Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

Part 10 out of 13

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

'Yes,'the child rejoined.

'Of something that has made you sorrowful?'

There was a long pause.

'What was it?' said the schoolmaster, tenderly. 'Come. Tell me
what it was.'

'I rather grieve--I do rather grieve to think,' said the child,
bursting into tears, 'that those who die about us, are so soon
forgotten.'

'And do you think,' said the schoolmaster, marking the glance she
had thrown around, 'that an unvisited grave, a withered tree, a
faded flower or two, are tokens of forgetfulness or cold neglect?
Do you think there are no deeds, far away from here, in which these
dead may be best remembered? Nell, Nell, there may be people busy
in the world, at this instant, in whose good actions and good
thoughts these very graves--neglected as they look to us--are the
chief instruments.'

'Tell me no more,' said the child quickly. 'Tell me no more. I
feel, I know it. How could I be unmindful of it, when I thought of
you?'

'There is nothing,' cried her friend, 'no, nothing innocent or
good, that dies, and is forgotten. Let us hold to that faith, or
none. An infant, a prattling child, dying in its cradle, will live
again in the better thoughts of those who loved it, and will play
its part, through them, in the redeeming actions of the world,
though its body be burnt to ashes or drowned in the deepest sea.
There is not an angel added to the Host of Heaven but does its
blessed work on earth in those that loved it here. Forgotten! oh,
if the good deeds of human creatures could be traced to their
source, how beautiful would even death appear; for how much
charity, mercy, and purified affection, would be seen to have their
growth in dusty graves!'

'Yes,' said the child, 'it is the truth; I know it is. Who should
feel its force so much as I, in whom your little scholar lives
again! Dear, dear, good friend, if you knew the comfort you have
given me!'

The poor schoolmaster made her no answer, but bent over her in
silence; for his heart was full.

They were yet seated in the same place, when the grandfather
approached. Before they had spoken many words together, the church
clock struck the hour of school, and their friend withdrew.

'A good man,' said the grandfather, looking after him; 'a kind man.
Surely he will never harm us, Nell. We are safe here, at last, eh?
We will never go away from here?'

The child shook her head and smiled.

'She needs rest,' said the old man, patting her cheek; 'too pale--
too pale. She is not like what she was.'

When?' asked the child.

'Ha!' said the old man, 'to be sure--when? How many weeks ago?
Could I count them on my fingers? Let them rest though; they're
better gone.'
'Much better, dear,' replied the child. 'We will forget them; or,
if we ever call them to mind, it shall be only as some uneasy dream
that has passed away.'

'Hush!' said the old man, motioning hastily to her with his hand
and looking over his shoulder; 'no more talk of the dream, and all
the miseries it brought. There are no dreams here. 'Tis a quiet
place, and they keep away. Let us never think about them, lest
they should pursue us again. Sunken eyes and hollow cheeks--wet,
cold, and famine--and horrors before them all, that were even
worse--we must forget such things if we would be tranquil here.'

'Thank Heaven!' inwardly exclaimed the child, 'for this most happy
change!'

'I will be patient,' said the old man, 'humble, very thankful, and
obedient, if you will let me stay. But do not hide from me; do not
steal away alone; let me keep beside you. Indeed, I will be very
true and faithful, Nell.'

'I steal away alone! why that,' replied the child, with assumed
gaiety, 'would be a pleasant jest indeed. See here, dear
grandfather, we'll make this place our garden--why not! It is a
very good one--and to-morrow we'll begin, and work together, side
by side.'

'It is a brave thought!' cried her grandfather. 'Mind, darling--
we begin to-morrow!'

Who so delighted as the old man, when they next day began their
labour! Who so unconscious of all associations connected with the
spot, as he! They plucked the long grass and nettles from the
tombs, thinned the poor shrubs and roots, made the turf smooth, and
cleared it of the leaves and weeds. They were yet in the ardour of
their work, when the child, raising her head from the ground over
which she bent, observed that the bachelor was sitting on the stile
close by, watching them in silence.

'A kind office,' said the little gentleman, nodding to Nell as she
curtseyed to him. 'Have you done all that, this morning?'

'It is very little, sir,' returned the child, with downcast eyes,
'to what we mean to do.'

'Good work, good work,' said the bachelor. 'But do you only labour
at the graves of children, and young people?'

'We shall come to the others in good time, sir,' replied Nell,
turning her head aside, and speaking softly.

It was a slight incident, and might have been design or accident,
or the child's unconscious sympathy with youth. But it seemed to
strike upon her grandfather, though he had not noticed it before.
He looked in @ hurried manner at the graves, then anxiously at the
child, then pressed her to his side, and bade her stop to rest.
Something he had long forgotten, appeared to struggle faintly in
his mind. It did not pass away, as weightier things had done; but
came uppermost again, and yet again, and many times that day, and
often afterwards. Once, while they were yet at work, the child,
seeing that he often turned and looked uneasily at her, as though
he were trying to resolve some painful doubts or collect some
scattered thoughts, urged him to tell the reason. But he said it
was nothing--nothing--and, laying her head upon his arm, patted
her fair cheek with his hand, and muttered that she grew stronger
every day, and would be a woman, soon.

CHAPTER 55

From that time, there sprung up in the old man's mind, a solicitude
about the child which never slept or left him. There are chords in
the human heart--strange, varying strings--which are only struck
by accident; which will remain mute and senseless to appeals the
most passionate and earnest, and respond at last to the slightest
casual touch. In the most insensible or childish minds, there is
some train of reflection which art can seldom lead, or skill
assist, but which will reveal itself, as great truths have done, by
chance, and when the discoverer has the plainest end in view. From
that time, the old man never, for a moment, forgot the weakness and
devotion of the child; from the time of that slight incident, he
who had seen her toiling by his side through so much difficulty and
suffering, and had scarcely thought of her otherwise than as the
partner of miseries which he felt severely in his own person, and
deplored for his own sake at least as much as hers, awoke to a
sense of what he owed her, and what those miseries had made her.
Never, no, never once, in one unguarded moment from that time to
the end, did any care for himself, any thought of his own comfort,
any selfish consideration or regard distract his thoughts from the
gentle object of his love.

He would follow her up and down, waiting till she should tire and
lean upon his arm--he would sit opposite to her in the
chimney-corner, content to watch, and look, until she raised her
head and smiled upon him as of old--he would discharge by stealth,
those household duties which tasked her powers too heavily--he
would rise, in the cold dark nights, to listen to her breathing in
her sleep, and sometimes crouch for hours by her bedside only to
touch her hand. He who knows all, can only know what hopes, and
fears, and thoughts of deep affection, were in that one disordered
brain, and what a change had fallen on the poor old man.
Sometimes--weeks had crept on, then--the child, exhausted, though
with little fatigue, would pass whole evenings on a couch beside the
fire. At such times, the schoolmaster would bring in books, and
read to her aloud; and seldom an evening passed, but the bachelor
came in, and took his turn of reading. The old man sat and
listened--with little understanding for the words, but with his
eyes fixed upon the child--and if she smiled or brightened with
the story, he would say it was a good one, and conceive a fondness
for the very book. When, in their evening talk, the bachelor told
some tale that pleased her (as his tales were sure to do), the old
man would painfully try to store it in his mind; nay, when the
bachelor left them, he would sometimes slip out after him, and
humbly beg that he would tell him such a part again, that he might
learn to win a smile from Nell.

But these were rare occasions, happily; for the child yearned to be
out of doors, and walking in her solemn garden. Parties, too,
would come to see the church; and those who came, speaking to
others of the child, sent more; so even at that season of the year
they had visitors almost daily. The old man would follow them at
a little distance through the building, listening to the voice he
loved so well; and when the strangers left, and parted from Nell,
he would mingle with them to catch up fragments of their
conversation; or he would stand for the same purpose, with his grey
head uncovered, at the gate as they passed through.

They always praised the child, her sense and beauty, and he was
proud to hear them! But what was that, so often added, which wrung
his heart, and made him sob and weep alone, in some dull corner!
Alas! even careless strangers--they who had no feeling for her,
but the interest of the moment--they who would go away and forget
next week that such a being lived--even they saw it--even they
pitied her--even they bade him good day compassionately, and
whispered as they passed.

The people of the village, too, of whom there was not one but grew
to have a fondness for poor Nell; even among them, there was the
same feeling; a tenderness towards her--a compassionate regard for
her, increasing every day. The very schoolboys, light-hearted and
thoughtless as they were, even they cared for her. The roughest
among them was sorry if he missed her in the usual place upon his
way to school, and would turn out of the path to ask for her at the
latticed window. If she were sitting in the church, they perhaps
might peep in softly at the open door; but they never spoke to her,
unless she rose and went to speak to them. Some feeling was abroad
which raised the child above them all.

So, when Sunday came. They were all poor country people in the
church, for the castle in which the old family had lived, was an
empty ruin, and there were none but humble folks for seven miles
around. There, as elsewhere, they had an interest in Nell. They
would gather round her in the porch, before and after service;
young children would cluster at her skirts; and aged men and women
forsake their gossips, to give her kindly greeting. None of them,
young or old, thought of passing the child without a friendly
word. Many who came from three or four miles distant, brought her
little presents; the humblest and rudest had good wishes to bestow.

She had sought out the young children whom she first saw playing in
the churchyard. One of these--he who had spoken of his brother--
was her little favourite and friend, and often sat by her side in
the church, or climbed with her to the tower-top. It was his
delight to help her, or to fancy that he did so, and they soon
became close companions.

It happened, that, as she was reading in the old spot by herself
one day, this child came running in with his eyes full of tears,
and after holding her from him, and looking at her eagerly for a
moment, clasped his little arms passionately about her neck.

'What now?' said Nell, soothing him. 'What is the matter?'

'She is not one yet!' cried the boy, embracing her still more
closely. 'No, no. Not yet.'

She looked at him wonderingly, and putting his hair back from his
face, and kissing him, asked what he meant.

'You must not be one, dear Nell,' cried the boy. 'We can't see
them. They never come to play with us, or talk to us. Be what you
are. You are better so.'

'I do not understand you,' said the child. 'Tell me what you
mean.'

'Why, they say , replied the boy, looking up into her face, that
you will be an Angel, before the birds sing again. But you won't
be, will you? Don't leave us Nell, though the sky is bright. Do
not leave us!'

The child dropped her head, and put her hands before her face.

