdrawn, and Kit leant over his plate, and
Barbara over her pea-shells, each in extreme confusion at having
been detected by the other.
Mr Richard Swiveller wending homeward from the Wilderness (for such
was the appropriate name of Quilp's choice retreat), after a
sinuous and corkscrew fashion, with many checks and stumbles; after
stopping suddenly and staring about him, then as suddenly running
forward for a few paces, and as suddenly halting again and shaking
his head; doing everything with a jerk and nothing by
premeditation;--Mr Richard Swiveller wending his way homeward
after this fashion, which is considered by evil-minded men to be
symbolical of intoxication, and is not held by such persons to
denote that state of deep wisdom and reflection in which the actor
knows himself to be, began to think that possibly he had misplaced
his confidence and that the dwarf might not be precisely the sort
of person to whom to entrust a secret of such delicacy and
importance. And being led and tempted on by this remorseful thought
into a condition which the evil-minded class before referred to
would term the maudlin state or stage of drunkenness, it occurred
to Mr Swiveller to cast his hat upon the ground, and moan, crying
aloud that he was an unhappy orphan, and that if he had not been an
unhappy orphan things had never come to this.
'Left an infant by my parents, at an early age,' said Mr Swiveller,
bewailing his hard lot, 'cast upon the world in my tenderest
period, and thrown upon the mercies of a deluding dwarf, who can
wonder at my weakness! Here's a miserable orphan for you. Here,'
said Mr Swiveller raising his voice to a high pitch, and looking
sleepily round, 'is a miserable orphan!'
'Then,' said somebody hard by, 'let me be a father to you.'
Mr Swiveller swayed himself to and fro to preserve his balance,
and, looking into a kind of haze which seemed to surround him, at
last perceived two eyes dimly twinkling through the mist, which he
observed after a short time were in the neighbourhood of a nose and
mouth. Casting his eyes down towards that quarter in which, with
reference to a man's face, his legs are usually to be found, he
observed that the face had a body attached; and when he looked more
intently he was satisfied that the person was Mr Quilp, who indeed
had been in his company all the time, but whom he had some vague
idea of having left a mile or two behind.
'You have deceived an orphan, Sir,' said Mr Swiveller solemnly.'
'I! I'm a second father to you,' replied Quilp.
'You my father, Sir!' retorted Dick. 'Being all right myself, Sir,
I request to be left alone--instantly, Sir.'
'What a funny fellow you are!' cried Quilp.
'Go, Sir,' returned Dick, leaning against a post and waving his
hand. 'Go, deceiver, go, some day, Sir, p'r'aps you'll waken, from
pleasure's dream to know, the grief of orphans forsaken. Will you
The dwarf taking no heed of this adjuration, Mr Swiveller advanced
with the view of inflicting upon him condign chastisement. But
forgetting his purpose or changing his mind before he came close to
him, he seized his hand and vowed eternal friendship, declaring
with an agreeable frankness that from that time forth they were
brothers in everything but personal appearance. Then he told his
secret over again, with the addition of being pathetic on the
subject of Miss Wackles, who, he gave Mr Quilp to understand, was
the occasion of any slight incoherency he might observe in his
speech at that moment, which was attributable solely to the
strength of his affection and not to rosy wine or other fermented
liquor. And then they went on arm-in-arm, very lovingly together.
'I'm as sharp,' said Quilp to him, at parting, 'as sharp as a
ferret, and as cunning as a weazel. You bring Trent to me; assure
him that I'm his friend though i fear he a little distrusts me (I
don't know why, I have not deserved it); and you've both of you
made your fortunes--in perspective.'
'That's the worst of it,' returned Dick. 'These fortunes in
perspective look such a long way off.'
'But they look smaller than they really are, on that account,' said
Quilp, pressing his arm. 'You'll have no conception of the value of
your prize until you draw close to it. Mark that.'
'D'ye think not?' said Dick.
'Aye, I do; and I am certain of what I say, that's better,'
returned the dwarf. 'You bring Trent to me. Tell him I am his
friend and yours--why shouldn't I be?'
'There's no reason why you shouldn't, certainly,' replied Dick,
'and perhaps there are a great many why you should--at least there
would be nothing strange in your wanting to be my friend, if you
were a choice spirit, but then you know you're not a choice
'I not a choice spirit?' cried Quilp.
'Devil a bit,sir,' returned Dick. 'A man of your appearance
couldn't be. If you're any spirit at all,sir, you're an evil
spirit. Choice spirits,' added Dick, smiting himself on the breast,
'are quite a different looking sort of people, you may take your
oath of that,sir.'
Quilp glanced at his free-spoken friend with a mingled expression
of cunning and dislike, and wringing his hand almost at the same
moment, declared that he was an uncommon character and had his
warmest esteem. With that they parted; Mr Swiveller to make the
best of his way home and sleep himself sober; and Quilp to cogitate
upon the discovery he had made, and exult in the prospect of the
rich field of enjoyment and reprisal it opened to him.
It was not without great reluctance and misgiving that Mr
Swiveller, next morning, his head racked by the fumes of the
renowned Schiedam, repaired to the lodging of his friend Trent
(which was in the roof of an old house in an old ghostly inn), and
recounted by very slow degrees what had yesterday taken place
between him and Quilp. Nor was it without great surprise and much
speculation on Quilp's probable motives, nor without many bitter
comments on Dick Swiveller's folly, that his friend received the
'I don't defend myself, Fred,' said the penitent Richard; 'but the
fellow has such a queer way with him and is such an artful dog,
that first of all he set me upon thinking whether there was any
harm in telling him, and while I was thinking, screwed it out of
me. If you had seen him drink and smoke, as I did, you couldn't
have kept anything from him. He's a Salamander you know, that's
what he is.'
Without inquiring whether Salamanders were of necessity good
confidential agents, or whether a fire-proof man was as a matter of
course trustworthy, Frederick Trent threw himself into a chair,
and, burying his head in his hands, endeavoured to fathom the
motives which had led Quilp to insinuate himself into Richard
Swiveller's confidence;--for that the disclosure was of his
seeking, and had not been spontaneously revealed by Dick, was
sufficiently plain from Quilp's seeking his company and enticing
The dwarf had twice encountered him when he was endeavouring to
obtain intelligence of the fugitives. This, perhaps, as he had not
shown any previous anxiety about them, was enough to awaken
suspicion in the breast of a creature so jealous and distrustful by
nature, setting aside any additional impulse to curiosity that he
might have derived from Dick's incautious manner. But knowing the
scheme they had planned, why should he offer to assist it? This was
a question more difficult of solution; but as knaves generally
overreach themselves by imputing their own designs to others, the
idea immediately presented itself that some circumstances of
irritation between Quilp and the old man, arising out of their
secret transactions and not unconnected perhaps with his sudden
disappearance, now rendered the former desirous of revenging
himself upon him by seeking to entrap the sole object of his love
and anxiety into a connexion of which he knew he had a dread and
hatred. As Frederick Trent himself, utterly regardless of his
sister, had this object at heart, only second to the hope of gain,
it seemed to him the more likely to be Quilp's main principle of
action. Once investing the dwarf with a design of his own in
abetting them, which the attainment of their purpose would serve,
it was easy to believe him sincere and hearty in the cause; and as
there could be no doubt of his proving a powerful and useful
auxiliary, Trent determined to accept his invitation and go to his
house that night, and if what he said and did confirmed him in the
impression he had formed, to let him share the labour of their
plan, but not the profit.
Having revolved these things in his mind and arrived at this
conclusion, he communicated to Mr Swiveller as much of his
meditations as he thought proper (Dick would have been perfectly
satisfied with less), and giving him the day to recover himself
from his late salamandering, accompanied him at evening to Mr
Mighty glad Mr Quilp was to see them, or mightily glad he seemed to
be; and fearfully polite Mr Quilp was to Mrs Quilp and Mrs jiniwin;
and very sharp was the look he cast on his wife to observe how she
was affected by the recognition of young Trent. Mrs Quilp was as
innocent as her own mother of any emotion, painful or pleasant,
which the sight of him awakened, but as her husband's glance made
her timid and confused, and uncertain what to do or what was
required of her, Mr Quilp did not fail to assign her embarrassment
to the cause he had in his mind, and while he chuckled at his
penetration was secretly exasperated by his jealousy.
Nothing of this appeared, however. On the contrary, Mr Quilp was
all blandness and suavity, and presided over the case-bottle of rum
with extraordinary open-heartedness.
'Why, let me see,' said Quilp. 'It must be a matter of nearly two
years since we were first acquainted.'
'Nearer three, I think,' said Trent.
'Nearer three!' cried Quilp. 'How fast time flies. Does it seem as
long as that to you, Mrs Quilp?'
'Yes, I think it seems full three years, Quilp,' was the
'Oh indeed, ma'am,' thought Quilp, 'you have been pining, have you?
Very good, ma'am.'
'It seems to me but yesterday that you went out to Demerara in the
Mary Anne,' said Quilp; 'but yesterday, I declare. Well, I like a
little wildness. I was wild myself once.'