'She cannot bear the thought!' cried the boy, exulting through his
tears. 'You will not go. You know how sorry we should be. Dear
Nell, tell me that you'll stay amongst us. Oh! Pray, pray, tell
me that you will.'

The little creature folded his hands, and knelt down at her feet.

'Only look at me, Nell,' said the boy, 'and tell me that you'll
stop, and then I shall know that they are wrong, and will cry no
more. Won't you say yes, Nell?'

Still the drooping head and hidden face, and the child quite
silent--save for her sobs.

'After a time,' pursued the boy, trying to draw away her hand, the
kind angels will be glad to think that you are not among them, and
that you stayed here to be with us. Willy went away, to join them;
but if he had known how I should miss him in our little bed at
night, he never would have left me, I am sure.'

Yet the child could make him no answer, and sobbed as though her
heart were bursting.
'Why would you go, dear Nell? I know you would not be happy when
you heard that we were crying for your loss. They say that Willy
is in Heaven now, and that it's always summer there, and yet I'm
sure he grieves when I lie down upon his garden bed, and he cannot
turn to kiss me. But if you do go, Nell,' said the boy, caressing
her, and pressing his face to hers, 'be fond of him for my sake.
Tell him how I love him still, and how much I loved you; and when
I think that you two are together, and are happy, I'll try to bear
it, and never give you pain by doing wrong--indeed I never will!'

The child suffered him to move her hands, and put them round his
neck. There was a tearful silence, but it was not long before she
looked upon him with a smile, and promised him, in a very gentle,
quiet voice, that she would stay, and be his friend, as long as
Heaven would let her. He clapped his hands for joy, and thanked
her many times; and being charged to tell no person what had passed
between them, gave her an earnest promise that he never would.

Nor did he, so far as the child could learn; but was her quiet
companion in all her walks and musings, and never again adverted to
the theme, which he felt had given her pain, although he was
unconscious of its cause. Something of distrust lingered about him
still; for he would often come, even in the dark evenings, and call
in a timid voice outside the door to know if she were safe within;
and being answered yes, and bade to enter, would take his station
on a low stool at her feet, and sit there patiently until they came
to seek, and take him home. Sure as the morning came, it found him
lingering near the house to ask if she were well; and, morning,
noon, or night, go where she would, he would forsake his playmates
and his sports to bear her company.

'And a good little friend he is, too,' said the old sexton to her
once. 'When his elder brother died--elder seems a strange word,
for he was only seven years old--I remember this one took it
sorely to heart.'

The child thought of what the schoolmaster had told her, and felt
how its truth was shadowed out even in this infant.

'It has given him something of a quiet way, I think,' said the old
man, 'though for that he is merry enough at times. I'd wager now
that you and he have been listening by the old well.'

'Indeed we have not,' the child replied. 'I have been afraid to go
near it; for I am not often down in that part of the church, and do
not know the ground.'

'Come down with me,' said the old man. 'I have known it from a
boy. Come!'

They descended the narrow steps which led into the crypt, and
paused among the gloomy arches, in a dim and murky spot.

'This is the place,' said the old man. 'Give me your hand while
you throw back the cover, lest you should stumble and fall in. I
am too old--I mean rheumatic--to stoop, myself.'

'A black and dreadful place!' exclaimed the child.

'Look in,' said the old man, pointing downward with his finger.

The child complied, and gazed down into the pit.

'It looks like a grave itself,' said the old man.

'It does,' replied the child.

'I have often had the fancy,' said the sexton, 'that it might have
been dug at first to make the old place more gloomy, and the old
monks more religious. It's to be closed up, and built over.'

The child still stood, looking thoughtfully into the vault.

'We shall see,' said the sexton, 'on what gay heads other earth
will have closed, when the light is shut out from here. God knows!
They'll close it up, next spring.'

'The birds sing again in spring,' thought the child, as she leaned
at her casement window, and gazed at the declining sun. 'Spring!
a beautiful and happy time!'

CHAPTER 56

A day or two after the Quilp tea-party at the Wilderness, Mr
Swiveller walked into Sampson Brass's office at the usual hour, and
being alone in that Temple of Probity, placed his hat upon the
desk, and taking from his pocket a small parcel of black crape,
applied himself to folding and pinning the same upon it, after the
manner of a hatband. Having completed the construction of this
appendage, he surveyed his work with great complacency, and put his
hat on again--very much over one eye, to increase the mournfulness
of the effect. These arrangements perfected to his entire
satisfaction, he thrust his hands into his pockets, and walked up
and down the office with measured steps.

'It has always been the same with me,' said Mr Swiveller, 'always.
'Twas ever thus--from childhood's hour I've seen my fondest hopes
decay, I never loved a tree or flower but 'twas the first to fade
away; I never nursed a dear Gazelle, to glad me with its soft black
eye, but when it came to know me well, and love me, it was sure to
marry a market-gardener.'

Overpowered by these reflections, Mr Swiveller stopped short at the
clients' chair, and flung himself into its open arms.

'And this,' said Mr Swiveller, with a kind of bantering composure,
'is life, I believe. Oh, certainly. Why not! I'm quite
satisfied. I shall wear,' added Richard, taking off his hat again
and looking hard at it, as if he were only deterred by pecuniary
considerations from spurning it with his foot, 'I shall wear this
emblem of woman's perfidy, in remembrance of her with whom I shall
never again thread the windings of the mazy; whom I shall never
more pledge in the rosy; who, during the short remainder of my
existence, will murder the balmy. Ha, ha, ha!'

It may be necessary to observe, lest there should appear any
incongruity in the close of this soliloquy, that Mr Swiveller did
not wind up with a cheerful hilarious laugh, which would have been
undoubtedly at variance with his solemn reflections, but that,
being in a theatrical mood, he merely achieved that performance
which is designated in melodramas 'laughing like a fiend,'--for it
seems that your fiends always laugh in syllables, and always in
three syllables, never more nor less, which is a remarkable
property in such gentry, and one worthy of remembrance.

The baleful sounds had hardly died away, and Mr Swiveller was still
sitting in a very grim state in the clients' chair, when there came
a ring--or, if we may adapt the sound to his then humour, a knell
--at the office bell. Opening the door with all speed, he beheld
the expressive countenance of Mr Chuckster, between whom and
himself a fraternal greeting ensued.

'You're devilish early at this pestiferous old slaughter-house,'
said that gentleman, poising himself on one leg, and shaking the
other in an easy manner.

'Rather,' returned Dick.

'Rather!' retorted Mr Chuckster, with that air of graceful trifling
which so well became him. 'I should think so. Why, my good
feller, do you know what o'clock it is--half-past nine a.m. in
the morning?'

'Won't you come in?' said Dick. 'All alone. Swiveller solus.
"'Tis now the witching--'

'"Hour of night!"'

'"When churchyards yawn,"'

'"And graves give up their dead."'

At the end of this quotation in dialogue, each gentleman struck an
attitude, and immediately subsiding into prose walked into the
office. Such morsels of enthusiasm are common among the Glorious
Apollos, and were indeed the links that bound them together, and
raised them above the cold dull earth.

'Well, and how are you my buck?' said Mr Chuckster, taking a stool.
'I was forced to come into the City upon some little private
matters of my own, and couldn't pass the corner of the street
without looking in, but upon my soul I didn't expect to find you.
It is so everlastingly early.'

Mr Swiveller expressed his acknowledgments; and it appearing on
further conversation that he was in good health, and that Mr
Chuckster was in the like enviable condition, both gentlemen, in
compliance with a solemn custom of the ancient Brotherhood to which
they belonged, joined in a fragment of the popular duet of 'All's
Well,' with a long shake' at the end.

'And what's the news?' said Richard.

'The town's as flat, my dear feller,' replied Mr Chuckster, 'as the
surface of a Dutch oven. There's no news. By-the-bye, that lodger
of yours is a most extraordinary person. He quite eludes the most
vigorous comprehension, you know. Never was such a feller!'

'What has he been doing now?' said Dick.

'By Jove, Sir,' returned Mr Chuckster, taking out an oblong
snuff-box, the lid whereof was ornamented with a fox's head
curiously carved in brass, 'that man is an unfathomable. Sir, that
man has made friends with our articled clerk. There's no harm in
him, but he is so amazingly slow and soft. Now, if he wanted a
friend, why couldn't he have one that knew a thing or two, and
could do him some good by his manners and conversation. I have my
faults, sir,' said Mr Chuckster--

'No, no,' interposed Mr Swiveller.

'Oh yes I have, I have my faults, no man knows his faults better
than I know mine. But,' said Mr Chuckster, 'I'm not meek. My
worst enemies--every man has his enemies, Sir, and I have mine--
never accused me of being meek. And I tell you what, Sir, if I
hadn't more of these qualities that commonly endear man to man,
than our articled clerk has, I'd steal a Cheshire cheese, tie it
round my neck, and drown myself. I'd die degraded, as I had lived.
I would upon my honour.'

Mr Chuckster paused, rapped the fox's head exactly on the nose with
the knuckle of the fore-finger, took a pinch of snuff, and looked
steadily at Mr Swiveller, as much as to say that if he thought he
was going to sneeze, he would find himself mistaken.

'Not contented, Sir,' said Mr Chuckster, 'with making friends with
Abel, he has cultivated the acquaintance of his father and mother.
Since he came home from that wild-goose chase, he has been there--
actually been there. He patronises young Snobby besides; you'll
find, Sir, that he'll be constantly coming backwards and forwards
to this place: yet I don't suppose that beyond the common forms of
civility, he has ever exchanged half-a-dozen words with me. Now,
upon my soul, you know,' said Mr Chuckster, shaking his head
gravely, as men are wont to do when they consider things are going
a little too far, 'this is altogether such a low-minded affair,
that if I didn't feel for the governor, and know that he could
never get on without me, I should be obliged to cut the connection.
I should have no alternative.'

Mr Swiveller, who sat on another stool opposite to his friend,
stirred the fire in an excess of sympathy, but said nothing.

'As to young Snob, sir,' pursued Mr Chuckster with a prophetic
look, 'you'll find he'll turn out bad. In our profession we know
something of human nature, and take my word for it, that the feller
that came back to work out that shilling, will show himself one of
these days in his true colours. He's a low thief, sir. He must
be.'