Mr Quilp accompanied this admission with such an awful wink,
indicative of old rovings and backslidings, that Mrs Jiniwin was
indignant, and could not forbear from remarking under her breath
that he might at least put off his confessions until his wife was
absent; for which act of boldness and insubordination Mr Quilp
first stared her out of countenance and then drank her health
'I thought you'd come back directly, Fred. I always thought that,'
said Quilp setting down his glass. 'And when the Mary Anne returned
with you on board, instead of a letter to say what a contrite heart
you had, and how happy you were in the situation that had been
provided for you, I was amused--exceedingly amused. Ha ha ha!'
The young man smiled, but not as though the theme was the most
agreeable one that could have been selected for his entertainment;
and for that reason Quilp pursued it.
'I always will say,' he resumed, 'that when a rich relation having
two young people--sisters or brothers, or brother and sister--
dependent on him, attaches himself exclusively to one, and casts
off the other, he does wrong.'
The young man made a movement of impatience, but Quilp went on as
calmly as if he were discussing some abstract question in which
nobody present had the slightest personal interest.
'It's very true,' said Quilp, 'that your grandfather urged repeated
forgiveness, ingratitude, riot, and extravagance, and all that; but
as I told him "these are common faults." "But he's a scoundrel,"
said he. "Granting that," said I (for the sake of argument of
course), "a great many young noblemen and gentlemen are scoundrels
too!" But he wouldn't be convinced.'
'I wonder at that, Mr Quilp,' said the young man sarcastically.
'Well, so did I at the time,' returned Quilp, 'but he was always
obstinate. He was in a manner a friend of mine, but he was always
obstinate and wrong-headed. Little Nell is a nice girl, a charming
girl, but you're her brother, Frederick. You're her brother after
all; as you told him the last time you met, he can't alter that.'
'He would if he could, confound him for that and all other
kindnesses,' said the young man impatiently. 'But nothing can come
of this subject now, and let us have done with it in the Devil's
'Agreed,' returned Quilp, 'agreed on my part readily. Why have I
alluded to it? Just to show you, Frederick, that I have always
stood your friend. You little knew who was your friend, and who
your foe; now did you? You thought I was against you, and so there
has been a coolness between us; but it was all on your side,
entirely on your side. Let's shake hands again, Fred.'
With his head sunk down between his shoulders, and a hideous grin
over-spreading his face, the dwarf stood up and stretched his short
arm across the table. After a moment's hesitation, the young man
stretched out his to meet it; Quilp clutched his fingers in a grip
that for the moment stopped the current of the blood within them,
and pressing his other hand upon his lip and frowning towards the
unsuspicious Richard, released them and sat down.
This action was not lost upon Trent, who, knowing that Richard
Swiveller was a mere tool in his hands and knew no more of his
designs than he thought proper to communicate, saw that the dwarf
perfectly understood their relative position, and fully entered
into the character of his friend. It is something to be
appreciated, even in knavery. This silent homage to his superior
abilities, no less than a sense of the power with which the dwarf's
quick perception had already invested him, inclined the young man
towards that ugly worthy, and determined him to profit by his aid.
It being now Mr Quilp's cue to change the subject with all
convenient expedition, lest Richard Swiveller in his heedlessness
should reveal anything which it was inexpedient for the women to
know, he proposed a game at four-handed cribbage, and partners
being cut for, Mrs Quilp fell to Frederick Trent, and Dick himself
to Quilp. Mrs Jiniwin being very fond of cards was carefully
excluded by her son-in-law from any participation in the game, and
had assigned to her the duty of occasionally replenishing the
glasses from the case-bottle; Mr Quilp from that moment keeping one
eye constantly upon her, lest she should by any means procure a
taste of the same, and thereby tantalising the wretched old lady
(who was as much attached to the case-bottle as the cards) in a
double degree and most ingenious manner.
But it was not to Mrs Jiniwin alone that Mr Quilp's attention was
restricted, as several other matters required his constant
vigilance. Among his various eccentric habits he had a humorous one
of always cheating at cards, which rendered necessary on his part,
not only a close observance of the game, and a sleight-of-hand in
counting and scoring, but also involved the constant correction, by
looks, and frowns, and kicks under the table, of Richard Swiveller,
who being bewildered by the rapidity with which his cards were
told, and the rate at which the pegs travelled down the board,
could not be prevented from sometimes expressing his surprise and
incredulity. Mrs Quilp too was the partner of young Trent, and for
every look that passed between them, and every word they spoke, and
every card they played, the dwarf had eyes and ears; not occupied
alone with what was passing above the table, but with signals that
might be exchanging beneath it, which he laid all kinds of traps to
detect; besides often treading on his wife's toes to see whether
she cried out or remained silent under the infliction, in which
latter case it would have been quite clear that Trent had been
treading on her toes before. Yet, in the most of all these
distractions, the one eye was upon the old lady always, and if she
so much as stealthily advanced a tea-spoon towards a neighbouring
glass (which she often did), for the purpose of abstracting but one
sup of its sweet contents, Quilp's hand would overset it in the
very moment of her triumph, and Quilp's mocking voice implore her
to regard her precious health. And in any one of these his many
cares, from first to last, Quilp never flagged nor faltered.