Mr Chuckster being roused, would probably have pursued this subject
further, and in more emphatic language, but for a tap at the door,
which seeming to announce the arrival of somebody on business,
caused him to assume a greater appearance of meekness than was
perhaps quite consistent with his late declaration. Mr Swiveller,
hearing the same sound, caused his stool to revolve rapidly on one
leg until it brought him to his desk, into which, having forgotten
in the sudden flurry of his spirits to part with the poker, he
thrust it as he cried 'Come in!'

Who should present himself but that very Kit who had been the theme
of Mr Chuckster's wrath! Never did man pluck up his courage so
quickly, or look so fierce, as Mr Chuckster when he found it was
he. Mr Swiveller stared at him for a moment, and then leaping from
his stool, and drawing out the poker from its place of concealment,
performed the broad-sword exercise with all the cuts and guards
complete, in a species of frenzy.

'Is the gentleman at home?' said Kit, rather astonished by this
uncommon reception.

Before Mr Swiveller could make any reply, Mr Chuckster took
occasion to enter his indignant protest against this form of
inquiry; which he held to be of a disrespectful and snobbish
tendency, inasmuch as the inquirer, seeing two gentlemen then and
there present, should have spoken of the other gentleman; or rather
(for it was not impossible that the object of his search might be
of inferior quality) should have mentioned his name, leaving it to
his hearers to determine his degree as they thought proper. Mr
Chuckster likewise remarked, that he had some reason to believe
this form of address was personal to himself, and that he was not
a man to be trifled with--as certain snobs (whom he did not more
particularly mention or describe) might find to their cost.

'I mean the gentleman up-stairs,' said Kit, turning to Richard
Swiveller. 'Is he at home?'

'Why?' rejoined Dick.

'Because if he is, I have a letter for him.'

'From whom?' said Dick.

'From Mr Garland.'

'Oh!' said Dick, with extreme politeness. 'Then you may hand it
over, Sir. And if you're to wait for an answer, Sir, you may wait
in the passage, Sir, which is an airy and well-ventilated
apartment, sir.'

'Thank you,' returned Kit. 'But I am to give it to himself, if you
please.'

The excessive audacity of this retort so overpowered Mr Chuckster,
and so moved his tender regard for his friend's honour, that he
declared, if he were not restrained by official considerations, he
must certainly have annihilated Kit upon the spot; a resentment of
the affront which he did consider, under the extraordinary
circumstances of aggravation attending it, could but have met with
the proper sanction and approval of a jury of Englishmen, who, he
had no doubt, would have returned a verdict of justifiable
Homicide, coupled with a high testimony to the morals and character
of the Avenger. Mr Swiveller, without being quite so hot upon the
matter, was rather shamed by his friend's excitement, and not a
little puzzled how to act (Kit being quite cool and good-humoured),
when the single gentleman was heard to call violently down the
stairs.

'Didn't I see somebody for me, come in?' cried the lodger.

'Yes, Sir,' replied Dick. 'Certainly, Sir.'

'Then where is he?' roared the single gentleman.

'He's here, sir,' rejoined Mr Swiveller. 'Now young man, don't you
hear you're to go up-stairs? Are you deaf?'

Kit did not appear to think it worth his while to enter into any
altercation, but hurried off and left the Glorious Apollos gazing
at each other in silence.

'Didn't I tell you so?' said Mr Chuckster. 'What do you think of
that?'

Mr Swiveller being in the main a good-natured fellow, and not
perceiving in the conduct of Kit any villany of enormous magnitude,
scarcely knew what answer to return. He was relieved from his
perplexity, however, by the entrance of Mr Sampson and his sister,
Sally, at sight of whom Mr Chuckster precipitately retired.

Mr Brass and his lovely companion appeared to have been holding a
consultation over their temperate breakfast, upon some matter of
great interest and importance. On the occasion of such
conferences, they generally appeared in the office some half an
hour after their usual time, and in a very smiling state, as though
their late plots and designs had tranquillised their minds and shed
a light upon their toilsome way. In the present instance, they
seemed particularly gay; Miss Sally's aspect being of a most oily
kind, and Mr Brass rubbing his hands in an exceedingly jocose and
light-hearted manner. 'Well, Mr Richard,' said Brass. 'How are we
this morning? Are we pretty fresh and cheerful sir--eh, Mr
Richard?'

'Pretty well, sir,' replied Dick.

'That's well,' said Brass. 'Ha ha! We should be as gay as larks,
Mr Richard--why not? It's a pleasant world we live in sir, a very
pleasant world. There are bad people in it, Mr Richard, but if
there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers. Ha ha!
Any letters by the post this morning, Mr Richard?'

Mr Swiveller answered in the negative.

'Ha!' said Brass, 'no matter. If there's little business to-day,
there'll be more to-morrow. A contented spirit, Mr Richard, is the
sweetness of existence. Anybody been here, sir?'

'Only my friend'--replied Dick. '"May we ne'er want a--'

'Friend,' Brass chimed in quickly, 'or a bottle to give him.' Ha
ha! That's the way the song runs, isn't it? A very good song, Mr
Richard, very good. I like the sentiment of it. Ha ha! Your
friend's the young man from Witherden's office I think--yes--May
we ne'er want a-- Nobody else at all, been, Mr Richard?'

'Only somebody to the lodger,' replied Mr Swiveller.

'Oh indeed!' cried Brass. 'Somebody to the lodger eh? Ha ha! May
we ne'er want a friend, or a-- Somebody to the lodger, eh, Mr
Richard?'

'Yes,' said Dick, a little disconcerted by the excessive buoyancy
of spirits which his employer displayed. 'With him now.'

'With him now!' cried Brass; 'Ha ha! There let 'em be, merry and
free, toor rul rol le. Eh, Mr Richard? Ha ha!'

'Oh certainly,' replied Dick.

'And who,' said Brass, shuffling among his papers, 'who is the
lodger's visitor--not a lady visitor, I hope, eh, Mr Richard? The
morals of the Marks you know, sir--"when lovely women stoops to
folly"--and all that--eh, Mr Richard?'

'Another young man, who belongs to Witherden's too, or half belongs
there,' returned Richard. 'Kit, they call him.'

'Kit, eh!' said Brass. 'Strange name--name of a dancing- master's
fiddle, eh, Mr Richard? Ha ha! Kit's there, is he? Oh!'

Dick looked at Miss Sally, wondering that she didn't check this
uncommon exuberance on the part of Mr Sampson; but as she made no
attempt to do so, and rather appeared to exhibit a tacit
acquiescence in it, he concluded that they had just been cheating
somebody, and receiving the bill.

'Will you have the goodness, Mr Richard,' said Brass, taking a
letter from his desk, 'just to step over to Peckham Rye with that?
There's no answer, but it's rather particular and should go by
hand. Charge the office with your coach-hire back, you know; don't
spare the office; get as much out of it as you can--clerk's motto--
Eh, Mr Richard? Ha ha!'

Mr Swiveller solemnly doffed the aquatic jacket, put on his coat,
took down his hat from its peg, pocketed the letter, and departed.
As soon as he was gone, up rose Miss Sally Brass, and smiling
sweetly at her brother (who nodded and smote his nose in return)
withdrew also.

Sampson Brass was no sooner left alone, than he set the office-
door wide open, and establishing himself at his desk directly
opposite, so that he could not fail to see anybody who came
down-stairs and passed out at the street door, began to write with
extreme cheerfulness and assiduity; humming as he did so, in a
voice that was anything but musical, certain vocal snatches which
appeared to have reference to the union between Church and State,
inasmuch as they were compounded of the Evening Hymn and God save
the King.

Thus, the attorney of Bevis Marks sat, and wrote, and hummed, for
a long time, except when he stopped to listen with a very cunning
face, and hearing nothing, went on humming louder, and writing
slower than ever. At length, in one of these pauses, he heard his
lodger's door opened and shut, and footsteps coming down the
stairs. Then, Mr Brass left off writing entirely, and, with his
pen in his hand, hummed his very loudest; shaking his head
meanwhile from side to side, like a man whose whole soul was in the
music, and smiling in a manner quite seraphic.

It was towards this moving spectacle that the staircase and the
sweet sounds guided Kit; on whose arrival before his door, Mr Brass
stopped his singing, but not his smiling, and nodded affably: at
the same time beckoning to him with his pen.

'Kit,' said Mr Brass, in the pleasantest way imaginable, 'how do
you do?'

Kit, being rather shy of his friend, made a suitable reply, and had
his hand upon the lock of the street door when Mr Brass called him
softly back.

'You are not to go, if you please, Kit,' said the attorney in a
mysterious and yet business-like way. 'You are to step in here, if
you please. Dear me, dear me! When I look at you,' said the
lawyer, quitting his stool, and standing before the fire with his
back towards it, 'I am reminded of the sweetest little face that
ever my eyes beheld. I remember your coming there, twice or
thrice, when we were in possession. Ah Kit, my dear fellow,
gentleman in my profession have such painful duties to perform
sometimes, that you needn't envy us--you needn't indeed!'

'I don't, sir,' said Kit, 'though it isn't for the like of me to
judge.'

'Our only consolation, Kit,' pursued the lawyer, looking at him in
a sort of pensive abstraction, 'is, that although we cannot turn
away the wind, we can soften it; we can temper it, if I may say so,
to the shorn lambs.'

'Shorn indeed!' thought Kit. 'Pretty close!' But he didn't say SO.

'On that occasion, Kit,' said Mr Brass, 'on that occasion that I
have just alluded to, I had a hard battle with Mr Quilp (for Mr
Quilp is a very hard man) to obtain them the indulgence they had.
It might have cost me a client. But suffering virtue inspired me,
and I prevailed.'

'He's not so bad after all,' thought honest Kit, as the attorney
pursed up his lips and looked like a man who was struggling with
his better feelings.

'I respect you, Kit,' said Brass with emotion. 'I saw enough of
your conduct, at that time, to respect you, though your station is
humble, and your fortune lowly. It isn't the waistcoat that I look
at. It is the heart. The checks in the waistcoat are but the
wires of the cage. But the heart is the bird. Ah! How many sich
birds are perpetually moulting, and putting their beaks through the
wires to peck at all mankind!'

This poetic figure, which Kit took to be in a special allusion to
his own checked waistcoat, quite overcame him; Mr Brass's voice and
manner added not a little to its effect, for he discoursed with all
the mild austerity of a hermit, and wanted but a cord round the
waist of his rusty surtout, and a skull on the chimney-piece, to be
completely set up in that line of business.

'Well, well,' said Sampson, smiling as good men smile when they
compassionate their own weakness or that of their fellow-
creatures, 'this is wide of the bull's-eye. You're to take that,
if you please.' As he spoke, he pointed to a couple of half-crowns
on the desk.

Kit looked at the coins, and then at Sampson, and hesitated.

'For yourself,' said Brass.
'From--'

'No matter about the person they came from,' replied the lawyer.
'Say me, if you like. We have eccentric friends overhead, Kit, and
we mustn't ask questions or talk too much--you understand? You're
to take them, that's all; and between you and me, I don't think
they'll be the last you'll have to take from the same place. I
hope not. Good bye, Kit. Good bye!'

With many thanks, and many more self-reproaches for having on such
slight grounds suspected one who in their very first conversation
turned out such a different man from what he had supposed, Kit took
the money and made the best of his way home. Mr Brass remained
airing himself at the fire, and resumed his vocal exercise, and his
seraphic smile, simultaneously.

'May I come in?' said Miss Sally, peeping.

'Oh yes, you may come in,' returned her brother.

'Ahem!' coughed Miss Brass interrogatively.

'Why, yes,' returned Sampson, 'I should say as good as done.'

CHAPTER 57

Mr Chuckster's indignant apprehensions were not without foundation.
Certainly the friendship between the single gentleman and Mr
Garland was not suffered to cool, but had a rapid growth and
flourished exceedingly. They were soon in habits of constant
intercourse and communication; and the single gentleman labouring
at this time under a slight attack of illness--the consequence
most probably of his late excited feelings and subsequent
disappointment--furnished a reason for their holding yet more
frequent correspondence; so that some one of the inmates of Abel
Cottage, Finchley, came backwards and forwards between that place
and Bevis Marks, almost every day.

As the pony had now thrown off all disguise, and without any
mincing of the matter or beating about the bush, sturdily refused
to be driven by anybody but Kit, it generally happened that whether
old Mr Garland came, or Mr Abel, Kit was of the party. Of all
messages and inquiries, Kit was, in right of his position, the
bearer; thus it came about that, while the single gentleman
remained indisposed, Kit turned into Bevis Marks every morning with
nearly as much regularity as the General Postman.

Mr Sampson Brass, who no doubt had his reasons for looking sharply
about him, soon learnt to distinguish the pony's trot and the
clatter of the little chaise at the corner of the street. Whenever
the sound reached his ears, he would immediately lay down his pen
and fall to rubbing his hands and exhibiting the greatest glee.

'Ha ha!' he would cry. 'Here's the pony again! Most remarkable
pony, extremely docile, eh, Mr Richard, eh sir?'

Dick would return some matter-of-course reply, and Mr Brass
standing on the bottom rail of his stool, so as to get a view of
the street over the top of the window-blind, would take an
observation of the visitors.

'The old gentleman again!' he would exclaim, 'a very prepossessing
old gentleman, Mr Richard--charming countenance sir--extremely
calm--benevolence in every feature, sir. He quite realises my
idea of King Lear, as he appeared when in possession of his
kingdom, Mr Richard--the same good humour, the same white hair and
partial baldness, the same liability to be imposed upon. Ah! A
sweet subject for contemplation, sir, very sweet!'

Then Mr Garland having alighted and gone up-stairs, Sampson would
nod and smile to Kit from the window, and presently walk out into
the street to greet him, when some such conversation as the
following would ensue.

'Admirably groomed, Kit'--Mr Brass is patting the pony--'does you
great credit--amazingly sleek and bright to be sure. He literally
looks as if he had been varnished all over.'

Kit touches his hat, smiles, pats the pony himself, and expresses
his conviction, 'that Mr Brass will not find many like him.'

'A beautiful animal indeed!' cries Brass. 'Sagacious too?'

'Bless you!' replies Kit, 'he knows what you say to him as well as
a Christian does.'

'Does he indeed!' cries Brass, who has heard the same thing in the
same place from the same person in the same words a dozen times,
but is paralysed with astonishment notwithstanding. 'Dear me!'

'I little thought the first time I saw him, Sir,' says Kit, pleased
with the attorney's strong interest in his favourite, 'that I
should come to be as intimate with him as I am now.'

'Ah!' rejoins Mr Brass, brim-full of moral precepts and love of
virtue. 'A charming subject of reflection for you, very charming.
A subject of proper pride and congratulation, Christopher. Honesty
is the best policy. --I always find it so myself. I lost
forty-seven pound ten by being honest this morning. But it's all
gain, it's gain!'

Mr Brass slyly tickles his nose with his pen, and looks at Kit with
the water standing in his eyes. Kit thinks that if ever there was
a good man who belied his appearance, that man is Sampson Brass.

'A man,' says Sampson, 'who loses forty-seven pound ten in one
morning by his honesty, is a man to be envied. If it had been
eighty pound, the luxuriousness of feeling would have been
increased. Every pound lost, would have been a hundredweight of
happiness gained. The still small voice, Christopher,' cries
Brass, smiling, and tapping himself on the bosom, 'is a-singing
comic songs within me, and all is happiness and joy!'

Kit is so improved by the conversation, and finds it go so
completely home to his feelings, that he is considering what he
shall say, when Mr Garland appears. The old gentleman is helped
into the chaise with great obsequiousness by Mr Sampson Brass; and
the pony, after shaking his head several times, and standing for
three or four minutes with all his four legs planted firmly on the
ground, as if he had made up his mind never to stir from that spot,
but there to live and die, suddenly darts off, without the smallest
notice, at the rate of twelve English miles an hour. Then, Mr
Brass and his sister (who has joined him at the door) exchange an
odd kind of smile--not at all a pleasant one in its expression--
and return to the society of Mr Richard Swiveller, who, during
their absence, has been regaling himself with various feats of
pantomime, and is discovered at his desk, in a very flushed and
heated condition, violently scratching out nothing with half a
penknife.

Whenever Kit came alone, and without the chaise, it always happened
that Sampson Brass was reminded of some mission, calling Mr
Swiveller, if not to Peckham Rye again, at all events to some
pretty distant place from Which he could not be expected to return
for two or three hours, or in all probability a much longer period,
as that gentleman was not, to say the truth, renowned for using
great expedition on such occasions, but rather for protracting and
spinning out the time to the very utmost limit of possibility. Mr
Swiveller out of sight, Miss Sally immediately withdrew. Mr Brass
would then set the office-door wide open, hum his old tune with
great gaiety of heart, and smile seraphically as before. Kit
coming down-stairs would be called in; entertained with some moral
and agreeable conversation; perhaps entreated to mind the office
for an instant while Mr Brass stepped over the way; and afterwards
presented with one or two half-crowns as the case might be. This
occurred so often, that Kit, nothing doubting but that they came
from the single gentleman who had already rewarded his mother with
great liberality, could not enough admire his generosity; and
bought so many cheap presents for her, and for little Jacob, and
for the baby, and for Barbara to boot, that one or other of them
was having some new trifle every day of their lives.

While these acts and deeds were in progress in and out of the
office of Sampson Brass, Richard Swiveller, being often left alone
therein, began to find the time hang heavy on his hands. For the
better preservation of his cheerfulness therefore, and to prevent
his faculties from rusting, he provided himself with a
cribbage-board and pack of cards, and accustomed himself to play at
cribbage with a dummy, for twenty, thirty, or sometimes even fifty
thousand pounds aside, besides many hazardous bets to a
considerable amount.

As these games were very silently conducted, notwithstanding the
magnitude of the interests involved, Mr Swiveller began to think
that on those evenings when Mr and Miss Brass were out (and they
often went out now) he heard a kind of snorting or hard-breathing
sound in the direction of the door, which it occurred to him, after
some reflection, must proceed from the small servant, who always
had a cold from damp living. Looking intently that way one night,
he plainly distinguished an eye gleaming and glistening at the
keyhole; and having now no doubt that his suspicions were correct,
he stole softly to the door, and pounced upon her before she was
aware of his approach.

'Oh! I didn't mean any harm indeed, upon my word I didn't,' cried
the small servant, struggling like a much larger one. 'It's so
very dull, down-stairs, Please don't you tell upon me, please
don't.'

'Tell upon you!' said Dick. 'Do you mean to say you were looking
through the keyhole for company?'

'Yes, upon my word I was,' replied the small servant.

'How long have you been cooling your eye there?' said Dick.

'Oh ever since you first began to play them cards, and long
before.'

Vague recollections of several fantastic exercises with which he
had refreshed himself after the fatigues of business, and to all of
which, no doubt, the small servant was a party, rather disconcerted
Mr Swiveller; but he was not very sensitive on such points, and
recovered himself speedily.

'Well--come in'--he said, after a little consideration. 'Here--
sit down, and I'll teach you how to play.'

'Oh! I durstn't do it,' rejoined the small servant; 'Miss Sally 'ud
kill me, if she know'd I come up here.'

'Have you got a fire down-stairs?' said Dick.

'A very little one,' replied the small servant.

'Miss Sally couldn't kill me if she know'd I went down there, so
I'll come,' said Richard, putting the cards into his pocket. 'Why,
how thin you are! What do you mean by it?'

'It ain't my fault.'

'Could you eat any bread and meat?' said Dick, taking down his hat.
'Yes? Ah! I thought so. Did you ever taste beer?'
'I had a sip of it once,' said the small servant.

'Here's a state of things!' cried Mr Swiveller, raising his eyes to
the ceiling. 'She never tasted it--it can't be tasted in a sip!
Why, how old are you?'

'I don't know.'

Mr Swiveller opened his eyes very wide, and appeared thoughtful for
a moment; then, bidding the child mind the door until he came back,
vanished straightway.

Presently, he returned, followed by the boy from the public- house,
who bore in one hand a plate of bread and beef, and in the other a
great pot, filled with some very fragrant compound, which sent
forth a grateful steam, and was indeed choice purl, made after a
particular recipe which Mr Swiveller had imparted to the landlord,
at a period when he was deep in his books and desirous to
conciliate his friendship. Relieving the boy of his burden at the
door, and charging his little companion to fasten it to prevent
surprise, Mr Swiveller followed her into the kitchen.

'There!' said Richard, putting the plate before her. 'First of all
clear that off, and then you'll see what's next.'