At length, when they had played a great many rubbers and drawn
pretty freely upon the case-bottle, Mr Quilp warned his lady to
retire to rest, and that submissive wife complying, and being
followed by her indignant mother, Mr Swiveller fell asleep. The
dwarf beckoning his remaining companion to the other end of the
room, held a short conference with him in whispers.
'It's as well not to say more than one can help before our worthy
friend,' said Quilp, making a grimace towards the slumbering Dick.
'Is it a bargain between us, Fred? Shall he marry little rosy Nell
'You have some end of your own to answer, of course,' returned the
'Of course I have, dear Fred,' said Quilp, grinning to think how
little he suspected what the real end was. 'It's retaliation
perhaps; perhaps whim. I have influence, Fred, to help or oppose.
Which way shall I use it? There are a pair of scales, and it goes
'Throw it into mine then,' said Trent.
'It's done, Fred,' rejoined Quilp, stretching out his clenched hand
and opening it as if he had let some weight fall out. 'It's in the
scale from this time, and turns it, Fred. Mind that.'
'Where have they gone?' asked Trent.
Quilp shook his head, and said that point remained to be
discovered, which it might be, easily. When it was, they would
begin their preliminary advances. He would visit the old man, or
even Richard Swiveller might visit him, and by affecting a deep
concern in his behalf, and imploring him to settle in some worthy
home, lead to the child's remembering him with gratitude and
favour. Once impressed to this extent, it would be easy, he said,
to win her in a year or two, for she supposed the old man to be
poor, as it was a part of his jealous policy (in common with many
other misers) to feign to be so, to those about him.
'He has feigned it often enough to me, of late,' said Trent.
'Oh! and to me too!' replied the dwarf. 'Which is more
extraordinary, as I know how rich he really is.'
'I suppose you should,' said Trent.
'I think I should indeed,' rejoined the dwarf; and in that, at
least, he spoke the truth.
After a few more whispered words, they returned to the table, and
the young man rousing Richard Swiveller informed him that he was
waiting to depart. This was welcome news to Dick, who started up
directly. After a few words of confidence in the result of their
project had been exchanged, they bade the grinning Quilp good
Quilp crept to the window as they passed in the street below, and
listened. Trent was pronouncing an encomium upon his wife, and they
were both wondering by what enchantment she had been brought to
marry such a misshapen wretch as he. The dwarf after watching their
retreating shadows with a wider grin than his face had yet
displayed, stole softly in the dark to bed.
In this hatching of their scheme, neither Trent nor Quilp had had
one thought about the happiness or misery of poor innocent Nell. It
would have been strange if the careless profligate, who was the
butt of both, had been harassed by any such consideration; for his
high opinion of his own merits and deserts rendered the project
rather a laudable one than otherwise; and if he had been visited by
so unwonted a guest as reflection, he would--being a brute only in
the gratification of his appetites--have soothed his conscience
with the plea that he did not mean to beat or kill his wife, and
would therefore, after all said and done, be a very tolerable,
It was not until they were quite exhausted and could no longer
maintain the pace at which they had fled from the race-ground, that
the old man and the child ventured to stop, and sit down to rest
upon the borders of a little wood. Here, though the course was
hidden from their view, they could yet faintly distinguish the
noise of distant shouts, the hum of voices, and the beating of
drums. Climbing the eminence which lay between them and the spot
they had left, the child could even discern the fluttering flags
and white tops of booths; but no person was approaching towards
them, and their resting-place was solitary and still.
Some time elapsed before she could reassure her trembling
companion, or restore him to a state of moderate tranquillity. His
disordered imagination represented to him a crowd of persons
stealing towards them beneath the cover of the bushes, lurking in
every ditch, and peeping from the boughs of every rustling tree. He
was haunted by apprehensions of being led captive to some gloomy
place where he would be chained and scourged, and worse than all,
where Nell could never come to see him, save through iron bars and
gratings in the wall. His terrors affected the child. Separation
from her grandfather was the greatest evil she could dread; and
feeling for the time as though, go where they would, they were to
be hunted down, and could never be safe but in hiding, her heart
failed her, and her courage drooped.