The small servant needed no second bidding, and the plate was soon
empty.

'Next,' said Dick, handing the purl, 'take a pull at that; but
moderate your transports, you know, for you're not used to it.
Well, is it good?'

'Oh! isn't it?' said the small servant.

Mr Swiveller appeared gratified beyond all expression by this
reply, and took a long draught himself, steadfastly regarding his
companion while he did so. These preliminaries disposed of, he
applied himself to teaching her the game, which she soon learnt
tolerably well, being both sharp-witted and cunning.

'Now,' said Mr Swiveller, putting two sixpences into a saucer, and
trimming the wretched candle, when the cards had been cut and
dealt, 'those are the stakes. If you win, you get 'em all. If I
win, I get 'em. To make it seem more real and pleasant, I shall
call you the Marchioness, do you hear?'

The small servant nodded.

'Then, Marchioness,' said Mr Swiveller, 'fire away!'

The Marchioness, holding her cards very tight in both hands,
considered which to play, and Mr Swiveller, assuming the gay and
fashionable air which such society required, took another pull at
the tankard, and waited for her lead.

CHAPTER 58

Mr Swiveller and his partner played several rubbers with varying
success, until the loss of three sixpences, the gradual sinking of
the purl, and the striking of ten o'clock, combined to render that
gentleman mindful of the flight of Time, and the expediency of
withdrawing before Mr Sampson and Miss Sally Brass returned.

'With which object in view, Marchioness,' said Mr Swiveller
gravely, 'I shall ask your ladyship's permission to put the board
in my pocket, and to retire from the presence when I have finished
this tankard; merely observing, Marchioness, that since life like
a river is flowing, I care not how fast it rolls on, ma'am, on,
while such purl on the bank still is growing, and such eyes light
the waves as they run. Marchioness, your health. You will excuse
my wearing my hat, but the palace is damp, and the marble floor is
--if I may be allowed the expression--sloppy.'

As a precaution against this latter inconvenience, Mr Swiveller had
been sitting for some time with his feet on the hob, in which
attitude he now gave utterance to these apologetic observations,
and slowly sipped the last choice drops of nectar.

'The Baron Sampsono Brasso and his fair sister are (you tell me) at
the Play?' said Mr Swiveller, leaning his left arm heavily upon the
table, and raising his voice and his right leg after the manner of
a theatrical bandit.

The Marchioness nodded.

'Ha!' said Mr Swiveller, with a portentous frown. ''Tis well.
Marchioness!--but no matter. Some wine there. Ho!' He
illustrated these melodramatic morsels by handing the tankard to
himself with great humility, receiving it haughtily, drinking from
it thirstily, and smacking his lips fiercely.

The small servant, who was not so well acquainted with theatrical
conventionalities as Mr Swiveller (having indeed never seen a play,
or heard one spoken of, except by chance through chinks of doors
and in other forbidden places), was rather alarmed by
demonstrations so novel in their nature, and showed her concern so
plainly in her looks, that Mr Swiveller felt it necessary to
discharge his brigand manner for one more suitable to private life,
as he asked,

'Do they often go where glory waits 'em, and leave you here?'

'Oh, yes; I believe you they do,' returned the small servant.
'Miss Sally's such a one-er for that, she is.'

'Such a what?' said Dick.

'Such a one-er,' returned the Marchioness.

After a moment's reflection, Mr Swiveller determined to forego his
responsible duty of setting her right, and to suffer her to talk
on; as it was evident that her tongue was loosened by the purl, and
her opportunities for conversation were not so frequent as to
render a momentary check of little consequence.

'They sometimes go to see Mr Quilp,' said the small servant with a
shrewd look; 'they go to a many places, bless you!'

'Is Mr Brass a wunner?' said Dick.

'Not half what Miss Sally is, he isn't,' replied the small servant,
shaking her head. 'Bless you, he'd never do anything without her.'

'Oh! He wouldn't, wouldn't he?' said Dick.

'Miss Sally keeps him in such order,' said the small servant;
'he always asks her advice, he does; and he catches it
sometimes. Bless you, you wouldn't believe how much he catches
it.'

'I suppose,' said Dick, 'that they consult together, a good deal,
and talk about a great many people--about me for instance,
sometimes, eh, Marchioness?'

The Marchioness nodded amazingly.

'Complimentary?' said Mr Swiveller.

The Marchioness changed the motion of her head, which had not yet
left off nodding, and suddenly began to shake it from side to side,
with a vehemence which threatened to dislocate her neck.

'Humph!' Dick muttered. 'Would it be any breach of confidence,
Marchioness, to relate what they say of the humble individual who
has now the honour to--?'

'Miss Sally says you're a funny chap,' replied his friend.

'Well, Marchioness,' said Mr Swiveller, 'that's not
uncomplimentary. Merriment, Marchioness, is not a bad or a
degrading quality. Old King Cole was himself a merry old soul, if
we may put any faith in the pages of history.'

'But she says,' pursued his companion, 'that you an't to be
trusted.'

'Why, really Marchioness,' said Mr Swiveller, thoughtfully;
'several ladies and gentlemen--not exactly professional persons,
but tradespeople, ma'am, tradespeople--have made the same remark.
The obscure citizen who keeps the hotel over the way, inclined
strongly to that opinion to-night when I ordered him to prepare the
banquet. It's a popular prejudice, Marchioness; and yet I am sure
I don't know why, for I have been trusted in my time to a
considerable amount, and I can safely say that I never forsook my
trust until it deserted me--never. Mr Brass is of the same
opinion, I suppose?'

His friend nodded again, with a cunning look which seemed to hint
that Mr Brass held stronger opinions on the subject than his
sister; and seeming to recollect herself, added imploringly, 'But
don't you ever tell upon me, or I shall be beat to death.'

'Marchioness,' said Mr Swiveller, rising, 'the word of a gentleman
is as good as his bond--sometimes better, as in the present case,
where his bond might prove but a doubtful sort of security. I am
your friend, and I hope we shall play many more rubbers together in
this same saloon. But, Marchioness,' added Richard, stopping in
his way to the door, and wheeling slowly round upon the small
servant, who was following with the candle; 'it occurs to me that
you must be in the constant habit of airing your eye at keyholes,
to know all this.'

'I only wanted,' replied the trembling Marchioness, 'to know where
the key of the safe was hid; that was all; and I wouldn't have
taken much, if I had found it--only enough to squench my hunger.'

'You didn't find it then?' said Dick. 'But of course you didn't,
or you'd be plumper. Good night, Marchioness. Fare thee well, and
if for ever, then for ever fare thee well--and put up the chain,
Marchioness, in case of accidents.'

With this parting injunction, Mr Swiveller emerged from the house;
and feeling that he had by this time taken quite as much to drink
as promised to be good for his constitution (purl being a rather
strong and heady compound), wisely resolved to betake himself to
his lodgings, and to bed at once. Homeward he went therefore; and
his apartments (for he still retained the plural fiction) being at
no great distance from the office, he was soon seated in his own
bed-chamber, where, having pulled off one boot and forgotten the
other, he fell into deep cogitation.

'This Marchioness,' said Mr Swiveller, folding his arms, 'is a very
extraordinary person--surrounded by mysteries, ignorant of the
taste of beer, unacquainted with her own name (which is less
remarkable), and taking a limited view of society through the
keyholes of doors--can these things be her destiny, or has some
unknown person started an opposition to the decrees of fate? It is
a most inscrutable and unmitigated staggerer!'

When his meditations had attained this satisfactory point, he
became aware of his remaining boot, of which, with unimpaired
solemnity he proceeded to divest himself; shaking his head with
exceeding gravity all the time, and sighing deeply.

'These rubbers,' said Mr Swiveller, putting on his nightcap in
exactly the same style as he wore his hat, 'remind me of the
matrimonial fireside. Cheggs's wife plays cribbage; all-fours
likewise. She rings the changes on 'em now. From sport to sport
they hurry her to banish her regrets, and when they win a smile
from her, they think that she forgets--but she don't. By this
time, I should say,' added Richard, getting his left cheek into
profile, and looking complacently at the reflection of a very
little scrap of whisker in the looking-glass; 'by this time, I
should say, the iron has entered into her soul. It serves her
right!'

Melting from this stern and obdurate, into the tender and pathetic
mood, Mr Swiveller groaned a little, walked wildly up and down, and
even made a show of tearing his hair, which, however, he thought
better of, and wrenched the tassel from his nightcap instead. At
last, undressing himself with a gloomy resolution, he got into bed.

Some men in his blighted position would have taken to drinking; but
as Mr Swiveller had taken to that before, he only took, on
receiving the news that Sophy Wackles was lost to him for ever, to
playing the flute; thinking after mature consideration that it was
a good, sound, dismal occupation, not only in unison with his own
sad thoughts, but calculated to awaken a fellow- feeling in the
bosoms of his neighbours. In pursuance of this resolution, he now
drew a little table to his bedside, and arranging the light and a
small oblong music-book to the best advantage, took his flute from
its box, and began to play most mournfully.

The air was 'Away with melancholy'--a composition, which, when it
is played very slowly on the flute, in bed, with the further
disadvantage of being performed by a gentleman but imperfectly
acquainted with the instrument, who repeats one note a great many
times before he can find the next, has not a lively effect. Yet,
for half the night, or more, Mr Swiveller, lying sometimes on his
back with his eyes upon the ceiling, and sometimes half out of bed
to correct himself by the book, played this unhappy tune over and
over again; never leaving off, save for a minute or two at a time
to take breath and soliloquise about the Marchioness, and then
beginning again with renewed vigour. It was not until he had quite
exhausted his several subjects of meditation, and had breathed into
the flute the whole sentiment of the purl down to its very dregs,
and had nearly maddened the people of the house, and at both the
next doors, and over the way--that he shut up the music-book,
extinguished the candle, and finding himself greatly lightened and
relieved in his mind, turned round and fell asleep.

He awoke in the morning, much refreshed; and having taken half an
hour's exercise at the flute, and graciously received a notice to
quit from his landlady, who had been in waiting on the stairs for
that purpose since the dawn of day, repaired to Bevis Marks; where
the beautiful Sally was already at her post, bearing in her looks
a radiance, mild as that which beameth from the virgin moon.

Mr Swiveller acknowledged her presence by a nod, and exchanged his
coat for the aquatic jacket; which usually took some time fitting
on, for in consequence of a tightness in the sleeves, it was only
to be got into by a series of struggles. This difficulty overcome,
he took his seat at the desk.

'I say'--quoth Miss Brass, abruptly breaking silence, 'you haven't
seen a silver pencil-case this morning, have you?'

'I didn't meet many in the street,' rejoined Mr Swiveller. 'I saw
one--a stout pencil-case of respectable appearance--but as he was
in company with an elderly penknife, and a young toothpick with
whom he was in earnest conversation, I felt a delicacy in speaking
to him.'

'No, but have you?' returned Miss Brass. 'Seriously, you know.'

'What a dull dog you must be to ask me such a question seriously,'
said Mr Swiveller. 'Haven't I this moment come?'

'Well, all I know is,' replied Miss Sally, 'that it's not to be
found, and that it disappeared one day this week, when I left it on
the desk.'

'Halloa!' thought Richard, 'I hope the Marchioness hasn't been at
work here.'

'There was a knife too,' said Miss Sally, 'of the same pattern.
They were given to me by my father, years ago, and are both gone.
You haven't missed anything yourself, have you?'

Mr Swiveller involuntarily clapped his hands to the jacket to be
quite sure that it WAS a jacket and not a skirted coat; and having
satisfied himself of the safety of this, his only moveable in Bevis
Marks, made answer in the negative.

'It's a very unpleasant thing, Dick,' said Miss Brass, pulling out
the tin box and refreshing herself with a pinch of snuff; 'but
between you and me--between friends you know, for if Sammy knew
it, I should never hear the last of it--some of the office- money,
too, that has been left about, has gone in the same way. In
particular, I have missed three half-crowns at three different
times.'

'You don't mean that?' cried Dick. 'Be careful what you say, old
boy, for this is a serious matter. Are you quite sure? Is there
no mistake?'

'It is so, and there can't be any mistake at all,' rejoined Miss
Brass emphatically.

'Then by Jove,' thought Richard, laying down his pen, 'I am afraid
the Marchioness is done for!'

The more he discussed the subject in his thoughts, the more
probable it appeared to Dick that the miserable little servant was
the culprit. When he considered on what a spare allowance of food
she lived, how neglected and untaught she was, and how her natural
cunning had been sharpened by necessity and privation, he scarcely
doubted it. And yet he pitied her so much, and felt so unwilling
to have a matter of such gravity disturbing the oddity of their
acquaintance, that he thought, and thought truly, that rather than
receive fifty pounds down, he would have the Marchioness proved
innocent.

While he was plunged in very profound and serious meditation upon
this theme, Miss Sally sat shaking her head with an air of great
mystery and doubt; when the voice of her brother Sampson, carolling
a cheerful strain, was heard in the passage, and that gentleman
himself, beaming with virtuous smiles, appeared.

'Mr Richard, sir, good morning! Here we are again, sir, entering
upon another day, with our bodies strengthened by slumber and
breakfast, and our spirits fresh and flowing. Here we are, Mr
Richard, rising with the sun to run our little course--our course
of duty, sir--and, like him, to get through our day's work with
credit to ourselves and advantage to our fellow- creatures. A
charming reflection sir, very charming!'

While he addressed his clerk in these words, Mr Brass was, somewhat
ostentatiously, engaged in minutely examining and holding up
against the light a five-pound bank note, which he had brought in,
in his hand.

Mr Richard not receiving his remarks with anything like enthusiasm,
his employer turned his eyes to his face, and observed that it wore
a troubled expression.

'You're out of spirits, sir,' said Brass. 'Mr Richard, sir, we
should fall to work cheerfully, and not in a despondent state. It
becomes us, Mr Richard, sir, to--'

Here the chaste Sarah heaved a loud sigh.

'Dear me!' said Mr Sampson, 'you too! Is anything the matter? Mr
Richard, sir--'

Dick, glancing at Miss Sally, saw that she was making signals to
him, to acquaint her brother with the subject of their recent
conversation. As his own position was not a very pleasant one
until the matter was set at rest one way or other, he did so; and
Miss Brass, plying her snuff-box at a most wasteful rate,
corroborated his account.

The countenance of Sampson fell, and anxiety overspread his
features. Instead of passionately bewailing the loss of his money,
as Miss Sally had expected, he walked on tiptoe to the door, opened
it, looked outside, shut it softly, returned on tiptoe, and said in
a whisper,

'This is a most extraordinary and painful circumstance--Mr
Richard, sir, a most painful circumstance. The fact is, that I
myself have missed several small sums from the desk, of late, and
have refrained from mentioning it, hoping that accident would
discover the offender; but it has not done so--it has not done so.
Sally--Mr Richard, sir--this is a particularly distressing
affair!'

As Sampson spoke, he laid the bank-note upon the desk among some
papers, in an absent manner, and thrust his hands into his pockets.
Richard Swiveller pointed to it, and admonished him to take it up.

'No, Mr Richard, sir,' rejoined Brass with emotion, 'I will not
take it up. I will let it lie there, sir. To take it up, Mr
Richard, sir, would imply a doubt of you; and in you, sir, I have
unlimited confidence. We will let it lie there, Sir, if you
please, and we will not take it up by any means.' With that, Mr
Brass patted him twice or thrice on the shoulder, in a most
friendly manner, and entreated him to believe that he had as much
faith in his honesty as he had in his own.

Although at another time Mr Swiveller might have looked upon this
as a doubtful compliment, he felt it, under the then- existing
circumstances, a great relief to be assured that he was not
wrongfully suspected. When he had made a suitable reply, Mr Brass
wrung him by the hand, and fell into a brown study, as did Miss
Sally likewise. Richard too remained in a thoughtful state;
fearing every moment to hear the Marchioness impeached, and unable
to resist the conviction that she must be guilty.

When they had severally remained in this condition for some
minutes, Miss Sally all at once gave a loud rap upon the desk with
her clenched fist, and cried, 'I've hit it!'--as indeed she had,
and chipped a piece out of it too; but that was not her meaning.

'Well,' cried Brass anxiously. 'Go on, will you!'

'Why,' replied his sister with an air of triumph, 'hasn't there
been somebody always coming in and out of this office for the last
three or four weeks; hasn't that somebody been left alone in it
sometimes--thanks to you; and do you mean to tell me that that
somebody isn't the thief!'

'What somebody?' blustered Brass.

'Why, what do you call him--Kit.'

'Mr Garland's young man?'

'To be sure.'

'Never!' cried Brass. 'Never. I'll not hear of it. Don't tell
me'-- said Sampson, shaking his head, and working with both his
hands as if he were clearing away ten thousand cobwebs. 'I'll
never believe it of him. Never!'

'I say,' repeated Miss Brass, taking another pinch of snuff, 'that
he's the thief.'

'I say,' returned Sampson violently, 'that he is not. What do you
mean? How dare you? Are characters to be whispered away like
this? Do you know that he's the honestest and faithfullest fellow
that ever lived, and that he has an irreproachable good name? Come
in, come in!'

These last words were not addressed to Miss Sally, though they
partook of the tone in which the indignant remonstrances that
preceded them had been uttered. They were addressed to some person
who had knocked at the office-door; and they had hardly passed the
lips of Mr Brass, when this very Kit himself looked in.

'Is the gentleman up-stairs, sir, if you please?'

'Yes, Kit,' said Brass, still fired with an honest indignation, and
frowning with knotted brows upon his sister; 'Yes Kit, he is. I am
glad to see you Kit, I am rejoiced to see you. Look in again, as
you come down-stairs, Kit. That lad a robber!' cried Brass when he
had withdrawn, 'with that frank and open countenance! I'd trust
him with untold gold. Mr Richard, sir, have the goodness to step
directly to Wrasp and Co.'s in Broad Street, and inquire if they
have had instructions to appear in Carkem and Painter. THAT lad a
robber,' sneered Sampson, flushed and heated with his wrath. 'Am
I blind, deaf, silly; do I know nothing of human nature when I see
it before me? Kit a robber! Bah!'

Flinging this final interjection at Miss Sally with immeasurable
scorn and contempt, Sampson Brass thrust his head into his desk, as
if to shut the base world from his view, and breathed defiance from
under its half-closed lid.

CHAPTER 59

When Kit, having discharged his errand, came down-stairs from the
single gentleman's apartment after the lapse of a quarter of an
hour or so, Mr Sampson Brass was alone in the office. He was not
singing as usual, nor was he seated at his desk. The open door
showed him standing before the fire with his back towards it, and
looking so very strange that Kit supposed he must have been
suddenly taken ill.

'Is anything the matter, sir?' said Kit.

'Matter!' cried Brass. 'No. Why anything the matter?'

'You are so very pale,' said Kit, 'that I should hardly have known
you.'

'Pooh pooh! mere fancy,' cried Brass, stooping to throw up the
cinders. 'Never better, Kit, never better in all my life. Merry
too. Ha ha! How's our friend above-stairs, eh?'

'A great deal better,' said Kit.

'I'm glad to hear it,' rejoined Brass; 'thankful, I may say. An
excellent gentleman--worthy, liberal, generous, gives very little
trouble--an admirable lodger. Ha ha! Mr Garland--he's well I
hope, Kit--and the pony--my friend, my particular friend you
know. Ha ha!'

Kit gave a satisfactory account of all the little household at Abel
Cottage. Mr Brass, who seemed remarkably inattentive and
impatient, mounted on his stool, and beckoning him to come nearer,
took him by the button-hole.

'I have been thinking, Kit,' said the lawyer, 'that I could throw
some little emoluments in your mother's way--You have a mother, I
think? If I recollect right, you told me--'

'Oh yes, Sir, yes certainly.'

'A widow, I think? an industrious widow?'

'A harder-working woman or a better mother never lived, Sir.'

'Ah!' cried Brass. 'That's affecting, truly affecting. A poor
widow struggling to maintain her orphans in decency and comfort, is
a delicious picture of human goodness.--Put down your hat, Kit.'

'Thank you Sir, I must be going directly.'

'Put it down while you stay, at any rate,' said Brass, taking it
from him and making some confusion among the papers, in finding a
place for it on the desk. 'I was thinking, Kit, that we have often
houses to let for people we are concerned for, and matters of that
sort. Now you know we're obliged to put people into those houses
to take care of 'em--very often undeserving people that we can't
depend upon. What's to prevent our having a person that we CAN
depend upon, and enjoying the delight of doing a good action at the
same time? I say, what's to prevent our employing this worthy
woman, your mother? What with one job and another, there's lodging--
and good lodging too--pretty well all the year round, rent free,
and a weekly allowance besides, Kit, that would provide her with a
great many comforts she don't at present enjoy. Now what do you
think of that? Do you see any objection? My only desire is to serve
you, Kit; therefore if you do, say so freely.'