In one so young, and so unused to the scenes in which she had
lately moved, this sinking of the spirit was not surprising. But,
Nature often enshrines gallant and noble hearts in weak bosoms--
oftenest, God bless her, in female breasts--and when the child,
casting her tearful eyes upon the old man, remembered how weak he
was, and how destitute and helpless he would be if she failed him,
her heart swelled within her, and animated her with new strength
'We are quite safe now, and have nothing to fear indeed, dear
grandfather,' she said.
'Nothing to fear!' returned the old man. 'Nothing to fear if they
took me from thee! Nothing to fear if they parted us! Nobody is
true to me. No, not one. Not even Nell!'
'Oh! do not say that,' replied the child, 'for if ever anybody was
true at heart, and earnest, I am. I am sure you know I am.'
'Then how,' said the old man, looking fearfully round, 'how can you
bear to think that we are safe, when they are searching for me
everywhere, and may come here, and steal upon us, even while we're
'Because I'm sure we have not been followed,' said the child.
'Judge for yourself, dear grandfather: look round, and see how
quiet and still it is. We are alone together, and may ramble where
we like. Not safe! Could I feel easy--did I feel at ease--when
any danger threatened you?'
'True, too,' he answered, pressing her hand, but still looking
anxiously about. 'What noise was that?'
'A bird,' said the child, 'flying into the wood, and leading the
way for us to follow.' You remember that we said we would walk in
woods and fields, and by the side of rivers, and how happy we would
be--you remember that? But here, while the sun shines above our
heads, and everything is bright and happy, we are sitting sadly
down, and losing time. See what a pleasant path; and there's the
bird--the same bird--now he flies to another tree, and stays to
When they rose up from the ground, and took the shady track which
led them through the wood, she bounded on before, printing her tiny
footsteps in the moss, which rose elastic from so light a pressure
and gave it back as mirrors throw off breath; and thus she lured
the old man on, with many a backward look and merry beck, now
pointing stealthily to some lone bird as it perched and twittered
on a branch that strayed across their path, now stopping to listen
to the songs that broke the happy silence, or watch the sun as it
trembled through the leaves, and stealing in among the ivied trunks
of stout old trees, opened long paths of light. As they passed
onward, parting the boughs that clustered in their way, the
serenity which the child had first assumed, stole into her breast
in earnest; the old man cast no longer fearful looks behind, but
felt at ease and cheerful, for the further they passed into the
deep green shade, the more they felt that the tranquil mind of God
was there, and shed its peace on them.
At length the path becoming clearer and less intricate, brought
them to the end of the wood, and into a public road. Taking their
way along it for a short distance, they came to a lane, so shaded
by the trees on either hand that they met together over-head, and
arched the narrow way. A broken finger-post announced that this led
to a village three miles off; and thither they resolved to bend
The miles appeared so long that they sometimes thought they must
have missed their road. But at last, to their great joy, it led
downwards in a steep descent, with overhanging banks over which the
footpaths led; and the clustered houses of the village peeped from
the woody hollow below.
It was a very small place. The men and boys were playing at cricket
on the green; and as the other folks were looking on, they wandered
up and down, uncertain where to seek a humble lodging. There was
but one old man in the little garden before his cottage, and him
they were timid of approaching, for he was the schoolmaster, and
had 'School' written up over his window in black letters on a white
board. He was a pale, simple-looking man, of a spare and meagre
habit, and sat among his flowers and beehives, smoking his pipe, in
the little porch before his door.
'Speak to him, dear,' the old man whispered.
'I am almost afraid to disturb him,' said the child timidly. 'He
does not seem to see us. Perhaps if we wait a little, he may look
They waited, but the schoolmaster cast no look towards them, and
still sat, thoughtful and silent, in the little porch. He had a
kind face. In his plain old suit of black, he looked pale and
meagre. They fancied, too, a lonely air about him and his house,
but perhaps that was because the other people formed a merry
company upon the green, and he seemed the only solitary man in all
They were very tired, and the child would have been bold enough to
address even a schoolmaster, but for something in his manner which
seemed to denote that he was uneasy or distressed. As they stood
hesitating at a little distance, they saw that he sat for a few
minutes at a time like one in a brown study, then laid aside his
pipe and took a few turns in his garden, then approached the gate
and looked towards the green, then took up his pipe again with a
sigh, and sat down thoughtfully as before.
As nobody else appeared and it would soon be dark, Nell at length
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