As Brass spoke, he moved the hat twice or thrice, and shuffled
among the papers again, as if in search of something.

'How can I see any objection to such a kind offer, sir?' replied
Kit with his whole heart. 'I don't know how to thank you sir, I
don't indeed.'

'Why then,' said Brass, suddenly turning upon him and thrusting his
face close to Kit's with such a repulsive smile that the latter,
even in the very height of his gratitude, drew back, quite
startled. 'Why then, it's done.'

Kit looked at him in some confusion.

'Done, I say,' added Sampson, rubbing his hands and veiling himself
again in his usual oily manner. 'Ha ha! and so you shall find Kit,
so you shall find. But dear me,' said Brass, 'what a time Mr
Richard is gone! A sad loiterer to be sure! Will you mind the
office one minute, while I run up-stairs? Only one minute. I'll
not detain you an instant longer, on any account, Kit.'

Talking as he went, Mr Brass bustled out of the office, and in a
very short time returned. Mr Swiveller came back, almost at the
same instant; and as Kit was leaving the room hastily, to make up
for lost time, Miss Brass herself encountered him in the doorway.

'Oh!' sneered Sally, looking after him as she entered. 'There goes
your pet, Sammy, eh?'

'Ah! There he goes,' replied Brass. 'My pet, if you please. An
honest fellow, Mr Richard, sir--a worthy fellow indeed!'

'Hem!' coughed Miss Brass.

'I tell you, you aggravating vagabond,' said the angry Sampson,
'that I'd stake my life upon his honesty. Am I never to hear the
last of this? Am I always to be baited, and beset, by your mean
suspicions? Have you no regard for true merit, you malignant
fellow? If you come to that, I'd sooner suspect your honesty than
his.'

Miss Sally pulled out the tin snuff-box, and took a long, slow
pinch, regarding her brother with a steady gaze all the time.

'She drives me wild, Mr Richard, sir,' said Brass, 'she exasperates
me beyond all bearing. I am heated and excited, sir, I know I am.
These are not business manners, sir, nor business looks, but she
carries me out of myself.'

'Why don't you leave him alone?' said Dick.

'Because she can't, sir,' retorted Brass; 'because to chafe and vex
me is a part of her nature, Sir, and she will and must do it, or I
don't believe she'd have her health. But never mind,' said Brass,
'never mind. I've carried my point. I've shown my confidence in
the lad. He has minded the office again. Ha ha! Ugh, you viper!'

The beautiful virgin took another pinch, and put the snuff-box in
her pocket; still looking at her brother with perfect composure.

'He has minded the office again,' said Brass triumphantly; 'he has
had my confidence, and he shall continue to have it; he--why,
where's the--'

'What have you lost?' inquired Mr Swiveller.

'Dear me!' said Brass, slapping all his pockets, one after another,
and looking into his desk, and under it, and upon it, and wildly
tossing the papers about, 'the note, Mr Richard, sir, the
five-pound note--what can have become of it? I laid it down here--
God bless me!'

'What!' cried Miss Sally, starting up, clapping her hands, and
scattering the papers on the floor. 'Gone! Now who's right? Now
who's got it? Never mind five pounds--what's five pounds? He's
honest, you know, quite honest. It would be mean to suspect him.
Don't run after him. No, no, not for the world!'

'Is it really gone though?' said Dick, looking at Brass with a face
as pale as his own.

'Upon my word, Mr Richard, Sir,' replied the lawyer, feeling in all
his pockets with looks of the greatest agitation, 'I fear this is
a black business. It's certainly gone, Sir. What's to be done?'

'Don't run after him,' said Miss Sally, taking more snuff. 'Don't
run after him on any account. Give him time to get rid of it, you
know. It would be cruel to find him out!'

Mr Swiveller and Sampson Brass looked from Miss Sally to each
other, in a state of bewilderment, and then, as by one impulse,
caught up their hats and rushed out into the street--darting along
in the middle of the road, and dashing aside all obstructions, as
though they were running for their lives.

It happened that Kit had been running too, though not so fast, and
having the start of them by some few minutes, was a good distance
ahead. As they were pretty certain of the road he must have taken,
however, and kept on at a great pace, they came up with him, at the
very moment when he had taken breath, and was breaking into a run
again.

'Stop!' cried Sampson, laying his hand on one shoulder, while Mr
Swiveller pounced upon the other. 'Not so fast sir. You're in a
hurry?'

'Yes, I am,' said Kit, looking from one to the other in great
surprise.

'I--I--can hardly believe it,' panted Sampson, 'but something of
value is missing from the office. I hope you don't know what.'

'Know what! good Heaven, Mr Brass!' cried Kit, trembling from head
to foot; 'you don't suppose--'

'No, no,' rejoined Brass quickly, 'I don't suppose anything. Don't
say I said you did. You'll come back quietly, I hope?'

'Of course I will,' returned Kit. 'Why not?'

'To be sure!' said Brass. 'Why not? I hope there may turn out to
be no why not. If you knew the trouble I've been in, this morning,
through taking your part, Christopher, you'd be sorry for it.'

'And I am sure you'll be sorry for having suspected me sir,'
replied Kit. 'Come. Let us make haste back.'

'Certainly!' cried Brass, 'the quicker, the better. Mr Richard--
have the goodness, sir, to take that arm. I'll take this one.
It's not easy walking three abreast, but under these circumstances
it must be done, sir; there's no help for it.'

Kit did turn from white to red, and from red to white again, when
they secured him thus, and for a moment seemed disposed to resist.
But, quickly recollecting himself, and remembering that if he made
any struggle, he would perhaps be dragged by the collar through the
public streets, he only repeated, with great earnestness and with
the tears standing in his eyes, that they would be sorry for this--
and suffered them to lead him off. While they were on the way
back, Mr Swiveller, upon whom his present functions sat very
irksomely, took an opportunity of whispering in his ear that if he
would confess his guilt, even by so much as a nod, and promise not
to do so any more, he would connive at his kicking Sampson Brass on
the shins and escaping up a court; but Kit indignantly rejecting
this proposal, Mr Richard had nothing for it, but to hold him tight
until they reached Bevis Marks, and ushered him into the presence
of the charming Sarah, who immediately took the precaution of
locking the door.

'Now, you know,' said Brass, 'if this is a case of innocence, it is
a case of that description, Christopher, where the fullest
disclosure is the best satisfaction for everybody. Therefore if
you'll consent to an examination,' he demonstrated what kind of
examination he meant by turning back the cuffs of his coat, 'it
will be a comfortable and pleasant thing for all parties.'

'Search me,' said Kit, proudly holding up his arms. 'But mind, sir--
I know you'll be sorry for this, to the last day of your life.'

'It is certainly a very painful occurrence,' said Brass with a
sigh, as he dived into one of Kit's pockets, and fished up a
miscellaneous collection of small articles; 'very painful. Nothing
here, Mr Richard, Sir, all perfectly satisfactory. Nor here, sir.
Nor in the waistcoat, Mr Richard, nor in the coat tails. So far,
I am rejoiced, I am sure.'

Richard Swiveller, holding Kit's hat in his hand, was watching the
proceedings with great interest, and bore upon his face the
slightest possible indication of a smile, as Brass, shutting one of
his eyes, looked with the other up the inside of one of the poor
fellow's sleeves as if it were a telescope--when Sampson turning
hastily to him, bade him search the hat.

'Here's a handkerchief,' said Dick.

'No harm in that sir,' rejoined Brass, applying his eye to the
other sleeve, and speaking in the voice of one who was
contemplating an immense extent of prospect. 'No harm in a
handkerchief Sir, whatever. The faculty don't consider it a
healthy custom, I believe, Mr Richard, to carry one's handkerchief
in one's hat--I have heard that it keeps the head too warm--but
in every other point of view, its being there, is extremely
satisfactory--extremely so.'

An exclamation, at once from Richard Swiveller, Miss Sally, and Kit
himself, cut the lawyer short. He turned his head, and saw Dick
standing with the bank-note in his hand.

'In the hat?' cried Brass in a sort of shriek.

'Under the handkerchief, and tucked beneath the lining,' said Dick,
aghast at the discovery.

Mr Brass looked at him, at his sister, at the walls, at the
ceiling, at the floor--everywhere but at Kit, who stood quite
stupefied and motionless.

'And this,' cried Sampson, clasping his hands, 'is the world that
turns upon its own axis, and has Lunar influences, and revolutions
round Heavenly Bodies, and various games of that sort! This is
human natur, is it! Oh natur, natur! This is the miscreant that
I was going to benefit with all my little arts, and that, even now,
I feel so much for, as to wish to let him go! But,' added Mr Brass
with greater fortitude, 'I am myself a lawyer, and bound to set an
example in carrying the laws of my happy country into effect.
Sally my dear, forgive me, and catch hold of him on the other side.
Mr Richard, sir, have the goodness to run and fetch a constable.
The weakness is past and over sir, and moral strength returns. A
constable, sir, if you please!'

CHAPTER 60

Kit stood as one entranced, with his eyes opened wide and fixed
upon the ground, regardless alike of the tremulous hold which Mr
Brass maintained on one side of his cravat, and of the firmer grasp
of Miss Sally upon the other; although this latter detention was in
itself no small inconvenience, as that fascinating woman, besides
screwing her knuckles inconveniently into his throat from time to
time, had fastened upon him in the first instance with so tight a
grip that even in the disorder and distraction of his thoughts he
could not divest himself of an uneasy sense of choking. Between
the brother and sister he remained in this posture, quite
unresisting and passive, until Mr Swiveller returned, with a police
constable at his heels.

This functionary, being, of course, well used to such scenes;
looking upon all kinds of robbery, from petty larceny up to
housebreaking or ventures on the highway, as matters in the regular
course of business; and regarding the perpetrators in the light of
so many customers coming to be served at the wholesale and retail
shop of criminal law where he stood behind the counter; received Mr
Brass's statement of facts with about as much interest and
surprise, as an undertaker might evince if required to listen to a
circumstantial account of the last illness of a person whom he was
called in to wait upon professionally; and took Kit into custody
with a decent indifference.

'We had better,' said this subordinate minister of justice, 'get to
the office while there's a magistrate sitting. I shall want you to
come along with us, Mr Brass, and the--' he looked at Miss Sally as
if in some doubt whether she might not be a griffin or other
fabulous monster.

'The lady, eh?' said Sampson.

'Ah!' replied the constable. 'Yes--the lady. Likewise the young
man that found the property.'

'Mr Richard, Sir,' said Brass in a mournful voice. 'A sad
necessity. But the altar of our country sir--'

'You'll have a hackney-coach, I suppose?' interrupted the
constable, holding Kit (whom his other captors had released)
carelessly by the arm, a little above the elbow. 'Be so good as
send for one, will you?'

'But, hear me speak a word,' cried Kit, raising his eyes and
looking imploringly about him. 'Hear me speak a word. I am no
more guilty than any one of you. Upon my soul I am not. I a
thief! Oh, Mr Brass, you know me better. I am sure you know me
better. This is not right of you, indeed.'

'I give you my word, constable--' said Brass. But here the
constable interposed with the constitutional principle 'words be
blowed;' observing that words were but spoon-meat for babes and
sucklings, and that oaths were the food for strong men.

'Quite true, constable,' assented Brass in the same mournful tone.
'Strictly correct. I give you my oath, constable, that down to a
few minutes ago, when this fatal discovery was made, I had such
confidence in that lad, that I'd have trusted him with--a
hackney-coach, Mr Richard, sir; you're very slow, Sir.'

'Who is there that knows me,' cried Kit, 'that would not trust me--
that does not? ask anybody whether they have ever doubted me;
whether I have ever wronged them of a farthing. Was I ever once
dishonest when I was poor and hungry, and is it likely I would
begin now! Oh consider what you do. How can I meet the kindest
friends that ever human creature had, with this dreadful charge
upon me!'

Mr Brass rejoined that it would have been well for the prisoner if
he had thought of that, before, and was about to make some other
gloomy observations when the voice of the single gentleman was
heard, demanding from above-stairs what was the matter, and what
was the cause of all that noise and hurry. Kit made an involuntary
start towards the door in his anxiety to answer for himself, but
being speedily detained by the constable, had the agony of seeing
Sampson Brass run out alone to tell the story in his own way.

'And he can hardly believe it, either,' said Sampson, when he
returned, 'nor nobody will. I wish I could doubt the evidence of
my senses, but their depositions are unimpeachable. It's of no use
cross-examining my eyes,' cried Sampson, winking and rubbing them,
'they stick to their first account, and will. Now, Sarah, I hear
the coach in the Marks; get on your bonnet, and we'll be off. A
sad errand! a moral funeral, quite!'

'Mr Brass,' said Kit. 'do me one favour. Take me to Mr
Witherden's first.'

Sampson shook his head irresolutely.

'Do,' said Kit. 'My master's there. For Heaven's sake, take me
there, first.'

'Well, I don't know,' stammered Brass, who perhaps had his reasons
for wishing to show as fair as possible in the eyes of the notary.
'How do we stand in point of time, constable, eh?'

The constable, who had been chewing a straw all this while with
great philosophy, replied that if they went away at once they would
have time enough, but that if they stood shilly-shallying there,
any longer, they must go straight to the Mansion House; and finally
expressed his opinion that that was where it was, and that was all
about it.

Mr Richard Swiveller having arrived inside the coach, and still
remaining immoveable in the most commodious corner with his face to
the horses, Mr Brass instructed the officer to remove his prisoner,
and declared himself quite ready. Therefore, the constable, still
holding Kit in the same manner, and pushing him on a little before
him, so as to keep him at about three-quarters of an arm's length
in advance (which is the professional mode), thrust him into the
vehicle and followed himself. Miss Sally entered next; and there
being now four inside, Sampson Brass got upon the box, and made the
coachman drive on.

Still completely stunned by the sudden and terrible change which
had taken place in his affairs, Kit sat gazing out of the coach
window, almost hoping to see some monstrous phenomenon in the
streets which might give him reason to believe he was in a dream.
Alas! Everything was too real and familiar: the same succession of
turnings, the same houses, the same streams of people running side
by side in different directions upon the pavement, the same bustle
of carts and carriages in the road, the same well-remembered
objects in the shop windows: a regularity in the very noise and
hurry which no dream ever mirrored. Dream-like as the story was,
it was true. He stood charged with robbery; the note had been
found upon him, though he was innocent in thought and deed; and
they were carrying him back, a prisoner.

Absorbed in these painful ruminations, thinking with a drooping
heart of his mother and little Jacob, feeling as though even the
consciousness of innocence would be insufficient to support him in
the presence of his friends if they believed him guilty, and
sinking in hope and courage more and more as they drew nearer to
the notary's, poor Kit was looking earnestly out of the window,
observant of nothing,--when all at once, as though it had been
conjured up by magic, he became aware of the face of Quilp.

And what a leer there was upon the face! It was from the open
window of a tavern that it looked out; and the dwarf had so spread
himself over it, with his elbows on the window-sill and his head
resting on both his hands, that what between this attitude and his
being swoln with suppressed laughter, he looked puffed and bloated
into twice his usual breadth. Mr Brass, on recognising him,
immediately stopped the coach. As it came to a halt directly
opposite to where he stood, the dwarf pulled off his hat, and
saluted the party with a hideous and grotesque politeness.
'Aha!' he cried. 'Where now, Brass? where now? Sally with you
too? Sweet Sally! And Dick? Pleasant Dick! And Kit! Honest
Kit!'

'He's extremely cheerful!' said Brass to the coachman. 'Very much
so! Ah, sir--a sad business! Never believe in honesty any more,
sir.'

'Why not?' returned the dwarf. 'Why not, you rogue of a lawyer,
why not?'

'Bank-note lost in our office sir,' said Brass, shaking his head.
'Found in his hat sir--he previously left alone there--no mistake
at all sir--chain of evidence complete--not a link wanting.'

'What!' cried the dwarf, leaning half his body out of window. 'Kit
a thief! Kit a thief! Ha ha ha! Why, he's an uglier-looking
thief than can be seen anywhere for a penny. Eh, Kit--eh? Ha ha
ha! Have you taken Kit into custody before he had time and
opportunity to beat me! Eh, Kit, eh?' And with that, he burst
into a yell of laughter, manifestly to the great terror of the
coachman, and pointed to a dyer's pole hard by, where a dangling
suit of clothes bore some resemblance to a man upon a gibbet.

'Is it coming to that, Kit!' cried the dwarf, rubbing his hands
violently. 'Ha ha ha ha! What a disappointment for little Jacob,
and for his darling mother! Let him have the Bethel minister to
comfort and console him, Brass. Eh, Kit, eh? Drive on coachey,
drive on. Bye bye, Kit; all good go with you; keep up your
spirits; my love to the Garlands--the dear old lady and gentleman.
Say I inquired after 'em, will you? Blessings on 'em, on you, and
on everybody, Kit. Blessings on all the world!'

With such good wishes and farewells, poured out in a rapid torrent
until they were out of hearing, Quilp suffered them to depart; and
when he could see the coach no longer, drew in his head, and rolled
upon the ground in an ecstacy of enjoyment.

When they reached the notary's, which they were not long in doing,
for they had encountered the dwarf in a bye street at a very little
distance from the house, Mr Brass dismounted; and opening the coach
door with a melancholy visage, requested his sister to accompany
him into the office, with the view of preparing the good people
within, for the mournful intelligence that awaited them. Miss
Sally complying, he desired Mr Swiveller to accompany them. So,
into the office they went; Mr Sampson and his sister arm-in-arm;
and Mr Swiveller following, alone.

The notary was standing before the fire in the outer office,
talking to Mr Abel and the elder Mr Garland, while Mr Chuckster sat
writing at the desk, picking up such crumbs of their conversation
as happened to fall in his way. This posture of affairs Mr Brass
observed through the glass-door as he was turning the handle, and
seeing that the notary recognised him, he began to shake his head
and sigh deeply while that partition yet divided them.

'Sir,' said Sampson, taking off his hat, and kissing the two fore-
fingers of his right hand beaver glove, 'my name is Brass--Brass
of Bevis Marks, Sir. I have had the honour and pleasure, Sir, of
being concerned against you in some little testamentary matters.
How do you do, sir?'

'My clerk will attend to any business you may have come upon, Mr
Brass,' said the notary, turning away.

'Thank you Sir,' said Brass, 'thank you, I am sure. Allow me, Sir,
to introduce my sister--quite one of us Sir, although of the
weaker sex--of great use in my business Sir, I assure you. Mr
Richard, sir, have the goodness to come foward if you please--No
really,' said Brass, stepping between the notary and his private
office (towards which he had begun to retreat), and speaking in the
tone of an injured man, 'really Sir, I must, under favour, request
a word or two with you, indeed.'

'Mr Brass,' said the other, in a decided tone, 'I am engaged. You
see that I am occupied with these gentlemen. If you will
communicate your business to Mr Chuckster yonder, you will receive
every attention.'

'Gentlemen,' said Brass, laying his right hand on his waistcoat,
and looking towards the father and son with a smooth smile--
'Gentlemen, I appeal to you--really, gentlemen--consider, I beg
of you. I am of the law. I am styled "gentleman" by Act of
Parliament. I maintain the title by the annual payment of twelve
pound sterling for a certificate. I am not one of your players of
music, stage actors, writers of books, or painters of pictures, who
assume a station that the laws of their country don't recognise.
I am none of your strollers or vagabonds. If any man brings his
action against me, he must describe me as a gentleman, or his
action is null and void. I appeal to you--is this quite
respectful? Really gentlemen--'

'Well, will you have the goodness to state your business then, Mr
Brass?' said the notary.

'Sir,' rejoined Brass, 'I will. Ah Mr Witherden! you little know
the--but I will not be tempted to travel from the point, sir, I
believe the name of one of these gentlemen is Garland.'

'Of both,' said the notary.

'In-deed!' rejoined Brass, cringing excessively. 'But I might have
known that, from the uncommon likeness. Extremely happy, I am
sure, to have the honour of an introduction to two such gentlemen,
although the occasion is a most painful one. One of you gentlemen
has a servant called Kit?'

Book of the day: