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The Old Curiosity Shop

By Charles Dickens

CHAPTER 1

Night is generally my time for walking. In the summer I often leave
home early in the morningand roam about fields and lanes all day
or even escape for days or weeks together; butsaving in the
countryI seldom go out until after darkthoughHeaven be
thankedI love its light and feel the cheerfulness it sheds upon the
earthas much as any creature living.

I have fallen insensibly into this habitboth because it favours my
infirmity and because it affords me greater opportunity of speculating
on the characters and occupations of those who fill the streets. The
glare and hurry of broad noon are not adapted to idle pursuits like
mine; a glimpse of passing faces caught by the light of a street-lamp
or a shop window is often better for my purpose than their full
revelation in the daylight; andif I must add the truthnight is kinder
in this respect than daywhich too often destroys an air-built castle
at the moment of its completionwithout the least ceremony or remorse.

That constant pacing to and frothat never-ending restlessnessthat
incessant tread of feet wearing the rough stones smooth and glossy--is it
not a wonder how the dwellers in narrows ways can bear to hear
it! Think of a sick man in such a place as Saint Martin's Court
listening to the footstepsand in the midst of pain and weariness
obligeddespite himself (as though it were a task he must perform)
to detect the child's step from the man'sthe slipshod beggar from
the booted exquisitethe lounging from the busythe dull heel
of the sauntering outcast from the quick tread of an expectant
pleasure-seeker--think of the hum and noise always being present to his
senseand of the stream of life that will not stoppouring ononon
through all his restless dreamsas if he were condemned to lie
dead but consciousin a noisy churchyardand had no hope of rest
for centuries to come.

Thenthe crowds for ever passing and repassing on the bridges (on
those which are free of toil at last)where many stop on fine
evenings looking listlessly down upon the water with some vague
idea that by and by it runs between green banks which grow wider
and wider until at last it joins the broad vast sea--where some halt to
rest from heavy loads and think as they look over the parapet that to
smoke and lounge away one's lifeand lie sleeping in the sun upon a
hot tarpaulinin a dullslowsluggish bargemust be happiness
unalloyed--and where someand a very different classpause with
heaver loads than theyremembering to have heard or read in old
time that drowning was not a hard deathbut of all means of suicide
the easiest and best.

Covent Garden Market at sunrise tooin the spring or summerwhen
the fragrance of sweet flowers is in the airover-powering even the


unwholesome streams of last night's debaucheryand driving the
dusky thrustwhose cage has hung outside a garret window all night
longhalf mad with joy! Poor bird! the only neighbouring thing at all
akin to the other little captivessome of whomshrinking from the
hot hands of drunken purchaserslie drooping on the path already
while otherssoddened by close contactawait the time when they
shall be watered and freshened up to please more sober company
and make old clerks who pass them on their road to business
wonder what has filled their breasts with visions of the country.

But my present purpose is not to expatiate upon my walks. The story
I am about to relateand to which I shall recur at intervalsarose
out of one of these rambles; and thus I have been led to speak of
them by way of preface.

One night I had roamed into the Cityand was walking slowly on in
my usual waymusing upon a great many thingswhen I was
arrested by an inquirythe purport of which did not reach mebut
which seemed to be addressed to myselfand was preferred in a soft
sweet voice that struck me very pleasantly. I turned hastily round
and found at my elbow a pretty little girlwho begged to be directed
to a certain street at a considerable distanceand indeed in quite
another quarter of the town.

It is a very long way from here' said I'my child.'

'I know thatsir' she replied timidly. 'I am afraid it is a very long
wayfor I came from there to-night.'

'Alone?' said Iin some surprise.

'OhyesI don't mind thatbut I am a little frightened nowfor I
had lost my road.'

'And what made you ask it of me? Suppose I should tell you wrong?'

'I am sure you will not do that' said the little creature' you are such
a very old gentlemanand walk so slow yourself.'

I cannot describe how much I was impressed by this appeal and the
energy with which it was madewhich brought a tear into the child's
clear eyeand made her slight figure tremble as she looked up into
my face.

'Come' said I'I'll take you there.'

She put her hand in mind as confidingly as if she had known me
from her cradleand we trudged away together; the little creature
accommodating her pace to mineand rather seeming to lead and
take care of me than I to be protecting her. I observed that every
now and then she stole a curious look at my faceas if to make quite
sure that I was not deceiving herand that these glances (very sharp
and keen they were too) seemed to increase her confidence at every
repetition.

For my partmy curiosity and interest were at least equal to the
child'sfor child she certainly wasalthough I thought it probably
from what I could make outthat her very small and delicate frame
imparted a peculiar youthfulness to her appearance. Though more
scantily attired than she might have been she was dressed with
perfect neatnessand betrayed no marks of poverty or neglect.

'Who has sent you so far by yourself?' said I.


'Someone who is very kind to mesir.'

'And what have you been doing?'

'ThatI must not tell' said the child firmly.

There was something in the manner of this reply which caused me to
look at the little creature with an involuntary expression of surprise;
for I wondered what kind of errand it might be that occasioned her to
be prepared for questioning. Her quick eye seemed to read my
thoughtsfor as it met mine she added that there was no harm in
what she had been doingbut it was a great secret--a secret which
she did not even know herself.

This was said with no appearance of cunning or deceitbut with an
unsuspicious frankness that bore the impress of truth. She walked on
as beforegrowing more familiar with me as we proceeded and
talking cheerfully by the waybut she said no more about her home
beyond remarking that we were going quite a new road and asking if
it were a short one.

While we were thus engagedI revolved in my mind a hundred
different explanations of the riddle and rejected them every one. I
really felt ashamed to take advantage of the ingenuousness or grateful
feeling of the child for the purpose of gratifying my curiosity. I love
these little people; and it is not a slight thing when theywho are so
fresh from Godlove us. As I had felt pleased at first by her
confidence I determined to deserve itand to do credit to the nature
which had prompted her to repose it in me.

There was no reasonhoweverwhy I should refrain from seeing the
person who had inconsiderately sent her to so great a distance by
night and aloneand as it was not improbable that if she found
herself near home she might take farewell of me and deprive me of
the opportunityI avoided the most frequented ways and took the
most intricateand thus it was not until we arrived in the street itself
that she knew where we were. Clapping her hands with pleasure and
running on before me for a short distancemy little acquaintance
stopped at a door and remaining on the step till I came up knocked at
it when I joined her.

A part of this door was of glass unprotected by any shutterwhich I
did not observe at firstfor all was very dark and silent withinand I
was anxious (as indeed the child was also) for an answer to our
summons. When she had knocked twice or thrice there was a noise
as if some person were moving insideand at length a faint light
appeared through the glass whichas it approached very slowlythe
bearer having to make his way through a great many scattered
articlesenabled me to see both what kind of person it was who
advanced and what kind of place it was through which he came.

It was an old man with long grey hairwhose face and figure as he
held the light above his head and looked before him as he
approachedI could plainly see. Though much altered by ageI
fancied I could recognize in his spare and slender form something of
that delicate mould which I had noticed in a child. Their bright blue
eyes were certainly alikebut his face was so deeply furrowed and so
very full of carethat here all resemblance ceased.

The place through which he made his way at leisure was one of those
receptacles for old and curious things which seem to crouch in odd
corners of this town and to hide their musty treasures from the public
eye in jealousy and distrust. There were suits of mail standing like
ghosts in armour here and therefantastic carvings brought from


monkish cloistersrusty weapons of various kindsdistorted figures
in china and wood and iron and ivory: tapestry and strange furniture
that might have been designed in dreams. The haggard aspect of the
little old man was wonderfully suited to the place; he might have
groped among old churches and tombs and deserted houses and
gathered all the spoils with his own hands. There was nothing in the
whole collection but was in keeping with himself nothing that looked
older or more worn than he.

As he turned the key in the lockhe surveyed me with some
astonishment which was not diminished when he looked from me to
my companion. The door being openedthe child addressed him as
grandfatherand told him the little story of our companionship.

'Whybless theechild' said the old manpatting her on the head
'how couldst thou miss thy way? What if I had lost theeNell!'

'I would have found my way back to YOUgrandfather' said the
child boldly; 'never fear.'

The old man kissed herthen turning to me and begging me to walk
inI did so. The door was closed and locked. Preceding me with the
lighthe led me through the place I had already seen from without
into a small sitting-room behindin which was another door opening
into a kind of closetwhere I saw a little bed that a fairy might have
slept init looked so very small and was so prettily arranged. The
child took a candle and tripped into this little roomleaving the old
man and me together.

'You must be tiredsir' said he as he placed a chair near the fire
'how can I thank you?'

'By taking more care of your grandchild another timemy good
friend' I replied.

'More care!' said the old man in a shrill voice'more care of Nelly!
Whywho ever loved a child as I love Nell?'

He said this with such evident surprise that I was perplexed what
answer to makeand the more so because coupled with something
feeble and wandering in his mannerthere were in his face marks of
deep and anxious thought which convinced me that he could not be
as I had been at first inclined to supposein a state of dotage or
imbecility.

'I don't think you consider--' I began.

'I don't consider!' cried the old man interrupting me'I don't consider
her! Ahhow little you know of the truth! Little Nellylittle Nelly!'

It would be impossible for any manI care not what his form of
speech might beto express more affection than the dealer in
curiosities didin these four words. I waited for him to speak again
but he rested his chin upon his hand and shaking his head twice or
thrice fixed his eyes upon the fire.

While we were sitting thus in silencethe door of the closet opened
and the child returnedher light brown hair hanging loose about her
neckand her face flushed with the haste she had made to rejoin us.
She busied herself immediately in preparing supperand while she
was thus engaged I remarked that the old man took an opportunity of
observing me more closely than he had done yet. I was surprised to
see that all this time everything was done by the childand that there
appeared to be no other persons but ourselves in the house. I took


advantage of a moment when she was absent to venture a hint on this
pointto which the old man replied that there were few grown
persons as trustworthy or as careful as she.

'It always grieves me' I observedroused by what I took to be his
selfishness'it always grieves me to contemplate the initiation of
children into the ways of lifewhen they are scarcely more than
infants. It checks their confidence and simplicity--two of the best
qualities that Heaven gives them--and demands that they share our
sorrows before they are capable of entering into our enjoyments.'

'It will never check hers' said the old man looking steadily at me
'the springs are too deep. Besidesthe children of the poor know but
few pleasures. Even the cheap delights of childhood must be bought
and paid for.

'But--forgive me for saying this--you are surely not so very poor'--said I.

'She is not my childsir' returned the old man. 'Her mother was
and she was poor. I save nothing--not a penny--though I live as you
seebut'--he laid his hand upon my arm and leant forward to
whisper--'she shall be rich one of these daysand a fine lady. Don't
you think ill of me because I use her help. She gives it cheerfully as
you seeand it would break her heart if she knew that I suffered
anybody else to do for me what her little hands could undertake. I
don't consider!'--he cried with sudden querulousness'whyGod
knows that this one child is there thought and object of my lifeand
yet he never prospers me--nonever!'

At this juncturethe subject of our conversation again returnedand
the old men motioning to me to approach the tablebroke offand
said no more.

We had scarcely begun our repast when there was a knock at the
door by which I had enteredand Nell bursting into a hearty laugh
which I was rejoiced to hearfor it was childlike and full of hilarity
said it was no doubt dear old Kit coming back at last.

'Foolish Nell!' said the old man fondling with her hair. 'She always
laughs at poor Kit.'

The child laughed again more heartily than beforeI could not help
smiling from pure sympathy. The little old man took up a candle and
went to open the door. When he came backKit was at his heels.

Kit was a shock-headedshamblingawkward lad with an
uncommonly wide mouthvery red cheeksa turned-up noseand
certainly the most comical expression of face I ever saw. He stopped
short at the door on seeing a strangertwirled in his hand a perfectly
round old hat without any vestige of a brimand resting himself now
on one leg and now on the other and changing them constantlystood
in the doorwaylooking into the parlour with the most extraordinary
leer I ever beheld. I entertained a grateful feeling towards the boy
from that minutefor I felt that he was the comedy of the child's life.

'A long waywasn't itKit?' said the little old man.

'Whythenit was a goodish stretchmaster' returned Kit.

'Of course you have come back hungry?'

'WhythenI do consider myself rather somaster' was the answer.

The lad had a remarkable manner of standing sideways as he spoke


and thrusting his head forward over his shoulderas if he could not
get at his voice without that accompanying action. I think he would
have amused one anywherebut the child's exquisite enjoyment of
his oddityand the relief it was to find that there was something she
associated with merriment in a place that appeared so unsuited to
herwere quite irresistible. It was a great point too that Kit himself
was flattered by the sensation he createdand after several efforts to
preserve his gravityburst into a loud roarand so stood with his
mouth wide open and his eyes nearly shutlaughing violently.

The old man had again relapsed into his former abstraction and took
no notice of what passedbut I remarked that when her laugh was
overthe child's bright eyes were dimmed with tearscalled forth by
the fullness of heart with which she welcomed her uncouth favourite
after the little anxiety of the night. As for Kit himself (whose laugh
had been all the time one of that sort which very little would change
into a cry) he carried a large slice of bread and meat and a mug of
beer into a cornerand applied himself to disposing of them with
great voracity.

'Ah!' said the old man turning to me with a sighas if I had spoken
to him but that moment'you don't know what you say when you tell
me that I don't consider her.'

'You must not attach too great weight to a remark founded on first
appearancesmy friend' said I.

'No' returned the old man thoughtfully'no. Come hitherNell.'

The little girl hastened from her seatand put her arm about his
neck.

'Do I love theeNell?' said he. 'Say--do I love theeNellor no?'

The child only answered by her caressesand laid her head upon his
breast.

'Why dost thou sob?' said the grandfatherpressing her closer to him
and glancing towards me. 'Is it because thou know'st I love theeand
dost not like that I should seem to doubt it by my question? Well
well--then let us say I love thee dearly.'

'Indeedindeed you do' replied the child with great earnestness
'Kit knows you do.'

Kitwho in despatching his bread and meat had been swallowing
two-thirds of his knife at every mouthful with the coolness of a
jugglerstopped short in his operations on being thus appealed to
and bawled 'Nobody isn't such a fool as to say he doosn't' after
which he incapacitated himself for further conversation by taking a
most prodigious sandwich at one bite.

'She is poor now'--said the old menpatting the child's cheek'but I
say again that the time is coming when she shall be rich. It has been
a long time comingbut it must come at last; a very long timebut it
surely must come. It has come to other men who do nothing but
waste and riot. When WILL it come to me!'

'I am very happy as I amgrandfather' said the child.

'Tushtush!' returned the old man'thou dost not know--how
should'st thou!' then he muttered again between his teeth'The time
must comeI am very sure it must. It will be all the better for
coming late'; and then he sighed and fell into his former musing


stateand still holding the child between his knees appeared to be
insensible to everything around him. By this time it wanted but a few
minutes of midnight and I rose to gowhich recalled him to himself.

'One momentsir' he said'NowKit--near midnightboyand you
still here! Get homeget homeand be true to your time in the
morningfor there's work to do. Good night! Therebid him good
nightNelland let him be gone!'

'Good nightKit' said the childher eyes lighting up with
merriment and kindness.'

'Good nightMiss Nell' returned the boy.

'And thank this gentleman' interposed the old man'but for whose
care I might have lost my little girl to-night.'

'Nonomaster' said Kit'that won't dothat won't.'

'What do you mean?' cried the old man.

'I'd have found hermaster' said Kit'I'd have found her. I'll bet
that I'd find her if she was above groundI wouldas quick as
anybodymaster. Hahaha!'

Once more opening his mouth and shutting his eyesand laughing
like a stentorKit gradually backed to the doorand roared himself
out.

Free of the roomthe boy was not slow in taking his departure; when
he had goneand the child was occupied in clearing the tablethe old
man said:

'I haven't seemed to thank yousirfor what you have done to-night
but I do thank you humbly and heartilyand so does sheand her
thanks are better worth than mine. I should be sorry that you went
awayand thought I was unmindful of your goodnessor careless of
her--I am not indeed.'

I was sure of thatI saidfrom what I had seen. 'But' I added'may
I ask you a question?'

'Aysir' replied the old man'What is it?'

'This delicate child' said I'with so much beauty and intelligence--has
she nobody to care for
her but you? Has she no other companion
or advisor?'

'No' he returnedlooking anxiously in my face'noand she wants
no other.'

'But are you not fearful' said I'that you may misunderstand a
charge so tender? I am sure you mean wellbut are you quite certain
that you know how to execute such a trust as this? I am an old man
like youand I am actuated by an old man's concern in all that is
young and promising. Do you not think that what I have seen of you
and this little creature to-night must have an interest not wholly free
from pain?'

'Sir' rejoined the old man after a moment's silence.' I have no right
to feel hurt at what you say. It is true that in many respects I am the
childand she the grown person--that you have seen already. But
waking or sleepingby night or dayin sickness or healthshe is the


one object of my careand if you knew of how much careyou
would look on me with different eyesyou would indeed. Ah! It's a
weary life for an old man--a wearyweary life--but there is a great
end to gain and that I keep before me.'

Seeing that he was in a state of excitement and impatienceI turned
to put on an outer coat which I had thrown off on entering the room
purposing to say no more. I was surprised to see the child standing
patiently by with a cloak upon her armand in her hand a hatand
stick.

'Those are not minemy dear' said I.

'No' returned the child'they are grandfather's.'

'But he is not going out to-night.'

'Ohyeshe is' said the childwith a smile.

'And what becomes of youmy pretty one?'

'Me! I stay here of course. I always do.'

I looked in astonishment towards the old manbut he wasor feigned
to bebusied in the arrangement of his dress. From him I looked
back to the slight gentle figure of the child. Alone! In that gloomy
place all the longdreary night.

She evinced no consciousness of my surprisebut cheerfully helped
the old man with his cloakand when he was ready took a candle to
light us out. Finding that we did not follow as she expectedshe
looked back with a smile and waited for us. The old man showed by
his face that he plainly understood the cause of my hesitationbut he
merely signed to me with an inclination of the head to pass out of the
room before himand remained silent. I had no resource but to comply.

When we reached the doorthe child setting down the candleturned
to say good night and raised her face to kiss me. Then she ran to the
old manwho folded her in his arms and bade God bless her.

'Sleep soundlyNell' he said in a low voice'and angels guard thy
bed! Do not forget thy prayersmy sweet.'

'Noindeed' answered the child fervently'they make me feel so
happy!'

'That's well; I know they do; they should' said the old man. 'Bless
thee a hundred times! Early in the morning I shall be home.'

'You'll not ring twice' returned the child. 'The bell wakes meeven
in the middle of a dream.'

With thisthey separated. The child opened the door (now guarded
by a shutter which I had heard the boy put up before he left the
house) and with another farewell whose clear and tender note I have
recalled a thousand timesheld it until we had passed out. The old
man paused a moment while it was gently closed and fastened on the
insideand satisfied that this was donewalked on at a slow pace. At
the street-corner he stoppedand regarding me with a troubled
countenance said that our ways were widely different and that he
must take his leave. I would have spokenbut summoning up more
alacrity than might have been expected in one of his appearancehe
hurried away. I could see that twice or thrice he looked back as if to
ascertain if I were still watching himor perhaps to assure himself


that I was not following at a distance. The obscurity of the night
favoured his disappearanceand his figure was soon beyond my
sight.

I remained standing on the spot where he had left meunwilling to
departand yet unknowing why I should loiter there. I looked
wistfully into the street we had lately quittedand after a time
directed my steps that way. I passed and repassed the houseand
stopped and listened at the door; all was darkand silent as the
grave.

Yet I lingered aboutand could not tear myself awaythinking of all
possible harm that might happen to the child--of fires and robberies
and even murder--and feeling as if some evil must ensure if I turned
my back upon the place. The closing of a door or window in the
street brought me before the curiosity-dealer's once more; I crossed
the road and looked up at the house to assure myself that the noise
had not come from there. Noit was blackcoldand lifeless as
before.

There were few passengers astir; the street was sad and dismaland
pretty well my own. A few stragglers from the theatres hurried by
and now and then I turned aside to avoid some noisy drunkard as he
reeled homewardsbut these interruptions were not frequent and
soon ceased. The clocks struck one. Still I paced up and down
promising myself that every time should be the lastand breaking
faith with myself on some new plea as often as I did so.

The more I thought of what the old man had saidand of his looks
and bearingthe less I could account for what I had seen and heard. I
had a strong misgiving that his nightly absence was for no good
purpose. I had only come to know the fact through the innocence of
the childand though the old man was by at the timeand saw my
undisguised surprisehe had preserved a strange mystery upon the
subject and offered no word of explanation. These reflections
naturally recalled again more strongly than before his haggard face
his wandering mannerhis restless anxious looks. His affection for
the child might not be inconsistent with villany of the worst kind;
even that very affection was in itself an extraordinary contradiction
or how could he leave her thus? Disposed as I was to think badly of
himI never doubted that his love for her was real. I could not admit
the thoughtremembering what had passed between usand the tone
of voice in which he had called her by her name.

'Stay here of course' the child had said in answer to my question'I
always do!' What could take him from home by nightand every
night! I called up all the strange tales I had ever heard of dark and
secret deeds committed in great towns and escaping detection for a
long series of years; wild as many of these stories wereI could not
find one adapted to this mysterywhich only became the more
impenetrablein proportion as I sought to solve it.

Occupied with such thoughts as theseand a crowd of others all
tending to the same pointI continued to pace the street for two long
hours; at length the rain began to descend heavilyand then over-powered
by fatigue though no less interested than I had been at first
I engaged the nearest coach and so got home. A cheerful fire was
blazing on the hearththe lamp burnt brightlymy clock received me
with its old familiar welcome; everything was quietwarm and
cheeringand in happy contrast to the gloom and darkness I had quitted.

But all that nightwaking or in my sleepthe same thoughts recurred
and the same images retained possession of my brain. I had ever
before me the old dark murky rooms--the gaunt suits of mail with


their ghostly silent air--the faces all awrygrinning from wood and
stone--the dust and rust and worm that lives in wood--and alone in
the midst of all this lumber and decay and ugly agethe beautiful
child in her gentle slumbersmiling through her light and sunny dreams.

CHAPTER 2

After combatingfor nearly a weekthe feeling which impelled me to
revisit the place I had quitted under the circumstances already
detailedI yielded to it at length; and determining that this time I
would present myself by the light of daybent my steps thither early
in the morning.

I walked past the houseand took several turns in the streetwith
that kind of hesitation which is natural to a man who is conscious
that the visit he is about to pay is unexpectedand may not be very
acceptable. Howeveras the door of the shop was shutand it did not
appear likely that I should be recognized by those withinif I
continued merely to pass up and down before itI soon conquered
this irresolutionand found myself in the Curiosity Dealer's
warehouse.

The old man and another person were together in the back partand
there seemed to have been high words between themfor their voices
which were raised to a very high pitch suddenly stopped on my
enteringand the old man advancing hastily towards mesaid in a
tremulous tone that he was very glad I had come.

'You interrupted us at a critical moment' said hepointing to the
man whom I had found in company with him; 'this fellow will
murder me one of these days. He would have done solong agoif
he had dared.'

'Bah! You would swear away my life if you could' returned the
otherafter bestowing a stare and a frown on me; 'we all know that!'

'I almost think I could' cried the old manturning feebly upon him.
'If oathsor prayersor wordscould rid me of youthey should. I
would be quit of youand would be relieved if you were dead.'

'I know it' returned the other. 'I said sodidn't I? But neither oaths
or prayersnor wordsWILL kill meand therefore I liveand mean
to live.'

'And his mother died!' cried the old manpassionately clasping his
hands and looking upward; 'and this is Heaven's justice!'

The other stood lunging with his foot upon a chairand regarded him
with a contemptuous sneer. He was a young man of one-and-twenty
or thereabouts; well madeand certainly handsomethough the
expression of his face was far from prepossessinghaving in
common with his manner and even his dressa dissipatedinsolent
air which repelled one.

'Justice or no justice' said the young fellow'here I am and here I
shall stop till such time as I think fit to gounless you send for
assistance to put me out--which you won't doI know. I tell you
again that I want to see my sister.'

'YOUR sister!' said the old man bitterly.


'Ah! You can't change the relationship' returned the other. 'If you
couldyou'd have done it long ago. I want to see my sisterthat you
keep cooped up herepoisoning her mind with your sly secrets and
pretending an affection for her that you may work her to deathand
add a few scraped shillings every week to the money you can hardly
count. I want to see her; and I will.'

'Here's a moralist to talk of poisoned minds! Here's a generous spirit
to scorn scraped-up shillings!' cried the old manturning from him
to me. 'A profligatesirwho has forfeited every claim not only
upon those who have the misfortune to be of his bloodbut upon
society which knows nothing of him but his misdeeds. A liar too' he
addedin a lower voice as he drew closer to me'who knows how
dear she is to meand seeks to wound me even therebecause there
is a stranger nearby.'

'Strangers are nothing to megrandfather' said the young fellow
catching at the word'nor I to themI hope. The best they can dois
to keep an eye to their business and leave me to mind. There's a
friend of mine waiting outsideand as it seems that I may have to
wait some timeI'll call him inwith your leave.'

Saying thishe stepped to the doorand looking down the street
beckoned several times to some unseen personwhoto judge from
the air of impatience with which these signals were accompanied
required a great quantity of persuasion to induce him to advance. At
length there sauntered upon the opposite side of the way--with a
bad pretense of passing by accident--a figure conspicuous for its dirty
smartnesswhich after a great many frowns and jerks of the headin
resistence of the invitationultimately crossed the road and was
brought into the shop.

'There. It's Dick Swiveller' said the young fellowpushing him in.
'Sit downSwiveller.'

'But is the old min agreeable?' said Mr Swiveller in an undertone.

Mr Swiveller compliedand looking about him with a propritiatory
smileobserved that last week was a fine week for the ducksand
this week was a fine week for the dust; he also observed that whilst
standing by the post at the street-cornerhe had observed a pig with
a straw in his mouth issuing out of the tobacco-shopfrom which
appearance he augured that another fine week for the ducks was
approachingand that rain would certainly ensue. He furthermore
took occasion to apologize for any negligence that might be
perceptible in his dresson the ground that last night he had had 'the
sun very strong in his eyes'; by which expression he was understood
to convey to his hearers in the most delicate manner possiblethe
information that he had been extremely drunk.

'But what' said Mr Swiveller with a sigh'what is the odds so long
as the fire of soul is kindled at the taper of conwivialityand the
wing of friendship never moults a feather! What is the odds so long
as the spirit is expanded by means of rosy wineand the present
moment is the least happiest of our existence!'

'You needn't act the chairman here' said his friendhalf aside.

'Fred!' cried Mr Swivellertapping his nose'a word to the wise is
sufficient for them--we may be good and happy without richesFred.
Say not another syllable. I know my cue; smart is the word. Only
one little whisperFred--is the old min friendly?'


'Never you mind' repled his friend.

'Right againquite right' said Mr Swiveller'caution is the word
and caution is the act.' with thathe winked as if in preservation of
some deep secretand folding his arms and leaning back in his chair
looked up at the ceiling with profound gravity.

It was perhaps not very unreasonable to suspect from what had
already passedthat Mr Swiveller was not quite recovered from the
effects of the powerful sunlight to which he had made allusion; but if
no such suspicion had been awakened by his speechhis wiry hair
dull eyesand sallow face would still have been strong witnesses
against him. His attire was notas he had himself hintedremarkable
for the nicest arrangementbut was in a state of disorder which
strongly induced the idea that he had gone to bed in it. It consisted of
a brown body-coat with a great many brass buttons up the front and
only one behinda bright check neckerchiefa plaid waistcoatsoiled
white trousersand a very limp hatworn with the wrong side
foremostto hide a hole in the brim. The breast of his coat was
ornamented with an outside pocket from which there peeped forth the
cleanest end of a very large and very ill-favoured handkerchief; his
dirty wristbands were pulled on as far as possible and ostentatiously
folded back over his cuffs; he displayed no glovesand carried a
yellow cane having at the top a bone hand with the semblance of a
ring on its little finger and a black ball in its grasp. With all these
personal advantages (to which may be added a strong savour of
tobacco-smokeand a prevailing greasiness of appearance) Mr
Swiveller leant back in his chair with his eyes fixed on the ceiling
and occasionally pitching his voice to the needful keyobliged the
company with a few bars of an intensely dismal airand thenin the
middle of a noterelapsed into his former silence.

The old man sat himself down in a chairand with folded hands
looked sometimes at his grandson and sometimes at his strange
companionas if he were utterly powerless and had no resource but
to leave them to do as they pleased. The young man reclined against
a table at no great distance from his friendin apparent indifference
to everything that had passed; and I--who felt the difficulty of any
interferencenotwithstanding that the old man had appealed to me
both by words and looks--made the best feint I could of being
occupied in examining some of the goods that were disposed for sale
and paying very little attention to a person before me.

The silence was not of long durationfor Mr Swivellerafter
favouring us with several melodious assurances that his heart was in
the Highlandsand that he wanted but his Arab steed as a
preliminary to the achievement of great feats of valour and loyalty
removed his eyes from the ceiling and subsided into prose again.

'Fred' said Mr Swiveller stopping shortas if the idea had suddenly
occurred to himand speaking in the same audible whisper as before
'is the old min friendly?'

'What does it matter?' returned his friend peevishly.

'Nobut IS he?' said Dick.

'Yesof course. What do I care whether he is or not?'

Emboldened as it seemed by this reply to enter into a more general
conversationMr Swiveller plainly laid himself out to captivate our
attention.

He began by remarking that soda-waterthough a good thing in the


abstractwas apt to lie cold upon the stomach unless qualified with
gingeror a small infusion of brandywhich latter article he held to
be preferable in all casessaving for the one consideration of
expense. Nobody venturing to dispute these positionshe proceeded
to observe that the human hair was a great retainer of tobacco-smokeand
that the young
gentlemen of Westminster and Etonafter
eating vast quantities of apples to conceal any scent of cigars from
their anxious friendswere usually detected in consequence of their
heads possessing this remarkable property; when he concluded that if
the Royal Society would turn their attention to the circumstanceand
endeavour to find in the resources of science a means of preventing
such untoward revelationsthey might indeed be looked upon as
benefactors to mankind. These opinions being equally
incontrovertible with those he had already pronouncedhe went on to
inform us that Jamaica rumthough unquestionably an agreeable
spirit of great richness and flavourhad the drawback of remaining
constantly present to the taste next day; and nobody being venturous
enough to argue this point eitherhe increased in confidence and
became yet more companionable and communicative.

'It's a devil of a thinggentlemen' said Mr Swiveller'when
relations fall out and disagree. If the wing of friendship should never
moult a featherthe wing of relationship should never be clippedbut
be always expanded and serene. Why should a grandson and
grandfather peg away at each other with mutual wiolence when all
might be bliss and concord. Why not jine hands and forgit it?'

'Hold your tongue' said his friend.

'Sir' replied Mr Swiveller'don't you interrupt the chair.
Gentlemenhow does the case standupon the present occasion?
Here is a jolly old grandfather--I say it with the utmost respect--and
here is a wildyoung grandson. The jolly old grandfather says to the
wild young grandson'I have brought you up and educated you
Fred; I have put you in the way of getting on in life; you have bolted
a little out of courseas young fellows often do; and you shall never
have another chancenor the ghost of half a one.' The wild young
grandson makes answer to this and says'You're as rich as rich can
be; you have been at no uncommon expense on my accountyou're
saving up piles of money for my little sister that lives with you in a
secretstealthyhugger-muggering kind of way and with no manner
of enjoyment--why can't you stand a trifle for your grown-up
relation?' The jolly old grandfather unto thisretortsnot only that
he declines to fork out with that cheerful readiness which is always
so agreeable and pleasant in a gentleman of his time of lifebut that
he will bow upand call namesand make reflections whenever they
meet. Then the plain question isan't it a pity that this state of things
should continueand how much better would it be for the gentleman
to hand over a reasonable amount of tinand make it all right and
comfortable?'

Having delivered this oration with a great many waves and flourishes
of the handMr Swiveller abruptly thrust the head of his cane into
his mouth as if to prevent himself from impairing the effect of his
speech by adding one other word.

'Why do you hunt and persecute meGod help me!' said the old man
turning to his grandson. 'Why do you bring your prolifigate
companions here? How often am I to tell you that my life is one of
care and self-denialand that I am poor?'

'How often am I to tell you' returned the otherlooking coldly at
him'that I know better?'


'You have chosen your own path' said the old man. 'Follow it.
Leave Nell and me to toil and work.'

'Nell will be a woman soon' returned the other'andbred in your
faithshe'll forget her brother unless he shows himself sometimes.'

'Take care' said the old man with sparkling eyes'that she does not
forget you when you would have her memory keenest. Take care that
the day don't come when you walk barefoot in the streetsand she
rides by in a gay carriage of her own.'

'You mean when she has your money?' retorted the other. 'How like
a poor man he talks!'

'And yet' said the old man dropping his voice and speaking like one
who thinks aloud'how poor we areand what a life it is! The cause
is a young child's guiltless of all harm or wrongbut nothing goes
well with it! Hope and patiencehope and patience!'

These words were uttered in too low a tone to reach the ears of the
young men. Mr Swiveller appeared to think the they implied some
mental struggle consequent upon the powerful effect of his address
for he poked his friend with his cane and whispered his conviction
that he had administered 'a clincher' and that he expected a
commission on the profits. Discovering his mistake after a whilehe
appeared to grow rather sleeply and discontentedand had more than
once suggested the proprieity of an immediate departurewhen the
door openedand the child herself appeared.

CHAPTER 3

The child was closely followed by an elderly man of remarkably
hard features and forbidding aspectand so low in stature as to be
quite a dwarfthough his head and face were large enough for the
body of a giant. His black eyes were restlessslyand cunning; his
mouth and chinbristly with the stubble of a coarse hard beard; and
his complexion was one of that kind which never looks clean or
wholesome. But what added most to the grotesque expression of his
face was a ghastly smilewhichappearing to be the mere result of
habit and to have no connection with any mirthful or complacent
feelingconstantly revealed the few discoloured fangs that were yet
scattered in his mouthand gave him the aspect of a panting dog. His
dress consisted of a large high-crowned hata worn dark suita pair
of capacious shoesand a dirty white neckerchief sufficiently limp
and crumpled to disclose the greater portion of his wiry throat. Such
hair as he had was of a grizzled blackcut short and straight upon his
templesand hanging in a frowzy fringe about his ears. His hands
which were of a roughcoarse grainwere very dirty; his fingernails
were crookedlongand yellow.

There was ample time to note these particularsfor besides that they
were sufficiently obvious without very close observationsome
moments elapsed before any one broke silence. The child advanced
timidly towards her brother and put her hand in histhe dwarf (if we
may call him so) glanced keenly at all presentand the curiosity-dealer
who plainly had not
expected his uncouth visitorseemed
disconcerted and embarrassed.


'Ah!' said the dwarfwho with his hand stretched out above his eyes
had been surveying the young man attentively'that should be your
grandsonneighbour!'

'Say rather that he should not be' replied the old man. 'But he is.'

'And that?' said the dwarfpointing to Dick Swiveller.

'Some friend of hisas welcome here as he' said the old man.

'And that?' inquired the dwarfwheeling round and pointing straight
at me.

'A gentleman who was so good as to bring Nell home the other night
when she lost her waycoming from your house.'

The little man turned to the child as if to chide her or express his
wonderbut as she was talking to the young manheld his peaceand
bent his head to listen.

'WellNelly' said the young fellow aloud. 'Do they teach you to
hate meeh?'

'Nono. For shame. Ohno!' cried the child.

'To love meperhaps?' pursued her brother with a sneer.

'To do neither' she returned. 'They never speak to me about you.
Indeed they never do.'

'I dare be bound for that' he saiddarting a bitter look at the
grandfather. 'I dare be bound for that Nell. Oh! I believe you there!'

'But I love you dearlyFred' said the child.

'No doubt!'

'I do indeedand always will' the child repeated with great emotion
'but oh! If you would leave off vexing him and making him unhappy
then I could love you more.'

'I see!' said the young manas he stooped carelessly over the child
and having kissed herpushed her from him: 'There--get you away
now you have said your lesson. You needn't whimper. We part good
friends enoughif that's the matter.'

He remained silentfollowing her with his eyesuntil she had gained
her little room and closed the door; and then turning to the dwarf
said abruptly

'HarkeeMr--'

'Meaning me?' returned the dwarf. 'Quilp is my name. You might
remember. It's not a long one--Daniel Quilp.'

'HarkeeMr Quilpthen' pursued the other'You have some
influence with my grandfather there.'

'Some' said Mr Quilp emphatically.

'And are in a few of his mysteries and secrets.'

'A few' replied Quilpwith equal dryness.


'Then let me tell him once for allthrough youthat I will come into
and go out of this place as often as I likeso long as he keeps Nell
here; and that if he wants to be quit of mehe must first be quit of
her. What have I done to be made a bugbear ofand to be shunned
and dreaded as if I brought the plague? He'll tell you that I have no
natural affection; and that I care no more for Nellfor her own sake
than I do for him. Let him say so. I care for the whimthenof
coming to and fro and reminding her of my existence. I WILL see
her when I please. That's my point. I came here to-day to maintain
itand I'll come here again fifty times with the same object and
always with the same success. I said I would stop till I had gained it.
I have done soand now my visit's ended. Come Dick.'

'Stop!' cried Mr Swivelleras his companion turned toward the
door. 'Sir!'

'SirI am your humble servant' said Mr Quilpto whom the
monosyllable was addressed.

'Before I leave the gay and festive sceneand halls of dazzling light
sir' said Mr Swiveller'I will with your permissionattempt a slight
remark. I came heresirthis dayunder the impression that the old
min was friendly.'

'Proceedsir' said Daniel Quilp; for the orator had made a sudden
stop.

'Inspired by this idea and the sentiments it awakenedsirand feeling
as a mutual friend that badgeringbaitingand bullyingwas not the
sort of thing calculated to expand the souls and promote the social
harmony of the contending partiesI took upon myself to suggest a
course which is THE course to be adopted to the present occasion.
Will you allow me to whisper half a syllablesir?'

Without waiting for the permission he soughtMr Swiveller stepped
up to the dwarfand leaning on his shoulder and stooping down to
get at his earsaid in a voice which was perfectly audible to all
present

'The watch-word to the old min is--fork.'

'Is what?' demanded Quilp.

'Is forksirfork' replied Mr Swiveller slapping his picket. 'You
are awakesir?'

The dwarf nodded. Mr Swiveller drew back and nodded likewise
then drew a little further back and nodded againand so on. By these
means he in time reached the doorwhere he gave a great cough to
attract the dwarf's attention and gain an opportunity of expressing in
dumb showthe closest confidence and most inviolable secrecy.
Having performed the serious pantomime that was necessary for the
due conveyance of these ideahe cast himself upon his friend's track
and vanished.

'Humph!' said the dwarf with a sour look and a shrug of his
shoulders'so much for dear relations. Thank God I acknowledge
none! Nor need you either' he addedturning to the old man'if you
were not as weak as a reedand nearly as senseless.'

'What would you have me do?' he retorted in a kind of helpless
desperation. 'It is easy to talk and sneer. What would you have me do?'

'What would I do if I was in your case?' said the dwarf.


'Something violentno doubt.'

'You're right there' returned the little manhighly gratified by the
complimentfor such he evidently considered it; and grinning like a
devil as he rubbed his dirty hands together. 'Ask Mrs Quilppretty
Mrs Quilpobedienttimidloving Mrs Quilp. But that reminds me--I have
left her all alone
and she will be anxious and know not a
moment's peace till I return. I know she's always in that condition
when I'm awaythought she doesn't dare to say sounless I lead her
on and tell her she may speak freely and I won't be angry with her.
Oh! well-trained Mrs Quilp.

The creature appeared quite horrible with his monstrous head and
little bodyas he rubbed his hands slowly roundand roundand
round again--with something fantastic even in his manner of
performing this slight action--anddropping his shaggy brows and
cocking his chin in the airglanced upward with a stealthy look of
exultation that an imp might have copied and appropriated to
himself.

'Here' he saidputting his hand into his breast and sidling up to the
old man as he spoke; 'I brought it myself for fear of accidentsas
being in goldit was something large and heavy for Nell to carry in
her bag. She need be accustomed to such loads betimes thought
neighborfor she will carry weight when you are dead.'

'Heaven send she may! I hope so' said the old man with something
like a groan.'

'Hope so!' echoed the dwarfapproaching close to his ear;
'neighbourI would I knew in what good investment all these supplies
are sunk. But you are a deep manand keep your secret close.'

'My secret!' said the other with a haggard look. 'Yes
you're right--I--I--keep it close--very close.'

He said no morebut taking the money turned away with a slow
uncertain stepand pressed his hand upon his head like a weary and
dejected man. the dwarf watched him sharplywhile he passed into
the little sitting-room and locked it in an iron safe above the
chimney-piece; and after musing for a short spaceprepared to take
his leaveobserving that unless he made good hasteMrs Quilp
would certainly be in fits on his return.

'And soneighbour' he added'I'll turn my face homewards
leaving my love for Nelly and hoping she may never lose her way
againthough her doing so HAS procured me an honour I didn't
expect.' With that he bowed and leered at meand with a keen
glance around which seemed to comprehend every object within his
range of visionhoweversmall or trivialwent his way.

I had several times essayed to go myselfbut the old man had always
opposed it and entreated me to remain. As he renewed his entreaties
on our being left alongand adverted with many thanks to the former
occasion of our being togetherI willingly yielded to his persuasions
and sat downpretending to examine some curious miniatures and a
few old medals which he placed before me. It needed no great
pressing to induce me to stayfor if my curiosity has been excited on
the occasion of my first visitit certainly was not diminished now.

Nell joined us before longand bringing some needle-work to the
tablesat by the old man's side. It was pleasant to observe the fresh


flowers in the roomthe pet bird with a green bough shading his
little cagethe breath of freshness and youth which seemed to rustle
through the old dull house and hover round the child. It was curious
but not so pleasantto turn from the beauty and grace of the girlto
the stooping figurecare-worn faceand jaded aspect of the old man.
As he grew weaker and more feeblewhat would become of this
lonely litle creature; poor protector as he wassay that he died--what
we be her fatethen?

The old man almost answered my thoughtsas he laid his hand on
hersand spoke aloud.

'I'll be of better cheerNell' he said; 'there must be good fortune in
store for thee--I do not ask it for myselfbut thee. Such miseries
must fall on thy innocent head without itthat I cannot believe but
thatbeing temptedit will come at last!'

She looked cheerfully into his facebut made no answer.

'When I think' said he'of the many years--many in thy short life-that
thou has lived with me; of my monotonous existenceknowing
no companions of thy own age nor any childish pleasures; of the
solitutde in which thou has grown to be what thou artand in which
thou hast lived apart from nearly all thy kind but one old man; I
sometimes fear I have dealt hardly by theeNell.'

'Grandfather!' cried the child in unfeigned surprise.

'Not in intention--no no' said he. 'I have ever looked forward to the
time that should enable thee to mix among the gayest and prettiest
and take thy station with the best. But I still look forwardNellI
still look forwardand if I should be forced to leave thee
meanwhilehow have I fitted thee for struggles with the world? The
poor bird yonder is as well qualified to encounter itand be turned
adrift upon its mercies--Hark! I hear Kit outside. Go to himNellgo
to him.'

She roseand hurrying awaystoppedturned backand put her arms
about the old man's neckthen left him and hurried away again--but
faster this timeto hide her falling tears.

'A word in your earsir' said the old man in a hurried whisper. 'I
have been rendered uneasy by what you said the other nightand can
only plead that I have done all for the best--that it is too late to
retractif I could (though I cannot)--and that I hope to triumph yet.
All is for her sake. I have borne great poverty myselfand would
spare her the sufferings that poverty carries with it. I would spare
her the miseries that brought her mothermy own dear childto an
early grave. I would leave her--not with resources which could be
easily spent or squandered awaybut with what would place her
beyond the reach of want for ever. you mark me sir? She shall have
no pittancebut a fortune--Hush! I can say no more than thatnow or
at any other timeand she is here again!'

The eagerness with which all this was poured into my earthe
trembling of the hand with which he clasped my armthe strained
and starting eyes he fixed upon methe wild vehemence and agitation
of his mannerfilled me with amazement. All that I had heard and
seenand a great part of what he had said himselfled me to suppose
that he was a wealthy man. I could form no comprehension of his
characterunless he were one of those miserable wretches who
having made gain the sole end and object of their lives and having
succeeded in amassing great richesare constantly tortured by the
dread of povertyand best by fears of loss and ruin. Many things he


had said which I had been at a loss to understandwere quite
reconcilable with the idea thus presented to meand at length I
concluded that beyond all doubt he was one of this unhappy race.

The opinion was not the result of hasty considerationfor which
indeed there was no opportunity at that timeas the child came
directlyand soon occupied herself in preparations for giving Kit a
writing lessonof which it seemed he had a couple every weekand
one regularly on that eveningto the great mirth and enjoyment both
of himself and his instructress. To relate how it was a long time
before his modesty could be so far prevailed upon as it admit of his
sitting down in the parlourin the presence of an unknown
gentleman--howwhen he did set downhe tucked up his sleeves and
squared his elbows and put his face close to the copy-book and
squinted horribly at the lines--howfrom the very first moment of
having the pen in his handhe began to wallow in blotsand to daub
himself with ink up to the very roots of his hair--howif he did by
accident form a letter properlyhe immediately smeared it out again
with his arm in his preparations to make another -- howat every
fresh mistakethere was a fresh burst of merriment from the child
and louder and not less hearty laugh from poor Kit himself--and how
there was all the way throughnotwithstandinga gentle wish on her
part to teachand an anxious desire on his to learn--to relate all these
particulars would no doubt occupy more space and time than they
deserve. It will be sufficient to say that the lesson was given--that
evening passed and night came on--that the old man again grew
restless and impatient--that he quitted the house secretly at the same
hour as before--and that the child was once more left alone within its
gloomy walls.

And now that I have carried this history so far in my own character
and introduced these personages to the readerI shall for the
convenience of the narrative detach myself from its further course
and leave those who have prominent and necessary parts in it to
speak and act for themselves.

CHAPTER 4

Mr and Mrs Quilp resided on Tower Hill; and in her bower on
Tower Hill. Mrs Quilp was left to pine the absence of her lordwhen
he quitted her on the business which he had already seen to transact.

Mr Quilp could scarcely be said to be of any particular trade or
callingthough his pursuits were diversified and his occupations
numerous. He collected the rents of whole colonies of filthy streets
and alleys by the watersideadvanced money to the seamen and petty
officers of merchant vesselshad a share in the ventures of divers
mates of East Indiamensmoked his smuggled cigars under the very
nose of the Custom Houseand made appointments on 'Change with
men in glazed hats and round jackets pretty well every day. On the
Surrey side of the river was a small rat-infested dreary yard called
'Quilp's Wharf' in which were a little wooden counting-house
burrowing all awry in the dust as if it had fallen from the clouds and
ploughed into the ground; a few fragments of rusty anchors; several
large iron rings; some piles of rotten wood; and two or three heaps
of old sheet coppercrumpledcrackedand battered. On Quilp's
WharfDaniel Quilp was a ship-breakeryet to judge from these
appearances he must either have been a ship-breaker on a very small
scaleor have broken his ships up very small indeed. Neither did the
place present any extraordinary aspect of life or activityas its only


human occupant was an amphibious boy in a canvas suitwhose sole
change of occupation was from sitting on the head of a pile and
throwing stones into the mud when the tide was outto standing with
his hands in his pockets gazing listlessly on the motion and on the
bustle of the river at high-water.

The dwarf's lodging on Tower hill comprisedbesides the needful
accommodation for himself and Mrs Quilpa small sleeping-closet
for that lady's motherwho resided with the couple and waged
perpetual war with Daniel; of whomnotwithstandingshe stood in
no slight dread. Indeedthe ugly creature contrived by some means
or other--whether by his ugliness or his ferocity or his natural
cunning is no great matter--to impress with a wholesome fear of his
angermost of those with whom he was brought into daily contact
and communication. Over nobody had he such complete ascendance
as Mrs Quilp herself--a pretty littlemild-spokenblue-eyed woman
who having allied herself in wedlock to the dwarf in one of those
strange infatuations of which examples are by no means scarce
performed a sound practical penance for her follyevery day of her
life.

It has been said that Mrs Quilp was pining in her bower. In her
bower she wasbut not alonefor besides the old lady her mother of
whom mention has recently been madethere were present some
half-dozen ladies of the neighborhood who had happened by a
strange accident (and also by a little understanding among
themselves) to drop in one after anotherjust about tea-time. This
being a season favourable to conversationand the room being a
coolshadylazy kind of placewith some plants at the open window
shutting out the dustand interposing pleasantly enough between the
tea table within and the old Tower withoutit is no wonder that the
ladies felt an inclination to talk and lingerespecially when there are
taken into account the additional inducements of fresh butternew
breadshrimpsand watercresses.

Nowthe ladies being together under these circumstancesit was
extremely natural that the discourse should turn upon the propensity
of mankind to tyrannize over the weaker sexand the duty that
developed upon the weaker sex to resist that tyranny and assert their
rights and dignity. It was natural for four reasons: firstlybecause
Mrs Quilp being a young woman and notoriously under the dominion
of her husband ought to be excited to rebel; secondlybecause Mrs
Quilp's parent was known to be laudably shrewish in her disposition
and inclined to resist male authority; thirdlybecause each visitor
wished to show for herself how superior she was in this respect to
the generality of her sex; and forthlybecause the company being
accustomed to acandalise each other in pairswere deprived of their
usual subject of conversation now that they were all assembled in
close friendshipand had consequently no better employment than to
attack the common enemy.

Moved by these considerationsa stout lady opened the proceedings
by inquiringwith an air of great concern and sympathyhow Mr
Quilp was; whereunto Mr Quilp's wife's mother replied sharply
'Oh! He was well enough--nothing much was every the matter with
him--and ill weeds were sure to thrive.' All the ladies then sighed in
concertshook their heads gravelyand looked at Mrs Quilp as a martyr.

'Ah!' said the spokeswoman'I wish you'd give her a little of your
adviceMrs Jiniwin'--Mrs Quilp had been a Miss Jiniwin it should
be observed--'nobody knows better than youma'amwhat us
women owe to ourselves.'

'Owe indeedma'am!' replied Mrs Jiniwin. 'When my poor husband


her dear fatherwas aliveif he had ever venture'd a cross
word to meI'd have--' The good old lady did not finish the
sentencebut she twisted off the head of a shrimp with a
vindictiveness which seemed to imply that the action was in some
degree a substitute for words. In this light it was clearly understood
by the other partywho immediately replied with great approbation
'You quite enter into my feelingsma'amand it's jist what I'd do
myself.'

'But you have no call to do it' said Mrs Jiniwin. 'Luckily for you
you have no more occasion to do it than I had.'

'No woman need haveif she was true to herself' rejoined the stout
lady.

'Do you hear thatBetsy?' said Mrs Jiniwinin a warning voice.
'How often have I said the same words to youand almost gone
down my knees when I spoke 'em!'

Poor Mrs Quilpwho had looked in a state of helplessness from one
face of condolence to anothercolouredsmiledand shook her head
doubtfully. This was the signal for a general clamourwhich
beginning in a low murmur gradually swelled into a great noise in
which everybody spoke at onceand all said that she being a young
woman had no right to set up her opinions against the experiences of
those who knew so much better; that it was very wrong of her not to
take the advice of people who had nothing at heart but her good; that
it was next door to being downright ungrateful to conduct herself in
that manner; that if she had no respect for herself she ought to have
some for other womenall of whom she compromised by her
meekness; and that if she had no respect for other womenthe time
would come when other women would have no respect for her; and
she would be very sorry for thatthey could tell her. Having dealt
out these admonitionsthe ladies fell to a more powerful assault than
they had yet made upon the mixed teanew breadfresh butter
shrimpsand watercressesand said that their vexation was so great
to see her going on like thatthat they could hardly bring themselves
to eat a single morsel.

It's all very fine to talk' said Mrs Quilp with much simplicity'but I
know that if I was to die to-morrowQuilp could marry anybody he
pleased--now that he couldI know!'

There was quite a scream of indignation at this idea. Marry whom he
pleased! They would like to see him dare to think of marrying any of
them; they would like to see the faintest approach to such a thing.
One lady (a widow) was quite certain she should stab him if he
hinted at it.

'Very well' said Mrs Quilpnodding her head'as I said just now
it's very easy to talkbut I say again that I know--that I'm sure--Quilp
has such a way with
him when he likesthat the best looking
woman here couldn't refuse him if I was deadand she was freeand
he chose to make love to him. Come!'

Everybody bridled up at this remarkas much as to say'I know you
mean me. Let him try--that's all.' and yet for some hidden reason
they were all angry with the widowand each lady whispered in her
neighbour's ear that it was very plain that said widow thought herself
the person referred toand what a puss she was!

'Mother knows' said Mrs Quilp'that what I say is quite correct
for she often said so before we were married. Didn't you say so


mother?'

This inquiry involved the respected lady in rather a delicate position
for she certainly had been an active party in making her daughter
Mrs Quilpandbesidesit was not supporting the family credit to
encourage the idea that she had married a man whom nobody else
would have. On the other handto exaggerate the captivating
qualities of her son-in-law would be to weaken the cause of revoltin
which all her energies were deeply engaged. Beset by these opposing
considerationsMrs Jiniwin admitted the powers of insinuationbut
denied the right to governand with a timely compliment to the stout
lady brought back the discussion to the point from which it had
strayed.

'Oh! It's a sensible and proper thing indeedwhat Mrs George has
said!' exclaimed the old lady. 'If women are only true to
themselves!--But Betsy isn'tand more's the shame and pity.'

'Before I'd let a man order me about as Quilp orders her' said Mrs
George'before I'd consent to stand in awe of a man as she does of
himI'd--I'd kill myselfand write a letter first to say he did it!'

This remark being loudly commended and approved ofanother lady
(from the Minories) put in her word:

'Mr Quilp may be a very nice man' said this lady'and I supposed
there's no doubt he isbecause Mrs Quilp says he isand Mrs
Jiniwin says he isand they ought to knowor nobody does. But still
he is not quite a--what one calls a handsome mannor quite a young
man neitherwhich might be a little excuse for him if anything could
be; whereas his wife is youngand is good-lookingand is a woman--which
is the greatest
thing after all.'

This last clause being delivered with extraordinary pathoselicited a
corresponding murmer from the hearersstimulated by which the
lady went on to remark that if such a husband was cross and
unreasonable with such a wifethen-


'If he is!' interposed the motherputting down her tea-cup and
brushing the crumbs out of her lappreparatory to making a solemn
declaration. 'If he is! He is the greatest tyrant that every livedshe
daren't call her soul her ownhe makes her tremble with a word and
even with a lookhe frightens her to deathand she hasn't the spirit
to give him a word backnonot a single word.'

Notwithstanding that the fact had been notorious beforehand to all
the tea-drinkersand had been discussed and expatiated on at every
tea-drinking in the neighbourhood for the last twelve monthsthis
official communication was no sooner made than they all began to
talk at once and to vie with each other in vehemence and volubility.
Mrs George remarked that people would talkthat people had often
said this to her beforethat Mrs Simmons then and there present had
told her so twenty timesthat she had always said'NoHenrietta
Simmonsunless I see it with my own eyes and hear it with my own
earsI never will believe it.' Mrs Simmons corroborated this
testimony and added strong evidence of her own. The lady from the
Minories recounted a successful course of treatment under which she
had placed her own husbandwhofrom manifesting one month after
marriage unequivocal symptoms of the tigerhad by this means
become subdued into a perfect lamb. Another lady recounted her
own personal struggle and final triumphin the course whereof she
had found it necessary to call in her mother and two auntsand to
weep incessantly night and day for six weeks. A thirdwho in the


general confusion could secure no other listenerfastened herself
upon a young woman still unmarried who happened to be amongst
themand conjured heras she valued her own peace of mind and
happiness to profit by this solemn occasionto take example from the
weakness of Mrs Quilpand from that time forth to direct her whole
thoughts to taming and subduing the rebellious spirit of man. The
noise was at its heightand half the company had elevated their
voices into a perfect shriek in order to drown the voices of the other
halfwhen Mrs Jiniwin was seen to change colour and shake her
forefinger stealthilyas if exhorting them to silence. Thenand not
until thenDaniel Quilp himselfthe cause and occasion of all this
clamourwas observed to be in the roomlooking on and listening
with profound attention.

'Go onladiesgo on' said Daniel. 'Mrs Quilppray ask the ladies
to stop to supperand have a couple of lobsters and something light
and palatable.'

'I--I--didn't ask them to teaQuilp' stammered his wife. It's quite an
accident.'

'So much the betterMrs Quilp; these accidental parties are always
the pleasantest' said the dwarfrubbing his hands so hard that he
seemed to be engaged in manufacturingof the dirt with which they
were encrustedlittle charges for popguns. 'What! Not goingladies
you are not goingsurely!'

His fair enemies tossed their heads slightly as they sought their
respective bonnets and shawlsbut left all verbal contention to Mrs
Jiniwinwho finding herself in the position of championmade a
faint struggle to sustain the character.

'And why not stop to supperQuilp' said the old lady'if my
daughter had a mind?'

'To be sure' rejoined Daniel. 'Why not?'

'There's nothing dishonest or wrong in a supperI hope?' said Mrs
Jiniwin.

'Surely not' returned the dwarf. 'Why should there be? Nor
anything unwholesomeeitherunless there's lobster-salad or
prawnswhich I'm told are not good for digestion.'

'And you wouldn't like your wife to be attacked with thator
anything else that would make her uneasy would you?' said Mrs
Jiniwin.

'Not for a score of worlds' replied the dwarf with a grin. 'Not even
to have a score of mothers-in-law at the same time--and what a
blessing that would be!'

'My daughter's your wifeMr Quilpcertainly' said the old lady
with a gigglemeant for satirical and to imply that he needed to be
reminded of the fact; 'your wedded wife.'

'So she iscertainly. So she is' observed the dwarf.

'And she has has a right to do as she likesI hopeQuilp' said the
old lady tremblingpartly with anger and partly with a secret fear of
her impish son-in-law.

'Hope she has!' he replied. 'Oh! Don't you know she has? Don't you
know she hasMrs Jiniwin?


'I know she ought to haveQuilpand would haveif she was of my
way of thiniking.'

'Why an't you of your mother's way of thinkingmy dear?' said the
dwarfturing round and addressing his wife'why don't you always
imitate your mothermy dear? She's the ornament of her sex--your
father said so every day of his life. I am sure he did.'

'Her father was a blessed creeturQuilpand worthy twenty
thousand of some people' said Mrs Jiniwin; 'twenty hundred million
thousand.'

'I should like to have known him' remarked the dwarf. 'I dare say
he was a blessed creature then; but I'm sure he is now. It was a
happy release. I believe he had suffered a long time?'

The old lady gave a gaspbut nothing came of it; Quilp resumed
with the same malice in his eye and the same sarcastic politeness on
his tongue.

'You look illMrs Jiniwin; I know you have been exciting yourself
too much--talking perhapsfor it is your weakness. Go to bed. Do go
to bed.'

'I shall go when I pleaseQuilpand not before.'

'But please to do now. Do please to go now' said the dwarf.

The old woman looked angrily at himbut retreated as he advanced
and falling back before himsuffered him to shut the door upon her
and bolt her out among the guestswho were by this time crowding
downstairs. Being left along with his wifewho sat trembling in a
corner with her eyes fixed upon the groundthe little man planted
himself before herand folding his arms looked steadily at her for a
long time without speaking.

'Mrs Quilp' he said at last.

'YesQuilp' she replead meekly.

Instead of pursing the theme he had in his mindQuilp folded his
arms againand looked at her more sternly than beforewhile she
averted her eyes and kept them on the ground.

'Mrs Quilp.'

'YesQuilp.'

'If ever you listen to these beldames againI'll bite you.'

With this laconic threatwhich he accompanied with a snarl that gave
him the appearance of being particularly in earnestMr Quilp bade
her clear the teaboard awayand bring the rum. The spirit being set
before him in a huge case-bottlewhich had originally come out of
some ship's lockerhe settled himself in an arm-chair with his large
head and face squeezed up against the backand his little legs planted
on the table.

'NowMrs Quilp' he said; 'I feel in a smoking humourand shall
probably blaze away all night. But sit where you areif you please
in case I want you.'

His wife returned no other reply than the necessary 'YesQuilp' and


the small lord of the creation took his first cigar and mixed his first
glass of grog. The sun went down and the stars peeped outthe
Tower turned from its own proper colours to grey and from grey to
blackthe room became perfectly dark and the end of the cigar a
deep fiery redbut still Mr Quilp went on smoking and drinking in
the same positionand staring listlessly out of window with the
doglike smile always on his facesave when Mrs Quilp made some
involuntary movement of restlessness or fatigue; and then it
expanded into a grin of delight.

CHAPTER 5

Whether Mr Quilp took any sleep by snatches of a few winks at a
timeor whether he sat with his eyes wide open all night long
certain it is that he kept his cigar alightand kindled every fresh one
from the ashes of that which was nearly consumedwithout requiring
the assistance of a candle. Nor did the striking of the clockshour
after hourappear to inspire him with any sense of drowsiness or any
natural desire to go to restbut rather to increase his wakefulness
which he showedat every such indication of the progress of the
nightby a suppressed cackling in his throatand a motion of his
shoulderslike one who laughs heartily but the same time slyly and
by stealth.

At length the day brokeand poor Mrs Quilpshivering with cold of
early morning and harassed by fatigue and want of sleepwas
discovered sitting patiently on her chairraising her eyes at intervals
in mute appeal to the compassion and clemency of her lordand
gently reminding him by an occasion cough that she was still
unpardoned and that her penance had been of long duration. But her
dwarfish spouse still smoked his cigar and drank his rum without
heeding her; and it was not until the sun had some time risenand
the activity and noise of city day were rife in the streetthat he
deigned to recognize her presence by any word or sign. He might not
have done so even thenbut for certain impatient tapping at the door
he seemed to denote that some pretty hard knuckles were actively
engaged upon the other side.

'Why dear me!' he said looking round with a malicious grin'it's
day. Open the doorsweet Mrs Quilp!'

His obedient wife withdrew the boltand her lady mother entered.

NowMrs Jiniwin bounced into the room with great impetuosity;
forsupposing her son-in-law to be still a-bedshe had come to
relieve her feelings by pronouncing a strong opinion upon his general
conduct and character. Seeing that he was up and dressedand that
the room appeared to have been occupied ever since she quitted it on
the previous eveningshe stopped shortin some embarrassment.

Nothing escaped the hawk's eye of the ugly little manwho
perfectly understanding what passed in the old lady's mindturned
uglier still in the fulness of his satisfactionand bade her good
morningwith a leer or triumph.

'WhyBetsy' said the old woman'you haven't been--you don't
mean to say you've been a--'

'Sitting up all night?' said Quilpsupplying the conclusion of the
sentence. 'Yes she has!'


'All night?' cried Mrs Jiniwin.

'Ayall night. Is the dear old lady deaf?' said Quilpwith a smile of
which a frown was part. 'Who says man and wife are bad company?
Ha ha! The time has flown.'

'You're a brute!' exclaimed Mrs Jiniwin.

'Come come' said Quilpwilfully misunderstanding herof course
'you mustn't call her names. She's married nowyou know. And
though she did beguile the time and keep me from my bedyou must
not be so tenderly careful of me as to be out of humour with her.
Bless you for a dear old lady. Here's to your health!'

'I am much obliged to you' returned the old womantestifying by a
certain restlessness in her hands a vehement desire to shake her
matronly fist at her son-in-law. 'Oh! I'm very much obliged to you!'

'Grateful soul!' cried the dwarf. 'Mrs Quilp.'

'YesQuilp' said the timid sufferer.

'Help your mother to get breakfastMrs Quilp. I am going to the
wharf this morning--the earlier the betterso be quick.'

Mrs Jiniwin made a faint demonstration of rebellion by sitting down
in a chair near the door and folding her arms as if in a resolute
determination to do nothing. But a few whispered words from her
daughterand a kind inquiry from her son-in-law whether she felt
faintwith a hint that there was abundance of cold water in the next
apartmentrouted these symptoms effectuallyand she applied
herself to the prescribed preparations with sullen diligence.

While they were in progressMr Quilp withdrew to the adjoining
roomandturning back his coat-collarproceeded to smear his
countenance with a damp towel of very unwholesome appearance
which made his complexion rather more cloudy than it was before.
Butwhile he was thus engagedhis caution and inquisitiveness did
not forsake himfor with a face as sharp and cunning as everhe
often stoppedeven in this short processand stood listening for any
conversation in the next roomof which he might be the theme.

'Ah!' he said after a short effort of attention'it was not the towel
over my earsI thought it wasn't. I'm a little hunchy villain and a
monsteram IMrs Jiniwin? Oh!'

The pleasure of this discovery called up the old doglike smile in full
force. When he had quite done with ithe shook himself in a very
doglike mannerand rejoined the ladies.

Mr Quilp now walked up to front of a looking-glassand was
standing there putting on his neckerchiefwhen Mrs Jiniwin
happening to be behind himcould not resist the inclination she felt
to shake her fist at her tyrant son-in-law. It was the gesture of an
instantbut as she did so and accompanied the action with a
menacing lookshe met his eye in the glasscatching her in the very
act. The same glance at the mirror conveyed to her the reflection of a
horribly grotesque and distorted face with the tongue lolling out; and
the next instant the dwarfturning about with a perfectly bland and
placid lookinquired in a tone of great affection.

'How are you nowmy dear old darling?'


Slight and ridiculous as the incident wasit made him appear such a
little fiendand withal such a keen and knowing onethat the old
woman felt too much afraid of him to utter a single wordand
suffered herself to be led with extraordinary politeness to the
breakfast-table. Here he by no means diminished the impression he
had just producedfor he ate hard eggsshell and alldevoured
gigantic prawns with the heads and tails onchewed tobacco and
water-cresses at the same time and with extraordinary greediness
drank boiling tea without winkingbit his fork and spoon till they
bent againand in short performed so many horrifying and
uncommon acts that the women were nearly frightened out of their
witsand began to doubt if he were really a human creature. At last
having gone through these proceedings and many others which were
equally a part of his systemMr Quilp left themreduced to a very
obedient and humbled stateand betook himself to the river-side
where he took boat for the wharf on which he had bestowed his
name.

It was flood tide when Daniel Quilp sat himself down in the ferry to
cross to the opposite shore. A fleet of barges were coming lazily on
some sidewayssome head firstsome stern first; all in a wrong-headed
doggedobstinate
waybumping up against the larger craft
running under the bows of steamboatsgetting into every kind of
nook and corner where they had no businessand being crunched on
all sides like so many walnut-shells; while each with its pair of long
sweeps struggling and splashing in the water looked like some
lumbering fish in pain. In some of the vessels at anchor all hands
were busily engaged in coiling ropesspreading out sails to dry
taking in or discharging their cargoes; in others no life was visible
but two or three tarry boysand perhaps a barking dog running to
and fro upon the deck or scrambling up to look over the side and
bark the louder for the view. Coming slowly on through the forests
of masts was a great steamshipbeating the water in short impatient
strokes with her heavy paddles as though she wanted room to
breatheand advancing in her huge bulk like a sea monster among
the minnows of the Thames. On either hand were long black tiers of
colliers; between them vessels slowly working out of harbour with
sails glistening in the sunand creaking noise on boardre-echoed
from a hundred quarters. The water and all upon it was in active
motiondancing and buoyant and bubbling up; while the old grey
Tower and piles of building on the shorewith many a church-spire
shooting up betweenlooked coldly onand seemed to disdain their
chafingrestless neighbour.

Daniel Quilpwho was not much affected by a bright morning save
in so far as it spared him the trouble of carrying an umbrellacaused
himself to be put ashore hard by the wharfand proceeded thither
through a narrow lane whichpartaking of the amphibious character
of its frequentershad as much water as mud in its compositionand
a very liberal supply of both. Arrived at his destinationthe first
object that presented itself to his view was a pair of very imperfectly
shod feet elevated in the air with the soles upwardswhich
remarkable appearance was referable to the boywho being of an
eccentric spirit and having a natural taste for tumblingwas now
standing on his head and contemplating the aspect of the river under
these uncommon circumstances. He was speedily brought on his
heels by the sound of his master's voiceand as soon as his head was
in its right positionMr Quilpto speak expresively in the absence of
a better verb'punched it' for him.

'Comeyou let me alone' said the boyparrying Quilp's hand with
both his elbows alternatively. 'You'll get something you won't like if
you don't and so I tell you.'


'You dog' snarled Quilp'I'll beat you with an iron rodI'll scratch
you with a rusty nailI'll pinch your eyesif you talk to me--I will.'

With these threats he clenched his hand againand dexterously
diving in betwen the elbows and catching the boy's head as it dodged
from side to sidegave it three or four good hard knocks. Having
now carried his point and insisted on ithe left off.

'You won't do it agin' said the boynodding his head and drawing
backwith the elbows ready in case of the worst; 'now--'

'Stand stillyou dog' said Quilp. 'I won't do it againbecause I've
done it as often as I want. Here. Take the key.'

'Why don't you hit one of your size?' said the boy approaching very
slowly.

'Where is there one of my sizeyou dog?' returned Quilp. 'Take the
keyor I'll brain you with it'--indeed he gave him a smart tap with
the handle as he spoke. 'Nowopen the counting-house.'

The boy sulkily compliedmuttering at firstbut desisting when he
looked round and saw that Quilp was following him with a steady
look. And here it may be remarkedthat between this boy and the
dwarf that existed a strange kind of mutual liking. How born or
bredand or nourished upon blows and threats on one sideand
retorts and defiances on the otheris not to the purpose. Quilp would
certainly suffer nobody to contract him but the boyand the boy
would assuredly not have submitted to be so knocked about by
anybody but Quilpwhen he had the power to run away at any time
he chose.

'Now' said Quilppassing into the wooden counting-house'you
mind the wharf. Stand upon your head aginand I'll cut one of your
feet off.'

The boy made no answerbut directly Quilp had shut himself in
stood on his head before the doorthen walked on his hands to the
back and stood on his head thereand then to the opposite side and
repeated the performance. There were indeed four sides to the
counting-housebut he avoided that one where the window was
deeming it probable that Quilp would be looking out of it. This was
prudentfor in point of factthe dwarfknowing his dispositionwas
lying in wait at a little distance from the sash armed with a large
piece of woodwhichbeing rough and jagged and studded in many
parts with broken nailsmight possibly have hurt him.

It was a dirty little boxthis counting-housewith nothing in it but an
old ricketty desk and two stoolsa hat-pegan ancient almanackan
inkstand with no inkand the stump of one penand an eight-day
clock which hadn't gone for eighteen years at leastand of which the
minute-hand had been twisted off for a tooth-pick. Daniel Quilp
pulled his hat over his browsclimbed on to the desk (which had a
flat top) and stretching his short length upon it went to sleep with
ease of an old pactitioner; intendingno doubtto compensate
himself for the deprivation of last night's restby a long and sound
nap.

Sound it might have beenbut long it was notfor he had not been
asleep a quarter of an hour when the boy opened the door and thrust
in his headwhich was like a bundle of badly-picked oakum. Quilp
was a light sleeper and started up directly.


'Here's somebody for you' said the boy.

'Who?'

'I don't know.'

'Ask!' said Quilpseizing the trifle of wood before mentioned and
throwing it at him with such dexterity that it was well the boy
disappeared before it reached the spot on which he had stood. 'Ask
you dog.'

Not caring to venture within range of such missles againthe boy
discreetly sent in his stead the first cause of the interruptionwho
now presented herself at the door.

'WhatNelly!' cried Quilp.

'Yes' said the childhesitating whether to enter or retreatfor the
dwarf just rousedwith his dishevelled hair hanging all about him
and a yellow handkerchief over his headwas something fearful to
behold; it's only mesir.'

'Come in' said Quilpwithout getting off the desk. 'Come in. Stay.
Just look out into the yardand see whether there's a boy standing on
his head.'

'Nosir' replied Nell. 'He's on his feet.'

'You're sure he is?' said Quilp. 'Well. Nowcome in and shut the
door. What's your messageNelly?'

The child handed him a letter. Mr Quilpwithout changing his
position further than to turn over a little more on his side and rest his
chin on his handproceeded to make himself acquainted with its
contents.

CHAPTER 6

Little Nell stood timidly bywith her eyes raised to the countenance
of Mr Quilp as he read the letterplainly showing by her looks that
while she entertained some fear and distrust of the little manshe
was much inclined to laugh at his uncouth appearance and grotesque
attitude. And yet there was visible on the part of the child a painful
anxiety for his replyand consciousness of his power to render it
disagreeable or distressingwhich was strongly at variance with this
impulse and restrained it more effectually than she could possibly
have done by any efforts of her own.

That Mr Quilp was himself perplexedand that in no small degree
by the contents of the letterwas sufficiently obvious. Before he had
got through the first two or three lines he began to open his eyes
very wide and to frown most horriblythe next two or three caused
him to scratch his head in an uncommonly vicious mannerand when
he came to the conclusion he gave a long dismal whistle indicative of
surprise and dismay. After folding and laying it down beside himhe
bit the nails of all of his ten fingers with extreme voracity; and
taking it up sharplyread it again. The second perusal was to all
appearance as unsatisfactory as the firstand plunged him into a
profound reverie from which he awakened to another assault upon
his nails and a long stare at the childwho with her eyes turned


towards the ground awaited his further pleasure.


'Halloa here!' he said at lengthin a voiceand with a suddenness
which made the child start as though a gun had been fired off at her
ear. 'Nelly!'


'Yessir.'


'Do you know what's inside this letterNell?'


'Nosir!'


'Are you surequite surequite certainupon your soul?'


'Quite suresir.'


'Do you wish you may die if you do knowhey?' said the dwarf.


'Indeed I don't know' returned the child.


'Well!' muttered Quilp as he marked her earnest look. 'I believe
you. Humph! Gone already? Gone in four-and-twenty hours! What
the devil has he done with itthat's the mystery!'


This reflection set him scratching his head and biting his nails once
more. While he was thus employed his features gradually relaxed
into what was with him a cheerful smilebut which in any other man
would have been a ghastly grin of painand when the child looked
up again she found that he was regarding her with extraordinary
favour and complacency.


'You look very pretty to-dayNellycharmingly pretty. Are you
tiredNelly?'


'Nosir. I'm in a hurry to get backfor he will be anxious while I
am away.'


'There's no hurrylittle Nellno hurry at all' said Quilp. 'How
should you like to be my number twoNelly?'


'To be whatsir?'


'My number twoNellymy secondmy Mrs Quilp' said the dwarf.


The child looked frightenedbut seemed not to understand him
which Mr Quilp observinghastened to make his meaning more
distinctly.


'To be Mrs Quilp the secondwhen Mrs Quilp the first is dead
sweet Nell' said Quilpwrinkling up his eyes and luring her towards
him with his bent forefinger'to be my wifemy little cherry-cheeked
red-lipped wife. Say
that Mrs Quilp lives five yearor only
fouryou'll be just the proper age for me. Ha ha! Be a good girl
Nellya very good girland see if one of these days you don't come
to be Mrs Quilp of Tower Hill.'


So far from being sustained and stimulated by this delightful
prospectthe child shrank from him in great agitationand trembled
violently. Mr Quilpeither because frightening anybody afforded
him a constitutional delightor because it was pleasant to
contemplate the death of Mrs Quilp number oneand the elevation of
Mrs Quilp number two to her post and titleor because he was
determined from purposes of his own to be agreeable and good-humoured at



that particular
timeonly laughed and feigned to take no
heed of her alarm.

'You shall home with me to Tower Hill and see Mrs Quilp that is
directly' said the dwarf. 'She's very fond of youNellthough not
so fond as I am. You shall come home with me.'

'I must go back indeed' said the child. 'He told me to return directly
I had the answer.'

'But you haven't itNelly' retorted the dwarf'and won't have it
and can't have ituntil I have been homeso you see that to do your
errandyou must go with me. Reach me yonder hatmy dearand
we'll go directly.' With thatMr Quilp suffered himself to roll
gradually off the desk until his short legs touched the groundwhen
he got upon them and led the way from the counting-house to the
wharf outsidewhen the first objects that presented themselves were
the boy who had stood on his head and another young gentleman of
about his own staturerolling in the mud togetherlocked in a tight
embraceand cuffing each other with mutual heartiness.

'It's Kit!' cried Nellyclasping her hand'poor Kit who came with
me! Ohpray stop themMr Quilp!'

'I'll stop 'em' cried Quilpdiving into the little counting-house and
returning with a thick stick'I'll stop 'em. Nowmy boysfight
away. I'll fight you both. I'll take bot of youboth togetherboth
together!'

With which defiances the dwarf flourished his cudgeland dancing
round the combatants and treading upon them and skipping over
themin a kind of frenzylaid about himnow on one and now on
the otherin a most desperate manneralways aiming at their heads
and dealing such blows as none but the veriest little savage would
have inflicted. This being warmer work than they had calculated
uponspeedily cooled the courage of the belligerentswho scrambled
to their feet and called for quarter.

'I'll beat you to a pulpyou dogs' said Quilpvainly endeavoring to
get near either of them for a parting blow. 'I'll bruise you until
you're copper-colouredI'll break your faces till you haven't a
profile between youI will.'

'Comeyou drop that stick or it'll be worse for you' said his boy
dodging round him and watching an opportunity to rush in; 'you
drop that stick.'

'Come a little nearerand I'll drop it on your skullyou dog' said
Quilpwith gleaming eyes; 'a little nearer--nearer yet.'

But the boy declined the invitation until his master was apparently a
little off his guardwhen he darted in and seizing the weapon tried to
wrest it from his grasp. Quilpwho was as strong as a lioneasily
kept his hold until the boy was tugging at it with his utmost power
when he suddenly let it go and sent him reeling backwardsso that
he fell violently upon his head. the success of this manoeuvre tickled
Mr Quilp beyond descriptionand he laughed and stamped upon the
ground as at a most irresistible jest.

'Never mind' said the boynodding his head and rubbing it at the
same time; 'you see if ever I offer to strike anybody again because
they say you're an uglier dwarf than can be seen anywheres for a
pennythat's all.'


'Do you mean to sayI'm notyou dog?' returned Quilp.

'No!' retorted the boy.

'Then what do you fight on my wharf foryou villain?' said Quilp.

'Because he said so' replied to boypointing to Kit'not because
you an't.'

'Then why did he say' bawled Kit'that Miss Nelly was uglyand
that she and my master was obliged to do whatever his master liked?
Why did he say that?'

'He said what he did because he's a fooland you said what you did
because you're very wise and clever--almost too clever to live
unless you're very careful of yourselfKit.' said Quilpwith great
suavity in his mannerbut still more of quiet malice about his eyes
and mouth. 'Here's sixpence for youKit. Always speak the truth.
At all timesKitspeak the truth. Lock the counting-houseyou dog
and bring me the key.'

The other boyto whom this order was addreseddid as he was told
and was rewarded for his partizanship in behalf of his masterby a
dexterous rap on the nose with the keywhich brought the water into
his eyes. Then Mr Quilp departed with the child and Kit in a boat
and the boy revenged himself by dancing on his head at intervals on
the extreme verge of the wharfduring the whole time they crossed
the river.

There was only Mrs Quilp at homeand shelittle expecting the
return of her lordwas just composing herself for a refreshing
slumber when the sound of his footsteps roused her. She had barely
time to seem to be occupied in some needle-workwhen he entered
accompanied by the child; having left Kit downstairs.

'Here's Nelly Trentdear Mrs Quilp' said her husband. 'A glass of
winemy dearand a biscuitfor she has had a long walk. She'll sit
with youmy soulwhile I write a letter.'

Mrs Quilp looked tremblingly in her spouse's face to know what this
unusual courtesy might portendand obedient to the summons she
saw in his gesturefollowed him into the next room.

'Mind what I say to you' whispered Quilp. 'See if you can get out
of her anything about her grandfatheror what they door how they
liveor what he tells her. I've my reasons for knowingif I can. You
women talk more freely to one another than you do to usand you
have a softmild way with you that'll win upon her. Do you hear?'

'YesQuilp.'

'Go then. What's the matter now?'

'Dear Quilp' faltered his wife. 'I love the child--if you could do
without making me deceive her--'

The dwarf muttering a terrible oath looked round as if for some
weapon with which to inflict condign punishment upon his
disobedient wife. the submissive little woman hurriedly entreated
him not to be angryand promised to do as he bade her.

'Do you hear me' whispered Quilpnipping and pinching her arm;
'worm yourself into her secrets; I know you can. I'm listening


recollect. If you're not sharp enoughI'll creak the doorand woe
betide you if I have to creak it much. Go!'

Mrs Quilp departed according to orderand her amiable husband
ensconcing himself behind the partly opened doorand applying his
ear close to itbegan to listen with a face of great craftiness and
attention.

Poor Mrs Quilp was thinkinghoweverin what manner to begin or
what kind of inquiries she could make; and it was not until the door
creaking in a very urgent mannerwarned her to proceed without
further considerationthat the sound of her voice was heard.

'How very often you have come backwards and forwards lately to
Mr Quilpmy dear.'

'I have said so to grandfathera hundred times' returned Nell
innocently.

'And what has he said to that?'

'Only sighedand dropped his headand seemed so sad and wretched
that if you could have seen him I am sure you must have cried; you
could not have helped it more than II know. How that door creaks!'

'It often does.' returned Mrs Quilpwith an uneasy glance towards
it. 'But your grandfather--he used not to be so wretched?'

'Ohno!' said the child eagerly'so different! We were once so
happy and he so cheerful and contented! You cannot think what a sad
change has fallen on us since.'

'I am veryvery sorryto hear you speak like thismy dear!' said
Mrs Quilp. And she spoke the truth.

'Thank you' returned the childkissing her cheek'you are always
kind to meand it is a pleasure to talk to you. I can speak to no one
else about himbut poor Kit. I am very happy stillI ought to feel
happier perhaps than I dobut you cannot think how it grieves me
sometimes to see him alter so.'

'He'll alter againNelly' said Mrs Quilp'and be what he was
before.'

'Ohif God would only let that come about!' said the child with
streaming eyes; 'but it is a long time nowsince he first began to--I
thought I saw that door moving!'

'It's the wind' said Mrs Quilpfainly. 'Began to ---'

'To be so thoughtful and dejectedand to forget our old way ot
spending the time in the long evenings' said the child. 'I used to
read to him by the firesideand he sat listeningand when I stopped
and we began to talkhe told me about my motherand how she
once looked and spoke just like me when she was a little child. Then
he used to take me on his kneeand try to make me understand that
she was not lying in her gravebut had flown to a beautiful country
beyond the sky where nothing died or ever grew old--we were very
happy once!'

'NellyNelly!' said the poor woman'I can't bear to see one as
young as you so sorrowful. Pray don't cry.'

'I do so very seldom' said Nell' but I have kept this to myself a


long timeand I am not quite wellI thinkfor the tears come into
my eyes and I cannot keep them back. I don't mind telling you my
grieffor I know you will not tell it to any one again.'

Mrs Quilp turned away her head and made no answer.

'Then' said the child'we often walked in the fields and among the
green treesand when we came home at nightwe liked it better for
being tiredand said what a happy place it was. And if it was dark
and rather dullwe used to saywhat did it matter to usfor it only
made us remember our last walk with greater pleasureand look
forward to our next one. But now we never have these walksand
though it is the same house it is darker and much more gloomy than
it used to beindeed!'

She paused herebut though the door creaked more than onceMrs
Quilp said nothing.

'Mind you don't suppose' said the child earnestly'that grandfather
is less kind to me than he was. I think he loves me better every day
and is kinder and more afectionate than he was the day before. You
do not know how fond he is of me!'

'I am sure he loves you dearly' said Mrs Quilp.

'Indeedindeed he does!' cried Nell'as dearly as I love him. But I
have not told you the greatest change of alland this you must never
breathe again to any one. He has no sleep or restbut that which he
takes by day in his easy chair; for every night and neary all night
long he is away from home.'

'Nelly!'

'Hush!' said the childlaying her finger on her lip and looking
round. 'When he comes home in the morningwhich is generally just
before dayI let him in. Last night he was very lateand it was quite
light. I saw that his face was deadly palethat his eyes were
bloodshotand that his legs trembled as he walked. When I had gone
to bed againI heard him groan. I got up and ran back to himand
heard him saybefore he knew that I was therethat he could not
bear his life much longerand if it was not for the childwould wish
to die. What shall I do! Oh! What shall I do!'

The fountains of her heart were opened; the childoverpowered by
the weight of her sorrows and anxietiesby the first confidence she
had ever shownand the sympathy with which her little tale had been
receivedhid her face in the arms of her helpless friendand burst
into a passion of tears.

In a few minutes Mr Quilp returnedand expressed the utmost
surprise to find her in this condtiionwhich he did very naturally and
with admirable effectfor that kind of acting had been rendered
familiar to him by long practiceand he was quite at home in it.

'She's tired you seeMrs Quilp' said the dwarfsquinting in a
hideous manner to imply that his wife was to follow his lead. 'It's a
long way from her home to the wharfand then she was alrmed to
see a couple of young scoundrels fightingand was timorous on the
water besides. All this together has been too much for her. Poor
Nell!'

Mr Quilp unintentionally adopted the very best means he could have
devised for the recovery of his young visitorby patting her on the
head. Such an application from any other hand might not have


produced a remarkable effectbut the child shrank so quickly from
his touch and felt such an instinctive desire to get out of his reach
that she rose directly and declared herself ready to return.

'But you'd better waitand dine with Mrs Quilp and me.' said the
dwarf.

'I have been away too longsiralready' returned Nelldrying her
eyes.

'Well' said Mr Quilp'if you will goyou willNelly. Here's the
note. It's only to say that I shall see him to-morrow or maybe next
dayand that I couldn't do that little business for him this morning.
Good-byeNelly. Hereyou sir; take care of herd'ye hear?'

Kitwho appeared at the summonsdeigned to make no reply to so
needless an injunctionand after staring at Quilp in a threatening
manneras if he doubted whether he might not have been the cause
of Nelly shedding tearsand felt more than half disposed to revenge
the fact upon him on the mere suspicionturned about and followed
his young mistresswho had by this time taken her leave of Mrs
Quilp and departed.

'You're a keen questioneran't youMrs Quilp?' said the dwarf
turning upon her as soon as they were left alone.

'What more could I do?' returned his wife mildly?

'What more could you do!' sneered Quilp'couldn't you have done
something less? Couldn't you have done what you had to dowithout
appearing in your favourite part of the crocodileyou minx?'

'I am very sorry for the childQuilp' said his wife. 'Surely I've
done enough. I've led her on to tell her secret she supposed we were
alone; and you were byGod forgive me.'

'You led her on! You did a great deal truly!' said Quilp. 'What did I
tell you about making me creak the door? It's lucky for you that
from what she let fallI've got the clue I wantfor if I hadn'tI'd
have visited the failure upon youI can tell you.'

Mrs Quilp being fully persuaded of thismade no reply. Her husband
added with some exultation

'But you may thank your fortunate stars--the same stars that made
you Mrs Quilp--you may thank them that I'm upon the old
gentleman's trackand have got a new light. So let me hear no more
about this matter now or at any other timeand don't get anything
too nice for dinnerfor I shan't be home to it.'

So sayingMr Quilp put his hat on and took himself offand Mrs
Quilpwho was afflicted beyond measure by the recollection of the
part she had just actedshut herself up in her chamberand
smothering her head in the bed-clothes bemoaned her fault more
bitterly than many less tender-hearted persons would have mourned a
much greater offence; forin the majority of casesconscience is an
elastic and very flexible articlewhich will bear a deal of stretching
and adapt itself to a great variety of circumstances. Some people by
prudent management and leaving it off piece by piece like a flannel
waistcoat in warm weathereven contrivein timeto dispense with
it altogether; but there be others who can assume the garment and
throw it off at pleasure; and thisbeing the greatest and most
convenient improvementis the one most in vogue.


CHAPTER 7

'Fred' said Mr Swiveller'remember the once popular melody of
Begone dull care; fan the sinking flame of hilarity with the wing of
friendship; and pass the rosy wine.'

Mr Richard Swiveller's apartments were in the neighbourhood of
Drury Laneand in addition to this convenience of situation had the
advantage of being over a tobacconist's shopso that he was enabled
to procure a refreshing sneeze at any time by merely stepping out
upon the staircaseand was saved the trouble and expense of
maintaining a snuff-box. It was in these apartments that Mr Swiveller
made use of the expressions above recorded for the consolation and
encouragement of his desponding friend; and it may not be
uninteresting or improper to remark that even these brief
observations partook in a double sense of the figurative and poetical
character of Mr Swiveller's mindas the rosy wine was in fact
represented by one glass of cold gin-and-waterwhich was
replenished as occasion required from a bottle and jug upon the
tableand was passed from one to anotherin a scarcity of tumblers
whichas Mr Swiveller's was a bachelor's establishmentmay be
acknowledged without a blush. By a like pleasant fiction his single
chamber was always mentioned in a plural number. In its disengaged
timesthe tobacconist had announced it in his window as
'apartments' for a single gentlemanand Mr Swivellerfollowing up
the hintnever failed to speak of it as his roomshis lodgingsor his
chambersconveying to his hearers a notion of indefinite spaceand
leaving their imaginations to wander through long suites of lofty
hallsat pleasure.

In this flight of fancyMr Swiveller was assisted by a deceptive
piece of furniturein reality a bedsteadbut in semblance a bookcase
which occupied a prominent situation in his chamber and seemed to
defy suspicion and challenge inquiry. There is no doubt that by day
Mr Swiveller firmly believed this secret convenience to be a
bookcase and nothing more; that he closed his eyes to the bed
resolutely denied the existence of the blanketsand spurned the
bolster from his thoughts. No word of its real useno hint of its
nightly serviceno allusion to its peculiar propertieshad ever passed
between him and his most intimate friends. Implicit faith in the
deception was the first article of his creed. To be the friend of
Swiveller you must reject all circumstantial evidenceall reason
observationand experienceand repose a blind belief in the
bookcase. It was his pet weaknessand he cherished it.

'Fred!' said Mr Swivellerfinding that his former adjuration had
been productive of no effect. 'Pass the rosy.'

Young Trent with an impatient gesture pushed the glass towards him
and fell again in the the moddy attitude from which he had been
unwillingly roused.

'I'll give youFred' said his friendstirring the mixture'a little
sentiment appropriate to the occasion. Here's May the ---'

'Pshaw!' interposed the other. 'You worry me to death with your
chattering. You can be merry under any circumstances.'

'WhyMr Trent' returned Dick'there is a proverb which talks
about being merry and wise. There are some people who can be


merry and can't be wiseand some who can be wise (or think they
can) and can't be merry. I'm one of the first sort. If the proverb's a
good 'unI supose it's better to keep to half of it than none; at all
eventsI'd rather be merry and not wisethan like youneither one
nor t'other.'

'Bah!' muttered his friendpeevishly.

'With all my heart' said Mr Swiveller. 'In the polite circles I believe
this sort of thing isn't usually said to a gentleman in his own
apartmentsbut never mind that. Make yourself at home' adding to
this retort an observation to the effect that his friend appeared to be
rather 'cranky' in point of temperRichards Swiveller finished the
rosy and applied himself to the composition of another glassfulin
whichafter tasting it with great relishhe proposed a toast to an
imaginary company.

'GentlemenI'll give youif you pleaseSuccess to the ancient
family of the Swivellersand good luck to Mr Richard in particular--Mr
Richardgentlemen'
said Dick with great emphasis'who spends
all his money on his friends and is Bah!'d for his pains. Hearhear!'

'Dick!' said the otherreturning to his seat after having paced the
room twice or thrice'will you talk seriously for two minutesif I
show you a way to make your fortune with very little trouble?'

'You've shown me so many' returned Dick; 'and nothing has come
of any one of 'em but empty pockets ---'

'You'll tell a different story of this onebefore a very long time is
over' said his companiondrawing his chair to the table. 'You saw
my sister Nell?'

'What about her?' returned Dick.

'She has a pretty facehas she not?'

'Whycertainly' replied Dick. 'I must say for her that there's not
any very strong family likeness between her and you.'

'Has she a pretty face' repeated his friend impatiently.

'Yes' said Dick'she has a pretty facea very pretty face. What of
that?'

'I'll tell you' returned his friend. 'It's very plain that the old man
and I will remain at daggers drawn to the end of our livesand that I
have nothing to expect from him. You see thatI suppose?'

'A bat might see thatwith the sun shining' said Dick.

'It's equally plain that the money which the old flint--rot him--first
taught me to expect that I should share with her at his deathwill all
be hersis it not?'

'I should said it was' replied Dick; 'unless the way in which I put
the case to himmade an impression. It may have done so. It was
powerfulFred. 'Here is a jolly old grandfather'--that was strongI
thought--very friendly and natural. Did it strike you in that way?'

It didn't strike him' returned the other'so we needn't discuss it.
Now look here. Nell is nearly fourteen.'


'Fine girl of her agebut small' observed Richard Swiveller
parenthetically.

'If I am to go onbe quiet for one minute' returned Trentfretting at
the slight interest the other appeared to take in the conversation.
'Now I'm coming to the point.'

'That's right' said Dick.

'The girl has strong affectionsand brought up as she has beenmay
at her agebe easily influenced and persuaded. If I take her in hand
I will be bound by a very little coaxing and threatening to bend her
to my will. Not to beat about the bush (for the advantages of the
scheme would take a week to tell) what's to prevent your marrying
her?'

Richard Swivellerwho had been looking over the rim of the tumbler
while his companion addressed the foregoing remarks to him with
great energy and earnestness of mannerno sooner heard these words
than he evinced the utmost consternationand with difficulty
ejaculated the monosyllable:

'What!'

'I saywhat's to prevent' repeated the other with a steadiness of
mannerof the effect of which upon his companion he was well
assured by long experience'what's to prevent your marrying her?'

'And she 'nearly fourteen'!' cried Dick.

'I don't mean marrying her now'--returned the brother angrily; 'say
in two year's timein threein four. Does the old man look like a
long-liver?'

'He don't look like it' said Dick shaking his head'but these old
people--there's no trusting themFred. There's an aunt of mind
down in Dorsetshire that was going to die when I was eight years
oldand hasn't kept her word yet. They're so aggravatingso
unprincipledso spiteful--unless there's apoplexy in the familyFred
you can't calculate upon 'emand even then they deceive you just as
often as not.'

'Look at the worst side of the question then' said Trent as steadily
as beforeand keeping his eyes upon his friend. 'Suppose he lives.'

'To be sure' said Dick. 'There's the rub.'

'I say' resumed his friend'suppose he livesand I persuadedor if
the word sounds more feasibleforced Nell to a secret marriage with
you. What do you think would come of that?'

'A family and an annual income of nothingto keep 'em on' said
Richard Swiveller after some reflection.

'I tell you' returned the other with an increased earnestnesswhich
whether it were real or assumedhad the same effect on his
companion'that he lives for herthat his whole energies and
thoughts are bound up in herthat he would no more disinherit her
for an act of disobedience than he would take me into his favour
again for any act of obedience or virtue that I could possibly be
guilty of. He could not do it. You or any other man with eyes in his
head may see thatif he chooses.'

'It seems improbable certainly' said Dickmusing.


'It seems improbable because it is improbable' his friend returned.
'If you would furnish him with an additional inducement to forgive
youlet there be an irreconcilable breacha most deadly quarrel
between you and me--let there be a pretense of such a thingI mean
of course--and he'll do fast enough. As to Nellconstant dropping
will wear away a stone; you know you may trust to me as far as she
is concerned. Sowhether he lives or dieswhat does it come to?
That you become the sole inheritor of the wealth of this rich old
hunksthat you and I spend it togetherand that you get into the
bargain a beautiful young wife.'

'I suppose there's no doubt about his being rich'--said Dick.

'Doubt! Did you hear what he left fall the other day when we were
there? Doubt! What will you doubt nextDick?'

It would be tedious to pursue the conversation through all its artful
windingsor to develope the gradual approaches by which the heart
of Richard Swiveller was gained. It is sufficient to know that vanity
interestpovertyand every spendthrift consideration urged him to
look upon the proposal with favourand that where all other
inducements were wantingthe habitual carelessness of his
disposition stepped in and still weighed down the scale on the same
side. To these impulses must be added the complete ascendancy
which his friend had long been accustomed to exercise over him--an
ascendancy exerted in the beginning sorely at the expense of his
friend's vicesand was in nine cases out of ten looked upon as his
designing tempter when he was indeed nothing but his thoughtless
light-headed tool.

The motives on the other side were something deeper than any which
Richard Swiveller entertained or understoodbut these being left to
their own developmentrequire no present elucidation. the
negotiation was concluded very pleasantlyand Mr Swiveller was in
the act of stating in flowery terms that he had no insurmountable
objection to marrying anybody plentifully endowed with money or
moveableswho could be induced to take himwhen he was
interrupted in his observations by a knock at the doorand the
consequent necessity of crying 'Come in.'

The door was openedbut nothing came in except a soapy arm and a
strong gush of tobacco. The gush of tobacco came from the shop
downstairsand the soapy arm proceeded from the body of a servant-girl
who being then and
there engaged in cleaning the stars had just
drawn it out of a warm pail to take in a letterwhich letter she now
held in her handproclaiming aloud with that quick perception of
surnames peculiar to her class that it was for Mister Snivelling.

Dick looked rather pale and foolish when he glanced at the direction
and still more so when he came to look at the insideobserving that
it was one of the inconveniences of being a lady's manand that it
was very easy to talk as they had been talkingbut he had quite
forgotten her.

'Her. Who?' demanded Trent.

'Sophy Wackles' said Dick.

'Who's she?'

'She's all my fancy painted hersirthat's what she is' said Mr
Swivellertaking a long pull at 'the rosy' and looking gravely at his


friend. 'She's lovelyshe's divine. You know her.'

'I remember' said his companion carelessly. 'What of her?'

'Whysir' returned Dick'between Miss Sophia Wackles and the
humble individual who has now the honor to address youwarm and
tender sentiments have been engenderedsentiments of the most
honourable and inspiring kind. The Goddess Dianasirthat calls
aloud for the chaseis not more particular in her behavior than
Sophia Wackles; I can tell you that.'

'Am I to believe there's anything real in what you say?' demanded
his friend; 'you don't mean to say that any love-making has been
going on?'

'Love-makingyes. Promisingno' said Dick. 'There can be no
action for breachthat's one comfort. I've never committed myself in
writingFred.'

'And what's in the letterpray?'

'A reminderFredfor to-night--a small party of twentymaking two
hundred light fantastic toes in allsupposing every lady and
gentleman to have the proper complement. It must goif it's only to
begin breaking off the affair--I'll do itdon't you be afraid. I should
like to know whether she left this herself. If she didunconscious of
any bar to her happinessit's affectingFred.'

To solve this questionMr Swiveller summoned the handmaid and
ascertained that Miss Sophy Wackles had indeed left the letter with
her own hands; and that she had come accompaniedfor decorum's
sake no doubtby a younger Miss Wackles; and that on learning that
Mr Swiveller was at home and being requested to walk upstairsshe
was extremely shocked and professed that she would rather die. Mr
Swiveller heard this account with a degree of admiration not
altogether consistent with the project in which he had just concurred
but his friend attached very little importance to his behavior in this
respectprobably because he knew that he had influence sufficient to
control Richard Swiveller's proceedings in this or any other matter
whenever he deemed it necessaryfor the advancement of his own
purposesto exert it.

CHAPTER 8

Business disposed ofMr Swiveller was inwardly reminded of its
being nigh dinner-timeand to the intent that his health might not be
endangered by longer abstinencedispached a message to the nearest
eating-house requiring an immediate supply of boiled beef and greens
for two. With this demandhoweverthe eating-house (having
experience of its customer) declined to complychurlishly sending
back for answer that if Mr Swiveller stood in need of beef perhaps
he would be so obliging as to come there and eat itbringing with
himas grace before meatthe amount of a certin small account
which had long been outstanding. Not at all intimidated by this
rebuffbut rather sharpened in wits and appetiteMr Swiveller
forwarded the same message to another and more distant eating-house
adding to it by way of rider that the gentleman was induced to
send so farnot only by the great fame and popularity its beef had
acquiredbut in consequence of the extreme toughness of the beef
retailed at the obdurant cook's shopwhich rendered it quite unfit not


merely for gentlemanly foodbut for any human consumption. The
good effect of this politic course was demonstrated by the speedy
arrive of a small pewter pyramidcurously constructed of platters
and coverswhereof the boiled-beef-plates formed the baseand a
foaming quart-pot the apex; the structure being resolved into its
component parts afforded all things requisite and necessary for a
hearty mealto which Mr Swiveller and his friend applied
themselves with great keenness and enjoyment.

'May the present moment' said Dicksticking his fork into a large
carbuncular potato'be the worst of our lives! I like the plan of
sending 'em with the peel on; there's a charm in drawing a poato
from its native element (if I may so express it) to which the rich and
powerful are strangers. Ah! 'Man wants but little here belownor
wants that little long!' How true that it!--after dinner.'

'I hope the eating-house keeper will want but little and that he may
not want that little long' returned his companion; but I suspect
you've no means of paying for this!'

'I shall be passing presentand I'll call' said Dickwinking his eye
significantly. 'The waiter's quite helpless. The goods are goneFred
and there's an end of it.'

In point of factit would seem that the waiter felt this wholesome
truthfor when he returned for the empty plates and dishes and was
informed by Mr Swiveller with dignified carelessness that he would
call and setle when he should be passing presentlyhe displayed
some pertubation of spirit and muttered a few remarks about
'payment on delivery' and 'no trust' and other unpleasant subjects
but was fain to content himself with inquiring at what hour it was
likely that the gentleman would callin order that being presently
responsible for the beefgreensand sundrieshe might take to be in
the way at the time. Mr Swivellerafter mentally calculating his
engagements to a nicetyreplied that he should look in at from two
minutes before six and seven minutes past; and the man disappearing
with this feeble consolationRichards Swiveller took a greasy
memorandum-book from his pocket and made an entry therein.

'Is that a reminderin case you should forget to call?' said Trent
with a sneer.

'Not exactlyFred' replied the imperturable Richardcontinuing to
write with a businesslike air. 'I enter in this little book the names of
the streets that I can't go down while the shops are open. This dinner
today closes Long Acre. I bought a pair of boots in Great Queen
Street last weekand made that no throughfare too. There's only one
avenue to the Strand left often nowand I shall have to stop up that
to-night with a pair of gloves. The roads are closing so fast in every
directionthat in a month's timeunless my aunt sends me a
remittanceI shall have to go three or four miles out of town to get
over the way.'

'There's no fear of failingin the end?' said Trent.

'WhyI hope not' returned Mr Swiveller'but the average number
of letters it take to soften her is sixand this time we have got as far
as eight without any effect at all. I'll write another tom-morrow
morning. I mean to blot it a good deal and shake some water over it
out of the pepper-castor to make it look penitent. 'I'm in such a state
of mind that I hardly know what I write'--blot--' if you could see me
at this minute shedding tears for my past misconduct'--pepper-castor-my
hand trembles when I think'--blot again--if that don't produce
the effectit's all over.'


By this timeMr Swiveller had finished his entryand he now
replaced his pencil in its little sheath and closed the bookin a
perfectly grave and serious frame of mind. His friend discovered that
it was time for him to fulfil some other engagementand Richard
Swiveller was accordingly left alonein company with the rosy wine
and his own meditations touching Miss Sophy Wackles.

'It's rather sudden' said Dick shaking his head with a look of
infinite wisdomand running on (as he was accustomed to do) with
scraps of verse as if they were only prose in a hurry; 'when the heart
of a man is depressed with fearsthe mist is dispelled when Miss
Wackles appears; she's a very nice girl. She's like the red red rose
that's newly sprung in June--there's no denying that--she's also like a
melody that's sweetly played in tune. It's really very sudden. Not
that there's any needon account of Fred's little sisterto turn cool
directlybut its better not to go too far. If I begin to cool at all I
must begin at onceI see that. There's the chance of an action for
breachthat's another. There's the chance of--nothere's no chance
of thatbut it's as well to be on the safe side.'

This undeveloped was the possibilitywhich Richard Swiveller
sought to conceal even from himselfof his not being proof against
the charms of Miss Wacklesand in some unguarded momentby
linking his fortunes to hers foreverof putting it out of his own
power to further their notable scheme to which he had so readily
become a party. For all these reasonshe decided to pick a quarrel
with Miss Wackles without delayand casting about for a pretext
determined in favour of groundless jealousy. Having made up his
mind on this important pointhe circulated the glass (from his right
hand to leftand back again) pretty freelyto enable him to act his
part with the greater discretionand thenafter making some slight
improvements in his toiletbent his steps towards the spot hallowed
by the fair object of his meditations.

The spot was at Cheseafor there Miss Sophia Wackles resided with
her widowed mother and two sistersin conjunction with whom she
maintained a very small day-school for young ladies of proportionate
dimensions; a circumstance which was made known to the
neighbourhood by an oval board over the front first-floor windows
whereupon appeared in circumbmbient flourishes the words 'Ladies'
Seminary'; and which was further published and proclaimed at
intervals between the hours of half-past nine and ten in the morning
by a straggling and solitrary young lady of tender years standing on
the scraper on the tips of her toes and making futile attempts to reach
the knocker with spelling-book. The several duties of instruction in
this establishment were this discharged. English grammar
compositiongeographyand the use of the dumb-bellsby Miss
Melissa Wackles; writingarthmeticdancingmusicand general
fascinationby Miss Sophia Wackles; the art of needle-work
markingand sampleryby Miss Jane Wackles; corporal punishment
fastingand other tortures and terrorsby Mrs Wackles. Miss
Melissa Wackles was the eldest daughterMiss Sophy the nextand
Miss Jane the youngest. Miss Melissa might have seen five-and-thirty
summers or thereaboutsand verged on the autumnal; Miss Sophy
was a freshgood humouredbusom girl of twenty; and Miss Jane
numbered scarcely sixteen years. Mrs Wackles was an excellent
but rather vemenous old lady of three-score.

To this Ladies' SeminarythenRichard Swiveller hiedwith designs
obnoxious to the peace of the fair Sophiawhoarrayed in virgin
whiteembelished by no ornament but one blushing rosereceived
him on his arrivalin the midst of very elegant not to say brilliant
preparations; such as the embellishment of the room with the little


flower-pots which always stood on the window-sill outsidesave in
windy weather when they blew into the area; the choice attire of the
day-scholars who were allowed to grace the festival; the unwonted
curls of Miss Jane Wackles who had kept her head during the whole
of the preceding day screwed up tight in a yellow play-bill; and the
solemn gentility and stately bearing of the old lady and her eldest
daughterwhich struck Mr Swiveller as being uncommon but made
no further impression upon him.

The truth is--andas there is no accounting for tasteseven a taste so
strange as this may be recorded without being looked upon as a
wilful and malicious invention--the truth is that neither Mrs Wackles
nor her eldest daughter had at any time greatly favoured the
pretensions of Mr Swivellerbeing accustomed to make slight
mention of him as 'a gay young man' and to sigh and shake their
heads ominously whenever his name was mentioned. Mr Swiveller's
conduct in respect to Miss Sophy having been of that vague and
dilitory kind which is usuaully looked upon as betokening no fixed
matrimonial intentionsthe young lady herself began in course of
time to deem it highly desirablethat it should be brought to an issue
one way or other. Hence she had at last consented to play off against
Richard Swiveller a stricken market-gardner known to be ready with
his offer on the smallest encouragementand hence--as this occasion
had been specially assigned for the purpose--that great anxiety on her
part for Richard Swiveller's presence which had occasioned her to
leave the note he has ben seen to receive. 'If he has any expectations
at all or any means of keeping a wife well' said Mrs Wackles to her
eldest daughter'he'll state 'em to us now or never.'--'If he really
cares about me' thought Miss Sophy'he must tell me soto-night.'

But all these sayings and doings and thinkings being unknown to Mr
Swivelleraffected him not in the least; he was debating in his mind
how he could best turn jealousand wishing that Sophy were for that
occasion only far less pretty than she wasor that she were her own
sisterwhich would have served his turn as wellwhen the company
cameand among them the market-gardenerwhose name was
Cheggs. But Mr Cheggs came not alone or unsupportedfor he
prudently brought along with him his sisterMiss Cheggswho
making straight to Miss Sophy and taking her by both handsand
kissing her on both cheekshoped in an audible whisper that they
had not come too early.

'Too earlyno!' replied Miss Sophy.

'Ohmy dear' rejoined Miss Cheggs in the same whisper as before
'I've been so tormentedso worriedthat it's a mercy we were not
here at four o'clock in the afternoon. Alick has been in such a state
of impatience to come! You'd hardly believe that he was dressed
before dinner-time and has been looking at the clock and teasing me
ever since. It's all your faultyou naughty thing.'

Hereupon Miss Sophy blushedand Mr Cheggs (who was bashful
before ladies) blushed tooand Miss Sophy's mother and sistersto
prevent Mr Cheggs from blushing morelavished civilities and
attentions upon himand left Richard Swiveller to take care of
himself. Here was the very thing he wantedhere was good cause
reason and foundation for pretending to be angry; but having this
cause reason and foundation which he had come expressly to seek
not expecting to findRichard Swiveller was angry in sound earnest
and wondered what the devil Cheggs meant by his impudence.

HoweverMr Swiveller had Miss Sophy's hand for the first quadrille
(country-dances being lowwere utterly proscribed) and so gained an
advantage over his rivalwho sat despondingly in a corner and


contemplated the glorious figure of the young lady as she moved
through the mazy dance. Nor was this the only start Mr Swiveller
had of the market-gardenerfor determining to show the family what
quality of man they trifled withand influenced perhaps by his late
libationshe performed such feats of agility and such spins and twirls
as filled the company with astonishmentand in particular caused a
very long gentleman who was dancing with a very short scholarto
stand quite transfixed by wonder and admiration. Even Mrs Wackles
forgot for the moment to snubb three small young ladies who were
inclined to be happyand could not repress a rising thought that to
have such a dancer as that in the family would be a pride indeed.

At this momentous crisisMiss Cheggs proved herself a vigourous
and useful allyfor not confining herself to expressing by scornful
smiles a contempt for Mr Swiveller's accomplishmentsshe took
every opportunity of whispering into Miss Sophy's ear expressions
of condolence and sympathy on her being worried by such a
ridiculous creaturedeclaring that she was frightened to death lest
Alick should fall uponand beat himin the fulness of his wrathand
entreating Miss Sophy to observe how the eyes of the said Alick
gleamed with love and fury; passionsit may be observedwhich
being too much for his eyes rushed into his nose alsoand suffused it
with a crimson glow.

'You must dance with Miss Chegs' said Miss Sophy to Dick
Swivillerafter she had herself danced twice with Mr Cheggs and
made great show of encouraging his advances. 'She's a nice girl--and
her brother's quite delightful.'

'Quite delightfulis he?' muttered Dick. 'Quite delighted tooI
should sayfrom the manner in which he's looking this way.'

Here Miss Jane (previously instructed for the purpose) interposed her
many curls and whispered her sister to observe how jealous Mr
Cheggs was.

'Jealous! Like his impudence!' said Richard Swiviller.

'His impudenceMr Swiviller!' said Miss Janetossing her head.
'Take care he don't hear yousiror you may be sorry for it.'

'OhprayJane --' said Miss Sophy.

'Nonsense!' replied her sister. 'Why shouldn't Mr Cheggs be jealous
if he likes? I like thatcertainly. Mr Cheggs has a good a right to be
jealous as anyone else hasand perhaps he may have a better right
soon if he hasn't already. You know best about thatSophy!'

Though this was a concerted plot between Miss Sophy and her sister
originating in humane intenions and having for its object the inducing
Mr Swiviller to declare himself in timeit failed in its effect; for
Miss Jane being one of those young ladies who are premeturely shrill
and shrewishgave such undue importance to her part that Mr
Swiviller retired in dudgeonresigning his mistress to Mr Cheggs
and converying a definance into his looks which that gentleman
indignantly returned.

'Did you speak to mesir?' said Mr Cheggsfollowing him into a
corner. 'Have the kindness to smilesirin order that we may not be
suspected. Did you speak to mesir'?

Mr Swiviller looked with a supercilious smile at Mr Chegg's toes
then raised his eyes from them to his anklesfrom that to his shin
from that to his kneeand so on very graduallykeeping up his right


leguntil he reached his waistcoatwhen he raised his eyes from
button to button until he reached his chinand travelling straight up
the middle of his nose came at last to his eyeswhen he said
abruptly

'NosirI didn't.'

`'Hem!' said Mr Cheggsglancing over his shoulder'have the
goodness to smile againsir. Perhaps you wished to speak to me
sir.'

'NosirI didn't do thateither.'

'Perhaps you may have nothing to say to me nowsir' said Mr
Cheggs fiercely.

At these words Richard Swiviller withdrew his eyes from Mr
Chegg's faceand travelling down the middle of his nose and down
his waistcoat and down his right legreached his toes againand
carefully surveyed him; this donehe crossed overand coming up
the other legt and thence approaching by the waistcoat as beforesaid
when had got to his eyes'No sirI haven't.:'

'Ohindeedsir!' said Mr Cheggs. 'I'm glad to hear it. You know
where I'm to be foundI supposesirin case you should have
anything to say to me?'

'I can easily inquiresirwhen I want to know.'

'There's nothing more we need sayI believesir?'

'Nothing moresir'--With that they closed the tremendous dialog by
frowning mutually. Mr Cheggs hastened to tender his hand to Miss
Sophyand Mr Swiviller sat himself down in a corner in a very
moody state.

Hard by this cornerMrs Wackles and Miss Wackles were seated
looking on at the dance; and unto Mrs and Miss WacklesMiss
Cheggs occasionally darted when her partner was occupied with his
share of the figureand made some remark or other which was gall
and wormword to Richard Swiviller's soul. Looking into the eyes of
Mrs and Miss Wackles for encouragementand sitting very upright
and uncomfortable on a couple of hard stoolswere two of the
day-scholars; and when Miss Wackles smiledand Mrs Wackles smiled
the two little girls on the stools sought to curry favour by smiling
likewisein gracious acknowledgement of which attention the old
lady frowned them down instantlyand said that if they dared to be
guilty of such an impertinence againthey should be sent under
convoy to their respective homes. This threat caused one of the
young ladiesshe being of a weak and trembling temperamentto
shed tearsand for this offense they were both filed off immediately
with a dreadful promptitude that struck terror into the souls of all the
pupils.

'I've got such news for you' said Miss Cheggs approaching once
more'Alick has been saying such things to Sophy. Upon my word
you knowit's quite serious and in earnestthat's clear.'

'What's he been sayingmy dear?' demanded Mrs Wackles.

'All manner of things' replied Miss Cheggs'you can't think how
out he has been speaking!'

Richard Swiviller considered it advisable to hear no morebut taking


advantage of a pause in the dancingand the approach of Mr Cheggs
to pay his court to the old ladyswaggered with an extremely careful
assumption of extreme carelessness toward the doorpassing on the
way Miss Jane Wackleswho in all the glory of her curls was
holding a flirtation(as good practice when no better was to be had)
with a feeble old gentleman who lodged in the parlour. Near the door
sat Miss Sophystill fluttered and confused by the attentions of Mr
Cheggsand by her side Richard Swiveller lingered for a moment to
exchange a few parting words.

'My boat is on the shore and my bark is on the seabut before I pass
this door I will say farewell to thee' murmured Dicklooking
gloomily upon her.

'Are you going?' said Miss Sophywhose heart sank within her at
the result of her stratagembut who affected a light indifference
notwithstanding.

'Am I going!' echoed Dick bitterly. 'YesI am. What then?'

'Nothingexcept that it's very early' said Miss Sophy; 'but you are
your own masterof course.'

'I would that I had been my own mistress too' said Dick'before I
had ever entertained a thought of you. Miss WacklesI believed you
trueand I was blest in so believingbut now I mourn that e'er I
knewa girl so fair yet so deceiving.'

Miss Sophy bit her lip and affected to look with great interest after
Mr Cheggswho was quaffing lemonade in the distance.

'I came here' said Dickrather oblivious of the purpose with which
he had really come'with my bosom expandedmy heart dilatedand
my sentiments of a corresponding description. I go away with
feelings that may be conceived but cannot be describedfeeling
within myself that desolating truth that my best affections have
experienced this night a stifler!'

'I am sure I don't know what you meanMr Swiviller' said Miss
Sophy with downcast eyes. 'I'm very sorry if--'

'SorryMa'am!' said Dick'sorry in the possession of a Cheegs! But
I wish you a very good nightconcluding with this slight remark
that there is a young lady growing up at this present moment for me
who has not only great personal attractions but great wealthand
who has requested her next of kin to propose for my handwhich
having a regard for some members of her familyI have consented to
promise. It's a gratifying circumstance which you'll be glad to hear
that a young and lovely girl is growing into a woman expressly on
my accountand is now saving up for me. I thought I'd mention it. I
have now merely to apologize for trespassing so long upon your
attention. Good night.'

'There's one good thing springs out of all this' said Richard
Swiviller to himself when he had reached home and was hanging
over the candle with the extinguisher in his hand'which isthat I
now go heart and soulneck and heelswith Fred in all his scheme
about little Nellyand right glad he'll be to find me so strong upon
it. He shall know all about that to-morrowand in the mean timeas
it's rather lateI'll try and get a wink of the balmy.'

'The balmy' came almost as soon as it was courted. In a very few
minutes Mr Swiviller was fast asleepdreaming that he had married
Nelly Trent and come into the propertyand that his first act of


power was to lay waste the market-garden of Mr Cheggs and turn it
into a brick-field.

CHAPTER 9

The childin her confidence with Mrs Quilphad but feebly
described the sadness and sorrow of her thoughtsor the heaviness
of the cloud which overhung her homeand cast dark shadows on its
hearth. Besides that it was very difficult to impart to any person
not intimately acquainted with the life she ledan adequate sense
of its gloom and lonelinessa constant fear of in some way
committing or injuring the old man to whom she was so tenderly
attachedhad restrained hereven in the midst of her heart's
overflowingand made her timid of allusion to the main cause of
her anxiety and distress.

Forit was not the monotonous days unchequered by variety and
uncheered by pleasant companionshipit was not the dark dreary
evenings or the long solitary nightsit was not the absence of
every slight and easy pleasure for which young hearts beat highor
the knowing nothing of childhood but its weakness and its easily
wounded spiritthat had wrung such tears from Nell. To see the old
man struck down beneath the pressure of some hidden griefto mark
his wavering and unsettled stateto be agitated at times with a
dreadful fear that his mind was wanderingand to trace in his
words and looks the dawning of despondent madness; to watch and
wait and listen for confirmation of these things day after dayand
to feel and know thatcome what mightthey were alone in the
world with no one to help or advise or care about them--these were
causes of depression and anxiety that might have sat heavily on an
older breast with many influences at work to cheer and gladden it
but how heavily on the mind of a young child to whom they were ever
presentand who was constantly surrounded by all that could keep
such thoughts in restless action!

And yetto the old man's visionNell was still the same. When he
couldfor a momentdisengage his mind from the phantom that
haunted and brooded on it alwaysthere was his young companion
with the same smile for himthe same earnest wordsthe same merry
laughthe same love and care thatsinking deep into his soul
seemed to have been present to him through his whole life. And so
he went oncontent to read the book of her heart from the page
first presented to himlittle dreaming of the story that lay
hidden in its other leavesand murmuring within himself that at
least the child was happy.

She had been once. She had gone singing through the dim roomsand
moving with gay and lightsome step among their dusty treasures
making them older by her young lifeand sterner and more grim by
her gay and cheerful presence. Butnowthe chambers were cold and
gloomyand when she left her own little room to while away the
tedious hoursand sat in one of themshe was still and motionless
as their inanimate occupantsand had no heart to startle the
echoes--hoarse from their long silence--with her voice.

In one of these roomswas a window looking into the streetwhere
the child satmany and many a long eveningand often far into the
nightalone and thoughtful. None are so anxious as those who watch
and wait; at these timesmournful fancies came flocking on her
mindin crowds.


She would take her station hereat duskand watch the people as
they passed up and down the streetor appeared at the windows of
the opposite houses; wondering whether those rooms were as lonesome
as that in which she satand whether those people felt it company
to see her sitting thereas she did only to see them look out and
draw in their heads again. There was a crooked stack of chimneys on
one of the roofsin whichby often looking at themshe had
fancied ugly faces that were frowning over at her and trying to
peer into the room; and she felt glad when it grew too dark to make
them outthough she was sorry toowhen the man came to light the
lamps in the street--for it made it lateand very dull inside.
Thenshe would draw in her head to look round the room and see
that everything was in its place and hadn't moved; and looking out
into the street againwould perhaps see a man passing with a
coffin on his backand two or three others silently following him
to a house where somebody lay dead; which made her shudder and
think of such things until they suggested afresh the old man's
altered face and mannerand a new train of fears and speculations.
If he were to die--if sudden illness had happened to himand he
were never to come home againalive--ifone nighthe should
come homeand kiss and bless her as usualand after she had gone
to bed and had fallen asleep and was perhaps dreaming pleasantly
and smiling in her sleephe should kill himself and his blood come
creepingcreepingon the ground to her own bed-room door! These
thoughts were too terrible to dwell uponand again she would have
recourse to the streetnow trodden by fewer feetand darker and
more silent than before. The shops were closing fastand lights
began to shine from the upper windowsas the neighbours went to
bed. By degreesthese dwindled away and disappeared or were
replacedhere and thereby a feeble rush-candle which was to burn
all night. Stillthere was one late shop at no great distance
which sent forth a ruddy glare upon the pavement even yetand
looked bright and companionable. Butin a little timethis
closedthe light was extinguishedand all was gloomy and quiet
except when some stray footsteps sounded on the pavementor a
neighbourout later than his wontknocked lustily at his
house-door to rouse the sleeping inmates.

When the night had worn away thus far (and seldom now until it had)
the child would close the windowand steal softly down stairs
thinking as she went that if one of those hideous faces below
which often mingled with her dreamswere to meet her by the way
rendering itself visible by some strange light of its ownhow
terrified she would be. But these fears vanished before a
well-trimmed lamp and the familiar aspect of her own room. After
praying ferventlyand with many bursting tearsfor the old man
and the restoration of his peace of mind and the happiness they had
once enjoyedshe would lay her head upon the pillow and sob
herself to sleep: often starting up againbefore the day-light
cameto listen for the bell and respond to the imaginary summons
which had roused her from her slumber.

One nightthe third after Nelly's interview with Mrs Quilpthe
old manwho had been weak and ill all daysaid he should not
leave home. The child's eyes sparkled at the intelligencebut her
joy subsided when they reverted to his worn and sickly face.

'Two days' he said'two wholecleardays have passedand there
is no reply. What did he tell theeNell?'

'Exactly what I told youdear grandfatherindeed.'

'True' said the old manfaintly. 'Yes. But tell me againNell.


My head fails me. What was it that he told thee? Nothing more than
that he would see me to-morrow or next day? That was in the note.'

'Nothing more' said the child. 'Shall I go to him again tomorrow
dear grandfather? Very early? I will be there and back
before breakfast.'

The old man shook his headand sighing mournfullydrew her
towards him.

''Twould be of no usemy dearno earthly use. But if he deserts
meNellat this moment--if he deserts me nowwhen I should
with his assistancebe recompensed for all the time and money I
have lostand all the agony of mind I have undergonewhich makes
me what you seeI am ruinedand--worsefar worse than that-have
ruined theefor whom I ventured all. If we are beggars--!'

'What if we are?' said the child boldly. 'Let us be beggarsand be
happy.'

'Beggars--and happy!' said the old man. 'Poor child!'

'Dear grandfather' cried the girl with an energy which shone in
her flushed facetrembling voiceand impassioned gesture'I am
not a child in that I thinkbut even if I amoh hear me pray that
we may begor work in open roads or fieldsto earn a scanty
livingrather than live as we do now.'

'Nelly!' said the old man.

'Yesyesrather than live as we do now' the child repeatedmore
earnestly than before. 'If you are sorrowfullet me know why and
be sorrowful too; if you waste away and are paler and weaker every
daylet me be your nurse and try to comfort you. If you are poor
let us be poor together; but let me be with youdo let me be with
you; do not let me see such change and not know whyor I shall
break my heart and die. Dear grandfatherlet us leave this sad
place to-morrowand beg our way from door to door.'

The old man covered his face with his handsand hid it in the
pillow of the couch on which he lay.

'Let us be beggars' said the child passing an arm round his neck
'I have no fear but we shall have enoughI am sure we shall. Let
us walk through country placesand sleep in fields and under
treesand never think of money againor anything that can make
you sadbut rest at nightsand have the sun and wind upon our
faces in the dayand thank God together! Let us never set foot in
dark rooms or melancholy housesany morebut wander up and down
wherever we like to go; and when you are tiredyou shall stop to
rest in the pleasantest place that we can findand I will go and
beg for both.'

The child's voice was lost in sobs as she dropped upon the old
man's neck; nor did she weep alone.

These were not words for other earsnor was it a scene for other
eyes. And yet other ears and eyes were there and greedily taking in
all that passedand moreover they were the ears and eyes of no
less a person than Mr Daniel Quilpwhohaving entered unseen when
the child first placed herself at the old man's siderefrained-actuated
no doubtby motives of the purest delicacy--from
interrupting the conversationand stood looking on with his
accustomed grin. Standinghoweverbeing a tiresome attitude to a


gentleman already fatigued with walkingand the dwarf being one of
that kind of persons who usually make themselves at homehe soon
cast his eyes upon a chairinto which he skipped with uncommon
agilityand perching himself on the back with his feet upon the
seatwas thus enabled to look on and listen with greater comfort
to himselfbesides gratifying at the same time that taste for
doing something fantastic and monkey-likewhich on all occasions
had strong possession of him. Herethenhe satone leg cocked
carelessly over the otherhis chin resting on the palm of his
handhis head turned a little on one sideand his ugly features
twisted into a complacent grimace. And in this position the old
manhappening in course of time to look that wayat length
chanced to see him: to his unbounded astonishment.

The child uttered a suppressed shriek on beholding this agreeable
figure; in their first surprise both she and the old mannot
knowing what to sayand half doubting its realitylooked
shrinkingly at it. Not at all disconcerted by this reception
Daniel Quilp preserved the same attitudemerely nodding twice or
thrice with great condescension. At lengththe old man pronounced
his nameand inquired how he came there.

'Through the door' said Quilp pointing over his shoulder with his
thumb. 'I'm not quite small enough to get through key-holes. I
wish I was. I want to have some talk with youparticularlyand in
private. With nobody presentneighbour. Good-byelittle Nelly.'

Nell looked at the old manwho nodded to her to retireand kissed
her cheek.

'Ah!' said the dwarfsmacking his lips'what a nice kiss that was-just
upon the rosy part. What a capital kiss!'

Nell was none the slower in going awayfor this remark. Quilp
looked after her with an admiring leerand when she had closed the
doorfell to complimenting the old man upon her charms.

'Such a freshbloomingmodest little budneighbour' said Quilp
nursing his short legand making his eyes twinkle very much; 'such
a chubbyrosycosylittle Nell!'

The old man answered by a forced smileand was plainly struggling
with a feeling of the keenest and most exquisite impatience. It was
not lost upon Quilpwho delighted in torturing himor indeed
anybody elsewhen he could.

'She's so' said Quilpspeaking very slowlyand feigning to be
quite absorbed in the subject'so smallso compactso
beautifully modelledso fairwith such blue veins and such a
transparent skinand such little feetand such winning ways-but
bless meyou're nervous! Why neighbourwhat's the matter? I
swear to you' continued the dwarf dismounting from the chair and
sitting down in itwith a careful slowness of gesture very
different from the rapidity with which he had sprung up unheard'I
swear to you that I had no idea old blood ran so fast or kept so
warm. I thought it was sluggish in its courseand coolquite
cool. I am pretty sure it ought to be. Yours must be out of order
neighbour.'

'I believe it is' groaned the old manclasping his head with both
hands. 'There's burning fever hereand something now and then to
which I fear to give a name.'

The dwarf said never a wordbut watched his companion as he paced


restlessly up and down the roomand presently returned to his
seat. Here he remainedwith his head bowed upon his breast for
some timeand then suddenly raising itsaid

'Onceand once for allhave you brought me any money?'

'No!' returned Quilp.

'Then' said the old manclenching his hands desperatelyand
looking upwards'the child and I are lost!'

'Neighbour' said Quilp glancing sternly at himand beating his
hand twice or thrice upon the table to attract his wandering
attention'let me be plain with youand play a fairer game than
when you held all the cardsand I saw but the backs and nothing
more. You have no secret from me now.'

The old man looked uptrembling.

'You are surprised' said Quilp. 'Wellperhaps that's natural. You
have no secret from me nowI say; nonot one. For nowI know
that all those sums of moneythat all those loansadvancesand
supplies that you have had from mehave found their way to--shall
I say the word?'

'Aye!' replied the old man'say itif you will.'

'To the gaming-table' rejoined Quilp'your nightly haunt. This
was the precious scheme to make your fortunewas it; this was the
secret certain source of wealth in which I was to have sunk my
money (if I had been the fool you took me for); this was your
inexhaustible mine of goldyour El Doradoeh?'

'Yes' cried the old manturning upon him with gleaming eyes'it
was. It is. It will betill I die.'

'That I should have been blinded' said Quilp looking
contemptuously at him'by a mere shallow gambler!'

'I am no gambler' cried the old man fiercely. 'I call Heaven to
witness that I never played for gain of mineor love of play; that
at every piece I stakedI whispered to myself that orphan's name
and called on Heaven to bless the venture;--which it never did.
Whom did it prosper? Who were those with whom I played? Men who
lived by plunderprofligacyand riot; squandering their gold in
doing illand propagating vice and evil. My winnings would have
been from themmy winnings would have been bestowed to the last
farthing on a young sinless child whose life they would have
sweetened and made happy. What would they have contracted? The
means of corruptionwretchednessand misery. Who would not have
hoped in such a cause? Tell me that! Who would not have hoped as I
did?'

'When did you first begin this mad career?' asked Quilphis
taunting inclination subduedfor a momentby the old man's grief
and wildness.

'When did I first begin?' he rejoinedpassing his hand across his
brow. 'When was itthat I first began? When should it bebut when
I began to think how little I had savedhow long a time it took to
save at allhow short a time I might have at my age to liveand
how she would be left to the rough mercies of the worldwith
barely enough to keep her from the sorrows that wait on poverty;
then it was that I began to think about it.'


'After you first came to me to get your precious grandson packed
off to sea?' said Quilp.

'Shortly after that' replied the old man. 'I thought of it a long
timeand had it in my sleep for months. Then I began. I found no
pleasure in itI expected none. What has it ever brought me but
anxious days and sleepless nights; but loss of health and peace of
mindand gain of feebleness and sorrow!'

'You lost what money you had laid byfirstand then came to me.
While I thought you were making your fortune (as you said you were)
you were making yourself a beggareh? Dear me! And so it comes to
pass that I hold every security you could scrape togetherand a
bill of sale upon the--upon the stock and property' said Quilp
standing up and looking about himas if to assure himself that
none of it had been taken away. 'But did you never win?'

'Never!' groaned the old man. 'Never won back my loss!'

'I thought' sneered the dwarf'that if a man played long enough
he was sure to win at lastorat the worstnot to come off a
loser.'

'And so he is' cried the old mansuddenly rousing himself from
his state of despondencyand lashed into the most violent
excitement'so he is; I have felt that from the firstI have
always known itI've seen itI never felt it half so strongly as
I feel it now. QuilpI have dreamedthree nightsof winning the
same large sumI never could dream that dream beforethough I
have often tried. Do not desert menow I have this chance. I have
no resource but yougive me some helplet me try this one last
hope.'

The dwarf shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.

'SeeQuilpgood tender-hearted Quilp' said the old mandrawing
some scraps of paper from his pocket with a trembling handand
clasping the dwarf's arm'only see here. Look at these figures
the result of long calculationand painful and hard experience. I
MUST win. I only want a little help once morea few poundsbut
two score poundsdear Quilp.'

'The last advance was seventy' said the dwarf; 'and it went in one
night.'

'I know it did' answered the old man'but that was the very worst
fortune of alland the time had not come then. Quilpconsider
consider' the old man criedtrembling so much the whilethat the
papers in his hand fluttered as if they were shaken by the wind
'that orphan child! If I were aloneI could die with gladness-perhaps
even anticipate that doom which is dealt out so unequally:
comingas it doeson the proud and happy in their strengthand
shunning the needy and afflictedand all who court it in their
despair--but what I have donehas been for her. Help me for her
sake I implore you; not for mine; for hers!'

'I'm sorry I've got an appointment in the city' said Quilp
looking at his watch with perfect self-possession'or I should
have been very glad to have spent half an hour with you while you
composed yourselfvery glad.'

'NayQuilpgood Quilp' gasped the old mancatching at his
skirts'you and I have talked togethermore than onceof her


poor mother's story. The fear of her coming to poverty has perhaps
been bred in me by that. Do not be hard upon mebut take that into
account. You are a great gainer by me. Oh spare me the money for
this one last hope!'

'I couldn't do it really' said Quilp with unusual politeness
'though I tell you what--and this is a circumstance worth bearing
in mind as showing how the sharpest among us may be taken in
sometimes--I was so deceived by the penurious way in which you
livedalone with Nelly--'

'All done to save money for tempting fortuneand to make her
triumph greater' cried the old man.

'YesyesI understand that now' said Quilp; 'but I was going to
sayI was so deceived by thatyour miserly waythe reputation
you had among those who knew you of being richand your repeated
assurances that you would make of my advances treble and quadruple
the interest you paid methat I'd have advanced youeven now
what you wanton your simple note of handif I hadn't
unexpectedly become acquainted with your secret way of life.'

'Who is it' retorted the old man desperately'that
notwithstanding all my cautiontold you? Come. Let me know the
name--the person.'

The crafty dwarfbethinking himself that his giving up the child
would lead to the disclosure of the artifice he had employed
whichas nothing was to be gained by itit was well to conceal
stopped short in his answer and said'Nowwho do you think?'

'It was Kitit must have been the boy; he played the spyand you
tampered with him?' said the old man.

'How came you to think of him?' said the dwarf in a tone of great
commiseration. 'Yesit was Kit. Poor Kit!'

So sayinghe nodded in a friendly mannerand took his leave:
stopping when he had passed the outer door a little distanceand
grinning with extraordinary delight.

'Poor Kit!' muttered Quilp. 'I think it was Kit who said I was an
uglier dwarf than could be seen anywhere for a pennywasn't it. Ha
ha ha! Poor Kit!' And with that he went his waystill chuckling as
he went.

CHAPTER 10

Daniel Quilp neither entered nor left the old man's house
unobserved. In the shadow of an archway nearly oppositeleading to
one of the many passages which diverged from the main streetthere
lingered onewhohaving taken up his position when the twilight
first came onstill maintained it with undiminished patienceand
leaning against the wall with the manner of a person who had a long
time to waitand being well used to it was quite resigned
scarcely changed his attitude for the hour together.

This patient lounger attracted little attention from any of those
who passedand bestowed as little upon them. His eyes were
constantly directed towards one object; the window at which the


child was accustomed to sit. If he withdrew them for a momentit
was only to glance at a clock in some neighbouring shopand then
to strain his sight once more in the old quarter with increased
earnestness and attention.

It had been remarked that this personage evinced no weariness in
his place of concealment; nor did helong as his waiting was. But
as the time went onhe manifested some anxiety and surprise
glancing at the clock more frequently and at the window less
hopefully than before. At lengththe clock was hidden from his
sight by some envious shuttersthen the church steeples proclaimed
eleven at nightthen the quarter pastand then the conviction
seemed to obtrude itself on his mind that it was no use tarrying
there any longer.

That the conviction was an unwelcome oneand that he was by no
means willing to yield to itwas apparent from his reluctance to
quit the spot; from the tardy steps with which he often left it
still looking over his shoulder at the same window; and from the
precipitation with which he as often returnedwhen a fancied noise
or the changing and imperfect light induced him to suppose it had
been softly raised. At lengthhe gave the matter upas hopeless
for that nightand suddenly breaking into a run as though to force
himself awayscampered off at his utmost speednor once ventured
to look behind him lest he should be tempted back again.

Without relaxing his paceor stopping to take breaththis
mysterious individual dashed on through a great many alleys and
narrow ways until he at length arrived in a square paved court
when he subsided into a walkand making for a small house from the
window of which a light was shininglifted the latch of the door
and passed in.

'Bless us!' cried a woman turning sharply round'who's that? Oh!
It's youKit!'

'Yesmotherit's me.'

'Whyhow tired you lookmy dear!'

'Old master an't gone out to-night' said Kit; 'and so she hasn't
been at the window at all.' With which wordshe sat down by the
fire and looked very mournful and discontented.

The room in which Kit sat himself downin this conditionwas an
extremely poor and homely placebut with that air of comfort about
itneverthelesswhich--or the spot must be a wretched one indeed-cleanliness
and order can always impart in some degree. Late as
the Dutch clock' showed it to bethe poor woman was still hard at
work at an ironing-table; a young child lay sleeping in a cradle
near the fire; and anothera sturdy boy of two or three years old
very wide awakewith a very tight night-cap on his headand a
night-gown very much too small for him on his bodywas sitting
bolt upright in a clothes-basketstaring over the rim with his
great round eyesand looking as if he had thoroughly made up his
mind never to go to sleep any more; whichas he had already
declined to take his natural rest and had been brought out of bed
in consequenceopened a cheerful prospect for his relations and
friends. It was rather a queer-looking family: Kithis motherand
the childrenbeing all strongly alike.

Kit was disposed to be out of temperas the best of us are too
often--but he looked at the youngest child who was sleeping
soundlyand from him to his other brother in the clothes-basket


and from him to their motherwho had been at work without
complaint since morningand thought it would be a better and
kinder thing to be good-humoured. So he rocked the cradle with his
foot; made a face at the rebel in the clothes-basketwhich put him
in high good-humour directly; and stoutly determined to be
talkative and make himself agreeable.

'Ahmother!' said Kittaking out his clasp-knifeand falling
upon a great piece of bread and meat which she had had ready for
himhours before'what a one you are! There an't many such as
youI know.'

'I hope there are many a great deal betterKit' said Mrs Nubbles;
'and that there areor ought to beaccordin' to what the parson
at chapel says.'

'Much he knows about it' returned Kit contemptuously. 'Wait till
he's a widder and works like you doand gets as littleand does
as muchand keeps his spirit up the sameand then I'll ask him
what's o'clock and trust him for being right to half a second.'

'Well' said Mrs Nubblesevading the point'your beer's down
there by the fenderKit.'

'I see' replied her sontaking up the porter pot'my love to
youmother. And the parson's health too if you like. I don't bear
him any malicenot I!'

'Did you tell mejust nowthat your master hadn't gone out
to-night?' inquired Mrs Nubbles.

'Yes' said Kit'worse luck!'

'You should say better luckI think' returned his mother
'because Miss Nelly won't have been left alone.'

'Ah!' said Kit'I forgot that. I said worse luckbecause I've
been watching ever since eight o'clockand seen nothing of her.'

'I wonder what she'd say' cried his motherstopping in her work
and looking round'if she knew that every nightwhen she--poor
thing--is sitting alone at that windowyou are watching in the
open street for fear any harm should come to herand that you
never leave the place or come home to your bed though you're ever
so tiredtill such time as you think she's safe in hers.'

'Never mind what she'd say' replied Kitwith something like a
blush on his uncouth face; 'she'll never know nothingand
consequentlyshe'll never say nothing.'

Mrs Nubbles ironed away in silence for a minute or twoand coming
to the fireplace for another ironglanced stealthily at Kit while
she rubbed it on a board and dusted it with a dusterbut said
nothing until she had returned to her table again: whenholding
the iron at an alarmingly short distance from her cheekto test
its temperatureand looking round with a smileshe observed:

'I know what some people would sayKit--'

'Nonsense' interposed Kit with a perfect apprehension of what was
to follow.

'Nobut they would indeed. Some people would say that you'd fallen
in love with herI know they would.'


To thisKit only replied by bashfully bidding his mother 'get
out' and forming sundry strange figures with his legs and arms
accompanied by sympathetic contortions of his face. Not deriving
from these means the relief which he soughthe bit off an immense
mouthful from the bread and meatand took a quick drink of the
porter; by which artificial aids he choked himself and effected a
diversion of the subject.

'Speaking seriously thoughKit' said his mothertaking up the
theme afreshafter a time'for of course I was only in joke just
nowit's very good and thoughtfuland like youto do thisand
never let anybody know itthough some day I hope she may come to
know itfor I'm sure she would be very grateful to you and feel it
very much. It's a cruel thing to keep the dear child shut up there.
I don't wonder that the old gentleman wants to keep it from you.'

'He don't think it's cruelbless you' said Kit'and don't mean
it to be soor he wouldn't do it--I do considermotherthat he
wouldn't do it for all the gold and silver in the world. Nono
that he wouldn't. I know him better than that.'

'Then what does he do it forand why does he keep it so close from
you?' said Mrs Nubbles.

'That I don't know' returned her son. 'If he hadn't tried to keep
it so close thoughI should never have found it outfor it was
his getting me away at night and sending me off so much earlier
than he used tothat first made me curious to know what was going
on. Hark! what's that?'

'It's only somebody outside.'

'It's somebody crossing over here' said Kitstanding up to
listen'and coming very fast too. He can't have gone out after I
leftand the house caught firemother!'

The boy stoodfor a momentreally bereftby the apprehension he
had conjured upof the power to move. The footsteps drew nearer
the door was opened with a hasty handand the child herselfpale
and breathlessand hastily wrapped in a few disordered garments
hurried into the room.

'Miss Nelly! What is the matter!' cried mother and son together.

'I must not stay a moment' she returned'grandfather has been
taken very ill. I found him in a fit upon the floor--'

'I'll run for a doctor'--said Kitseizing his brimless hat. 'I'll
be there directlyI'll--'

'Nono' cried Nell'there is one thereyou're not wantedyou-you--
must never come near us any more!'

'What!' roared Kit.

'Never again' said the child. 'Don't ask me whyfor I don't know.
Pray don't ask me whypray don't be sorrypray don't be vexed
with me! I have nothing to do with it indeed!'

Kit looked at her with his eyes stretched wide; and opened and shut
his mouth a great many times; but couldn't get out one word.

'He complains and raves of you' said the child'I don't know what


you have donebut I hope it's nothing very bad.'

'I done!' roared Kit.

'He cries that you're the cause of all his misery' returned the
child with tearful eyes; 'he screamed and called for you; they say
you must not come near him or he will die. You must not return to
us any more. I came to tell you. I thought it would be better that
I should come than somebody quite strange. OhKitwhat have you
done? Youin whom I trusted so muchand who were almost the only
friend I had!'

The unfortunate Kit looked at his young mistress harder and harder
and with eyes growing wider and widerbut was perfectly motionless
and silent.

'I have brought his money for the week' said the childlooking to
the woman and laying it on the table--'and--and--a little more
for he was always good and kind to me. I hope he will be sorry and
do well somewhere else and not take this to heart too much. It
grieves me very much to part with him like thisbut there is no
help. It must be done. Good night!'

With the tears streaming down her faceand her slight figure
trembling with the agitation of the scene she had leftthe shock
she had receivedthe errand she had just dischargedand a
thousand painful and affectionate feelingsthe child hastened to
the doorand disappeared as rapidly as she had come.

The poor womanwho had no cause to doubt her sonbut every
reason for relying on his honesty and truthwas staggered
notwithstandingby his not having advanced one word in his
defence. Visions of gallantryknaveryrobbery; and of the nightly
absences from home for which he had accounted so strangelyhaving
been occasioned by some unlawful pursuit; flocked into her brain
and rendered her afraid to question him. She rocked herself upon a
chairwringing her hands and weeping bitterlybut Kit made no
attempt to comfort her and remained quite bewildered. The baby in
the cradle woke up and cried; the boy in the clothes-basket fell
over on his back with the basket upon himand was seen no more;
the mother wept louder yet and rocked faster; but Kitinsensible
to all the din and tumultremained in a state of utter stupefaction.

CHAPTER 11

Quiet and solitude were destined to hold uninterrupted rule no
longerbeneath the roof that sheltered the child. Next morning
the old man was in a raging fever accompanied with delirium; and
sinking under the influence of this disorder he lay for many weeks
in imminent peril of his life. There was watching enoughnowbut
it was the watching of strangers who made a greedy trade of itand
whoin the intervals in their attendance upon the sick man huddled
together with a ghastly good-fellowshipand ate and drank and made
merry; for disease and death were their ordinary household gods.

Yetin all the hurry and crowding of such a timethe child was
more alone than she had ever been before; alone in spiritalone in
her devotion to him who was wasting away upon his burning bed;
alone in her unfeigned sorrowand her unpurchased sympathy. Day
after dayand night after nightfound her still by the pillow of


the unconscious suffererstill anticipating his every wantstill
listening to those repetitions of her name and those anxieties and
cares for herwhich were ever uppermost among his feverish
wanderings.

The house was no longer theirs. Even the sick chamber seemed to be
retainedon the uncertain tenure of Mr Quilp's favour. The old
man's illness had not lasted many days when he took formal
possession of the premises and all upon themin virtue of certain
legal powers to that effectwhich few understood and none presumed
to call in question. This important step securedwith the
assistance of a man of law whom he brought with him for the
purposethe dwarf proceeded to establish himself and his coadjutor
in the houseas an assertion of his claim against all comers; and
then set about making his quarters comfortableafter his own fashion.

To this endMr Quilp encamped in the back parlourhaving first
put an effectual stop to any further business by shutting up the
shop. Having looked outfrom among the old furniturethe
handsomest and most commodious chair he could possibly find (which
he reserved for his own use) and an especially hideous and
uncomfortable one (which he considerately appropriated to the
accommodation of his friend) he caused them to be carried into this
roomand took up his position in great state. The apartment was
very far removed from the old man's chamberbut Mr Quilp deemed it
prudentas a precaution against infection from feverand a means
of wholesome fumigationnot only to smokehimselfwithout
cessationbut to insist upon it that his legal friend did the
like. Moreoverhe sent an express to the wharf for the tumbling
boywho arriving with all despatch was enjoined to sit himself
down in another chair just inside the doorcontinually to smoke a
great pipe which the dwarf had provided for the purposeand to
take it from his lips under any pretence whateverwere it only for
one minute at a timeif he dared. These arrangements completedMr
Quilp looked round him with chuckling satisfactionand remarked
that he called that comfort.

The legal gentlemanwhose melodious name was Brassmight have
called it comfort also but for two drawbacks: one wasthat he
could by no exertion sit easy in his chairthe seat of which was
very hardangularslipperyand sloping; the otherthat
tobacco-smoke always caused him great internal discomposure and
annoyance. But as he was quite a creature of Mr Quilp's and had a
thousand reasons for conciliating his good opinionhe tried to smile
and nodded his acquiescence with the best grace he could assume.

This Brass was an attorney of no very good reputefrom Bevis Marks
in the city of London; he was a tallmeagre manwith a nose like
a wena protruding foreheadretreating eyesand hair of a deep
red. He wore a long black surtout reaching nearly to his ankles
short black trousershigh shoesand cotton stockings of a bluish
grey. He had a cringing mannerbut a very harsh voice; and his
blandest smiles were so extremely forbiddingthat to have had his
company under the least repulsive circumstancesone would have
wished him to be out of temper that he might only scowl.

Quilp looked at his legal adviserand seeing that he was winking
very much in the anguish of his pipethat he sometimes shuddered
when he happened to inhale its full flavourand that he constantly
fanned the smoke from himwas quite overjoyed and rubbed his hands
with glee.

'Smoke awayyou dog' said Quilpturning to the boy; 'fill your
pipe again and smoke it fastdown to the last whiffor I'll put


the sealing-waxed end of it in the fire and rub it red hot upon
your tongue.'

Luckily the boy was case-hardenedand would have smoked a small
lime-kiln if anybody had treated him with it. Whereforehe only
muttered a brief defiance of his masterand did as he was ordered.

'Is it goodBrassis it niceis it fragrantdo you feel like
the Grand Turk?" said Quilp.

Mr Brass thought that if he didthe Grand Turk's feelings were by
no means to be enviedbut he said it was famousand he had no
doubt he felt very like that Potentate.

'This is the way to keep off fever' said Quilp'this is the way
to keep off every calamity of life! We'll never leave offall the
time we stop here--smoke awayyou dogor you shall swallow the
pipe!'

'Shall we stop here longMr Quilp?' inquired his legal friend
when the dwarf had given his boy this gentle admonition.

'We must stopI supposetill the old gentleman up stairs is
dead' returned Quilp.

'He he he!' laughed Mr Brass'oh! very good!'

'Smoke away!' cried Quilp. 'Never stop! You can talk as you smoke.
Don't lose time.'

'He he he!' cried Brass faintlyas he again applied himself to the
odious pipe. 'But if he should get betterMr Quilp?'

'Then we shall stop till he doesand no longer' returned the
dwarf.

'How kind it is of youSirto wait till then!' said Brass. 'Some
peopleSirwould have sold or removed the goods--oh dearthe
very instant the law allowed 'em. Some peopleSirwould have been
all flintiness and granite. Some peoplesirwould have--'

'Some people would have spared themselves the jabbering of such a
parrot as you' interposed the dwarf.

'He he he!' cried Brass. 'You have such spirits!'

The smoking sentinel at the door interposed in this placeand
without taking his pipe from his lipsgrowled

'Here's the gal a comin' down.'

'The whatyou dog?' said Quilp.

'The gal' returned the boy. 'Are you deaf?'

'Oh!' said Quilpdrawing in his breath with great relish as if he
were taking soup'you and I will have such a settling presently;
there's such a scratching and bruising in store for youmy dear
young friend! Aha! Nelly! How is he nowmy duck of diamonds?"

'He's very bad' replied the weeping child.

'What a pretty little Nell!' cried Quilp.


'Oh beautifulsirbeautiful indeed' said Brass. 'Quite
charming.'

'Has she come to sit upon Quilp's knee' said the dwarfin what he
meant to be a soothing tone'or is she going to bed in her own
little room inside here? Which is poor Nelly going to do?'

'What a remarkable pleasant way he has with children!' muttered
Brassas if in confidence between himself and the ceiling; 'upon
my word it's quite a treat to hear him.'

'I'm not going to stay at all' faltered Nell. 'I want a few things
out of that roomand then I--I--won't come down here any more.'

'And a very nice little room it is!' said the dwarf looking into it
as the child entered. 'Quite a bower! You're sure you're not going
to use it; you're sure you're not coming backNelly?'

'No' replied the childhurrying awaywith the few articles of
dress she had come to remove; 'never again! Never again.'

'She's very sensitive' said Quilplooking after her. 'Very
sensitive; that's a pity. The bedstead is much about my size. I
think I shall make it MY little room.'

Mr Brass encouraging this ideaas he would have encouraged any
other emanating from the same sourcethe dwarf walked in to try
the effect. This he didby throwing himself on his back upon the
bed with his pipe in his mouthand then kicking up his legs and
smoking violently. Mr Brass applauding this picture very muchand
the bed being soft and comfortableMr Quilp determined to use it
both as a sleeping place by night and as a kind of Divan by day;
and in order that it might be converted to the latter purpose at
onceremained where he wasand smoked his pipe out. The legal
gentleman being by this time rather giddy and perplexed in his
ideas (for this was one of the operations of the tobacco on his
nervous system)took the opportunity of slinking away into the
open airwherein course of timehe recovered sufficiently to
return with a countenance of tolerable composure. He was soon led
on by the malicious dwarf to smoke himself into a relapseand in
that state stumbled upon a settee where he slept till morning.

Such were Mr Quilp's first proceedings on entering upon his new
property. He wasfor some daysrestrained by business from
performing any particular pranksas his time was pretty well
occupied between takingwith the assistance of Mr Brassa minute
inventory of all the goods in the placeand going abroad upon his
other concerns which happily engaged him for several hours at a
time. His avarice and caution beingnowthoroughly awakened
howeverhe was never absent from the house one night; and his
eagerness for some terminationgood or badto the old man's
disorderincreasing rapidlyas the time passed bysoon began to
vent itself in open murmurs and exclamations of impatience.

Nell shrank timidly from all the dwarf's advances towards
conversationand fled from the very sound of his voice; nor were
the lawyer's smiles less terrible to her than Quilp's grimaces. She
lived in such continual dread and apprehension of meeting one or
other of them on the stairs or in the passages if she stirred from
her grandfather's chamberthat she seldom left itfor a moment
until late at nightwhen the silence encouraged her to venture
forth and breathe the purer air of some empty room.

One nightshe had stolen to her usual windowand was sitting


there very sorrowfully--for the old man had been worse that day-when
she thought she heard her name pronounced by a voice in the
street. Looking downshe recognised Kitwhose endeavours to
attract her attention had roused her from her sad reflections.

'Miss Nell!' said the boy in a low voice.

'Yes' replied the childdoubtful whether she ought to hold any
communication with the supposed culpritbut inclining to her old
favourite still; 'what do you want?'

'I have wanted to say a word to youfor a long time' the boy
replied'but the people below have driven me away and wouldn't let
me see you. You don't believe--I hope you don't really believe-that
I deserve to be cast off as I have been; do youmiss?'

'I must believe it' returned the child. 'Or why would grandfather
have been so angry with you?'

'I don't know' replied Kit. 'I'm sure I never deserved it from
himnonor from you. I can say thatwith a true and honest
heartany way. And then to be driven from the doorwhen I only
came to ask how old master was--!'

'They never told me that' said the child. 'I didn't know it
indeed. I wouldn't have had them do it for the world.'

'Thank'eemiss' returned Kit'it's comfortable to hear you say
that. I said I never would believe that it was your doing.'
'That was right!' said the child eagerly.

'Miss Nell' cried the boy coming under the windowand speaking in
a lower tone'there are new masters down stairs. It's a change for
you.'

'It is indeed' replied the child.

'And so it will be for him when he gets better' said the boy
pointing towards the sick room.

'--If he ever does' added the childunable to restrain her tears.

'Ohhe'll do thathe'll do that' said Kit. 'I'm sure he will.
You mustn't be cast downMiss Nell. Now don't bepray!'

These words of encouragement and consolation were few and roughly
saidbut they affected the child and made herfor the moment
weep the more.

'He'll be sure to get better now' said the boy anxiously'if you
don't give way to low spirits and turn ill yourselfwhich would
make him worse and throw him backjust as he was recovering. When
he doessay a good word--say a kind word for meMiss Nell!'

'They tell me I must not even mention your name to him for a long
long time' rejoined the child'I dare not; and even if I might
what good would a kind word do youKit? We shall be very poor. We
shall scarcely have bread to eat.'

'It's not that I may be taken back' said the boy'that I ask the
favour of you. It isn't for the sake of food and wages that I've
been waiting about so long in hopes to see you. Don't think that
I'd come in a time of trouble to talk of such things as them.'


The child looked gratefully and kindly at himbut waited that he
might speak again.

'Noit's not that' said Kit hesitating'it's something very
different from that. I haven't got much senseI knowbut if he
could be brought to believe that I'd been a faithful servant to
himdoing the best I couldand never meaning harmperhaps he
mightn't--'

Here Kit faltered so long that the child entreated him to speak
outand quicklyfor it was very lateand time to shut the
window.

'Perhaps he mightn't think it over venturesome of me to say--well
thento say this' cried Kit with sudden boldness. 'This home is
gone from you and him. Mother and I have got a poor onebut that's
better than this with all these people here; and why not come
theretill he's had time to look aboutand find a better!'

The child did not speak. Kitin the relief of having made his
propositionfound his tongue loosenedand spoke out in its favour
with his utmost eloquence.

'You think' said the boy'that it's very small and inconvenient.
So it isbut it's very clean. Perhaps you think it would be noisy
but there's not a quieter court than ours in all the town. Don't be
afraid of the children; the baby hardly ever criesand the other
one is very good--besidesI'd mind 'em. They wouldn't vex you
muchI'm sure. Do tryMiss Nelldo try. The little front room up
stairs is very pleasant. You can see a piece of the church-clock
through the chimneysand almost tell the time; mother says it
would be just the thing for youand so it wouldand you'd have
her to wait upon you bothand me to run of errands. We don't mean
moneybless you; you're not to think of that! Will you try him
Miss Nell? Only say you'll try him. Do try to make old master come
and ask him first what I have done. Will you only promise that
Miss Nell?'

Before the child could reply to this earnest solicitationthe
street-door openedand Mr Brass thrusting out his night-capped
head called in a surly voice'Who's there!' Kit immediately glided
awayand Nellclosing the window softlydrew back into the room.

Before Mr Brass had repeated his inquiry many timesMr Quilpalso
embellished with a night-capemerged from the same door and looked
carefully up and down the streetand up at all the windows of the
housefrom the opposite side. Finding that there was nobody in
sighthe presently returned into the house with his legal friend
protesting (as the child heard from the staircase)that there was
a league and plot against him; that he was in danger of being
robbed and plundered by a band of conspirators who prowled about
the house at all seasons; and that he would delay no longer but
take immediate steps for disposing of the property and returning to
his own peaceful roof. Having growled forth theseand a great many
other threats of the same naturehe coiled himself once more in
the child's little bedand Nell crept softly up the stairs.

It was natural enough that her short and unfinished dialogue with
Kit should leave a strong impression on her mindand influence her
dreams that night and her recollections for a longlong time.
Surrounded by unfeeling creditorsand mercenary attendants upon
the sickand meeting in the height of her anxiety and sorrow with
little regard or sympathy even from the women about herit is not
surprising that the affectionate heart of the child should have


been touched to the quick by one kind and generous spirithowever
uncouth the temple in which it dwelt. Thank Heaven that the temples
of such spirits are not made with handsand that they may be even more
worthily hung with poor patch-work than with purple and fine linen!

CHAPTER 12

At lengththe crisis of the old man's disorder was pastand he
began to mend. By very slow and feeble degrees his consciousness
came back; but the mind was weakened and its functions were
impaired. He was patientand quiet; often sat broodingbut not
despondentlyfor a long space; was easily amusedeven by a
sun-beam on the wall or ceiling; made no complaint that the days
were longor the nights tedious; and appeared indeed to have lost
all count of timeand every sense of care or weariness. He would
sitfor hours togetherwith Nell's small hand in hisplaying
with the fingers and stopping sometimes to smooth her hair or kiss
her brow; andwhen he saw that tears were glistening in her eyes
would lookamazedabout him for the causeand forget his wonder
even while he looked.

The child and he rode out; the old man propped up with pillowsand
the child beside him. They were hand in hand as usual. The noise
and motion in the streets fatigued his brain at firstbut he was
not surprisedor curiousor pleasedor irritated. He was asked
if he remembered thisor that. 'O yes' he said'quite well--why
not?' Sometimes he turned his headand lookedwith earnest gaze
and outstretched neckafter some stranger in the crowduntil he
disappeared from sight; butto the question why he did thishe
answered not a word.

He was sitting in his easy chair one dayand Nell upon a stool
beside himwhen a man outside the door inquired if he might enter.
'Yes' he said without emotion'it was Quilphe knew. Quilp was
master there. Of course he might come in.' And so he did.

'I'm glad to see you well again at lastneighbour' said the
dwarfsitting down opposite him. 'You're quite strong now?'

'Yes' said the old man feebly'yes.'

'I don't want to hurry youyou knowneighbour' said the dwarf
raising his voicefor the old man's senses were duller than they
had been; 'butas soon as you can arrange your future proceedings
the better.'

'Surely' said the old man. 'The better for all parties.'

'You see' pursued Quilp after a short pause'the goods being once
removedthis house would be uncomfortable; uninhabitable in fact.'

'You say true' returned the old man. 'Poor Nell toowhat would
she do?'

'Exactly' bawled the dwarf nodding his head; 'that's very well
observed. Then will you consider about itneighbour?'

'I willcertainly' replied the old man. 'We shall not stop here.'

'So I supposed' said the dwarf. 'I have sold the things. They have
not yielded quite as much as they might have donebut pretty well-



pretty well. To-day's Tuesday. When shall they be moved? There's
no hurry--shall we say this afternoon?'

'Say Friday morning' returned the old man.

'Very good' said the dwarf. 'So be it--with the understanding
that I can't go beyond that dayneighbouron any account.'

'Good' returned the old man. 'I shall remember it.'

Mr Quilp seemed rather puzzled by the strangeeven spiritless way
in which all this was said; but as the old man nodded his head and
repeated 'on Friday morning. I shall remember it' he had no excuse
for dwelling on the subject any furtherand so took a friendly
leave with many expressions of good-will and many compliments to
his friend on his looking so remarkably well; and went below stairs
to report progress to Mr Brass.

All that dayand all the nextthe old man remained in this state.
He wandered up and down the house and into and out of the various
roomsas if with some vague intent of bidding them adieubut he
referred neither by direct allusions nor in any other manner to the
interview of the morning or the necessity of finding some other
shelter. An indistinct idea he hadthat the child was desolate and
in want of help; for he often drew her to his bosom and bade her be
of good cheersaying that they would not desert each other; but he
seemed unable to contemplate their real position more distinctly
and was still the listlesspassionless creature that suffering of
mind and body had left him.

We call this a state of childishnessbut it is the same poor
hollow mockery of itthat death is of sleep. Wherein the dull
eyes of doating menare the laughing light and life of childhood
the gaiety that has known no checkthe frankness that has felt no
chillthe hope that has never witheredthe joys that fade in
blossoming? Wherein the sharp lineaments of rigid and unsightly
deathis the calm beauty of slumbertelling of rest for the
waking hours that are pastand gentle hopes and loves for those
which are to come? Lay death and sleep downside by sideand say
who shall find the two akin. Send forth the child and childish man
togetherand blush for the pride that libels our own old happy
stateand gives its title to an ugly and distorted image.

Thursday arrivedand there was no alteration in the old man. But
a change came upon him that evening as he and the child sat
silently together.

In a small dull yard below his windowthere was a tree--green and
flourishing enoughfor such a place--and as the air stirred among
its leavesit threw a rippling shadow on the white wall. The old
man sat watching the shadows as they trembled in this patch of
lightuntil the sun went down; and when it was nightand the moon
was slowly risinghe still sat in the same spot.

To one who had been tossing on a restless bed so longeven these
few green leaves and this tranquil lightalthough it languished
among chimneys and house-topswere pleasant things. They suggested
quiet places afar offand restand peace. The child thoughtmore
than once that he was moved: and had forborne to speak. But now he
shed tears--tears that it lightened her aching heart to see--and
making as though he would fall upon his kneesbesought her to
forgive him.

'Forgive you--what?' said Nellinterposing to prevent his


purpose. 'Oh grandfatherwhat should I forgive?'

'All that is pastall that has come upon theeNellall that was
done in that uneasy dream' returned the old man.

'Do not talk so' said the child. 'Pray do not. Let us speak of
something else.'

'Yesyeswe will' he rejoined. 'And it shall be of what we
talked of long ago--many months--months is itor weeksor days?
which is it Nell?'

'I do not understand you' said the child.

'It has come back upon me to-dayit has all come back since we
have been sitting here. I bless thee for itNell!'

'For whatdear grandfather?'

'For what you said when we were first made beggarsNell. Let us
speak softly. Hush! for if they knew our purpose down stairsthey
would cry that I was mad and take thee from me. We will not stop
here another day. We will go far away from here.'

'Yeslet us go' said the child earnestly. 'Let us begone from
this placeand never turn back or think of it again. Let us wander
barefoot through the worldrather than linger here.'

'We will' answered the old man'we will travel afoot through the
fields and woodsand by the side of riversand trust ourselves to
God in the places where He dwells. It is far better to lie down at
night beneath an open sky like that yonder--see how bright it is-than
to rest in close rooms which are always full of care and
weary dreams. Thou and I togetherNellmay be cheerful and happy
yetand learn to forget this timeas if it had never been.'

'We will be happy' cried the child. 'We never can be here.'

'Nowe never can again--never again--that's truly said'
rejoined the old man. 'Let us steal away to-morrow morning--early
and softlythat we may not be seen or heard--and leave no trace
or track for them to follow by. Poor Nell! Thy cheek is paleand
thy eyes are heavy with watching and weeping for me--I know--for
me; but thou wilt be well againand merry toowhen we are far
away. To-morrow morningdearwe'll turn our faces from this scene
of sorrowand be as free and happy as the birds.'

And then the old man clasped his hands above her headand saidin
a few broken wordsthat from that time forth they would wander up
and down togetherand never part more until Death took one or
other of the twain.

The child's heart beat high with hope and confidence. She had no
thought of hungeror coldor thirstor suffering. She saw in
thisbut a return of the simple pleasures they had once enjoyed
a relief from the gloomy solitude in which she had livedan escape
from the heartless people by whom she had been surrounded in her
late time of trialthe restoration of the old man's health and
peaceand a life of tranquil happiness. Sunand streamand
meadowand summer daysshone brightly in her viewand there was
no dark tint in all the sparkling picture.

The old man had sleptfor some hourssoundly in his bedand she
was yet busily engaged in preparing for their flight. There were a


few articles of clothing for herself to carryand a few for him;
old garmentssuch as became their fallen fortuneslaid out to
wear; and a staff to support his feeble stepsput ready for his
use. But this was not all her task; for now she must visit the old
rooms for the last time.

And how different the parting with them wasfrom any she had
expectedand most of all from that which she had oftenest pictured
to herself. How could she ever have thought of bidding them
farewell in triumphwhen the recollection of the many hours she
had passed among them rose to her swelling heartand made her feel
the wish a cruelty: lonely and sad though many of those hours had
been! She sat down at the window where she had spent so many
evenings--darker far than this--and every thought of hope or
cheerfulness that had occurred to her in that place came vividly
upon her mindand blotted out all its dull and mournful
associations in an instant.

Her own little room toowhere she had so often knelt down and
prayed at night--prayed for the time which she hoped was dawning
now--the little room where she had slept so peacefullyand
dreamed such pleasant dreams! It was hard not to be able to glance
round it once moreand to be forced to leave it without one kind
look or grateful tear. There were some trifles there--poor useless
things--that she would have liked to take away; but that was
impossible.

This brought to mind her birdher poor birdwho hung there yet.
She wept bitterly for the loss of this little creature--until the
idea occurred to her--she did not know howor whyit came into
her head--that it mightby some meansfall into the hands of Kit
who would keep it for her sakeand thinkperhapsthat she had
left it behind in the hope that he might have itand as an
assurance that she was grateful to him. She was calmed and
comforted by the thoughtand went to rest with a lighter heart.

From many dreams of rambling through light and sunny placesbut
with some vague object unattained which ran indistinctly through
them allshe awoke to find that it was yet nightand that the
stars were shining brightly in the sky. At lengththe day began to
glimmerand the stars to grow pale and dim. As soon as she was
sure of thisshe aroseand dressed herself for the journey.

The old man was yet asleepand as she was unwilling to disturb
himshe left him to slumber onuntil the sun rose. He was anxious
that they should leave the house without a minute's loss of time
and was soon ready.

The child then took him by the handand they trod lightly and
cautiously down the stairstrembling whenever a board creakedand
often stopping to listen. The old man had forgotten a kind of
wallet which contained the light burden he had to carry; and the
going back a few steps to fetch it seemed an interminable delay.

At last they reached the passage on the ground floorwhere the
snoring of Mr Quilp and his legal friend sounded more terrible in
their ears than the roars of lions. The bolts of the door were
rustyand difficult to unfasten without noise. When they were all
drawn backit was found to be lockedand worst of allthe key
was gone. Then the child rememberedfor the first timeone of the
nurses having told her that Quilp always locked both the housedoors
at nightand kept the keys on the table in his bedroom.

It was not without great fear and trepidation that little Nell


slipped off her shoes and gliding through the store-room of old
curiositieswhere Mr Brass--the ugliest piece of goods in all the
stock--lay sleeping on a mattresspassed into her own little
chamber.

Here she stoodfor a few momentsquite transfixed with terror at
the sight of Mr Quilpwho was hanging so far out of bed that he
almost seemed to be standing on his headand whoeither from the
uneasiness of this postureor in one of his agreeable habitswas
gasping and growling with his mouth wide openand the whites (or
rather the dirty yellows) of his eyes distinctly visible. It was no
timehoweverto ask whether anything ailed him; sopossessing
herself of the key after one hasty glance about the roomand
repassing the prostrate Mr Brassshe rejoined the old man in
safety. They got the door open without noiseand passing into the
streetstood still.

'Which way?' said the child.

The old man lookedirresolutely and helplesslyfirst at herthen
to the right and leftthen at her againand shook his head. It
was plain that she was thenceforth his guide and leader. The child
felt itbut had no doubts or misgivingand putting her hand in
hisled him gently away.

It was the beginning of a day in June; the deep blue sky unsullied
by a cloudand teeming with brilliant light. The streets wereas
yetnearly free from passengersthe houses and shops were closed
and the healthy air of morning fell like breath from angelson the
sleeping town.

The old man and the child passed on through the glad silenceelate
with hope and pleasure. They were alone togetheronce again; every
object was bright and fresh; nothing reminded themotherwise than
by contrastof the monotony and constraint they had left behind;
church towers and steeplesfrowning and dark at other timesnow
shone in the sun; each humble nook and corner rejoiced in light;
and the skydimmed only by excessive distanceshed its placid
smile on everything beneath.

Forth from the citywhile it yet slumberedwent the two poor
adventurerswandering they knew not whither.

CHAPTER 13

Daniel Quilp of Tower Hilland Sampson Brass of Bevis Marks in the
city of LondonGentlemanone of her Majesty's attornies of the
Courts of the King's Bench and Common Pleas at Westminster and a
solicitor of the High Court of Chanceryslumbered onunconscious
and unsuspicious of any mischanceuntil a knocking on the street
dooroften repeated and gradually mounting up from a modest single
rap to a perfect battery of knocksfired in long discharges with
a very short interval betweencaused the said Daniel Quilp to
struggle into a horizontal positionand to stare at the ceiling
with a drowsy indifferencebetokening that he heard the noise and
rather wondered at the sameand couldn't be at the trouble of
bestowing any further thought upon the subject.

As the knockinghoweverinstead of accommodating itself to his
lazy stateincreased in vigour and became more importunateas if


in earnest remonstrance against his falling asleep againnow that
he had once opened his eyesDaniel Quilp began by degrees to
comprehend the possibility of there being somebody at the door; and
thus he gradually came to recollect that it was Friday morningand
he had ordered Mrs Quilp to be in waiting upon him at an early
hour.

Mr Brassafter writhing aboutin a great many strange attitudes
and often twisting his face and eyes into an expression like that
which is usually produced by eating gooseberries very early in the
seasonwas by this time awake also. Seeing that Mr Quilp invested
himself in his every-day garmentshe hastened to do the like
putting on his shoes before his stockingsand thrusting his legs
into his coat sleevesand making such other small mistakes in his
toilet as are not uncommon to those who dress in a hurryand
labour under the agitation of having been suddenly roused.
While the attorney was thus engagedthe dwarf was groping under
the tablemuttering desperate imprecations on himselfand mankind
in generaland all inanimate objects to bootwhich suggested to
Mr Brass the question'what's the matter?'

'The key' said the dwarflooking viciously about him'the
door-key--that's the matter. D'ye know anything of it?'

'How should I know anything of itsir?' returned Mr Brass.

'How should you?' repeated Quilp with a sneer. 'You're a nice
lawyeran't you? Ughyou idiot!'

Not caring to represent to the dwarf in his present humourthat
the loss of a key by another person could scarcely be said to
affect his (Brass's) legal knowledge in any material degreeMr
Brass humbly suggested that it must have been forgotten over night
and wasdoubtlessat that moment in its native key-hole.
Notwithstanding that Mr Quilp had a strong conviction to the
contraryfounded on his recollection of having carefully taken it
outhe was fain to admit that this was possibleand therefore
went grumbling to the door wheresure enoughhe found it.

Nowjust as Mr Quilp laid his hand upon the lockand saw with
great astonishment that the fastenings were undonethe knocking
came again with the most irritating violenceand the daylight
which had been shining through the key-hole was intercepted on the
outside by a human eye. The dwarf was very much exasperatedand
wanting somebody to wreak his ill-humour upondetermined to dart
out suddenlyand favour Mrs Quilp with a gentle acknowledgment of
her attention in making that hideous uproar.

With this viewhe drew back the lock very silently and softlyand
opening the door all at oncepounced out upon the person on the
other sidewho had at that moment raised the knocker for another
applicationand at whom the dwarf ran head first: throwing out his
hands and feet togetherand biting the air in the fulness of his
malice.

So farhoweverfrom rushing upon somebody who offered no
resistance and implored his mercyMr Quilp was no sooner in the
arms of the individual whom he had taken for his wife than he found
himself complimented with two staggering blows on the headand two
moreof the same qualityin the chest; and closing with his
assailantsuch a shower of buffets rained down upon his person as
sufficed to convince him that he was in skilful and experienced
hands. Nothing daunted by this receptionhe clung tight to his
opponentand bit and hammered away with such good-will and


heartinessthat it was at least a couple of minutes before he was
dislodged. Thenand not until thenDaniel Quilp found himself
all flushed and dishevelledin the middle of the streetwith Mr
Richard Swiveller performing a kind of dance round him and
requiring to know 'whether he wanted any more?'

'There's plenty more of it at the same shop' said Mr Swivellerby
turns advancing and retreating in a threatening attitude'a large
and extensive assortment always on hand--country orders executed
with promptitude and despatch--will you have a little moreSir-don't
say noif you'd rather not.'

'I thought it was somebody else' said Quilprubbing his
shoulders'why didn't you say who you were?'

'Why didn't you say who YOU were?' returned Dick'instead of
flying out of the house like a Bedlamite ?'

'It was you that--that knocked' said the dwarfgetting up with
a short groan'was it?'

'YesI am the man' replied Dick. 'That lady had begun when I
camebut she knocked too softso I relieved her.' As he said
thishe pointed towards Mrs Quilpwho stood trembling at a little
distance.

'Humph!' muttered the dwarfdarting an angry look at his wife'I
thought it was your fault! And yousir--don't you know there has
been somebody ill herethat you knock as if you'd beat the door
down?'

'Damme!' answered Dick'that's why I did it. I thought there was
somebody dead here.'

'You came for some purposeI suppose' said Quilp. 'What is it you
want?'

'I want to know how the old gentleman is' rejoined Mr Swiveller
'and to hear from Nell herselfwith whom I should like to have a
little talk. I'm a friend of the familysir--at least I'm the
friend of one of the familyand that's the same thing.'

'You'd better walk in then' said the dwarf. 'Go onsirgo on.
NowMrs Quilp--after youma'am.'

Mrs Quilp hesitatedbut Mr Quilp insisted. And it was not a
contest of politenessor by any means a matter of formfor she
knew very well that her husband wished to enter the house in this
orderthat he might have a favourable opportunity of inflicting a
few pinches on her armswhich were seldom free from impressions of
his fingers in black and blue colours. Mr Swivellerwho was not in
the secretwas a little surprised to hear a suppressed scream
andlooking roundto see Mrs Quilp following him with a sudden
jerk; but he did not remark on these appearancesand soon forgot
them.

'NowMrs Quilp' said the dwarf when they had entered the shop
'go you up stairsif you pleaseto Nelly's roomand tell her
that she's wanted.'

'You seem to make yourself at home here' said Dickwho was
unacquainted with Mr Quilp's authority.

'I AM at homeyoung gentleman' returned the dwarf.


Dick was pondering what these words might meanand still more what
the presence of Mr Brass might meanwhen Mrs Quilp came hurrying
down stairsdeclaring that the rooms above were empty.

'Emptyyou fool!' said the dwarf.

'I give you my wordQuilp' answered his trembling wife'that I
have been into every room and there's not a soul in any of them.'

'And that' said Mr Brassclapping his hands oncewith an
emphasis'explains the mystery of the key!'

Quilp looked frowningly at himand frowningly at his wifeand
frowningly at Richard Swiveller; butreceiving no enlightenment
from any of themhurried up stairswhence he soon hurried down
againconfirming the report which had already been made.

'It's a strange way of going' he saidglancing at Swiveller
'very strange not to communicate with me who am such a close and
intimate friend of his! Ah! he'll write to me no doubtor he'll
bid Nelly write--yesyesthat's what he'll do. Nelly's very fond
of me. Pretty Nell!'

Mr Swiveller lookedas he wasall open-mouthed astonishment.
Still glancing furtively at himQuilp turned to Mr Brass and
observedwith assumed carelessnessthat this need not interfere
with the removal of the goods.

'For indeed' he added'we knew that they'd go away to-daybut
not that they'd go so earlyor so quietly. But they have their
reasonsthey have their reasons.'

'Where in the devil's name are they gone?' said the wondering Dick.

Quilp shook his headand pursed up his lipsin a manner which
implied that he knew very wellbut was not at liberty to say.

'And what' said Dicklooking at the confusion about him'what do
you mean by moving the goods?'

'That I have bought 'emSir' rejoined Quilp. 'Eh? What then?'

'Has the sly old fox made his fortune thenand gone to live in a
tranquil cot in a pleasant spot with a distant view of the changing
sea?' said Dickin great bewilderment.

'Keeping his place of retirement very closethat he may not be
visited too often by affectionate grandsons and their devoted
friendseh?' added the dwarfrubbing his hands hard; 'I say
nothingbut is that your meaning?'

Richard Swiveller was utterly aghast at this unexpected alteration
of circumstanceswhich threatened the complete overthrow of the
project in which he bore so conspicuous a partand seemed to nip
his prospects in the bud. Having only received from Frederick
Trentlate on the previous nightinformation of the old man's
illnesshe had come upon a visit of condolence and inquiry to
Nellprepared with the first instalment of that long train of
fascinations which was to fire her heart at last. And herewhen he
had been thinking of all kinds of graceful and insinuating
approachesand meditating on the fearful retaliation which was
slowly working against Sophy Wackles--here were Nellthe old man
and all the money gonemelted awaydecamped he knew not whither


as if with a fore-knowledge of the scheme and a resolution to
defeat it in the very outsetbefore a step was taken.

In his secret heartDaniel Quilp was both surprised and troubled
by the flight which had been made. It had not escaped his keen eye
that some indispensable articles of clothing were gone with the
fugitivesand knowing the old man's weak state of mindhe
marvelled what that course of proceeding might be in which he had
so readily procured the concurrence of the child. It must not be
supposed (or it would be a gross injustice to Mr Quilp) that he was
tortured by any disinterested anxiety on behalf of either. His
uneasiness arose from a misgiving that the old man had some secret
store of money which he had not suspected; and the idea of its
escaping his clutchesoverwhelmed him with mortification and
self-reproach.

In this frame of mindit was some consolation to him to find that
Richard Swiveller wasfor different reasonsevidently irritated
and disappointed by the same cause. It was plainthought the
dwarfthat he had come thereon behalf of his friendto cajole
or frighten the old man out of some small fraction of that wealth
of which they supposed him to have an abundance. Thereforeit was
a relief to vex his heart with a picture of the riches the old man
hoardedand to expatiate on his cunning in removing himself even
beyond the reach of importunity.

'Well' said Dickwith a blank look'I suppose it's of no use my
staying here.'

'Not the least in the world' rejoined the dwarf.

'You'll mention that I calledperhaps?' said Dick.

Mr Quilp noddedand said he certainly wouldthe very first time
he saw them.

'And say' added Mr Swiveller'saysirthat I was wafted here
upon the pinions of concord; that I came to removewith the rake
of friendshipthe seeds of mutual violence and heart-burningand
to sow in their placethe germs of social harmony. Will you have
the goodness to charge yourself with that commissionSir?'

'Certainly!' rejoined Quilp.

'Will you be kind enough to add to itSir' said Dickproducing
a very small limp card'that that is my addressand that I am to
be found at home every morning. Two distinct knockssirwill
produce the slavey at any time. My particular friendsSirare
accustomed to sneeze when the door is openedto give her to
understand that they ARE my friends and have no interested motives
in asking if I'm at home. I beg your pardon; will you allow me to
look at that card again?'

'Oh! by all means' rejoined Quilp.

'By a slight and not unnatural mistakesir' said Dick
substituting another in its stead'I had handed you the passticket
of a select convivial circle called the Glorious Apollers of
which I have the honour to be Perpetual Grand. That is the proper
documentSir. Good morning.'

Quilp bade him good day; the perpetual Grand Master of the Glorious
Apollerselevating his hat in honour of Mrs Quilpdropped it
carelessly on the side of his head againand disappeared with a


flourish.

By this timecertain vans had arrived for the conveyance of the
goodsand divers strong men in caps were balancing chests of
drawers and other trifles of that nature upon their headsand
performing muscular feats which heightened their complexions
considerably. Not to be behind-hand in the bustleMr Quilp went to
work with surprising vigour; hustling and driving the people about
like an evil spirit; setting Mrs Quilp upon all kinds of arduous
and impracticable tasks; carrying great weights up and downwith
no apparent effort; kicking the boy from the wharfwhenever he
could get near him; and inflictingwith his loadsa great many
sly bumps and blows on the shoulders of Mr Brassas he stood upon
the door-steps to answer all the inquiries of curious neighbours
which was his department. His presence and example diffused such
alacrity among the persons employedthatin a few hoursthe
house was emptied of everythingbut pieces of mattingempty
porter-potsand scattered fragments of straw.

Seatedlike an African chiefon one of these pieces of matting
the dwarf was regaling himself in the parlourwith bread and
cheese and beerwhen he observed without appearing to do sothat
a boy was prying in at the outer door. Assured that it was Kit
though he saw little more than his noseMr Quilp hailed him by his
name; whereupon Kit came in and demanded what he wanted.

'Come hereyou sir' said the dwarf. 'Wellso your old master and
young mistress have gone?'

'Where?' rejoined Kitlooking round.

'Do you mean to say you don't know where?' answered Quilp sharply.
'Where have they goneeh?'

'I don't know' said Kit.

'Come' retorted Quilp'let's have no more of this! Do you mean to
say that you don't know they went away by stealthas soon as it
was light this morning?'

'No' said the boyin evident surprise.

'You don't know that?' cried Quilp. 'Don't I know that you were
hanging about the house the other nightlike a thiefeh? Weren't
you told then?'

'No' replied the boy.

'You were not?' said Quilp. 'What were you told then; what were you
talking about?'

Kitwho knew no particular reason why he should keep the matter
secret nowrelated the purpose for which he had come on that
occasionand the proposal he had made.

'Oh!' said the dwarf after a little consideration. 'ThenI think
they'll come to you yet.'

'Do you think they will?' cried Kit eagerly.

'AyeI think they will' returned the dwarf. 'Nowwhen they do
let me know; d'ye hear? Let me knowand I'll give you something.
I want to do 'em a kindnessand I can't do 'em a kindness unless
I know where they are. You hear what I say?'


Kit might have returned some answer which would not have been
agreeable to his irascible questionerif the boy from the wharf
who had been skulking about the room in search of anything that
might have been left about by accidenthad not happened to cry
'Here's a bird! What's to be done with this?'

'Wring its neck' rejoined Quilp.

'Oh nodon't do that' said Kitstepping forward. 'Give it to me.'

'Oh yesI dare say' cried the other boy. 'Come! You let the cage
aloneand let me wring its neck will you? He said I was to do it.
You let the cage alone will you.'

'Give it heregive it to meyou dogs' roared Quilp. 'Fight for
ityou dogsor I'll wring its neck myself!'

Without further persuasionthe two boys fell upon each other
tooth and nailwhile Quilpholding up the cage in one handand
chopping the ground with his knife in an ecstasyurged them on by
his taunts and cries to fight more fiercely. They were a pretty
equal matchand rolled about togetherexchanging blows which were
by no means child's playuntil at length Kitplanting a
well-directed hit in his adversary's chestdisengaged himself
sprung nimbly upand snatching the cage from Quilp's hands made
off with his prize.

He did not stop once until he reached homewhere his bleeding face
occasioned great consternationand caused the elder child to howl
dreadfully.

'Goodness graciousKitwhat is the matterwhat have you been
doing?' cried Mrs Nubbles.

'Never you mindmother' answered her sonwiping his face on the
jack-towel behind the door. 'I'm not hurtdon't you be afraid for
me. I've been a fightin' for a bird and won himthat's all. Hold
your noiselittle Jacob. I never see such a naughty boy in all my
days!'

'You have been fighting for a bird!' exclaimed his mother.

'Ah! Fightin' for a bird!' replied Kit'and here he is--Miss
Nelly's birdmotherthat they was agoin' to wring the neck of! I
stopped that though--ha ha ha! They wouldn't wring his neck and me
bynono. It wouldn't domotherit wouldn't do at all. Ha ha
ha!'

Kit laughing so heartilywith his swoln and bruised face looking
out of the towelmade little Jacob laughand then his mother
laughed. and then the baby crowed and kicked with great gleeand
then they all laughed in concert: partly because of Kit's triumph
and partly because they were very fond of each other. When this fit
was overKit exhibited the bird to both childrenas a great and
precious rarity--it was only a poor linnet--and looking about the
wall for an old nailmade a scaffolding of a chair and table and
twisted it out with great exultation.

'Let me see' said the boy'I think I'll hang him in the winder
because it's more light and cheerfuland he can see the sky there
if he looks up very much. He's such a one to singI can tell you!'

Sothe scaffolding was made againand Kitclimbing up with the


poker for a hammerknocked in the nail and hung up the cageto
the immeasurable delight of the whole family. When it had been
adjusted and straightened a great many timesand he had walked
backwards into the fire-place in his admiration of itthe
arrangement was pronounced to be perfect.

'And nowmother' said the boy'before I rest any moreI'll go
out and see if I can find a horse to holdand then I can buy some
birdseedand a bit of something nice for youinto the bargain.'

CHAPTER 14

As it was very easy for Kit to persuade himself that the old house
was in his wayhis way being anywherehe tried to look upon his
passing it once more as a matter of imperative and disagreeable
necessityquite apart from any desire of his ownto which he
could not choose but yield. It is not uncommon for people who are
much better fed and taught than Christopher Nubbles had ever been
to make duties of their inclinations in matters of more doubtful
proprietyand to take great credit for the self-denial with which
they gratify themselves.

There was no need of any caution this timeand no fear of being
detained by having to play out a return match with Daniel Quilp's
boy. The place was entirely desertedand looked as dusty and dingy
as if it had been so for months. A rusty padlock was fastened on
the doorends of discoloured blinds and curtains flapped drearily
against the half-opened upper windowsand the crooked holes cut in
the closed shutters belowwere black with the darkness of the
inside. Some of the glass in the window he had so often watched
had been broken in the rough hurry of the morningand that room
looked more deserted and dull than any. A group of idle urchins had
taken possession of the door-steps; some were plying the knocker
and listening with delighted dread to the hollow sounds it spread
through the dismantled house; others were clustered about the
keyholewatching half in jest and half in earnest for 'the ghost'
which an hour's gloomadded to the mystery that hung about the
late inhabitantshad already raised. Standing all alone in the
midst of the business and bustle of the streetthe house looked a
picture of cold desolation; and Kitwho remembered the cheerful
fire that used to burn there on a winter's night and the no less
cheerful laugh that made the small room ringturned quite
mournfully away.

It must be especially observed in justice to poor Kit that he was
by no means of a sentimental turnand perhaps had never heard that
adjective in all his life. He was only a soft-hearted grateful
fellowand had nothing genteel or polite about him; consequently
instead of going home againin his griefto kick the children and
abuse his mother (forwhen your finely strung people are out of
sortsthey must have everybody else unhappy likewise)he turned
his thoughts to the vulgar expedient of making them more
comfortable if he could.

Bless uswhat a number of gentlemen on horseback there were riding
up and downand how few of them wanted their horses held! A good
city speculator or a parliamentary commissioner could have told to
a fractionfrom the crowds that were cantering aboutwhat sum of
money was realised in Londonin the course of a yearby holding
horses alone. And undoubtedly it would have been a very large one


if only a twentieth part of the gentlemen without grooms had had
occasion to alight; but they had not; and it is often an
ill-natured circumstance like thiswhich spoils the most ingenious
estimate in the world.

Kit walked aboutnow with quick steps and now with slow; now
lingering as some rider slackened his horse's pace and looked about
him; and now darting at full speed up a bye-street as he caught a
glimpse of some distant horseman going lazily up the shady side of
the roadand promising to stopat every door. But on they all
wentone after anotherand there was not a penny stirring. 'I
wonder' thought the boy'if one of these gentlemen knew there was
nothing in the cupboard at homewhether he'd stop on purposeand
make believe that he wanted to call somewherethat I might earn a
trifle?'

He was quite tired out with pacing the streetsto say nothing of
repeated disappointmentsand was sitting down upon a step to rest
when there approached towards him a little clattering jingling
four-wheeled chaise' drawn by a little obstinate-looking
rough-coated ponyand driven by a little fat placid-faced old
gentleman. Beside the little old gentleman sat a little old lady
plump and placid like himselfand the pony was coming along at his
own pace and doing exactly as he pleased with the whole concern. If
the old gentleman remonstrated by shaking the reinsthe pony
replied by shaking his head. It was plain that the utmost the pony
would consent to dowas to go in his own way up any street that
the old gentleman particularly wished to traversebut that it was
an understanding between them that he must do this after his own
fashion or not at all.

As they passed where he satKit looked so wistfully at the little
turn-outthat the old gentleman looked at him. Kit rising and
putting his hand to his hatthe old gentleman intimated to the
pony that he wished to stopto which proposal the pony (who seldom
objected to that part of his duty) graciously acceded.

'I beg your pardonsir' said Kit. 'I'm sorry you stoppedsir. I
only meant did you want your horse minded.'

'I'm going to get down in the next street' returned the old
gentleman. 'If you like to come on after usyou may have the job.'

Kit thanked himand joyfully obeyed. The pony ran off at a sharp
angle to inspect a lamp-post on the opposite side of the wayand
then went off at a tangent to another lamp-post on the other side.
Having satisfied himself that they were of the same pattern and
materialshe came to a stop apparently absorbed in meditation.
'Will you go onsir' said the old gentlemangravely'or are we
to wait here for you till it's too late for our appointment?'

The pony remained immoveable.

'Oh you naughty Whisker' said the old lady. 'Fie upon you! I'm
ashamed of such conduct.'

The pony appeared to be touched by this appeal to his feelingsfor
he trotted on directlythough in a sulky mannerand stopped no
more until he came to a door whereon was a brass plate with the
words 'Witherden--Notary.' Here the old gentleman got out and
helped out the old ladyand then took from under the seat a
nosegay resembling in shape and dimensions a full-sized warming-pan
with the handle cut short off. Thisthe old lady carried into the
house with a staid and stately airand the old gentleman (who had


a club-foot) followed close upon her.

They wentas it was easy to tell from the sound of their voices
into the front parlourwhich seemed to be a kind of office. The
day being very warm and the street a quiet onethe windows were
wide open; and it was easy to hear through the Venetian blinds all
that passed inside.

At first there was a great shaking of hands and shuffling of feet
succeeded by the presentation of the nosegay; for a voicesupposed
by the listener to be that of Mr Witherden the Notarywas heard to
exclaim a great many times'ohdelicious!' 'ohfragrant
indeed!' and a nosealso supposed to be the property of that
gentlemanwas heard to inhale the scent with a snuffle of
exceeding pleasure.

'I brought it in honour of the occasionSir' said the old lady.

'Ah! an occasion indeedma'aman occasion which does honour to
mema'amhonour to me' rejoined Mr Witherdenthe notary. 'I
have had many a gentleman articled to mema'ammany a one. Some
of them are now rolling in richesunmindful of their old companion
and friendma'amothers are in the habit of calling upon me to
this day and sayingMr Witherden, some of the pleasantest hours
I ever spent in my life were spent in this office--were spent,
Sir, upon this very stool; but there was never one among the
numberma'amattached as I have been to many of themof whom I
augured such bright things as I do of your only son.'

'Oh dear!' said the old lady. 'How happy you do make us when you
tell us thatto be sure!'

'I tell youma'am' said Mr Witherden'what I think as an honest
manwhichas the poet observesis the noblest work of God. I
agree with the poet in every particularma'am. The mountainous
Alps on the one handor a humming-bird on the otheris nothing
in point of workmanshipto an honest man--or woman--or woman.'

'Anything that Mr Witherden can say of me' observed a small quiet
voice'I can saywith interestof himI am sure.'

'It's a happy circumstancea truly happy circumstance' said the
Notary'to happen too upon his eight-and-twentieth birthdayand
I hope I know how to appreciate it. I trustMr Garlandmy dear
Sirthat we may mutually congratulate each other upon this
auspicious occasion.'

To this the old gentleman replied that he felt assured they might.
There appeared to be another shaking of hands in consequenceand
when it was overthe old gentleman said thatthough he said it
who should nothe believed no son had ever been a greater comfort
to his parents than Abel Garland had been to his.

'Marrying as his mother and I didlate in lifesirafter waiting
for a great many yearsuntil we were well enough off--coming
together when we were no longer youngand then being blessed with
one child who has always been dutiful and affectionate--whyit's
a source of great happiness to us bothsir.'

'Of course it isI have no doubt of it' returned the Notary in a
sympathising voice. 'It's the contemplation of this sort of thing
that makes me deplore my fate in being a bachelor. There was a
young lady oncesirthe daughter of an outfitting warehouse of
the first respectability--but that's a weakness. Chucksterbring


in Mr Abel's articles.'

'You seeMr Witherden' said the old lady'that Abel has not been
brought up like the run of young men. He has always had a pleasure
in our societyand always been with us. Abel has never been absent
from usfor a day; has hemy dear?'

'Nevermy dear' returned the old gentleman'except when he went
to Margate one Saturday with Mr Tomkinley that had been a teacher
at that school he went toand came back upon the Monday; but he
was very ill after thatyou remembermy dear; it was quite a
dissipation.'

'He was not used to ityou know' said the old lady'and he
couldn't bear itthat's the truth. Besides he had no comfort in
being there without usand had nobody to talk to or enjoy himself
with.'

'That was ityou know' interposed the same small quiet voice that
had spoken once before. 'I was quite abroadmotherquite
desolateand to think that the sea was between us--ohI never
shall forget what I felt when I first thought that the sea was
between us!'

'Very natural under the circumstances' observed the Notary. 'Mr
Abel's feelings did credit to his natureand credit to your
naturema'amand his father's natureand human nature. I trace
the same current nowflowing through all his quiet and unobtrusive
proceedings.---I am about to sign my nameyou observeat the foot
of the articles which Mr Chuckster will witness; and placing my
finger upon this blue wafer with the vandyked cornersI am
constrained to remark in a distinct tone of voice--don't be
alarmedma'amit is merely a form of law--that I deliver this
as my act and deed. Mr Abel will place his name against the other
waferrepeating the same cabalistic wordsand the business is
over. Ha ha ha! You see how easily these things are done!'

There was a short silenceapparentlywhile Mr Abel went through
the prescribed formand then the shaking of hands and shuffling of
feet were renewedand shortly afterwards there was a clinking of
wine-glasses and a great talkativeness on the part of everybody. In
about a quarter of an hour Mr Chuckster (with a pen behind his ear
and his face inflamed with wine) appeared at the doorand
condescending to address Kit by the jocose appellation of 'Young
Snob' informed him that the visitors were coming out.

Out they came forthwith; Mr Witherdenwho was shortchubby
fresh-colouredbriskand pompousleading the old lady with
extreme politenessand the father and son following themarm in
arm. Mr Abelwho had a quaint old-fashioned air about himlooked
nearly of the same age as his fatherand bore a wonderful
resemblance to him in face and figurethough wanting something of
his fullroundcheerfulnessand substituting in its place a
timid reserve. In all other respectsin the neatness of the dress
and even in the club-foothe and the old gentleman were precisely
alike.

Having seen the old lady safely in her seatand assisted in the
arrangement of her cloak and a small basket which formed an
indispensable portion of her equipageMr Abel got into a little
box behind which had evidently been made for his express
accommodationand smiled at everybody present by turnsbeginning
with his mother and ending with the pony. There was then a great
to-do to make the pony hold up his head that the bearing-rein might


be fastened; at last even this was effected; and the old gentleman
taking his seat and the reinsput his hand in his pocket to find
a sixpence for Kit.

He had no sixpenceneither had the old ladynor Mr Abelnor the
Notarynor Mr Chuckster. The old gentleman thought a shilling too
muchbut there was no shop in the street to get change atso he
gave it to the boy.

'There' he said jokingly'I'm coming here again next Monday at
the same timeand mind you're heremy ladto work it out.'

'Thank youSir' said Kit. 'I'll be sure to be here.'

He was quite seriousbut they all laughed heartily at his saying
soespecially Mr Chucksterwho roared outright and appeared to
relish the joke amazingly. As the ponywith a presentiment that he
was going homeor a determination that he would not go anywhere
else (which was the same thing) trotted away pretty nimblyKit had
no time to justify himselfand went his way also. Having expended
his treasure in such purchases as he knew would be most acceptable
at homenot forgetting some seed for the wonderful birdhe
hastened back as fast as he couldso elated with his success and
great good fortunethat he more than half expected Nell and the
old man would have arrived before him.

CHAPTER 15

Oftenwhile they were yet pacing the silent streets of the town on
the morning of their departurethe child trembled with a mingled
sensation of hope and fear as in some far-off figure imperfectly
seen in the clear distanceher fancy traced a likeness to honest
Kit. But although she would gladly have given him her hand and
thanked him for what he had said at their last meetingit was
always a relief to findwhen they came nearer to each otherthat
the person who approached was not hebut a stranger; for even if
she had not dreaded the effect which the sight of him might have
wrought upon her fellow-travellershe felt that to bid farewell to
anybody nowand most of all to him who had been so faithful and so
truewas more than she could bear. It was enough to leave dumb
things behindand objects that were insensible both to her love
and sorrow. To have parted from her only other friend upon the
threshold of that wild journeywould have wrung her heart indeed.

Why is it that we can better bear to part in spirit than in body
and while we have the fortitude to act farewell have not the nerve
to say it? On the eve of long voyages or an absence of many years
friends who are tenderly attached will separate with the usual
lookthe usual pressure of the handplanning one final interview
for the morrowwhile each well knows that it is but a poor feint
to save the pain of uttering that one wordand that the meeting
will never be. Should possibilities be worse to bear than
certainties? We do not shun our dying friends; the not having
distinctly taken leave of one among themwhom we left in all
kindness and affectionwill often embitter the whole remainder of
a life.

The town was glad with morning light; places that had shown ugly
and distrustful all night longnow wore a smile; and sparkling
sunbeams dancing on chamber windowsand twinkling through blind


and curtain before sleepers' eyesshed light even into dreamsand
chased away the shadows of the night. Birds in hot roomscovered
up close and darkfelt it was morningand chafed and grew
restless in their little cells; bright-eyed mice crept back to
their tiny homes and nestled timidly together; the sleek house-cat
forgetful of her preysat winking at the rays of sun starting
through keyhole and cranny in the doorand longed for her stealthy
run and warm sleek bask outside. The nobler beasts confined in
densstood motionless behind their bars and gazed on fluttering
boughsand sunshine peeping through some little windowwith eyes
in which old forests gleamed--then trod impatiently the track
their prisoned feet had worn--and stopped and gazed again. Men in
their dungeons stretched their cramp cold limbs and cursed the
stone that no bright sky could warm. The flowers that sleep by
nightopened their gentle eyes and turned them to the day. The
lightcreation's mindwas everywhereand all things owned its
power.

The two pilgrimsoften pressing each other's handsor exchanging
a smile or cheerful lookpursued their way in silence. Bright and
happy as it wasthere was something solemn in the longdeserted
streetsfrom whichlike bodies without soulsall habitual
character and expression had departedleaving but one dead uniform
reposethat made them all alike. All was so still at that early
hourthat the few pale people whom they met seemed as much
unsuited to the sceneas the sickly lamp which had been here and
there left burningwas powerless and faint in the full glory of
the sun.

Before they had penetrated very far into the labyrinth of men's
abodes which yet lay between them and the outskirtsthis aspect
began to melt awayand noise and bustle to usurp its place. Some
straggling carts and coaches rumbling byfirst broke the charm
then others camethen others yet more activethen a crowd. The
wonder wasat firstto see a tradesman's window openbut it was
a rare thing soon to see one closed; thensmoke rose slowly from
the chimneysand sashes were thrown up to let in airand doors
were openedand servant girlslooking lazily in all directions
but their broomsscattered brown clouds of dust into the eyes of
shrinking passengersor listened disconsolately to milkmen who
spoke of country fairsand told of waggons in the mewswith
awnings and all things completeand gallant swains to bootwhich
another hour would see upon their journey.

This quarter passedthey came upon the haunts of commerce and
great trafficwhere many people were resortingand business was
already rife. The old man looked about him with a startled and
bewildered gazefor these were places that he hoped to shun. He
pressed his finger on his lipand drew the child along by narrow
courts and winding waysnor did he seem at ease until they had
left it far behindoften casting a backward look towards it
murmuring that ruin and self-murder were crouching in every street
and would follow if they scented them; and that they could not fly
too fast.

Again this quarter passedthey came upon a straggling
neighbourhoodwhere the mean houses parcelled off in roomsand
windows patched with rags and papertold of the populous poverty
that sheltered there. The shops sold goods that only poverty could
buyand sellers and buyers were pinched and griped alike. Here
were poor streets where faded gentility essayed with scanty space
and shipwrecked means to make its last feeble standbut
tax-gatherer and creditor came there as elsewhereand the poverty
that yet faintly struggled was hardly less squalid and manifest


than that which had long ago submitted and given up the game.

This was a widewide track--for the humble followers of the camp
of wealth pitch their tents round about it for many a mile--but
its character was still the same. Damp rotten housesmany to let
many yet buildingmany half-built and mouldering away--lodgings
where it would be hard to tell which needed pity mostthose who
let or those who came to take--childrenscantily fed and clothed
spread over every streetand sprawling in the dust--scolding
mothersstamping their slipshod feet with noisy threats upon the
pavement--shabby fathershurrying with dispirited looks to the
occupation which brought them 'daily bread' and little more-mangling-
womenwasher-womencobblerstailorschandlers
driving their trades in parlours and kitchens and back room and
garretsand sometimes all of them under the same roof-brick-
fields skirting gardens paled with staves of old casksor
timber pillaged from houses burnt downand blackened and blistered
by the flames--mounds of dock-weednettlescoarse grass and
oyster-shellsheaped in rank confusion--small dissenting chapels
to teachwith no lack of illustrationthe miseries of Earthand
plenty of new churcheserected with a little superfluous wealth
to show the way to Heaven.

At length these streets becoming more straggling yetdwindled and
dwindled awayuntil there were only small garden patches bordering
the roadwith many a summer house innocent of paint and built of
old timber or some fragments of a boatgreen as the tough
cabbage-stalks that grew about itand grottoed at the seams with
toad-stools and tight-sticking snails. To these succeeded pert
cottagestwo and two with plots of ground in frontlaid out in
angular beds with stiff box borders and narrow paths betweenwhere
footstep never strayed to make the gravel rough. Then came the
public-housefreshly painted in green and whitewith tea-gardens
and a bowling greenspurning its old neighbour with the
horse-trough where the waggons stopped; thenfields; and then
some housesone by oneof goodly size with lawnssome even with
a lodge where dwelt a porter and his wife. Then came a turnpike;
then fields again with trees and hay-stacks; thena hilland on
the top of thatthe traveller might stopand--looking back at
old Saint Paul's looming through the smokeits cross peeping above
the cloud (if the day were clear)and glittering in the sun; and
casting his eyes upon the Babel out of which it grew until he
traced it down to the furthest outposts of the invading army of
bricks and mortar whose station lay for the present nearly at his
feet--might feel at last that he was clear of London.

Near such a spot as thisand in a pleasant fieldthe old man and
his little guide (if guide she werewho knew not whither they were
bound) sat down to rest. She had had the precaution to furnish her
basket with some slices of bread and meatand here they made their
frugal breakfast.

The freshness of the daythe singing of the birdsthe beauty of
the waving grassthe deep green leavesthe wild flowersand the
thousand exquisite scents and sounds that floated in the air-deep
joys to most of usbut most of all to those whose life is in
a crowd or who live solitarily in great cities as in the bucket of
a human well--sunk into their breasts and made them very glad.
The child had repeated her artless prayers once that morningmore
earnestly perhaps than she had ever done in all her lifebut as
she felt all thisthey rose to her lips again. The old man took
off his hat--he had no memory for the words--but he said amen
and that they were very good.


There had been an old copy of the Pilgrim's Progresswith strange
platesupon a shelf at homeover which she had often pored whole
eveningswondering whether it was true in every wordand where
those distant countries with the curious names might be. As she
looked back upon the place they had leftone part of it came
strongly on her mind.

'Dear grandfather' she said'only that this place is prettier and
a great deal better than the real oneif that in the book is like
itI feel as if we were both Christianand laid down on this
grass all the cares and troubles we brought with us; never to take
them up again.'

'No--never to return--never to return'--replied the old man
waving his hand towards the city. 'Thou and I are free of it now
Nell. They shall never lure us back.'

'Are you tired?' said the child'are you sure you don't feel ill
from this long walk?'

'I shall never feel ill againnow that we are once away' was his
reply. 'Let us be stirringNell. We must be further away--a long
long way further. We are too near to stopand be at rest. Come!'

There was a pool of clear water in the fieldin which the child
laved her hands and faceand cooled her feet before setting forth
to walk again. She would have the old man refresh himself in this
way tooand making him sit down upon the grasscast the water on
him with her handsand dried it with her simple dress.

'I can do nothing for myselfmy darling' said the grandfather; 'I
don't know how it isI could oncebut the time's gone. Don't
leave meNell; say that thou'lt not leave me. I loved thee all the
whileindeed I did. If I lose thee toomy dearI must die!'

He laid his head upon her shoulder and moaned piteously. The time
had beenand a very few days beforewhen the child could not have
restrained her tears and must have wept with him. But now she
soothed him with gentle and tender wordssmiled at his thinking
they could ever partand rallied him cheerfully upon the jest. He
was soon calmed and fell asleepsinging to himself in a low voice
like a little child.

He awoke refreshedand they continued their journey. The road was
pleasantlying between beautiful pastures and fields of corn
about whichpoised high in the clear blue skythe lark trilled
out her happy song. The air came laden with the fragrance it caught
upon its wayand the beesupborne upon its scented breathhummed
forth their drowsy satisfaction as they floated by.

They were now in the open country; the houses were very few and
scattered at long intervalsoften miles apart. Occasionally they
came upon a cluster of poor cottagessome with a chair or low
board put across the open door to keep the scrambling children from
the roadothers shut up close while all the family were working in
the fields. These were often the commencement of a little village:
and after an interval came a wheelwright's shed or perhaps a
blacksmith's forge; then a thriving farm with sleepy cows lying
about the yardand horses peering over the low wall and scampering
away when harnessed horses passed upon the roadas though in
triumph at their freedom. There were dull pigs tooturning up the
ground in search of dainty foodand grunting their monotonous
grumblings as they prowled aboutor crossed each other in their
quest; plump pigeons skimming round the roof or strutting on the


eaves; and ducks and geesefar more graceful in their own conceit
waddling awkwardly about the edges of the pond or sailing glibly on
its surface. The farm-yard passedthen came the little inn; the
humbler beer-shop; and the village tradesman's; then the lawyer's
and the parson'sat whose dread names the beer-shop trembled; the
church then peeped out modestly from a clump of trees; then there
were a few more cottages; then the cageand poundand not
unfrequentlyon a bank by the way-sidea deep old dusty well.
Then came the trim-hedged fields on either handand the open road
again.

They walked all dayand slept that night at a small cottage where
beds were let to travellers. Next morning they were afoot again
and though jaded at firstand very tiredrecovered before long
and proceeded briskly forward.

They often stopped to restbut only for a short space at a time
and still kept onhaving had but slight refreshment since the
morning. It was nearly five o'clock in the afternoonwhen drawing
near another cluster of labourers' hutsthe child looked wistfully
in eachdoubtful at which to ask for permission to rest awhile
and buy a draught of milk.

It was not easy to determinefor she was timid and fearful of
being repulsed. Here was a crying childand there a noisy wife. In
thisthe people seemed too poor; in thattoo many. At length she
stopped at one where the family were seated round the table-chiefly
because there was an old man sitting in a cushioned chair
beside the hearthand she thought he was a grandfather and would
feel for hers.

There were besidesthe cottager and his wifeand three young
sturdy childrenbrown as berries. The request was no sooner
preferredthan granted. The eldest boy ran out to fetch some milk
the second dragged two stools towards the doorand the youngest
crept to his mother's gownand looked at the strangers from
beneath his sunburnt hand.

'God save youmaster' said the old cottager in a thin piping
voice; 'are you travelling far?'

'YesSira long way'--replied the child; for her grandfather
appealed to her.

'From London?' inquired the old man.

The child said yes.

Ah! He had been in London many a time--used to go there often
oncewith waggons. It was nigh two-and-thirty year since he had
been there lastand he did hear say there were great changes. Like
enough! He had changedhimselfsince then. Two-and-thirty year
was a long time and eighty-four a great agethough there was some
he had known that had lived to very hard upon a hundred--and not
so hearty as heneither--nonothing like it.

'Sit thee downmasterin the elbow chair' said the old man
knocking his stick upon the brick floorand trying to do so
sharply. 'Take a pinch out o' that box; I don't take much myself
for it comes dearbut I find it wakes me up sometimesand ye're
but a boy to me. I should have a son pretty nigh as old as you if
he'd livedbut they listed him for a so'ger--he come back home
thoughfor all he had but one poor leg. He always said he'd be
buried near the sun-dial he used to climb upon when he was a baby


did my poor boyand his words come true--you can see the place
with your own eyes; we've kept the turf upever since.'

He shook his headand looking at his daughter with watery eyes
said she needn't be afraid that he was going to talk about that
any more. He didn't wish to trouble nobodyand if he had troubled
anybody by what he saidhe asked pardonthat was all.

The milk arrivedand the child producing her little basketand
selecting its best fragments for her grandfatherthey made a
hearty meal. The furniture of the room was very homely of course-a
few rough chairs and a tablea corner cupboard with their little
stock of crockery and delfa gaudy tea-trayrepresenting a lady
in bright redwalking out with a very blue parasola few common
coloured scripture subjects in frames upon the wall and chimneyan
old dwarf clothes-press and an eight-day clockwith a few bright
saucepans and a kettlecomprised the whole. But everything was
clean and neatand as the child glanced roundshe felt a tranquil
air of comfort and content to which she had long been unaccustomed.

'How far is it to any town or village?' she asked of the husband.

'A matter of good five milemy dear' was the reply'but you're
not going on to-night?'

'YesyesNell' said the old man hastilyurging her too by
signs. 'Further onfurther ondarlingfurther away if we walk
till midnight.'

'There's a good barn hard bymaster' said the man'or there's
travellers' lodgingI knowat the Plow an' Harrer. Excuse mebut
you do seem a little tiredand unless you're very anxious to get
on--'

'Yesyeswe are' returned the old man fretfully. 'Further away
dear Nellpray further away.'

'We must go onindeed' said the childyielding to his restless
wish. 'We thank you very muchbut we cannot stop so soon. I'm
quite readygrandfather.'

But the woman had observedfrom the young wanderer's gaitthat
one of her little feet was blistered and soreand being a woman
and a mother tooshe would not suffer her to go until she had
washed the place and applied some simple remedywhich she did so
carefully and with such a gentle hand--rough-grained and hard
though it waswith work--that the child's heart was too full to
admit of her saying more than a fervent 'God bless you!' nor could
she look back nor trust herself to speakuntil they had left the
cottage some distance behind. When she turned her headshe saw
that the whole familyeven the old grandfatherwere standing in
the road watching them as they wentand sowith many waves of the
handand cheering nodsand on one side at least not without
tearsthey parted company.

They trudged forwardmore slowly and painfully than they had done
yetfor another mile or thereaboutswhen they heard the sound of
wheels behind themand looking round observed an empty cart
approaching pretty briskly. The driver on coming up to them stopped
his horse and looked earnestly at Nell.

'Didn't you stop to rest at a cottage yonder?' he said.

'Yessir' replied the child.


'Ah! They asked me to look out for you' said the man. 'I'm going
your way. Give me your hand--jump upmaster.'

This was a great relieffor they were very much fatigued and could
scarcely crawl along. To them the jolting cart was a luxurious
carriageand the ride the most delicious in the world. Nell had
scarcely settled herself on a little heap of straw in one corner
when she fell asleepfor the first time that day.

She was awakened by the stopping of the cartwhich was about to
turn up a bye-lane. The driver kindly got down to help her outand
pointing to some trees at a very short distance before themsaid
that the town lay thereand that they had better take the path
which they would see leading through the churchyard. Accordingly
towards this spotthey directed their weary steps.

CHAPTER 16

The sun was setting when they reached the wicket-gate at which the
path beganandas the rain falls upon the just and unjust alike
it shed its warm tint even upon the resting-places of the deadand
bade them be of good hope for its rising on the morrow. The church
was old and greywith ivy clinging to the wallsand round the
porch. Shunning the tombsit crept about the moundsbeneath which
slept poor humble men: twining for them the first wreaths they had
ever wonbut wreaths less liable to wither and far more lasting in
their kindthan some which were graven deep in stone and marble
and told in pompous terms of virtues meekly hidden for many a year
and only revealed at last to executors and mourning legatees.

The clergyman's horsestumbling with a dull blunt sound among the
graveswas cropping the grass; at once deriving orthodox
consolation from the dead parishionersand enforcing last Sunday's
text that this was what all flesh came to; a lean ass who had
sought to expound it alsowithout being qualified and ordained
was pricking his ears in an empty pound hard byand looking with
hungry eyes upon his priestly neighbour.

The old man and the child quitted the gravel pathand strayed
among the tombs; for there the ground was softand easy to their
tired feet. As they passed behind the churchthey heard voices
near at handand presently came on those who had spoken.

They were two men who were seated in easy attitudes upon the grass
and so busily engaged as to be at first unconscious of intruders.
It was not difficult to divine that they were of a class of
itinerant showmen--exhibitors of the freaks of Punch--for
perched cross-legged upon a tombstone behind themwas a figure of
that hero himselfhis nose and chin as hooked and his face as
beaming as usual. Perhaps his imperturbable character was never
more strikingly developedfor he preserved his usual equable smile
notwithstanding that his body was dangling in a most uncomfortable
positionall loose and limp and shapelesswhile his long peaked
capunequally balanced against his exceedingly slight legs
threatened every instant to bring him toppling down.

In part scattered upon the ground at the feet of the two menand
in part jumbled together in a long flat boxwere the other persons
of the Drama. The hero's wife and one childthe hobby-horsethe


doctorthe foreign gentleman who not being familiar with the
language is unable in the representation to express his ideas
otherwise than by the utterance of the word 'Shallabalah' three
distinct timesthe radical neighbour who will by no means admit
that a tin bell is an organthe executionerand the devilwere
all here. Their owners had evidently come to that spot to make some
needful repairs in the stage arrangementsfor one of them was
engaged in binding together a small gallows with threadwhile the
other was intent upon fixing a new black wigwith the aid of a
small hammer and some tacksupon the head of the radical
neighbourwho had been beaten bald.

They raised their eyes when the old man and his young companion
were close upon themand pausing in their workreturned their
looks of curiosity. One of themthe actual exhibitor no doubtwas
a little merry-faced man with a twinkling eye and a red nosewho
seemed to have unconsciously imbibed something of his hero's
character. The other--that was he who took the money--had rather
a careful and cautious lookwhich was perhaps inseparable from his
occupation also.

The merry man was the first to greet the strangers with a nod; and
following the old man's eyeshe observed that perhaps that was the
first time he had ever seen a Punch off the stage. (Punchit may
be remarkedseemed to be pointing with the tip of his cap to a
most flourishing epitaphand to be chuckling over it with all his
heart.)

'Why do you come here to do this?' said the old mansitting down
beside themand looking at the figures with extreme delight.

'Why you see' rejoined the little man'we're putting up for
to-night at the public-house yonderand it wouldn't do to let 'em
see the present company undergoing repair.'

'No!' cried the old manmaking signs to Nell to listen'why not
eh? why not?'

'Because it would destroy all the delusionand take away all the
interestwouldn't it?' replied the little man. 'Would you care a
ha'penny for the Lord Chancellor if you know'd him in private and
without his wig?---certainly not.'

'Good!' said the old manventuring to touch one of the puppets
and drawing away his hand with a shrill laugh. 'Are you going to
show 'em to-night? are you?'

'That is the intentiongovernor' replied the other'and unless
I'm much mistakenTommy Codlin is a calculating at this minute
what we've lost through your coming upon us. Cheer upTommyit
can't be much.'

The little man accompanied these latter words with a wink
expressive of the estimate he had formed of the travellers'
finances.

To this Mr Codlinwho had a surlygrumbling mannerrepliedas
he twitched Punch off the tombstone and flung him into the box
'I don't care if we haven't lost a fardenbut you're too free. If
you stood in front of the curtain and see the public's faces as I
doyou'd know human natur' better.'

'Ah! it's been the spoiling of youTommyyour taking to that
branch' rejoined his companion. 'When you played the ghost in the


reg'lar drama in the fairsyou believed in everything--except
ghosts. But now you're a universal mistruster. I never see a man so
changed.'

'Never mind' said Mr Codlinwith the air of a discontented
philosopher. 'I know better nowand p'raps I'm sorry for it.'

Turning over the figures in the box like one who knew and despised
themMr Codlin drew one forth and held it up for the inspection of
his friend:

'Look here; here's all this judy's clothes falling to pieces again.
You haven't got a needle and thread I suppose?'

The little man shook his headand scratched it ruefully as he
contemplated this severe indisposition of a principal performer.
Seeing that they were at a lossthe child said timidly:

'I have a needleSirin my basketand thread too. Will you let
me try to mend it for you? I think I could do it neater than you
could.'

Even Mr Codlin had nothing to urge against a proposal so
seasonable. Nellykneeling down beside the boxwas soon busily
engaged in her taskand accomplishing it to a miracle.

While she was thus engagedthe merry little man looked at her with
an interest which did not appear to be diminished when he glanced
at her helpless companion. When she had finished her work he
thanked herand inquired whither they were travelling.

'N--no further to-nightI think' said the childlooking towards
her grandfather.

'If you're wanting a place to stop at' the man remarked'I should
advise you to take up at the same house with us. That's it. The
longlowwhite house there. It's very cheap.'

The old mannotwithstanding his fatiguewould have remained in
the churchyard all night if his new acquaintances had remained
there too. As he yielded to this suggestion a ready and rapturous
assentthey all rose and walked away together; he keeping close to
the box of puppets in which he was quite absorbedthe merry little
man carrying it slung over his arm by a strap attached to it for
the purposeNelly having hold of her grandfather's handand Mr
Codlin sauntering slowly behindcasting up at the church tower and
neighbouring trees such looks as he was accustomed in town-practice
to direct to drawing-room and nursery windowswhen seeking for a
profitable spot on which to plant the show.

The public-house was kept by a fat old landlord and landlady who
made no objection to receiving their new guestsbut praised
Nelly's beauty and were at once prepossessed in her behalf. There
was no other company in the kitchen but the two showmenand the
child felt very thankful that they had fallen upon such good
quarters. The landlady was very much astonished to learn that they
had come all the way from Londonand appeared to have no little
curiosity touching their farther destination. The child parried her
inquiries as well as she couldand with no great troublefor
finding that they appeared to give her painthe old lady desisted.

'These two gentlemen have ordered supper in an hour's time' she
saidtaking her into the bar; 'and your best plan will be to sup
with them. Meanwhile you shall have a little taste of something


that'll do you goodfor I'm sure you must want it after all you've
gone through to-day. Nowdon't look after the old gentleman
because when you've drank thathe shall have some too.'

As nothing could induce the child to leave him alonehoweveror
to touch anything in which he was not the first and greatest
sharerthe old lady was obliged to help him first. When they had
been thus refreshedthe whole house hurried away into an empty
stable where the show stoodand whereby the light of a few
flaring candles stuck round a hoop which hung by a line from the
ceilingit was to be forthwith exhibited.

And now Mr Thomas Codlinthe misanthropeafter blowing away at
the Pan's pipes until he was intensely wretchedtook his station
on one side of the checked drapery which concealed the mover of the
figuresand putting his hands in his pockets prepared to reply to
all questions and remarks of Punchand to make a dismal feint of
being his most intimate private friendof believing in him to the
fullest and most unlimited extentof knowing that he enjoyed day
and night a merry and glorious existence in that templeand that
he was at all times and under every circumstance the same
intelligent and joyful person that the spectators then beheld him.
All this Mr Codlin did with the air of a man who had made up his
mind for the worst and was quite resigned; his eye slowly wandering
about during the briskest repartee to observe the effect upon the
audienceand particularly the impression made upon the landlord
and landladywhich might be productive of very important results
in connexion with the supper.

Upon this headhoweverhe had no cause for any anxietyfor the
whole performance was applauded to the echoand voluntary
contributions were showered in with a liberality which testified
yet more strongly to the general delight. Among the laughter none
was more loud and frequent than the old man's. Nell's was unheard
for shepoor childwith her head drooping on his shoulderhad
fallen asleepand slept too soundly to be roused by any of his
efforts to awaken her to a participation in his glee.

The supper was very goodbut she was too tired to eatand yet
would not leave the old man until she had kissed him in his bed.
Hehappily insensible to every care and anxietysat listening
with a vacant smile and admiring face to all that his new friend
said; and it was not until they retired yawning to their roomthat
he followed the child up stairs.

It was but a loft partitioned into two compartmentswhere they
were to restbut they were well pleased with their lodging and had
hoped for none so good. The old man was uneasy when he had lain
downand begged that Nell would come and sit at his bedside as she
had done for so many nights. She hastened to himand sat there
till he slept.

There was a little windowhardly more than a chink in the wallin
her roomand when she left himshe opened itquite wondering at
the silence. The sight of the old churchand the graves about it
in the moonlightand the dark trees whispering among themselves
made her more thoughtful than before. She closed the window again
and sitting down upon the bedthought of the life that was before them.

She had a little moneybut it was very littleand when that was
gonethey must begin to beg. There was one piece of gold among it
and an emergency might come when its worth to them would be
increased a hundred fold. It would be best to hide this coinand
never produce it unless their case was absolutely desperateand no


other resource was left them.

Her resolution takenshe sewed the piece of gold into her dress
and going to bed with a lighter heart sunk into a deep slumber.

CHAPTER 17

Another bright day shining in through the small casementand
claiming fellowship with the kindred eyes of the childawoke her.
At sight of the strange room and its unaccustomed objects she
started up in alarmwondering how she had been moved from the
familiar chamber in which she seemed to have fallen asleep last
nightand whither she had been conveyed. Butanother glance
around called to her mind all that had lately passedand she
sprung from her bedhoping and trustful.

It was yet earlyand the old man being still asleepshe walked
out into the churchyardbrushing the dew from the long grass with
her feetand often turning aside into places where it grew longer
than in othersthat she might not tread upon the graves. She felt
a curious kind of pleasure in lingering among these houses of the
deadand read the inscriptions on the tombs of the good people (a
great number of good people were buried there)passing on from one
to another with increasing interest.

It was a very quiet placeas such a place should besave for the
cawing of the rooks who had built their nests among the branches of
some tall old treesand were calling to one anotherhigh up in
the air. Firstone sleek birdhovering near his ragged house as
it swung and dangled in the winduttered his hoarse cryquite by
chance as it would seemand in a sober tone as though he were but
talking to himself. Another answeredand he called againbut
louder than before; then another spoke and then another; and each
time the firstaggravated by contradictioninsisted on his case
more strongly. Other voicessilent till nowstruck in from boughs
lower down and higher up and midwayand to the right and leftand
from the tree-tops; and othersarriving hastily from the grey
church turrets and old belfry windowjoined the clamour which rose
and felland swelled and dropped againand still went on; and all
this noisy contention amidst a skimming to and froand lighting on
fresh branchesand frequent change of placewhich satirised the
old restlessness of those who lay so still beneath the moss and
turf belowand the strife in which they had worn away their lives.

Frequently raising her eyes to the trees whence these sounds came
downand feeling as though they made the place more quiet than
perfect silence would have donethe child loitered from grave to
gravenow stopping to replace with careful hands the bramble which
had started from some green mound it helped to keep in shapeand
now peeping through one of the low latticed windows into the
churchwith its worm-eaten books upon the desksand baize of
whitened-green mouldering from the pew sides and leaving the naked
wood to view. There were the seats where the poor old people sat
worn spareand yellow like themselves; the rugged font where
children had their namesthe homely altar where they knelt in
after lifethe plain black tressels that bore their weight on
their last visit to the cool old shady church. Everything told of
long use and quiet slow decay; the very bell-rope in the porch was
frayed into a fringeand hoary with old age.


She was looking at a humble stone which told of a young man who had
died at twenty-three years oldfifty-five years agowhen she
heard a faltering step approachingand looking round saw a feeble
woman bent with the weight of yearswho tottered to the foot of
that same grave and asked her to read the writing on the stone. The
old woman thanked her when she had donesaying that she had had
the words by heart for many a longlong yearbut could not see
them now.

'Were you his mother?' said the child.

'I was his wifemy dear.'

She the wife of a young man of three-and-twenty! Ahtrue! It was
fifty-five years ago.

'You wonder to hear me say that' remarked the old womanshaking
her head. 'You're not the first. Older folk than you have wondered
at the same thing before now. YesI was his wife. Death doesn't
change us more than lifemy dear.'

'Do you come here often?' asked the child.

'I sit here very often in the summer time' she answered'I used
to come here once to cry and mournbut that was a weary while ago
bless God!'

'I pluck the daisies as they growand take them home' said the
old woman after a short silence. 'I like no flowers so well as
theseand haven't for five-and-fifty years. It's a long timeand
I'm getting very old.'

Then growing garrulous upon a theme which was new to one listener
though it were but a childshe told her how she had wept and
moaned and prayed to die herselfwhen this happened; and how when
she first came to that placea young creature strong in love and
griefshe had hoped that her heart was breaking as it seemed to
be. But that time passed byand although she continued to be sad
when she came therestill she could bear to comeand so went on
until it was pain no longerbut a solemn pleasureand a duty she
had learned to like. And now that five-and-fifty years were gone
she spoke of the dead man as if he had been her son or grandson
with a kind of pity for his youthgrowing out of her own old age
and an exalting of his strength and manly beauty as compared with
her own weakness and decay; and yet she spoke about him as her
husband tooand thinking of herself in connexion with himas she
used to be and not as she was nowtalked of their meeting in
another worldas if he were dead but yesterdayand sheseparated
from her former selfwere thinking of the happiness of that comely
girl who seemed to have died with him.

The child left her gathering the flowers that grew upon the grave
and thoughtfully retraced her steps.

The old man was by this time up and dressed. Mr Codlinstill
doomed to contemplate the harsh realities of existencewas packing
among his linen the candle-ends which had been saved from the
previous night's performance; while his companion received the
compliments of all the loungers in the stable-yardwhounable to
separate him from the master-mind of Punchset him down as next in
importance to that merry outlawand loved him scarcely less. When
he had sufficiently acknowledged his popularity he came in to
breakfastat which meal they all sat down together.


'And where are you going to-day?' said the little manaddressing
himself to Nell.

'Indeed I hardly know--we have not determined yet' replied the child.

'We're going on to the races' said the little man. 'If that's your
way and you like to have us for companylet us travel together. If
you prefer going aloneonly say the word and you'll find that we
shan't trouble you.'

'We'll go with you' said the old man. 'Nell--with themwith them.'

The child considered for a momentand reflecting that she must
shortly begand could scarcely hope to do so at a better place
than where crowds of rich ladies and gentlemen were assembled
together for purposes of enjoyment and festivitydetermined to
accompany these men so far. She therefore thanked the little man
for his offerand saidglancing timidly towards his friendthat
if there was no objection to their accompanying them as far as the
race town-


'Objection!' said the little man. 'Now be gracious for onceTommy
and say that you'd rather they went with us. I know you would. Be
graciousTommy.'

'Trotters' said Mr Codlinwho talked very slowly and ate very
greedilyas is not uncommon with philosophers and misanthropes;
'you're too free.'

'Why what harm can it do?' urged the other. 'No harm at all in this
particular caseperhaps' replied Mr Codlin; 'but the principle's
a dangerous oneand you're too free I tell you.'

'Wellare they to go with us or not?'

'Yesthey are' said Mr Codlin; 'but you might have made a favour
of itmightn't you?'

The real name of the little man was Harrisbut it had gradually
merged into the less euphonious one of Trotterswhichwith the
prefatory adjectiveShorthad been conferred upon him by reason
of the small size of his legs. Short Trotters howeverbeing a
compound nameinconvenient of use in friendly dialoguethe
gentleman on whom it had been bestowed was known among his
intimates either as 'Short' or 'Trotters' and was seldom accosted
at full length as Short Trottersexcept in formal conversations
and on occasions of ceremony.

Shortthenor Trottersas the reader pleasesreturned unto the
remonstrance of his friend Mr Thomas Codlin a jocose answer
calculated to turn aside his discontent; and applying himself with
great relish to the cold boiled beefthe teaand bread and
butterstrongly impressed upon his companions that they should do
the like. Mr Codlin indeed required no such persuasionas he had
already eaten as much as he could possibly carry and was now
moistening his clay with strong alewhereof he took deep draughts
with a silent relish and invited nobody to partake--thus again
strongly indicating his misanthropical turn of mind.

Breakfast being at length overMr Codlin called the billand
charging the ale to the company generally (a practice also
savouring of misanthropy) divided the sum-total into two fair and
equal partsassigning one moiety to himself and friendand the
other to Nelly and her grandfather. These being duly discharged and


all things ready for their departurethey took farewell of the
landlord and landlady and resumed their journey.

And here Mr Codlin's false position in society and the effect it
wrought upon his wounded spiritwere strongly illustrated; for
whereas he had been last night accosted by Mr Punch as 'master'
and had by inference left the audience to understand that he
maintained that individual for his own luxurious entertainment and
delighthere he wasnowpainfully walking beneath the burden of
that same Punch's templeand bearing it bodily upon his shoulders
on a sultry day and along a dusty road. In place of enlivening his
patron with a constant fire of wit or the cheerful rattle of his
quarter-staff on the heads of his relations and acquaintancehere
was that beaming Punch utterly devoid of spineall slack and
drooping in a dark boxwith his legs doubled up round his neck
and not one of his social qualities remaining.

Mr Codlin trudged heavily onexchanging a word or two at intervals
with Shortand stopping to rest and growl occasionally. Short led
the way; with the flat boxthe private luggage (which was not
extensive) tied up in a bundleand a brazen trumpet slung from his
shoulder-blade. Nell and her grandfather walked next him on either
handand Thomas Codlin brought up the rear.

When they came to any town or villageor even to a detached house
of good appearanceShort blew a blast upon the brazen trumpet and
carolled a fragment of a song in that hilarious tone common to
Punches and their consorts. If people hurried to the windowsMr
Codlin pitched the templeand hastily unfurling the drapery and
concealing Short therewithflourished hysterically on the pipes
and performed an air. Then the entertainment began as soon as might
be; Mr Codlin having the responsibility of deciding on its length
and of protracting or expediting the time for the hero's final
triumph over the enemy of mankindaccording as he judged that the
after-crop of half-pence would be plentiful or scant. When it had
been gathered in to the last farthinghe resumed his load and on
they went again.

Sometimes they played out the toll across a bridge or ferryand
once exhibited by particular desire at a turnpikewhere the
collectorbeing drunk in his solitudepaid down a shilling to
have it to himself. There was one small place of rich promise in
which their hopes were blightedfor a favourite character in the
play having gold-lace upon his coat and being a meddling
wooden-headed fellow was held to be a libel on the beadlefor
which reason the authorities enforced a quick retreat; but they
were generally well receivedand seldom left a town without a
troop of ragged children shouting at their heels.

They made a long day's journeydespite these interruptionsand
were yet upon the road when the moon was shining in the sky. Short
beguiled the time with songs and jestsand made the best of
everything that happened. Mr Codlin on the other handcursed his
fateand all the hollow things of earth (but Punch especially)
and limped along with the theatre on his backa prey to the
bitterest chagrin.

They had stopped to rest beneath a finger-post where four roads
metand Mr Codlin in his deep misanthropy had let down the drapery
and seated himself in the bottom of the showinvisible to mortal
eyes and disdainful of the company of his fellow creatureswhen
two monstrous shadows were seen stalking towards them from a
turning in the road by which they had come. The child was at first
quite terrified by the sight of these gaunt giants--for such they


looked as they advanced with lofty strides beneath the shadow of
the trees--but Shorttelling her there was nothing to fearblew
a blast upon the trumpetwhich was answered by a cheerful shout.

'It's Grinder's lotan't it?' cried Mr Short in a loud key.

'Yes' replied a couple of shrill voices.

'Come on then' said Short. 'Let's have a look at you. I thought it
was you.'

Thus invited'Grinder's lot' approached with redoubled speed and
soon came up with the little party.

Mr Grinder's companyfamiliarly termed a lotconsisted of a young
gentleman and a young lady on stiltsand Mr Grinder himselfwho
used his natural legs for pedestrian purposes and carried at his
back a drum. The public costume of the young people was of the
Highland kindbut the night being damp and coldthe young
gentleman wore over his kilt a man's pea jacket reaching to his
anklesand a glazed hat; the young lady too was muffled in an old
cloth pelisse and had a handkerchief tied about her head. Their
Scotch bonnetsornamented with plumes of jet black feathersMr
Grinder carried on his instrument.

'Bound for the racesI see' said Mr Grinder coming up out of
breath. 'So are we. How are youShort?' With that they shook hands
in a very friendly manner. The young people being too high up for
the ordinary salutationssaluted Short after their own fashion.
The young gentleman twisted up his right stilt and patted him on
the shoulderand the young lady rattled her tambourine.

'Practice?' said Shortpointing to the stilts.

'No' returned Grinder. 'It comes either to walkin' in 'em or
carryin' of 'emand they like walkin' in 'em best. It's wery
pleasant for the prospects. Which road are you takin'? We go the
nighest.'

'Whythe fact is' said Short'that we are going the longest way
because then we could stop for the nighta mile and a half on. But
three or four mile gained to-night is so many saved to-morrowand
if you keep onI think our best way is to do the same.'

'Where's your partner?' inquired Grinder.

'Here he is' cried Mr Thomas Codlinpresenting his head and face
in the proscenium of the stageand exhibiting an expression of
countenance not often seen there; 'and he'll see his partner boiled
alive before he'll go on to-night. That's what he says.'

'Welldon't say such things as themin a spear which is dewoted
to something pleasanter' urged Short. 'Respect associations
Tommyeven if you do cut up rough.'

'Rough or smooth' said Mr Codlinbeating his hand on the little
footboard where Punchwhen suddenly struck with the symmetry of
his legs and their capacity for silk stockingsis accustomed to
exhibit them to popular admiration'rough or smoothI won't go
further than the mile and a half to-night. I put up at the Jolly
Sandboys and nowhere else. If you like to come therecome there.
If you like to go on by yourselfgo on by yourselfand do without
me if you can.'


So sayingMr Codlin disappeared from the scene and immediately
presented himself outside the theatretook it on his shoulders at
a jerkand made off with most remarkable agility.

Any further controversy being now out of the questionShort was
fain to part with Mr Grinder and his pupils and to follow his
morose companion. After lingering at the finger-post for a few
minutes to see the stilts frisking away in the moonlight and the
bearer of the drum toiling slowly after themhe blew a few notes
upon the trumpet as a parting saluteand hastened with all speed
to follow Mr Codlin. With this view he gave his unoccupied hand to
Nelland bidding her be of good cheer as they would soon be at the
end of their journey for that nightand stimulating the old man
with a similar assuranceled them at a pretty swift pace towards
their destinationwhich he was the less unwilling to make foras
the moon was now overcast and the clouds were threatening rain.

CHAPTER 18

The Jolly Sandboys was a small road-side inn of pretty ancient
datewith a signrepresenting three Sandboys increasing their
jollity with as many jugs of ale and bags of goldcreaking and
swinging on its post on the opposite side of the road. As the
travellers had observed that day many indications of their drawing
nearer and nearer to the race townsuch as gipsy campscarts
laden with gambling booths and their appurtenancesitinerant
showmen of various kindsand beggars and trampers of every degree
all wending their way in the same directionMr Codlin was fearful
of finding the accommodations forestalled; this fear increasing as
he diminished the distance between himself and the hostelryhe
quickened his paceand notwithstanding the burden he had to carry
maintained a round trot until he reached the threshold. Here he had
the gratification of finding that his fears were without
foundationfor the landlord was leaning against the door-post
looking lazily at the rainwhich had by this time begun to descend
heavilyand no tinkling of cracked bellnor boisterous shoutnor
noisy chorusgave note of company within.

'All alone?' said Mr Codlinputting down his burden and wiping his
forehead.

'All alone as yet' rejoined the landlordglancing at the sky
'but we shall have more company to-night I expect. Here one of you
boyscarry that show into the barn. Make haste in out of the wet
Tom; when it came on to rain I told 'em to make the fire upand
there's a glorious blaze in the kitchenI can tell you.'

Mr Codlin followed with a willing mindand soon found that the
landlord had not commended his preparations without good reason. A
mighty fire was blazing on the hearth and roaring up the wide
chimney with a cheerful soundwhich a large iron cauldron
bubbling and simmering in the heatlent its pleasant aid to swell.
There was a deep red ruddy blush upon the roomand when the
landlord stirred the firesending the flames skipping and leaping
up--when he took off the lid of the iron pot and there rushed out
a savoury smellwhile the bubbling sound grew deeper and more
richand an unctuous steam came floating outhanging in a
delicious mist above their heads--when he did thisMr Codlin's
heart was touched. He sat down in the chimney-corner and smiled.


Mr Codlin sat smiling in the chimney-cornereyeing the landlord as
with a roguish look he held the cover in his handandfeigning
that his doing so was needful to the welfare of the cookery
suffered the delightful steam to tickle the nostrils of his guest.
The glow of the fire was upon the landlord's bald headand upon
his twinkling eyeand upon his watering mouthand upon his
pimpled faceand upon his round fat figure. Mr Codlin drew his
sleeve across his lipsand said in a murmuring voice'What is
it?'

'It's a stew of tripe' said the landlord smacking his lips'and
cow-heel' smacking them again'and bacon' smacking them once
more'and steak' smacking them for the fourth time'and peas
cauliflowersnew potatoesand sparrow-grassall working up
together in one delicious gravy.' Having come to the climaxhe
smacked his lips a great many timesand taking a long hearty sniff
of the fragrance that was hovering aboutput on the cover again
with the air of one whose toils on earth were over.

'At what time will it be ready?' asked Mr Codlin faintly.

'It'll be done to a turn' said the landlord looking up to the
clock--and the very clock had a colour in its fat white faceand
looked a clock for jolly Sandboys to consult--'it'll be done to a
turn at twenty-two minutes before eleven.'

'Then' said Mr Codlin'fetch me a pint of warm aleand don't let
nobody bring into the room even so much as a biscuit till the time
arrives.'

Nodding his approval of this decisive and manly course of
procedurethe landlord retired to draw the beerand presently
returning with itapplied himself to warm the same in a small tin
vessel shaped funnel-wisefor the convenience of sticking it far
down in the fire and getting at the bright places. This was soon
doneand he handed it over to Mr Codlin with that creamy froth
upon the surface which is one of the happy circumstances attendant
on mulled malt.

Greatly softened by this soothing beverageMr Codlin now bethought
him of his companionsand acquainted mine host of the Sandboys
that their arrival might be shortly looked for. The rain was
rattling against the windows and pouring down in torrents
and such was Mr Codlin's extreme amiability of mindthat
he more than once expressed his earnest hope that they would not be
so foolish as to get wet.

At length they arriveddrenched with the rain and presenting a
most miserable appearancenotwithstanding that Short had sheltered
the child as well as he could under the skirts of his own coatand
they were nearly breathless from the haste they had made. But their
steps were no sooner heard upon the road than the landlordwho had
been at the outer door anxiously watching for their comingrushed
into the kitchen and took the cover off. The effect was electrical.
They all came in with smiling faces though the wet was dripping
from their clothes upon the floorand Short's first remark was
'What a delicious smell!'

It is not very difficult to forget rain and mud by the side of a
cheerful fireand in a bright room. They were furnished with
slippers and such dry garments as the house or their own bundles
affordedand ensconcing themselvesas Mr Codlin had already done
in the warm chimney-cornersoon forgot their late troubles or only
remembered them as enhancing the delights of the present time.


Overpowered by the warmth and comfort and the fatigue they had
undergoneNelly and the old man had not long taken their seats
herewhen they fell asleep.

'Who are they?' whispered the landlord. Short shook his headand
wished he knew himself. 'Don't you know?' asked the hostturning
to Mr Codlin. 'Not I' he replied. 'They're no goodI suppose.'

'They're no harm' said Short. 'Depend upon that. I tell you what-it's
plain that the old man an't in his right mind--'

'If you haven't got anything newer than that to say' growled Mr
Codlinglancing at the clock'you'd better let us fix our minds
upon the supperand not disturb us.'

'Here me outwon't you?' retorted his friend. 'It's very plain to
mebesidesthat they're not used to this way of life. Don't tell
me that that handsome child has been in the habit of prowling about
as she's done these last two or three days. I know better.'

'Wellwho DOES tell you she has?' growled Mr Codlinagain
glancing at the clock and from it to the cauldron'can't you think
of anything more suitable to present circumstances than saying
things and then contradicting 'em?'

'I wish somebody would give you your supper' returned Short'for
there'll be no peace till you've got it. Have you seen how anxious
the old man is to get on--always wanting to be furder away-furder
away. Have you seen that?'

'Ah! what then?' muttered Thomas Codlin.

'Thisthen' said Short. 'He has given his friends the slip. Mind
what I say--he has given his friends the slipand persuaded this
delicate young creetur all along of her fondness for him to be his
guide and travelling companion--where tohe knows no more than
the man in the moon. Now I'm not a going to stand that.'

'YOU'RE not a going to stand that!' cried Mr Codlinglancing at
the clock again and pulling his hair with both hands in a kind of
frenzybut whether occasioned by his companion's observation or
the tardy pace of Timeit was difficult to determine. 'Here's a
world to live in!'

'I' repeated Short emphatically and slowly'am not a-going to
stand it. I am not a-going to see this fair young child a falling
into bad handsand getting among people that she's no more fit
forthan they are to get among angels as their ordinary chums.
Therefore when they dewelope an intention of parting company from
usI shall take measures for detaining of 'emand restoring 'em
to their friendswho I dare say have had their disconsolation
pasted up on every wall in London by this time.'

'Short' said Mr Codlinwho with his head upon his handsand his
elbows on his kneeshad been shaking himself impatiently from side
to side up to this point and occasionally stamping on the ground
but who now looked up with eager eyes; 'it's possible that there
may be uncommon good sense in what you've said. If there isand
there should be a rewardShortremember that we're partners in
everything!'

His companion had only time to nod a brief assent to this position
for the child awoke at the instant. They had drawn close together
during the previous whisperingand now hastily separated and were


rather awkwardly endeavouring to exchange some casual remarks in
their usual tonewhen strange footsteps were heard withoutand
fresh company entered.

These were no other than four very dismal dogswho came pattering
in one after the otherheaded by an old bandy dog of particularly
mournful aspectwhostopping when the last of his followers had
got as far as the doorerected himself upon his hind legs and
looked round at his companionswho immediately stood upon their
hind legsin a grave and melancholy row. Nor was this the only
remarkable circumstance about these dogsfor each of them wore a
kind of little coat of some gaudy colour trimmed with tarnished
spanglesand one of them had a cap upon his headtied very
carefully under his chinwhich had fallen down upon his nose and
completely obscured one eye; add to thisthat the gaudy coats were
all wet through and discoloured with rainand that the wearers
were splashed and dirtyand some idea may be formed of the unusual
appearance of these new visitors to the Jolly Sandboys.

Neither Short nor the landlord nor Thomas Codlinhoweverwas in
the least surprisedmerely remarking that these were Jerry's dogs
and that Jerry could not be far behind. So there the dogs stood
patiently winking and gaping and looking extremely hard at the
boiling potuntil Jerry himself appearedwhen they all dropped
down at once and walked about the room in their natural manner.
This posture it must be confessed did not much improve their
appearanceas their own personal tails and their coat tails--both
capital things in their way--did not agree together.

Jerrythe manager of these dancing dogswas a tall blackwhiskered
man in a velveteen coatwho seemed well known to the
landlord and his guests and accosted them with great cordiality.
Disencumbering himself of a barrel organ which he placed upon a
chairand retaining in his hand a small whip wherewith to awe his
company of comedianshe came up to the fire to dry himselfand
entered into conversation.

'Your people don't usually travel in characterdo they?' said
Shortpointing to the dresses of the dogs. 'It must come expensive
if they do?'

'No' replied Jerry'noit's not the custom with us. But we've
been playing a little on the road to-dayand we come out with a
new wardrobe at the racesso I didn't think it worth while to stop
to undress. DownPedro!'

This was addressed to the dog with the cap onwho being a new
member of the companyand not quite certain of his dutykept his
unobscured eye anxiously on his masterand was perpetually
starting upon his hind legs when there was no occasionand falling
down again.

'I've got a animal here' said Jerryputting his hand into the
capacious pocket of his coatand diving into one corner as if he
were feeling for a small orange or an apple or some such article
'a animal herewot I think you know something ofShort.'

'Ah!' cried Short'let's have a look at him.'

'Here he is' said Jerryproducing a little terrier from his
pocket. 'He was once a Toby of yourswarn't he!'

In some versions of the great drama of Punch there is a small dog-a
modern innovation--supposed to be the private property of that


gentlemanwhose name is always Toby. This Toby has been stolen in
youth from another gentlemanand fraudulently sold to the
confiding herowho having no guile himself has no suspicion that
it lurks in others; but Tobyentertaining a grateful recollection
of his old masterand scorning to attach himself to any new
patronsnot only refuses to smoke a pipe at the bidding of Punch
but to mark his old fidelity more stronglyseizes him by the nose
and wrings the same with violenceat which instance of canine
attachment the spectators are deeply affected. This was the
character which the little terrier in question had once sustained;
if there had been any doubt upon the subject he would speedily have
resolved it by his conduct; for not only did heon seeing Short
give the strongest tokens of recognitionbut catching sight of the
flat box he barked so furiously at the pasteboard nose which he
knew was insidethat his master was obliged to gather him up and
put him into his pocket againto the great relief of the whole
company.

The landlord now busied himself in laying the clothin which
process Mr Codlin obligingly assisted by setting forth his own
knife and fork in the most convenient place and establishing
himself behind them. When everything was readythe landlord took
off the cover for the last timeand then indeed there burst forth
such a goodly promise of supperthat if he had offered to put it
on again or had hinted at postponementhe would certainly have
been sacrificed on his own hearth.

Howeverhe did nothing of the kindbut instead thereof assisted
a stout servant girl in turning the contents of the cauldron into
a large tureen; a proceeding which the dogsproof against various
hot splashes which fell upon their noseswatched with terrible
eagerness. At length the dish was lifted on the tableand mugs of
ale having been previously set roundlittle Nell ventured to say
graceand supper began.

At this juncture the poor dogs were standing on their hind
legs quite surprisingly; the childhaving pity on themwas about
to cast some morsels of food to them before she tasted it herself
hungry though she waswhen their master interposed.

'Nomy dearnonot an atom from anybody's hand but mine if you
please. That dog' said Jerrypointing out the old leader of the
troopand speaking in a terrible voice'lost a halfpenny to-day.
He goes without his supper.'

The unfortunate creature dropped upon his fore-legs directly
wagged his tailand looked imploringly at his master.

'You must be more carefulSir' said Jerrywalking coolly to the
chair where he had placed the organand setting the stop. 'Come
here. NowSiryou play away at thatwhile we have supperand
leave off if you dare.'

The dog immediately began to grind most mournful music. His master
having shown him the whip resumed his seat and called up the
otherswhoat his directionsformed in a rowstanding upright
as a file of soldiers.

'Nowgentlemen' said Jerrylooking at them attentively. 'The dog
whose name's calledeats. The dogs whose names an't calledkeep
quiet. Carlo!'

The lucky individual whose name was calledsnapped up the morsel
thrown towards himbut none of the others moved a muscle. In this


manner they were fed at the discretion of their master. Meanwhile
the dog in disgrace ground hard at the organsometimes in quick
timesometimes in slowbut never leaving off for an instant. When
the knives and forks rattled very muchor any of his fellows got
an unusually large piece of fathe accompanied the music with a
short howlbut he immediately checked it on his master looking
roundand applied himself with increased diligence to the Old
Hundredth.

CHAPTER 19

Supper was not yet overwhen there arrived at the Jolly Sandboys
two more travellers bound for the same haven as the restwho had
been walking in the rain for some hoursand came in shining and
heavy with water. One of these was the proprietor of a giantand
a little lady without legs or armswho had jogged forward in a
van; the othera silent gentleman who earned his living by showing
tricks upon the cardsand who had rather deranged the natural
expression of his countenance by putting small leaden lozenges into
his eyes and bringing them out at his mouthwhich was one of his
professional accomplishments. The name of the first of these
newcomers was Vuffin; the otherprobably as a pleasant satire upon
his uglinesswas called Sweet William. To render them as
comfortable as he couldthe landlord bestirred himself nimblyand
in a very short time both gentlemen were perfectly at their ease.

'How's the Giant?' said Shortwhen they all sat smoking round the
fire.

'Rather weak upon his legs' returned Mr Vuffin. 'I begin to be
afraid he's going at the knees.'

'That's a bad look-out' said Short.

'Aye! Bad indeed' replied Mr Vuffincontemplating the fire with
a sigh. 'Once get a giant shaky on his legsand the public care no
more about him than they do for a dead cabbage stalk.'

'What becomes of old giants?' said Shortturning to him again
after a little reflection.

'They're usually kept in carawans to wait upon the dwarfs' said Mr
Vuffin.

'The maintaining of 'em must come expensivewhen they can't be
showneh?' remarked Shorteyeing him doubtfully.

'It's better thatthan letting 'em go upon the parish or about the
streets said Mr Vuffin. 'Once make a giant common and giants will
never draw again. Look at wooden legs. If there was only one man
with a wooden leg what a property he'd be!'

'So he would!' observed the landlord and Short both together.
'That's very true.'

'Instead of which,' pursued Mr Vuffin, 'if you was to advertise
Shakspeare played entirely by wooden legs,' it's my belief you
wouldn't draw a sixpence.'

'I don't suppose you would,' said Short. And the landlord said so


too.

'This shows, you see,' said Mr Vuffin, waving his pipe with an
argumentative air, 'this shows the policy of keeping the used-up
giants still in the carawans, where they get food and lodging for
nothing, all their lives, and in general very glad they are to stop
there. There was one giant--a black 'un--as left his carawan some
year ago and took to carrying coach-bills about London, making
himself as cheap as crossing-sweepers. He died. I make no
insinuation against anybody in particular,' said Mr Vuffin, looking
solemnly round, 'but he was ruining the trade;--and he died.'

The landlord drew his breath hard, and looked at the owner of the
dogs, who nodded and said gruffly that he remembered.

'I know you do, Jerry,' said Mr Vuffin with profound meaning. 'I
know you remember it, Jerry, and the universal opinion was, that it
served him right. Why, I remember the time when old Maunders as had
three-and-twenty wans--I remember the time when old Maunders had
in his cottage in Spa Fields in the winter time, when the season
was over, eight male and female dwarfs setting down to dinner every
day, who was waited on by eight old giants in green coats, red
smalls, blue cotton stockings, and high-lows: and there was one
dwarf as had grown elderly and wicious who whenever his giant
wasn't quick enough to please him, used to stick pins in his legs,
not being able to reach up any higher. I know that's a fact, for
Maunders told it me himself.'

'What about the dwarfs when they get old?' inquired the landlord.

'The older a dwarf is, the better worth he is,' returned Mr Vuffin;
'a grey-headed dwarf, well wrinkled, is beyond all suspicion. But
a giant weak in the legs and not standing upright!--keep him in
the carawan, but never show him, never show him, for any persuasion
that can be offered.'

While Mr Vuffin and his two friends smoked their pipes and beguiled
the time with such conversation as this, the silent gentleman sat
in a warm corner, swallowing, or seeming to swallow, sixpennyworth
of halfpence for practice, balancing a feather upon his nose, and
rehearsing other feats of dexterity of that kind, without paying
any regard whatever to the company, who in their turn left him
utterly unnoticed. At length the weary child prevailed upon her
grandfather to retire, and they withdrew, leaving the company yet
seated round the fire, and the dogs fast asleep at a humble
distance.

After bidding the old man good night, Nell retired to her poor
garret, but had scarcely closed the door, when it was gently tapped
at. She opened it directly, and was a little startled by the sight
of Mr Thomas Codlin, whom she had left, to all appearance, fast
asleep down stairs.

'What is the matter?' said the child.

'Nothing's the matter, my dear,' returned her visitor. 'I'm your
friend. Perhaps you haven't thought so, but it's me that's your
friend--not him.'

'Not who?' the child inquired.

'Short, my dear. I tell you what,' said Codlin, 'for all his having
a kind of way with him that you'd be very apt to like, I'm the
real, open-hearted man. I mayn't look it, but I am indeed.'


The child began to be alarmed, considering that the ale had taken
effect upon Mr Codlin, and that this commendation of himself was
the consequence.

'Short's very well, and seems kind,' resumed the misanthrope, 'but
he overdoes it. Now I don't.'

Certainly if there were any fault in Mr Codlin's usual deportment,
it was that he rather underdid his kindness to those about him,
than overdid it. But the child was puzzled, and could not tell what
to say.

'Take my advice,' said Codlin: 'don't ask me why, but take it.
As long as you travel with us, keep as near me as you can. Don't
offer to leave us--not on any account--but always stick to me and
say that I'm your friend. Will you bear that in mind, my dear, and
always say that it was me that was your friend?'

'Say so where--and when?' inquired the child innocently.

'O, nowhere in particular,' replied Codlin, a little put out as it
seemed by the question; 'I'm only anxious that you should think me
so, and do me justice. You can't think what an interest I have in
you. Why didn't you tell me your little history--that about you
and the poor old gentleman? I'm the best adviser that ever was, and
so interested in you--so much more interested than Short. I think
they're breaking up down stairs; you needn't tell Short, you know,
that we've had this little talk together. God bless you. Recollect
the friend. Codlin's the friend, not Short. Short's very well as
far as he goes, but the real friend is Codlin--not Short.'

Eking out these professions with a number of benevolent and
protecting looks and great fervour of manner, Thomas Codlin stole
away on tiptoe, leaving the child in a state of extreme surprise.
She was still ruminating upon his curious behaviour, when the floor
of the crazy stairs and landing cracked beneath the tread of the
other travellers who were passing to their beds. When they had all
passed, and the sound of their footsteps had died away, one of them
returned, and after a little hesitation and rustling in the
passage, as if he were doubtful what door to knock at, knocked at
hers.

'Yes,' said the child from within.

'It's me--Short'--a voice called through the keyhole. 'I only
wanted to say that we must be off early to-morrow morning, my dear,
because unless we get the start of the dogs and the conjuror, the
villages won't be worth a penny. You'll be sure to be stirring
early and go with us? I'll call you.'

The child answered in the affirmative, and returning his 'good
night' heard him creep away. She felt some uneasiness at the
anxiety of these men, increased by the recollection of their
whispering together down stairs and their slight confusion when she
awoke, nor was she quite free from a misgiving that they were not
the fittest companions she could have stumbled on. Her uneasiness,
however, was nothing, weighed against her fatigue; and she soon
forgot it in sleep. Very early next morning, Short fulfilled his
promise, and knocking softly at her door, entreated that she would
get up directly, as the proprietor of the dogs was still snoring,
and if they lost no time they might get a good deal in advance both
of him and the conjuror, who was talking in his sleep, and from
what he could be heard to say, appeared to be balancing a donkey in


his dreams. She started from her bed without delay, and roused the
old man with so much expedition that they were both ready as soon
as Short himself, to that gentleman's unspeakable gratification and
relief.

After a very unceremonious and scrambling breakfast, of which the
staple commodities were bacon and bread, and beer, they took leave
of the landlord and issued from the door of the jolly Sandboys. The
morning was fine and warm, the ground cool to the feet after the
late rain, the hedges gayer and more green, the air clear, and
everything fresh and healthful. Surrounded by these influences,
they walked on pleasantly enough.

They had not gone very far, when the child was again struck by the
altered behaviour of Mr Thomas Codlin, who instead of plodding on
sulkily by himself as he had heretofore done, kept close to her,
and when he had an opportunity of looking at her unseen by his
companion, warned her by certain wry faces and jerks of the head
not to put any trust in Short, but to reserve all confidences for
Codlin. Neither did he confine himself to looks and gestures, for
when she and her grandfather were walking on beside the aforesaid
Short, and that little man was talking with his accustomed
cheerfulness on a variety of indifferent subjects, Thomas Codlin
testified his jealousy and distrust by following close at her
heels, and occasionally admonishing her ankles with the legs of the
theatre in a very abrupt and painful manner.

All these proceedings naturally made the child more watchful and
suspicious, and she soon observed that whenever they halted to
perform outside a village alehouse or other place, Mr Codlin while
he went through his share of the entertainments kept his eye
steadily upon her and the old man, or with a show of great
friendship and consideration invited the latter to lean upon his
arm, and so held him tight until the representation was over and
they again went forward. Even Short seemed to change in this
respect, and to mingle with his good-nature something of a desire
to keep them in safe custody. This increased the child's
misgivings, and made her yet more anxious and uneasy.

Meanwhile, they were drawing near the town where the races were to
begin next day; for, from passing numerous groups of gipsies and
trampers on the road, wending their way towards it, and straggling
out from every by-way and cross-country lane, they gradually fell
into a stream of people, some walking by the side of covered carts,
others with horses, others with donkeys, others toiling on with
heavy loads upon their backs, but all tending to the same point.
The public-houses by the wayside, from being empty and noiseless as
those in the remoter parts had been, now sent out boisterous shouts
and clouds of smoke; and, from the misty windows, clusters of broad
red faces looked down upon the road. On every piece of waste or
common ground, some small gambler drove his noisy trade, and
bellowed to the idle passersby to stop and try their chance; the
crowd grew thicker and more noisy; gilt gingerbread in
blanket-stalls exposed its glories to the dust; and often a
four-horse carriage, dashing by, obscured all objects in the gritty
cloud it raised, and left them, stunned and blinded, far behind.

It was dark before they reached the town itself, and long indeed
the few last miles had been. Here all was tumult and confusion; the
streets were filled with throngs of people--many strangers were
there, it seemed, by the looks they cast about--the church-bells
rang out their noisy peals, and flags streamed from windows and
house-tops. In the large inn-yards waiters flitted to and fro and
ran against each other, horses clattered on the uneven stones,


carriage steps fell rattling down, and sickening smells from many
dinners came in a heavy lukewarm breath upon the sense. In the
smaller public-houses, fiddles with all their might and main were
squeaking out the tune to staggering feet; drunken men, oblivious
of the burden of their song, joined in a senseless howl, which
drowned the tinkling of the feeble bell and made them savage for
their drink; vagabond groups assembled round the doors to see the
stroller woman dance, and add their uproar to the shrill flageolet
and deafening drum.

Through this delirious scene, the child, frightened and repelled by
all she saw, led on her bewildered charge, clinging close to her
conductor, and trembling lest in the press she should be separated
from him and left to find her way alone. Quickening their steps to
get clear of all the roar and riot, they at length passed through
the town and made for the race-course, which was upon an open
heath, situated on an eminence, a full mile distant from its
furthest bounds.

Although there were many people here, none of the best favoured or
best clad, busily erecting tents and driving stakes in the ground,
and hurrying to and fro with dusty feet and many a grumbled oath-although
there were tired children cradled on heaps of straw
between the wheels of carts, crying themselves to sleep--and poor
lean horses and donkeys just turned loose, grazing among the men
and women, and pots and kettles, and half-lighted fires, and ends
of candles flaring and wasting in the air--for all this, the child
felt it an escape from the town and drew her breath more freely.
After a scanty supper, the purchase of which reduced her little
stock so low, that she had only a few halfpence with which to buy
a breakfast on the morrow, she and the old man lay down to rest in
a corner of a tent, and slept, despite the busy preparations that
were going on around them all night long.

And now they had come to the time when they must beg their bread.
Soon after sunrise in the morning she stole out from the tent, and
rambling into some fields at a short distance, plucked a few wild
roses and such humble flowers, purposing to make them into little
nosegays and offer them to the ladies in the carriages when the
company arrived. Her thoughts were not idle while she was thus
employed; when she returned and was seated beside the old man in
one corner of the tent, tying her flowers together, while the two
men lay dozing in another corner, she plucked him by the sleeve,
and slightly glancing towards them, said, in a low voice-


'Grandfather, don't look at those I talk of, and don't seem as if
I spoke of anything but what I am about. What was that you told me
before we left the old house? That if they knew what we were going
to do, they would say that you were mad, and part us?'

The old man turned to her with an aspect of wild terror; but she
checked him by a look, and bidding him hold some flowers while she
tied them up, and so bringing her lips closer to his ear, said-


'I know that was what you told me. You needn't speak, dear. I
recollect it very well. It was not likely that I should forget it.
Grandfather, these men suspect that we have secretly left our
friends, and mean to carry us before some gentleman and have us
taken care of and sent back. If you let your hand tremble so, we
can never get away from them, but if you're only quiet now, we
shall do so, easily.'

'How?' muttered the old man. 'Dear Nelly, how? They will shut me up
in a stone room, dark and cold, and chain me up to the wall, Nell-



flog me with whips, and never let me see thee more!'

'You're trembling again,' said the child. 'Keep close to me all
day. Never mind them, don't look at them, but me. I shall find a
time when we can steal away. When I do, mind you come with me, and
do not stop or speak a word. Hush! That's all.'

'Halloa! what are you up to, my dear?' said Mr Codlin, raising his
head, and yawning. Then observing that his companion was fast
asleep, he added in an earnest whisper, 'Codlin's the friend,
remember--not Short.'

'Making some nosegays,' the child replied; 'I am going to try and
sell some, these three days of the races. Will you have one--as a
present I mean?'

Mr Codlin would have risen to receive it, but the child hurried
towards him and placed it in his hand. He stuck it in his
buttonhole with an air of ineffable complacency for a misanthrope,
and leering exultingly at the unconscious Short, muttered, as he
laid himself down again, 'Tom Codlin's the friend, by G--!'

As the morning wore on, the tents assumed a gayer and more
brilliant appearance, and long lines of carriages came rolling
softly on the turf. Men who had lounged about all night in
smock-frocks and leather leggings, came out in silken vests and
hats and plumes, as jugglers or mountebanks; or in gorgeous
liveries as soft-spoken servants at gambling booths; or in sturdy
yeoman dress as decoys at unlawful games. Black-eyed gipsy girls,
hooded in showy handkerchiefs, sallied forth to tell fortunes, and
pale slender women with consumptive faces lingered upon the
footsteps of ventriloquists and conjurors, and counted the
sixpences with anxious eyes long before they were gained. As many
of the children as could be kept within bounds, were stowed away,
with all the other signs of dirt and poverty, among the donkeys,
carts, and horses; and as many as could not be thus disposed of ran
in and out in all intricate spots, crept between people's legs and
carriage wheels, and came forth unharmed from under horses' hoofs.
The dancing-dogs, the stilts, the little lady and the tall man, and
all the other attractions, with organs out of number and bands
innumerable, emerged from the holes and corners in which they had
passed the night, and flourished boldly in the sun.

Along the uncleared course, Short led his party, sounding the
brazen trumpet and revelling in the voice of Punch; and at his
heels went Thomas Codlin, bearing the show as usual, and keeping
his eye on Nelly and her grandfather, as they rather lingered in
the rear. The child bore upon her arm the little basket with her
flowers, and sometimes stopped, with timid and modest looks, to
offer them at some gay carriage; but alas! there were many bolder
beggars there, gipsies who promised husbands, and other adepts in
their trade, and although some ladies smiled gently as they shook
their heads, and others cried to the gentlemen beside them 'See,
what a pretty face!' they let the pretty face pass on, and never
thought that it looked tired or hungry.

There was but one lady who seemed to understand the child, and she
was one who sat alone in a handsome carriage, while two young men
in dashing clothes, who had just dismounted from it, talked and
laughed loudly at a little distance, appearing to forget her,
quite. There were many ladies all around, but they turned their
backs, or looked another way, or at the two young men (not
unfavourably at them), and left her to herself. She motioned away
a gipsy-woman urgent to tell her fortune, saying that it was told


already and had been for some years, but called the child towards
her, and taking her flowers put money into her trembling hand, and
bade her go home and keep at home for God's sake.

Many a time they went up and down those long, long lines, seeing
everything but the horses and the race; when the bell rang to clear
the course, going back to rest among the carts and donkeys, and not
coming out again until the heat was over. Many a time, too, was
Punch displayed in the full zenith of his humour, but all this
while the eye of Thomas Codlin was upon them, and to escape without
notice was impracticable.

At length, late in the day, Mr Codlin pitched the show in a
convenient spot, and the spectators were soon in the very triumph
of the scene. The child, sitting down with the old man close behind
it, had been thinking how strange it was that horses who were such
fine honest creatures should seem to make vagabonds of all the men
they drew about them, when a loud laugh at some extemporaneous
witticism of Mr Short's, having allusion to the circumstances of
the day, roused her from her meditation and caused her to look
around.

If they were ever to get away unseen, that was the very moment.
Short was plying the quarter-staves vigorously and knocking the
characters in the fury of the combat against the sides of the show,
the people were looking on with laughing faces, and Mr Codlin had
relaxed into a grim smile as his roving eye detected hands going
into waistcoat pockets and groping secretly for sixpences. If they
were ever to get away unseen, that was the very moment. They seized
it, and fled.

They made a path through booths and carriages and throngs of
people, and never once stopped to look behind. The bell was ringing
and the course was cleared by the time they reached the ropes, but
they dashed across it insensible to the shouts and screeching that
assailed them for breaking in upon its sanctity, and creeping under
the brow of the hill at a quick pace, made for the open fields.

CHAPTER 20

Day after day as he bent his steps homeward, returning from some
new effort to procure employment, Kit raised his eyes to the window
of the little room he had so much commended to the child, and hoped
to see some indication of her presence. His own earnest wish,
coupled with the assurance he had received from Quilp, filled him
with the belief that she would yet arrive to claim the humble
shelter he had offered, and from the death of each day's hope
another hope sprung up to live to-morrow.

'I think they must certainly come to-morrow, eh mother?' said Kit,
laying aside his hat with a weary air and sighing as he spoke.
'They have been gone a week. They surely couldn't stop away more
than a week, could they now?'

The mother shook her head, and reminded him how often he had been
disappointed already.

'For the matter of that,' said Kit, 'you speak true and sensible
enough, as you always do, mother. Still, I do consider that a week
is quite long enough for 'em to be rambling about; don't you say


so?'

'Quite long enough, Kit, longer than enough, but they may not come
back for all that.'

Kit was for a moment disposed to be vexed by this contradiction,
and not the less so from having anticipated it in his own mind and
knowing how just it was. But the impulse was only momentary, and
the vexed look became a kind one before it had crossed the room.

'Then what do you think, mother, has become of 'em? You don't think
they've gone to sea, anyhow?'

'Not gone for sailors, certainly,' returned the mother with a
smile. 'But I can't help thinking that they have gone to some
foreign country.'

'I say,' cried Kit with a rueful face, 'don't talk like that,
mother.'

'I am afraid they have, and that's the truth,' she said. 'It's the
talk of all the neighbours, and there are some even that know of
their having been seen on board ship, and can tell you the name of
the place they've gone to, which is more than I can, my dear, for
it's a very hard one.'

'I don't believe it,' said Kit. 'Not a word of it. A set of idle
chatterboxes, how should they know!'

'They may be wrong of course,' returned the mother, 'I can't tell
about that, though I don't think it's at all unlikely that they're
in the right, for the talk is that the old gentleman had put by a
little money that nobody knew of, not even that ugly little man you
talk to me about--what's his name--Quilp; and that he and Miss
Nell have gone to live abroad where it can't be taken from them,
and they will never be disturbed. That don't seem very far out of
the way now, do it?'

Kit scratched his head mournfully, in reluctant admission that it
did not, and clambering up to the old nail took down the cage and
set himself to clean it and to feed the bird. His thoughts
reverting from this occupation to the little old gentleman who had
given him the shilling, he suddenly recollected that that was the
very day--nay, nearly the very hour--at which the little old
gentleman had said he should be at the Notary's house again. He no
sooner remembered this, than he hung up the cage with great
precipitation, and hastily explaining the nature of his errand,
went off at full speed to the appointed place.

It was some two minutes after the time when he reached the spot,
which was a considerable distance from his home, but by great good
luck the little old gentleman had not yet arrived; at least there
was no pony-chaise to be seen, and it was not likely that he had
come and gone again in so short a space. Greatly relieved to find
that he was not too late, Kit leant against a lamp-post to take
breath, and waited the advent of the pony and his charge.

Sure enough, before long the pony came trotting round the corner of
the street, looking as obstinate as pony might, and picking his
steps as if he were spying about for the cleanest places, and would
by no means dirty his feet or hurry himself inconveniently. Behind
the pony sat the little old gentleman, and by the old gentleman's
side sat the little old lady, carrying just such a nosegay as she
had brought before.


The old gentleman, the old lady, the pony, and the chaise, came up
the street in perfect unanimity, until they arrived within some
half a dozen doors of the Notary's house, when the pony, deceived
by a brass-plate beneath a tailor's knocker, came to a halt, and
maintained by a sturdy silence, that that was the house they
wanted.

'Now, Sir, will you ha' the goodness to go on; this is not the
place,' said the old gentleman.

The pony looked with great attention into a fire-plug which was
near him, and appeared to be quite absorbed in contemplating it.

'Oh dear, such a naughty Whiskercried the old lady. 'After being
so good tooand coming along so well! I am quite ashamed of him.
I don't know what we are to do with himI really don't.'

The pony having thoroughly satisfied himself as to the nature and
properties of the fire-pluglooked into the air after his old
enemies the fliesand as there happened to be one of them tickling
his ear at that moment he shook his head and whisked his tail
after which he appeared full of thought but quite comfortable and
collected. The old gentleman having exhausted his powers of
persuasionalighted to lead him; whereupon the ponyperhaps
because he held this to be a sufficient concessionperhaps because
he happened to catch sight of the other brass-plateor perhaps
because he was in a spiteful humourdarted off with the old lady
and stopped at the right houseleaving the old gentleman to come
panting on behind.

It was then that Kit presented himself at the pony's headand
touched his hat with a smile.

'Whybless me' cried the old gentleman'the lad is here! My
deardo you see?'

'I said I'd be hereSir' said Kitpatting Whisker's neck. 'I
hope you've had a pleasant ridesir. He's a very nice little
pony.'

'My dear' said the old gentleman. 'This is an uncommon lad; a good
ladI'm sure.'

'I'm sure he is' rejoined the old lady. 'A very good ladand I am
sure he is a good son.'

Kit acknowledged these expressions of confidence by touching his
hat again and blushing very much. The old gentleman then handed the
old lady outand after looking at him with an approving smile
they went into the house--talking about him as they wentKit
could not help feeling. Presently Mr Witherdensmelling very hard
at the nosegaycame to the window and looked at himand after
that Mr Abel came and looked at himand after that the old
gentleman and lady came and looked at him againand after that
they all came and looked at him togetherwhich Kitfeeling very
much embarrassed bymade a pretence of not observing. Therefore he
patted the pony more and more; and this liberty the pony most
handsomely permitted.

The faces had not disappeared from the window many momentswhen Mr
Chuckster in his official coatand with his hat hanging on his
head just as it happened to fall from its pegappeared upon the
pavementand telling him he was wanted insidebade him go in and


he would mind the chaise the while. In giving him this direction Mr
Chuckster remarked that he wished that he might be blessed if he
could make out whether he (Kit) was 'precious raw' or 'precious
deep' but intimated by a distrustful shake of the headthat he
inclined to the latter opinion.

Kit entered the office in a great tremorfor he was not used to
going among strange ladies and gentlemenand the tin boxes and
bundles of dusty papers had in his eyes an awful and venerable air.
Mr Witherden too was a bustling gentleman who talked loud and fast
and all eyes were upon himand he was very shabby.

'Wellboy' said Mr Witherden'you came to work out that
shilling;--not to get anotherhey?'

'No indeedsir' replied Kittaking courage to look up. 'I never
thought of such a thing.'

'Father alive?' said the Notary.

'Deadsir.'

'Mother?'

'Yessir.'

'Married again--eh?'

Kit made answernot without some indignationthat she was a widow
with three childrenand that as to her marrying againif the
gentleman knew her he wouldn't think of such a thing. At this reply
Mr Witherden buried his nose in the flowers againand whispered
behind the nosegay to the old gentleman that he believed the lad
was as honest a lad as need be.

'Now' said Mr Garland when they had made some further inquiries of
him'I am not going to give you anything--'

'Thank yousir' Kit replied; and quite seriously toofor this
announcement seemed to free him from the suspicion which the Notary
had hinted.

'--But' resumed the old gentleman'perhaps I may want to know
something more about youso tell me where you liveand I'll put
it down in my pocket-book.'

Kit told himand the old gentleman wrote down the address with his
pencil. He had scarcely done sowhen there was a great uproar in
the streetand the old lady hurrying to the window cried that
Whisker had run awayupon which Kit darted out to the rescueand
the others followed.

It seemed that Mr Chuckster had been standing with his hands in his
pockets looking carelessly at the ponyand occasionally insulting
him with such admonitions as 'Stand still'--'Be quiet'-'
Wo-a-a' and the likewhich by a pony of spirit cannot be borne.
Consequentlythe pony being deterred by no considerations of duty
or obedienceand not having before him the slightest fear of the
human eyehad at length started offand was at that moment
rattling down the street--Mr Chucksterwith his hat off and a
pen behind his earhanging on in the rear of the chaise and making
futile attempts to draw it the other wayto the unspeakable
admiration of all beholders. Even in running awayhoweverWhisker
was perversefor he had not gone very far when he suddenly


stoppedand before assistance could be renderedcommenced backing
at nearly as quick a pace as he had gone forward. By these means Mr
Chuckster was pushed and hustled to the office againin a most
inglorious mannerand arrived in a state of great exhaustion and
discomfiture.

The old lady then stepped into her seatand Mr Abel (whom they had
come to fetch) into his. The old gentlemanafter reasoning with
the pony on the extreme impropriety of his conductand making the
best amends in his power to Mr Chuckstertook his place alsoand
they drove awaywaving a farewell to the Notary and his clerkand
more than once turning to nod kindly to Kit as he watched them from
the road.

CHAPTER 21

Kit turned away and very soon forgot the ponyand the chaiseand
the little old ladyand the little old gentlemanand the little
young gentleman to bootin thinking what could have become of his
late master and his lovely grandchildwho were the fountain-head
of all his meditations. Still casting about for some plausible
means of accounting for their non-appearanceand of persuading
himself that they must soon returnhe bent his steps
towards homeintending to finish the task which the sudden
recollection of his contract had interruptedand then to sally
forth once more to seek his fortune for the day.

When he came to the corner of the court in which he livedlo and
behold there was the pony again! Yesthere he waslooking more
obstinate than ever; and alone in the chaisekeeping a steady
watch upon his every winksat Mr Abelwholifting up his eyes by
chance and seeing Kit pass bynodded to him as though he would
have nodded his head off.

Kit wondered to see the pony againso near his own home toobut
it never occurred to him for what purpose the pony might have come
thereor where the old lady and the old gentleman had goneuntil
he lifted the latch of the doorand walking infound them seated
in the room in conversation with his motherat which unexpected
sight he pulled off his hat and made his best bow in some
confusion.

'We are here before youyou seeChristopher' said Mr Garland
smiling.

'Yessir' said Kit; and as he said ithe looked towards his
mother for an explanation of the visit.

'The gentleman's been kind enoughmy dear' said shein reply to
this mute interrogation'to ask me whether you were in a good
placeor in any place at alland when I told him noyou were not
in anyhe was so good as to say that--'

'--That we wanted a good lad in our house' said the old gentleman
and the old lady both together'and that perhaps we might think of
itif we found everything as we would wish it to be.'

As this thinking of itplainly meant the thinking of engaging Kit
he immediately partook of his mother's anxiety and fell into a
great flutter; for the little old couple were very methodical and


cautiousand asked so many questions that he began to be afraid
there was no chance of his success.

'You seemy good woman' said Mrs Garland to Kit's mother'that
it's necessary to be very careful and particular in such a matter
as thisfor we're only three in familyand are very quiet regular
folksand it would be a sad thing if we made any kind of mistake
and found things different from what we hoped and expected.'

To thisKit's mother repliedthat certainly it was quite true
and quite rightand quite properand Heaven forbid that she
should shrinkor have cause to shrinkfrom any inquiry into her
character or that of her sonwho was a very good son though she
was his motherin which respectshe was bold to sayhe took
after his fatherwho was not only a good son to HIS motherbut
the best of husbands and the best of fathers besideswhich Kit
could and would corroborate she knewand so would little Jacob and
the baby likewise if they were old enoughwhich unfortunately they
were notthough as they didn't know what a loss they had had
perhaps it was a great deal better that they should be as young as
they were; and so Kit's mother wound up a long story by wiping her
eyes with her apronand patting little Jacob's headwho was
rocking the cradle and staring with all his might at the strange
lady and gentleman.

When Kit's mother had done speakingthe old lady struck in again
and said that she was quite sure she was a very honest and very
respectable person or she never would have expressed herself in
that mannerand that certainly the appearance of the children and
the cleanliness of the house deserved great praise and did her the
utmost creditwhereat Kit's mother dropped a curtsey and became
consoled. Then the good woman entered in a long and minute account
of Kit's life and history from the earliest period down to that
timenot omitting to make mention of his miraculous fall out of a
back-parlour window when an infant of tender yearsor his uncommon
sufferings in a state of measleswhich were illustrated by correct
imitations of the plaintive manner in which he called for toast and
waterday and nightand said'don't crymotherI shall soon be
better;' for proof of which statements reference was made to Mrs
Greenlodgerat the cheesemonger's round the cornerand divers
other ladies and gentlemen in various parts of England and Wales
(and one Mr Brown who was supposed to be then a corporal in the
East Indiesand who could of course be found with very little
trouble)within whose personal knowledge the circumstances had
occurred. This narration endedMr Garland put some questions to
Kit respecting his qualifications and general acquirementswhile
Mrs Garland noticed the childrenand hearing from Kit's mother
certain remarkable circumstances which had attended the birth of
eachrelated certain other remarkable circumstances which had
attended the birth of her own sonMr Abelfrom which it appeared
that both Kit's mother and herself had beenabove and beyond all
other women of what condition or age soeverpeculiarly hemmed in
with perils and dangers. Lastlyinquiry was made into the nature
and extent of Kit's wardrobeand a small advance being made to
improve the samehe was formally hired at an annual income of Six
Poundsover and above his board and lodgingby Mr and Mrs
Garlandof Abel CottageFinchley.

It would be difficult to say which party appeared most pleased with
this arrangementthe conclusion of which was hailed with nothing
but pleasant looks and cheerful smiles on both sides. It was
settled that Kit should repair to his new abode on the next day but
onein the morning; and finallythe little old coupleafter
bestowing a bright half-crown on little Jacob and another on the


babytook their leaves; being escorted as far as the street by
their new attendantwho held the obdurate pony by the bridle while
they took their seatsand saw them drive away with a lightened
heart.

'Wellmother' said Kithurrying back into the house'I think my
fortune's about made now.'

'I should think it was indeedKit' rejoined his mother. 'Six
pound a year! Only think!'

'Ah!' said Kittrying to maintain the gravity which the
consideration of such a sum demandedbut grinning with delight in
spite of himself. 'There's a property!'

Kit drew a long breath when he had said thisand putting his hands
deep into his pockets as if there were one year's wages at least in
eachlooked at his motheras though he saw through herand down
an immense perspective of sovereigns beyond.

'Please God we'll make such a lady of you for Sundaysmother! such
a scholar of Jacobsuch a child of the babysuch a room of the
one up stairs! Six pound a year!'

'Hem!' croaked a strange voice. 'What's that about six pound a
year? What about six pound a year?' And as the voice made this
inquiryDaniel Quilp walked in with Richard Swiveller at his
heels.

'Who said he was to have six pound a year?' said Quilplooking
sharply round. 'Did the old man say itor did little Nell say it?
And what's he to have it forand where are theyeh!' The good
woman was so much alarmed by the sudden apparition of this unknown
piece of uglinessthat she hastily caught the baby from its cradle
and retreated into the furthest corner of the room; while little
Jacobsitting upon his stool with his hands on his kneeslooked
full at him in a species of fascinationroaring lustily all the
time. Richard Swiveller took an easy observation of the family over
Mr Quilp's headand Quilp himselfwith his hands in his pockets
smiled in an exquisite enjoyment of the commotion he occasioned.

'Don't be frightenedmistress' said Quilpafter a pause. 'Your
son knows me; I don't eat babies; I don't like 'em. It will be as
well to stop that young screamer thoughin case I should be
tempted to do him a mischief. Holloasir! Will you be quiet?'

Little Jacob stemmed the course of two tears which he was squeezing
out of his eyesand instantly subsided into a silent horror.

'Mind you don't break out againyou villain' said Quilplooking
sternly at him'or I'll make faces at you and throw you into fits
I will. Now you sirwhy haven't you been to me as you promised?'

'What should I come for?' retorted Kit. 'I hadn't any business with
youno more than you had with me.'

'Heremistress' said Quilpturning quickly awayand appealing
from Kit to his mother. 'When did his old master come or send here
last? Is he here now? If notwhere's he gone?'

'He has not been here at all' she replied. 'I wish we knew where
they have gonefor it would make my son a good deal easier in his
mindand me too. If you're the gentleman named Mr QuilpI should
have thought you'd have knownand so I told him only this very


day.'

'Humph!' muttered Quilpevidently disappointed to believe that
this was true. 'That's what you tell this gentleman toois it?'

'If the gentleman comes to ask the same questionI can't tell him
anything elsesir; and I only wish I couldfor our own sakes'
was the reply.

Quilp glanced at Richard Swivellerand observed that having met
him on the thresholdhe assumed that he had come in search of some
intelligence of the fugitives. He supposed he was right?

'Yes' said Dick'that was the object of the present expedition.
I fancied it possible--but let us go ring fancy's knell. I'll
begin it.'

'You seem disappointed' observed Quilp.

'A bafflerSira bafflerthat's all' returned Dick. 'I have
entered upon a speculation which has proved a baffler; and a Being
of brightness and beauty will be offered up a sacrifice at Cheggs's
altar. That's allsir.'

The dwarf eyed Richard with a sarcastic smilebut Richardwho had
been taking a rather strong lunch with a friendobserved him not
and continued to deplore his fate with mournful and despondent
looks. Quilp plainly discerned that there was some secret reason
for this visit and his uncommon disappointmentandin the hope
that there might be means of mischief lurking beneath itresolved
to worm it out. He had no sooner adopted this resolutionthan he
conveyed as much honesty into his face as it was capable of
expressingand sympathised with Mr Swiveller exceedingly.

'I am disappointed myself' said Quilp'out of mere friendly
feeling for them; but you have real reasonsprivate reasons I have
no doubtfor your disappointmentand therefore it comes heavier
than mine.'

'Whyof course it does' Dick observedtestily.

'Upon my wordI'm very sorryvery sorry. I'm rather cast down
myself. As we are companions in adversityshall we be companions
in the surest way of forgetting it? If you had no particular
businessnowto lead you in another direction' urged Quilp
plucking him by the sleeve and looking slyly up into his face out
of the corners of his eyes'there is a house by the water-side
where they have some of the noblest Schiedam--reputed to be
smuggledbut that's between ourselves--that can be got in all the
world. The landlord knows me. There's a little summer-house
overlooking the riverwhere we might take a glass of this
delicious liquor with a whiff of the best tobacco--it's in this
caseand of the rarest qualityto my certain knowledge--and be
perfectly snug and happycould we possibly contrive it; or is
there any very particular engagement that peremptorily takes you
another wayMr Swivellereh?'

As the dwarf spokeDick's face relaxed into a compliant smileand
his brows slowly unbent. By the time he had finishedDick was
looking down at Quilp in the same sly manner as Quilp was looking
up at himand there remained nothing more to be done but to set
out for the house in question. This they didstraightway. The
moment their backs were turnedlittle Jacob thawedand resumed
his crying from the point where Quilp had frozen him.


The summer-house of which Mr Quilp had spoken was a rugged wooden
boxrotten and bare to seewhich overhung the river's mudand
threatened to slide down into it. The tavern to which it belonged
was a crazy buildingsapped and undermined by the ratsand only
upheld by great bars of wood which were reared against its walls
and had propped it up so long that even they were decaying and
yielding with their loadand of a windy night might be heard to
creak and crack as if the whole fabric were about to come toppling
down. The house stood--if anything so old and feeble could be said
to stand--on a piece of waste groundblighted with the unwholesome
smoke of factory chimneysand echoing the clank of iron wheels and
rush of troubled water. Its internal accommodations amply fulfilled
the promise of the outside. The rooms were low and dampthe clammy
walls were pierced with chinks and holesthe rotten floors had sunk
from their levelthe very beams started from their places and warned
the timid stranger from their neighbourhood.

To this inviting spotentreating him to observe its beauties as
they passed alongMr Quilp led Richard Swivellerand on the table
of the summer-housescored deep with many a gallows and initial
letterthere soon appeared a wooden kegfull of the vaunted
liquor. Drawing it off into the glasses with the skill of a
practised handand mixing it with about a third part of waterMr
Quilp assigned to Richard Swiveller his portionand lighting his
pipe from an end of a candle in a very old and battered lantern
drew himself together upon a seat and puffed away.

'Is it good?' said Quilpas Richard Swiveller smacked his lips
'is it strong and fiery? Does it make you winkand chokeand your
eyes waterand your breath come short--does it?'

'Does it?' cried Dickthrowing away part of the contents of his
glassand filling it up with water'whymanyou don't mean to
tell me that you drink such fire as this?'

'No!' rejoined Quilp'Not drink it! Look here. And here. And here
again. Not drink it!'

As he spokeDaniel Quilp drew off and drank three small glassfuls
of the raw spiritand then with a horrible grimace took a great
many pulls at his pipeand swallowing the smokedischarged it in
a heavy cloud from his nose. This feat accomplished he drew himself
together in his former positionand laughed excessively.

'Give us a toast!' cried Quilprattling on the table in a
dexterous manner with his fist and elbow alternatelyin a kind of
tune'a womana beauty. Let's have a beauty for our toast and
empty our glasses to the last drop. Her namecome!'

'If you want a name' said Dick'here's Sophy Wackles.'

'Sophy Wackles' screamed the dwarf'Miss Sophy Wackles that is--
Mrs Richard Swiveller that shall be--that shall be--ha ha ha!'

'Ah!' said Dick'you might have said that a few weeks agobut it
won't do nowmy buck. Immolating herself upon the shrine of Cheggs--'

'Poison Cheggscut Cheggs's ears off' rejoined Quilp. 'I won't
hear of Cheggs. Her name is Swiveller or nothing. I'll drink her
health againand her father'sand her mother's; and to all her
sisters and brothers--the glorious family of the Wackleses--all
the Wackleses in one glass--down with it to the dregs!'


'Well' said Richard Swivellerstopping short in the act of
raising the glass to his lips and looking at the dwarf in a species
of stupor as he flourished his arms and legs about: 'you're a jolly
fellowbut of all the jolly fellows I ever saw or heard ofyou
have the queerest and most extraordinary way with youupon my life
you have.'


This candid declaration tended rather to increase than restrain Mr
Quilp's eccentricitiesand Richard Swivellerastonished to see
him in such a roystering veinand drinking not a little himself
for company--began imperceptibly to become more companionable and
confidingso thatbeing judiciously led on by Mr Quilphe grew
at last very confiding indeed. Having once got him into this mood
and knowing now the key-note to strike whenever he was at a loss
Daniel Quilp's task was comparatively an easy oneand he was
soon in possession of the whole details of the scheme contrived
between the easy Dick and his more designing friend.


'Stop!' said Quilp. 'That's the thingthat's the thing. It can be
brought aboutit shall be brought about. There's my hand upon it;
I am your friend from this minute.'


'What! do you think there's still a chance?' inquired Dickin
surprise at this encouragement.


'A chance!' echoed the dwarf'a certainty! Sophy Wackles may
become a Cheggs or anything else she likesbut not a Swiveller.
Oh you lucky dog! He's richer than any Jew alive; you're a
made man. I see in you now nothing but Nelly's husbandrolling
in gold and silver. I'll help you. It shall be done. Mind my words
it shall be done.'


'But how?' said Dick.


'There's plenty of time' rejoined the dwarf'and it shall be
done. We'll sit down and talk it over again all the way through.
Fill your glass while I'm gone. I shall be back directly--
directly.' With these hasty wordsDaniel Quilp withdrew into a
dismantled skittle-ground behind the public-houseandthrowing
himself upon the ground actually screamed and rolled about in
uncontrollable delight.


'Here's sport!' he cried'sport ready to my handall invented and
arrangedand only to be enjoyed. It was this shallow-pated fellow
who made my bones ache t'other daywas it? It was his friend and
fellow-plotterMr Trentthat once made eyes at Mrs Quilpand
leered and lookedwas it? After labouring for two or three years
in their precious schemeto find that they've got a beggar at
lastand one of them tied for life. Ha ha ha! He shall marry
Nell. He shall have herand I'll be the first manwhen the
knot's tied hard and fastto tell 'em what they've gained and
what I've helped 'em to. Here will be a clearing of old scores
here will be a time to remind 'em what a capital friend I wasand
how I helped them to the heiress. Ha ha ha!'


In the height of his ecstasyMr Quilp had like to have met with a
disagreeable checkfor rolling very near a broken dog-kennel
there leapt forth a large fierce dogwhobut that his chain was
of the shortestwould have given him a disagreeable salute. As it
wasthe dwarf remained upon his back in perfect safetytaunting
the dog with hideous facesand triumphing over him in his
inability to advance another inchthough there were not a couple
of feet between them.



'Why don't you come and bite mewhy don't you come and tear me to
piecesyou coward?' said Quilphissing and worrying the animal
till he was nearly mad. 'You're afraidyou bullyyou're afraid
you know you are.'

The dog tore and strained at his chain with starting eyes and
furious barkbut there the dwarf laysnapping his fingers with
gestures of defiance and contempt. When he had sufficiently
recovered from his delighthe roseand with his arms a-kimbo
achieved a kind of demon-dance round the kenneljust without
the limits of the chaindriving the dog quite wild. Having by this
means composed his spirits and put himself in a pleasant trainhe
returned to his unsuspicious companionwhom he found looking at
the tide with exceeding gravityand thinking of that same gold and
silver which Mr Quilp had mentioned.

CHAPTER 22

The remainder of that day and the whole of the next were a busy
time for the Nubbles familyto whom everything connected with
Kit's outfit and departure was matter of as great moment as if he
had been about to penetrate into the interior of Africaor to take
a cruise round the world. It would be difficult to suppose that
there ever was a box which was opened and shut so many times within
four-and-twenty hoursas that which contained his wardrobe and
necessaries; and certainly there never was one which to two small
eyes presented such a mine of clothingas this mighty chest with
its three shirts and proportionate allowance of stockings and
pocket-handkerchiefsdisclosed to the astonished vision of little
Jacob. At last it was conveyed to the carrier'sat whose house at
Finchley Kit was to find it next day; and the box being gonethere
remained but two questions for consideration: firstlywhether the
carrier would loseor dishonestly feign to losethe box upon the
road; secondlywhether Kit's mother perfectly understood how to
take care of herself in the absence of her son.

'I don't think there's hardly a chance of his really losing itbut
carriers are under great temptation to pretend they lose thingsno
doubt' said Mrs Nubbles apprehensivelyin reference to the first
point.

'No doubt about it' returned Kitwith a serious look; 'upon my
wordmotherI don't think it was right to trust it to itself.
Somebody ought to have gone with itI'm afraid.'

'We can't help it now' said his mother; 'but it was foolish and
wrong. People oughtn't to be tempted.'

Kit inwardly resolved that he would never tempt a carrier any more
save with an empty box; and having formed this Christian
determinationhe turned his thoughts to the second question.

'YOU know you must keep up your spiritsmotherand not be
lonesome because I'm not at home. I shall very often be able to
look in when I come into town I dare sayand I shall send you a
letter sometimesand when the quarter comes roundI can get a
holiday of course; and then see if we don't take little Jacob to
the playand let him know what oysters means.'

'I hope plays mayn't be sinfulKitbut I'm a'most afraid' said


Mrs Nubbles.

'I know who has been putting that in your head' rejoined her son
disconsolately; 'that's Little Bethel again. Now I saymother
pray don't take to going there regularlyfor if I was to see your
good-humoured face that has always made home cheerfulturned into
a grievous oneand the baby trained to look grievous tooand to
call itself a young sinner (bless its heart) and a child of the
devil (which is calling its dead father names); if I was to see
thisand see little Jacob looking grievous likewiseI should so
take it to heart that I'm sure I should go and list for a soldier
and run my head on purpose against the first cannon-ball I saw
coming my way.'

'OhKitdon't talk like that.'

'I wouldindeedmotherand unless you want to make me
feel very wretched and uncomfortableyou'll keep that bow on your
bonnetwhich you'd more than half a mind to pull off last week.
Can you suppose there's any harm in looking as cheerful and being
as cheerful as our poor circumstances will permit? Do I see
anything in the way I'm madewhich calls upon me to be a
snivellingsolemnwhispering chapsneaking about as if I
couldn't help itand expressing myself in a most unpleasant
snuffle? on the contrarydon't I see every reason why I shouldn't?
just hear this! Ha ha ha! An't that as nat'ral as walkingand as
good for the health? Ha ha ha! An't that as nat'ral as a sheep's
bleatingor a pig's gruntingor a horse's neighingor a bird's
singing? Ha ha ha! Isn't itmother?'

There was something contagious in Kit's laughfor his motherwho
had looked grave beforefirst subsided into a smileand then fell
to joining in it heartilywhich occasioned Kit to say that he knew
it was naturaland to laugh the more. Kit and his motherlaughing
together in a pretty loud keywoke the babywhofinding that
there was something very jovial and agreeable in progresswas no
sooner in its mother's arms than it began to kick and laughmost
vigorously. This new illustration of his argument so tickled Kit
that he fell backward in his chair in a state of exhaustion
pointing at the baby and shaking his sides till he rocked again.
After recovering twice or thriceand as often relapsinghe wiped
his eyes and said grace; and a very cheerful meal their scanty
supper was.

With more kissesand hugsand tearsthan many young gentlemen
who start upon their travelsand leave well-stocked homes behind
themwould deem within the bounds of probability (if matter so low
could be herein set down)Kit left the house at an early hour next
morningand set out to walk to Finchley; feeling a sufficient
pride in his appearance to have warranted his excommunication from
Little Bethel from that time forthif he had ever been one of that
mournful congregation.

Lest anybody should feel a curiosity to know how Kit was cladit
may be briefly remarked that he wore no liverybut was dressed in
a coat of pepper-and-salt with waistcoat of canary colourand
nether garments of iron-grey; besides these glorieshe shone in
the lustre of a new pair of boots and an extremely stiff and shiny
hatwhich on being struck anywhere with the knucklessounded like
a drum. And in this attirerather wondering that he attracted so
little attentionand attributing the circumstance to the insensibility
of those who got up earlyhe made his way towards Abel Cottage.

Without encountering any more remarkable adventure on the road


than meeting a lad in a brimless hatthe exact counterpart of his
old oneon whom he bestowed half the sixpence he possessedKit
arrived in course of time at the carrier's housewhereto the
lasting honour of human naturehe found the box in safety.
Receiving from the wife of this immaculate mana direction to Mr
Garland'she took the box upon his shoulder and repaired thither
directly.

To be sureit was a beautiful little cottage with a thatched roof
and little spires at the gable-endsand pieces of stained glass in
some of the windowsalmost as large as pocket-books. On one side
of the house was a little stablejust the size for the ponywith
a little room over itjust the size for Kit. White curtains were
flutteringand birds in cages that looked as bright as if they
were made of goldwere singing at the windows; plants were
arranged on either side of the pathand clustered about the door;
and the garden was bright with flowers in full bloomwhich shed a
sweet odour all roundand had a charming and elegant appearance.
Everything within the house and withoutseemed to be the
perfection of neatness and order. In the garden there was not a
weed to be seenand to judge from some dapper gardening-toolsa
basketand a pair of gloves which were lying in one of the walks
old Mr Garland had been at work in it that very morning.

Kit looked about himand admiredand looked againand this a
great many times before he could make up his mind to turn his head
another way and ring the bell. There was abundance of time to look
about him again thoughwhen he had rung itfor nobody cameso
after ringing it twice or thrice he sat down upon his boxand
waited.

He rang the bell a great many timesand yet nobody came. But at
lastas he was sitting upon the box thinking about giants'
castlesand princesses tied up to pegs by the hair of their heads
and dragons bursting out from behind gatesand other incidents of
the like naturecommon in story-books to youths of low degree on
their first visit to strange housesthe door was gently opened
and a little servant-girlvery tidymodestand demurebut very
pretty tooappeared. 'I suppose you're Christophersir' said the
servant-girl.

Kit got off the boxand said yeshe was.

'I'm afraid you've rung a good many times perhaps' she rejoined
'but we couldn't hear youbecause we've been catching the pony.'

Kit rather wondered what this meantbut as he couldn't stop there
asking questionshe shouldered the box again and followed the girl
into the hallwhere through a back-door he descried Mr Garland
leading Whisker in triumph up the gardenafter that self-willed
pony had (as he afterwards learned) dodged the family round a small
paddock in the rearfor one hour and three quarters.

The old gentleman received him very kindly and so did the old lady
whose previous good opinion of him was greatly enhanced by his
wiping his boots on the mat until the soles of his feet burnt
again. He was then taken into the parlour to be inspected in his
new clothes; and when he had been surveyed several timesand had
afforded by his appearance unlimited satisfactionhe was taken
into the stable (where the pony received him with uncommon
complaisance); and thence into the little chamber he had already
observedwhich was very clean and comfortable: and thence into the
gardenin which the old gentleman told him he would be taught to
employ himselfand where he told himbesideswhat great things


he meant to do to make him comfortableand happyif he found he
deserved it. All these kindnessesKit acknowledged with various
expressions of gratitudeand so many touches of the new hatthat
the brim suffered considerably. When the old gentleman had said all
he had to say in the way of promise and adviceand Kit had said
all he had to say in the way of assurance and thankfulnesshe was
handed over again to the old ladywhosummoning the little
servant-girl (whose name was Barbara) instructed her to take him
down stairs and give him something to eat and drinkafter his
walk.

Down stairsthereforeKit went; and at the bottom of the stairs
there was such a kitchen as was never before seen or heard of out
of a toy-shop windowwith everything in it as bright and glowing
and as precisely ordered tooas Barbara herself. And in this
kitchenKit sat himself down at a table as white as a tablecloth
to eat cold meatand drink small aleand use his knife and fork
the more awkwardlybecause there was an unknown Barbara looking on
and observing him.

It did not appearhoweverthat there was anything remarkably
tremendous about this strange Barbarawho having lived a very
quiet lifeblushed very much and was quite as embarrassed and
uncertain what she ought to say or doas Kit could possibly be.
When he had sat for some little timeattentive to the ticking of
the sober clockhe ventured to glance curiously at the dresser
and thereamong the plates and disheswere Barbara's little
work-box with a sliding lid to shut in the balls of cottonand
Barbara's prayer-bookand Barbara's hymn-bookand Barbara's
Bible. Barbara's little looking-glass hung in a good light near the
windowand Barbara's bonnet was on a nail behind the door. From
all these mute signs and tokens of her presencehe
naturally glanced at Barbara herselfwho sat as mute as they
shelling peas into a dish; and just when Kit was looking at her
eyelashes and wondering--quite in the simplicity of his heart-what
colour her eyes might beit perversely happened that Barbara
raised her head a little to look at himwhen both pair
of eyes were hastily withdrawnand Kit leant over his plateand
Barbara over her pea-shellseach in extreme confusion at having
been detected by the other.

CHAPTER 23

Mr Richard Swiveller wending homeward from the Wilderness (for such
was the appropriate name of Quilp's choice retreat)after a
sinuous and corkscrew fashionwith many checks and stumbles; after
stopping suddenly and staring about himthen as suddenly running
forward for a few pacesand as suddenly halting again and shaking
his head; doing everything with a jerk and nothing by
premeditation;--Mr Richard Swiveller wending his way homeward
after this fashionwhich is considered by evil-minded men to be
symbolical of intoxicationand is not held by such persons to
denote that state of deep wisdom and reflection in which the actor
knows himself to bebegan to think that possibly he had misplaced
his confidence and that the dwarf might not be precisely the sort
of person to whom to entrust a secret of such delicacy and
importance. And being led and tempted on by this remorseful thought
into a condition which the evil-minded class before referred to
would term the maudlin state or stage of drunkennessit occurred
to Mr Swiveller to cast his hat upon the groundand moancrying


aloud that he was an unhappy orphanand that if he had not been an
unhappy orphan things had never come to this.

'Left an infant by my parentsat an early age' said Mr Swiveller
bewailing his hard lot'cast upon the world in my tenderest
periodand thrown upon the mercies of a deluding dwarfwho can
wonder at my weakness! Here's a miserable orphan for you. Here'
said Mr Swiveller raising his voice to a high pitchand looking
sleepily round'is a miserable orphan!'

'Then' said somebody hard by'let me be a father to you.'

Mr Swiveller swayed himself to and fro to preserve his balance
andlooking into a kind of haze which seemed to surround himat
last perceived two eyes dimly twinkling through the mistwhich he
observed after a short time were in the neighbourhood of a nose and
mouth. Casting his eyes down towards that quarter in whichwith
reference to a man's facehis legs are usually to be foundhe
observed that the face had a body attached; and when he looked more
intently he was satisfied that the person was Mr Quilpwho indeed
had been in his company all the timebut whom he had some vague
idea of having left a mile or two behind.

'You have deceived an orphanSir' said Mr Swiveller solemnly.'

'I! I'm a second father to you' replied Quilp.

'You my fatherSir!' retorted Dick. 'Being all right myselfSir
I request to be left alone--instantlySir.'

'What a funny fellow you are!' cried Quilp.

'GoSir' returned Dickleaning against a post and waving his
hand. 'Godeceivergosome daySirp'r'aps you'll wakenfrom
pleasure's dream to knowthe grief of orphans forsaken. Will you
goSir?'

The dwarf taking no heed of this adjurationMr Swiveller advanced
with the view of inflicting upon him condign chastisement. But
forgetting his purpose or changing his mind before he came close to
himhe seized his hand and vowed eternal friendshipdeclaring
with an agreeable frankness that from that time forth they were
brothers in everything but personal appearance. Then he told his
secret over againwith the addition of being pathetic on the
subject of Miss Wackleswhohe gave Mr Quilp to understandwas
the occasion of any slight incoherency he might observe in his
speech at that momentwhich was attributable solely to the
strength of his affection and not to rosy wine or other fermented
liquor. And then they went on arm-in-armvery lovingly together.

'I'm as sharp' said Quilp to himat parting'as sharp as a
ferretand as cunning as a weazel. You bring Trent to me; assure
him that I'm his friend though i fear he a little distrusts me (I
don't know whyI have not deserved it); and you've both of you
made your fortunes--in perspective.'

'That's the worst of it' returned Dick. 'These fortunes in
perspective look such a long way off.'

'But they look smaller than they really areon that account' said
Quilppressing his arm. 'You'll have no conception of the value of
your prize until you draw close to it. Mark that.'

'D'ye think not?' said Dick.


'AyeI do; and I am certain of what I saythat's better'
returned the dwarf. 'You bring Trent to me. Tell him I am his
friend and yours--why shouldn't I be?'

'There's no reason why you shouldn'tcertainly' replied Dick
'and perhaps there are a great many why you should--at least there
would be nothing strange in your wanting to be my friendif you
were a choice spiritbut then you know you're not a choice
spirit.'

'I not a choice spirit?' cried Quilp.

'Devil a bitsir' returned Dick. 'A man of your appearance
couldn't be. If you're any spirit at allsiryou're an evil
spirit. Choice spirits' added Dicksmiting himself on the breast
'are quite a different looking sort of peopleyou may take your
oath of thatsir.'

Quilp glanced at his free-spoken friend with a mingled expression
of cunning and dislikeand wringing his hand almost at the same
momentdeclared that he was an uncommon character and had his
warmest esteem. With that they parted; Mr Swiveller to make the
best of his way home and sleep himself sober; and Quilp to cogitate
upon the discovery he had madeand exult in the prospect of the
rich field of enjoyment and reprisal it opened to him.

It was not without great reluctance and misgiving that Mr
Swivellernext morninghis head racked by the fumes of the
renowned Schiedamrepaired to the lodging of his friend Trent
(which was in the roof of an old house in an old ghostly inn)and
recounted by very slow degrees what had yesterday taken place
between him and Quilp. Nor was it without great surprise and much
speculation on Quilp's probable motivesnor without many bitter
comments on Dick Swiveller's follythat his friend received the
tale.

'I don't defend myselfFred' said the penitent Richard; 'but the
fellow has such a queer way with him and is such an artful dog
that first of all he set me upon thinking whether there was any
harm in telling himand while I was thinkingscrewed it out of
me. If you had seen him drink and smokeas I didyou couldn't
have kept anything from him. He's a Salamander you knowthat's
what he is.'

Without inquiring whether Salamanders were of necessity good
confidential agentsor whether a fire-proof man was as a matter of
course trustworthyFrederick Trent threw himself into a chair
andburying his head in his handsendeavoured to fathom the
motives which had led Quilp to insinuate himself into Richard
Swiveller's confidence;--for that the disclosure was of his
seekingand had not been spontaneously revealed by Dickwas
sufficiently plain from Quilp's seeking his company and enticing
him away.

The dwarf had twice encountered him when he was endeavouring to
obtain intelligence of the fugitives. Thisperhapsas he had not
shown any previous anxiety about themwas enough to awaken
suspicion in the breast of a creature so jealous and distrustful by
naturesetting aside any additional impulse to curiosity that he
might have derived from Dick's incautious manner. But knowing the
scheme they had plannedwhy should he offer to assist it? This was
a question more difficult of solution; but as knaves generally
overreach themselves by imputing their own designs to othersthe


idea immediately presented itself that some circumstances of
irritation between Quilp and the old manarising out of their
secret transactions and not unconnected perhaps with his sudden
disappearancenow rendered the former desirous of revenging
himself upon him by seeking to entrap the sole object of his love
and anxiety into a connexion of which he knew he had a dread and
hatred. As Frederick Trent himselfutterly regardless of his
sisterhad this object at heartonly second to the hope of gain
it seemed to him the more likely to be Quilp's main principle of
action. Once investing the dwarf with a design of his own in
abetting themwhich the attainment of their purpose would serve
it was easy to believe him sincere and hearty in the cause; and as
there could be no doubt of his proving a powerful and useful
auxiliaryTrent determined to accept his invitation and go to his
house that nightand if what he said and did confirmed him in the
impression he had formedto let him share the labour of their
planbut not the profit.

Having revolved these things in his mind and arrived at this
conclusionhe communicated to Mr Swiveller as much of his
meditations as he thought proper (Dick would have been perfectly
satisfied with less)and giving him the day to recover himself
from his late salamanderingaccompanied him at evening to Mr
Quilp's house.

Mighty glad Mr Quilp was to see themor mightily glad he seemed to
be; and fearfully polite Mr Quilp was to Mrs Quilp and Mrs jiniwin;
and very sharp was the look he cast on his wife to observe how she
was affected by the recognition of young Trent. Mrs Quilp was as
innocent as her own mother of any emotionpainful or pleasant
which the sight of him awakenedbut as her husband's glance made
her timid and confusedand uncertain what to do or what was
required of herMr Quilp did not fail to assign her embarrassment
to the cause he had in his mindand while he chuckled at his
penetration was secretly exasperated by his jealousy.

Nothing of this appearedhowever. On the contraryMr Quilp was
all blandness and suavityand presided over the case-bottle of rum
with extraordinary open-heartedness.

'Whylet me see' said Quilp. 'It must be a matter of nearly two
years since we were first acquainted.'

'Nearer threeI think' said Trent.

'Nearer three!' cried Quilp. 'How fast time flies. Does it seem as
long as that to youMrs Quilp?'

'YesI think it seems full three yearsQuilp' was the
unfortunate reply.

'Oh indeedma'am' thought Quilp'you have been pininghave you?
Very goodma'am.'

'It seems to me but yesterday that you went out to Demerara in the
Mary Anne' said Quilp; 'but yesterdayI declare. WellI like a
little wildness. I was wild myself once.'

Mr Quilp accompanied this admission with such an awful wink
indicative of old rovings and backslidingsthat Mrs Jiniwin was
indignantand could not forbear from remarking under her breath
that he might at least put off his confessions until his wife was
absent; for which act of boldness and insubordination Mr Quilp
first stared her out of countenance and then drank her health


ceremoniously.

'I thought you'd come back directlyFred. I always thought that'
said Quilp setting down his glass. 'And when the Mary Anne returned
with you on boardinstead of a letter to say what a contrite heart
you hadand how happy you were in the situation that had been
provided for youI was amused--exceedingly amused. Ha ha ha!'

The young man smiledbut not as though the theme was the most
agreeable one that could have been selected for his entertainment;
and for that reason Quilp pursued it.

'I always will say' he resumed'that when a rich relation having
two young people--sisters or brothersor brother and sister-dependent
on himattaches himself exclusively to oneand casts
off the otherhe does wrong.'

The young man made a movement of impatiencebut Quilp went on as
calmly as if he were discussing some abstract question in which
nobody present had the slightest personal interest.

'It's very true' said Quilp'that your grandfather urged repeated
forgivenessingratituderiotand extravaganceand all that; but
as I told him "these are common faults." "But he's a scoundrel
said he. Granting that said I (for the sake of argument of
course), a great many young noblemen and gentlemen are scoundrels
too!" But he wouldn't be convinced.'

'I wonder at thatMr Quilp' said the young man sarcastically.

'Wellso did I at the time' returned Quilp'but he was always
obstinate. He was in a manner a friend of minebut he was always
obstinate and wrong-headed. Little Nell is a nice girla charming
girlbut you're her brotherFrederick. You're her brother after
all; as you told him the last time you methe can't alter that.'

'He would if he couldconfound him for that and all other
kindnesses' said the young man impatiently. 'But nothing can come
of this subject nowand let us have done with it in the Devil's
name.'

'Agreed' returned Quilp'agreed on my part readily. Why have I
alluded to it? Just to show youFrederickthat I have always
stood your friend. You little knew who was your friendand who
your foe; now did you? You thought I was against youand so there
has been a coolness between us; but it was all on your side
entirely on your side. Let's shake hands againFred.'

With his head sunk down between his shouldersand a hideous grin
over-spreading his facethe dwarf stood up and stretched his short
arm across the table. After a moment's hesitationthe young man
stretched out his to meet it; Quilp clutched his fingers in a grip
that for the moment stopped the current of the blood within them
and pressing his other hand upon his lip and frowning towards the
unsuspicious Richardreleased them and sat down.

This action was not lost upon Trentwhoknowing that Richard
Swiveller was a mere tool in his hands and knew no more of his
designs than he thought proper to communicatesaw that the dwarf
perfectly understood their relative positionand fully entered
into the character of his friend. It is something to be
appreciatedeven in knavery. This silent homage to his superior
abilitiesno less than a sense of the power with which the dwarf's
quick perception had already invested himinclined the young man


towards that ugly worthyand determined him to profit by his aid.

It being now Mr Quilp's cue to change the subject with all
convenient expeditionlest Richard Swiveller in his heedlessness
should reveal anything which it was inexpedient for the women to
knowhe proposed a game at four-handed cribbageand partners
being cut forMrs Quilp fell to Frederick Trentand Dick himself
to Quilp. Mrs Jiniwin being very fond of cards was carefully
excluded by her son-in-law from any participation in the gameand
had assigned to her the duty of occasionally replenishing the
glasses from the case-bottle; Mr Quilp from that moment keeping one
eye constantly upon herlest she should by any means procure a
taste of the sameand thereby tantalising the wretched old lady
(who was as much attached to the case-bottle as the cards) in a
double degree and most ingenious manner.

But it was not to Mrs Jiniwin alone that Mr Quilp's attention was
restrictedas several other matters required his constant
vigilance. Among his various eccentric habits he had a humorous one
of always cheating at cardswhich rendered necessary on his part
not only a close observance of the gameand a sleight-of-hand in
counting and scoringbut also involved the constant correctionby
looksand frownsand kicks under the tableof Richard Swiveller
who being bewildered by the rapidity with which his cards were
toldand the rate at which the pegs travelled down the board
could not be prevented from sometimes expressing his surprise and
incredulity. Mrs Quilp too was the partner of young Trentand for
every look that passed between themand every word they spokeand
every card they playedthe dwarf had eyes and ears; not occupied
alone with what was passing above the tablebut with signals that
might be exchanging beneath itwhich he laid all kinds of traps to
detect; besides often treading on his wife's toes to see whether
she cried out or remained silent under the inflictionin which
latter case it would have been quite clear that Trent had been
treading on her toes before. Yetin the most of all these
distractionsthe one eye was upon the old lady alwaysand if she
so much as stealthily advanced a tea-spoon towards a neighbouring
glass (which she often did)for the purpose of abstracting but one
sup of its sweet contentsQuilp's hand would overset it in the
very moment of her triumphand Quilp's mocking voice implore her
to regard her precious health. And in any one of these his many
caresfrom first to lastQuilp never flagged nor faltered.

At lengthwhen they had played a great many rubbers and drawn
pretty freely upon the case-bottleMr Quilp warned his lady to
retire to restand that submissive wife complyingand being
followed by her indignant motherMr Swiveller fell asleep. The
dwarf beckoning his remaining companion to the other end of the
roomheld a short conference with him in whispers.

'It's as well not to say more than one can help before our worthy
friend' said Quilpmaking a grimace towards the slumbering Dick.
'Is it a bargain between usFred? Shall he marry little rosy Nell
by-and-by?'

'You have some end of your own to answerof course' returned the
other.

'Of course I havedear Fred' said Quilpgrinning to think how
little he suspected what the real end was. 'It's retaliation
perhaps; perhaps whim. I have influenceFredto help or oppose.
Which way shall I use it? There are a pair of scalesand it goes
into one.'


'Throw it into mine then' said Trent.

'It's doneFred' rejoined Quilpstretching out his clenched hand
and opening it as if he had let some weight fall out. 'It's in the
scale from this timeand turns itFred. Mind that.'

'Where have they gone?' asked Trent.

Quilp shook his headand said that point remained to be
discoveredwhich it might beeasily. When it wasthey would
begin their preliminary advances. He would visit the old manor
even Richard Swiveller might visit himand by affecting a deep
concern in his behalfand imploring him to settle in some worthy
homelead to the child's remembering him with gratitude and
favour. Once impressed to this extentit would be easyhe said
to win her in a year or twofor she supposed the old man to be
pooras it was a part of his jealous policy (in common with many
other misers) to feign to be soto those about him.

'He has feigned it often enough to meof late' said Trent.

'Oh! and to me too!' replied the dwarf. 'Which is more
extraordinaryas I know how rich he really is.'

'I suppose you should' said Trent.

'I think I should indeed' rejoined the dwarf; and in thatat
leasthe spoke the truth.

After a few more whispered wordsthey returned to the tableand
the young man rousing Richard Swiveller informed him that he was
waiting to depart. This was welcome news to Dickwho started up
directly. After a few words of confidence in the result of their
project had been exchangedthey bade the grinning Quilp good
night.

Quilp crept to the window as they passed in the street belowand
listened. Trent was pronouncing an encomium upon his wifeand they
were both wondering by what enchantment she had been brought to
marry such a misshapen wretch as he. The dwarf after watching their
retreating shadows with a wider grin than his face had yet
displayedstole softly in the dark to bed.

In this hatching of their schemeneither Trent nor Quilp had had
one thought about the happiness or misery of poor innocent Nell. It
would have been strange if the careless profligatewho was the
butt of bothhad been harassed by any such consideration; for his
high opinion of his own merits and deserts rendered the project
rather a laudable one than otherwise; and if he had been visited by
so unwonted a guest as reflectionhe would--being a brute only in
the gratification of his appetites--have soothed his conscience
with the plea that he did not mean to beat or kill his wifeand
would thereforeafter all said and donebe a very tolerable
average husband.

CHAPTER 24

It was not until they were quite exhausted and could no longer
maintain the pace at which they had fled from the race-groundthat
the old man and the child ventured to stopand sit down to rest


upon the borders of a little wood. Herethough the course was
hidden from their viewthey could yet faintly distinguish the
noise of distant shoutsthe hum of voicesand the beating of
drums. Climbing the eminence which lay between them and the spot
they had leftthe child could even discern the fluttering flags
and white tops of booths; but no person was approaching towards
themand their resting-place was solitary and still.

Some time elapsed before she could reassure her trembling
companionor restore him to a state of moderate tranquillity. His
disordered imagination represented to him a crowd of persons
stealing towards them beneath the cover of the busheslurking in
every ditchand peeping from the boughs of every rustling tree. He
was haunted by apprehensions of being led captive to some gloomy
place where he would be chained and scourgedand worse than all
where Nell could never come to see himsave through iron bars and
gratings in the wall. His terrors affected the child. Separation
from her grandfather was the greatest evil she could dread; and
feeling for the time as thoughgo where they wouldthey were to
be hunted downand could never be safe but in hidingher heart
failed herand her courage drooped.

In one so youngand so unused to the scenes in which she had
lately movedthis sinking of the spirit was not surprising. But
Nature often enshrines gallant and noble hearts in weak bosoms-oftenest
God bless herin female breasts--and when the child
casting her tearful eyes upon the old manremembered how weak he
wasand how destitute and helpless he would be if she failed him
her heart swelled within herand animated her with new strength
and fortitude.

'We are quite safe nowand have nothing to fear indeeddear
grandfather' she said.

'Nothing to fear!' returned the old man. 'Nothing to fear if they
took me from thee! Nothing to fear if they parted us! Nobody is
true to me. Nonot one. Not even Nell!'

'Oh! do not say that' replied the child'for if ever anybody was
true at heartand earnestI am. I am sure you know I am.'

'Then how' said the old manlooking fearfully round'how can you
bear to think that we are safewhen they are searching for me
everywhereand may come hereand steal upon useven while we're
talking?'

'Because I'm sure we have not been followed' said the child.
'Judge for yourselfdear grandfather: look roundand see how
quiet and still it is. We are alone togetherand may ramble where
we like. Not safe! Could I feel easy--did I feel at ease--when
any danger threatened you?'

'Truetoo' he answeredpressing her handbut still looking
anxiously about. 'What noise was that?'

'A bird' said the child'flying into the woodand leading the
way for us to follow.' You remember that we said we would walk in
woods and fieldsand by the side of riversand how happy we would
be--you remember that? But herewhile the sun shines above our
headsand everything is bright and happywe are sitting sadly
downand losing time. See what a pleasant path; and there's the
bird--the same bird--now he flies to another treeand stays to
sing. Come!'


When they rose up from the groundand took the shady track which
led them through the woodshe bounded on beforeprinting her tiny
footsteps in the mosswhich rose elastic from so light a pressure
and gave it back as mirrors throw off breath; and thus she lured
the old man onwith many a backward look and merry becknow
pointing stealthily to some lone bird as it perched and twittered
on a branch that strayed across their pathnow stopping to listen
to the songs that broke the happy silenceor watch the sun as it
trembled through the leavesand stealing in among the ivied trunks
of stout old treesopened long paths of light. As they passed
onwardparting the boughs that clustered in their waythe
serenity which the child had first assumedstole into her breast
in earnest; the old man cast no longer fearful looks behindbut
felt at ease and cheerfulfor the further they passed into the
deep green shadethe more they felt that the tranquil mind of God
was thereand shed its peace on them.

At length the path becoming clearer and less intricatebrought
them to the end of the woodand into a public road. Taking their
way along it for a short distancethey came to a laneso shaded
by the trees on either hand that they met together over-headand
arched the narrow way. A broken finger-post announced that this led
to a village three miles off; and thither they resolved to bend
their steps.

The miles appeared so long that they sometimes thought they must
have missed their road. But at lastto their great joyit led
downwards in a steep descentwith overhanging banks over which the
footpaths led; and the clustered houses of the village peeped from
the woody hollow below.

It was a very small place. The men and boys were playing at cricket
on the green; and as the other folks were looking onthey wandered
up and downuncertain where to seek a humble lodging. There was
but one old man in the little garden before his cottageand him
they were timid of approachingfor he was the schoolmasterand
had 'School' written up over his window in black letters on a white
board. He was a palesimple-looking manof a spare and meagre
habitand sat among his flowers and beehivessmoking his pipein
the little porch before his door.

'Speak to himdear' the old man whispered.

'I am almost afraid to disturb him' said the child timidly. 'He
does not seem to see us. Perhaps if we wait a littlehe may look
this way.'

They waitedbut the schoolmaster cast no look towards themand
still satthoughtful and silentin the little porch. He had a
kind face. In his plain old suit of blackhe looked pale and
meagre. They fanciedtooa lonely air about him and his house
but perhaps that was because the other people formed a merry
company upon the greenand he seemed the only solitary man in all
the place.

They were very tiredand the child would have been bold enough to
address even a schoolmasterbut for something in his manner which
seemed to denote that he was uneasy or distressed. As they stood
hesitating at a little distancethey saw that he sat for a few
minutes at a time like one in a brown studythen laid aside his
pipe and took a few turns in his gardenthen approached the gate
and looked towards the greenthen took up his pipe again with a
sighand sat down thoughtfully as before.


As nobody else appeared and it would soon be darkNell at length
took courageand when he had resumed his pipe and seatventured
to draw nearleading her grandfather by the hand. The slight noise
they made in raising the latch of the wicket-gatecaught his
attention. He looked at them kindly but seemed disappointed too
and slightly shook his head.

Nell dropped a curtseyand told him they were poor travellers who
sought a shelter for the night which they would gladly pay forso
far as their means allowed. The schoolmaster looked earnestly at
her as she spokelaid aside his pipeand rose up directly.

'If you could direct us anywheresir' said the child'we should
take it very kindly.'

'You have been walking a long way' said the schoolmaster.

'A long waySir' the child replied.

'You're a young travellermy child' he saidlaying his hand
gently on her head. 'Your grandchildfriend? '

'AyeSir' cried the old man'and the stay and comfort of my
life.'

'Come in' said the schoolmaster.

Without further preface he conducted them into his little
school-roomwhich was parlour and kitchen likewiseand told them
that they were welcome to remain under his roof till morning.
Before they had done thanking himhe spread a coarse white cloth
upon the tablewith knives and platters; and bringing out some
bread and cold meat and a jug of beerbesought them to eat and
drink.

The child looked round the room as she took her seat. There were a
couple of formsnotched and cut and inked all over; a small deal
desk perched on four legsat which no doubt the master sat; a few
dog's-eared books upon a high shelf; and beside them a motley
collection of peg-topsballskitesfishing-linesmarbles
half-eaten applesand other confiscated property of idle urchins.
Displayed on hooks upon the wall in all their terrorswere the
cane and ruler; and near themon a small shelf of its ownthe
dunce's capmade of old newspapers and decorated with glaring
wafers of the largest size. Butthe great ornaments of the walls
were certain moral sentences fairly copied in good round textand
well-worked sums in simple addition and multiplicationevidently
achieved by the same handwhich were plentifully pasted all round
the room: for the double purposeas it seemedof bearing
testimony to the excellence of the schooland kindling a worthy
emulation in the bosoms of the scholars.

'Yes' said the old schoolmasterobserving that her attention was
caught by these latter specimens. 'That's beautiful writingmy
dear.'

'VerySir' replied the child modestly'is it yours?'

'Mine!' he returnedtaking out his spectacles and putting them on
to have a better view of the triumphs so dear to his heart. 'I
couldn't write like thatnow-a-days. No. They're all done by one
hand; a little hand it isnot so old as yoursbut a very clever one.'

As the schoolmaster said thishe saw that a small blot of ink had


been thrown on one of the copiesso he took a penknife from his
pocketand going up to the wallcarefully scraped it out. When he
had finishedhe walked slowly backward from the writingadmiring
it as one might contemplate a beautiful picturebut with something
of sadness in his voice and manner which quite touched the child
though she was unacquainted with its cause.

'A little hand indeed' said the poor schoolmaster. 'Far beyond all
his companionsin his learning and his sports toohow did he ever
come to be so fond of me! That I should love him is no wonderbut
that he should love me--' and there the schoolmaster stoppedand
took off his spectacles to wipe themas though they had grown dim.

'I hope there is nothing the mattersir' said Nell anxiously.

'Not muchmy dear' returned the schoolmaster. 'I hoped to have
seen him on the green to-night. He was always foremost among them.
But he'll be there to-morrow.'

'Has he been ill?' asked the childwith a child's quick sympathy.

'Not very. They said he was wandering in his head yesterdaydear
boyand so they said the day before. But that's a part of that
kind of disorder; it's not a bad sign--not at all a bad sign.'
The child was silent. He walked to the doorand looked wistfully
out. The shadows of night were gatheringand all was still.

'If he could lean upon anybody's armhe would come to meI know'
he saidreturning into the room. 'He always came into the garden
to say good night. But perhaps his illness has only just taken a
favourable turnand it's too late for him to come outfor it's
very damp and there's a heavy dew. it's much better he shouldn't
come to-night.'

The schoolmaster lighted a candlefastened the window-shutter
and closed the door. But after he had done thisand sat silent a
little timehe took down his hatand said he would go and satisfy
himselfif Nell would sit up till he returned. The child readily
compliedand he went out.

She sat there half-an-hour or morefeeling the place very strange
and lonelyfor she had prevailed upon the old man to go to bed
and there was nothing to be heard but the ticking of an old clock
and the whistling of the wind among the trees. When he returnedhe
took his seat in the chimney cornerbut remained silent for a long
time. At length he turned to herand speaking very gentlyhoped
she would say a prayer that night for a sick child.

'My favourite scholar!' said the poor schoolmastersmoking a pipe
he had forgotten to lightand looking mournfully round upon the
walls. 'It is a little hand to have done all thatand waste away
with sickness. It is a veryvery little hand!'

CHAPTER 25

After a sound night's rest in a chamber in the thatched roofin
which it seemed the sexton had for some years been a lodgerbut
which he had lately deserted for a wife and a cottage of his own
the child rose early in the morning and descended to the room where
she had supped last night. As the schoolmaster had already left his


bed and gone outshe bestirred herself to make it neat and
comfortableand had just finished its arrangement when the kind
host returned.

He thanked her many timesand said that the old dame who usually
did such offices for him had gone to nurse the little scholar whom
he had told her of. The child asked how he wasand hoped he was
better.

'No' rejoined the schoolmaster shaking his head sorrowfully'no
better. They even say he is worse.'

'I am very sorry for thatSir' said the child.

The poor schoolmaster appeared to be gratified by her earnest
mannerbut yet rendered more uneasy by itfor he added hastily
that anxious people often magnified an evil and thought it greater
than it was; 'for my part' he saidin his quietpatient way'I
hope it's not so. I don't think he can be worse.'

The child asked his leave to prepare breakfastand her grandfather
coming down stairsthey all three partook of it together. While
the meal was in progresstheir host remarked that the old man
seemed much fatiguedand evidently stood in need of rest.

'If the journey you have before you is a long one' he said'and
don't press you for one dayyou're very welcome to pass another
night here. I should really be glad if you wouldfriend.'

He saw that the old man looked at Nelluncertain whether to accept
or decline his offer; and added

'I shall be glad to have your young companion with me for one day.
If you can do a charity to a lone manand rest yourself at the
same timedo so. If you must proceed upon your journeyI wish you
well through itand will walk a little way with you before school
begins.'

'What are we to doNell?' said the old man irresolutely'say what
we're to dodear.'

It required no great persuasion to induce the child to answer that
they had better accept the invitation and remain. She was happy to
show her gratitude to the kind schoolmaster by busying herself in
the performance of such household duties as his little cottage
stood in need of. When these were doneshe took some needle-work
from her basketand sat herself down upon a stool beside the
latticewhere the honeysuckle and woodbine entwined their tender
stemsand stealing into the room filled it with their delicious
breath. Her grandfather was basking in the sun outsidebreathing
the perfume of the flowersand idly watching the clouds as they
floated on before the light summer wind.

As the schoolmasterafter arranging the two forms in due order
took his seat behind his desk and made other preparations for
schoolthe child was apprehensive that she might be in the way
and offered to withdraw to her little bedroom. But this he would
not allowand as he seemed pleased to have her thereshe
remainedbusying herself with her work.

'Have you many scholarssir?' she asked.

The poor schoolmaster shook his headand said that they barely
filled the two forms.


'Are the others cleversir?' asked the childglancing at the
trophies on the wall.

'Good boys' returned the schoolmaster'good boys enoughmy dear
but they'll never do like that.'

A small white-headed boy with a sunburnt face appeared at the door
while he was speakingand stopping there to make a rustic bow
came in and took his seat upon one of the forms. The white-headed
boy then put an open bookastonishingly dog's-eared upon his
kneesand thrusting his hands into his pockets began counting the
marbles with which they were filled; displaying in the expression
of his face a remarkable capacity of totally abstracting his mind
from the spelling on which his eyes were fixed. Soon afterwards
another white-headed little boy came straggling inand after him
a red-headed ladand after him two more with white headsand then
one with a flaxen polland so on until the forms were occupied by
a dozen boys or thereaboutswith heads of every colour but grey
and ranging in their ages from four years old to fourteen years or
more; for the legs of the youngest were a long way from the floor
when he sat upon the formand the eldest was a heavy good-tempered
foolish fellowabout half a head taller than the schoolmaster.

At the top of the first form--the post of honour in the school-was
the vacant place of the little sick scholarand at the head of
the row of pegs on which those who came in hats or caps were wont
to hang them upone was left empty. No boy attempted to violate
the sanctity of seat or pegbut many a one looked from the empty
spaces to the schoolmasterand whispered his idle neighbour behind
his hand.

Then began the hum of conning over lessons and getting them by
heartthe whispered jest and stealthy gameand all the noise and
drawl of school; and in the midst of the din sat the poor
schoolmasterthe very image of meekness and simplicityvainly
attempting to fix his mind upon the duties of the dayand to
forget his little friend. But the tedium of his office reminded him
more strongly of the willing scholarand his thoughts were
rambling from his pupils--it was plain.

None knew this better than the idlest boyswhogrowing bolder
with impunitywaxed louder and more daring; playing odd-or-even
under the master's eyeeating apples openly and without rebuke
pinching each other in sport or malice without the least reserve
and cutting their autographs in the very legs of his desk. The
puzzled duncewho stood beside it to say his lesson out of book
looked no longer at the ceiling for forgotten wordsbut drew
closer to the master's elbow and boldly cast his eye upon the page;
the wag of the little troop squinted and made grimaces (at the
smallest boy of course)holding no book before his faceand his
approving audience knew no constraint in their delight. If the
master did chance to rouse himself and seem alive to what was going
onthe noise subsided for a moment and no eyes met his but wore a
studious and a deeply humble look; but the instant he relapsed
againit broke out afreshand ten times louder than before.

Oh! how some of those idle fellows longed to be outsideand how
they looked at the open door and windowas if they half
meditated rushing violently outplunging into the woodsand being
wild boys and savages from that time forth. What rebellious
thoughts of the cool riverand some shady bathing-place beneath
willow trees with branches dipping in the waterkept tempting and
urging that sturdy boywhowith his shirt-collar unbuttoned and


flung back as far as it could gosat fanning his flushed face with
a spelling-bookwishing himself a whaleor a tittlebator a fly
or anything but a boy at school on that hotbroiling day! Heat!
ask that other boywhose seat being nearest to the door gave him
opportunities of gliding out into the garden and driving his
companions to madness by dipping his face into the bucket of the
well and then rolling on the grass--ask him if there were ever
such a day as thatwhen even the bees were diving deep down into
the cups of flowers and stopping thereas if they had made up
their minds to retire from business and be manufacturers of honey
no more. The day was made for lazinessand lying on one's back in
green placesand staring at the sky till its brightness forced one
to shut one's eyes and go to sleep; and was this a time to be
poring over musty books in a dark roomslighted by the very sun
itself? Monstrous!

Nell sat by the window occupied with her workbut attentive still
to all that passedthough sometimes rather timid of the boisterous
boys. The lessons overwriting time began; and there being but one
desk and that the master'seach boy sat at it in turn and laboured
at his crooked copywhile the master walked about. This was a
quieter time; for he would come and look over the writer's
shoulderand tell him mildly to observe how such a letter was
turned in such a copy on the wallpraise such an up-stroke here
and such a down-stroke thereand bid him take it for his model.
Then he would stop and tell them what the sick child had said last
nightand how he had longed to be among them once again; and such
was the poor schoolmaster's gentle and affectionate mannerthat
the boys seemed quite remorseful that they had worried him so much
and were absolutely quiet; eating no applescutting no names
inflicting no pinchesand making no grimacesfor full two minutes
afterwards.

'I thinkboys' said the schoolmaster when the clock struck
twelve'that I shall give an extra half-holiday this afternoon.'

At this intelligencethe boysled on and headed by the tall boy
raised a great shoutin the midst of which the master was seen to
speakbut could not be heard. As he held up his handhoweverin
token of his wish that they should be silentthey were considerate
enough to leave offas soon as the longest-winded among them were
quite out of breath.

'You must promise me first' said the schoolmaster'that you'll
not be noisyor at leastif you arethat you'll go away and be
so--away out of the village I mean. I'm sure you wouldn't disturb
your old playmate and companion.'

There was a general murmur (and perhaps a very sincere onefor
they were but boys) in the negative; and the tall boyperhaps as
sincerely as any of themcalled those about him to witness that he
had only shouted in a whisper.

'Then pray don't forgetthere's my dear scholars' said the
schoolmaster'what I have asked youand do it as a favour to me.
Be as happy as you canand don't be unmindful that you are blessed
with health. Good-bye all!'

'Thank'eeSir' and 'good-byeSir' were said a good many times
in a variety of voicesand the boys went out very slowly and
softly. But there was the sun shining and there were the birds
singingas the sun only shines and the birds only sing on holidays
and half-holidays; there were the trees waving to all free boys to
climb and nestle among their leafy branches; the hayentreating


them to come and scatter it to the pure air; the green corngently
beckoning towards wood and stream; the smooth groundrendered
smoother still by blending lights and shadowsinviting to runs and
leapsand long walks God knows whither. It was more than boy could
bearand with a joyous whoop the whole cluster took to their heels
and spread themselves aboutshouting and laughing as they went.

'It's naturalthank Heaven!' said the poor schoolmasterlooking
after them. 'I'm very glad they didn't mind me!'

It is difficulthoweverto please everybodyas most of us would
have discoveredeven without the fable which bears that moraland
in the course of the afternoon several mothers and aunts of pupils
looked in to express their entire disapproval of the schoolmaster's
proceeding. A few confined themselves to hintssuch as politely
inquiring what red-letter day or saint's day the almanack said it
was; a few (these were the profound village politicians) argued
that it was a slight to the throne and an affront to church and
stateand savoured of revolutionary principlesto grant a
half-holiday upon any lighter occasion than the birthday of the
Monarch; but the majority expressed their displeasure on private
grounds and in plain termsarguing that to put the pupils on this
short allowance of learning was nothing but an act of downright
robbery and fraud: and one old ladyfinding that she could not
inflame or irritate the peaceable schoolmaster by talking to him
bounced out of his house and talked at him for half-an-hour outside
his own windowto another old ladysaying that of course he would
deduct this half-holiday from his weekly chargeor of course he
would naturally expect to have an opposition started against him;
there was no want of idle chaps in that neighbourhood (here the old
lady raised her voice)and some chaps who were too idle even to be
schoolmastersmight soon find that there were other chaps put over
their headsand so she would have them take careand look pretty
sharp about them. But all these taunts and vexations failed to
elicit one word from the meek schoolmasterwho sat with the child
by his side--a little more dejected perhapsbut quite silent and
uncomplaining.

Towards night an old woman came tottering up the garden as speedily
as she couldand meeting the schoolmaster at the doorsaid he was
to go to Dame West's directlyand had best run on before her. He
and the child were on the point of going out together for a walk
and without relinquishing her handthe schoolmaster hurried away
leaving the messenger to follow as she might.

They stopped at a cottage-doorand the schoolmaster knocked softly
at it with his hand. It was opened without loss of time. They
entered a room where a little group of women were gathered about
oneolder than the restwho was crying very bitterlyand sat
wringing her hands and rocking herself to and fro.

'Ohdame!' said the schoolmasterdrawing near her chair'is it
so bad as this?'

'He's going fast' cried the old woman; 'my grandson's dying. It's
all along of you. You shouldn't see him nowbut for his being so
earnest on it. This is what his learning has brought him to. Oh
deardeardearwhat can I do!'

'Do not say that I am in any fault' urged the gentle schoolmaster.
'I am not hurtdame. Nono. You are in great distress of
mindand don't mean what you say. I am sure you don't.'

'I do' returned the old woman. 'I mean it all. If he hadn't been


poring over his books out of fear of youhe would have been well
and merry nowI know he would.'

The schoolmaster looked round upon the other women as if to entreat
some one among them to say a kind word for himbut they shook
their headsand murmured to each other that they never thought
there was much good in learningand that this convinced them.
Without saying a word in replyor giving them a look of reproach
he followed the old woman who had summoned him (and who had now
rejoined them) into another roomwhere his infant friend
half-dressedlay stretched upon a bed.

He was a very young boy; quite a little child. His hair still hung
in curls about his faceand his eyes were very bright; but their
light was of Heavennot earth. The schoolmaster took a seat beside
himand stooping over the pillowwhispered his name. The boy
sprung upstroked his face with his handand threw his wasted
arms round his neckcrying out that he was his dear kind friend.

'I hope I always was. I meant to beGod knows' said the poor
schoolmaster.

'Who is that?' said the boyseeing Nell. 'I am afraid to kiss her
lest I should make her ill. Ask her to shake hands with me.' The
sobbing child came closer upand took the little languid hand in
hers. Releasing his again after a timethe sick boy laid him
gently down.

'You remember the gardenHarry' whispered the schoolmaster
anxious to rouse himfor a dulness seemed gathering upon the
child'and how pleasant it used to be in the evening time? You
must make haste to visit it againfor I think the very flowers
have missed youand are less gay than they used to be. You will
come soonmy dearvery soon now--won't you?'

The boy smiled faintly--so veryvery faintly--and put his hand
upon his friend's grey head. He moved his lips toobut no voice
came from them; nonot a sound.

In the silence that ensuedthe hum of distant voices borne upon
the evening air came floating through the open window. 'What's
that?' said the sick childopening his eyes.

'The boys at play upon the green.'

He took a handkerchief from his pillowand tried to wave it above
his head. But the feeble arm dropped powerless down.

'Shall I do it?' said the schoolmaster.

'Please wave it at the window' was the faint reply. 'Tie it to the
lattice. Some of them may see it there. Perhaps they'll think of
meand look this way.'

He raised his headand glanced from the fluttering signal to his
idle batthat lay with slate and book and other boyish property
upon a table in the room. And then he laid him softly down once more
and asked if the little girl were therefor he could not see her.

She stepped forwardand pressed the passive hand that lay upon the
coverlet. The two old friends and companions--for such they were
though they were man and child--held each other in a long embrace
and then the little scholar turned his face towards the walland
fell asleep.


The poor schoolmaster sat in the same placeholding the small cold
hand in hisand chafing it. It was but the hand of a dead child.
He felt that; and yet he chafed it stilland could not lay it down.

CHAPTER 26

Almost broken-heartedNell withdrew with the schoolmaster from the
bedside and returned to his cottage. In the midst of her grief and
tears she was yet careful to conceal their real cause from the old
manfor the dead boy had been a grandchildand left but one aged
relative to mourn his premature decay.

She stole away to bed as quickly as she couldand when she was
alonegave free vent to the sorrow with which her breast was
overcharged. But the sad scene she had witnessedwas not without
its lesson of content and gratitude; of content with the lot which
left her health and freedom; and gratitude that she was spared to
the one relative and friend she lovedand to live and move in a
beautiful worldwhen so many young creatures--as young and full
of hope as she--were stricken down and gathered to their graves.
How many of the mounds in that old churchyard where she had lately
strayedgrew green above the graves of children! And though she
thought as a child herselfand did not perhaps sufficiently
consider to what a bright and happy existence those who die young
are borneand how in death they lose the pain of seeing others die
around thembearing to the tomb some strong affection of their
hearts (which makes the old die many times in one long life)still
she thought wisely enoughto draw a plain and easy moral from what
she had seen that nightand to store itdeep in her mind.

Her dreams were of the little scholar: not coffined and covered up
but mingling with angelsand smiling happily. The sun darting his
cheerful rays into the roomawoke her; and now there remained but
to take leave of the poor schoolmaster and wander forth once more.

By the time they were ready to departschool had begun. In the
darkened roomthe din of yesterday was going on again: a little
sobered and softened downperhapsbut only a very littleif at
all. The schoolmaster rose from his desk and walked with them to
the gate.

It was with a trembling and reluctant handthat the child held out
to him the money which the lady had given her at the races for her
flowers: faltering in her thanks as she thought how small the sum
wasand blushing as she offered it. But he bade her put it up
and stooping to kiss her cheekturned back into his house.

They had not gone half-a-dozen paces when he was at the door again;
the old man retraced his steps to shake handsand the child did
the same.

'Good fortune and happiness go with you!' said the poor
schoolmaster. 'I am quite a solitary man now. If you ever pass
this way againyou'll not forget the little village-school.'

'We shall never forget itsir' rejoined Nell; 'nor ever forget to
be grateful to you for your kindness to us.'

'I have heard such words from the lips of children very often'


said the schoolmastershaking his headand smiling thoughtfully
'but they were soon forgotten. I had attached one young friend to
methe better friend for being young--but that's over--God bless
you!'

They bade him farewell very many timesand turned awaywalking
slowly and often looking backuntil they could see him no more.
At length they had left the village far behindand even lost sight
of the smoke among the trees. They trudged onward nowat a
quicker paceresolving to keep the main roadand go wherever it
might lead them.

But main roads stretch a longlong way. With the exception of two
or three inconsiderable clusters of cottages which they passed
without stoppingand one lonely road-side public-house where they
had some bread and cheesethis highway had led them to nothing-late
in the afternoon--and still lengthened outfar in the
distancethe same dulltediouswinding coursethat they had
been pursuing all day. As they had no resourcehoweverbut to go
forwardthey still kept onthough at a much slower pacebeing
very weary and fatigued.

The afternoon had worn away into a beautiful eveningwhen they
arrived at a point where the road made a sharp turn and struck
across a common. On the border of this commonand close to the
hedge which divided it from the cultivated fieldsa caravan was
drawn up to rest; upon whichby reason of its situationthey came
so suddenly that they could not have avoided it if they would.

It was not a shabbydingydusty cartbut a smart little house
upon wheelswith white dimity curtains festooning the windowsand
window-shutters of green picked out with panels of a staring red
in which happily-contrasted colours the whole concern shone
brilliant. Neither was it a poor caravan drawn by a single donkey
or emaciated horsefor a pair of horses in pretty
good condition were released from the shafts and grazing on the
frouzy grass. Neither was it a gipsy caravanfor at the open door
(graced with a bright brass knocker) sat a Christian ladystout
and comfortable to look uponwho wore a large bonnet trembling
with bows. And that it was not an unprovided or destitute caravan
was clear from this lady's occupationwhich was the very pleasant
and refreshing one of taking tea. The tea-thingsincluding a
bottle of rather suspicious character and a cold knuckle of ham
were set forth upon a drumcovered with a white napkin; and there
as if at the most convenient round-table in all the worldsat
this roving ladytaking her tea and enjoying the prospect.

It happened that at that moment the lady of the caravan had her cup
(whichthat everything about her might be of a stout and
comfortable kindwas a breakfast cup) to her lipsand that having
her eyes lifted to the sky in her enjoyment of the full flavour of
the teanot unmingled possibly with just the slightest
dash or gleam of something out of the suspicious bottle--but this
is mere speculation and not distinct matter of history--it
happened that being thus agreeably engagedshe did not see the
travellers when they first came up. It was not until she was in
the act of getting down the cupand drawing a long breath after
the exertion of causing its contents to disappearthat the lady of
the caravan beheld an old man and a young child walking slowly by
and glancing at her proceedings with eyes of modest but hungry
admiration.

'Hey!' cried the lady of the caravanscooping the crumbs out of
her lap and swallowing the same before wiping her lips. 'Yesto


be sure--Who won the Helter-Skelter Platechild?'

'Won whatma'am?' asked Nell.

'The Helter-Skelter Plate at the raceschild--the plate that was
run for on the second day.'

'On the second dayma'am?'

'Second day! Yessecond day' repeated the lady with an air of
impatience. 'Can't you say who won the Helter-Skelter Plate when
you're asked the question civilly?'

'I don't knowma'am.'

'Don't know!' repeated the lady of the caravan; 'whyyou were
there. I saw you with my own eyes.'

Nell was not a little alarmed to hear thissupposing that the lady
might be intimately acquainted with the firm of Short and Codlin;
but what followed tended to reassure her.

'And very sorry I was' said the lady of the caravan'to see you
in company with a Punch; a lowpracticalwulgar wretchthat
people should scorn to look at.'

'I was not there by choice' returned the child; 'we didn't know
our wayand the two men were very kind to usand let us travel
with them. Do you--do you know themma'am?'

'Know 'emchild!' cried the lady of the caravan in a sort of
shriek. 'Know them! But you're young and inexperiencedand
that's your excuse for asking sich a question. Do I look as if I
know'd 'emdoes the caravan look as if it know'd 'em?'

'Noma'amno' said the childfearing she had committed some
grievous fault. 'I beg your pardon.'

It was granted immediatelythough the lady still appeared much
ruffled and discomposed by the degrading supposition. The child
then explained that they had left the races on the first dayand
were travelling to the next town on that roadwhere they purposed
to spend the night. As the countenance of the stout lady began to
clear upshe ventured to inquire how far it was. The reply--which
the stout lady did not come tountil she had thoroughly explained
that she went to the races on the first day in a gigand as an
expedition of pleasureand that her presence there had no
connexion with any matters of business or profit--wasthat the
town was eight miles off.

This discouraging information a little dashed the childwho could
scarcely repress a tear as she glanced along the darkening road.
Her grandfather made no complaintbut he sighed heavily as he
leaned upon his staffand vainly tried to pierce the dusty
distance.

The lady of the caravan was in the act of gathering her tea
equipage together preparatory to clearing the tablebut noting the
child's anxious manner she hesitated and stopped. The child
curtseyedthanked her for her informationand giving her hand to
the old man had already got some fifty yards or so awaywhen the
lady of the caravan called to her to return.

'Come nearernearer still' said shebeckoning to her to ascend


the steps. 'Are you hungrychild?'

'Not verybut we are tiredand it's--it IS a long way.'

'Wellhungry or notyou had better have some tea' rejoined her
new acquaintance. 'I suppose you are agreeable to thatold
gentleman?'

The grandfather humbly pulled off his hat and thanked her. The
lady of the caravan then bade him come up the steps likewisebut
the drum proving an inconvenient table for twothey descended
againand sat upon the grasswhere she handed down to them the
tea-traythe bread and butterthe knuckle of hamand in short
everything of which she had partaken herselfexcept the bottle
which she had already embraced an opportunity of slipping into her
pocket.

'Set 'em out near the hind wheelschildthat's the best place'
said their friendsuperintending the arrangements from above.
'Now hand up the teapot for a little more hot waterand a pinch of
fresh teaand then both of you eat and drink as much as you can
and don't spare anything; that's all I ask of you.'

They might perhaps have carried out the lady's wishif it had been
less freely expressedor even if it had not been expressed at all.
But as this direction relieved them from any shadow of delicacy or
uneasinessthey made a hearty meal and enjoyed it to the utmost.

While they were thus engagedthe lady of the caravan alighted
on the earthand with her hands clasped behind herand her large
bonnet trembling excessivelywalked up and down in a measured
tread and very stately mannersurveying the caravan from time to
time with an air of calm delightand deriving particular
gratification from the red panels and the brass knocker. When she
had taken this gentle exercise for some timeshe sat down upon the
steps and called 'George'; whereupon a man in a carter's frockwho
had been so shrouded in a hedge up to this time as to see
everything that passed without being seen himselfparted the twigs
that concealed himand appeared in a sitting attitudesupporting
on his legs a baking-dish and a half-gallon stone bottleand
bearing in his right hand a knifeand in his left a fork.

'YesMissus' said George.

'How did you find the cold pieGeorge?'

'It warn't amissmum.'

'And the beer' said the lady of the caravanwith an appearance of
being more interested in this question than the last; 'is it
passableGeorge?'

'It's more flatterer than it might be' George returned'but it
an't so bad for all that.'

To set the mind of his mistress at resthe took a sip (amounting
in quantity to a pint or thereabouts) from the stone bottleand
then smacked his lipswinked his eyeand nodded his head. No
doubt with the same amiable desirehe immediately resumed his
knife and forkas a practical assurance that the beer had wrought
no bad effect upon his appetite.

The lady of the caravan looked on approvingly for some timeand
then said


'Have you nearly finished?'

'Wery nighmum.' And indeedafter scraping the dish all round
with his knife and carrying the choice brown morsels to his mouth
and after taking such a scientific pull at the stone bottle that
by degrees almost imperceptible to the sighthis head went further
and further back until he lay nearly at his full length upon the
groundthis gentleman declared himself quite disengagedand came
forth from his retreat.

'I hope I haven't hurried youGeorge' said his mistresswho
appeared to have a great sympathy with his late pursuit.

'If you have' returned the followerwisely reserving himself
for any favourable contingency that might occur'we must make up
for it next timethat's all.'

'We are not a heavy loadGeorge?'

'That's always what the ladies say' replied the manlooking a
long way roundas if he were appealing to Nature in general
against such monstrous propositions. 'If you see a woman a
drivingyou'll always perceive that she never will keep her whip
still; the horse can't go fast enough for her. If cattle have got
their proper loadyou never can persuade a woman that they'll not
bear something more. What is ' the cause of this here?'

'Would these two travellers make much difference to the horsesif
we took them with us?' asked his mistressoffering no reply to the
philosophical inquiryand pointing to Nell and the old manwho
were painfully preparing to resume their journey on foot.

'They'd make a difference in course' said George doggedly.

'Would they make much difference?' repeated his mistress. 'They
can't be very heavy.'

'The weight o' the pairmum' said Georgeeyeing them with the
look of a man who was calculating within half an ounce or so
'would be a trifle under that of Oliver Cromwell."

Nell was very much surprised that the man should be so accurately
acquainted with the weight of one whom she had read of in books as
having lived considerably before their timebut speedily forgot
the subject in the joy of hearing that they were to go forward in
the caravanfor which she thanked its lady with unaffected
earnestness. She helped with great readiness and alacrity to put
away the tea-things and other matters that were lying aboutand
the horses being by that time harnessedmounted into the vehicle
followed by her delighted grandfather. Their patroness then shut
the door and sat herself down by her drum at an open window; and
the steps being struck by George and stowed under the carriage
away they wentwith a great noise of flapping and creaking and
strainingand the bright brass knockerwhich nobody ever knocked
atknocking one perpetual double knock of its own accord as they
jolted heavily along.

CHAPTER 27


When they had travelled slowly forward for some short distance
Nell ventured to steal a look round the caravan and observe it more
closely. One half of it--that moiety in which the comfortable
proprietress was then seated--was carpetedand so partitioned off
at the further end as to accommodate a sleeping-placeconstructed
after the fashion of a berth on board shipwhich was shadedlike
the little windowswith fair white curtainsand looked
comfortable enoughthough by what kind of gymnastic exercise the
lady of the caravan ever contrived to get into itwas an
unfathomable mystery. The other half served for a kitchenand was
fitted up with a stove whose small chimney passed through the roof.
It held also a closet or larderseveral chestsa great pitcher of
waterand a few cooking-utensils and articles of crockery. These
latter necessaries hung upon the wallswhichin that portion of
the establishment devoted to the lady of the caravanwere
ornamented with such gayer and lighter decorations as a triangle
and a couple of well-thumbed tambourines.

The lady of the caravan sat at one window in all the pride and
poetry of the musical instrumentsand little Nell and her
grandfather sat at the other in all the humility of the kettle and
saucepanswhile the machine jogged on and shifted the darkening
prospect very slowly. At first the two travellers spoke little
and only in whispersbut as they grew more familiar with the place
they ventured to converse with greater freedomand talked about
the country through which they were passingand the different
objects that presented themselvesuntil the old man fell asleep;
which the lady of the caravan observinginvited Nell to come and
sit beside her.

'Wellchild' she said'how do you like this way of travelling?'

Nell replied that she thought it was very pleasant indeedto which
the lady assented in the case of people who had their spirits. For
herselfshe saidshe was troubled with a lowness in that respect
which required a constant stimulant; though whether the aforesaid
stimulant was derived from the suspicious bottle of which mention
has been already made or from other sourcesshe did not say.

'That's the happiness of you young people' she continued. 'You
don't know what it is to be low in your feelings. You always have
your appetites tooand what a comfort that is.'

Nell thought that she could sometimes dispense with her own
appetite very conveniently; and thoughtmoreoverthat there was
nothing either in the lady's personal appearance or in her manner
of taking teato lead to the conclusion that her natural relish
for meat and drink had at all failed her. She silently assented
howeveras in duty boundto what the lady had saidand waited
until she should speak again.

Instead of speakinghowevershe sat looking at the child for a
long time in silenceand then getting upbrought out from a
corner a large roll of canvas about a yard in widthwhich she laid
upon the floor and spread open with her foot until it nearly
reached from one end of the caravan to the other.

'Therechild' she said'read that.'

Nell walked down itand read aloudin enormous black lettersthe
inscription'Jarley's WAX-WORK.'

'Read it again' said the ladycomplacently.


'Jarley's Wax-Work' repeated Nell.

'That's me' said the lady. 'I am Mrs Jarley.'

Giving the child an encouraging lookintended to reassure her and
let her knowthatalthough she stood in the presence of the
original Jarleyshe must not allow herself to be utterly
overwhelmed and borne downthe lady of the caravan unfolded
another scrollwhereon was the inscription'One hundred figures
the full size of life' and then another scrollon which was
written'The only stupendous collection of real wax-work in the
world' and then several smaller scrolls with such inscriptions as
'Now exhibiting within'--'The genuine and only Jarley'--'Jarley's
unrivalled collection'--'Jarley is the delight of the Nobility and
Gentry'--'The Royal Family are the patrons of Jarley.' When she
had exhibited these leviathans of public announcement to the
astonished childshe brought forth specimens of the lesser fry in
the shape of hand-billssome of which were couched in the form of
parodies on popular melodiesas 'Believe me if all Jarley's
wax-work so rare'--'I saw thy show in youthful prime'--'Over the
water to Jarley;' whileto consult all tastesothers were
composed with a view to the lighter and more facetious spiritsas
a parody on the favourite air of 'If I had a donkey' beginning


If I know'd a donkey wot wouldn't go
To see Mrs JARLEY'S wax-work show
Do you think I'd acknowledge him? Oh no no!
Then run to Jarley's--


--besides several compositions in prosepurporting to be dialogues
between the Emperor of China and an oysteror the Archbishop of
Canterbury and a dissenter on the subject of church-ratesbut all
having the same moralnamelythat the reader must make haste to
Jarley'sand that children and servants were admitted at
half-price. When she had brought all these testimonials of her
important position in society to bear upon her young companionMrs
Jarley rolled them upand having put them carefully awaysat down
againand looked at the child in triumph.


'Never go into the company of a filthy Punch any more' said Mrs
Jarley'after this.'


'I never saw any wax-workma'am' said Nell. 'Is it funnier than Punch?'


'Funnier!' said Mrs Jarley in a shrill voice. 'It is not funny at all.'


'Oh!' said Nellwith all possible humility.


'It isn't funny at all' repeated Mrs Jarley. 'It's calm and--
what's that word again--critical? --no--classicalthat's it--
it's calm and classical. No low beatings and knockings aboutno
jokings and squeakings like your precious Punchesbut always the
samewith a constantly unchanging air of coldness and gentility;
and so like lifethat if wax-work only spoke and walked about
you'd hardly know the difference. I won't go so far as to say
thatas it isI've seen wax-work quite like lifebut I've
certainly seen some life that was exactly like wax-work.'


'Is it herema'am?' asked Nellwhose curiosity was awakened by
this description.


'Is what herechild?'



'The wax-workma'am.'

'Whybless youchildwhat are you thinking of? How could such
a collection be herewhere you see everything except the inside of
one little cupboard and a few boxes? It's gone on in the other
wans to the assembly-roomsand there it'll be exhibited the day
after to-morrow. You are going to the same townand you'll see it
I dare say. It's natural to expect that you'll see
itand I've no doubt you will. I suppose you couldn't stop away
if you was to try ever so much.'

'I shall not be in the townI thinkma'am' said the child.

'Not there!' cried Mrs Jarley. 'Then where will you be?'

'I--I--don't quite know. I am not certain.'

'You don't mean to say that you're travelling about the country
without knowing where you're going to?' said the lady of the
caravan. 'What curious people you are! What line are you in? You
looked to me at the raceschildas if you were quite out of your
elementand had got there by accident.'

'We were there quite by accident' returned Nellconfused by this
abrupt questioning. 'We are poor peoplema'amand are only
wandering about. We have nothing to do;--I wish we had.'

'You amaze me more and more' said Mrs Jarleyafter remaining for
some time as mute as one of her own figures. 'Whywhat do you
call yourselves? Not beggars?'

'Indeedma'amI don't know what else we are' returned the child.

'Lord bless me' said the lady of the caravan. 'I never heard of
such a thing. Who'd have thought it!'

She remained so long silent after this exclamationthat Nell
feared she felt her having been induced to bestow her protection
and conversation upon one so poorto be an outrage upon her
dignity that nothing could repair. This persuasion was rather
confirmed than otherwise by the tone in which she at length broke
silence and said

'And yet you can read. And write tooI shouldn't wonder?'

'Yesma'am' said the childfearful of giving new offence by the
confession.

'Welland what a thing that is' returned Mrs Jarley. 'I can't!'

Nell said 'indeed' in a tone which might implyeither that she was
reasonably surprised to find the genuine and only Jarleywho was
the delight of the Nobility and Gentry and the peculiar pet of the
Royal Familydestitute of these familiar arts; or that she
presumed so great a lady could scarcely stand in need of such
ordinary accomplishments. In whatever way Mrs Jarley received the
responseit did not provoke her to further questioningor tempt
her into any more remarks at the timefor she relapsed into a
thoughtful silenceand remained in that state so long that Nell
withdrew to the other window and rejoined her grandfatherwho was
now awake.

At length the lady of the caravan shook off her fit of meditation


andsummoning the driver to come under the window at which she was
seatedheld a long conversation with him in a low tone of voice
as if she were asking his advice on an important pointand
discussing the pros and cons of some very weighty matter. This
conference at length concludedshe drew in her head againand
beckoned Nell to approach.

'And the old gentleman too' said Mrs Jarley; 'for I want to have
a word with him. Do you want a good situation for your
grand-daughtermaster? If you doI can put her in the way of
getting one. What do you say?'

'I can't leave her' answered the old man. 'We can't separate.
What would become of me without her?'

'I should have thought you were old enough to take care of
yourselfif you ever will be' retorted Mrs Jarley sharply.

'But he never will be' said the child in an earnest whisper. 'I
fear he never will be again. Pray do not speak harshly to him. We
are very thankful to you' she added aloud; 'but neither of us
could part from the other if all the wealth of the world were
halved between us.'

Mrs Jarley was a little disconcerted by this reception of her
proposaland looked at the old manwho tenderly took Nell's hand
and detained it in his ownas if she could have very well
dispensed with his company or even his earthly existence. After an
awkward pauseshe thrust her head out of the window againand had
another conference with the driver upon some point on which they
did not seem to agree quite so readily as on their former topic of
discussion; but they concluded at lastand she addressed the
grandfather again.

'If you're really disposed to employ yourself' said Mrs Jarley
'there would be plenty for you to do in the way of helping to dust
the figuresand take the checksand so forth. What I want your
grand-daughter foris to point 'em out to the company; they would
be soon learntand she has a way with her that people wouldn't
think unpleasantthough she does come after me; for I've been
always accustomed to go round with visitors myselfwhich I should
keep on doing nowonly that my spirits make a little ease
absolutely necessary. It's not a common offerbear in mind' said
the ladyrising into the tone and manner in
which she was accustomed to address her audiences; 'it's Jarley's
wax-workremember. The duty's very light and genteelthe company
particularly selectthe exhibition takes place in assembly-rooms
town-hallslarge rooms at innsor auction galleries. There is
none of your open-air wagrancy at Jarley'srecollect; there is no
tarpaulin and sawdust at Jarley'sremember. Every expectation
held out in the handbills is realised to the utmostand the whole
forms an effect of imposing brilliancy hitherto unrivalled in this
kingdom. Remember that the price of admission is only sixpence
and that this is an opportunity which may never occur again!'

Descending from the sublime when she had reached this pointto the
details of common lifeMrs Jarley remarked that with reference to
salary she could pledge herself to no specific sum until she had
sufficiently tested Nell's abilitiesand narrowly watched her in
the performance of her duties. But board and lodgingboth for her
and her grandfathershe bound herself to provideand she
furthermore passed her word that the board should always be good in
qualityand in quantity plentiful.


Nell and her grandfather consulted togetherand while they were so
engagedMrs Jarley with her hands behind her walked up and down
the caravanas she had walked after tea on the dull earthwith
uncommon dignity and self-esteem. Nor will this appear so slight
a circumstance as to be unworthy of mentionwhen it is remembered
that the caravan was in uneasy motion all the timeand that none
but a person of great natural stateliness and acquired grace could
have forborne to stagger.

'Nowchild?' cried Mrs Jarleycoming to a halt as Nell turned
towards her.

'We are very much obliged to youma'am' said Nell'and
thankfully accept your offer.'

'And you'll never be sorry for it' returned Mrs Jarley. 'I'm
pretty sure of that. So as that's all settledlet us have a bit
of supper.'

In the meanwhilethe caravan blundered on as if it too had been
drinking strong beer and was drowsyand came at last upon the
paved streets of a town which were clear of passengersand quiet
for it was by this time near midnightand the townspeople were all
abed. As it was too late an hour to repair to the exhibition room
they turned aside into a piece of waste ground that lay just within
the old town-gateand drew up there for the nightnear to another
caravanwhichnotwithstanding that it bore on the lawful panel
the great name of Jarleyand was employed besides in conveying
from place to place the wax-work which was its country's pride
was designated by a grovelling stamp-office as a 'Common Stage
Waggon' and numbered too--seven thousand odd hundred--as though
its precious freight were mere flour or coals!

This ill-used machine being empty (for it had deposited its burden
at the place of exhibitionand lingered here until its services
were again required) was assigned to the old man as his
sleeping-place for the night; and within its wooden wallsNell
made him up the best bed she couldfrom the materials at hand.
For herselfshe was to sleep in Mrs Jarley's own travellingcarriage
as a signal mark of that lady's favour and confidence.

She had taken leave of her grandfather and was returning to the
other waggonwhen she was tempted by the coolness of the night to
linger for a little while in the air. The moon was shining down
upon the old gateway of the townleaving the low archway very
black and dark; and with a mingled sensation of curiosity and fear
she slowly approached the gateand stood still to look up at it
wondering to see how darkand grimand oldand coldit looked.

There was an empty niche from which some old statue had fallen or
been carried away hundreds of years agoand she was thinking what
strange people it must have looked down upon when it stood there
and how many hard struggles might have taken placeand how many
murders might have been doneupon that silent spotwhen there
suddenly emerged from the black shade of the archa man. The
instant he appearedshe recognised him--Who could have failed to
recognisein that instantthe ugly misshapen Quilp!

The street beyond was so narrowand the shadow of the houses on
one side of the way so deepthat he seemed to have risen out of
the earth. But there he was. The child withdrew into a dark
cornerand saw him pass close to her. He had a stick in his hand
andwhen he had got clear of the shadow of the gatewayhe leant
upon itlooked back--directlyas it seemedtowards where she


stood--and beckoned.

To her? oh nothank Godnot to her; for as she stoodin an
extremity of fearhesitating whether to scream for helpor come
from her hiding-place and flybefore he should draw nearer
there issued slowly forth from the arch another figure--that of a
boy--who carried on his back a trunk.

'Fastersirrah!' cried Quilplooking up at the old gatewayand
showing in the moonlight like some monstrous image that had come
down from its niche and was casting a backward glance at its old
house'faster!'

'It's a dreadful heavy loadSir' the boy pleaded. 'I've come on
very fastconsidering.'

'YOU have come fastconsidering!' retorted Quilp; 'you creepyou
dogyou crawlyou measure distance like a worm. There are the
chimes nowhalf-past twelve.'

He stopped to listenand then turning upon the boy with a
suddenness and ferocity that made him startasked at what hour
that London coach passed the corner of the road. The boy replied
at one.

'Come on then' said Quilp'or I shall be too late. Faster--do
you hear me? Faster.'

The boy made all the speed he couldand Quilp led onward
constantly turning back to threaten himand urge him to greater
haste. Nell did not dare to move until they were out of sight and
hearingand then hurried to where she had left her grandfather
feeling as if the very passing of the dwarf so near him must have
filled him with alarm and terror. But he was sleeping soundlyand
she softly withdrew.

As she was making her way to her own bedshe determined to say
nothing of this adventureas upon whatever errand the dwarf had
come (and she feared it must have been in search of them) it was
clear by his inquiry about the London coach that he was on his way
homewardand as he had passed through that placeit was but
reasonable to suppose that they were safer from his inquiries
therethan they could be elsewhere. These reflections did not
remove her own alarmfor she had been too much terrified to be
easily composedand felt as if she were hemmed in by a legion of
Quilpsand the very air itself were filled with them.

The delight of the Nobility and Gentry and the patronised of
Royalty hadby some process of self-abridgment known only to
herselfgot into her travelling bedwhere she was snoring
peacefullywhile the large bonnetcarefully disposed upon the
drumwas revealing its glories by the light of a dim lamp that
swung from the roof. The child's bed was already made upon the
floorand it was a great comfort to her to hear the steps removed
as soon as she had enteredand to know that all easy communication
between persons outside and the brass knocker was by this means
effectually prevented. Certain guttural soundstoowhich from
time to time ascended through the floor of the caravanand a
rustling of straw in the same directionapprised her that the
driver was couched upon the ground beneathand gave her an
additional feeling of security.

Notwithstanding these protectionsshe could get none but broken
sleep by fits and starts all nightfor fear of Quilpwho


throughout her uneasy dreams was somehow connected with the
wax-workor was wax-work himselfor was Mrs Jarley and wax-work
tooor was himselfMrs Jarleywax-workand a barrel organ all
in oneand yet not exactly any of them either. At lengthtowards
break of daythat deep sleep came upon her which succeeds to
weariness and over-watchingand which has no consciousness
but one of overpowering and irresistible enjoyment.

CHAPTER 28

Sleep hung upon the eyelids of the child so longthatwhen she
awokeMrs Jarley was already decorated with her large bonnetand
actively engaged in preparing breakfast. She received Nell's
apology for being so late with perfect good humourand said that
she should not have roused her if she had slept on until noon.

'Because it does you good' said the lady of the caravan'when
you're tiredto sleep as long as ever you canand get the fatigue
quite off; and that's another blessing of your time of life--you
can sleep so very sound.'

'Have you had a bad nightma'am?' asked Nell.

'I seldom have anything elsechild' replied Mrs Jarleywith the
air of a martyr. 'I sometimes wonder how I bear it.'

Remembering the snores which had proceeded from that cleft in the
caravan in which the proprietress of the wax-work passed the night
Nell rather thought she must have been dreaming of lying awake.
Howevershe expressed herself very sorry to hear such a dismal
account of her state of healthand shortly afterwards sat down
with her grandfather and Mrs Jarley to breakfast. The meal
finishedNell assisted to wash the cups and saucersand put them
in their proper placesand these household duties performedMrs
Jarley arrayed herself in an exceedingly bright shawl for the
purpose of making a progress through the streets of the town.

'The wan will come on to bring the boxes' said Mrs Jarleyand you
had better come in itchild. I am obliged to walkvery much
against my will; but the people expect it of meand public
characters can't be their own masters and mistresses in such
matters as these. How do I lookchild?'

Nell returned a satisfactory replyand Mrs Jarleyafter sticking
a great many pins into various parts of her figureand making
several abortive attempts to obtain a full view of her own back
was at last satisfied with her appearanceand went forth
majestically.

The caravan followed at no great distance. As it went jolting
through the streetsNell peeped from the windowcurious to see in
what kind of place they wereand yet fearful of encountering at
every turn the dreaded face of Quilp. It was a pretty large town
with an open square which they were crawling slowly acrossand in
the middle of which was the Town-Hallwith a clock-tower and a
weather-cock. There were houses of stonehouses of red brick
houses of yellow brickhouses of lath and plaster; and houses of
woodmany of them very oldwith withered faces carved upon the
beamsand staring down into the street. These had very little


winking windowsand low-arched doorsandin some of the narrower
waysquite overhung the pavement. The streets were very clean
very sunnyvery emptyand very dull. A few idle men lounged
about the two innsand the empty market-placeand the tradesmen's
doorsand some old people were dozing in chairs outside an
alms-house wall; but scarcely any passengers who seemed bent on
going anywhereor to have any object in viewwent by; and if
perchance some straggler didhis footsteps echoed on the hot
bright pavement for minutes afterwards. Nothing seemed to be going
on but the clocksand they had such drowzy facessuch heavy lazy
handsand such cracked voices that they surely must have been too
slow. The very dogs were all asleepand the fliesdrunk with
moist sugar in the grocer's shopforgot their wings and briskness
and baked to death in dusty corners of the window.

Rumbling along with most unwonted noisethe caravan stopped at
last at the place of exhibitionwhere Nell dismounted amidst an
admiring group of childrenwho evidently supposed her to be an
important item of the curiositiesand were fully impressed with
the belief that her grandfather was a cunning device in wax. The
chests were taken out with all convenient despatchand taken in to
be unlocked by Mrs Jarleywhoattended by George and another man
in velveteen shorts and a drab hat ornamented with turnpike
ticketswere waiting to dispose their contents (consisting of red
festoons and other ornamental devices in upholstery work) to the
best advantage in the decoration of the room.

They all got to work without loss of timeand very busy they were.
As the stupendous collection were yet concealed by clothslest the
envious dust should injure their complexionsNell bestirred
herself to assist in the embellishment of the roomin which her
grandfather also was of great service. The two men being well used
to itdid a great deal in a short time; and Mrs Jarley served out
the tin tacks from a linen pocket like a toll-collector's which she
wore for the purposeand encouraged her assistants to renewed
exertion.

While they were thus employeda tallish gentleman with a hook nose
and black hairdressed in a military surtout very short and tight
in the sleevesand which had once been frogged and braided all
overbut was now sadly shorn of its garniture and quite threadbare-dressed
too in ancient grey pantaloons fitting tight to the leg
and a pair of pumps in the winter of their existence--looked in at
the door and smiled affably. Mrs Jarley's back being then towards
himthe military gentleman shook his forefinger as a sign that her
myrmidons were not to apprise her of his presenceand stealing up
close behind hertapped her on the neckand cried playfully
'Boh!'

'WhatMr Slum!' cried the lady of the wax-work. 'Lot! who'd have
thought of seeing you here!'

''Pon my soul and honour' said Mr Slum'that's a good remark.
'Pon my soul and honour that's a wise remark. Who would have
thought it! Georgemy faithful fellerhow are you?'

George received this advance with a surly indifferenceobserving
that he was well enough for the matter of thatand hammering
lustily all the time.

'I came here' said the military gentleman turning to Mrs Jarley-''
pon my soul and honour I hardly know what I came here for. It
would puzzle me to tell youit would by Gad. I wanted a little
inspirationa little freshening upa little change of ideasand-



'Pon my soul and honour' said the military gentlemanchecking
himself and looking round the room'what a devilish classical
thing this is! by Gadit's quite Minervian.'

'It'll look well enough when it comes to be finished' observed Mrs Jarley.

'Well enough!' said Mr Slum. 'Will you believe me when I say it's
the delight of my life to have dabbled in poetrywhen I think I've
exercised my pen upon this charming theme? By the way--any
orders? Is there any little thing I can do for you?'

'It comes so very expensivesir' replied Mrs Jarley'and I
really don't think it does much good.'

'Hush! Nono!' returned Mr Slumelevating his hand. 'No fibs.
I'll not hear it. Don't say it don't do good. Don't say it. I
know better!'

'I don't think it does' said Mrs Jarley.

'Haha!' cried Mr Slum'you're giving wayyou're coming down.
Ask the perfumersask the blacking-makersask the hattersask
the old lottery-office-keepers--ask any man among 'em what my
poetry has done for himand mark my wordshe blesses the name of
Slum. If he's an honest manhe raises his eyes to heavenand
blesses the name of Slum--mark that! You are acquainted with
Westminster AbbeyMrs Jarley?'

'Yessurely.'

'Then upon my soul and honourma'amyou'll find in a certain
angle of that dreary pilecalled Poets' Cornera few smaller
names than Slum' retorted that gentlemantapping himself
expressively on the forehead to imply that there was some slight
quantity of brain behind it. 'I've got a little trifle herenow'
said Mr Slumtaking off his hat which was full of scraps of paper
'a little trifle herethrown off in the heat of the momentwhich
I should say was exactly the thing you wanted to set this place on
fire with. It's an acrostic--the name at this moment is Warren
and the idea's a convertible oneand a positive inspiration for
Jarley. Have the acrostic.'

'I suppose it's very dear' said Mrs Jarley.

'Five shillings' returned Mr Slumusing his pencil as a
toothpick. 'Cheaper than any prose.'

'I couldn't give more than three' said Mrs Jarley.

'--And six' retorted Slum. 'Come. Three-and-six.'

Mrs Jarley was not proof against the poet's insinuating mannerand
Mr Slum entered the order in a small note-book as a
three-and-sixpenny one. Mr Slum then withdrew to alter the
acrosticafter taking a most affectionate leave of his patroness
and promising to returnas soon as he possibly couldwith a fair
copy for the printer.

As his presence had not interfered with or interrupted the
preparationsthey were now far advancedand were completed
shortly after his departure. When the festoons were all put up as
tastily as they might bethe stupendous collection was uncovered
and there were displayedon a raised platform some two feet from
the floorrunning round the room and parted from the rude public


by a crimson rope breast highdivers sprightly effigies of
celebrated characterssingly and in groupsclad in glittering
dresses of various climes and timesand standing more or less
unsteadily upon their legswith their eyes very wide openand
their nostrils very much inflatedand the muscles of their legs
and arms very strongly developedand all their countenances
expressing great surprise. All the gentlemen were very
pigeon-breasted and very blue about the beards; and all the ladies
were miraculous figures; and all the ladies and all the gentlemen
were looking intensely nowhereand staring with extraordinary
earnestness at nothing.

When Nell had exhausted her first raptures at this glorious sight
Mrs Jarley ordered the room to be cleared of all but herself and
the childandsitting herself down in an arm-chair in the centre
formally invested Nell with a willow wandlong used by herself for
pointing out the charactersand was at great pains to instruct her
in her duty.

'That' said Mrs Jarley in her exhibition toneas Nell touched a
figure at the beginning of the platform'is an unfortunate Maid of
Honour in the Time of Queen Elizabethwho died from pricking her
finger in consequence of working upon a Sunday. Observe the blood
which is trickling from her finger; also the gold-eyed needle of
the periodwith which she is at work.'

All thisNell repeated twice or thrice: pointing to the finger and
the needle at the right times: and then passed on to the next.

'Thatladies and gentlemen' said Mrs Jarley'is jasper
Packlemerton of atrocious memorywho courted and married fourteen
wivesand destroyed them allby tickling the soles of their feet
when they were sleeping in the consciousness of innocence and
virtue. On being brought to the scaffold and asked if he was sorry
for what he had donehe replied yeshe was sorry for having let
'em off so easyand hoped all Christian husbands would pardon him
the offence. Let this be a warning to all young ladies to be
particular in the character of the gentlemen of their choice.
Observe that his fingers are curled as if in the act of tickling
and that his face is represented with a winkas he appeared when
committing his barbarous murders.'

When Nell knew all about Mr Packlemertonand could say it without
falteringMrs Jarley passed on to the fat manand then to the
thin manthe tall manthe short manthe old lady who died of
dancing at a hundred and thirty-twothe wild boy of the woodsthe
woman who poisoned fourteen families with pickled walnutsand
other historical characters and interesting but misguided
individuals. And so well did Nell profit by her instructionsand
so apt was she to remember themthat by the time they had been
shut up together for a couple of hoursshe was in full possession
of the history of the whole establishmentand perfectly competent
to the enlightenment of visitors.

Mrs Jarley was not slow to express her admiration at this happy
resultand carried her young friend and pupil to inspect the
remaining arrangements within doorsby virtue of which the passage
had been already converted into a grove of green-baize hung with
the inscription she had already seen (Mr Slum's productions)and
a highly ornamented table placed at the upper end for Mrs Jarley
herselfat which she was to preside and take the moneyin company
with his Majesty King George the ThirdMr Grimaldi as clownMary
Queen of Scotsan anonymous gentleman of the Quaker persuasion
and Mr Pitt holding in his hand a correct model of the bill for the


imposition of the window duty. The preparations without doors had
not been neglected either; a nun of great personal attractions was
telling her beads on the little portico over the door; and a
brigand with the blackest possible head of hairand the clearest
possible complexionwas at that moment going round the town in a
cartconsulting the miniature of a lady.

It now only remained that Mr Slum's compositions should be
judiciously distributed; that the pathetic effusions should find
their way to all private houses and tradespeople; and that the
parody commencing 'If I know'd a donkey' should be confined to the
tavernsand circulated only among the lawyers' clerks and choice
spirits of the place. When this had been doneand Mrs Jarley had
waited upon the boarding-schools in personwith a handbill
composed expressly for themin which it was distinctly proved that
wax-work refined the mindcultivated the tasteand enlarged the
sphere of the human understandingthat indefatigable lady sat down
to dinnerand drank out of the suspicious bottle to a flourishing
campaign.

CHAPTER 29

Unquestionably Mrs Jarley had an inventive genius. In the midst of
the various devices for attracting visitors to the exhibition
little Nell was not forgotten. The light cart in which the Brigand
usually made his perambulations being gaily dressed with flags and
streamersand the Brigand placed thereincontemplating the
miniature of his beloved as usualNell was accommodated with a
seat beside himdecorated with artificial flowersand in this
state and ceremony rode slowly through the town every morning
dispersing handbills from a basketto the sound of drum and
trumpet. The beauty of the childcoupled with her gentle and
timid bearingproduced quite a sensation in the little country
place. The Brigandheretofore a source of exclusive interest in
the streetsbecame a mere secondary considerationand to be
important only as a part of the show of which she was the chief
attraction. Grown-up folks began to be interested in the
bright-eyed girland some score of little boys fell desperately in
loveand constantly left enclosures of nuts and applesdirected
in small-textat the wax-work door.

This desirable impression was not lost on Mrs Jarleywholest
Nell should become too cheapsoon sent the Brigand out alone
againand kept her in the exhibition roomwhere she described the
figures every half-hour to the great satisfaction of admiring
audiences. And these audiences were of a very superior
descriptionincluding a great many young ladies' boarding-schools
whose favour Mrs Jarley had been at great pains to conciliateby
altering the face and costume of Mr Grimaldi as clown to represent
Mr Lindley Murray as he appeared when engaged in the composition of
his English Grammarand turning a murderess of great renown into
Mrs Hannah More--both of which likenesses were admitted by Miss
Monflatherswho was at the head of the head Boarding and Day
Establishment in the townand who condescended to take a Private
View with eight chosen young ladiesto be quite startling from
their extreme correctness. Mr Pitt in a nightcap and bedgownand
without his bootsrepresented the poet Cowper with perfect
exactness; and Mary Queen of Scots in a dark wigwhite
shirt-collarand male attirewas such a complete image of Lord
Byron that the young ladies quite screamed when they saw it. Miss


Monflathershoweverrebuked this enthusiasmand took occasion to
reprove Mrs Jarley for not keeping her collection more select:
observing that His Lordship had held certain opinions quite
incompatible with wax-work honoursand adding something about a
Dean and Chapterwhich Mrs Jarley did not understand.

Although her duties were sufficiently laboriousNell found in the
lady of the caravan a very kind and considerate personwho had not
only a peculiar relish for being comfortable herselfbut for
making everybody about her comfortable also; which latter tasteit
may be remarkediseven in persons who live in much finer places
than caravansa far more rare and uncommon one than the firstand
is not by any means its necessary consequence. As her popularity
procured her various little fees from the visitors on which her
patroness never demanded any tolland as her grandfather too was
well-treated and usefulshe had no cause of anxiety in connexion
with the wax-workbeyond that which sprung from her recollection
of Quilpand her fears that he might return and one day suddenly
encounter them.

Quilp indeed was a perpetual night-mare to the childwho was
constantly haunted by a vision of his ugly face and stunted figure.
She sleptfor their better securityin the room where the
wax-work figures wereand she never retired to this place at night
but she tortured herself--she could not help it--with imagining
a resemblancein some one or other of their death-like facesto
the dwarfand this fancy would sometimes so gain upon her that she
would almost believe he had removed the figure and stood within the
clothes. Then there were so many of them with their great glassy
eyes--andas they stood one behind the other all about her bed
they looked so like living creaturesand yet so unlike in their
grim stillness and silencethat she had a kind of terror of them
for their own sakesand would often lie watching their dusky
figures until she was obliged to rise and light a candleor go and
sit at the open window and feel a companionship in the bright
stars. At these timesshe would recall the old house and the
window at which she used to sit alone; and then she would think of
poor Kit and all his kindnessuntil the tears came into her eyes
and she would weep and smile together.

Often and anxiously at this silent hourher thoughts reverted to
her grandfatherand she would wonder how much he remembered of
their former lifeand whether he was ever really mindful of the
change in their condition and of their late helplessness and
destitution. When they were wandering aboutshe seldom thought of
thisbut now she could not help considering what would become of
them if he fell sickor her own strength were to fail her. He was
very patient and willinghappy to execute any little taskand
glad to be of use; but he was in the same listless statewith no
prospect of improvement--a mere child--a poorthoughtless
vacant creature--a harmless fond old mansusceptible of tender
love and regard for herand of pleasant and painful impressions
but alive to nothing more. It made her very sad to know that this
was so--so sad to see it that sometimes when he sat idly by
smiling and nodding to her when she looked roundor when he
caressed some little child and carried it to and froas he was
fond of doing by the hour togetherperplexed by its simple
questionsyet patient under his own infirmityand seeming almost
conscious of it tooand humbled even before the mind of an infant-so
sad it made her to see him thusthat she would burst into
tearsandwithdrawing into some secret placefall down upon her
knees and pray that he might be restored.

Butthe bitterness of her grief was not in beholding him in this


conditionwhen he was at least content and tranquilnor in her
solitary meditations on his altered statethough these were trials
for a young heart. Cause for deeper and heavier sorrow was yet to
come.

One eveninga holiday night with themNell and her grandfather
went out to walk. They had been rather closely confined for some
daysand the weather being warmthey strolled a long distance.
Clear of the townthey took a footpath which struck through some
pleasant fieldsjudging that it would terminate in the road they
quitted and enable them to return that way. It madehowevera
much wider circuit than they had supposedand thus they were
tempted onward until sunsetwhen they reached the track of which
they were in searchand stopped to rest.

It had been gradually getting overcastand now the sky was dark
and loweringsave where the glory of the departing sun piled up
masses of gold and burning firedecaying embers of which gleamed
here and there through the black veiland shone redly down upon
the earth. The wind began to moan in hollow murmursas the sun
went down carrying glad day elsewhere; and a train of dull clouds
coming up against itmenaced thunder and lightning. Large drops
of rain soon began to fallandas the storm clouds came sailing
onwardothers supplied the void they left behind and spread over
all the sky. Then was heard the low rumbling of distant thunder
then the lightning quiveredand then the darkness of an hour
seemed to have gathered in an instant.

Fearful of taking shelter beneath a tree or hedgethe old man and
the child hurried along the high roadhoping to find some house in
which they could seek a refuge from the stormwhich had now burst
forth in earnestand every moment increased in violence. Drenched
with the pelting rainconfused by the deafening thunderand
bewildered by the glare of the forked lightningthey would have
passed a solitary house without being aware of its vicinityhad
not a manwho was standing at the doorcalled lustily to them to
enter.

'Your ears ought to be better than other folks' at any rateif you
make so little of the chance of being struck blind' he said
retreating from the door and shading his eyes with his hands as the
jagged lightning came again. 'What were you going past foreh?'
he addedas he closed the door and led the way along a passage to
a room behind.

'We didn't see the housesirtill we heard you calling' Nell
replied.

'No wonder' said the man'with this lightning in one's eyes
by-the-by. You had better stand by the fire hereand dry
yourselves a bit. You can call for what you like if you want
anything. If you don't want anythingyou are not obliged to give
an order. Don't be afraid of that. This is a public-housethat's
all. The Valiant Soldier is pretty well known hereabouts.'

'Is this house called the Valiant SoldierSir?' asked Nell.

'I thought everybody knew that' replied the landlord. 'Where have
you come fromif you don't know the Valiant Soldier as well as the
church catechism? This is the Valiant Soldierby James Groves--
Jem Groves--honest Jem Grovesas is a man of unblemished moral
characterand has a good dry skittle-ground. If any man has got
anything to say again Jem Groveslet him say it TO Jem Grovesand
Jem Groves can accommodate him with a customer on any terms from


four pound a side to forty.

With these wordsthe speaker tapped himself on the waistcoat to
intimate that he was the Jem Groves so highly eulogized; sparred
scientifically at a counterfeit Jem Groveswho was sparring at
society in general from a black frame over the chimney-piece; and
applying a half-emptied glass of spirits and water to his lips
drank Jem Groves's health.

The night being warmthere was a large screen drawn across the
roomfor a barrier against the heat of the fire. It seemed as if
somebody on the other side of this screen had been insinuating
doubts of Mr Groves's prowessand had thereby given rise to these
egotistical expressionsfor Mr Groves wound up his defiance by
giving a loud knock upon it with his knuckles and pausing for a
reply from the other side.

'There an't many men' said Mr Grovesno answer being returned
'who would ventur' to cross Jem Groves under his own roof. There's
only one manI knowthat has nerve enough for thatand that
man's not a hundred mile from here neither. But he's worth a dozen
menand I let him say of me whatever he likes in consequence--he
knows that.'

In return for this complimentary addressa very gruff hoarse voice
bade Mr Groves 'hold his noise and light a candle.' And the same
voice remarked that the same gentleman 'needn't waste his breath in
bragfor most people knew pretty well what sort of stuff he was
made of.'

'Nellthey're--they're playing cards' whispered the old man
suddenly interested. 'Don't you hear them?'

'Look sharp with that candle' said the voice; 'it's as much as I
can do to see the pips on the cards as it is; and get this shutter
closed as quick as you canwill you? Your beer will be the worse
for to-night's thunder I expect. --Game! Seven-and-sixpence to
meold Isaac. Hand over.'

'Do you hearNelldo you hear them?' whispered the old man again
with increased earnestnessas the money chinked upon the table.

'I haven't seen such a storm as this' said a sharp cracked voice
of most disagreeable qualitywhen a tremendous peal of thunder had
died away'since the night when old Luke Withers won thirteen
times running on the red. We all said he had the Devil's luck and
his ownand as it was the kind of night for the Devil to be out
and busyI suppose he was looking over his shoulderif anybody
could have seen him.'

'Ah!' returned the gruff voice; 'for all old Luke's winning through
thick and thin of late yearsI remember the time when he was the
unluckiest and unfortunatest of men. He never took a dice-box in
his handor held a cardbut he was pluckedpigeonedand cleaned
out completely.'

'Do you hear what he says?' whispered the old man. 'Do you hear
thatNell?'

The child saw with astonishment and alarm that his whole appearance
had undergone a complete change. His face was flushed and eager
his eyes were strainedhis teeth sethis breath came short and
thickand the hand he laid upon her arm trembled so violently that
she shook beneath its grasp.


'Bear witness' he mutteredlooking upward'that I always said
it; that I knew itdreamed of itfelt it was the truthand that
it must be so! What money have weNell? Come! I saw you with
money yesterday. What money have we? Give it to me.'

'Nonolet me keep itgrandfather' said the frightened child.
'Let us go away from here. Do not mind the rain. Pray let us go.'

'Give it to meI say' returned the old man fiercely. 'Hush
hushdon't cryNell. If I spoke sharplydearI didn't mean it.
It's for thy good. I have wronged theeNellbut I will right
thee yetI will indeed. Where is the money?'

'Do not take it' said the child. 'Pray do not take itdear. For
both our sakes let me keep itor let me throw it away--better let
me throw it awaythan you take it now. Let us go; do let us go.'

'Give me the money' returned the old man'I must have it. There-there--
that's my dear Nell. I'll right thee one daychild
I'll right theenever fear!'

She took from her pocket a little purse. He seized it with the
same rapid impatience which had characterised his speechand
hastily made his way to the other side of the screen. It was
impossible to restrain himand the trembling child followed close
behind.

The landlord had placed a light upon the tableand was engaged in
drawing the curtain of the window. The speakers whom they had
heard were two menwho had a pack of cards and some silver money
between themwhile upon the screen itself the games they had
played were scored in chalk. The man with the rough voice was a
burly fellow of middle agewith large black whiskersbroad
cheeksa coarse wide mouthand bull neckwhich was pretty freely
displayed as his shirt collar was only confined by a loose red
neckerchief. He wore his hatwhich was of a brownish-whiteand
had beside him a thick knotted stick. The other manwhom his
companion had called Isaacwas of a more slender figure-stooping
and high in the shoulders--with a very ill-favoured
faceand a most sinister and villainous squint.

'Now old gentleman' said Isaaclooking round. 'Do you know
either of us? This side of the screen is privatesir.'

'No offenceI hope' returned the old man.

'But by G--sirthere is offence' said the otherinterrupting
him'when you intrude yourself upon a couple of gentlemen who are
particularly engaged.'

'I had no intention to offend' said the old manlooking anxiously
at the cards. 'I thought that--'

'But you had no right to thinksir' retorted the other. 'What
the devil has a man at your time of life to do with thinking?'

'Now bully boy' said the stout manraising his eyes from his
cards for the first time'can't you let him speak?'

The landlordwho had apparently resolved to remain neutral until
he knew which side of the question the stout man would espouse
chimed in at this place with 'Ahto be surecan't you let him
speakIsaac List?'


'Can't I let him speak' sneered Isaac in replymimicking as
nearly as he couldin his shrill voicethe tones of the landlord.
'YesI can let him speakJemmy Groves.'

'Well thendo itwill you?' said the landlord.

Mr List's squint assumed a portentous characterwhich seemed to
threaten a prolongation of this controversywhen his companion
who had been looking sharply at the old manput a timely stop to
it.

'Who knows' said hewith a cunning look'but the gentleman may
have civilly meant to ask if he might have the honour to take a
hand with us!'

'I did mean it' cried the old man. 'That is what I mean. That is
what I want now!'

'I thought so' returned the same man. 'Then who knows but the
gentlemananticipating our objection to play for lovecivilly
desired to play for money?'

The old man replied by shaking the little purse in his eager hand
and then throwing it down upon the tableand gathering up the
cards as a miser would clutch at gold.

'Oh! That indeed' said Isaac; 'if that's what the gentleman
meantI beg the gentleman's pardon. Is this the gentleman's
little purse? A very pretty little purse. Rather a light purse'
added Isaacthrowing it into the air and catching it dexterously
'but enough to amuse a gentleman for half an hour or so.'

'We'll make a four-handed game of itand take in Groves' said the
stout man. 'ComeJemmy.'

The landlordwho conducted himself like one who was well used to
such little partiesapproached the table and took his seat. The
childin a perfect agonydrew her grandfather asideand implored
himeven thento come away.

'Come; and we may be so happy' said the child.

'We WILL be happy' replied the old man hastily. 'Let me goNell.
The means of happiness are on the cards and the dice. We must rise
from little winnings to great. There's little to be won here; but
great will come in time. I shall but win back my ownand it's all
for theemy darling.'

'God help us!' cried the child. 'Oh! what hard fortune brought us
here?'

'Hush!' rejoined the old man laying his hand upon her mouth
'Fortune will not bear chiding. We must not reproach heror she
shuns us; I have found that out.'

'Nowmister' said the stout man. 'If you're not coming yourself
give us the cardswill you?'

'I am coming' cried the old man. 'Sit thee downNellsit thee
down and look on. Be of good heartit's all for thee--all-every
penny. I don't tell themnonoor else they wouldn't
playdreading the chance that such a cause must give me. Look at
them. See what they are and what thou art. Who doubts that we


must win!'

'The gentleman has thought better of itand isn't coming' said
Isaacmaking as though he would rise from the table. 'I'm sorry
the gentleman's daunted--nothing venturenothing have--but the
gentleman knows best.'

'Why I am ready. You have all been slow but me' said the old man.
'I wonder who is more anxious to begin than I.'

As he spoke he drew a chair to the table; and the other three
closing round it at the same timethe game commenced.

The child sat byand watched its progress with a troubled mind.
Regardless of the run of luckand mindful only of the desperate
passion which had its hold upon her grandfatherlosses and gains
were to her alike. Exulting in some brief triumphor cast down by
a defeatthere he sat so wild and restlessso feverishly and
intensely anxiousso terribly eagerso ravenous for the paltry
stakesthat she could have almost better borne to see him dead.
And yet she was the innocent cause of all this tortureand he
gambling with such a savage thirst for gain as the most insatiable
gambler never felthad not one selfish thought!

On the contrarythe other three--knaves and gamesters by their
trade--while intent upon their gamewere yet as cool and quiet as
if every virtue had been centered in their breasts. Sometimes one
would look up to smile to anotheror to snuff the feeble candle
or to glance at the lightning as it shot through the open window
and fluttering curtainor to listen to some louder peal of thunder
than the restwith a kind of momentary impatienceas if it put
him out; but there they satwith a calm indifference to everything
but their cardsperfect philosophers in appearanceand with no
greater show of passion or excitement than if they had been
made of stone.

The storm had raged for full three hours; the lightning had grown
fainter and less frequent; the thunderfrom seeming to roll and
break above their headshad gradually died away into a deep hoarse
distance; and still the game went onand still the anxious child
was quite forgotten.

CHAPTER 30

At length the play came to an endand Mr Isaac List rose the only
winner. Mat and the landlord bore their losses with professional
fortitude. Isaac pocketed his gains with the air of a man who had
quite made up his mind to winall alongand was neither surprised
nor pleased.

Nell's little purse was exhausted; but although it lay empty by his
sideand the other players had now risen from the tablethe old
man sat poring over the cardsdealing them as they had been dealt
beforeand turning up the different hands to see what each man
would have held if they had still been playing. He was quite
absorbed in this occupationwhen the child drew near and laid her
hand upon his shouldertelling him it was near midnight.

'See the curse of povertyNell' he saidpointing to the packs he
had spread out upon the table. 'If I could have gone on a little


longeronly a little longerthe luck would have turned on my
side. Yesit's as plain as the marks upon the cards. See here--
and there--and here again.'


'Put them away' urged the child. 'Try to forget them.'


'Try to forget them!' he rejoinedraising his haggard face to
hersand regarding her with an incredulous stare. 'To forget
them! How are we ever to grow rich if I forget them?'


The child could only shake her head.


'NonoNell' said the old manpatting her cheek; 'they must not
be forgotten. We must make amends for this as soon as we can.
Patience--patienceand we'll right thee yetI promise thee.
Lose to-daywin to-morrow. And nothing can be won without anxiety
and care--nothing. ComeI am ready.'


'Do you know what the time is?' said Mr Groveswho was smoking
with his friends. 'Past twelve o'clock--'


'--And a rainy night' added the stout man.


'The Valiant Soldierby James Groves. Good beds. Cheap
entertainment for man and beast' said Mr Grovesquoting his
sign-board. 'Half-past twelve o'clock.'


'It's very late' said the uneasy child. 'I wish we had gone
before. What will they think of us! It will be two o'clock by the
time we get back. What would it costsirif we stopped here?'


'Two good bedsone-and-sixpence; supper and beer one shilling;
total two shillings and sixpence' replied the Valiant Soldier.


NowNell had still the piece of gold sewn in her dress; and when
she came to consider the lateness of the hourand the somnolent
habits of Mrs Jarleyand to imagine the state of consternation in
which they would certainly throw that good lady by knocking her up
in the middle of the night--and when she reflectedon the other
handthat if they remained where they wereand rose early in the
morningthey might get back before she awokeand could plead the
violence of the storm by which they had been overtakenas a good
apology for their absence--she decidedafter a great deal of
hesitationto remain. She therefore took her grandfather aside
and telling him that she had still enough left to defray the cost
of their lodgingproposed that they should stay there for the
night.


'If I had had but that money before--If I had only known of it a
few minutes ago!' muttered the old man.


'We will decide to stop here if you please' said Nellturning
hastily to the landlord.


'I think that's prudent' returned Mr Groves. 'You shall have your
suppers directly.'


Accordinglywhen Mr Groves had smoked his pipe outknocked out
the ashesand placed it carefully in a corner of the fire-place
with the bowl downwardshe brought in the bread and cheeseand
beerwith many high encomiums upon their excellenceand bade his
guests fall toand make themselves at home. Nell and her
grandfather ate sparinglyfor both were occupied with their own
reflections; the other gentlemenfor whose constitutions beer was



too weak and tame a liquidconsoled themselves with spirits and
tobacco.

As they would leave the house very early in the morningthe child
was anxious to pay for their entertainment before they retired to
bed. But as she felt the necessity of concealing her
little hoard from her grandfatherand had to change the piece of
goldshe took it secretly from its place of concealmentand
embraced an opportunity of following the landlord when he went out
of the roomand tendered it to him in the little bar.

'Will you give me the change hereif you please?' said the child.

Mr James Groves was evidently surprisedand looked at the money
and rang itand looked at the childand at the money againas
though he had a mind to inquire how she came by it. The coin being
genuinehoweverand changed at his househe probably feltlike
a wise landlordthat it was no business of his. At any ratehe
counted out the changeand gave it her. The child was returning
to the room where they had passed the eveningwhen she fancied she
saw a figure just gliding in at the door. There was nothing but a
long dark passage between this door and the place where she had
changed the moneyandbeing very certain that no person had
passed in or out while she stood therethe thought struck her that
she had been watched.

But by whom? When she re-entered the roomshe found its inmates
exactly as she had left them. The stout fellow lay upon two
chairsresting his head on his handand the squinting man reposed
in a similar attitude on the opposite side of the table. Between
them sat her grandfatherlooking intently at the winner with a
kind of hungry admirationand hanging upon his words as if he were
some superior being. She was puzzled for a momentand looked
round to see if any else were there. No. Then she asked her
grandfather in a whisper whether anybody had left the room while
she was absent. 'No' he said'nobody.'

It must have been her fancy then; and yet it was strangethat
without anything in her previous thoughts to lead to itshe should
have imagined this figure so very distinctly. She was still
wondering and thinking of itwhen a girl came to light her to bed.

The old man took leave of the company at the same timeand they
went up stairs together. It was a greatrambling housewith dull
corridors and wide staircases which the flaring candles seemed to
make more gloomy. She left her grandfather in his chamberand
followed her guide to anotherwhich was at the end of a passage
and approached by some half-dozen crazy steps. This was prepared
for her. The girl lingered a little while to talkand tell her
grievances. She had not a good placeshe said; the wages were
lowand the work was hard. She was going to leave it in a
fortnight; the child couldn't recommend her to anothershe
supposed? Instead she was afraid another would be difficult to
get after living therefor the house had a very indifferent
character; there was far too much card-playingand such like.
She was very much mistaken if some of the people who
came there oftenest were quite as honest as they might bebut she
wouldn't have it known that she had said sofor the world. Then
there were some rambling allusions to a rejected sweetheartwho
had threatened to go a soldiering--a final promise of knocking at
the door early in the morning--and 'Good night.'

The child did not feel comfortable when she was left alone. She
could not help thinking of the figure stealing through the passage


down stairs; and what the girl had said did not tend to reassure
her. The men were very ill-looking. They might get their living
by robbing and murdering travellers. Who could tell?

Reasoning herself out of these fearsor losing sight of them for
a little whilethere came the anxiety to which the adventures of
the night gave rise. Here was the old passion awakened again in
her grandfather's breastand to what further distraction it might
tempt him Heaven only knew. What fears their absence might have
occasioned already! Persons might be seeking for them even then.
Would they be forgiven in the morningor turned adrift again! Oh!
why had they stopped in that strange place? It would have been
betterunder any circumstancesto have gone on!

At lastsleep gradually stole upon her--a brokenfitful sleep
troubled by dreams of falling from high towersand waking with a
start and in great terror. A deeper slumber followed this--and
then--What! That figure in the room.

A figure was there. Yesshe had drawn up the blind to admit the
light when it should be dawnand therebetween the foot of the
bed and the dark casementit crouched and slunk alonggroping its
way with noiseless handsand stealing round the bed. She had no
voice to cry for helpno power to movebut lay stillwatching
it.

On it came--onsilently and stealthilyto the bed's head. The
breath so near her pillowthat she shrunk back into itlest those
wandering hands should light upon her face. Back again it stole to
the window--then turned its head towards her.

The dark form was a mere blot upon the lighter darkness of the
roombut she saw the turning of the headand felt and knew how
the eyes looked and the ears listened. There it remained
motionless as she. At lengthstill keeping the face towards her
it busied its hands in somethingand she heard the chink of money.

Thenon it came againsilent and stealthy as beforeand
replacing the garments it had taken from the bedsidedropped upon
its hands and kneesand crawled away. How slowly it seemed to
movenow that she could hear but not see itcreeping along the
floor! It reached the door at lastand stood upon its feet. The
steps creaked beneath its noiseless treadand it was gone.

The first impulse of the child was to fly from the terror of being
by herself in that room--to have somebody by--not to be alone-and
then her power of speech would be restored. With no
consciousness of having movedshe gained the door.

There was the dreadful shadowpausing at the bottom of the steps.

She could not pass it; she might have done soperhapsin the
darkness without being seizedbut her blood curdled at the
thought. The figure stood quite stilland so did she; not boldly
but of necessity; for going back into the room was hardly less
terrible than going on.

The rain beat fast and furiously withoutand ran down in plashing
streams from the thatched roof. Some summer insectwith no escape
into the airflew blindly to and frobeating its body against the
walls and ceilingand filling the silent place with murmurs. The
figure moved again. The child involuntarily did the same. Once in
her grandfather's roomshe would be safe.


It crept along the passage until it came to the very door she
longed so ardently to reach. The childin the agony of being so
nearhad almost darted forward with the design of bursting into
the room and closing it behind herwhen the figure stopped again.

The idea flashed suddenly upon her--what if it entered thereand
had a design upon the old man's life! She turned faint and sick.
It did. It went in. There was a light inside. The figure was now
within the chamberand shestill dumb--quite dumband almost
senseless--stood looking on.

The door was partly open. Not knowing what she meant to dobut
meaning to preserve him or be killed herselfshe staggered forward
and looked in.

What sight was that which met her view!

The bed had not been lain onbut was smooth and empty. And at a
table sat the old man himself; the only living creature there; his
white face pinched and sharpened by the greediness which made his
eyes unnaturally bright--counting the money of which his hands had
robbed her.

CHAPTER 31

With steps more faltering and unsteady than those with which she
had approached the roomthe child withdrew from the doorand
groped her way back to her own chamber. The terror she had lately
felt was nothing compared with that which now oppressed her. No
strange robberno treacherous host conniving at the plunder of his
guestsor stealing to their beds to kill them in their sleepno
nightly prowlerhowever terrible and cruelcould have awakened in
her bosom half the dread which the recognition of her silent
visitor inspired. The grey-headed old man gliding like a ghost
into her room and acting the thief while he supposed her fast
asleepthen bearing off his prize and hanging over it with the
ghastly exultation she had witnessedwas worse--immeasurably
worseand far more dreadfulfor the momentto reflect upon-than
anything her wildest fancy could have suggested. If he should
return--there was no lock or bolt upon the doorand if
distrustful of having left some money yet behindhe should come
back to seek for more--a vague awe and horror surrounded the idea
of his slinking in again with stealthy treadand turning his face
toward the empty bedwhile she shrank down close at his feet to
avoid his touchwhich was almost insupportable. She sat and
listened. Hark! A footstep on the stairsand now the door was
slowly opening. It was but imaginationyet imagination had all
the terrors of reality; nayit was worsefor the reality would
have come and goneand there an endbut in imagination it was
always comingand never went away.

The feeling which beset the child was one of dim uncertain horror.
She had no fear of the dear old grandfatherin whose
love for her this disease of the brain had been engendered; but the
man she had seen that nightwrapt in the game of chancelurking
in her roomand counting the money by the glimmering lightseemed
like another creature in his shapea monstrous distortion of his
imagea something to recoil fromand be the more afraid of
because it bore a likeness to himand kept close about heras he
did. She could scarcely connect her own affectionate companion


save by his losswith this old manso like yet so unlike him.
She had wept to see him dull and quiet. How much greater cause she
had for weeping now!

The child sat watching and thinking of these thingsuntil the
phantom in her mind so increased in gloom and terrorthat she felt
it would be a relief to hear the old man's voiceorif he were
asleepeven to see himand banish some of the fears that
clustered round his image. She stole down the stairs and passage
again. The door was still ajar as she had left itand the candle
burning as before.

She had her own candle in her handprepared to sayif he were
wakingthat she was uneasy and could not restand had come to see
if his were still alight. Looking into the roomshe saw him lying
calmly on his bedand so took courage to enter.

Fast asleep. No passion in the faceno avariceno anxietyno
wild desire; all gentletranquiland at peace. This was not the
gambleror the shadow in her room; this was not even the worn and
jaded man whose face had so often met her own in the grey morning
light; this was her dear old friendher harmless fellowtraveller
her goodkind grandfather.

She had no fear as she looked upon his slumbering featuresbut she
had a deep and weighty sorrowand it found its relief in tears.

'God bless him!' said the childstooping softly to kiss his placid
cheek. 'I see too well nowthat they would indeed part us if they
found us outand shut him up from the light of the sun and sky.
He has only me to help him. God bless us both!'

Lighting her candleshe retreated as silently as she had come
andgaining her own room once moresat up during the remainder of
that longlongmiserable night.

At last the day turned her waning candle paleand she fell asleep.
She was quickly roused by the girl who had shown her up to bed;
andas soon as she was dressedprepared to go down
to her grandfather. But first she searched her pocket and found
that her money was all gone--not a sixpence remained.

The old man was readyand in a few seconds they were on their
road. The child thought he rather avoided her eyeand appeared to
expect that she would tell him of her loss. She felt she must do
thator he might suspect the truth.

'Grandfather' she said in a tremulous voiceafter they had walked
about a mile in silence'do you think they are honest people at
the house yonder?'

'Why?' returned the old man trembling. 'Do I think them honest-yes
they played honestly.'

'I'll tell you why I ask' rejoined Nell. 'I lost some money last
night--out of my bedroomI am sure. Unless it was taken by
somebody in jest--only in jestdear grandfatherwhich would make
me laugh heartily if I could but know it--'

'Who would take money in jest?' returned the old man in a hurried manner.
'Those who take moneytake it to keep. Don't talk of jest.'

'Then it was stolen out of my roomdear' said the childwhose
last hope was destroyed by the manner of this reply.


'But is there no moreNell?' said the old man; 'no more anywhere?
Was it all taken--every farthing of it--was there nothing left?'

'Nothing' replied the child.

'We must get more' said the old man'we must earn itNellhoard
it upscrape it togethercome by it somehow. Never mind this
loss. Tell nobody of itand perhaps we may regain it. Don't ask
how;--we may regain itand a great deal more;--but tell nobody
or trouble may come of it. And so they took it out of thy room
when thou wert asleep!' he added in a compassionate tonevery
different from the secretcunning way in which he had spoken
until now. 'Poor Nellpoor little Nell!'

The child hung down her head and wept. The sympathising tone in
which he spokewas quite sincere; she was sure of that. It was not
the lightest part of her sorrow to know that this was done for her.

'Not a word about it to any one but me' said the old man'nonot
even to me' he added hastily'for it can do no good. All the
losses that ever wereare not worth tears from thy eyesdarling.
Why should they bewhen we will win them back?'

'Let them go' said the child looking up. 'Let them goonce and
for everand I would never shed another tear if every penny had
been a thousand pounds.'

'Wellwell' returned the old manchecking himself as some
impetuous answer rose to his lips'she knows no better. I ought
to be thankful of it.'

'But listen to me' said the child earnestly'will you listen to me?'

'AyeayeI'll listen' returned the old manstill without
looking at her; 'a pretty voice. It has always a sweet sound to
me. It always had when it was her mother'spoor child.'

'Let me persuade youthen--ohdo let me persuade you' said the
child'to think no more of gains or lossesand to try no fortune
but the fortune we pursue together.'

'We pursue this aim together' retorted her grandfatherstill
looking away and seeming to confer with himself. 'Whose image
sanctifies the game?'

'Have we been worse off' resumed the child'since you forgot
these caresand we have been travelling on together? Have we not
been much better and happier without a home to shelter usthan
ever we were in that unhappy housewhen they were on your mind?'

'She speaks the truth' murmured the old man in the same tone as
before. 'It must not turn mebut it is the truth; no doubt it
is.'

'Only remember what we have been since that bright morning when we
turned our backs upon it for the last time' said Nell'only
remember what we have been since we have been free of all those
miseries--what peaceful days and quiet nights we have had--what
pleasant times we have known--what happiness we have enjoyed. If
we have been tired or hungrywe have been soon refreshedand
slept the sounder for it. Think what beautiful things we have
seenand how contented we have felt. And why was this blessed
change?'


He stopped her with a motion of his handand bade her talk to him
no more just thenfor he was busy. After a time he kissed her
cheekstill motioning her to silenceand walked onlooking far
before himand sometimes stopping and gazing with a puckered brow
upon the groundas if he were painfully trying to collect his
disordered thoughts. Once she saw tears in his eyes. When he had
gone on thus for some timehe took her hand in his as he was
accustomed to dowith nothing of the violence or animation of his
late manner; and soby degrees so fine that the child could not
trace themhe settled down into his usual quiet wayand suffered
her to lead him where she would.

When they presented themselves in the midst of the stupendous
collectionthey foundas Nell had anticipatedthat Mrs Jarley
was not yet out of bedand thatalthough she had suffered some
uneasiness on their account overnightand had indeed sat up for
them until past eleven o'clockshe had retired in the persuasion
thatbeing overtaken by storm at some distance from homethey had
sought the nearest shelterand would not return before morning.
Nell immediately applied herself with great assiduity to the
decoration and preparation of the roomand had the satisfaction of
completing her taskand dressing herself neatlybefore the
beloved of the Royal Family came down to breakfast.

'We haven't had' said Mrs Jarley when the meal was over'more
than eight of Miss Monflathers's young ladies all the time we've
been hereand there's twenty-six of 'emas I was told by the cook
when I asked her a question or two and put her on the free-list.
We must try 'em with a parcel of new billsand you shall take it
my dearand see what effect that has upon 'em.'

The proposed expedition being one of paramount importanceMrs
Jarley adjusted Nell's bonnet with her own handsand declaring
that she certainly did look very prettyand reflected credit on
the establishmentdismissed her with many commendationsand
certain needful directions as to the turnings on the right which
she was to takeand the turnings on the left which she was to
avoid. Thus instructedNell had no difficulty in finding out Miss
Monflathers's Boarding and Day Establishmentwhich was a large
housewith a high walland a large garden-gate with a large brass
plateand a small grating through which Miss Monflathers's
parlour-maid inspected all visitors before admitting them; for
nothing in the shape of a man--nonot even a milkman--was
sufferedwithout special licenseto pass that gate. Even the
tax-gathererwho was stoutand wore spectacles and a
broad-brimmed hathad the taxes handed through the grating. More
obdurate than gate of adamant or brassthis gate of Miss
Monflathers's frowned on all mankind. The very butcher respected
it as a gate of mysteryand left off whistling when he rang the
bell.

As Nell approached the awful doorit turned slowly upon its hinges
with a creaking noiseandforth from the solemn grove beyond
came a long file of young ladiestwo and twoall with open books
in their handsand some with parasols likewise. And last of the
goodly procession came Miss Monflathersbearing herself a parasol
of lilac silkand supported by two smiling teacherseach mortally
envious of the otherand devoted unto Miss Monflathers.

Confused by the looks and whispers of the girlsNell stood with
downcast eyes and suffered the procession to pass onuntil Miss
Monflathersbringing up the rearapproached herwhen she
curtseyed and presented her little packet; on receipt whereof Miss


Monflathers commanded that the line should halt.

'You're the wax-work childare you not?' said Miss Monflathers.

'Yesma'am' replied Nellcolouring deeplyfor the young ladies
had collected about herand she was the centre on which all eyes
were fixed.

'And don't you think you must be a very wicked little child' said
Miss Monflatherswho was of rather uncertain temperand lost no
opportunity of impressing moral truths upon the tender minds of the
young ladies'to be a wax-work child at all?'

Poor Nell had never viewed her position in this lightand not
knowing what to sayremained silentblushing more deeply than
before.

'Don't you know' said Miss Monflathers'that it's very naughty
and unfeminineand a perversion of the properties wisely and
benignantly transmitted to uswith expansive powers to be roused
from their dormant state through the medium of cultivation?'

The two teachers murmured their respectful approval of this
home-thrustand looked at Nell as though they would have said that
there indeed Miss Monflathers had hit her very hard. Then they
smiled and glanced at Miss Monflathersand thentheir eyes
meetingthey exchanged looks which plainly said that each
considered herself smiler in ordinary to Miss Monflathersand
regarded the other as having no right to smileand that her so
doing was an act of presumption and impertinence.

'Don't you feel how naughty it is of you' resumed Miss
Monflathers'to be a wax-work childwhen you might have the proud
consciousness of assistingto the extent of your infant powers
the manufactures of your country; of improving your mind by the
constant contemplation of the steam-engine; and of earning a
comfortable and independent subsistence of from two-and-ninepence
to three shillings per week? Don't you know that the harder you
are at workthe happier you are?'

'"How doth the little--"' murmured one of the teachersin
quotation from Doctor Watts.

'Eh?' said Miss Monflathersturning smartly round. 'Who said
that?'

Of course the teacher who had not said itindicated the rival who
hadwhom Miss Monflathers frowningly requested to hold her peace;
by that means throwing the informing teacher into raptures of joy.

'The little busy bee' said Miss Monflathersdrawing herself up
'is applicable only to genteel children.

In books, or work, or healthful play

is quite right as far as they are concerned; and the work means
painting on velvetfancy needle-workor embroidery. In such
cases as these' pointing to Nellwith her parasol'and in the
case of all poor people's childrenwe should read it thus:

In work, work, work. In work alway
Let my first years be past,
That I may give for ev'ry day


Some good account at last.'

A deep hum of applause rose not only from the two teachersbut
from all the pupilswho were equally astonished to hear Miss
Monflathers improvising after this brilliant style; for although
she had been long known as a politicianshe had never appeared
before as an original poet. Just then somebody happened to
discover that Nell was cryingand all eyes were again turned
towards her.

There were indeed tears in her eyesand drawing out her
handkerchief to brush them awayshe happened to let it fall.
Before she could stoop to pick it upone young lady of about
fifteen or sixteenwho had been standing a little apart from the
othersas though she had no recognised place among themsprang
forward and put it in her hand. She was gliding timidly away
againwhen she was arrested by the governess.

'It was Miss Edwards who did thatI KNOW' said Miss Monflathers
predictively. 'Now I am sure that was Miss Edwards.'

It was Miss Edwardsand everybody said it was Miss Edwardsand
Miss Edwards herself admitted that it was.

'Is it not' said Miss Monflathersputting down her parasol to
take a severer view of the offender'a most remarkable thingMiss
Edwardsthat you have an attachment to the lower classes which
always draws you to their sides; orratheris it not a most
extraordinary thing that all I say and do will not wean you from
propensities which your original station in life have unhappily
rendered habitual to youyou extremely vulgar-minded girl?'

'I really intended no harmma'am' said a sweet voice. 'It was a
momentary impulseindeed.'

'An impulse!' repeated Miss Monflathers scornfully. 'I wonder that
you presume to speak of impulses to me'--both the teachers assented-'
I am astonished'--both the teachers were astonished--'I suppose
it is an impulse which induces you to take the part of every
grovelling and debased person that comes in your way'--both the
teachers supposed so too.

'But I would have you knowMiss Edwards' resumed the governess in
a tone of increased severity'that you cannot be permitted--if it
be only for the sake of preserving a proper example and decorum in
this establishment--that you cannot be permittedand that you
shall not be permittedto fly in the face of your superiors in
this exceedingly gross manner. If you have no reason to feel a
becoming pride before wax-work childrenthere are young ladies
here who haveand you must either defer to those young ladies or
leave the establishmentMiss Edwards.'

This young ladybeing motherless and poorwas apprenticed at the
school--taught for nothing--teaching others what she learntfor
nothing--boarded for nothing--lodged for nothing--and set down
and rated as something immeasurably less than nothingby all the
dwellers in the house. The servant-maids felt her inferiorityfor
they were better treated; free to come and goand regarded in
their stations with much more respect. The teachers were
infinitely superiorfor they had paid to go to school in their
timeand were paid now. The pupils cared little for a companion
who had no grand stories to tell about home; no friends to come
with post-horsesand be received in all humilitywith cake and


wineby the governess; no deferential servant to attend and bear
her home for the holidays; nothing genteel to talk aboutand
nothing to display. But why was Miss Monflathers always vexed and
irritated with the poor apprentice--how did that come to pass?

Whythe gayest feather in Miss Monflathers's capand the
brightest glory of Miss Monflathers's schoolwas a baronet's
daughter--the real live daughter of a real live baronet--whoby
some extraordinary reversal of the Laws of Naturewas not only
plain in features but dull in intellectwhile the poor apprentice
had both a ready witand a handsome face and figure. It seems
incredible. Here was Miss Edwardswho only paid a small premium
which had been spent long agoevery day outshining and excelling
the baronet's daughterwho learned all the extras (or was taught
them all) and whose half-yearly bill came to double that of any
other young lady's in the schoolmaking no account of the honour
and reputation of her pupilage. Thereforeand because she was a
dependentMiss Monflathers had a great dislike to Miss Edwards
and was spiteful to herand aggravated by herandwhen she had
compassion on little Nellverbally fell upon and maltreated her as
we have already seen.

'You will not take the air to-dayMiss Edwards' said Miss
Monflathers. 'Have the goodness to retire to your own roomand
not to leave it without permission.'

The poor girl was moving hastily awaywhen she was suddenlyin
nautical phrase'brought to' by a subdued shriek from Miss
Monflathers.

'She has passed me without any salute!' cried the governess
raising her eyes to the sky. 'She has actually passed me without
the slightest acknowledgment of my presence!'

The young lady turned and curtsied. Nell could see that she raised
her dark eyes to the face of her superiorand that their
expressionand that of her whole attitude for the instantwas one
of mute but most touching appeal against this ungenerous usage.
Miss Monflathers only tossed her head in replyand the great gate
closed upon a bursting heart.

'As for youyou wicked child' said Miss Monflathersturning to
Nell'tell your mistress that if she presumes to take the liberty
of sending to me any moreI will write to the legislative
authorities and have her put in the stocksor compelled to do
penance in a white sheet; and you may depend upon it that you shall
certainly experience the treadmill if you dare to come here again.
Now ladieson.'

The procession filed offtwo and twowith the books and parasols
and Miss Monflatherscalling the Baronet's daughter to walk with
her and smooth her ruffled feelingsdiscarded the two teachers-who
by this time had exchanged their smiles for looks of sympathy-and
left them to bring up the rearand hate each other a little
more for being obliged to walk together.

CHAPTER 32

Mrs Jarley's wrath on first learning that she had been threatened
with the indignity of Stocks and Penancepassed all description.


The genuine and only Jarley exposed to public scornjeered by
childrenand flouted by beadles! The delight of the Nobility and
Gentry shorn of a bonnet which a Lady Mayoress might have sighed to
wearand arrayed in a white sheet as a spectacle of mortification
and humility! And Miss Monflathersthe audacious creature who
presumedeven in the dimmest and remotest distance of her
imaginationto conjure up the degrading picture'I am a'most
inclined' said Mrs Jarleybursting with the fulness of her anger
and the weakness of her means of revenge'to turn atheist when I
think of it!'

But instead of adopting this course of retaliationMrs Jarleyon
second thoughtsbrought out the suspicious bottleand ordering
glasses to be set forth upon her favourite drumand sinking into
a chair behind itcalled her satellites about herand to them
several times recountedword for wordthe affronts she had
received. This doneshe begged them in a kind of deep despair to
drink; then laughedthen criedthen took a little sip herself
then laughed and cried againand took a little more; and soby
degreesthe worthy lady went onincreasing in smiles and
decreasing in tearsuntil at last she could not laugh enough at
Miss Monflatherswhofrom being an object of dire vexation
became one of sheer ridicule and absurdity.

'For which of us is best offI wonder' quoth Mrs Jarley'she or
me! It's only talkingwhen all is said and doneand if she talks
of me in the stockswhy I can talk of her in the stockswhich is
a good deal funnier if we come to that. Lordwhat does it matter
after all!'

Having arrived at this comfortable frame of mind (to which she had
been greatly assisted by certain short interjectional remarks of
the philosophical George)Mrs Jarley consoled Nell with many kind
wordsand requested as a personal favour that whenever she thought
of Miss Monflathersshe would do nothing else but laugh at her
all the days of her life.

So ended Mrs Jarley's wrathwhich subsided long before the going
down of the sun. Nell's anxietieshoweverwere of a deeper kind
and the checks they imposed upon her cheerfulness were not so
easily removed.

That eveningas she had dreadedher grandfather stole awayand
did not come back until the night was far spent. Worn out as she
wasand fatigued in mind and bodyshe sat up alonecounting the
minutesuntil he returned--pennilessbroken-spiritedand
wretchedbut still hotly bent upon his infatuation.

'Get me money' he said wildlyas they parted for the night. 'I
must have moneyNell. It shall be paid thee back with gallant
interest one daybut all the money that comes into thy handsmust
be mine--not for myselfbut to use for thee. RememberNellto
use for thee!'

What could the child do with the knowledge she hadbut give him
every penny that came into her handslest he should be tempted on
to rob their benefactress? If she told the truth (so thought the
child) he would be treated as a madman; if she did not supply him
with moneyhe would supply himself; supplying himshe fed the
fire that burnt him upand put him perhaps beyond recovery.
Distracted by these thoughtsborne down by the weight of the
sorrow which she dared not telltortured by a crowd of
apprehensions whenever the old man was absentand dreading alike
his stay and his returnthe colour forsook her cheekher eye grew


dimand her heart was oppressed and heavy. All her old sorrows
had come back upon heraugmented by new fears and doubts; by day
they were ever present to her mind; by night they hovered round her
pillowand haunted her in dreams.

It was natural thatin the midst of her afflictionshe should
often revert to that sweet young lady of whom she had only caught
a hasty glancebut whose sympathyexpressed in one slight brief
actiondwelt in her memory like the kindnesses of years. She
would often thinkif she had such a friend as that to whom to tell
her griefshow much lighter her heart would be--that if she were
but free to hear that voiceshe would be happier. Then she would
wish that she were something betterthat she were not quite so
poor and humblethat she dared address her without fearing a
repulse; and then feel that there was an immeasurable distance
between themand have no hope that the young lady thought of her
any more.

It was now holiday-time at the schoolsand the young ladies had
gone homeand Miss Monflathers was reported to be flourishing in
Londonand damaging the hearts of middle-aged gentlemenbut
nobody said anything about Miss Edwardswhether she had gone home
or whether she had any home to go towhether she was still at the
schoolor anything about her. But one eveningas Nell was
returning from a lonely walkshe happened to pass the inn where
the stage-coaches stoppedjust as one drove upand there was the
beautiful girl she so well rememberedpressing forward to embrace
a young child whom they were helping down from the roof.

Wellthis was her sisterher little sistermuch younger than
Nellwhom she had not seen (so the story went afterwards) for five
yearsand to bring whom to that place on a short visitshe had
been saving her poor means all that time. Nell felt as if her
heart would break when she saw them meet. They went a little apart
from the knot of people who had congregated about the coachand
fell upon each other's neckand sobbedand wept with joy. Their
plain and simple dressthe distance which the child had come
alonetheir agitation and delightand the tears they shedwould
have told their history by themselves.

They became a little more composed in a short timeand went away
not so much hand in hand as clinging to each other. 'Are you sure
you're happysister?' said the child as they passed where Nell was
standing. 'Quite happy now' she answered. 'But always?' said the
child. 'Ahsisterwhy do you turn away your face?'

Nell could not help following at a little distance. They went to
the house of an old nursewhere the elder sister had engaged a
bed-room for the child. 'I shall come to you early every morning'
she said'and we can be together all the day.-'-'Why not at
night-time too? Dear sisterwould they be angry with you for
that?'

Why were the eyes of little Nell wetthat nightwith tears like
those of the two sisters? Why did she bear a grateful heart
because they had metand feel it pain to think that they would
shortly part? Let us not believe that any selfish reference-unconscious
though it might have been--to her own trials awoke
this sympathybut thank God that the innocent joys of others can
strongly move usand that weeven in our fallen naturehave one
source of pure emotion which must be prized in Heaven!

By morning's cheerful glowbut oftener still by evening's gentle
lightthe childwith a respect for the short and happy


intercourse of these two sisters which forbade her to approach and
say a thankful wordalthough she yearned to do sofollowed them
at a distance in their walks and ramblesstopping when they
stoppedsitting on the grass when they sat downrising when they
went onand feeling it a companionship and delight to be so near
them. Their evening walk was by a river's side. Hereevery
nightthe child was toounseen by themunthought ofunregarded;
but feeling as if they were her friendsas if they had confidences
and trusts togetheras if her load were lightened and less hard to
bear; as if they mingled their sorrowsand found mutual
consolation. It was a weak fancy perhapsthe childish fancy of a
young and lonely creature; but night after nightand still the
sisters loitered in the same placeand still the child followed
with a mild and softened heart.

She was much startledon returning home one nightto find that
Mrs Jarley had commanded an announcement to be preparedto the
effect that the stupendous collection would only remain in its
present quarters one day longer; in fulfilment of which threat (for
all announcements connected with public amusements are well known
to be irrevocable and most exact)the stupendous collection shut
up next day.

'Are we going from this place directlyma'am?' said Nell.

'Look herechild' returned Mrs Jarley. 'That'll inform you.'
And so saying Mrs Jarley produced another announcementwherein it
was statedthatin consequence of numerous inquiries at the
wax-work doorand in consequence of crowds having been
disappointed in obtaining admissionthe Exhibition would be
continued for one week longerand would re-open next day.

'For now that the schools are goneand the regular sight-seers
exhausted' said Mrs Jarley'we come to the General Publicand
they want stimulating.'

Upon the following day at noonMrs Jarley established herself
behind the highly-ornamented tableattended by the distinguished
effigies before mentionedand ordered the doors to be thrown open
for the readmission of a discerning and enlightened public. But
the first day's operations were by no means of a successful
characterinasmuch as the general publicthough they manifested
a lively interest in Mrs Jarley personallyand such of her waxen
satellites as were to be seen for nothingwere not affected by any
impulses moving them to the payment of sixpence a head. Thus
notwithstanding that a great many people continued to stare at the
entry and the figures therein displayed; and remained there with
great perseveranceby the hour at a timeto hear the barrel-organ
played and to read the bills; and notwithstanding that they were
kind enough to recommend their friends to patronise the exhibition
in the like manneruntil the door-way was regularly blockaded by
half the population of the townwhowhen they went off dutywere
relieved by the other half; it was not found that the treasury was
any the richeror that the prospects of the establishment were at
all encouraging.

In this depressed state of the classical marketMrs Jarley made
extraordinary efforts to stimulate the popular tasteand whet the
popular curiosity. Certain machinery in the body of the nun on the
leads over the door was cleaned up and put in motionso that the
figure shook its head paralytically all day longto the great
admiration of a drunkenbut very Protestantbarber over the way
who looked upon the said paralytic motion as typical of the
degrading effect wrought upon the human mind by the ceremonies of


the Romish Church and discoursed upon that theme with great
eloquence and morality. The two carters constantly passed in and
out of the exhibition-roomunder various disguisesprotesting
aloud that the sight was better worth the money than anything they
had beheld in all their livesand urging the bystanderswith
tears in their eyesnot to neglect such a brilliant gratification.
Mrs Jarley sat in the pay-placechinking silver moneys from noon
till nightand solemnly calling upon the crowd to take notice that
the price of admission was only sixpenceand that the departure of
the whole collectionon a short tour among the Crowned Heads of
Europewas positively fixed for that day week.

'So be in timebe in timebe in time' said Mrs Jarley at the
close of every such address. 'Remember that this is Jarley's
stupendous collection of upwards of One Hundred Figuresand that
it is the only collection in the world; all others being imposters
and deceptions. Be in timebe in timebe in time!'

CHAPTER 33

As the course of this tale requires that we should become
acquaintedsomewhere hereaboutswith a few particulars connected
with the domestic economy of Mr Sampson Brassand as a more
convenient place than the present is not likely to occur for that
purposethe historian takes the friendly reader by the handand
springing with him into the airand cleaving the same at a greater
rate than ever Don Cleophas Leandro Perez Zambullo and his familiar
travelled through that pleasant region in companyalights with him
upon the pavement of Bevis Marks.

The intrepid aeronauts alight before a small dark houseonce the
residence of Mr Sampson Brass.

In the parlour window of this little habitationwhich is so close
upon the footway that the passenger who takes the wall brushes the
dim glass with his coat sleeve--much to its improvementfor it is
very dirty--in this parlour window in the days of its occupation
by Sampson Brassthere hungall awry and slackand discoloured
by the suna curtain of faded greenso threadbare from long
service as by no means to intercept the view of the little dark
roombut rather to afford a favourable medium through which to
observe it accurately. There was not much to look at. A rickety
tablewith spare bundles of papersyellow and ragged from long
carriage in the pocketostentatiously displayed upon its top; a
couple of stools set face to face on opposite sides of this crazy
piece of furniture; a treacherous old chair by the fire-place
whose withered arms had hugged full many a client and helped to
squeeze him dry; a second-hand wig boxused as a depository for
blank writs and declarations and other small forms of lawonce the
sole contents of the head which belonged to the wig which belonged
to the boxas they were now of the box itself; two or three common
books of practice; a jar of inka pounce boxa stunted
hearth-brooma carpet trodden to shreds but still clinging with
the tightness of desperation to its tacks--thesewith the yellow
wainscot of the wallsthe smoke-discoloured ceilingthe dust and
cobwebswere among the most prominent decorations of the office of
Mr Sampson Brass.

But this was mere still-lifeof no greater importance than the
plate'BRASSSolicitor' upon the doorand the bill'First


floor to let to a single gentleman' which was tied to the knocker.
The office commonly held two examples of animated naturemore to
the purpose of this historyand in whom it has a stronger interest
and more particular concern.

Of theseone was Mr Brass himselfwho has already appeared in
these pages. The other was his clerkassistanthousekeeper
secretaryconfidential plotteradviserintriguerand bill of
cost increaserMiss Brass--a kind of amazon at common lawof
whom it may be desirable to offer a brief description.

Miss Sally Brassthenwas a lady of thirty-five or thereabouts
of a gaunt and bony figureand a resolute bearingwhich if it
repressed the softer emotions of loveand kept admirers at a
distancecertainly inspired a feeling akin to awe in the breasts
of those male strangers who had the happiness to approach her. In
face she bore a striking resemblance to her brotherSampson--so
exactindeedwas the likeness between themthat had it consorted
with Miss Brass's maiden modesty and gentle womanhood to have
assumed her brother's clothes in a frolic and sat down beside him
it would have been difficult for the oldest friend of the family to
determine which was Sampson and which Sallyespecially as the lady
carried upon her upper lip certain reddish demonstrationswhich
if the imagination had been assisted by her attiremight have been
mistaken for a beard. These werehoweverin all probability
nothing more than eyelashes in a wrong placeas the eyes of Miss
Brass were quite free from any such natural impertinencies. In
complexion Miss Brass was sallow--rather a dirty sallowso to
speak--but this hue was agreeably relieved by the healthy glow
which mantled in the extreme tip of her laughing nose. Her voice
was exceedingly impressive--deep and rich in qualityandonce
heardnot easily forgotten. Her usual dress was a green gownin
colour not unlike the curtain of the office windowmade tight to
the figureand terminating at the throatwhere it was fastened
behind by a peculiarly large and massive button. Feelingno
doubtthat simplicity and plainness are the soul of eleganceMiss
Brass wore no collar or kerchief except upon her headwhich was
invariably ornamented with a brown gauze scarflike the wing of
the fabled vampireand whichtwisted into any form that happened
to suggest itselfformed an easy and graceful head-dress.

Such was Miss Brass in person. In mindshe was of a strong and
vigorous turnhaving from her earliest youth devoted herself with
uncommon ardour to the study of law; not wasting her speculations
upon its eagle flightswhich are rarebut tracing it attentively
through all the slippery and eel-like crawlings in which it
commonly pursues its way. Nor had shelike many persons of great
intellectconfined herself to theoryor stopped short where
practical usefulness begins; inasmuch as she could ingross
fair-copyfill up printed forms with perfect accuracyandin
shorttransact any ordinary duty of the office down to pouncing a
skin of parchment or mending a pen. It is difficult to understand
howpossessed of these combined attractionsshe should remain
Miss Brass; but whether she had steeled her heart against mankind
or whether those who might have wooed and won herwere deterred by
fears thatbeing learned in the lawshe might have too near her
fingers' ends those particular statutes which regulate what are
familiarly termed actions for breachcertain it is that she was
still in a state of celibacyand still in daily occupation of her
old stool opposite to that of her brother Sampson. And equally
certain it isby the waythat between these two stools a great
many people had come to the ground.

One morning Mr Sampson Brass sat upon his stool copying some legal


processand viciously digging his pen deep into the paperas if
he were writing upon the very heart of the party against whom it
was directed; and Miss Sally Brass sat upon her stool making a new
pen preparatory to drawing out a little billwhich was her
favourite occupation; and so they sat in silence for a long time
until Miss Brass broke silence.

'Have you nearly doneSammy?' said Miss Brass; for in her mild and
feminine lipsSampson became Sammyand all things were softened
down.

'No' returned her brother. 'It would have been all done though
if you had helped at the right time.'

'Oh yesindeed' cried Miss Sally; 'you want my helpdon't you? -YOU
toothat are going to keep a clerk!'

'Am I going to keep a clerk for my own pleasureor because of my
own wishyou provoking rascal!' said Mr Brassputting his pen in
his mouthand grinning spitefully at his sister. 'What do you
taunt me about going to keep a clerk for?'

It may be observed in this placelest the fact of Mr Brass calling
a lady a rascalshould occasion any wonderment or surprisethat
he was so habituated to having her near him in a man's capacity
that he had gradually accustomed himself to talk to her as though
she were really a man. And this feeling was so perfectly
reciprocalthat not only did Mr Brass often call Miss Brass a
rascalor even put an adjective before the rascalbut Miss Brass
looked upon it as quite a matter of courseand was as little moved
as any other lady would be by being called an angel.

'What do you taunt meafter three hours' talk last nightwith
going to keep a clerk for?' repeated Mr Brassgrinning again with
the pen in his mouthlike some nobleman's or gentleman's crest.
Is it my fault?'

'All I know is' said Miss Sallysmiling drilyfor she delighted
in nothing so much as irritating her brother'that if every one of
your clients is to force us to keep a clerkwhether we want to or
notyou had better leave off businessstrike yourself off the
rolland get taken in executionas soon as you can.'

'Have we got any other client like him?' said Brass. 'Have we got
another client like him now--will you answer me that?'

'Do you mean in the face!' said his sister.

'Do I mean in the face!' sneered Sampson Brassreaching over to
take up the bill-bookand fluttering its leaves rapidly. 'Look
here--Daniel QuilpEsquire--Daniel QuilpEsquire--Daniel Quilp
Esquire--all through. Whether should I take a clerk that he
recommendsand saysthis is the man for you,or lose all this
eh?'

Miss Sally deigned to make no replybut smiled againand went on
with her work.

'But I know what it is' resumed Brass after a short silence.
'You're afraid you won't have as long a finger in the business as
you've been used to have. Do you think I don't see through that?'

'The business wouldn't go on very longI expectwithout me'
returned his sister composedly. 'Don't you be a fool and provoke


meSammybut mind what you're doingand do it.'

Sampson Brasswho was at heart in great fear of his sister
sulkily bent over his writing againand listened as she said:

'If I determined that the clerk ought not to comeof course he
wouldn't be allowed to come. You know that well enoughso don't
talk nonsense.'

Mr Brass received this observation with increased meeknessmerely
remarkingunder his breaththat he didn't like that kind of
jokingand that Miss Sally would be 'a much better fellow' if she
forbore to aggravate him. To this compliment Miss Sally replied
that she had a relish for the amusementand had no intention to
forego its gratification. Mr Brass not caringas it seemedto
pursue the subject any furtherthey both plied their pens at a
great paceand there the discussion ended.

While they were thus employedthe window was suddenly darkenedas
by some person standing close against it. As Mr Brass and Miss
Sally looked up to ascertain the causethe top sash was nimbly
lowered from withoutand Quilp thrust in his head.

'Hallo!' he saidstanding on tip-toe on the window-silland
looking down into the room. 'is there anybody at home? Is there
any of the Devil's ware here? Is Brass at a premiumeh?'

'Hahaha!' laughed the lawyer in an affected ecstasy. 'Ohvery
goodSir! Ohvery good indeed! Quite eccentric! Dear mewhat
humour he has!'

'Is that my Sally?' croaked the dwarfogling the fair Miss Brass.
'Is it Justice with the bandage off her eyesand without the sword
and scales? Is it the Strong Arm of the Law? Is it the Virgin of
Bevis?'

'What an amazing flow of spirits!' cried Brass. 'Upon my word
it's quite extraordinary!'

'Open the door' said Quilp'I've got him here. Such a clerk for
youBrasssuch a prizesuch an ace of trumps. Be quick and open
the dooror if there's another lawyer near and he should happen to
look out of windowhe'll snap him up before your eyeshe will.'

It is probable that the loss of the phoenix of clerkseven to a
rival practitionerwould not have broken Mr Brass's heart; but
pretending great alacrityhe rose from his seatand going to the
doorreturnedintroducing his clientwho led by the hand no less
a person than Mr Richard Swiveller.

'There she is' said Quilpstopping short at the doorand
wrinkling up his eyebrows as he looked towards Miss Sally; 'there
is the woman I ought to have married--there is the beautiful Sarah-there
is the female who has all the charms of her sex and none of
their weaknesses. Oh SallySally!'

To this amorous address Miss Brass briefly responded 'Bother!'

'Hard-hearted as the metal from which she takes her name' said
Quilp. 'Why don't she change it--melt down the brassand take
another name?'

'Hold your nonsenseMr Quilpdo' returned Miss Sallywith a
grim smile. 'I wonder you're not ashamed of yourself before a


strange young man.'

'The strange young man' said Quilphanding Dick Swiveller
forward'is too susceptible himself not to understand me well.
This is Mr Swivellermy intimate friend--a gentleman of good
family and great expectationsbut whohaving rather involved
himself by youthful indiscretionis content for a time to fill the
humble station of a clerk--humblebut here most enviable. What
a delicious atmosphere!'

If Mr Quilp spoke figurativelyand meant to imply that the air
breathed by Miss Sally Brass was sweetened and rarefied by that
dainty creaturehe had doubtless good reason for what he said.
But if he spoke of the delights of the atmosphere of Mr Brass's
office in a literal sensehe had certainly a peculiar tasteas it
was of a close and earthy kindandbesides being frequently
impregnated with strong whiffs of the second-hand wearing apparel
exposed for sale in Duke's Place and Houndsditchhad a decided
flavour of rats and miceand a taint of mouldiness. Perhaps some
doubts of its pure delight presented themselves to Mr Swivelleras
he gave vent to one or two short abrupt sniffsand looked
incredulously at the grinning dwarf.

'Mr Swiveller' said Quilp'being pretty well accustomed to the
agricultural pursuits of sowing wild oatsMiss Sallyprudently
considers that half a loaf is better than no bread. To be out of
harm's way he prudently thinks is something tooand therefore he
accepts your brother's offer. BrassMr Swiveller is yours.'

'I am very gladSir' said Mr Brass'very glad indeed. Mr
SwivellerSiris fortunate enough to have your friendship. You
may be very proudSirto have the friendship of Mr Quilp.'

Dick murmured something about never wanting a friend or a bottle to
give himand also gasped forth his favourite allusion to the wing
of friendship and its never moulting a feather; but his faculties
appeared to be absorbed in the contemplation of Miss Sally Brass
at whom he stared with blank and rueful lookswhich delighted the
watchful dwarf beyond measure. As to the divine Miss Sally
herselfshe rubbed her hands as men of business doand took a few
turns up and down the office with her pen behind her ear.

'I suppose' said the dwarfturning briskly to his legal friend
'that Mr Swiveller enters upon his duties at once? It's Monday
morning.'

'At onceif you pleaseSirby all means' returned Brass.

'Miss Sally will teach him lawthe delightful study of the law'
said Quilp; 'she'll be his guidehis friendhis companionhis
Blackstonehis Coke upon Littletonhis Young Lawyer's Best
Companion.'

'He is exceedingly eloquent' said Brasslike a man abstracted
and looking at the roofs of the opposite houseswith his hands in
his pockets; 'he has an extraordinary flow of language. Beautiful
really.'

'With Miss Sally' Quilp went on'and the beautiful fictions of
the lawhis days will pass like minutes. Those charming creations
of the poetJohn Doe and Richard Roewhen they first dawn upon
himwill open a new world for the enlargement of his mind and the
improvement of his heart.'


'Ohbeautifulbeautiful! Beau-ti-ful indeed!' cried Brass.
'It's a treat to hear him!'

'Where will Mr Swiveller sit?' said Quilplooking round.

'Whywe'll buy another stoolsir' returned Brass. 'We hadn't
any thoughts of having a gentleman with ussiruntil you were
kind enough to suggest itand our accommodation's not extensive.
We'll look about for a second-hand stoolsir. In the meantimeif
Mr Swiveller will take my seatand try his hand at a fair copy of
this ejectmentas I shall be out pretty well all the morning--'

'Walk with me' said Quilp. 'I have a word or two to say to you on
points of business. Can you spare the time?'

'Can I spare the time to walk with yousir? You're jokingsir
you're joking with me' replied the lawyerputting on his hat.
'I'm readysirquite ready. My time must be fully occupied
indeedsirnot to leave me time to walk with you. It's not
everybodysirwho has an opportunity of improving himself by the
conversation of Mr Quilp.'

The dwarf glanced sarcastically at his brazen friendandwith a
short dry coughturned upon his heel to bid adieu to Miss Sally.
After a very gallant parting on his sideand a very cool and
gentlemanly sort of one on hershe nodded to Dick Swivellerand
withdrew with the attorney.

Dick stood at the desk in a state of utter stupefactionstaring
with all his might at the beauteous Sallyas if she had been some
curious animal whose like had never lived. When the dwarf got into
the streethe mounted again upon the window-silland looked into
the office for a moment with a grinning faceas a man might peep
into a cage. Dick glanced upward at himbut without any token of
recognition; and long after he had disappearedstill stood gazing
upon Miss Sally Brassseeing or thinking of nothing elseand
rooted to the spot.

Miss Brass being by this time deep in the bill of coststook no
notice whatever of Dickbut went scratching onwith a noisy pen
scoring down the figures with evident delightand working like a
steam-engine. There stood Dickgazing now at the green gownnow
at the brown head-dressnow at the faceand now at the rapid pen
in a state of stupid perplexitywondering how he got into the
company of that strange monsterand whether it was a dream and he
would ever wake. At last he heaved a deep sighand began slowly
pulling off his coat.

Mr Swiveller pulled off his coatand folded it up with great
elaborationstaring at Miss Sally all the time; then put on a blue
jacket with a double row of gilt buttonswhich he had originally
ordered for aquatic expeditionsbut had brought with him that
morning for office purposes; andstill keeping his eye upon her
suffered himself to drop down silently upon Mr Brass's stool. Then
he underwent a relapseand becoming powerless againrested his
chin upon his handand opened his eyes so widethat it appeared
quite out of the question that he could ever close them any more.

When he had looked so long that he could see nothingDick took his
eyes off the fair object of his amazementturned over the leaves
of the draft he was to copydipped his pen into the inkstandand
at lastand by slow approachesbegan to write. But he had not
written half-a-dozen words whenreaching over to the inkstand to
take a fresh diphe happened to raise his eyes. There was the


intolerable brown head-dress--there was the green gown--therein
shortwas Miss Sally Brassarrayed in all her charmsand more
tremendous than ever.

This happened so oftenthat Mr Swiveller by degrees began to feel
strange influences creeping over him--horrible desires to
annihilate this Sally Brass--mysterious promptings to knock her
head-dress off and try how she looked without it. There was a very
large ruler on the table; a largeblackshining ruler. Mr
Swiveller took it up and began to rub his nose with it.

From rubbing his nose with the rulerto poising it in his hand and
giving it an occasional flourish after the tomahawk mannerthe
transition was easy and natural. In some of these flourishes it
went close to Miss Sally's head; the ragged edges of the headdress
fluttered with the wind it raised; advance it but an inch
and that great brown knot was on the ground: yet still the
unconscious maiden worked awayand never raised her eyes.

Wellthis was a great relief. It was a good thing to write
doggedly and obstinately until he was desperateand then snatch up
the ruler and whirl it about the brown head-dress with the
consciousness that he could have it off if he liked. It was a good
thing to draw it backand rub his nose very hard with itif he
thought Miss Sally was going to look upand to recompense himself
with more hardy flourishes when he found she was still absorbed.
By these means Mr Swiveller calmed the agitation of his feelings
until his applications to the ruler became less fierce and
frequentand he could even write as many as half-a-dozen
consecutive lines without having recourse to it--which was a
great victory.

CHAPTER 34

In course of timethat is to sayafter a couple of hours or so
of diligent applicationMiss Brass arrived at the conclusion of
her taskand recorded the fact by wiping her pen upon the green
gownand taking a pinch of snuff from a little round tin box which
she carried in her pocket. Having disposed of this temperate
refreshmentshe arose from her stooltied her papers into a
formal packet with red tapeand taking them under her armmarched
out of the office.

Mr Swiveller had scarcely sprung off his seat and commenced the
performance of a maniac hornpipewhen he was interruptedin the
fulness of his joy at being again aloneby the opening of the
doorand the reappearance of Miss Sally's head.

'I am going out' said Miss Brass.

'Very goodma'am' returned Dick. 'And don't hurry yourself on my
account to come backma'am' he added inwardly.

'If anybody comes on office businesstake their messagesand say
that the gentleman who attends to that matter isn't in at present
will you?' said Miss Brass.

'I willma'am' replied Dick.

'I shan't be very long' said Miss Brassretiring.


'I'm sorry to hear itma'am' rejoined Dick when she had shut the
door. 'I hope you may be unexpectedly detainedma'am. If you
could manage to be run overma'ambut not seriouslyso much the
better.'

Uttering these expressions of good-will with extreme gravityMr
Swiveller sat down in the client's chair and pondered; then took a
few turns up and down the room and fell into the chair again.

'So I'm Brass's clerkam I?' said Dick. 'Brass's clerkeh? And
the clerk of Brass's sister--clerk to a female Dragon. Very good
very good! What shall I be next? Shall I be a convict in a felt
hat and a grey suittrotting about a dockyard with my number
neatly embroidered on my uniformand the order of the garter on my
legrestrained from chafing my ankle by a twisted belcher
handkerchief? Shall I be that? Will that door is it too
genteel? Whatever you pleasehave it your own wayof course.'

As he was entirely aloneit may be presumed thatin these
remarksMr Swiveller addressed himself to his fate or destiny
whomas we learn by the precedentsit is the custom of heroes to
taunt in a very bitter and ironical manner when they find
themselves in situations of an unpleasant nature. This is the more
probable from the circumstance of Mr Swiveller directing his
observations to the ceilingwhich these bodily personages are
usually supposed to inhabit--except in theatrical caseswhen they
live in the heart of the great chandelier.

'Quilp offers me this placewhich he says he can insure me'
resumed Dick after a thoughtful silenceand telling off the
circumstances of his positionone by oneupon his fingers; 'Fred
whoI could have taken my affidavitwould not have heard of such
a thingbacks Quilp to my astonishmentand urges me to take it
also--staggerernumber one! My aunt in the country stops the
suppliesand writes an affectionate note to say that she has made
a new willand left me out of it--staggerernumber two. No
money; no credit; no support from Fredwho seems to turn steady
all at once; notice to quit the old lodgings--staggerersthree
fourfiveand six! Under an accumulation of staggerersno man
can be considered a free agent. No man knocks himself down; if his
destiny knocks him downhis destiny must pick him up again. Then
I'm very glad that mine has brought all this upon itselfand I
shall be as careless as I canand make myself quite at home to
spite it. So go on my buck' said Mr Swivellertaking his leave
of the ceiling with a significant nod'and let us see which of us
will be tired first!'

Dismissing the subject of his downfall with these reflections
which were no doubt very profoundand are indeed not altogether
unknown in certain systems of moral philosophyMr Swiveller shook
off his despondency and assumed the cheerful ease of an
irresponsible clerk.

As a means towards his composure and self-possessionhe entered
into a more minute examination of the office than he had yet had
time to make; looked into the wig-boxthe booksand ink-bottle;
untied and inspected all the papers; carved a few devices on the
table with a sharp blade of Mr Brass's penknife; and wrote his name
on the inside of the wooden coal-scuttle. Havingas it were
taken formal possession of his clerkship in virtue of these
proceedingshe opened the window and leaned negligently out of it
until a beer-boy happened to passwhom he commanded to set down
his tray and to serve him with a pint of mild porterwhich he


drank upon the spot and promptly paid forwith the view of
breaking ground for a system of future credit and opening a
correspondence tending theretowithout loss of time. Thenthree
or four little boys dropped inon legal errands from three or four
attorneys of the Brass grade: whom Mr Swiveller received and
dismissed with about as professional a mannerand as correct and
comprehensive an understanding of their businessas would have
been shown by a clown in a pantomime under similar circumstances.
These things done and overhe got upon his stool again and tried
his hand at drawing caricatures of Miss Brass with a pen and ink
whistling very cheerfully all the time.

He was occupied in this diversion when a coach stopped near the
doorand presently afterwards there was a loud double-knock. As
this was no business of Mr Swiveller'sthe person not ringing the
office bellhe pursued his diversion with perfect composure
notwithstanding that he rather thought there was nobody else in the
house.

In thishoweverhe was mistaken; forafter the knock had been
repeated with increased impatiencethe door was openedand
somebody with a very heavy tread went up the stairs and into the
room above. Mr Swiveller was wondering whether this might be
another Miss Brasstwin sister to the Dragonwhen there came a
rapping of knuckles at the office door.

'Come in!' said Dick. 'Don't stand upon ceremony. The business
will get rather complicated if I've many more customers. Come in!'

'Ohplease' said a little voice very low down in the doorway
'will you come and show the lodgings?'

Dick leant over the tableand descried a small slipshod girl in a
dirty coarse apron and bibwhich left nothing of her visible but
her face and feet. She might as well have been dressed in a
violin-case.

'Whywho are you?' said Dick.

To which the only reply was'Ohplease will you come and show the
lodgings?'

There never was such an old-fashioned child in her looks and
manner. She must have been at work from her cradle. She seemed as
much afraid of Dickas Dick was amazed at her.

'I hav'n't got anything to do with the lodgings' said Dick. 'Tell
'em to call again.'

'Ohbut please will you come and show the lodgings' returned the
girl; 'It's eighteen shillings a week and us finding plate and
linen. Boots and clothes is extraand fires in winter-time is
eightpence a day.'

'Why don't you show 'em yourself? You seem to know all about 'em'
said Dick.

'Miss Sally said I wasn't tobecause people wouldn't believe the
attendance was good if they saw how small I was first.'

'Wellbut they'll see how small you are afterwardswon't they?'
said Dick.

'Ah! But then they'll have taken 'em for a fortnight certain'


replied the child with a shrewd look; 'and people don't like moving
when they're once settled.'

'This is a queer sort of thing' muttered Dickrising. 'What do
you mean to say you are--the cook?'

'YesI do plain cooking;' replied the child. 'I'm housemaid too;
I do all the work of the house.'

'I suppose Brass and the Dragon and I do the dirtiest part of it'
thought Dick. And he might have thought much morebeing in a
doubtful and hesitating moodbut that the girl again urged her
requestand certain mysterious bumping sounds on the passage and
staircase seemed to give note of the applicant's impatience.
Richard Swivellerthereforesticking a pen behind each earand
carrying another in his mouth as a token of his great importance
and devotion to businesshurried out to meet and treat with the
single gentleman.

He was a little surprised to perceive that the bumping sounds were
occasioned by the progress up-stairs of the single gentleman's
trunkwhichbeing nearly twice as wide as the staircaseand
exceedingly heavy withalit was no easy matter for the united
exertions of the single gentleman and the coachman to convey up the
steep ascent. But there they werecrushing each otherand
pushing and pulling with all their mightand getting the trunk
tight and fast in all kinds of impossible anglesand to pass them
was out of the question; for which sufficient reasonMr Swiveller
followed slowly behindentering a new protest on every stair
against the house of Mr Sampson Brass being thus taken by storm.

To these remonstrancesthe single gentleman answered not a word
but when the trunk was at last got into the bed-roomsat down upon
it and wiped his bald head and face with his handkerchief. He was
very warmand well he might be; fornot to mention the exertion
of getting the trunk up stairshe was closely muffled in winter
garmentsthough the thermometer had stood all day at eighty-one in
the shade.

'I believesir' said Richard Swivellertaking his pen out of his
mouth'that you desire to look at these apartments. They are very
charming apartmentssir. They command an uninterrupted view of-of
over the wayand they are within one minute's walk of--of the
corner of the street. There is exceedingly mild portersirin
the immediate vicinityand the contingent advantages are
extraordinary.'

'What's the rent?' said the single gentleman.

'One pound per week' replied Dickimproving on the terms.

'I'll take 'em.'

'The boots and clothes are extras' said Dick; 'and the fires in
winter time are--'

'Are all agreed to' answered the single gentleman.

'Two weeks certain' said Dick'are the--'

'Two weeks!' cried the single gentleman grufflyeyeing him from
top to toe. 'Two years. I shall live here for two years. Here.
Ten pounds down. The bargain's made.'


'Why you see' said Dick'my name is not Brassand--'

'Who said it was? My name's not Brass. What then?'

'The name of the master of the house is' said Dick.

'I'm glad of it' returned the single gentleman; 'it's a good name
for a lawyer. Coachmanyou may go. So may youSir.'

Mr Swiveller was so much confounded by the single gentleman riding
roughshod over him at this ratethat he stood looking at him
almost as hard as he had looked at Miss Sally. The single
gentlemanhoweverwas not in the slightest degree affected by
this circumstancebut proceeded with perfect composure to unwind
the shawl which was tied round his neckand then to pull off his
boots. Freed of these encumbranceshe went on to divest himself
of his other clothingwhich he folded uppiece by pieceand
ranged in order on the trunk. Thenhe pulled down the
window-blindsdrew the curtainswound up his watchandquite
leisurely and methodicallygot into bed.

'Take down the bill' were his parting wordsas he looked out from
between the curtains; 'and let nobody call me till I ring the
bell.'

With that the curtains closedand he seemed to snore immediately.

'This is a most remarkable and supernatural sort of house!' said Mr
Swivelleras he walked into the office with the bill in his hand.
'She-dragons in the businessconducting themselves like
professional gentlemen; plain cooks of three feet high appearing
mysteriously from under ground; strangers walking in and going to
bed without leave or licence in the middle of the day! If he
should be one of the miraculous fellows that turn up now and then
and has gone to sleep for two yearsI shall be in a pleasant
situation. It's my destinyhoweverand I hope Brass may like it.
I shall be sorry if he don't. But it's no business of mine--I
have nothing whatever to do with it!'

CHAPTER 35

Mr Brass on returning home received the report of his clerk with
much complacency and satisfactionand was particular in inquiring
after the ten-pound notewhichproving on examination to be a
good and lawful note of the Governor and Company of the Bank of
Englandincreased his good-humour considerably. Indeed he so
overflowed with liberality and condescensionthatin the fulness
of his hearthe invited Mr Swiveller to partake of a bowl of punch
with him at that remote and indefinite period which is currently
denominated 'one of these days' and paid him many handsome
compliments on the uncommon aptitude for business which his conduct
on the first day of his devotion to it had so plainly evinced.

It was a maxim with Mr Brass that the habit of paying compliments
kept a man's tongue oiled without any expense; andas that useful
member ought never to grow rusty or creak in turning on its hinges
in the case of a practitioner of the lawin whom it should be
always glib and easyhe lost few opportunities of improving
himself by the utterance of handsome speeches and eulogistic
expressions. And this had passed into such a habit with himthat


if he could not be correctly said to have his tongue at his
fingers' endshe might certainly be said to have it anywhere but
in his face: which beingas we have already seenof a harsh and
repulsive characterwas not oiled so easilybut frowned above all
the smooth speeches--one of nature's beaconswarning off those
who navigated the shoals and breakers of the Worldor of that
dangerous strait the Lawand admonishing them to seek less
treacherous harbours and try their fortune elsewhere.

While Mr Brass by turns overwhelmed his clerk with compliments and
inspected the ten-pound noteMiss Sally showed little emotion and
that of no pleasurable kindfor as the tendency of her legal
practice had been to fix her thoughts on small gains and gripings
and to whet and sharpen her natural wisdomshe was not a little
disappointed that the single gentleman had obtained the lodgings at
such an easy ratearguing that when he was seen to have set his
mind upon themhe should have been at the least charged double or
treble the usual termsand thatin exact proportion as he pressed
forwardMr Swiveller should have hung back. But neither the good
opinion of Mr Brassnor the dissatisfaction of Miss Sallywrought
any impression upon that young gentlemanwhothrowing the
responsibility of this and all other acts and deeds thereafter to
be done by himupon his unlucky destinywas quite resigned and
comfortable: fully prepared for the worstand philosophically
indifferent to the best.

'Good morningMr Richard' said Brasson the second day of Mr
Swiveller's clerkship. 'Sally found you a second-hand stoolSir
yesterday eveningin Whitechapel. She's a rare fellow at a
bargainI can tell youMr Richard. You'll find that a first-rate
stoolSirtake my word for it.'

'It's rather a crazy one to look at' said Dick.

'You'll find it a most amazing stool to sit down uponyou may
depend' returned Mr Brass. 'It was bought in the open street just
opposite the hospitaland as it has been standing there a month of
twoit has got rather dusty and a little brown from being in the
sunthat's all.'

'I hope it hasn't got any fevers or anything of that sort in it'
said Dicksitting himself down discontentedlybetween Mr Sampson
and the chaste Sally. 'One of the legs is longer than the others.'

'Then we get a bit of timber inSir' retorted Brass. 'Haha
ha! We get a bit of timber inSirand that's another advantage
of my sister's going to market for us. Miss BrassMr Richard is
the--'

'Will you keep quiet?' interrupted the fair subject of these
remarkslooking up from her papers. 'How am I to work if you keep
on chattering?'

'What an uncertain chap you are!' returned the lawyer. 'Sometimes
you're all for a chat. At another time you're all for work. A man
never knows what humour he'll find you in.'

'I'm in a working humour now' said Sally'so don't disturb meif
you please. And don't take him' Miss Sally pointed with the
feather of her pen to Richard'off his business. He won't do more
than he can helpI dare say.'

Mr Brass had evidently a strong inclination to make an angry reply


but was deterred by prudent or timid considerationsas he only
muttered something about aggravation and a vagabond; not
associating the terms with any individualbut mentioning them as
connected with some abstract ideas which happened to occur to him.
They went on writing for a long time in silence after this--in
such a dull silence that Mr Swiveller (who required excitement) had
several times fallen asleepand written divers strange words in an
unknown character with his eyes shutwhen Miss Sally at length
broke in upon the monotony of the office by pulling out the little
tin boxtaking a noisy pinch of snuffand then expressing her
opinion that Mr Richard Swiveller had 'done it.'

'Done whatma'am?' said Richard.

'Do you know' returned Miss Brass'that the lodger isn't up yet-that
nothing has been seen or heard of him since he went to bed
yesterday afternoon?'

'Wellma'am' said Dick'I suppose he may sleep his ten pound
outin peace and quietnessif he likes.'

'Ah! I begin to think he'll never wake' observed Miss Sally.

'It's a very remarkable circumstance' said Brasslaying down his
pen; 'reallyvery remarkable. Mr Richardyou'll rememberif
this gentleman should be found to have hung himself to the
bed-postor any unpleasant accident of that kind should happen-you'll
rememberMr Richardthat this ten pound note was given to
you in part payment of two years' rent? You'll bear that in mind
Mr Richard; you had better make a note of itsirin case you
should ever be called upon to give evidence.'

Mr Swiveller took a large sheet of foolscapand with a countenance
of profound gravitybegan to make a very small note in one corner.

'We can never be too cautious' said Mr Brass. 'There is a deal of
wickedness going about the worlda deal of wickedness. Did the
gentleman happen to saySir--but never mind that at presentsir;
finish that little memorandum first.'

Dick did soand handed it to Mr Brasswho had dismounted from his
stooland was walking up and down the office.

'Ohthis is the memorandumis it?' said Brassrunning his eye
over the document. 'Very good. NowMr Richarddid the gentleman
say anything else?'

'No.'

'Are you sureMr Richard' said Brasssolemnly'that the
gentleman said nothing else?'

'Devil a wordSir' replied Dick.

'Think againSir' said Brass; 'it's my dutySirin the position
in which I standand as an honourable member of the legal
profession--the first profession in this countrySiror in any
other countryor in any of the planets that shine above us at
night and are supposed to be inhabited--it's my dutySiras an
honourable member of that professionnot to put to you a leading
question in a matter of this delicacy and importance. Did the
gentlemanSirwho took the first floor of you yesterday
afternoonand who brought with him a box of property--a box of
property--say anything more than is set down in this memorandum?'


'Comedon't be a fool' said Miss Sally.

Dick looked at herand then at Brassand then at Miss Sally
againand still said 'No.'

'Poohpooh! Deuce take itMr Richardhow dull you are!' cried
Brassrelaxing into a smile. 'Did he say anything about his
property? --there!'

'That's the way to put it' said Miss Sallynodding to her
brother.

'Did he sayfor instance' added Brassin a kind of comfortable
cozy tone--'I don't assert that he did say somind; I only ask
youto refresh your memory--did he sayfor instancethat he was
a stranger in London--that it was not his humour or within his
ability to give any references--that he felt we had a right to
require them--and thatin case anything should happen to himat
any timehe particularly desired that whatever property he had
upon the premises should be considered mineas some slight
recompense for the trouble and annoyance I should sustain--and
were youin short' added Brassstill more comfortably and cozily
than before'were you induced to accept him on my behalfas a
tenantupon those conditions?'

'Certainly not' replied Dick.

'Why thenMr Richard' said Brassdarting at him a supercilious
and reproachful look'it's my opinion that you've mistaken your
callingand will never make a lawyer.'

'Not if you live a thousand years' added Miss Sally. Whereupon
the brother and sister took each a noisy pinch of snuff from the
little tin boxand fell into a gloomy thoughtfulness.

Nothing further passed up to Mr Swiveller's dinner-timewhich was
at three o'clockand seemed about three weeks in coming. At the
first stroke of the hourthe new clerk disappeared. At the last
stroke of fivehe reappearedand the officeas if by magic
became fragrant with the smell of gin and water and lemon-peel.

'Mr Richard' said Brass'this man's not up yet. Nothing will
wake himsir. What's to be done?'

'I should let him have his sleep out' returned Dick.

'Sleep out!' cried Brass; 'why he has been asleep nowsixand-
twenty hours. We have been moving chests of drawers over his
headwe have knocked double knocks at the street-doorwe have
made the servant-girl fall down stairs several times (she's a light
weightand it don't hurt her much) but nothing wakes him.'

'Perhaps a ladder' suggested Dick'and getting in at the firstfloor
window--'

'But then there's a door between; besidesthe neighbours would be
up in arms' said Brass.

'What do you say to getting on the roof of the house through the
trap-doorand dropping down the chimney?' suggested Dick.

'That would be an excellent plan' said Brass'if anybody would
be--' and here he looked very hard at Mr Swiveller--'would be kind


and friendlyand generous enoughto undertake it. I dare say it
would not be anything like as disagreeable as one supposes.'

Dick had made the suggestionthinking that the duty might possibly
fall within Miss Sally's department. As he said nothing further
and declined taking the hintMr Brass was fain to propose that
they should go up stairs togetherand make a last effort to awaken
the sleeper by some less violent meanswhichif they failed on
this last trialmust positively be succeeded by stronger measures.
Mr Swivellerassentingarmed himself with his stool and the large
rulerand repaired with his employer to the scene of actionwhere
Miss Brass was already ringing a hand-bell with all her mightand
yet without producing the smallest effect upon their mysterious
lodger.

'There are his bootsMr Richard!' said Brass.

'Very obstinate-looking articles they are too' quoth Richard
Swiveller. And trulythey were as sturdy and bluff a pair of
boots as one would wish to see; as firmly planted on the ground as
if their owner's legs and feet had been in them; and seemingwith
their broad soles and blunt toesto hold possession of their place
by main force.

'I can't see anything but the curtain of the bed' said Brass
applying his eye to the keyhole of the door. 'Is he a strong man
Mr Richard?'

Very' answered Dick.

It would be an extremely unpleasant circumstance if he was to
bounce out suddenly' said Brass. 'Keep the stairs clear. I
should be more than a match for himof coursebut I'm the master
of the houseand the laws of hospitality must be respected. -Hallo
there! Hallohallo!'

While Mr Brasswith his eye curiously twisted into the keyhole
uttered these sounds as a means of attracting the lodger's
attentionand while Miss Brass plied the hand-bellMr Swiveller
put his stool close against the wall by the side of the doorand
mounting on the top and standing bolt uprightso that if the
lodger did make a rushhe would most probably pass him in its
onward furybegan a violent battery with the ruler upon the upper
panels of the door. Captivated with his own ingenuityand
confident in the strength of his positionwhich he had taken up
after the method of those hardy individuals who open the pit and
gallery doors of theatres on crowded nightsMr Swiveller rained
down such a shower of blowsthat the noise of the bell was
drowned; and the small servantwho lingered on the stairs below
ready to fly at a moment's noticewas obliged to hold her ears
lest she should be rendered deaf for life.

Suddenly the door was unlocked on the insideand flung violently
open. The small servant flew to the coal-cellar; Miss Sally dived
into her own bed-room; Mr Brasswho was not remarkable for
personal courageran into the next streetand finding that nobody
followed himarmed with a poker or other offensive weaponput his
hands in his pocketswalked very slowly all at onceand whistled.

MeanwhileMr Swivelleron the top of the stooldrew himself into
as flat a shape as possible against the walland lookednot
unconcernedlydown upon the single gentlemanwho appeared at the
door growling and cursing in a very awful mannerandwith the
boots in his handseemed to have an intention of hurling them down


stairs on speculation. This ideahoweverhe abandoned. He was
turning into his room againstill growling vengefullywhen his
eyes met those of the watchful Richard.

'Have YOU been making that horrible noise?' said the single
gentleman.

'I have been helpingsir' returned Dickkeeping his eye upon
himand waving the ruler gently in his right handas an
indication of what the single gentleman had to expect if he
attempted any violence.

'How dare you then' said the lodger'Eh?'

To thisDick made no other reply than by inquiring whether the
lodger held it to be consistent with the conduct and character of
a gentleman to go to sleep for six-and-twenty hours at a stretch
and whether the peace of an amiable and virtuous family was to
weigh as nothing in the balance.

'Is my peace nothing?' said the single gentleman.

'Is their peace nothingsir?' returned Dick. 'I don't wish to
hold out any threatssir--indeed the law does not allow of
threatsfor to threaten is an indictable offence--but if ever you
do that againtake care you're not sat upon by the coroner and
buried in a cross road before you wake. We have been distracted
with fears that you were deadSir' said Dickgently sliding to
the ground'and the short and the long of it isthat we cannot
allow single gentlemen to come into this establishment and sleep
like double gentlemen without paying extra for it.'

'Indeed!' cried the lodger.

'YesSirindeed' returned Dickyielding to his destiny and
saying whatever came uppermost; 'an equal quantity of slumber was
never got out of one bed and bedsteadand if you're going to sleep
in that wayyou must pay for a double-bedded room.' .

Instead of being thrown into a greater passion by these remarks
the lodger lapsed into a broad grin and looked at Mr Swiveller with
twinkling eyes. He was a brown-faced sun-burnt manand appeared
browner and more sun-burnt from having a white nightcap on. As it
was clear that he was a choleric fellow in some respectsMr
Swiveller was relieved to find him in such good humourandto
encourage him in itsmiled himself.

The lodgerin the testiness of being so rudely rousedhad pushed
his nightcap very much on one side of his bald head. This gave him
a rakish eccentric air whichnow that he had leisure to observe
itcharmed Mr Swiveller exceedingly; thereforeby way of
propitiationhe expressed his hope that the gentleman was going to
get upand further that he would never do so any more.

'Come hereyou impudent rascal!' was the lodger's answer as he
re-entered his room.

Mr Swiveller followed him inleaving the stool outsidebut
reserving the ruler in case of a surprise. He rather congratulated
himself on his prudence when the single gentlemanwithout notice
or explanation of any kinddouble-locked the door.

'Can you drink anything?' was his next inquiry.


Mr Swiveller replied that he had very recently been assuaging the
pangs of thirstbut that he was still open to 'a modest quencher'
if the materials were at hand. Without another word spoken on
either sidethe lodger took from his great trunka kind of
templeshining as of polished silverand placed it carefully on
the table.

Greatly interested in his proceedingsMr Swiveller observed him
closely. Into one little chamber of this templehe dropped an
egg; into another some coffee; into a third a compact piece of raw
steak from a neat tin case; into a fourthhe poured some water.
Thenwith the aid of a phosphorus-box and some matcheshe
procured a light and applied it to a spirit-lamp which had a place
of its own below the temple; thenhe shut down the lids of all the
little chambers; then he opened them; and thenby some wonderful
and unseen agencythe steak was donethe egg was boiledthe
coffee was accurately preparedand his breakfast was ready.

'Hot water--' said the lodgerhanding it to Mr Swiveller with as
much coolness as if he had a kitchen fire before him-'
extraordinary rum--sugar--and a travelling glass. Mix for
yourself. And make haste.'

Dick compliedhis eyes wandering all the time from the temple on
the tablewhich seemed to do everythingto the great trunk which
seemed to hold everything. The lodger took his breakfast like a
man who was used to work these miraclesand thought nothing of
them.

'The man of the house is a lawyeris he not?' said the lodger.

Dick nodded. The rum was amazing.

'The woman of the house--what's she?'

'A dragon' said Dick.

The single gentlemanperhaps because he had met with such things
in his travelsor perhaps because he WAS a single gentleman
evinced no surprisebut merely inquired 'Wife or Sister?'-'
Sister' said Dick.--'So much the better' said the single
gentleman'he can get rid of her when he likes.'

'I want to do as I likeyoung man' he added after a short
silence; 'to go to bed when I likeget up when I likecome in
when I likego out when I like--to be asked no questions and be
surrounded by no spies. In this last respectservants are the
devil. There's only one here.'

'And a very little one' said Dick.

'And a very little one' repeated the lodger. 'Wellthe place
will suit mewill it?'

'Yes' said Dick.

'SharksI suppose?' said the lodger.

Dick nodded assentand drained his glass.

'Let them know my humour' said the single gentlemanrising. 'If
they disturb methey lose a good tenant. If they know me to be
thatthey know enough. If they try to know moreit's a notice to
quit. It's better to understand these things at once. Good day.'


'I beg your pardon' said Dickhalting in his passage to the door
which the lodger prepared to open. 'When he who adores thee has
left but the name--'

'What do you mean?'

'--But the name' said Dick--'has left but the name--in case of
letters or parcels--'

'I never have any' returned the lodger.

'Or in the case anybody should call.'

'Nobody ever calls on me.'

'If any mistake should arise from not having the namedon't say it
was my faultSir' added Dickstill lingering.--'Oh blame
not the bard--'

'I'll blame nobody' said the lodgerwith such irascibility that
in a moment Dick found himself on the staircaseand the locked
door between them.

Mr Brass and Miss Sally were lurking hard byhaving beenindeed
only routed from the keyhole by Mr Swiveller's abrupt exit. As
their utmost exertions had not enabled them to overhear a word of
the interviewhoweverin consequence of a quarrel for precedence
whichthough limited of necessity to pushes and pinches and such
quiet pantomimehad lasted the whole timethey hurried him down
to the office to hear his account of the conversation.

This Mr Swiveller gave them--faithfully as regarded the wishes and
character of the single gentlemanand poetically as concerned the
great trunkof which he gave a description more remarkable for
brilliancy of imagination than a strict adherence to truth; declaring
with many strong asseverationsthat it contained a specimen of
every kind of rich food and wineknown in these timesand in
particular that it was of a self-acting kind and served up whatever
was requiredas he supposed by clock-work. He also gave them
to understand that the cooking apparatus roasted a fine piece of
sirloin of beefweighing about six pounds avoir-dupoisein two
minutes and a quarteras he had himself witnessedand proved
by his sense of taste; and furtherthathowever the effect was
producedhe had distinctly seen water boil and bubble up when
the single gentleman winked; from which facts he (Mr Swiveller)
was led to infer that the lodger was some great conjuror or chemist
or bothwhose residence under that roof could not fail at some
future days to shed a great credit and distinction on the name of
Brassand add a new interest to the history of Bevis Marks.

There was one point which Mr Swiveller deemed it unnecessary to
enlarge uponand that was the fact of the modest quencherwhich
by reason of its intrinsic strength and its coming close upon the
heels of the temperate beverage he had discussed at dinner
awakened a slight degree of feverand rendered necessary two or
three other modest quenchers at the public-house in the course of
the evening.

CHAPTER 36


As the single gentleman after some weeks' occupation of his
lodgingsstill declined to correspondby word or gestureeither
with Mr Brass or his sister Sallybut invariably chose Richard
Swiveller as his channel of communication; and as he proved himself
in all respects a highly desirable inmatepaying for everything
beforehandgiving very little troublemaking no noiseand
keeping early hours; Mr Richard imperceptibly rose to an important
position in the familyas one who had influence over this
mysterious lodgerand could negotiate with himfor good or evil
when nobody else durst approach his person.

If the truth must be toldeven Mr Swiveller's approaches to the
single gentleman were of a very distant kindand met with small
encouragement; butas he never returned from a monosyllabic
conference with the unknownwithout quoting such expressions as
'SwivellerI know I can rely upon you'--'I have no hesitation in
sayingSwivellerthat I entertain a regard for you'--'Swiveller
you are my friendand will stand by me I am sure' with many other
short speeches of the same familiar and confiding kindpurporting
to have been addressed by the single gentleman to himselfand to
form the staple of their ordinary discourseneither Mr Brass nor
Miss Sally for a moment questioned the extent of his influencebut
accorded to him their fullest and most unqualified belief.
But quite apart fromand independent ofthis source of
popularityMr Swiveller had anotherwhich promised to be equally
enduringand to lighten his position considerably.

He found favour in the eyes of Miss Sally Brass. Let not the light
scorners of female fascination erect their ears to listen to a new
tale of love which shall serve them for a jest; for Miss Brass
however accurately formed to be belovedwas not of the loving
kind. That amiable virginhaving clung to the skirts of the Law
from her earliest youth; having sustained herself by their aidas
it werein her first running aloneand maintained a firm grasp
upon them ever since; had passed her life in a kind of legal
childhood. She had been remarkablewhen a tender prattler for an
uncommon talent in counterfeiting the walk and manner of a bailiff:
in which character she had learned to tap her little playfellows on
the shoulderand to carry them off to imaginary sponging-houses
with a correctness of imitation which was the surprise and delight
of all who witnessed her performancesand which was only to be
exceeded by her exquisite manner of putting an execution into her
doll's houseand taking an exact inventory of the chairs and
tables. These artless sports had naturally soothed and cheered the
decline of her widowed father: a most exemplary gentleman (called
'old Foxey' by his friends from his extreme sagacity) who
encouraged them to the utmostand whose chief regreton finding
that he drew near to Houndsditch churchyardwasthat his daughter
could not take out an attorney's certificate and hold a place upon
the roll. Filled with this affectionate and touching sorrowhe
had solemnly confided her to his son Sampson as an invaluable
auxiliary; and from the old gentleman's decease to the period of
which we treatMiss Sally Brass had been the prop and pillar of
his business.

It is obvious thathaving devoted herself from infancy to this one
pursuit and studyMiss Brass could know but little of the
worldotherwise than in connection with the law; and that from a
lady gifted with such high tastesproficiency in those gentler and
softer arts in which women usually excelwas scarcely to be looked
for. Miss Sally's accomplishments were all of a masculine and
strictly legal kind. They began with the practice of an attorney
and they ended with it. She was in a state of lawful innocenceso


to speak. The law had been her nurse. Andas bandy-legs or such
physical deformities in children are held to be the consequence of
bad nursingsoif in a mind so beautiful any moral twist or
handiness could be foundMiss Sally Brass's nurse was alone to
blame.

It was on this ladythenthat Mr Swiveller burst in full
freshness as something new and hitherto undreamed oflighting up
the office with scraps of song and merrimentconjuring with
inkstands and boxes of waferscatching three oranges in one hand
balancing stools upon his chin and penknives on his noseand
constantly performing a hundred other feats with equal ingenuity;
for with such unbendings did Richardin Mr Brass's absence
relieve the tedium of his confinement. These social qualities
which Miss Sally first discovered by accidentgradually made such
an impression upon herthat she would entreat Mr Swiveller to
relax as though she were not bywhich Mr Swivellernothing loth
would readily consent to do. By these means a friendship sprung up
between them. Mr Swiveller gradually came to look upon her as her
brother Sampson didand as he would have looked upon any other
clerk. He imparted to her the mystery of going the odd man or
plain Newmarket for fruitginger-beerbaked potatoesor even a
modest quencherof which Miss Brass did not scruple to partake.
He would often persuade her to undertake his share of writing in
addition to her own; nayhe would sometimes reward her with a
hearty slap on the backand protest that she was a devilish good
fellowa jolly dogand so forth; all of which compliments Miss
Sally would receive in entire good part and with perfect
satisfaction.

One circumstance troubled Mr Swiveller's mind very muchand that
was that the small servant always remained somewhere in the bowels
of the earth under Bevis Marksand never came to the surface
unless the single gentleman rang his bellwhen she would answer it
and immediately disappear again. She never went outor came into
the officeor had a clean faceor took off the coarse apronor
looked out of any one of the windowsor stood at the street-door
for a breath of airor had any rest or enjoyment whatever. Nobody
ever came to see hernobody spoke of hernobody cared about her.
Mr Brass had said oncethat he believed she was a 'love-child'
(which means anything but a child of love)and that was all the
information Richard Swiveller could obtain.

'It's of no use asking the dragon' thought Dick one dayas he sat
contemplating the features of Miss Sally Brass. 'I suspect if I
asked any questions on that headour alliance would be at an end.
I wonder whether she is a dragon by-the-byeor something in the
mermaid way. She has rather a scaly appearance. But mermaids are
fond of looking at themselves in the glasswhich she can't be.
And they have a habit of combing their hairwhich she hasn't. No
she's a dragon.'

'Where are you goingold fellow?' said Dick aloudas Miss Sally
wiped her pen as usual on the green dressand uprose from her
seat.

'To dinner' answered the dragon.

'To dinner!' thought Dick'that's another circumstance. I don't
believe that small servant ever has anything to eat.'

'Sammy won't be home' said Miss Brass. 'Stop till I come back.
I sha'n't be long.'


Dick noddedand followed Miss Brass--with his eyes to the door
and with his ears to a little back parlourwhere she and her
brother took their meals.

'Now' said Dickwalking up and down with his hands in his
pockets'I'd give something--if I had it--to know how they use
that childand where they keep her. My mother must have been a
very inquisitive woman; I have no doubt I'm marked with a note of
interrogation somewhere. My feelings I smotherbut thou hast been
the cause of this anguishmy--upon my word' said Mr Swiveller
checking himself and falling thoughtfully into the client's chair
'I should like to know how they use her!'

After running onin this wayfor some timeMr Swiveller softly
opened the office doorwith the intention of darting across the
street for a glass of the mild porter. At that moment he caught a
parting glimpse of the brown head-dress of Miss Brass flitting down
the kitchen stairs. 'And by Jove!' thought Dick'she's going to
feed the small servant. Now or never!'

First peeping over the handrail and allowing the head-dress to
disappear in the darkness belowhe groped his way downand
arrived at the door of a back kitchen immediately after Miss Brass
had entered the samebearing in her hand a cold leg of mutton. It
was a very dark miserable placevery low and very damp: the walls
disfigured by a thousand rents and blotches. The water was
trickling out of a leaky buttand a most wretched cat was lapping
up the drops with the sickly eagerness of starvation. The grate
which was a wide onewas wound and screwed up tightso as to hold
no more than a little thin sandwich of fire. Everything was locked
up; the coal-cellarthe candle-boxthe salt-boxthe meat-safe
were all padlocked. There was nothing that a beetle could have
lunched upon. The pinched and meagre aspect of the place would
have killed a chameleon. He would have knownat the first
mouthfulthat the air was not eatableand must have given up the
ghost in despair.

The small servant stood with humility in presence of Miss Sally
and hung her head.

'Are you there?' said Miss Sally.

'Yesma'am' was the answer in a weak voice.

'Go further away from the leg of muttonor you'll be picking it
I know' said Miss Sally.

The girl withdrew into a cornerwhile Miss Brass took a key
from her pocketand opening the safebrought from it a dreary
waste of cold potatoeslooking as eatable as Stonehenge. This she
placed before the small servantordering her to sit down before
itand thentaking up a great carving-knifemade a mighty show
of sharpening it upon the carving-fork.

'Do you see this?' said Miss Brassslicing off about two square
inches of cold muttonafter all this preparationand holding it
out on the point of the fork.

The small servant looked hard enough at it with her hungry eyes to
see every shred of itsmall as it wasand answered'yes.'

'Then don't you ever go and say' retorted Miss Sally'that you
hadn't meat here. Thereeat it up.'


This was soon done. 'Nowdo you want any more?' said Miss Sally.

The hungry creature answered with a faint 'No.' They were
evidently going through an established form.

'You've been helped once to meat' said Miss Brasssumming up the
facts; 'you have had as much as you can eatyou're asked if you
want any moreand you answer'no!' Then don't you ever go and say
you were allowancedmind that.'

With those wordsMiss Sally put the meat away and locked the safe
and then drawing near to the small servantoverlooked her while
she finished the potatoes.

It was plain that some extraordinary grudge was working in Miss
Brass's gentle breastand that it was that which impelled her
without the smallest present causeto rap the child with the blade
of the knifenow on her handnow on her headand now on her
backas if she found it quite impossible to stand so close to her
without administering a few slight knocks. But Mr Swiveller was
not a little surprised to see his fellow-clerkafter walking
slowly backwards towards the dooras if she were trying to
withdraw herself from the room but could not accomplish itdart
suddenly forwardand falling on the small servant give her some
hard blows with her clenched hand. The victim criedbut in a
subdued manner as if she feared to raise her voiceand Miss Sally
comforting herself with a pinch of snuffascended the stairsjust
as Richard had safely reached the office.

CHAPTER 37

The single gentleman among his other peculiarities--and he had a
very plentiful stockof which he every day furnished some new
specimen--took a most extraordinary and remarkable interest in the
exhibition of Punch. If the sound of a Punch's voiceat ever so
remote a distancereached Bevis Marksthe single gentleman
though in bed and asleepwould start upandhurrying on his
clothesmake for the spot with all speedand presently return at
the head of a long procession of idlershaving in the midst the
theatre and its proprietors. Straightwaythe stage would be set
up in front of Mr Brass's house; the single gentleman would
establish himself at the first floor window; and the entertainment
would proceedwith all its exciting accompaniments of fife and
drum and shoutto the excessive consternation of all sober
votaries of business in that silent thoroughfare. It might have
been expected that when the play was doneboth players and
audience would have dispersed; but the epilogue was as bad as the
playfor no sooner was the Devil deadthan the manager of the
puppets and his partner were summoned by the single gentleman to
his chamberwhere they were regaled with strong waters from his
private storeand where they held with him long conversationsthe
purport of which no human being could fathom. But the secret of
these discussions was of little importance. It was sufficient to
know that while they were proceedingthe concourse without still
lingered round the house; that boys beat upon the drum with their
fistsand imitated Punch with their tender voices; that the
office-window was rendered opaque by flattened nosesand the
key-hole of the street-door luminous with eyes; that every time the
single gentleman or either of his guests was seen at the upper
windowor so much as the end of one of their noses was visible


there was a great shout of execration from the excluded mobwho
remained howling and yellingand refusing consolationuntil the
exhibitors were delivered up to them to be attended elsewhere. It
was sufficientin shortto know that Bevis Marks was
revolutionised by these popular movementsand that peace and
quietness fled from its precincts.

Nobody was rendered more indignant by these proceedings than Mr
Sampson Brasswhoas he could by no means afford to lose so
profitable an inmatedeemed it prudent to pocket his lodger's
affront along with his cashand to annoy the audiences who
clustered round his door by such imperfect means of retaliation as
were open to himand which were confined to the trickling down of
foul water on their heads from unseen watering potspelting them
with fragments of tile and mortar from the roof of the houseand
bribing the drivers of hackney cabriolets to come suddenly round
the corner and dash in among them precipitately. It mayat first
sightbe matter of surprise to the thoughtless few that Mr Brass
being a professional gentlemanshould not have legally indicted
some party or partiesactive in the promotion of the nuisancebut
they will be good enough to rememberthat as Doctors seldom take
their own prescriptionsand Divines do not always practise what
they preachso lawyers are shy of meddling with the Law on their
own account: knowing it to be an edged tool of uncertain
applicationvery expensive in the workingand rather remarkable
for its properties of close shavingthan for its always shaving
the right person.

'Come' said Mr Brass one afternoon'this is two days without a
Punch. I'm in hopes he has run through 'em allat last.'

'Why are you in hopes?' returned Miss Sally. 'What harm do they
do?'

'Here's a pretty sort of a fellow!' cried Brasslaying down his
pen in despair. 'Now here's an aggravating animal!'

'Wellwhat harm do they do?' retorted Sally.

'What harm!' cried Brass. 'Is it no harm to have a constant
hallooing and hooting under one's very nosedistracting one from
businessand making one grind one's teeth with vexation? Is it no
harm to be blinded and choked upand have the king's highway
stopped with a set of screamers and roarers whose throats must be
made of--of--'

'Brass' suggested Mr Swiveller.

'Ah! of brass' said the lawyerglancing at his clerkto assure
himself that he had suggested the word in good faith and without
any sinister intention. 'Is that no harm?'

The lawyer stopped short in his invectiveand listening for a
momentand recognising the well-known voicerested his head upon
his handraised his eyes to the ceilingand muttered faintly

'There's another!'

Up went the single gentleman's window directly.

'There's another' repeated Brass; 'and if I could get a break and
four blood horses to cut into the Marks when the crowd is at its
thickestI'd give eighteen-pence and never grudge it!'


The distant squeak was heard again. The single gentleman's door
burst open. He ran violently down the stairsout into the street
and so past the windowwithout any hattowards the quarter whence
the sound proceeded--bentno doubtupon securing the strangers'
services directly.

'I wish I only knew who his friends were' muttered Sampson
filling his pocket with papers; 'if they'd just get up a pretty
little Commission de lunatico at the Gray's Inn Coffee House and
give me the jobI'd be content to have the lodgings empty for one
whileat all events.'

With which wordsand knocking his hat over his eyes as if for the
purpose of shutting out even a glimpse of the dreadful visitation
Mr Brass rushed from the house and hurried away.

As Mr Swiveller was decidedly favourable to these performances
upon the ground that looking at a Punchor indeed looking at
anything out of windowwas better than working; and as he had
beenfor this reasonat some pains to awaken in his fellow clerk
a sense of their beauties and manifold deserts; both he and Miss
Sally rose as with one accord and took up their positions at the
window: upon the sill whereofas in a post of honoursundry young
ladies and gentlemen who were employed in the dry nurture of
babiesand who made a point of being presentwith their young
chargeson such occasionshad already established themselves as
comfortably as the circumstances would allow.

The glass being dimMr Swivelleragreeably to a friendly custom
which he had established between themhitched off the brown
head-dress from Miss Sally's headand dusted it carefully
therewith. By the time he had handed it backand its beautiful
wearer had put it on again (which she did with perfect composure
and indifference)the lodger returned with the show and showmen at
his heelsand a strong addition to the body of spectators. The
exhibitor disappeared with all speed behind the drapery; and his
partnerstationing himself by the side of the Theatresurveyed
the audience with a remarkable expression of melancholywhich
became more remarkable still when he breathed a hornpipe tune into
that sweet musical instrument which is popularly termed a
mouth-organwithout at all changing the mournful expression of the
upper part of his facethough his mouth and chin wereof
necessityin lively spasms.

The drama proceeded to its closeand held the spectators enchained
in the customary manner. The sensation which kindles in large
assemblieswhen they are relieved from a state of breathless
suspense and are again free to speak and movewas yet rifewhen
the lodgeras usualsummoned the men up stairs.

'Both of you' he called from the window; for only the actual
exhibitor--a little fat man--prepared to obey the summons. 'I
want to talk to you. Come both of you!'

ComeTommy' said the little man.

I an't a talker' replied the other. 'Tell him so. What should I
go and talk for?'

'Don't you see the gentleman's got a bottle and glass up there?'
returned the little man.

'And couldn't you have said so at first?' retorted the other with
sudden alacrity. 'Nowwhat are you waiting for? Are you going to


keep the gentleman expecting us all day? haven't you no manners?'

With this remonstrancethe melancholy manwho was no other than
Mr Thomas Codlinpushed past his friend and brother in the craft
Mr Harrisotherwise Short or Trottersand hurried before him to
the single gentleman's apartment.

'Nowmy men' said the single gentleman; 'you have done very well.
What will you take? Tell that little man behindto shut the
door.'

'Shut the doorcan't you?' said Mr Codlinturning gruffly to his
friend. 'You might have knowed that the gentleman wanted the door
shutwithout being toldI think.'

Mr Short obeyedobserving under his breath that his friend seemed
unusually 'cranky' and expressing a hope that there was no dairy
in the neighbourhoodor his temper would certainly spoil its
contents.

The gentleman pointed to a couple of chairsand intimated by an
emphatic nod of his head that he expected them to be seated.
Messrs Codlin and Shortafter looking at each other with
considerable doubt and indecisionat length sat down--each on the
extreme edge of the chair pointed out to him--and held their hats
very tightwhile the single gentleman filled a couple of glasses
from a bottle on the table beside himand presented them in due
form.

'You're pretty well browned by the sunboth of you' said their
entertainer. 'Have you been travelling?'

Mr Short replied in the affirmative with a nod and a smile. Mr
Codlin added a corroborative nod and a short groanas if he still
felt the weight of the Temple on his shoulders.

'To fairsmarketsracesand so forthI suppose?' pursued the
single gentleman.

'Yessir' returned Short'pretty nigh all over the West of
England.'

'I have talked to men of your craft from NorthEastand South'
returned their hostin rather a hasty manner; 'but I never lighted
on any from the West before.'

'It's our reg'lar summer circuit is the Westmaster' said Short;
'that's where it is. We takes the East of London in the spring and
winterand the West of England in the summer time. Many's the
hard day's walking in rain and mudand with never a penny earned
we've had down in the West.'

'Let me fill your glass again.'

'Much obleeged to you sirI think I will' said Mr Codlin
suddenly thrusting in his own and turning Short's aside. 'I'm the
sufferersirin all the travellingand in all the staying at
home. In town or countrywet or dryhot or coldTom Codlin
suffers. But Tom Codlin isn't to complain for all that. Ohno!
Short may complainbut if Codlin grumbles by so much as a word-oh
deardown with himdown with him directly. It isn't his place
to grumble. That's quite out of the question.'

'Codlin an't without his usefulness' observed Short with an arch


look'but he don't always keep his eyes open. He falls asleep
sometimesyou know. Remember them last racesTommy.'

'Will you never leave off aggravating a man?' said Codlin. 'It's
very like I was asleep when five-and-tenpence was collectedin one
roundisn't it? I was attending to my businessand couldn't have
my eyes in twenty places at oncelike a peacockno more than you
could. If I an't a match for an old man and a young childyou
an't neitherso don't throw that out against mefor the cap fits
your head quite as correct as it fits mine."

'You may as well drop the subjectTom' said Short. 'It isn't
particular agreeable to the gentlemanI dare say.'

'Then you shouldn't have brought it up' returned Mr Codlin; 'and
I ask the gentleman's pardon on your accountas a giddy chap that
likes to hear himself talkand don't much care what he talks
aboutso that he does talk.'

Their entertainer had sat perfectly quiet in the beginning of this
disputelooking first at one man and then at the otheras if he
were lying in wait for an opportunity of putting some further
questionor reverting to that from which the discourse had
strayed. Butfrom the point where Mr Codlin was charged with
sleepinesshe had shown an increasing interest in the discussion:
which now attained a very high pitch.

'You are the two men I want' he said'the two men I have been
looking forand searching after! Where are that old man and that
child you speak of?'

'Sir?' said Shorthesitatingand looking towards his friend.

'The old man and his grandchild who travelled with you--where are
they? It will be worth your while to speak outI assure you; much
better worth your while than you believe. They left youyou say-at
those racesas I understand. They have been traced to that
placeand there lost sight of. Have you no cluecan you suggest
no clueto their recovery?'

'Did I always sayThomas' cried Shortturning with a look of
amazement to his friend'that there was sure to be an inquiry
after them two travellers?'

'YOU said!' returned Mr Codlin. 'Did I always say that that 'ere
blessed child was the most interesting I ever see? Did I always
say I loved herand doated on her? Pretty creeturI think I hear
her now. "Codlin's my friend she says, with a tear of gratitude
a trickling down her little eye; Codlin's my friend she says-
not Short. Short's very well she says; I've no quarrel with
Short; he means kindI dare say; but Codlin she says, has the
feelings for my moneythough he mayn't look it."'

Repeating these words with great emotionMr Codlin rubbed the
bridge of his nose with his coat-sleeveand shaking his head
mournfully from side to sideleft the single gentleman to infer
thatfrom the moment when he lost sight of his dear young charge
his peace of mind and happiness had fled.

'Good Heaven!' said the single gentlemanpacing up and down the
room'have I found these men at lastonly to discover that they
can give me no information or assistance! It would have been
better to have lived onin hopefrom day to dayand never to
have lighted on themthan to have my expectations scattered thus.'


'Stay a minute' said Short. 'A man of the name of Jerry--you
know JerryThomas?'

'Ohdon't talk to me of Jerrys' replied Mr Codlin. 'How can I
care a pinch of snuff for Jerryswhen I think of that 'ere darling
child? "Codlin's my friend she says, deargoodkind Codlin
as is always a devising pleasures for me! I don't object to
Short she says, but I cotton to Codlin." Once' said that
gentleman reflectively'she called me Father Codlin. I thought I
should have bust!'

'A man of the name of Jerrysir' said Shortturning from his
selfish colleague to their new acquaintance'wot keeps a company
of dancing dogstold mein a accidental sort of waythat he had
seen the old gentleman in connexion with a travelling wax-work
unbeknown to him. As they'd given us the slipand nothing had
come of itand this was down in the country that he'd been seen
I took no measures about itand asked no questions--But I canif
you like.'

'Is this man in town?' said the impatient single gentleman. 'Speak
faster.'

'No he isn'tbut he will be to-morrowfor he lodges in our
house' replied Mr Short rapidly.

'Then bring him here' said the single gentleman. 'Here's a
sovereign a-piece. If I can find these people through your means
it is but a prelude to twenty more. Return to me to-morrowand
keep your own counsel on this subject--though I need hardly tell
you that; for you'll do so for your own sakes. Nowgive me your
addressand leave me.'

The address was giventhe two men departedthe crowd went with
themand the single gentleman for two mortal hours walked in
uncommon agitation up and down his roomover the wondering heads
of Mr Swiveller and Miss Sally Brass.

CHAPTER 38

Kit--for it happens at this juncturenot only that we have
breathing time to follow his fortunesbut that the necessities of
these adventures so adapt themselves to our ease and inclination as
to call upon us imperatively to pursue the track we most desire to
take--Kitwhile the matters treated of in the last fifteen
chapters were yet in progresswasas the reader may suppose
gradually familiarising himself more and more with Mr and Mrs
GarlandMr Abelthe ponyand Barbaraand gradually coming to
consider them one and all as his particular private friendsand
Abel CottageFinchleyas his own proper home.

Stay--the words are writtenand may gobut if they convey any
notion that Kitin the plentiful board and comfortable lodging of
his new abodebegan to think slightingly of the poor fare and
furniture of his old dwellingthey do their office badly and
commit injustice. Who so mindful of those he left at home--albeit
they were but a mother and two young babies--as Kit? What
boastful father in the fulness of his heart ever related such
wonders of his infant prodigyas Kit never wearied of telling


Barbara in the evening timeconcerning little Jacob? Was there
ever such a mother as Kit's motheron her son's showing; or was
there ever such comfort in poverty as in the poverty of Kit's
familyif any correct judgment might be arrived atfrom his own
glowing account!

And let me linger in this placefor an instantto remark that if
ever household affections and loves are graceful thingsthey are
graceful in the poor. The ties that bind the wealthy and the proud
to home may be forged on earthbut those which link the poor man
to his humble hearth are of the truer metal and bear the stamp of
Heaven. The man of high descent may love the halls and lands of
his inheritance as part of himself: as trophies of his birth and
power; his associations with them are associations of pride and
wealth and triumph; the poor man's attachment to the tenements he
holdswhich strangers have held beforeand may to-morrow occupy
againhas a worthier rootstruck deep into a purer soil. His
household gods are of flesh and bloodwith no alloy of silver
goldor precious stone; he has no property but in the affections
of his own heart; and when they endear bare floors and walls
despite of rags and toil and scanty farethat man has his love of
home from Godand his rude hut becomes a solemn place.

Oh! if those who rule the destinies of nations would but remember
this--if they would but think how hard it is for the very poor to
have engendered in their heartsthat love of home from which all
domestic virtues springwhen they live in dense and squalid masses
where social decency is lostor rather never found--if they
would but turn aside from the wide thoroughfares and great houses
and strive to improve the wretched dwellings in bye-ways where only
Poverty may walk--many low roofs would point more truly to the
skythan the loftiest steeple that now rears proudly up from the
midst of guiltand crimeand horrible diseaseto mock them by
its contrast. In hollow voices from WorkhouseHospitaland jail
this truth is preached from day to dayand has been proclaimed for
years. It is no light matter--no outcry from the working vulgar-no
mere question of the people's health and comforts that may be
whistled down on Wednesday nights. In love of homethe love of
country has its rise; and who are the truer patriots or the better
in time of need--those who venerate the landowning its woodand
streamand earthand all that they produce? or those who love
their countryboasting not a foot of ground in all its wide
domain!

Kit knew nothing about such questionsbut he knew that his old
home was a very poor placeand that his new one was very unlike
itand yet he was constantly looking back with grateful
satisfaction and affectionate anxietyand often indited squarefolded
letters to his motherenclosing a shilling or eighteenpence
or such other small remittancewhich Mr Abel's liberality enabled
him to make. Sometimes being in the neighbourhoodhe had leisure
to call upon herand then great was the joy and pride of Kit's
motherand extremely noisy the satisfaction of little Jacob and
the babyand cordial the congratulations of the whole courtwho
listened with admiring ears to the accounts of Abel Cottageand
could never be told too much of its wonders and magnificence.

Although Kit was in the very highest favour with the old lady and
gentlemanand Mr Abeland Barbarait is certain that no member
of the family evinced such a remarkable partiality for him as the
self-willed ponywhofrom being the most obstinate and
opinionated pony on the face of the earthwasin his handsthe
meekest and most tractable of animals. It is true that in exact
proportion as he became manageable by Kit he became utterly


ungovernable by anybody else (as if he had determined to keep him
in the family at all risks and hazards)and thateven under the
guidance of his favouritehe would sometimes perform a great
variety of strange freaks and capersto the extreme discomposure
of the old lady's nerves; but as Kit always represented that this
was only his funor a way he had of showing his attachment to his
employersMrs Garland gradually suffered herself to be persuaded
into the beliefin which she at last became so strongly confirmed
that ifin one of these ebullitionshe had overturned the chaise
she would have been quite satisfied that he did it with the very
best intentions.

Besides becoming in a short time a perfect marvel in all stable
mattersKit soon made himself a very tolerable gardenera handy
fellow within doorsand an indispensable attendant on Mr Abelwho
every day gave him some new proof of his confidence and
approbation. Mr Witherden the notarytooregarded him with a
friendly eye; and even Mr Chuckster would sometimes condescend to
give him a slight nodor to honour him with that peculiar form of
recognition which is called 'taking a sight' or to favour him with
some other salute combining pleasantry with patronage.

One morning Kit drove Mr Abel to the Notary's officeas he
sometimes didand having set him down at the housewas about to
drive off to a livery stable hard bywhen this same Mr Chuckster
emerged from the office doorand cried 'Woa-a-a-a-a-a!'--dwelling
upon the note a long timefor the purpose of striking terror into
the pony's heartand asserting the supremacy of man over the
inferior animals.

'Pull upSnobby' cried Mr Chucksteraddressing himself to Kit.
'You're wanted inside here.'

'Has Mr Abel forgotten anythingI wonder?' said Kit as he
dismounted.

'Ask no questionsSnobby' returned Mr Chuckster'but go and see.
Woa-a-a thenwill you? If that pony was mineI'd break him.'

'You must be very gentle with himif you please' said Kit'or
you'll find him troublesome. You'd better not keep on pulling his
earsplease. I know he won't like it.'

To this remonstrance Mr Chuckster deigned no other answerthan
addressing Kit with a lofty and distant air as 'young feller' and
requesting him to cut and come again with all speed. The 'young
feller' complyingMr Chuckster put his hands in his pocketsand
tried to look as if he were not minding the ponybut happened to
be lounging there by accident.

Kit scraped his shoes very carefully (for he had not yet lost his
reverence for the bundles of papers and the tin boxes) and tapped
at the office-doorwhich was quickly opened by the Notary himself.

'Oh! come inChristopher' said Mr Witherden.

'Is that the lad?' asked an elderly gentlemanbut of a stout
bluff figure--who was in the room.

'That's the lad' said Mr Witherden. 'He fell in with my client
Mr Garlandsirat this very door. I have reason to think he is
a good ladsirand that you may believe what he says. Let me
introduce Mr Abel Garlandsir--his young master; my articled
pupilsirand most particular friend:--my most particular


friendsir' repeated the Notarydrawing out his silk
handkerchief and flourishing it about his face.

'Your servantsir' said the stranger gentleman.

'YourssirI'm sure' replied Mr Abel mildly. 'You were wishing
to speak to Christophersir?'

'YesI was. Have I your permission?'

'By all means.'

'My business is no secret; or I should rather say it need be no
secret here' said the strangerobserving that Mr Abel and the
Notary were preparing to retire. 'It relates to a dealer in
curiosities with whom he livedand in whom I am earnestly and
warmly interested. I have been a stranger to this country
gentlemenfor very many yearsand if I am deficient in form and
ceremonyI hope you will forgive me.'

'No forgiveness is necessarysir;--none whatever' replied the
Notary. And so said Mr Abel.

'I have been making inquiries in the neighbourhood in which his old
master lived' said the stranger'and I learn that he was served
by this lad. I have found out his mother's houseand have been
directed by her to this place as the nearest in which I should be
likely to find him. That's the cause of my presenting myself here
this morning.'

'I am very glad of any causesir' said the Notary'which
procures me the honour of this visit.'

'Sir' retorted the stranger'you speak like a mere man of the
worldand I think you something better. Thereforepray do not
sink your real character in paying unmeaning compliments to me.'

'Hem!' coughed the Notary. 'You're a plain speakersir.'

'And a plain dealer' returned the stranger. 'It may be my long
absence and inexperience that lead me to the conclusion; but if
plain speakers are scarce in this part of the worldI fancy plain
dealers are still scarcer. If my speaking should offend yousir
my dealingI hopewill make amends.'

Mr Witherden seemed a little disconcerted by the elderly
gentleman's mode of conducting the dialogue; and as for Kithe
looked at him in open-mouthed astonishment: wondering what kind of
language he would address to himif he talked in that free and
easy way to a Notary. It was with no harshnesshoweverthough
with something of constitutional irritability and hastethat he
turned to Kit and said:

'If you thinkmy ladthat I am pursuing these inquiries with any
other view than that of serving and reclaiming those I am in search
ofyou do me a very great wrongand deceive yourself. Don't be
deceivedI beg of youbut rely upon my assurance. The fact is
gentlemen' he addedturning again to the Notary and his pupil
'that I am in a very painful and wholly unexpected position. I
came to this city with a darling object at my heartexpecting to
find no obstacle or difficulty in the way of its attainment. I
find myself suddenly checked and stopped shortin the execution of
my designby a mystery which I cannot penetrate. Every effort I
have made to penetrate ithas only served to render it darker and


more obscure; and I am afraid to stir openly in the matterlest
those whom I anxiously pursueshould fly still farther from me.
I assure you that if you could give me any assistanceyou would
not be sorry to do soif you knew how greatly I stand in need of
itand what a load it would relieve me from.'

There was a simplicity in this confidence which occasioned it to
find a quick response in the breast of the good-natured Notarywho
repliedin the same spiritthat the stranger had not mistaken his
desireand that if he could be of service to himhe wouldmost
readily.

Kit was then put under examination and closely questioned by the
unknown gentlemantouching his old master and the childtheir
lonely way of lifetheir retired habitsand strict seclusion.
The nightly absence of the old manthe solitary existence of the
child at those timeshis illness and recoveryQuilp's possession
of the houseand their sudden disappearancewere all the subjects
of much questioning and answer. FinallyKit informed the
gentleman that the premises were now to letand that a board upon
the door referred all inquirers to Mr Sampson BrassSolicitorof
Bevis Marksfrom whom he might perhaps learn some further
particulars.

'Not by inquiry' said the gentleman shaking his head. 'I live
there.'

'Live at Brass's the attorney's!' cried Mr Witherden in some
surprise: having professional knowledge of the gentleman in
question.

'Aye' was the reply. 'I entered on his lodgings t'other day
chiefly because I had seen this very board. it matters little to
me where I liveand I had a desperate hope that some intelligence
might be cast in my way therewhich would not reach me elsewhere.
YesI live at Brass's--more shame for meI suppose?'

'That's a mere matter of opinion' said the Notaryshrugging his
shoulders. 'He is looked upon as rather a doubtful character.'

'Doubtful?' echoed the other. 'I am glad to hear there's any doubt
about it. I supposed that had been thoroughly settledlong ago.
But will you let me speak a word or two with you in private?'

Mr Witherden consentingthey walked into that gentleman's private
closetand remained therein close conversationfor some quarter
of an hourwhen they returned into the outer office. The stranger
had left his hat in Mr Witherden's roomand seemed to have
established himself in this short interval on quite a friendly
footing.

'I'll not detain you any longer now' he saidputting a crown into
Kit's handand looking towards the Notary. 'You shall hear from
me again. Not a word of thisyou knowexcept to your master and
mistress.'

'Mothersirwould be glad to know--' said Kitfaltering.

'Glad to know what?'

'Anything--so that it was no harm--about Miss Nell.'

'Would she? Well thenyou may tell her if she can keep a secret.
But mindnot a word of this to anybody else. Don't forget that.


Be particular.'

'I'll take caresir' said Kit. 'Thankeesirand good morning.'

Nowit happened that the gentlemanin his anxiety to impress upon
Kit that he was not to tell anybody what had passed between them
followed him out to the door to repeat his cautionand it further
happened that at that moment the eyes of Mr Richard Swiveller were
turned in that directionand beheld his mysterious friend and Kit
together.

It was quite an accidentand the way in which it came about was
this. Mr Chucksterbeing a gentleman of a cultivated taste and
refined spiritwas one of that Lodge of Glorious Apollos whereof
Mr Swiveller was Perpetual Grand. Mr Swivellerpassing through
the street in the execution of some Brazen errandand beholding
one of his Glorious Brotherhood intently gazing on a ponycrossed
over to give him that fraternal greeting with which Perpetual
Grands areby the very constitution of their officebound to
cheer and encourage their disciples. He had scarcely bestowed upon
him his blessingand followed it with a general remark touching
the present state and prospects of the weatherwhenlifting up
his eyeshe beheld the single gentleman of Bevis Marks in earnest
conversation with Christopher Nubbles.

'Hallo!' said Dick'who is that?'

'He called to see my Governor this morning' replied Mr Chuckster;
'beyond thatI don't know him from Adam.'

'At least you know his name?' said Dick.

To which Mr Chuckster repliedwith an elevation of speech becoming
a Glorious Apollothat he was 'everlastingly blessed' if he did.

'All I knowmy dear feller' said Mr Chucksterrunning his
fingers through his hair'isthat he is the cause of my having
stood here twenty minutesfor which I hate him with a mortal and
undying hatredand would pursue him to the confines of eternity if
I could afford the time.'

While they were thus discoursingthe subject of their conversation
(who had not appeared to recognise Mr Richard Swiveller) re-entered
the houseand Kit came down the steps and joined them; to whom Mr
Swiveller again propounded his inquiry with no better success.

'He is a very nice gentlemanSir' said Kit'and that's all I
know about him.'

Mr Chuckster waxed wroth at this answerand without applying the
remark to any particular casementionedas a general truththat
it was expedient to break the heads of Snobsand to tweak their
noses. Without expressing his concurrence in this sentimentMr
Swiveller after a few moments of abstraction inquired which way Kit
was drivingandbeing informeddeclared it was his wayand that
he would trespass on him for a lift. Kit would gladly have
declined the proffered honourbut as Mr Swiveller was already
established in the seat beside himhe had no means of doing so
otherwise than by a forcible ejectmentand thereforedrove
briskly off--so briskly indeedas to cut short the leave-taking
between Mr Chuckster and his Grand Masterand to occasion the
former gentleman some inconvenience from having his corns squeezed
by the impatient pony.


As Whisker was tired of standingand Mr Swiveller was kind enough
to stimulate him by shrill whistlesand various sporting cries
they rattled off at too sharp a pace to admit of much conversation:
especially as the ponyincensed by Mr Swiveller's admonitions
took a particular fancy for the lamp-posts and cart-wheelsand
evinced a strong desire to run on the pavement and rasp himself
against the brick walls. It was notthereforeuntil they had
arrived at the stableand the chaise had been extricated from a
very small doorwayinto which the pony dragged it under the
impression that he could take it along with him into his usual
stallthat Mr Swiveller found time to talk.

'It's hard work' said Richard. 'What do you say to some beer?'

Kit at first declinedbut presently consentedand they adjourned
to the neighbouring bar together.

'We'll drink our friend what's-his-name' said Dickholding up the
bright frothy pot; '--that was talking to you this morningyou
know--I know him--a good fellowbut eccentric--very--here's
what's-his-name!'

Kit pledged him.

'He lives in my house' said Dick; 'at least in the house occupied
by the firm in which I'm a sort of a--of a managing partner--a
difficult fellow to get anything out ofbut we like him--we like
him.'

'I must be goingsirif you please' said Kitmoving away.

'Don't be in a hurryChristopher' replied his patron'we'll
drink your mother.'

'Thank yousir.'

'An excellent woman that mother of yoursChristopher' said Mr
Swiveller. 'Who ran to catch me when I felland kissed the place
to make it well? My mother. A charming woman. He's a liberal
sort of fellow. We must get him to do something for your mother.
Does he know herChristopher?'

Kit shook his headand glancing slyly at his questionerthanked
himand made off before he could say another word.

'Humph!' said Mr Swiveller pondering'this is queer. Nothing but
mysteries in connection with Brass's house. I'll keep my own
counselhowever. Everybody and anybody has been in my confidence
as yetbut now I think I'll set up in business for myself. Queer-very
queer!'

After pondering deeply and with a face of exceeding wisdom for some
timeMr Swiveller drank some more of the beerand summoning a
small boy who had been watching his proceedingspoured forth the
few remaining drops as a libation on the graveland bade him carry
the empty vessel to the bar with his complimentsand above all
things to lead a sober and temperate lifeand abstain from all
intoxicating and exciting liquors. Having given him this piece of
moral advice for his trouble (whichas he wisely observedwas far
better than half-pence) the Perpetual Grand Master of the Glorious
Apollos thrust his hands into his pockets and sauntered away: still
pondering as he went.


CHAPTER 39

All that daythough he waited for Mr Abel until eveningKit kept
clear of his mother's housedetermined not to anticipate the
pleasures of the morrowbut to let them come in their full rush of
delight; for to-morrow was the great and long looked-for epoch in
his life--to-morrow was the end of his first quarter--the day of
receivingfor the first timeone fourth part of his annual income
of Six Pounds in one vast sum of Thirty Shillings--to-morrow was
to be a half-holiday devoted to a whirl of entertainmentsand
little Jacob was to know what oysters meantand to see a play.

All manner of incidents combined in favour of the occasion: not
only had Mr and Mrs Garland forewarned him that they intended to
make no deduction for his outfit from the great amountbut to pay
it him unbroken in all its gigantic grandeur; not only had the
unknown gentleman increased the stock by the sum of five shillings
which was a perfect god-send and in itself a fortune; not only had
these things come to pass which nobody could have calculated upon
or in their wildest dreams have hoped; but it was Barbara's quarter
too--Barbara's quarterthat very day--and Barbara had a
half-holiday as well as Kitand Barbara's mother was going to make
one of the partyand to take tea with Kit's motherand cultivate
her acquaintance.

To be sure Kit looked out of his window very early that morning to
see which way the clouds were flyingand to be sure Barbara would
have been at hers tooif she had not sat up so late over-night
starching and ironing small pieces of muslinand crimping them
into frillsand sewing them on to other pieces to form magnificent
wholes for next day's wear. But they were both up very early for
all thatand had small appetites for breakfast and less for
dinnerand were in a state of great excitement when Barbara's
mother came inwith astonishing accounts of the fineness of the
weather out of doors (but with a very large umbrella
notwithstandingfor people like Barbara's mother seldom make
holiday without one)and when the bell rang for them to go up
stairs and receive their quarter's money in gold and silver.

Wellwasn't Mr Garland kind when he said 'Christopherhere's your
moneyand you have earned it well;' and wasn't Mrs Garland kind
when she said 'Barbarahere's yoursand I'm much pleased with
you;' and didn't Kit sign his name bold to his receiptand didn't
Barbara sign her name all a trembling to hers; and wasn't it
beautiful to see how Mrs Garland poured out Barbara's mother a
glass of wine; and didn't Barbara's mother speak up when she said
'Here's blessing youma'amas a good ladyand yousiras a
good gentlemanand Barbaramy love to youand here's towards
youMr Christopher;' and wasn't she as long drinking it as if it
had been a tumblerful; and didn't she look genteelstanding there
with her gloves on; and wasn't there plenty of laughing and talking
among them as they reviewed all these things upon the top of the
coachand didn't they pity the people who hadn't got a holiday!

But Kit's motheragain--wouldn't anybody have supposed she had
come of a good stock and been a lady all her life! There she was
quite ready to receive themwith a display of tea-things that
might have warmed the heart of a china-shop; and little Jacob and
the baby in such a state of perfection that their clothes looked as
good as newthough Heaven knows they were old enough! Didn't she
say before they had sat down five minutes that Barbara's mother was


exactly the sort of lady she expectedand didn't Barbara's mother
say that Kit's mother was the very picture of what she had
expectedand didn't Kit's mother compliment Barbara's mother on
Barbaraand didn't Barbara's mother compliment Kit's mother on
Kitand wasn't Barbara herself quite fascinated with little Jacob
and did ever a child show off when he was wantedas that child
didor make such friends as he made!

'And we are both widows too!' said Barbara's mother. 'We must have
been made to know each other.'

'I haven't a doubt about it' returned Mrs Nubbles. 'And what a
pity it is we didn't know each other sooner.'

'But thenyou knowit's such a pleasure' said Barbara's mother
'to have it brought about by one's son and daughterthat it's
fully made up for. Nowan't it?'

To thisKit's mother yielded her full assentand tracing things
back from effects to causesthey naturally reverted to their
deceased husbandsrespecting whose livesdeathsand burials
they compared notesand discovered sundry circumstances that
tallied with wonderful exactness; such as Barbara's father having
been exactly four years and ten months older than Kit's fatherand
one of them having died on a Wednesday and the other on a Thursday
and both of them having been of a very fine make and remarkably
good-lookingwith other extraordinary coincidences. These
recollections being of a kind calculated to cast a shadow on the
brightness of the holidayKit diverted the conversation to general
topicsand they were soon in great force againand as merry as
before. Among other thingsKit told them about his old placeand
the extraordinary beauty of Nell (of whom he had talked to Barbara
a thousand times already); but the last-named circumstance failed
to interest his hearers to anything like the extent he had
supposedand even his mother said (looking accidentally at Barbara
at the same time) that there was no doubt Miss Nell was very
prettybut she was but a child after alland there were many
young women quite as pretty as she; and Barbara mildly observed
that she should think soand that she never could help believing
Mr Christopher must be under a mistake--which Kit wondered at very
muchnot being able to conceive what reason she had for doubting
him. Barbara's mother tooobserved that it was very common for
young folks to change at about fourteen or fifteenand whereas
they had been very pretty beforeto grow up quite plain; which
truth she illustrated by many forcible examplesespecially one of
a young manwhobeing a builder with great prospectshad been
particular in his attentions to Barbarabut whom Barbara would
have nothing to say to; which (though everything happened for the
best) she almost thought was a pity. Kit said he thought so too
and so he did honestlyand he wondered what made Barbara so silent
all at onceand why his mother looked at him as if he shouldn't
have said it.

Howeverit was high time now to be thinking of the play; for which
great preparation was requiredin the way of shawls and bonnets
not to mention one handkerchief full of oranges and another of
appleswhich took some time tying upin consequence of
the fruit having a tendency to roll out at the corners. At length
everything was readyand they went off very fast; Kit's mother
carrying the babywho was dreadfully wide awakeand Kit holding
little Jacob in one handand escorting Barbara with the other--a
state of things which occasioned the two motherswho walked
behindto declare that they looked quite family folksand caused
Barbara to blush and say'Now don'tmother!' But Kit said she had


no call to mind what they said; and indeed she need not have had
if she had known how very far from Kit's thoughts any love-making
was. Poor Barbara!

At last they got to the theatrewhich was Astley's: and in some
two minutes after they had reached the yet unopened doorlittle
Jacob was squeezed flatand the baby had received divers
concussionsand Barbara's mother's umbrella had been carried
several yards off and passed back to her over the shoulders of the
peopleand Kit had hit a man on the head with the handkerchief of
apples for 'scrowdging' his parent with unnecessary violenceand
there was a great uproar. Butwhen they were once past the
pay-place and tearing away for very life with their checks in their
handsandabove allwhen they were fairly in the theatreand
seated in such places that they couldn't have had better if they
had picked them outand taken them beforehandall this was looked
upon as quite a capital jokeand an essential part of the
entertainment.

Deardearwhat a place it lookedthat Astley's; with all the
paintgildingand looking-glass; the vague smell of horses
suggestive of coming wonders; the curtain that hid such gorgeous
mysteries; the clean white sawdust down in the circus; the company
coming in and taking their places; the fiddlers looking carelessly
up at them while they tuned their instrumentsas if they didn't
want the play to beginand knew it all beforehand! What a glow
was thatwhich burst upon them allwhen that longclear
brilliant row of lights came slowly up; and what the feverish
excitement when the little bell rang and the music began in good
earnestwith strong parts for the drumsand sweet effects for the
triangles! Well might Barbara's mother say to Kit's mother that
the gallery was the place to see fromand wonder it wasn't much
dearer than the boxes; well might Barbara feel doubtful whether to
laugh or cryin her flutter of delight.

Then the play itself! the horses which little Jacob believed from
the first to be aliveand the ladies and gentlemen of whose
reality he could be by no means persuadedhaving never seen or
heard anything at all like them--the firingwhich made Barbara
wink--the forlorn ladywho made her cry--the tyrantwho made
her tremble--the man who sang the song with the lady's-maid and
danced the choruswho made her laugh--the pony who reared up on
his hind legs when he saw the murdererand wouldn't hear of
walking on all fours again until he was taken into custody--the
clown who ventured on such familiarities with the military man in
boots--the lady who jumped over the nine-and-twenty ribbons and
came down safe upon the horse's back--everything was delightful
splendidand surprising! Little Jacob applauded till his hands
were sore; Kit cried 'an-kor' at the end of everythingthe
three-act piece included; and Barbara's mother beat her umbrella on
the floorin her ecstasiesuntil it was nearly worn down to the
gingham.

In the midst of all these fascinationsBarbara's thoughts seemed
to have been still running on what Kit had said at tea-time; for
when they were coming out of the playshe asked himwith an
hysterical simperif Miss Nell was as handsome as the lady who
jumped over the ribbons.

'As handsome as her?' said Kit. 'Double as handsome.'

'Oh Christopher! I'm sure she was the beautifullest creature ever
was' said Barbara.


'Nonsense!' returned Kit. 'She was well enoughI don't deny that;
but think how she was dressed and paintedand what a difference
that made. Why YOU are a good deal better looking than her
Barbara.'

'Oh Christopher!' said Barbaralooking down.

'You areany day' said Kit'--and so's your mother.'

Poor Barbara!

What was all this though--even all this--to the extraordinary
dissipation that ensuedwhen Kitwalking into an oyster-shop as
bold as if he lived thereand not so much as looking at the
counter or the man behind itled his party into a box--a private
boxfitted up with red curtainswhite table-clothand cruetstand
complete--and ordered a fierce gentleman with whiskerswho
acted as waiter and called himhim Christopher Nubbles'sir' to
bring three dozen of his largest-sized oystersand to look sharp
about it! YesKit told this gentleman to look sharpand he not
only said he would look sharpbut he actually didand presently
came running back with the newest loavesand the freshest butter
and the largest oystersever seen. Then said Kit to this
gentleman'a pot of beer'--just so--and the gentlemaninstead
of replying'Sirdid you address that language to me?' only said
'Pot o' beersir? Yessir' and went off and fetched itand put
it on the table in a small decanter-standlike those which
blind-men's dogs carry about the streets in their mouthsto catch
the half-pence in; and both Kit's mother and Barbara's mother
declared as he turned away that he was one of the slimmest and
gracefullest young men she had ever looked upon.

Then they fell to work upon the supper in earnest; and there was
Barbarathat foolish Barbaradeclaring that she could not eat
more than twoand wanting more pressing than you would believe
before she would eat four: though her mother and Kit's mother made
up for it pretty welland ate and laughed and enjoyed themselves
so thoroughly that it did Kit good to see themand made him laugh
and eat likewise from strong sympathy. But the greatest miracle of
the night was little Jacobwho ate oysters as if he had been born
and bred to the business--sprinkled the pepper and the vinegar
with a discretion beyond his years--and afterwards built a grotto
on the table with the shells. There was the baby toowho had
never closed an eye all nightbut had sat as good as goldtrying
to force a large orange into his mouthand gazing intently at the
lights in the chandelier--there he wassitting up in his mother's
lapstaring at the gas without winkingand making indentations in
his soft visage with an oyster-shellto that degree that a heart
of iron must have loved him! In shortthere never was a more
successful supper; and when Kit ordered in a glass of something hot
to finish withand proposed Mr and Mrs Garland before sending it
roundthere were not six happier people in all the world.

But all happiness has an end--hence the chief pleasure of its next
beginning--and as it was now growing latethey agreed it was time
to turn their faces homewards. Soafter going a little out of
their way to see Barbara and Barbara's mother safe to a friend's
house where they were to pass the nightKit and his mother left
them at the doorwith an early appointment for returning to
Finchley next morningand a great many plans for next quarter's
enjoyment. ThenKit took little Jacob on his backand giving his
arm to his motherand a kiss to the babythey all trudged merrily
home together.


CHAPTER 40

Full of that vague kind of penitence which holidays awaken next
morningKit turned out at sunriseandwith his faith in last
night's enjoyments a little shaken by cool daylight and the return
to every-day duties and occupationswent to meet Barbara and her
mother at the appointed place. And being careful not to awaken any
of the little householdwho were yet resting from their unusual
fatiguesKit left his money on the chimney-piecewith an
inscription in chalk calling his mother's attention to the
circumstanceand informing her that it came from her dutiful son;
and went his waywith a heart something heavier than his pockets
but free from any very great oppression notwithstanding.

Oh these holidays! why will they leave us some regret? why cannot
we push them backonly a week or two in our memoriesso as to put
them at once at that convenient distance whence they may be
regarded either with a calm indifference or a pleasant effort of
recollection! why will they hang about uslike the flavour of
yesterday's winesuggestive of headaches and lassitudeand those
good intentions for the futurewhichunder the earthform the
everlasting pavement of a large estateandupon itusually
endure until dinner-time or thereabouts!

Who will wonder that Barbara had a headacheor that Barbara's
mother was disposed to be crossor that she slightly underrated
Astley'sand thought the clown was older than they had taken him
to be last night? Kit was not surprised to hear her say so--not
he. He had already had a misgiving that the inconstant actors in
that dazzling vision had been doing the same thing the night before
lastand would do it again that nightand the nextand for weeks
and months to comethough he would not be there. Such is the
difference between yesterday and today. We are all going to the
playor coming home from it.

Howeverthe Sun himself is weak when he first risesand gathers
strength and courage as the day gets on. By degreesthey began to
recall circumstances more and more pleasant in their natureuntil
what between talkingwalkingand laughingthey reached Finchley
in such good heartthat Barbara's mother declared she never felt
less tired or in better spirits. And so said Kit. Barbara had
been silent all the waybut she said so too. Poor little Barbara!
She was very quiet.

They were at home in such good time that Kit had rubbed down the
pony and made him as spruce as a race-horsebefore Mr Garland came
down to breakfast; which punctual and industrious conduct the old
ladyand the old gentlemanand Mr Abelhighly extolled. At his
usual hour (or rather at his usual minute and secondfor he was
the soul of punctuality) Mr Abel walked outto be overtaken by the
London coachand Kit and the old gentleman went to work in the
garden.

This was not the least pleasant of Kit's employments. On a fine
day they were quite a family party; the old lady sitting hard by
with her work-basket on a little table; the old gentleman digging
or pruningor clipping about with a large pair of shearsor
helping Kit in some way or other with great assiduity; and Whisker
looking on from his paddock in placid contemplation of them all.
To-day they were to trim the grape-vineso Kit mounted half-way up


a short ladderand began to snip and hammer awaywhile the old
gentlemanwith a great interest in his proceedingshanded up the
nails and shreds of cloth as he wanted them. The old lady and
Whisker looked on as usual.

'WellChristopher' said Mr Garland'and so you have made a new
friendeh?'

'I beg your pardonSir?' returned Kitlooking down from the
ladder.

'You have made a new friendI hear from Mr Abel' said the old
gentleman'at the office!'

'Oh! Yes Siryes. He behaved very handsomeSir.'

'I'm glad to hear it' returned the old gentlemen with a smile.
'He is disposed to behave more handsomely stillthough
Christopher.'

'IndeedSir! It's very kind in himbut I don't want him toI'm
sure' said Kithammering stoutly at an obdurate nail.

'He is rather anxious' pursued the old gentleman'to have you in
his own service--take care what you're doingor you will fall
down and hurt yourself.'

'To have me in his serviceSir?' cried Kitwho had stopped short
in his work and faced about on the ladder like some dexterous
tumbler. 'WhySirI don't think he can be in earnest when he
says that.'

'Oh! But he is indeed' said Mr Garland. 'And he has told Mr Abel
so.'

'I never heard of such a thing!' muttered Kitlooking ruefully at
his master and mistress. 'I wonder at him; that I do.'

'You seeChristopher' said Mr Garland'this is a point of much
importance to youand you should understand and consider it in
that light. This gentleman is able to give you more money than I-not
I hopeto carry through the various relations of master and
servantmore kindness and confidencebut certainlyChristopher
to give you more money.'

'Well' said Kit'after thatSir--'

'Wait a moment' interposed Mr Garland. 'That is not all. You
were a very faithful servant to your old employersas I
understandand should this gentleman recover themas it is his
purpose to attempt doing by every means in his powerI have no
doubt that youbeing in his servicewould meet with your reward.
Besides' added the old gentleman with stronger emphasis'besides
having the pleasure of being again brought into communication with
those to whom you seem to be very strongly and disinterestedly
attached. You must think of all thisChristopherand not be rash
or hasty in your choice.'

Kit did suffer one twingeone momentary pangin keeping the
resolution he had already formedwhen this last argument passed
swiftly into his thoughtsand conjured up the realization of all
his hopes and fancies. But it was gone in a minuteand he
sturdily rejoined that the gentleman must look out for somebody
elseas he did think he might have done at first.


'He has no right to think that I'd be led away to go to himsir'
said Kitturning round again after half a minute's hammering.
'Does he think I'm a fool?'

'He mayperhapsChristopherif you refuse his offer' said Mr
Garland gravely.

'Then let himsir' retorted Kit; 'what do I caresirwhat he
thinks? why should I care for his thinkingsirwhen I know that
I should be a fooland worse than a foolsirto leave the
kindest master and mistress that ever was or can bewho took me
out of the streets a very poor and hungry lad indeed--poorer and
hungrier perhaps than even you think forsir--to go to him or
anybody? If Miss Nell was to come backma'am' added Kitturning
suddenly to his mistress'why that would be another thingand
perhaps if she wanted meI might ask you now and then to let me
work for her when all was done at home. But when she comes back
I see now that she'll be rich as old master always said she would
and being a rich young ladywhat could she want of me? Nono'
added Kitshaking his head sorrowfully'she'll never want me any
moreand bless herI hope she never maythough I should like to
see her too!'

Here Kit drove a nail into the wallvery hard--much harder than
was necessary--and having done sofaced about again.

'There's the ponysir' said Kit--'Whiskerma'am (and he knows
so well I'm talking about him that he begins to neigh directly
Sir)--would he let anybody come near him but mema'am? Here's
the gardensirand Mr Abelma'am. Would Mr Abel part with me
Siror is there anybody that could be fonder of the gardenma'am?
It would break mother's heartSirand even little Jacob would
have sense enough to cry his eyes outma'amif he thought that Mr
Abel could wish to part with me so soonafter having told meonly
the other daythat he hoped we might be together for years to
come--'

There is no telling how long Kit might have stood upon the ladder
addressing his master and mistress by turnsand generally turning
towards the wrong personif Barbara had not at that moment come
running up to say that a messenger from the office had brought a
notewhichwith an expression of some surprise at Kit's
oratorical appearanceshe put into her master's hand.

'Oh!' said the old gentleman after reading it'ask the messenger
to walk this way.' Barbara tripping off to do as she was bidhe
turned to Kit and said that they would not pursue the subject any
furtherand that Kit could not be more unwilling to part with
themthan they would be to part with Kit; a sentiment which the
old lady very generously echoed.

'At the same timeChristopher' added Mr Garlandglancing at the
note in his hand'if the gentleman should want to borrow you now
and then for an hour or soor even a day or soat a timewe must
consent to lend youand you must consent to be lent. --Oh! here
is the young gentleman. How do you doSir?'

This salutation was addressed to Mr Chucksterwhowith his hat
extremely on one sideand his hair a long way beyond itcame
swaggering up the walk.

'Hope I see you well sir' returned that gentleman. 'Hope I see
YOU wellma'am. Charming box' thissir. Delicious country to be


sure.'

'You want to take Kit back with youI find?' observed Mr Garland.

'I have got a chariot-cab waiting on purpose' replied the clerk.
'A very spanking grey in that cabsirif you're a judge of
horse-flesh.'

Declining to inspect the spanking greyon the plea that he was but
poorly acquainted with such mattersand would but imperfectly
appreciate his beautiesMr Garland invited Mr Chuckster to partake
of a slight repast in the way of lunch. That gentleman readily
consentingcertain cold viandsflanked with ale and winewere
speedily prepared for his refreshment.

At this repastMr Chuckster exerted his utmost abilities to
enchant his entertainersand impress them with a conviction of the
mental superiority of those who dwelt in town; with which view he
led the discourse to the small scandal of the dayin which he was
justly considered by his friends to shine prodigiously. Thushe
was in a condition to relate the exact circumstances of the
difference between the Marquis of Mizzler and Lord Bobbywhich it
appeared originated in a disputed bottle of champagneand not in
a pigeon-pieas erroneously reported in the newspapers; neither
had Lord Bobby said to the Marquis of Mizzler'Mizzlerone of us
two tells a lieand I'm not the man' as incorrectly stated by the
same authorities; but 'Mizzleryou know where I'm to be foundand
dammesirfind me if you want me'--whichof courseentirely
changed the aspect of this interesting questionand placed it in
a very different light. He also acquainted them with the precise
amount of the income guaranteed by the Duke of Thigsberry to
Violetta Stetta of the Italian Operawhich it appeared was payable
quarterlyand not half-yearlyas the public had been given to
understandand which was EXclusiveand not INclusive (as had been
monstrously stated) of jewelleryperfumeryhair-powder for five
footmenand two daily changes of kid-gloves for a page. Having
entreated the old lady and gentleman to set their minds at rest on
these absorbing pointsfor they might rely on his statement being
the correct oneMr Chuckster entertained them with theatrical
chit-chat and the court circular; and so wound up a brilliant and
fascinating conversation which he had maintained aloneand without
any assistance whateverfor upwards of three-quarters of an hour.

'And now that the nag has got his wind again' said Mr Chuckster
rising in a graceful manner'I'm afraid I must cut my stick.'

Neither Mr nor Mrs Garland offered any opposition to his tearing
himself away (feelingno doubtthat such a man could ill be
spared from his proper sphere of action)and therefore Mr
Chuckster and Kit were shortly afterwards upon their way to town;
Kit being perched upon the box of the cabriolet beside the driver
and Mr Chuckster seated in solitary state insidewith one of his
boots sticking out at each of the front windows.

When they reached the Notary's houseKit followed into the office
and was desired by Mr Abel to sit down and waitfor the gentleman
who wanted him had gone outand perhaps might not return for some
time. This anticipation was strictly verifiedfor Kit had had his
dinnerand his teaand had read all the lighter matter in the
Law-Listand the Post-Office Directoryand had fallen asleep a
great many timesbefore the gentleman whom he had seen before
came in; which he did at last in a very great hurry.

He was closeted with Mr Witherden for some little timeand Mr Abel


had been called in to assist at the conferencebefore Kit
wondering very much what he was wanted forwas summoned to attend
them.

'Christopher' said the gentlemanturning to him directly he
entered the room'I have found your old master and young
mistress.'

'NoSir! Have youthough?' returned Kithis eyes sparkling with
delight. 'Where are theySir? How are theySir? Are they--are
they near here?'

'A long way from here' returned the gentlemanshaking his head.
'But I am going away to-night to bring them backand I want you to
go with me.'

'MeSir?' cried Kitfull of joy and surprise.

'The place' said the strange gentlemanturning thoughtfully to
the Notary'indicated by this man of the dogsis--how far from
here--sixty miles?'

'From sixty to seventy.'

'Humph! If we travel post all nightwe shall reach there in good
time to-morrow morning. Nowthe only question isas they will
not know meand the childGod bless herwould think that any
stranger pursuing them had a design upon her grandfather's liberty-can
I do better than take this ladwhom they both know and will
readily rememberas an assurance to them of my friendly
intentions?'

'Certainly not' replied the Notary. 'Take Christopher by all
means.'

'I beg your pardonSir' said Kitwho had listened to this
discourse with a lengthening countenance'but if that's the
reasonI'm afraid I should do more harm than good--Miss Nell
Sirshe knows meand would trust in meI am sure; but old master-I
don't know whygentlemen; nobody does--would not bear me in
his sight after he had been illand Miss Nell herself told me that
I must not go near him or let him see me any more. I should spoil
all that you were doing if I wentI'm afraid. I'd give the world
to gobut you had better not take meSir.'

'Another difficulty!' cried the impetuous gentleman. 'Was ever man
so beset as I? Is there nobody else that knew themnobody else in
whom they had any confidence? Solitary as their lives wereis
there no one person who would serve my purpose?'

'IS thereChristopher?' said the Notary.

'Not oneSir' replied Kit.--'Yesthough--there's my mother.'

'Did they know her?' said the single gentleman.

'Know herSir! whyshe was always coming backwards and forwards.
They were as kind to her as they were to me. Bless youSirshe
expected they'd come back to her house.'

'Then where the devil is the woman?' said the impatient gentleman
catching up his hat. 'Why isn't she here? Why is that woman
always out of the way when she is most wanted?'


In a wordthe single gentleman was bursting out of the office
bent upon laying violent hands on Kit's motherforcing her into a
post-chaiseand carrying her offwhen this novel kind of
abduction was with some difficulty prevented by the joint efforts
of Mr Abel and the Notarywho restrained him by dint of their
remonstrancesand persuaded him to sound Kit upon the probability
of her being able and willing to undertake such a journey on so
short a notice.

This occasioned some doubts on the part of Kitand some violent
demonstrations on that of the single gentlemanand a great many
soothing speeches on that of the Notary and Mr Abel. The upshot of
the business wasthat Kitafter weighing the matter in his mind
and considering it carefullypromisedon behalf of his mother
that she should be ready within two hours from that time to
undertake the expeditionand engaged to produce her in that place
in all respects equipped and prepared for the journeybefore the
specified period had expired.

Having given this pledgewhich was rather a bold oneand not
particularly easy of redemptionKit lost no time in sallying
forthand taking measures for its immediate fulfilment.

CHAPTER 41

Kit made his way through the crowded streetsdividing the stream
of peopledashing across the busy road-waysdiving into lanes and
alleysand stopping or turning aside for nothinguntil he came in
front of the Old Curiosity Shopwhen he came to a stand; partly
from habit and partly from being out of breath.

It was a gloomy autumn eveningand he thought the old place had
never looked so dismal as in its dreary twilight. The windows
brokenthe rusty sashes rattling in their framesthe deserted
house a dull barrier dividing the glaring lights and bustle of the
street into two long linesand standing in the midstcolddark
and empty--presented a cheerless spectacle which mingled harshly
with the bright prospects the boy had been building up for its late
inmatesand came like a disappointment or misfortune. Kit would
have had a good fire roaring up the empty chimneyslights
sparkling and shining through the windowspeople moving briskly to
and frovoices in cheerful conversationsomething in unison with
the new hopes that were astir. He had not expected that the house
would wear any different aspect--had known indeed that it could
not--but coming upon it in the midst of eager thoughts and
expectationsit checked the current in its flowand darkened it
with a mournful shadow.

Kithoweverfortunately for himselfwas not learned enough or
contemplative enough to be troubled with presages of evil afar off
andhaving no mental spectacles to assist his vision in this
respectsaw nothing but the dull housewhich jarred uncomfortably
upon his previous thoughts. Soalmost wishing that he had not
passed itthough hardly knowing whyhe hurried on againmaking
up by his increased speed for the few moments he had lost.

'Nowif she should be out' thought Kitas he approached the poor
dwelling of his mother'and I not able to find herthis impatient
gentleman would be in a pretty taking. And sure enough there's no
lightand the door's fast. NowGod forgive me for saying sobut


if this is Little Bethel's doingI wish Little Bethel was--was
farther off' said Kit checking himselfand knocking at the door.

A second knock brought no reply from within the house; but caused
a woman over the way to look out and inquire who that wasawanting
Mrs Nubbles.

'Me' said Kit. 'She's at--at Little BethelI suppose?'--getting
out the name of the obnoxious conventicle with some reluctanceand
laying a spiteful emphasis upon the words.

The neighbour nodded assent.

'Then pray tell me where it is' said Kit'for I have come on a
pressing matterand must fetch her outeven if she was in the
pulpit.'

It was not very easy to procure a direction to the fold in
questionas none of the neighbours were of the flock that resorted
thitherand few knew anything more of it than the name. At last
a gossip of Mrs Nubbles'swho had accompanied her to chapel on one
or two occasions when a comfortable cup of tea had preceded her
devotionsfurnished the needful informationwhich Kit had no
sooner obtained than he started off again.

Little Bethel might have been nearerand might have been in a
straighter roadthough in that case the reverend gentleman who
presided over its congregation would have lost his favourite
allusion to the crooked ways by which it was approachedand which
enabled him to liken it to Paradise itselfin contradistinction to
the parish church and the broad thoroughfare leading thereunto.
Kit found itat lastafter some troubleand pausing at the door
to take breath that he might enter with becoming decencypassed
into the chapel.

It was not badly named in one respectbeing in truth a
particularly little Bethel--a Bethel of the smallest dimensions-with
a small number of small pewsand a small pulpitin which a
small gentleman (by trade a Shoemakerand by calling a Divine) was
delivering in a by no means small voicea by no means small
sermonjudging of its dimensions by the condition of his audience
whichif their gross amount were but smallcomprised a still
smaller number of hearersas the majority were slumbering.

Among these was Kit's motherwhofinding it matter of extreme
difficulty to keep her eyes open after the fatigues of last night
and feeling their inclination to close strongly backed and seconded
by the arguments of the preacherhad yielded to the drowsiness
that overpowered herand fallen asleep; though not so soundly but
that she couldfrom time to timeutter a slight and almost
inaudible groanas if in recognition of the orator's doctrines.
The baby in her arms was as fast asleep as she; and little Jacob
whose youth prevented him from recognising in this prolonged
spiritual nourishment anything half as interesting as oysterswas
alternately very fast asleep and very wide awakeas his
inclination to slumberor his terror of being personally alluded
to in the discoursegained the mastery over him.

'And now I'm here' thought Kitgliding into the nearest empty pew
which was opposite his mother'sand on the other side of the
little aisle'how am I ever to get at heror persuade her to come
out! I might as well be twenty miles off. She'll never wake till
it's all overand there goes the clock again! If he would but
leave off for a minuteor if they'd only sing!'


But there was little encouragement to believe that either event
would happen for a couple of hours to come. The preacher went on
telling them what he meant to convince them of before he had done
and it was clear that if he only kept to one-half of his promises
and forgot the otherhe was good for that time at least.

In his desperation and restlessness Kit cast his eyes about the
chapeland happening to let them fall upon a little seat in front
of the clerk's deskcould scarcely believe them when they showed
him--Quilp!

He rubbed them twice or thricebut still they insisted that Quilp
was thereand there indeed he wassitting with his hands upon his
kneesand his hat between them on a little wooden bracketwith
the accustomed grin on his dirty faceand his eyes fixed upon the
ceiling. He certainly did not glance at Kit or at his motherand
appeared utterly unconscious of their presence; still Kit could not
help feelingdirectlythat the attention of the sly little fiend
was fastened upon themand upon nothing else.

Butastounded as he was by the apparition of the dwarf among the
Little Bethelitesand not free from a misgiving that it was the
forerunner of some trouble or annoyancehe was compelled to subdue
his wonder and to take active measures for the withdrawal of his
parentas the evening was now creeping onand the matter grew
serious. Thereforethe next time little Jacob wokeKit set
himself to attract his wandering attentionand this not being a
very difficult task (one sneeze effected it)he signed to him to
rouse his mother.

Ill-luck would have ithoweverthatjust thenthe preacherin
a forcible exposition of one head of his discourseleaned over
upon the pulpit-desk so that very little more of him than his legs
remained inside; andwhile he made vehement gestures with his
right handand held on with his leftstaredor seemed to stare
straight into little Jacob's eyesthreatening him by his strained
look and attitude--so it appeared to the child--that if he so
much as moved a musclehethe preacherwould be literallyand
not figuratively'down upon him' that instant. In this fearful
state of thingsdistracted by the sudden appearance of Kitand
fascinated by the eyes of the preacherthe miserable Jacob sat
bolt uprightwholly incapable of motionstrongly disposed to cry
but afraid to do soand returning his pastor's gaze until his
infant eyes seemed starting from their sockets.

'If I must do it openlyI must' thought Kit. With that he walked
softly out of his pew and into his mother'sand as Mr Swiveller
would have observed if he had been present'collared' the baby
without speaking a word.

'Hushmother!' whispered Kit. 'Come along with meI've got
something to tell you.'

'Where am I?' said Mrs Nubbles.

'In this blessed Little Bethel' returned her sonpeevishly.

'Blessed indeed!' cried Mrs Nubblescatching at the word. 'Oh
Christopherhow have I been edified this night!'

'YesyesI know' said Kit hastily; 'but come alongmother
everybody's looking at us. Don't make a noise--bring Jacob-that's
right!'


'StaySatanstay!' cried the preacheras Kit was moving off.

'This gentleman says you're to stayChristopher' whispered his
mother.

'StaySatanstay!' roared the preacher again. 'Tempt not the
woman that doth incline her ear to theebut harken to the voice of
him that calleth. He hath a lamb from the fold!' cried the
preacherraising his voice still higher and pointing to the baby.
'He beareth off a lamba precious lamb! He goeth aboutlike a
wolf in the night seasonand inveigleth the tender lambs!'

Kit was the best-tempered fellow in the worldbut considering this
strong languageand being somewhat excited by the circumstances in
which he was placedhe faced round to the pulpit with the baby in
his armsand replied aloud'NoI don't. He's my brother.'

'He's MY brother!' cried the preacher.

'He isn't' said Kit indignantly. 'How can you say such a thing?
And don't call me names if you please; what harm have I done? I
shouldn't have come to take 'em awayunless I was obligedyou may
depend upon that. I wanted to do it very quietbut you wouldn't
let me. Nowyou have the goodness to abuse Satan and themas
much as you likeSirand to let me alone if you please.'

So sayingKit marched out of the chapelfollowed by his mother
and little Jacoband found himself in the open airwith an
indistinct recollection of having seen the people wake up and look
surprisedand of Quilp having remainedthroughout the
interruptionin his old attitudewithout moving his eyes from the
ceilingor appearing to take the smallest notice of anything that
passed.

'Oh Kit!' said his motherwith her handkerchief to her eyes'what
have you done! I never can go there again--never!'

'I'm glad of itmother. What was there in the little bit of
pleasure you took last night that made it necessary for you to be
low-spirited and sorrowful tonight? That's the way you do. If
you're happy or merry everyou come here to sayalong with that
chapthat you're sorry for it. More shame for youmotherI was
going to say.'

'Hushdear!' said Mrs Nubbles; 'you don't mean what you say I
knowbut you're talking sinfulness.'

'Don't mean it? But I do mean it!' retorted Kit. 'I don't
believemotherthat harmless cheerfulness and good humour are
thought greater sins in Heaven than shirt-collars areand I
do believe that those chaps are just about as right and sensible in
putting down the one as in leaving off the other--that's my
belief. But I won't say anything more about itif you'll promise
not to crythat's all; and you take the baby that's a lighter
weightand give me little Jacob; and as we go along (which we must
do pretty quick) I'll give you the news I bringwhich will
surprise you a littleI can tell you. There--that's right. Now
you look as if you'd never seen Little Bethel in all your lifeas
I hope you never will again; and here's the baby; and little Jacob
you get atop of my back and catch hold of me tight round the neck
and whenever a Little Bethel parson calls you a precious lamb or
says your brother's oneyou tell him it's the truest things he's


said for a twelvemonthand that if he'd got a little more of the
lamb himselfand less of the mint-sauce--not being quite so sharp
and sour over it--I should like him all the better. That's what
you've got to say to himJacob.'

Talking on in this wayhalf in jest and half in earnestand
cheering up his motherthe childrenand himselfby the one
simple process of determining to be in a good humourKit led them
briskly forward; and on the road homehe related what had passed
at the Notary's houseand the purpose with which he had intruded
on the solemnities of Little Bethel.

His mother was not a little startled on learning what service was
required of herand presently fell into a confusion of ideasof
which the most prominent were that it was a great honour and
dignity to ride in a post-chaiseand that it was a moral
impossibility to leave the children behind. But this objection
and a great many othersfounded on certain articles of dress being
at the washand certain other articles having no existence in the
wardrobe of Mrs Nubbleswere overcome by Kitwho opposed to each
and every of themthe pleasure of recovering Nelland the delight
it would be to bring her back in triumph.

'There's only ten minutes nowmother' said Kit when they reached
home. 'There's a bandbox. Throw in what you wantand we'll be
off directly.'

To tell how Kit then hustled into the box all sorts of things which
couldby no remote contingencybe wantedand how he left out
everything likely to be of the smallest use; how a neighbour was
persuaded to come and stop with the childrenand how the children
at first cried dismallyand then laughed heartily on being
promised all kinds of impossible and unheard-of toys; how Kit's
mother wouldn't leave off kissing themand how Kit couldn't make
up his mind to be vexed with her for doing it; would take more time
and room than you and I can spare. Sopassing over all such
mattersit is sufficient to say that within a few minutes after
the two hours had expiredKit and his mother arrived at the
Notary's doorwhere a post-chaise was already waiting.

'With four horses I declare!' said Kitquite aghast at the
preparations. 'Well you ARE going to do itmother! Here she is
Sir. Here's my mother. She's quite readysir.'

'That's well' returned the gentleman. 'Nowdon't be in a
flutterma'am; you'll be taken great care of. Where's the box
with the new clothing and necessaries for them?'

'Here it is' said the Notary. 'In with itChristopher.'

'All rightSir' replied Kit. 'Quite ready nowsir.'

'Then come along' said the single gentleman. And thereupon he
gave his arm to Kit's motherhanded her into the carriage as
politely as you pleaseand took his seat beside her.

Up went the stepsbang went the doorround whirled the wheels
and off they rattledwith Kit's mother hanging out at one window
waving a damp pocket-handkerchief and screaming out a great many
messages to little Jacob and the babyof which nobody heard a
word.

Kit stood in the middle of the roadand looked after them with
tears in his eyes--not brought there by the departure he


witnessedbut by the return to which he looked forward. 'They
went away' he thought'on foot with nobody to speak to them or
say a kind word at partingand they'll come backdrawn by four
horseswith this rich gentleman for their friendand all their
troubles over! She'll forget that she taught me to write--'

Whatever Kit thought about after thistook some time to think of
for he stood gazing up the lines of shining lampslong after the
chaise had disappearedand did not return into the house until the
Notary and Mr Abelwho had themselves lingered outside till the
sound of the wheels was no longer distinguishablehad several
times wondered what could possibly detain him.

CHAPTER 42

It behoves us to leave Kit for a whilethoughtful and expectant
and to follow the fortunes of little Nell; resuming the thread of
the narrative at the point where it was leftsome chapters back.

In one of those wanderings in the evening timewhenfollowing the
two sisters at a humble distanceshe feltin her sympathy with
them and her recognition in their trials of something akin to her
own loneliness of spirita comfort and consolation which made such
moments a time of deep delightthough the softened pleasure they
yielded was of that kind which lives and dies in tears--in one of
those wanderings at the quiet hour of twilightwhen skyand
earthand airand rippling waterand sound of distant bells
claimed kindred with the emotions of the solitary childand
inspired her with soothing thoughtsbut not of a child's world or
its easy joys--in one of those rambles which had now become her
only pleasure or relief from carelight had faded into darkness
and evening deepened into nightand still the young creature
lingered in the gloom; feeling a companionship in Nature so serene
and stillwhen noise of tongues and glare of garish lights would
have been solitude indeed.

The sisters had gone homeand she was alone. She raised her eyes
to the bright starslooking down so mildly from the wide worlds of
airandgazing on themfound new stars burst upon her viewand
more beyondand more beyond againuntil the whole great expanse
sparkled with shining spheresrising higher and higher in
immeasurable spaceeternal in their numbers as in their changeless
and incorruptible existence. She bent over the calm riverand saw
them shining in the same majestic order as when the dove beheld
them gleaming through the swollen watersupon the mountain tops
down far belowand dead mankinda million fathoms deep.

The child sat silently beneath a treehushed in her very breath by
the stillness of the nightand all its attendant wonders. The
time and place awoke reflectionand she thought with a quiet hope-less
hopeperhapsthan resignation--on the pastand present
and what was yet before her. Between the old man and herself there
had come a gradual separationharder to bear than any former
sorrow. Every eveningand often in the day-time toohe was
absentalone; and although she well knew where he wentand why-too
well from the constant drain upon her scanty purse and from his
haggard looks--he evaded all inquirymaintained a strict reserve
and even shunned her presence.

She sat meditating sorrowfully upon this changeand mingling it


as it werewith everything about herwhen the distant
church-clock bell struck nine. Rising at the soundshe retraced
her stepsand turned thoughtfully towards the town.

She had gained a little wooden bridgewhichthrown across the
streamled into a meadow in her waywhen she came suddenly upon
a ruddy lightand looking forward more attentivelydiscerned that
it proceeded from what appeared to be an encampment of gipsieswho
had made a fire in one corner at no great distance from the path
and were sitting or lying round it. As she was too poor to have
any fear of themshe did not alter her course (whichindeedshe
could not have done without going a long way round)but quickened
her pace a littleand kept straight on.

A movement of timid curiosity impelled herwhen she approached the
spotto glance towards the fire. There was a form between it and
herthe outline strongly developed against the lightwhich caused
her to stop abruptly. Thenas if she had reasoned with herself
and were assured that it could not beor had satisfied herself
that it was not that of the person she had supposedshe went on
again.

But at that instant the conversationwhatever it waswhich had
been carrying on near this fire was resumedand the tones of the
voice that spoke--she could not distinguish words--sounded as
familiar to her as her own.

She turnedand looked back. The person had been seated before
but was now in a standing postureand leaning forward on a stick
on which he rested both hands. The attitude was no less familiar
to her than the tone of voice had been. It was her grandfather.

Her first impulse was to call to him; her next to wonder who his
associates could beand for what purpose they were together. Some
vague apprehension succeededandyielding to the strong
inclination it awakenedshe drew nearer to the place; not
advancing across the open fieldhoweverbut creeping towards it
by the hedge.

In this way she advanced within a few feet of the fireand
standing among a few young treescould both see and hearwithout
much danger of being observed.

There were no women or childrenas she had seen in other gipsy
camps they had passed in their wayfaringand but one gipsy--a
tall athletic manwho stood with his arms foldedleaning against
a tree at a little distance offlooking now at the fireand now
under his black eyelashesat three other men who were therewith
a watchful but half-concealed interest in their conversation. Of
theseher grandfather was one; the others she recognised as the
first card-players at the public-house on the eventful night of the
storm--the man whom they had called Isaac Listand his gruff
companion. One of the lowarched gipsy-tentscommon to that
peoplewas pitched hard bybut it either wasor appeared to be
empty.

'Wellare you going?' said the stout manlooking up from the
ground where he was lying at his easeinto her grandfather's face.
'You were in a mighty hurry a minute ago. Goif you like. You're
your own masterI hope?'

'Don't vex him' returned Isaac Listwho was squatting like a frog
on the other side of the fireand had so screwed himself up that
he seemed to be squinting all over; 'he didn't mean any offence.'


'You keep me poorand plunder meand make a sport and jest of me
besides' said the old manturning from one to the other. 'Ye'll
drive me mad among ye.'

The utter irresolution and feebleness of the grey-haired child
contrasted with the keen and cunning looks of those in whose hands
he wassmote upon the little listener's heart. But she
constrained herself to attend to all that passedand to note each
look and word.

'Confound youwhat do you mean?' said the stout man rising a
littleand supporting himself on his elbow. 'Keep you poor!
You'd keep us poor if you couldwouldn't you? That's the way with
you whiningpunypitiful players. When you loseyou're martyrs;
but I don't find that when you winyou look upon the other losers
in that light. As to plunder!' cried the fellowraising his voice-'
Dammewhat do you mean by such ungentlemanly language as
plundereh?'

The speaker laid himself down again at full lengthand gave one or
two shortangry kicksas if in further expression of his
unbounded indignation. It was quite plain that he acted the bully
and his friend the peacemakerfor some particular purpose; or
ratherit would have been to any one but the weak old man; for
they exchanged glances quite openlyboth with each other and with
the gipsywho grinned his approval of the jest until his white
teeth shone again.

The old man stood helplessly among them for a little timeand then
saidturning to his assailant:

'You yourself were speaking of plunder just nowyou know. Don't
be so violent with me. You werewere you not?'

'Not of plundering among present company! Honour among--among
gentlemenSir' returned the otherwho seemed to have been very
near giving an awkward termination to the sentence.

'Don't be hard upon himJowl' said Isaac List. 'He's very sorry
for giving offence. There--go on with what you were saying--go
on.'

'I'm a jolly old tender-hearted lambI am' cried Mr Jowl'to be
sitting here at my time of life giving advice when I know it won't
be takenand that I shall get nothing but abuse for my pains. But
that's the way I've gone through life. Experience has never put a
chill upon my warm-heartedness.'

'I tell you he's very sorrydon't I?' remonstrated Isaac List
'and that he wishes you'd go on.'

'Does he wish it?' said the other.

'Ay' groaned the old man sitting downand rocking himself to and
fro. 'Go ongo on. It's in vain to fight with it; I can't do it;
go on.'

'I go on then' said Jowl'where I left offwhen you got up so
quick. If you're persuaded that it's time for luck to turnas it
certainly isand find that you haven't means enough to try it (and
that's where it isfor you knowyourselfthat you never have the
funds to keep on long enough at a sitting)help yourself to what
seems put in your way on purpose. Borrow itI sayandwhen


you're ablepay it back again.'

'Certainly' Isaac List struck in'if this good lady as keeps the
wax-works has moneyand does keep it in a tin box when she goes to
bedand doesn't lock her door for fear of fireit seems a easy
thing; quite a ProvidenceI should call it--but then I've been
religiously brought up.'

'You seeIsaac' said his friendgrowing more eagerand drawing
himself closer to the old manwhile he signed to the gipsy not to
come between them; 'you seeIsaacstrangers are going in and out
every hour of the day; nothing would be more likely than for one of
these strangers to get under the good lady's bedor lock himself
in the cupboard; suspicion would be very wideand would fall a
long way from the markno doubt. I'd give him his revenge to the
last farthing he broughtwhatever the amount was.'

'But could you?' urged Isaac List. 'Is your bank strong enough?'

'Strong enough!' answered the otherwith assumed disdain. 'Here
you Sirgive me that box out of the straw!'

This was addressed to the gipsywho crawled into the low tent on
all foursand after some rummaging and rustling returned with a
cash-boxwhich the man who had spoken opened with a key he wore
about his person.

'Do you see this?' he saidgathering up the money in his hand and
letting it drop back into the boxbetween his fingerslike water.
'Do you hear it? Do you know the sound of gold? Thereput it
back--and don't talk about banks againIsaactill you've got one
of your own.'

Isaac Listwith great apparent humilityprotested that he had
never doubted the credit of a gentleman so notorious for his
honourable dealing as Mr Jowland that he had hinted at the
production of the boxnot for the satisfaction of his doubtsfor
he could have nonebut with a view to being regaled with a sight
of so much wealthwhichthough it might be deemed by some but an
unsubstantial and visionary pleasurewas to one in his
circumstances a source of extreme delightonly to be surpassed by
its safe depository in his own personal pockets. Although Mr List
and Mr Jowl addressed themselves to each otherit was remarkable
that they both looked narrowly at the old manwhowith his eyes
fixed upon the firesat brooding over ityet listening eagerly-as
it seemed from a certain involuntary motion of the heador
twitching of the face from time to time--to all they said.

'My advice' said Jowllying down again with a careless air'is
plain--I have given itin fact. I act as a friend. Why should
I help a man to the means perhaps of winning all I haveunless I
considered him my friend? It's foolishI dare sayto be so
thoughtful of the welfare of other peoplebut that's my
constitutionand I can't help it; so don't blame meIsaac List.'

'I blame you!' returned the person addressed; 'not for the world
Mr Jowl. I wish I could afford to be as liberal as you; andas
you sayhe might pay it back if he won--and if he lost--'

'You're not to take that into consideration at all' said Jowl.

'But suppose he did (and nothing's less likelyfrom all I know of
chances)whyit's better to lose other people's money than one's
ownI hope?'


'Ah!' cried Isaac List rapturously'the pleasures of winning! The
delight of picking up the money--the brightshining yellow-boys-and
sweeping 'em into one's pocket! The deliciousness of having a
triumph at lastand thinking that one didn't stop short and turn
backbut went half-way to meet it! The--but you're not going
old gentleman?'

'I'll do it' said the old manwho had risen and taken two or
three hurried steps awayand now returned as hurriedly. 'I'll
have itevery penny.'

'Whythat's brave' cried Isaacjumping up and slapping him on
the shoulder; 'and I respect you for having so much young blood
left. Hahaha! Joe Jowl's half sorry he advised you now.
We've got the laugh against him. Hahaha!'

'He gives me my revengemind' said the old manpointing to him
eagerly with his shrivelled hand: 'mind--he stakes coin against
coindown to the last one in the boxbe there many or few.
Remember that!'

'I'm witness' returned Isaac. 'I'll see fair between you.'

'I have passed my word' said Jowl with feigned reluctance'and
I'll keep it. When does this match come off? I wish it was over.-To-
night?'

'I must have the money first' said the old man; 'and that I'll
have to-morrow--'

'Why not to-night?' urged Jowl.

'It's late nowand I should be flushed and flurried' said the old
man. 'It must be softly done. Noto-morrow night.'

'Then to-morrow be it' said Jowl. 'A drop of comfort here. Luck
to the best man! Fill!' The gipsy produced three tin cupsand
filled them to the brim with brandy. The old man turned aside and
muttered to himself before he drank. Her own name struck upon the
listener's earcoupled with some wish so ferventthat he seemed
to breathe it in an agony of supplication.

'God be merciful to us!' cried the child within herself'and help
us in this trying hour! What shall I do to save him!'

The remainder of their conversation was carried on in a lower tone
of voiceand was sufficiently concise; relating merely to the
execution of the projectand the best precautions for diverting
suspicion. The old man then shook hands with his temptersand
withdrew.

They watched his bowed and stooping figure as it retreated slowly
and when he turned his head to look backwhich he often didwaved
their handsor shouted some brief encouragement. It was not until
they had seen him gradually diminish into a mere speck upon the
distant roadthat they turned to each otherand ventured to laugh
aloud.

'So' said Jowlwarming his hands at the fire'it's done at last.
He wanted more persuading than I expected. It's three weeks ago
since we first put this in his head. What'll he bringdo you
think?'


'Whatever he bringsit's halved between us' returned Isaac List.

The other man nodded. 'We must make quick work of it' he said
'and then cut his acquaintanceor we may be suspected. Sharp's
the word.'

List and the gipsy acquiesced. When they had all three amused
themselves a little with their victim's infatuationthey dismissed
the subject as one which had been sufficiently discussedand began
to talk in a jargon which the child did not understand. As their
discourse appeared to relate to matters in which they were warmly
interestedhowevershe deemed it the best time for escaping
unobserved; and crept away with slow and cautious stepskeeping in
the shadow of the hedgesor forcing a path through them or the dry
ditchesuntil she could emerge upon the road at a point beyond
their range of vision. Then she fled homeward as quickly as she
couldtorn and bleeding from the wounds of thorns and briarsbut
more lacerated in mindand threw herself upon her beddistracted.

The first idea that flashed upon her mind was flightinstant
flight; dragging him from that placeand rather dying of want upon
the roadsidethan ever exposing him again to such terrible
temptations. Thenshe remembered that the crime was not to be
committed until next nightand there was the intermediate time for
thinkingand resolving what to do. Thenshe was distracted with
a horrible fear that he might be committing it at that moment; with
a dread of hearing shrieks and cries piercing the silence of the
night; with fearful thoughts of what he might be tempted and led on
to doif he were detected in the actand had but a woman to
struggle with. It was impossible to bear such torture. She stole
to the room where the money wasopened the doorand looked in.
God be praised! He was not thereand she was sleeping soundly.

She went back to her own roomand tried to prepare herself for
bed. But who could sleep--sleep! who could lie passively down
distracted by such terrors? They came upon her more and more
strongly yet. Half undressedand with her hair in wild disorder
she flew to the old man's bedsideclasped him by the wristand
roused him from his sleep.

'What's this!' he criedstarting up in bedand fixing his eyes
upon her spectral face.

'I have had a dreadful dream' said the childwith an energy that
nothing but such terrors could have inspired. 'A dreadful
horrible dream. I have had it once before. It is a dream of
grey-haired men like youin darkened rooms by nightrobbing
sleepers of their gold. Upup!'

The old man shook in every jointand folded his hands like one who
prays.

'Not to me' said the child'not to me--to Heavento save us
from such deeds! This dream is too real. I cannot sleepI cannot
stay hereI cannot leave you alone under the roof where such
dreams come. Up! We must fly.'

He looked at her as if she were a spirit--she might have been for
all the look of earth she had--and trembled more and more.

'There is no time to lose; I will not lose one minute' said the
child. 'Up! and away with me!'

'To-night?' murmured the old man.


'Yesto-night' replied the child. 'To-morrow night will be too
late. The dream will have come again. Nothing but flight can save
us. Up!'

The old man rose from his bed: his forehead bedewed with the cold
sweat of fear: andbending before the child as if she had been an
angel messenger sent to lead him where she wouldmade ready to
follow her. She took him by the hand and led him on. As they
passed the door of the room he had proposed to robshe shuddered
and looked up into his face. What a white face was thatand with
what a look did he meet hers!

She took him to her own chamberandstill holding him by the hand
as if she feared to lose him for an instantgathered together the
little stock she hadand hung her basket on her arm. The old man
took his wallet from her hands and strapped it on his shoulders-his
stafftooshe had brought away--and then she led him forth.

Through the strait streetsand narrow crooked outskirtstheir
trembling feet passed quickly. Up the steep hill toocrowned by
the old grey castlethey toiled with rapid stepsand had not once
looked behind.

But as they drew nearer the ruined wallsthe moon rose in all her
gentle gloryandfrom their venerable agegarlanded with ivy
mossand waving grassthe child looked back upon the sleeping
towndeep in the valley's shade: and on the far-off river with its
winding track of light: and on the distant hills; and as she did
soshe clasped the hand she heldless firmlyand bursting into
tearsfell upon the old man's neck.

CHAPTER 43

Her momentary weakness pastthe child again summoned the
resolution which had until now sustained herandendeavouring to
keep steadily in her view the one idea that they were flying from
disgrace and crimeand that her grandfather's preservation must
depend solely on her firmnessunaided by one word of advice or any
helping handurged him onward and looked back no more.

While hesubdued and abashedseemed to crouch before herand to
shrink and cower downas if in the presence of some superior
creaturethe child herself was sensible of a new feeling within
herwhich elevated her natureand inspired her with an energy and
confidence she had never known. There was no divided
responsibility now; the whole burden of their two lives had fallen
upon herand henceforth she must think and act for both. 'I have
saved him' she thought. 'In all dangers and distressesI will
remember that.'

At any other timethe recollection of having deserted the friend
who had shown them so much homely kindnesswithout a word of
justification--the thought that they were guiltyin appearance
of treachery and ingratitude--even the having parted from the two
sisters--would have filled her with sorrow and regret. But now
all other considerations were lost in the new uncertainties and
anxieties of their wild and wandering life; and the very
desperation of their condition roused and stimulated her.


In the pale moonlightwhich lent a wanness of its own to the
delicate face where thoughtful care already mingled with the
winning grace and loveliness of youththe too bright eyethe
spiritual headthe lips that pressed each other with such high
resolve and courage of the heartthe slight figure firm in its
bearing and yet so very weaktold their silent tale; but told it
only to the wind that rustled bywhichtaking up its burden
carriedperhaps to some mother's pillowfaint dreams of childhood
fading in its bloomand resting in the sleep that knows no waking.


The night crept on apacethe moon went downthe stars grew pale
and dimand morningcold as theyslowly approached. Thenfrom
behind a distant hillthe noble sun rose updriving the mists in
phantom shapes before itand clearing the earth of their ghostly
forms till darkness came again. When it had climbed higher into
the skyand there was warmth in its cheerful beamsthey laid them
down to sleepupon a bankhard by some water.


But Nell retained her grasp upon the old man's armand long after
he was slumbering soundlywatched him with untiring eyes. Fatigue
stole over her at last; her grasp relaxedtightenedrelaxed
againand they slept side by side.


A confused sound of voicesmingling with her dreamsawoke her.
A man of very uncouth and rough appearance was standing over them
and two of his companions were looking onfrom a long heavy boat
which had come close to the bank while they were sleeping. The
boat had neither oar nor sailbut was towed by a couple of horses
whowith the rope to which they were harnessed slack and dripping
in the waterwere resting on the path.


'Holloa!' said the man roughly. 'What's the matter here?'


'We were only asleepSir' said Nell. 'We have been walking all
night.'


'A pair of queer travellers to be walking all night' observed the
man who had first accosted them. 'One of you is a trifle too old
for that sort of workand the other a trifle too young. Where are
you going?'


Nell falteredand pointed at hazard towards the Westupon which
the man inquired if she meant a certain town which he named. Nell
to avoid more questioningsaid 'Yesthat was the place.'


'Where have you come from?' was the next question; and this being
an easier one to answerNell mentioned the name of the village in
which their friend the schoolmaster dweltas being less likely to
be known to the men or to provoke further inquiry.


'I thought somebody had been robbing and ill-using youmight be'
said the man. 'That's all. Good day.'


Returning his salute and feeling greatly relieved by his departure
Nell looked after him as he mounted one of the horsesand the boat
went on. It had not gone very farwhen it stopped againand she
saw the men beckoning to her.


'Did you call to me?' said Nellrunning up to them.


'You may go with us if you like' replied one of those in the boat.
'We're going to the same place.'


The child hesitated for a moment. Thinkingas she had thought



with great trepidation more than once beforethat the men whom she
had seen with her grandfather mightperhapsin their eagerness
for the bootyfollow themand regaining their influence over him
set hers at nought; and that if they went with these menall
traces of them must surely be lost at that spot; determined to
accept the offer. The boat came close to the bank againand
before she had had any more time for considerationshe and her
grandfather were on boardand gliding smoothly down the canal.

The sun shone pleasantly on the bright waterwhich was sometimes
shaded by treesand sometimes open to a wide extent of country
intersected by running streamsand rich with wooded hills
cultivated landand sheltered farms. Now and thena village with
its modest spirethatched roofsand gable-endswould peep out
from among the trees; andmore than oncea distant townwith
great church towers looming through its smokeand high factories
or workshops rising above the mass of houseswould come in view
andby the length of time it lingered in the distanceshow them
how slowly they travelled. Their way layfor the most part
through the low groundsand open plains; and except these distant
placesand occasionally some men working in the fieldsor
lounging on the bridges under which they passedto see them creep
alongnothing encroached on their monotonous and secluded track.

Nell was rather disheartenedwhen they stopped at a kind of wharf
late in the afternoonto learn from one of the men that they would
not reach their place of destination until next dayand thatif
she had no provision with hershe had better buy it there. She
had but a few pencehaving already bargained with them for some
breadbut even of these it was necessary to be very carefulas
they were on their way to an utterly strange placewith no
resource whatever. A small loaf and a morsel of cheesetherefore
were all she could affordand with these she took her place in the
boat againandafter half an hour's delay during which the men
were drinking at the public-houseproceeded on the journey.

They brought some beer and spirits into the boat with themand
what with drinking freely beforeand again nowwere soon in a
fair way of being quarrelsome and intoxicated. Avoiding the small
cabinthereforewhich was very dark and filthyand to which they
often invited both her and her grandfatherNell sat in the open
air with the old man by her side: listening to their boisterous
hosts with a palpitating heartand almost wishing herself safe on
shore again though she should have to walk all night.

They werein truthvery ruggednoisy fellowsand quite brutal
among themselvesthough civil enough to their two passengers.
Thuswhen a quarrel arose between the man who was steering and his
friend in the cabinupon the question who had first suggested the
propriety of offering Nell some beerand when the quarrel led to
a scuffle in which they beat each other fearfullyto her
inexpressible terrorneither visited his displeasure upon herbut
each contented himself with venting it on his adversaryon whom
in addition to blowshe bestowed a variety of complimentswhich
happily for the childwere conveyed in termsto her quite
unintelligible. The difference was finally adjustedby the man
who had come out of the cabin knocking the other into it head
firstand taking the helm into his own handswithout evincing the
least discomposure himselfor causing any in his friendwho
being of a tolerably strong constitution and perfectly inured to
such trifleswent to sleep as he waswith his heels upwardsand
in a couple of minutes or so was snoring comfortably.

By this time it was night againand though the child felt cold


being but poorly cladher anxious thoughts were far removed from
her own suffering or uneasinessand busily engaged in endeavouring
to devise some scheme for their joint subsistence. The same spirit
which had supported her on the previous nightupheld and sustained
her now. Her grandfather lay sleeping safely at her sideand the
crime to which his madness urged himwas not committed. That was
her comfort.

How every circumstance of her shorteventful lifecame thronging
into her mindas they travelled on! Slight incidentsnever
thought of or remembered until now; facesseen once and ever since
forgotten; words scarcely heeded at the time; scenesof a year ago
and those of yesterdaymixing up and linking themselves together;
familiar places shaping themselves out in the darkness from things
whichwhen approachedwereof all othersthe most remote and
most unlike them; sometimesa strange confusion in her mind
relative to the occasion of her being thereand the place to which
she was goingand the people she was with; and imagination
suggesting remarks and questions which sounded so plainly in her
earsthat she would startand turnand be almost tempted to
reply;--all the fancies and contradictions common in watching and
excitement and restless change of placebeset the child.

She happenedwhile she was thus engagedto encounter the face of
the man on deckin whom the sentimental stage of drunkenness had
now succeeded to the boisterousand whotaking from his mouth a
short pipequilted over with string for its longer preservation
requested that she would oblige him with a song.

'You've got a very pretty voicea very soft eyeand a very strong
memory' said this gentleman; 'the voice and eye I've got evidence
forand the memory's an opinion of my own. And I'm never wrong.
Let me hear a song this minute.'

'I don't think I know onesir' returned Nell.

'You know forty-seven songs' said the manwith a gravity which
admitted of no altercation on the subject. 'Forty-seven's your
number. Let me hear one of 'em--the best. Give me a song this
minute.'

Not knowing what might be the consequences of irritating her
friendand trembling with the fear of doing sopoor Nell sang him
some little ditty which she had learned in happier timesand which
was so agreeable to his earthat on its conclusion he in the same
peremptory manner requested to be favoured with anotherto which
he was so obliging as to roar a chorus to no particular tuneand
with no words at allbut which amply made up in its amazing energy
for its deficiency in other respects. The noise of this vocal
performance awakened the other manwhostaggering upon deck and
shaking his late opponent by the handswore that singing was his
pride and joy and chief delightand that he desired no better
entertainment. With a third callmore imperative than either of
the two formerNell felt obliged to complyand this time a chorus
was maintained not only by the two men togetherbut also by the
third man on horsebackwho being by his position debarred from a
nearer participation in the revels of the nightroared when his
companions roaredand rent the very air. In this waywith little
cessationand singing the same songs again and againthe tired
and exhausted child kept them in good humour all that night; and
many a cottagerwho was roused from his soundest sleep by the
discordant chorus as it floated away upon the windhid his head
beneath the bed-clothes and trembled at the sounds.


At length the morning dawned. It was no sooner light than it began
to rain heavily. As the child could not endure the intolerable
vapours of the cabinthey covered herin return for her
exertionswith some pieces of sail-cloth and ends of tarpaulin
which sufficed to keep her tolerably dry and to shelter her
grandfather besides. As the day advanced the rain increased. At
noon it poured down more hopelessly and heavily than ever without
the faintest promise of abatement.

They hadfor some timebeen gradually approaching the place for
which they were bound. The water had become thicker and dirtier;
other bargescoming from itpassed them frequently; the paths of
coal-ash and huts of staring brickmarked the vicinity of some
great manufacturing town; while scattered streets and housesand
smoke from distant furnacesindicated that they were already in
the outskirts. Nowthe clustered roofsand piles of buildings
trembling with the working of enginesand dimly resounding with
their shrieks and throbbings; the tall chimneys vomiting forth a
black vapourwhich hung in a dense ill-favoured cloud above the
housetops and filled the air with gloom; the clank of hammers
beating upon ironthe roar of busy streets and noisy crowds
gradually augmenting until all the various sounds blended into one
and none was distinguishable for itselfannounced the termination
of their journey.

The boat floated into the wharf to which it belonged. The men were
occupied directly. The child and her grandfatherafter waiting in
vain to thank them or ask them whither they should gopassed
through a dirty lane into a crowded streetand stoodamid its din
and tumultand in the pouring rainas strangebewilderedand
confusedas if they had lived a thousand years beforeand were
raised from the dead and placed there by a miracle.

CHAPTER 44

The throng of people hurried byin two opposite streamswith no
symptom of cessation or exhaustion; intent upon their own affairs;
and undisturbed in their business speculationsby the roar of
carts and waggons laden with clashing waresthe slipping of
horses' feet upon the wet and greasy pavementthe rattling of the
rain on windows and umbrella-topsthe jostling of the more
impatient passengersand all the noise and tumult of a crowded
street in the high tide of its occupation: while the two poor
strangersstunned and bewildered by the hurry they beheld but had
no part inlooked mournfully on; feelingamidst the crowda
solitude which has no parallel but in the thirst of the shipwrecked
marinerwhotost to and fro upon the billows of a mighty ocean
his red eyes blinded by looking on the water which hems him in on
every sidehas not one drop to cool his burning tongue.

They withdrew into a low archway for shelter from the rainand
watched the faces of those who passedto find in one among them a
ray of encouragement or hope. Some frownedsome smiledsome
muttered to themselvessome made slight gesturesas if
anticipating the conversation in which they would shortly be
engagedsome wore the cunning look of bargaining and plotting
some were anxious and eagersome slow and dull; in some
countenanceswere written gain; in othersloss. It was like
being in the confidence of all these people to stand quietly there
looking into their faces as they flitted past. In busy places


where each man has an object of his ownand feels assured that
every other man has hishis character and purpose are written
broadly in his face. In the public walks and lounges of a town
people go to see and to be seenand there the same expression
with little varietyis repeated a hundred times. The working-day
faces come nearer to the truthand let it out more plainly.

Falling into that kind of abstraction which such a solitude
awakensthe child continued to gaze upon the passing crowd with a
wondering interestamounting almost to a temporary forgetfulness
of her own condition. But coldwethungerwant of restand
lack of any place in which to lay her aching headsoon brought her
thoughts back to the point whence they had strayed. No one passed
who seemed to notice themor to whom she durst appeal. After some
timethey left their place of refuge from the weatherand mingled
with the concourse.

Evening came on. They were still wandering up and downwith fewer
people about thembut with the same sense of solitude in their own
breastsand the same indifference from all around. The lights in
the streets and shops made them feel yet more desolatefor with
their helpnight and darkness seemed to come on faster. Shivering
with the cold and dampill in bodyand sick to death at heart
the child needed her utmost firmness and resolution even to creep
along.

Why had they ever come to this noisy townwhen there were peaceful
country placesin whichat leastthey might have hungered and
thirstedwith less suffering than in its squalid strife! They
were but an atomherein a mountain heap of miserythe very
sight of which increased their hopelessness and suffering.

The child had not only to endure the accumulated hardships of their
destitute conditionbut to bear the reproaches of her grandfather
who began to murmur at having been led away from their late abode
and demand that they should return to it. Being now pennilessand
no relief or prospect of relief appearingthey retraced their
steps through the deserted streetsand went back to the wharf
hoping to find the boat in which they had comeand to be allowed
to sleep on board that night. But here again they were
disappointedfor the gate was closedand some fierce dogs
barking at their approachobliged them to retreat.

'We must sleep in the open air to-nightdear' said the child in
a weak voiceas they turned away from this last repulse; 'and
to-morrow we will beg our way to some quiet part of the country
and try to earn our bread in very humble work.'

'Why did you bring me here?' returned the old man fiercely. 'I
cannot bear these close eternal streets. We came from a quiet
part. Why did you force me to leave it?'

'Because I must have that dream I told you ofno more' said the
childwith a momentary firmness that lost itself in tears; 'and we
must live among poor peopleor it will come again. Dear
grandfatheryou are old and weakI know; but look at me. I never
will complain if you will notbut I have some suffering indeed.'

'Ah! poorhouselesswanderingmotherless child!' cried the old
manclasping his hands and gazing as if for the first time upon
her anxious faceher travel-stained dressand bruised and swollen
feet; 'has all my agony of care brought her to this at last! Was
I a happy man onceand have I lost happiness and all I hadfor
this!'


'If we were in the country now' said the childwith assumed
cheerfulnessas they walked on looking about them for a shelter
we should find some good old treestretching out his green arms as
if he loved usand nodding and rustling as if he would have us
fall asleepthinking of him while he watched. Please Godwe
shall be there soon--to-morrow or next day at the farthest--and
in the meantime let us thinkdearthat it was a good thing we
came here; for we are lost in the crowd and hurry of this place
and if any cruel people should pursue usthey could surely never
trace us further. There's comfort in that. And here's a deep old
doorway--very darkbut quite dryand warm toofor the wind
don't blow in here--What's that!'

Uttering a half shriekshe recoiled from a black figure which came
suddenly out of the dark recess in which they were about to take
refugeand stood stilllooking at them.

'Speak again' it said; 'do I know the voice?'

'No' replied the child timidly; 'we are strangersand having no
money for a night's lodgingwere going to rest here.'

There was a feeble lamp at no great distance; the only one in the
placewhich was a kind of square yardbut sufficient to show how
poor and mean it was. To thisthe figure beckoned them; at the
same time drawing within its raysas if to show that it had no
desire to conceal itself or take them at an advantage.
The form was that of a manmiserably clad and begrimed with smoke
whichperhaps by its contrast with the natural colour of his skin
made him look paler than he really was. That he was naturally of
a very wan and pallid aspecthoweverhis hollow cheekssharp
featuresand sunken eyesno less than a certain look of patient
endurancesufficiently testified. His voice was harsh by nature
but not brutal; and though his facebesides possessing the
characteristics already mentionedwas overshadowed by a quantity
of long dark hairits expression was neither ferocious nor bad.

'How came you to think of resting there?' he said. 'Or how' he
addedlooking more attentively at the child'do you come to want
a place of rest at this time of night?'

'Our misfortunes' the grandfather answered'are the cause.'

'Do you know' said the manlooking still more earnestly at Nell
'how wet she isand that the damp streets are not a place for
her?'

'I know it wellGod help me' he replied. 'What can I do!'

The man looked at Nell againand gently touched her garmentsfrom
which the rain was running off in little streams. 'I can give you
warmth' he saidafter a pause; 'nothing else. Such lodging as I
haveis in that house' pointing to the doorway from which he had
emerged'but she is safer and better there than here. The fire is
in a rough placebut you can pass the night beside it safelyif
you'll trust yourselves to me. You see that red light yonder?'

They raised their eyesand saw a lurid glare hanging in the dark
sky; the dull reflection of some distant fire.

'It's not far' said the man. 'Shall I take you there? You were
going to sleep upon cold bricks; I can give you a bed of warm ashes
--nothing better.'


Without waiting for any further reply than he saw in their looks
he took Nell in his armsand bade the old man follow.

Carrying her as tenderlyand as easily tooas if she had been an
infantand showing himself both swift and sure of foothe led the
way through what appeared to be the poorest and most wretched
quarter of the town; and turning aside to avoid the overflowing
kennels or running waterspoutsbut holding his courseregardless
of such obstructionsand making his way straight through them.
They had proceeded thusin silencefor some quarter of an hour
and had lost sight of the glare to which he had pointedin the
dark and narrow ways by which they had comewhen it suddenly burst
upon them againstreaming up from the high chimney of a building
close before them.

'This is the place' he saidpausing at a door to put Nell down
and take her hand. 'Don't be afraid. There's nobody here will
harm you.'

It needed a strong confidence in this assurance to induce them to
enterand what they saw inside did not diminish their apprehension
and alarm. In a large and lofty buildingsupported by pillars of
ironwith great black apertures in the upper wallsopen to the
external air; echoing to the roof with the beating of hammers and
roar of furnacesmingled with the hissing of red-hot metal plunged
in waterand a hundred strange unearthly noises never heard
elsewhere; in this gloomy placemoving like demons among the flame
and smokedimly and fitfully seenflushed and tormented by the
burning firesand wielding great weaponsa faulty blow from any
one of which must have crushed some workman's skulla number of
men laboured like giants. Othersreposing upon heaps of coals or
asheswith their faces turned to the black vault aboveslept or
rested from their toil. Others againopening the white-hot
furnace-doorscast fuel on the flameswhich came rushing and
roaring forth to meet itand licked it up like oil. Others drew
forthwith clashing noiseupon the groundgreat sheets of
glowing steelemitting an insupportable heatand a dull deep
light like that which reddens in the eyes of savage beasts.

Through these bewildering sights and deafening soundstheir
conductor led them to wherein a dark portion of the buildingone
furnace burnt by night and day--soat leastthey gathered from
the motion of his lipsfor as yet they could only see him speak:
not hear him. The man who had been watching this fireand whose
task was ended for the presentgladly withdrewand left them with
their friendwhospreading Nell's little cloak upon a heap of
ashesand showing her where she could hang her outer-clothes to
drysigned to her and the old man to lie down and sleep. For
himselfhe took his station on a rugged mat before the
furnace-doorand resting his chin upon his handswatched the
flame as it shone through the iron chinksand the white ashes as
they fell into their bright hot grave below.

The warmth of her bedhard and humble as it wascombined with the
great fatigue she had undergonesoon caused the tumult of the
place to fall with a gentler sound upon the child's tired earsand
was not long in lulling her to sleep. The old man was stretched
beside herand with her hand upon his neck she lay and dreamed.

It was yet night when she awokenor did she know how longor for
how short a timeshe had slept. But she found herself protected
both from any cold air that might find its way into the building
and from the scorching heatby some of the workmen's clothes; and


glancing at their friend saw that he sat in exactly the same
attitudelooking with a fixed earnestness of attention towards the
fireand keeping so very still that he did not even seem to
breathe. She lay in the state between sleeping and wakinglooking
so long at his motionless figure that at length she almost feared
he had died as he sat there; and softly rising and drawing close to
himventured to whisper in his ear.

He movedand glancing from her to the place she had lately
occupiedas if to assure himself that it was really the child so
near himlooked inquiringly into her face.

'I feared you were ill' she said. 'The other men are all in
motionand you are so very quiet.'

'They leave me to myself' he replied. 'They know my humour. They
laugh at mebut don't harm me in it. See yonder there--that's my
friend.'

'The fire?' said the child.

'It has been alive as long as I have' the man made answer. 'We
talk and think together all night long.'

The child glanced quickly at him in her surprisebut he had turned
his eyes in their former directionand was musing as before.

'It's like a book to me' he said--'the only book I ever learned to
read; and many an old story it tells me. It's musicfor I should
know its voice among a thousandand there are other voices in its
roar. It has its pictures too. You don't know how many strange
faces and different scenes I trace in the red-hot coals. It's my
memorythat fireand shows me all my life.'

The childbending down to listen to his wordscould not help
remarking with what brightened eyes he continued to speak and muse.

'Yes' he saidwith a faint smile'it was the same when I was
quite a babyand crawled about ittill I fell asleep. My father
watched it then.'

'Had you no mother?' asked the child.

'Noshe was dead. Women work hard in these parts. She worked
herself to death they told meandas they said so thenthe fire
has gone on saying the same thing ever since. I suppose it was
true. I have always believed it.'

'Were you brought up herethen?' said the child.

'Summer and winter' he replied. 'Secretly at firstbut when they
found it outthey let him keep me here. So the fire nursed me-the
same fire. It has never gone out.'

'You are fond of it?' said the child.

'Of course I am. He died before it. I saw him fall down--just
therewhere those ashes are burning now--and wonderedI
rememberwhy it didn't help him.'

'Have you been here ever since?' asked the child.

'Ever since I came to watch it; but there was a while betweenand
a very cold dreary while it was. It burned all the time though


and roared and leaped when I came backas it used to do in our
play days. You may guessfrom looking at mewhat kind of child
I wasbut for all the difference between us I was a childand
when I saw you in the street to-nightyou put me in mind of
myselfas I was after he diedand made me wish to bring you to
the fire. I thought of those old times againwhen I saw you
sleeping by it. You should be sleeping now. Lie down againpoor
childlie down again!'

With thathe led her to her rude couchand covering her with the
clothes with which she had found herself enveloped when she woke
returned to his seatwhence he moved no more unless to feed the
furnacebut remained motionless as a statue. The child continued
to watch him for a little timebut soon yielded to the drowsiness
that came upon herandin the dark strange place and on the heap
of ashesslept as peacefully as if the room had been a palace
chamberand the beda bed of down.

When she awoke againbroad day was shining through the lofty
openings in the wallsandstealing in slanting rays but midway
downseemed to make the building darker than it had been at night.
The clang and tumult were still going onand the remorseless fires
were burning fiercely as before; for few changes of night and day
brought rest or quiet there.

Her friend parted his breakfast--a scanty mess of coffee and some
coarse bread--with the child and her grandfatherand inquired
whither they were going. She told him that they sought some
distant country place remote from towns or even other villagesand
with a faltering tongue inquired what road they would do best to
take.

'I know little of the country' he saidshaking his head'for
such as Ipass all our lives before our furnace doorsand seldom
go forth to breathe. But there are such places yonder.'

'And far from here?' said Nell.

'Aye surely. How could they be near usand be green and fresh?
The road liestoothrough miles and milesall lighted up by
fires like ours--a strange black roadand one that would frighten
you by night.'

'We are here and must go on' said the child boldly; for she saw
that the old man listened with anxious ears to this account.

'Rough people--paths never made for little feet like yours--a
dismal blighted way--is there no turning backmy child!'

'There is none' cried Nellpressing forward. 'If you can direct
usdo. If notpray do not seek to turn us from our purpose.
Indeed you do not know the danger that we shunand how right and
true we are in flying from itor you would not try to stop usI
am sure you would not.'

'God forbidif it is so!' said their uncouth protectorglancing
from the eager child to her grandfatherwho hung his head and bent
his eyes upon the ground. 'I'll direct you from the doorthe best
I can. I wish I could do more.'

He showed themthenby which road they must leave the townand
what course they should hold when they had gained it. He lingered
so long on these instructionsthat the childwith a fervent
blessingtore herself awayand stayed to hear no more.


Butbefore they had reached the corner of the lanethe man came
running after themandpressing her handleft something in it-two
oldbatteredsmoke-encrusted penny pieces. Who knows but
they shone as brightly in the eyes of angelsas golden gifts that
have been chronicled on tombs?

And thus they separated; the child to lead her sacred charge
farther from guilt and shame; the labourer to attach a fresh
interest to the spot where his guests had sleptand read new
histories in his furnace fire.

CHAPTER 45

In all their journeyingthey had never longed so ardentlythey
had never so pined and weariedfor the freedom of pure air and
open countryas now. Nonot even on that memorable morning
whendeserting their old homethey abandoned themselves to the
mercies of a strange worldand left all the dumb and senseless
things they had known and lovedbehind--not even thenhad they
so yearned for the fresh solitudes of woodhillsideand fieldas
nowwhen the noise and dirt and vapourof the great manufacturing
town reeking with lean misery and hungry wretchednesshemmed them
in on every sideand seemed to shut out hopeand render escape
impossible.

'Two days and nights!' thought the child. 'He said two days and
nights we should have to spend among such scenes as these. Oh! if
we live to reach the country once againif we get clear of these
dreadful placesthough it is only to lie down and diewith what
a grateful heart I shall thank God for so much mercy!'

With thoughts like thisand with some vague design of travelling
to a great distance among streams and mountainswhere only very
poor and simple people livedand where they might maintain
themselves by very humble helping work in farmsfree from such
terrors as that from which they fled--the childwith no resource
but the poor man's giftand no encouragement but that which flowed
from her own heartand its sense of the truth and right of what
she didnerved herself to this last journey and boldly pursued her
task.

'We shall be very slow to-daydear' she saidas they toiled
painfully through the streets; 'my feet are soreand I have pains
in all my limbs from the wet of yesterday. I saw that he looked at
us and thought of thatwhen he said how long we should be upon the
road.'

'It was a dreary way he told us of' returned her grandfather
piteously. 'Is there no other road? Will you not let me go some
other way than this?'

'Places lie beyond these' said the childfirmly'where we may
live in peaceand be tempted to do no harm. We will take the road
that promises to have that endand we would not turn out of itif
it were a hundred times worse than our fears lead us to expect. We
would notdearwould we?'

'No' replied the old manwavering in his voiceno less than in
his manner. 'No. Let us go on. I am ready. I am quite ready


Nell.'

The child walked with more difficulty than she had led her
companion to expectfor the pains that racked her joints were of
no common severityand every exertion increased them. But they
wrung from her no complaintor look of suffering; andthough the
two travellers proceeded very slowlythey did proceed. Clearing
the town in course of timethey began to feel that they were
fairly on their way.

A long suburb of red brick houses--some with patches of
garden-groundwhere coal-dust and factory smoke darkened the
shrinking leavesand coarse rank flowersand where the struggling
vegetation sickened and sank under the hot breath of kiln and
furnacemaking them by its presence seem yet more blighting and
unwholesome than in the town itself--a longflatstraggling
suburb passedthey cameby slow degreesupon a cheerless region
where not a blade of grass was seen to growwhere not a bud put
forth its promise in the springwhere nothing green could live but
on the surface of the stagnant poolswhich here and there lay idly
sweltering by the black road-side.

Advancing more and more into the shadow of this mournful placeits
dark depressing influence stole upon their spiritsand filled them
with a dismal gloom. On every sideand far as the eye could see
into the heavy distancetall chimneyscrowding on each otherand
presenting that endless repetition of the same dullugly form
which is the horror of oppressive dreamspoured out their plague
of smokeobscured the lightand made foul the melancholy air. On
mounds of ashes by the waysidesheltered only by a few rough
boardsor rotten pent-house roofsstrange engines spun and
writhed like tortured creatures; clanking their iron chains
shrieking in their rapid whirl from time to time as though in
torment unendurableand making the ground tremble with their
agonies. Dismantled houses here and there appearedtottering to
the earthpropped up by fragments of others that had fallen down
unroofedwindowlessblackeneddesolatebut yet inhabited. Men
womenchildrenwan in their looks and ragged in attiretended
the enginesfed their tributary firebegged upon the roador
scowled half-naked from the doorless houses. Then came more of the
wrathful monsterswhose like they almost seemed to be in their
wildness and their untamed airscreeching and turning round and
round again; and stillbeforebehindand to the right and left
was the same interminable perspective of brick towersnever
ceasing in their black vomitblasting all things living or
inanimateshutting out the face of dayand closing in on all
these horrors with a dense dark cloud.

But night-time in this dreadful spot!--nightwhen the smoke was
changed to fire; when every chimney spirited up its flame; and
placesthat had been dark vaults all daynow shone red-hotwith
figures moving to and fro within their blazing jawsand calling to
one another with hoarse cries--nightwhen the noise of every
strange machine was aggravated by the darkness; when the people
near them looked wilder and more savage; when bands of unemployed
labourers paraded the roadsor clustered by torch-light round
their leaderswho told themin stern languageof their wrongs
and urged them on to frightful cries and threats; when maddened
menarmed with sword and firebrandspurning the tears and prayers
of women who would restrain themrushed forth on errands of terror
and destructionto work no ruin half so surely as their own-night
when carts came rumbling byfilled with rude coffins (for
contagious disease and death had been busy with the living crops);
when orphans criedand distracted women shrieked and followed in


their wake--nightwhen some called for breadand some for drink
to drown their caresand some with tearsand some with staggering
feetand some with bloodshot eyeswent brooding home--night
whichunlike the night that Heaven sends on earthbrought with it
no peacenor quietnor signs of blessed sleep--who shall tell
the terrors of the night to the young wandering child!

And yet she lay downwith nothing between her and the sky; and
with no fear for herselffor she was past it nowput up a prayer
for the poor old man. So very weak and spentshe feltso very
calm and unresistingthat she had no thought of any wants of her
ownbut prayed that God would raise up some friend for him. She
tried to recall the way they had comeand to look in the direction
where the fire by which they had slept last night was burning. She
had forgotten to ask the name of the poor mantheir friendand
when she had remembered him in her prayersit seemed ungrateful
not to turn one look towards the spot where he was watching.

A penny loaf was all they had had that day. It was very little
but even hunger was forgotten in the strange tranquillity that
crept over her senses. She lay downvery gentlyandwith a
quiet smile upon her facefell into a slumber. It was not like
sleep--and yet it must have beenor why those pleasant dreams of
the little scholar all night long! Morning came. Much weaker
diminished powers even of sight and hearingand yet the child made
no complaint--perhaps would have made noneeven if she had not
had that inducement to be silenttravelling by her side. She felt
a hopelessness of their ever being extricated together from that
forlorn place; a dull conviction that she was very illperhaps
dying; but no fear or anxiety.

A loathing of food that she was not conscious of until they
expended their last penny in the purchase of another loaf
prevented her partaking even of this poor repast. Her grandfather
ate greedilywhich she was glad to see.

Their way lay through the same scenes as yesterdaywith no variety
or improvement. There was the same thick airdifficult to
breathe; the same blighted groundthe same hopeless prospectthe
same misery and distress. Objects appeared more dimthe noise
lessthe path more rugged and unevenfor sometimes she stumbled
and became rousedas it werein the effort to prevent herself
from falling. Poor child! the cause was in her tottering feet.

Towards the afternoonher grandfather complained bitterly of
hunger. She approached one of the wretched hovels by the way-side
and knocked with her hand upon the door.

'What would you have here?' said a gaunt manopening it.

'Charity. A morsel of bread.'

'Do you see that?' returned the man hoarselypointing to a kind of
bundle on the ground. 'That's a dead child. I and five hundred
other men were thrown out of workthree months ago. That is my
third dead childand last. Do you think I have charity to bestow
or a morsel of bread to spare?'

The child recoiled from the doorand it closed upon her. Impelled
by strong necessityshe knocked at another: a neighbouring one
whichyielding to the slight pressure of her handflew open.

It seemed that a couple of poor families lived in this hovelfor
two womeneach among children of her ownoccupied different


portions of the room. In the centrestood a grave gentleman in
black who appeared to have just enteredand who held by the arm a
boy.

'Herewoman' he said'here's your deaf and dumb son. You may
thank me for restoring him to you. He was brought before methis
morningcharged with theft; and with any other boy it would have
gone hardI assure you. Butas I had compassion on his
infirmitiesand thought he might have learnt no betterI have
managed to bring him back to you. Take more care of him for the
future.'

'And won't you give me back MY son!' said the other womanhastily
rising and confronting him. 'Won't you give me back MY sonSir
who was transported for the same offence!'

'Was he deaf and dumbwoman?' asked the gentleman sternly.

'Was he notSir?'

'You know he was not.'

'He was' cried the woman. 'He was deafdumband blindto all
that was good and rightfrom his cradle. Her boy may have learnt
no better! where did mine learn better? where could he? who was
there to teach him betteror where was it to be learnt?'

'Peacewoman' said the gentleman'your boy was in possession of
all his senses.'

'He was' cried the mother; 'and he was the more easy to be led
astray because he had them. If you save this boy because he may
not know right from wrongwhy did you not save mine who was never
taught the difference? You gentlemen have as good a right to
punish her boythat God has kept in ignorance of sound and speech
as you have to punish minethat you kept in ignorance yourselves.
How many of the girls and boys--ahmen and women too--that are
brought before you and you don't pityare deaf and dumb in their
mindsand go wrong in that stateand are punished in that state
body and soulwhile you gentlemen are quarrelling among yourselves
whether they ought to learn this or that? --Be a just manSir
and give me back my son.'

'You are desperate' said the gentlemantaking out his snuff-box
'and I am sorry for you.'

'I AM desperate' returned the woman'and you have made me so.
Give me back my sonto work for these helpless children. Be a
just manSirandas you have had mercy upon this boygive me
back my son!'

The child had seen and heard enough to know that this was not a
place at which to ask for alms. She led the old man softly from
the doorand they pursued their journey.

With less and less of hope or strengthas they went onbut with
an undiminished resolution not to betray by any word or sigh her
sinking stateso long as she had energy to movethe child
throughout the remainder of that hard daycompelled herself to
proceed: not even stopping to rest as frequently as usualto
compensate in some measure for the tardy pace at which she was
obliged to walk. Evening was drawing onbut had not closed in
when--still travelling among the same dismal objects--they came to
a busy town.


Faint and spiritless as they wereits streets were insupportable.
After humbly asking for relief at some few doorsand being
repulsedthey agreed to make their way out of it as speedily as
they couldand try if the inmates of any lone house beyondwould
have more pity on their exhausted state.

They were dragging themselves along through the last streetand
the child felt that the time was close at hand when her enfeebled
powers would bear no more. There appeared before themat this
juncturegoing in the same direction as themselvesa traveller on
footwhowith a portmanteau strapped to his backleaned upon a
stout stick as he walkedand read from a book which he held in his
other hand.

It was not an easy matter to come up with himand beseech his aid
for he walked fastand was a little distance in advance. At
lengthhe stoppedto look more attentively at some passage in his
book. Animated with a ray of hopethe child shot on before her
grandfatherandgoing close to the stranger without rousing him
by the sound of her footstepsbeganin a few faint wordsto
implore his help.

He turned his head. The child clapped her hands togetheruttered
a wild shriekand fell senseless at his feet.

CHAPTER 46

It was the poor schoolmaster. No other than the poor schoolmaster.
Scarcely less moved and surprised by the sight of the child than
she had been on recognising himhe stoodfor a momentsilent and
confounded by this unexpected apparitionwithout even the presence
of mind to raise her from the ground.

Butquickly recovering his self-possessionhe threw down his
stick and bookand dropping on one knee beside herendeavoured
by such simple means as occurred to himto restore her to herself;
while her grandfatherstanding idly bywrung his handsand
implored her with many endearing expressions to speak to himwere
it only a word.

'She is quite exhausted' said the schoolmasterglancing upward
into his face. 'You have taxed her powers too farfriend.'

'She is perishing of want' rejoined the old man. 'I never thought
how weak and ill she wastill now.'

Casting a look upon himhalf-reproachful and half-compassionate
the schoolmaster took the child in his armsandbidding the old
man gather up her little basket and follow him directlybore her
away at his utmost speed.

There was a small inn within sightto whichit would seemhe had
been directing his steps when so unexpectedly overtaken. Towards
this place he hurried with his unconscious burdenand rushing into
the kitchenand calling upon the company there assembled to make
way for God's sakedeposited it on a chair before the fire.

The companywho rose in confusion on the schoolmaster's entrance
did as people usually do under such circumstances. Everybody


called for his or her favourite remedywhich nobody brought; each
cried for more airat the same time carefully excluding what air
there wasby closing round the object of sympathy; and all
wondered why somebody else didn't do what it never appeared to
occur to them might be done by themselves.


The landladyhoweverwho possessed more readiness and activity
than any of themand who had withal a quicker perception of the
merits of the casesoon came running inwith a little hot brandy
and waterfollowed by her servant-girlcarrying vinegar
hartshornsmelling-saltsand such other restoratives; which
being duly administeredrecovered the child so far as to enable
her to thank them in a faint voiceand to extend her hand to the
poor schoolmasterwho stoodwith an anxious facehard by.
Without suffering her to speak another wordor so much as to stir
a finger any morethe women straightway carried her off to bed;
andhaving covered her up warmbathed her cold feetand wrapped
them in flannelthey despatched a messenger for the doctor.


The doctorwho was a red-nosed gentleman with a great bunch of
seals dangling below a waistcoat of ribbed black satinarrived
with all speedand taking his seat by the bedside of poor Nell
drew out his watchand felt her pulse. Then he looked at her
tonguethen he felt her pulse againand while he did sohe eyed
the half-emptied wine-glass as if in profound abstraction.


'I should give her' said the doctor at length'a tea-spoonful
every now and thenof hot brandy and water.'


'Whythat's exactly what we've donesir!' said the delighted
landlady.


'I should also' observed the doctorwho had passed the foot-bath
on the stairs'I should also' said the doctorin the voice of an
oracle'put her feet in hot waterand wrap them up in flannel.
I should likewise' said the doctor with increased solemnity'give
her something light for supper--the wing of a roasted fowl now--'


'Whygoodness gracious mesirit's cooking at the kitchen fire
this instant!' cried the landlady. And so indeed it wasfor the
schoolmaster had ordered it to be put downand it was getting on
so well that the doctor might have smelt it if he had tried;
perhaps he did.


'You may then' said the doctorrising gravely'give her a glass
of hot mulled port wineif she likes wine--'


'And a toastSir?' suggested the landlady.
'Ay' said the doctorin the tone of a man who makes a dignified
concession. 'And a toast--of bread. But be very particular to
make it of breadif you pleasema'am.'


With which parting injunctionslowly and portentously delivered
the doctor departedleaving the whole house in admiration of that
wisdom which tallied so closely with their own. Everybody said he
was a very shrewd doctor indeedand knew perfectly what people's
constitutions were; which there appears some reason to suppose he
did.


While her supper was preparingthe child fell into a refreshing
sleepfrom which they were obliged to rouse her when it was ready.
As she evinced extraordinary uneasiness on learning that her
grandfather was below stairsand as she was greatly troubled at
the thought of their being aparthe took his supper with her.



Finding her still very restless on this headthey made him up a
bed in an inner roomto which he presently retired. The key of
this chamber happened by good fortune to be on that side of the
door which was in Nell's room; she turned it on him when the
landlady had withdrawnand crept to bed again with a thankful
heart.

The schoolmaster sat for a long time smoking his pipe by the
kitchen firewhich was now desertedthinkingwith a very happy
faceon the fortunate chance which had brought him so opportunely
to the child's assistanceand parryingas well as in his simple
way he couldthe inquisitive cross-examination of the landlady
who had a great curiosity to be made acquainted with every
particular of Nell's life and history. The poor schoolmaster was
so open-heartedand so little versed in the most ordinary cunning
or deceitthat she could not have failed to succeed in the first
five minutesbut that he happened to be unacquainted with what she
wished to know; and so he told her. The landladyby no means
satisfied with this assurancewhich she considered an ingenious
evasion of the questionrejoined that he had his reasons of
course. Heaven forbid that she should wish to pry into the affairs
of her customerswhich indeed were no business of herswho had so
many of her own. She had merely asked a civil questionand to be
sure she knew it would meet with a civil answer. She was quite
satisfied--quite. She had rather perhaps that he would have said
at once that he didn't choose to be communicativebecause that
would have been plain and intelligible. Howevershe had no right
to be offended of course. He was the best judgeand had a perfect
right to say what he pleased; nobody could dispute that for a
moment. Oh dearno!

'I assure youmy good lady' said the mild schoolmaster'that I
have told you the plain truth. As I hope to be savedI have told
you the truth.'

'Why thenI do believe you are in earnest' rejoined the landlady
with ready good-humour'and I'm very sorry I have teazed you. But
curiosity you know is the curse of our sexand that's the fact.'
The landlord scratched his headas if he thought the curse
sometimes involved the other sex likewise; but he was prevented
from making any remark to that effectif he had it in
contemplation to do soby the schoolmaster's rejoinder.

'You should question me for half-a-dozen hours at a sittingand
welcomeand I would answer you patiently for the kindness of heart
you have shown to-nightif I could' he said. 'As it isplease
to take care of her in the morningand let me know early how she
is; and to understand that I am paymaster for the three.'

Soparting with them on most friendly terms (not the less cordial
perhaps for this last direction)the schoolmaster went to his bed
and the host and hostess to theirs.

The report in the morning wasthat the child was betterbut was
extremely weakand would at least require a day's restand
careful nursingbefore she could proceed upon her journey. The
schoolmaster received this communication with perfect cheerfulness
observing that he had a day to spare--two days for that matter-and
could very well afford to wait. As the patient was to sit up
in the eveninghe appointed to visit her in her room at a certain
hourand rambling out with his bookdid not return until the hour
arrived.

Nell could not help weeping when they were left alone; whereatand


at sight of her pale face and wasted figurethe simple
schoolmaster shed a few tears himselfat the same time showing in
very energetic language how foolish it was to do soand how very
easily it could be avoidedif one tried.

'It makes me unhappy even in the midst of all this kindness' said
the child'to think that we should be a burden upon you. How can
I ever thank you? If I had not met you so far from homeI must
have diedand he would have been left alone.'

'We'll not talk about dying' said the schoolmaster; 'and as to
burdensI have made my fortune since you slept at my cottage.'

'Indeed!' cried the child joyfully.

'Oh yes' returned her friend. 'I have been appointed clerk and
schoolmaster to a village a long way from here--and a long way
from the old one as you may suppose--at five-and-thirty pounds a
year. Five-and-thirty pounds!'

'I am very glad' said the child'so veryvery glad.'

'I am on my way there now' resumed the schoolmaster. 'They
allowed me the stage-coach-hire--outside stage-coach-hire all the
way. Bless youthey grudge me nothing. But as the time at which
I am expected thereleft me ample leisureI determined to walk
instead. How glad I amto think I did so!'

'How glad should we be!'

'Yesyes' said the schoolmastermoving restlessly in his chair
'certainlythat's very true. But you--where are you goingwhere
are you coming fromwhat have you been doing since you left me
what had you been doing before? Nowtell me--do tell me. I know
very little of the worldand perhaps you are better fitted to
advise me in its affairs than I am qualified to give advice to you;
but I am very sincereand I have a reason (you have not forgotten
it) for loving you. I have felt since that time as if my love for
him who diedhad been transferred to you who stood beside his bed.
If this' he addedlooking upwards'is the beautiful creation
that springs from asheslet its peace prosper with meas I deal
tenderly and compassionately by this young child!'

The plainfrank kindness of the honest schoolmasterthe
affectionate earnestness of his speech and mannerthe truth which
was stamped upon his every word and lookgave the child a
confidence in himwhich the utmost arts of treachery and
dissimulation could never have awakened in her breast. She told
him all--that they had no friend or relative--that she had fled
with the old manto save him from a madhouse and all the miseries
he dreaded--that she was flying nowto save him from himself-and
that she sought an asylum in some remote and primitive place
where the temptation before which he fell would never enterand
her late sorrows and distresses could have no place.

The schoolmaster heard her with astonishment. 'This child!'--he
thought--'Has this child heroically persevered under all doubts
and dangersstruggled with poverty and sufferingupheld and
sustained by strong affection and the consciousness of rectitude
alone! And yet the world is full of such heroism. Have I yet to
learn that the hardest and best-borne trials are those which are
never chronicled in any earthly recordand are suffered every day!
And should I be surprised to hear the story of this child!'


What more he thought or saidmatters not. It was concluded that
Nell and her grandfather should accompany him to the village
whither he was boundand that he should endeavour to find them
some humble occupation by which they could subsist. 'We shall be
sure to succeed' said the schoolmasterheartily. 'The cause is
too good a one to fail.'

They arranged to proceed upon their journey next eveningas a
stage-waggonwhich travelled for some distance on the same road as
they must takewould stop at the inn to change horsesand the
driver for a small gratuity would give Nell a place inside. A
bargain was soon struck when the waggon came; and in due time it
rolled away; with the child comfortably bestowed among the softer
packagesher grandfather and the schoolmaster walking on beside
the driverand the landlady and all the good folks of the inn
screaming out their good wishes and farewells.

What a soothingluxuriousdrowsy way of travellingto lie inside
that slowly-moving mountainlistening to the tinkling of the
horses' bellsthe occasional smacking of the carter's whipthe
smooth rolling of the great broad wheelsthe rattle of the
harnessthe cheery good-nights of passing travellers jogging past
on little short-stepped horses--all made pleasantly indistinct by
the thick awningwhich seemed made for lazy listening undertill
one fell asleep! The very going to sleepstill with an indistinct
ideaas the head jogged to and fro upon the pillowof moving
onward with no trouble or fatigueand hearing all these sounds
like dreamy musiclulling to the senses--and the slow waking up
and finding one's self staring out through the breezy curtain
half-opened in the frontfar up into the cold bright sky with its
countless starsand downward at the driver's lantern dancing on
like its namesake Jack of the swamps and marshesand sideways at
the dark grim treesand forward at the long bare road rising up
upupuntil it stopped abruptly at a sharp high ridge as if there
were no more roadand all beyond was sky--and the stopping at the
inn to baitand being helped outand going into a room with fire
and candlesand winking very muchand being agreeably reminded
that the night was coldand anxious for very comfort's sake to
think it colder than it was!--What a delicious journey was that
journey in the waggon.

Then the going on again--so fresh at firstand shortly afterwards
so sleepy. The waking from a sound nap as the mail came dashing
past like a highway cometwith gleaming lamps and rattling hoofs
and visions of a guard behindstanding up to keep his feet warm
and of a gentleman in a fur cap opening his eyes and looking wild
and stupefied--the stopping at the turnpike where the man was gone
to bedand knocking at the door until he answered with a smothered
shout from under the bed-clothes in the little room abovewhere
the faint light was burningand presently came downnight-capped
and shiveringto throw the gate wide openand wish all waggons
off the road except by day. The cold sharp interval between night
and morning--the distant streak of light widening and spreading
and turning from grey to whiteand from white to yellowand from
yellow to burning red--the presence of daywith all its
cheerfulness and life--men and horses at the plough--birds in the
trees and hedgesand boys in solitary fieldsfrightening them
away with rattles. The coming to a town--people busy in the
markets; light carts and chaises round the tavern yard; tradesmen
standing at their doors; men running horses up and down the street
for sale; pigs plunging and grunting in the dirty distancegetting
off with long strings at their legsrunning into clean chemists'
shops and being dislodged with brooms by 'prentices; the night
coach changing horses--the passengers cheerlesscolduglyand


discontentedwith three months' growth of hair in one night--the
coachman fresh as from a band-boxand exquisitely beautiful by
contrast:--so much bustleso many things in motionsuch a
variety of incidents--when was there a journey with so many
delights as that journey in the waggon!

Sometimes walking for a mile or two while her grandfather rode
insideand sometimes even prevailing upon the schoolmaster to take
her place and lie down to restNell travelled on very happily
until they came to a large townwhere the waggon stoppedand
where they spent a night. They passed a large church; and in the
streets were a number of old housesbuilt of a kind of earth or
plastercrossed and re-crossed in a great many directions with
black beamswhich gave them a remarkable and very ancient look.
The doorstoowere arched and lowsome with oaken portals and
quaint bencheswhere the former inhabitants had sat on summer
evenings. The windows were latticed in little diamond panesthat
seemed to wink and blink upon the passengers as if they were dim of
sight. They had long since got clear of the smoke and furnaces
except in one or two solitary instanceswhere a factory planted
among fields withered the space about itlike a burning mountain.
When they had passed through this townthey entered again upon the
countryand began to draw near their place of destination.

It was not so nearhoweverbut that they spent another night upon
the road; not that their doing so was quite an act of necessity
but that the schoolmasterwhen they approached within a few miles
of his villagehad a fidgety sense of his dignity as the new
clerkand was unwilling to make his entry in dusty shoesand
travel-disordered dress. It was a fineclearautumn morning
when they came upon the scene of his promotionand stopped to
contemplate its beauties.

'See--here's the church!' cried the delighted schoolmaster in a
low voice; 'and that old building close beside itis the schoolhouse
I'll be sworn. Five-and-thirty pounds a-year in this
beautiful place!'

They admired everything--the old grey porchthe mullioned
windowsthe venerable gravestones dotting the green churchyard
the ancient towerthe very weathercock; the brown thatched roofs
of cottagebarnand homesteadpeeping from among the trees; the
stream that rippled by the distant water-mill; the blue Welsh
mountains far away. It was for such a spot the child had wearied
in the densedarkmiserable haunts of labour. Upon her bed of
ashesand amidst the squalid horrors through which they had forced
their wayvisions of such scenes--beautiful indeedbut not more
beautiful than this sweet reality--had been always present to her
mind. They had seemed to melt into a dim and airy distanceas the
prospect of ever beholding them again grew fainter; butas they
recededshe had loved and panted for them more.

'I must leave you somewhere for a few minutes' said the
schoolmasterat length breaking the silence into which they had
fallen in their gladness. 'I have a letter to presentand
inquiries to makeyou know. Where shall I take you? To the
little inn yonder?'

'Let us wait here' rejoined Nell. 'The gate is open. We will sit
in the church porch till you come back.'

'A good place too' said the schoolmasterleading the way towards
itdisencumbering himself of his portmanteauand placing it on
the stone seat. 'Be sure that I come back with good newsand am


not long gone!'

Sothe happy schoolmaster put on a bran-new pair of gloves which
he had carried in a little parcel in his pocket all the wayand
hurried offfull of ardour and excitement.

The child watched him from the porch until the intervening foliage
hid him from her viewand then stepped softly out into the old
churchyard--so solemn and quiet that every rustle of her dress
upon the fallen leaveswhich strewed the path and made her
footsteps noiselessseemed an invasion of its silence. It was a
very agedghostly place; the church had been built many hundreds
of years agoand had once had a convent or monastery attached; for
arches in ruinsremains of oriel windowsand fragments of
blackened wallswere yet standing-while other portions of the
old buildingwhich had crumbled away and fallen downwere mingled
with the churchyard earth and overgrown with grassas if they too
claimed a burying-place and sought to mix their ashes with the dust
of men. Hard by these gravestones of dead yearsand forming a
part of the ruin which some pains had been taken to render
habitable in modern timeswere two small dwellings with sunken
windows and oaken doorsfast hastening to decayempty and
desolate.

Upon these tenementsthe attention of the child became exclusively
riveted. She knew not why. The churchthe ruinthe antiquated
graveshad equal claims at least upon a stranger's thoughtsbut
from the moment when her eyes first rested on these two dwellings
she could turn to nothing else. Even when she had made the circuit
of the enclosureandreturning to the porchsat pensively
waiting for their friendshe took her station where she could
still look upon themand felt as if fascinated towards that spot.

CHAPTER 47

Kit's mother and the single gentleman--upon whose track it is
expedient to follow with hurried stepslest this history should be
chargeable with inconstancyand the offence of leaving its
characters in situations of uncertainty and doubt--Kit's mother
and the single gentlemanspeeding onward in the post-chaiseand-
four whose departure from the Notary's door we have already
witnessedsoon left the town behind themand struck fire from the
flints of the broad highway.

The good womanbeing not a little embarrassed by the novelty of
her situationand certain material apprehensions that perhaps by
this time little Jacobor the babyor bothhad fallen into the
fireor tumbled down stairsor had been squeezed behind doorsor
had scalded their windpipes in endeavouring to allay their thirst
at the spouts of tea-kettlespreserved an uneasy silence; and
meeting from the window the eyes of turnpike-menomnibus-drivers
and othersfelt in the new dignity of her position like a mourner
at a funeralwhonot being greatly afflicted by the loss of the
departedrecognizes his every-day acquaintance from the window of
the mourning coachbut is constrained to preserve a decent
solemnityand the appearance of being indifferent to all external
objects.

To have been indifferent to the companionship of the single
gentleman would have been tantamount to being gifted with nerves of


steel. Never did chaise incloseor horses drawsuch a restless
gentleman as he. He never sat in the same position for two minutes
togetherbut was perpetually tossing his arms and legs about
pulling up the sashes and letting them violently downor thrusting
his head out of one window to draw it in again and thrust it out of
another. He carried in his pockettooa fire-box of mysterious
and unknown construction; and as sure as ever Kit's mother closed
her eyesso surely--whiskrattlefizz--there was the single
gentleman consulting his watch by a flame of fireand letting the
sparks fall down among the straw as if there were no such thing as
a possibility of himself and Kit's mother being roasted alive
before the boys could stop their horses. Whenever they halted to
changethere he was--out of the carriage without letting down the
stepsbursting about the inn-yard like a lighted crackerpulling
out his watch by lamp-light and forgetting to look at it before he
put it up againand in short committing so many extravagances that
Kit's mother was quite afraid of him. Thenwhen the horses were
toin he came like a Harlequinand before they had gone a mile
out came the watch and the fire-box togetherand Kit's mother as
wide awake againwith no hope of a wink of sleep for that stage.

'Are you comfortable?' the single gentleman would say after one of
these exploitsturning sharply round.

'QuiteSirthank you.'

'Are you sure? An't you cold?'

'It is a little chillySir' Kit's mother would reply.

'I knew it!' cried the single gentlemanletting down one of the
front glasses. 'She wants some brandy and water! Of course she
does. How could I forget it? Hallo! Stop at the next innand
call out for a glass of hot brandy and water.'

It was in vain for Kit's mother to protest that she stood in need
of nothing of the kind. The single gentleman was inexorable; and
whenever he had exhausted all other modes and fashions of
restlessnessit invariably occurred to him that Kit's mother
wanted brandy and water.

In this way they travelled on until near midnightwhen they
stopped to supperfor which meal the single gentleman ordered
everything eatable that the house contained; and because Kit's
mother didn't eat everything at onceand eat it allhe took it
into his head that she must be ill.

'You're faint' said the single gentlemanwho did nothing himself
but walk about the room. 'I see what's the matter with youma'am.
You're faint.'

'Thank yousirI'm not indeed.'

'I know you are. I'm sure of it. I drag this poor woman from the
bosom of her family at a minute's noticeand she goes on getting
fainter and fainter before my eyes. I'm a pretty fellow! How many
children have you gotma'am?'

'Twosirbesides Kit.'

'Boysma'am?'

'Yessir.'


'Are they christened?'

'Only half baptised as yetsir.'

'I'm godfather to both of 'em. Remember thatif you please
ma'am. You had better have some mulled wine.'

'I couldn't touch a drop indeedsir.'

'You must' said the single gentleman. 'I see you want it.

I
ought to have thought of it before.'

Immediately flying to the belland calling for mulled wine as
impetuously as if it had been wanted for instant use in the
recovery of some person apparently drownedthe single gentleman
made Kit's mother swallow a bumper of it at such a high temperature
that the tears ran down her faceand then hustled her off to the
chaise againwhere--not impossibly from the effects of this
agreeable sedative--she soon became insensible to his
restlessnessand fell fast asleep. Nor were the happy effects of
this prescription of a transitory natureasnotwithstanding that
the distance was greaterand the journey longerthan the single
gentleman had anticipatedshe did not awake until it was broad
dayand they were clattering over the pavement of a town.

'This is the place!' cried her companionletting down all the
glasses. 'Drive to the wax-work!'

The boy on the wheeler touched his hatand setting spurs to his
horseto the end that they might go in brilliantlyall four broke
into a smart canterand dashed through the streets with a noise
that brought the good folks wondering to their doors and windows
and drowned the sober voices of the town-clocks as they chimed out
half-past eight. They drove up to a door round which a crowd of
persons were collectedand there stopped.

'What's this?' said the single gentleman thrusting out his head.
'Is anything the matter here?'

'A wedding Sira wedding!' cried several voices. 'Hurrah!'

The single gentlemanrather bewildered by finding himself the
centre of this noisy throngalighted with the assistance of one of
the postilionsand handed out Kit's motherat sight of whom the
populace cried out'Here's another wedding!' and roared and leaped
for joy.

'The world has gone madI think' said the single gentleman
pressing through the concourse with his supposed bride. 'Stand
back herewill youand let me knock.'

Anything that makes a noise is satisfactory to a crowd. A score of
dirty hands were raised directly to knock for himand seldom has
a knocker of equal powers been made to produce more deafening
sounds than this particular engine on the occasion in question.
Having rendered these voluntary servicesthe throng modestly
retired a littlepreferring that the single gentleman should bear
their consequences alone.

'Nowsirwhat do you want!' said a man with a large white bow at
his button-holeopening the doorand confronting him with a very
stoical aspect.

'Who has been married heremy friend?' said the single gentleman.


'I have.'

'You! and to whom in the devil's name?'

'What right have you to ask?' returned the bridegroomeyeing him
from top to toe.

'What right!' cried the single gentlemandrawing the arm of Kit's
mother more tightly through his ownfor that good woman evidently
had it in contemplation to run away. 'A right you little dream of.
Mindgood peopleif this fellow has been marrying a minor--tut
tutthat can't be. Where is the child you have heremy good
fellow. You call her Nell. Where is she?'

As he propounded this questionwhich Kit's mother echoedsomebody
in a room near at handuttered a great shriekand a stout lady in
a white dress came running to the doorand supported herself upon
the bridegroom's arm.

'Where is she!' cried this lady. 'What news have you brought me?
What has become of her?'

The single gentleman started backand gazed upon the face of the
late Mrs Jarley (that morning wedded to the philosophic Georgeto
the eternal wrath and despair of Mr Slum the poet)with looks of
conflicting apprehensiondisappointmentand incredulity. At
length he stammered out

'I ask YOU where she is? What do you mean?'

'Oh sir!' cried the bride'If you have come here to do her any
goodwhy weren't you here a week ago?'

'She is not--not dead?' said the person to whom she addressed
herselfturning very pale.

'Nonot so bad as that.'

'I thank God!' cried the single gentleman feebly. 'Let me come
in.'

They drew back to admit himand when he had enteredclosed the
door.

'You see in megood people' he saidturning to the newlymarried
couple'one to whom life itself is not dearer than the two
persons whom I seek. They would not know me. My features are
strange to thembut if they or either of them are heretake this
good woman with youand let them see her firstfor her they both
know. If you deny them from any mistaken regard or fear for them
judge of my intentions by their recognition of this person as their
old humble friend.'

'I always said it!' cried the bride'I knew she was not a common
child! Alassir! we have no power to help youfor all that we
could dohas been tried in vain.'

With thatthey related to himwithout disguise or concealment
all that they knew of Nell and her grandfatherfrom their first
meeting with themdown to the time of their sudden disappearance;
adding (which was quite true) that they had made every possible
effort to trace thembut without success; having been at first in
great alarm for their safetyas well as on account of the


suspicions to which they themselves might one day be exposed in
consequence of their abrupt departure. They dwelt upon the old
man's imbecility of mindupon the uneasiness the child had always
testified when he was absentupon the company he had been supposed
to keepand upon the increased depression which had gradually
crept over her and changed her both in health and spirits. Whether
she had missed the old man in the nightand knowing or
conjecturing whither he had bent his stepshad gone in pursuitor
whether they had left the house togetherthey had no means of
determining. Certain they considered itthat there was but
slender prospect left of hearing of them againand that whether
their flight originated with the old manor with the childthere
was now no hope of their return.
To all thisthe single gentleman listened with the air of a man
quite borne down by grief and disappointment. He shed tears when
they spoke of the grandfatherand appeared in deep affliction.

Not to protract this portion of our narrativeand to make short
work of a long storylet it be briefly written that before the
interview came to a closethe single gentleman deemed he had
sufficient evidence of having been told the truthand that he
endeavoured to force upon the bride and bridegroom an
acknowledgment of their kindness to the unfriended childwhich
howeverthey steadily declined accepting. In the endthe happy
couple jolted away in the caravan to spend their honeymoon in a
country excursion; and the single gentleman and Kit's mother stood
ruefully before their carriage-door.

'Where shall we drive yousir?' said the post-boy.

'You may drive me' said the single gentleman'to the--' He was
not going to add 'inn' but he added it for the sake of Kit's
mother; and to the inn they went.

Rumours had already got abroad that the little girl who used to
show the wax-workwas the child of great people who had been
stolen from her parents in infancyand had only just been traced.
Opinion was divided whether she was the daughter of a princea
dukean earla viscountor a baronbut all agreed upon the main
factand that the single gentleman was her father; and all bent
forward to catch a glimpsethough it were only of the tip of his
noble noseas he rode awaydespondingin his four-horse chaise.

What would he have given to knowand what sorrow would have been
saved if he had only knownthat at that moment both child and
grandfather were seated in the old church porchpatiently awaiting
the schoolmaster's return!

CHAPTER 48

Popular rumour concerning the single gentleman and his errand
travelling from mouth to mouthand waxing stronger in the
marvellous as it was bandied about--for your popular rumour
unlike the rolling stone of the proverbis one which gathers a
deal of moss in its wanderings up and down--occasioned his
dismounting at the inn-door to be looked upon as an exciting and
attractive spectaclewhich could scarcely be enough admired; and
drew together a large concourse of idlerswho having recently
beenas it werethrown out of employment by the closing of the
wax-work and the completion of the nuptial ceremoniesconsidered


his arrival as little else than a special providenceand hailed it
with demonstrations of the liveliest joy.

Not at all participating in the general sensationbut wearing the
depressed and wearied look of one who sought to meditate on his
disappointment in silence and privacythe single gentleman
alightedand handed out Kit's mother with a gloomy politeness
which impressed the lookers-on extremely. That donehe gave her
his arm and escorted her into the housewhile several active
waiters ran on before as a skirmishing partyto clear the way and
to show the room which was ready for their reception.

'Any room will do' said the single gentleman. 'Let it be near at
handthat's all.'

'Close heresirif you please to walk this way.'

'Would the gentleman like this room?' said a voiceas a little
out-of-the-way door at the foot of the well staircase flew briskly
open and a head popped out. 'He's quite welcome to it. He's as
welcome as flowers in Mayor coals at Christmas. Would you like
this roomsir? Honour me by walking in. Do me the favourpray.'

'Goodness gracious me!' cried Kit's motherfalling back in extreme
surprise'only think of this!'

She had some reason to be astonishedfor the person who proffered
the gracious invitation was no other than Daniel Quilp. The little
door out of which he had thrust his head was close to the inn
larder; and there he stoodbowing with grotesque politeness; as
much at his ease as if the door were that of his own house;
blighting all the legs of mutton and cold roast fowls by his close
companionshipand looking like the evil genius of the cellars come
from underground upon some work of mischief.

'Would you do me the honour?' said Quilp.

'I prefer being alone' replied the single gentleman.

'Oh!' said Quilp. And with thathe darted in again with one jerk
and clapped the little door tolike a figure in a Dutch clock when
the hour strikes.

'Why it was only last nightsir' whispered Kit's mother'that I
left him in Little Bethel.'

'Indeed!' said her fellow-passenger. 'When did that person come
herewaiter?'

'Come down by the night-coachthis morningsir.'

'Humph! And when is he going?'

'Can't saysirreally. When the chambermaid asked him just now
if he should want a bedsirhe first made faces at herand then
wanted to kiss her.'

'Beg him to walk this way' said the single gentleman. 'I should
be glad to exchange a word with himtell him. Beg him to come at
oncedo you hear?'

The man stared on receiving these instructionsfor the single
gentleman had not only displayed as much astonishment as Kit's
mother at sight of the dwarfbutstanding in no fear of himhad


been at less pains to conceal his dislike and repugnance. He
departed on his errandhoweverand immediately returnedushering
in its object.

'Your servantsir' said the dwarf'I encountered your messenger
half-way. I thought you'd allow me to pay my compliments to you.
I hope you're well. I hope you're very well.'

There was a short pausewhile the dwarfwith half-shut eyes and
puckered facestood waiting for an answer. Receiving nonehe
turned towards his more familiar acquaintance.

'Christopher's mother!' he cried. 'Such a dear ladysuch a worthy
womanso blest in her honest son! How is Christopher's mother?
Have change of air and scene improved her? Her little family too
and Christopher? Do they thrive? Do they flourish? Are they
growing into worthy citizenseh?'

Making his voice ascend in the scale with every succeeding
questionMr Quilp finished in a shrill squeakand subsided into
the panting look which was customary with himand whichwhether
it were assumed or naturalhad equally the effect of banishing all
expression from his faceand rendering itas far as it afforded
any index to his mood or meaninga perfect blank.

'Mr Quilp' said the single gentleman.

The dwarf put his hand to his great flapped earand counterfeited
the closest attention.

'We two have met before--'

'Surely' cried Quilpnodding his head. 'Oh surelysir. Such an
honour and pleasure--it's bothChristopher's motherit's both-is
not to be forgotten so soon. By no means!'

'You may remember that the day I arrived in Londonand found the
house to which I droveempty and desertedI was directed by some
of the neighbours to youand waited upon you without stopping for
rest or refreshment?'

'How precipitate that wasand yet what an earnest and vigorous
measure!' said Quilpconferring with himselfin imitation of his
friend Mr Sampson Brass.

'I found' said the single gentleman'you most unaccountablyin
possession of everything that had so recently belonged to another
manand that other manwho up to the time of your entering upon
his property had been looked upon as affluentreduced to sudden
beggaryand driven from house and home.'

'We had warrant for what we didmy good sir' rejoined Quilp'we
had our warrant. Don't say driven either. He went of his own
accord--vanished in the nightsir.'

'No matter' said the single gentleman angrily. 'He was gone.'

'Yeshe was gone' said Quilpwith the same exasperating
composure. 'No doubt he was gone. The only question waswhere.
And it's a question still.'

'Nowwhat am I to think' said the single gentlemansternly
regarding him'of youwhoplainly indisposed to give me any
information then--nayobviously holding backand sheltering


yourself with all kinds of cunningtrickeryand evasion--are
dogging my footsteps now?'

'I dogging!' cried Quilp.

'Whyare you not?' returned his questionerfretted into a state
of the utmost irritation. 'Were you not a few hours sincesixty
miles offand in the chapel to which this good woman goes to say
her prayers?'

'She was there tooI think?' said Quilpstill perfectly unmoved.
'I might sayif I was inclined to be rudehow do I know but you
are dogging MY footsteps. YesI was at chapel. What then? I've
read in books that pilgrims were used to go to chapel before they
went on journeysto put up petitions for their safe return. Wise
men! journeys are very perilous--especially outside the coach.
Wheels come offhorses take frightcoachmen drive too fast
coaches overturn. I always go to chapel before I start on
journeys. It's the last thing I do on such occasionsindeed.'

That Quilp lied most heartily in this speechit needed no very
great penetration to discoveralthough for anything that he
suffered to appear in his facevoiceor mannerhe might have
been clinging to the truth with the quiet constancy of a martyr.

'In the name of all that's calculated to drive one crazyman'
said the unfortunate single gentleman'have you notfor some
reason of your owntaken upon yourself my errand? don't you know
with what object I have come hereand if you do knowcan you
throw no light upon it?'

'You think I'm a conjurorsir' replied Quilpshrugging up his
shoulders. 'If I wasI should tell my own fortune--and make it.'

'Ah! we have said all we need sayI see' returned the other
throwing himself impatiently upon a sofa. 'Pray leave usif you
please.'

'Willingly' returned Quilp. 'Most willingly. Christopher's
mothermy good soulfarewell. A pleasant journey--backsir.
Ahem!'

With these parting wordsand with a grin upon his features
altogether indescribablebut which seemed to be compounded of
every monstrous grimace of which men or monkeys are capablethe
dwarf slowly retreated and closed the door behind him.

'Oho!' he said when he had regained his own roomand sat himself
down in a chair with his arms akimbo. 'Oho! Are you theremy
friend? In-deed!'

Chuckling as though in very great gleeand recompensing himself
for the restraint he had lately put upon his countenance by
twisting it into all imaginable varieties of uglinessMr Quilp
rocking himself to and fro in his chair and nursing his left leg at
the same timefell into certain meditationsof which it may be
necessary to relate the substance.

Firsthe reviewed the circumstances which had led to his repairing
to that spotwhich were briefly these. Dropping in at Mr Sampson
Brass's office on the previous eveningin the absence of that
gentleman and his learned sisterhe had lighted upon Mr Swiveller
who chanced at the moment to be sprinkling a glass of warm gin and
water on the dust of the lawand to be moistening his clayas the


phrase goesrather copiously. But as clay in the abstractwhen
too much moistenedbecomes of a weak and uncertain consistency
breaking down in unexpected placesretaining impressions but
faintlyand preserving no strength or steadiness of characterso
Mr Swiveller's clayhaving imbibed a considerable quantity of
moisturewas in a very loose and slippery stateinsomuch that the
various ideas impressed upon it were fast losing their distinctive
characterand running into each other. It is not uncommon for
human clay in this condition to value itself above all things upon
its great prudence and sagacity; and Mr Swivellerespecially
prizing himself upon these qualitiestook occasion to remark that
he had made strange discoveries in connection with the single
gentleman who lodged abovewhich he had determined to keep within
his own bosomand which neither tortures nor cajolery should ever
induce him to reveal. Of this determination Mr Quilp expressed his
high approvaland setting himself in the same breath to goad Mr
Swiveller on to further hintssoon made out that the single
gentleman had been seen in communication with Kitand that this
was the secret which was never to be disclosed.

Possessed of this piece of informationMr Quilp directly supposed
that the single gentleman above stairs must be the same individual
who had waited on himand having assured himself by further
inquiries that this surmise was correcthad no difficulty in
arriving at the conclusion that the intent and object of his
correspondence with Kit was the recovery of his old client and the
child. Burning with curiosity to know what proceedings were afoot
he resolved to pounce upon Kit's mother as the person least able to
resist his artsand consequently the most likely to be entrapped
into such revelations as he sought; so taking an abrupt leave of Mr
Swivellerhe hurried to her house. The good woman being from
homehe made inquiries of a neighbouras Kit himself did soon
afterwardsand being directed to the chapel be took himself there
in order to waylay herat the conclusion of the service.

He had not sat in the chapel more than a quarter of an hourand
with his eyes piously fixed upon the ceiling was chuckling inwardly
over the joke of his being there at allwhen Kit himself appeared.
Watchful as a lynxone glance showed the dwarf that he had come on
business. Absorbed in appearanceas we have seenand feigning a
profound abstractionhe noted every circumstance of his behaviour
and when he withdrew with his familyshot out after him. In fine
he traced them to the notary's house; learnt the destination of the
carriage from one of the postilions; and knowing that a fast
night-coach started for the same placeat the very hour which was
on the point of strikingfrom a street hard bydarted round to
the coach-office without more adoand took his seat upon the roof.
After passing and repassing the carriage on the roadand being
passed and repassed by it sundry times in the course of the night
according as their stoppages were longer or shorter; or their rate
of travelling variedthey reached the town almost together. Quilp
kept the chaise in sightmingled with the crowdlearnt the single
gentleman's errandand its failureand having possessed himself
of all that it was material to knowhurried offreached the inn
before himhad the interview just now detailedand shut himself
up in the little room in which he hastily reviewed all these
occurrences.

'You are thereare youmy friend?' he repeatedgreedily biting
his nails. 'I am suspected and thrown asideand Kit's the
confidential agentis he? I shall have to dispose of himI fear.
If we had come up with them this morning' he continuedafter a
thoughtful pause'I was ready to prove a pretty good claim. I
could have made my profit. But for these canting hypocritesthe


lad and his motherI could get this fiery gentleman as comfortably
into my net as our old friend--our mutual friendha! ha!--and
chubbyrosy Nell. At the worstit's a golden opportunitynot to
be lost. Let us find them firstand I'll find means of draining
you of some of your superfluous cashsirwhile there are prison
barsand boltsand locksto keep your friend or kinsman safely.
I hate your virtuous people!' said the dwarfthrowing off a bumper
of brandyand smacking his lips'ah! I hate 'em every one!'

This was not a mere empty vauntbut a deliberate avowal of his
real sentiments; for Mr Quilpwho loved nobodyhad by little and
little come to hate everybody nearly or remotely connected with his
ruined client: --the old man himselfbecause he had been able to
deceive him and elude his vigilance --the childbecause she was
the object of Mrs Quilp's commiseration and constant self-reproach
--the single gentlemanbecause of his unconcealed aversion to
himself --Kit and his mothermost mortallyfor the reasons shown.
Above and beyond that general feeling of opposition to themwhich
would have been inseparable from his ravenous desire to enrich
himself by these altered circumstancesDaniel Quilp hated them
every one.

In this amiable moodMr Quilp enlivened himself and his hatreds
with more brandyand thenchanging his quarterswithdrew to an
obscure alehouseunder cover of which seclusion he instituted all
possible inquiries that might lead to the discovery of the old man
and his grandchild. But all was in vain. Not the slightest trace
or clue could be obtained. They had left the town by night; no one
had seen them go; no one had met them on the road; the driver of no
coachcartor waggonhad seen any travellers answering their
description; nobody had fallen in with themor heard of them.
Convinced at last that for the present all such attempts were
hopelesshe appointed two or three scoutswith promises of large
rewards in case of their forwarding him any intelligenceand
returned to London by next day's coach.

It was some gratification to Mr Quilp to findas he took his place
upon the roofthat Kit's mother was alone inside; from which
circumstance he derived in the course of the journey much
cheerfulness of spiritinasmuch as her solitary condition enabled
him to terrify her with many extraordinary annoyances; such as
hanging over the side of the coach at the risk of his lifeand
staring in with his great goggle eyeswhich seemed in hers the
more horrible from his face being upside down; dodging her in this
way from one window to another; getting nimbly down whenever they
changed horses and thrusting his head in at the window with a
dismal squint: which ingenious tortures had such an effect upon Mrs
Nubblesthat she was quite unable for the time to resist the
belief that Mr Quilp did in his own person represent and embody
that Evil Powerwho was so vigorously attacked at Little Bethel
and whoby reason of her backslidings in respect of Astley's and
oysterswas now frolicsome and rampant.

Kithaving been apprised by letter of his mother's intended
returnwas waiting for her at the coach-office; and great was his
surprise when he sawleering over the coachman's shoulder like
some familiar demoninvisible to all eyes but histhe well-known
face of Quilp.

'How are youChristopher?' croaked the dwarf from the coach-top.
'All rightChristopher. Mother's inside.'

'Whyhow did he come heremother?' whispered Kit.


'I don't know how he came or whymy dear' rejoined Mrs Nubbles
dismounting with her son's assistance'but he has been a
terrifying of me out of my seven senses all this blessed day.'

'He has?' cried Kit.

'You wouldn't believe itthat you wouldn't' replied his mother
'but don't say a word to himfor I really don't believe he's
human. Hush! Don't turn round as if I was talking of himbut
he's a squinting at me now in the full blaze of the coach-lamp
quite awful!'

In spite of his mother's injunctionKit turned sharply round to
look. Mr Quilp was serenely gazing at the starsquite absorbed in
celestial contemplation.

'Ohhe's the artfullest creetur!' cried Mrs Nubbles. 'But come
away. Don't speak to him for the world.'

'Yes I willmother. What nonsense. I saysir--'

Mr Quilp affected to startand looked smilingly round.

'You let my mother alonewill you?' said Kit. 'How dare you tease
a poor lone woman like hermaking her miserable and melancholy as
if she hadn't got enough to make her sowithout you. An't you
ashamed of yourselfyou little monster?'

'Monster!' said Quilp inwardlywith a smile. 'Ugliest dwarf that
could be seen anywhere for a penny--monster--ah!'

'You show her any of your impudence again' resumed Kit
shouldering the bandbox'and I tell you whatMr QuilpI won't
bear with you any more. You have no right to do it; I'm sure we
never interfered with you. This isn't the first time; and if ever
you worry or frighten her againyou'll oblige me (though I should
be very sorry to do iton account of your size) to beat you.'

Quilp said not a word in replybut walking so close to Kit as to
bring his eyes within two or three inches of his facelooked
fixedly at himretreated a little distance without averting his
gazeapproached againagain withdrewand so on for half-a-dozen
timeslike a head in a phantasmagoria. Kit stood his ground as if
in expectation of an immediate assaultbut finding that nothing
came of these gesturessnapped his fingers and walked away; his
mother dragging him off as fast as she couldandeven in the
midst of his news of little Jacob and the babylooking anxiously
over her shoulder to see if Quilp were following.

CHAPTER 49

Kit's mother might have spared herself the trouble of looking back
so oftenfor nothing was further from Mr Quilp's thoughts than any
intention of pursuing her and her sonor renewing the quarrel with
which they had parted. He went his waywhistling from time to
time some fragments of a tune; and with a face quite tranquil and
composedjogged pleasantly towards home; entertaining himself as
he went with visions of the fears and terrors of Mrs Quilpwho
having received no intelligence of him for three whole days and two
nightsand having had no previous notice of his absencewas


doubtless by that time in a state of distractionand constantly
fainting away with anxiety and grief.

This facetious probability was so congenial to the dwarf's humour
and so exquisitely amusing to himthat he laughed as he went along
until the tears ran down his cheeks; and more than oncewhen he
found himself in a bye-streetvented his delight in a shrill
screamwhich greatly terrifying any lonely passengerwho happened
to be walking on before him expecting nothing so littleincreased
his mirthand made him remarkably cheerful and light-hearted.

In this happy flow of spiritsMr Quilp reached Tower Hillwhen
gazing up at the window of his own sitting-roomhe thought he
descried more light than is usual in a house of mourning. Drawing
nearerand listening attentivelyhe could hear several voices in
earnest conversationamong which he could distinguishnot only
those of his wife and mother-in-lawbut the tongues of men.

'Ha!' cried the jealous dwarf'What's this! Do they entertain
visitors while I'm away!'

A smothered cough from abovewas the reply. He felt in his
pockets for his latch-keybut had forgotten it. There was no
resource but to knock at the door.

'A light in the passage' said Quilppeeping through the keyhole.
'A very soft knock; andby your leavemy ladyI may yet steal
upon you unawares. Soho!'

A very low and gentle rap received no answer from within. But
after a second application to the knockerno louder than the
firstthe door was softly opened by the boy from the wharfwhom
Quilp instantly gagged with one handand dragged into the street
with the other.

'You'll throttle memaster' whispered the boy. 'Let gowill
you.'

'Who's up stairsyou dog?' retorted Quilp in the same tone. 'Tell
me. And don't speak above your breathor I'll choke you in good
earnest.'

The boy could only point to the windowand reply with a stifled
giggleexpressive of such intense enjoymentthat Quilp clutched
him by the throat and might have carried his threat into execution
or at least have made very good progress towards that endbut for
the boy's nimbly extricating himself from his graspand fortifying
himself behind the nearest postat whichafter some fruitless
attempts to catch him by the hair of the headhis master was
obliged to come to a parley.

'Will you answer me?' said Quilp. 'What's going onabove?'

'You won't let one speak' replied the boy. 'They--hahaha!-they
think you're--you're dead. Ha ha ha!'

'Dead!' cried Quilprelaxing into a grim laugh himself. 'No. Do
they? Do they reallyyou dog?'

'They think you're--you're drowned' replied the boywho in his
malicious nature had a strong infusion of his master. 'You was
last seen on the brink of the wharfand they think you tumbled
over. Ha ha!'


The prospect of playing the spy under such delicious circumstances
and of disappointing them all by walking in alivegave more
delight to Quilp than the greatest stroke of good fortune could
possibly have inspired him with. He was no less tickled than his
hopeful assistantand they both stood for some secondsgrinning
and gasping and wagging their heads at each otheron either side
of the postlike an unmatchable pair of Chinese idols.

'Not a word' said Quilpmaking towards the door on tiptoe. 'Not
a soundnot so much as a creaking boardor a stumble against a
cobweb. DrownedehMrs Quilp! Drowned!'

So sayinghe blew out the candlekicked off his shoesand groped
his way up stairs; leaving his delighted young friend in an ecstasy
of summersets on the pavement.

The bedroom-door on the staircase being unlockedMr Quilp slipped
inand planted himself behind the door of communication between
that chamber and the sitting-roomwhich standing ajar to render
both more airyand having a very convenient chink (of which he had
often availed himself for purposes of espialand had indeed
enlarged with his pocket-knife)enabled him not only to hearbut
to see distinctlywhat was passing.

Applying his eye to this convenient placehe descried Mr Brass
seated at the table with peninkand paperand the case-bottle
of rum--his own case-bottleand his own particular Jamaica-convenient
to his hand; with hot waterfragrant lemonswhite lump
sugarand all things fitting; from which choice materials
Sampsonby no means insensible to their claims upon his attention
had compounded a mighty glass of punch reeking hot; which he was at
that very moment stirring up with a teaspoonand contemplating
with looks in which a faint assumption of sentimental regret
struggled but weakly with a bland and comfortable joy. At the same
tablewith both her elbows upon itwas Mrs Jiniwin; no longer
sipping other people's punch feloniously with teaspoonsbut taking
deep draughts from a jorum of her own; while her daughter--not
exactly with ashes on her heador sackcloth on her backbut
preserving a very decent and becoming appearance of sorrow
nevertheless--was reclining in an easy chairand soothing her
grief with a smaller allowance of the same glib liquid. There were
also presenta couple of water-side menbearing between them
certain machines called drags; even these fellows were accommodated
with a stiff glass a-piece; and as they drank with a great relish
and were naturally of a red-nosedpimple-facedconvivial look
their presence rather increased than detracted from that decided
appearance of comfortwhich was the great characteristic of the
party.

'If I could poison that dear old lady's rum and water' murmured
Quilp'I'd die happy.'

'Ah!' said Mr Brassbreaking the silenceand raising his eyes to
the ceiling with a sigh'Who knows but he may be looking down upon
us now! Who knows but he may be surveying of us from--from
somewheres or anotherand contemplating us with a watchful eye!
Oh Lor!'

Here Mr Brass stopped to drink half his punchand then resumed;
looking at the other halfas he spokewith a dejected smile.

'I can almost fancy' said the lawyer shaking his head'that I see
his eye glistening down at the very bottom of my liquor. When
shall we look upon his like again? Nevernever!' One minute we


are here' --holding his tumbler before his eyes--'the next we are
there'-- gulping down its contentsand striking himself
emphatically a little below the chest--'in the silent tomb. To
think that I should be drinking his very rum! It seems like a
dream.'


With the viewno doubtof testing the reality of his positionMr
Brass pushed his tumbler as he spoke towards Mrs Jiniwin for the
purpose of being replenished; and turned towards the attendant
mariners.


'The search has been quite unsuccessful then?'


'Quitemaster. But I should say that if he turns up anywhere
he'll come ashore somewhere about Grinidge to-morrowat ebb tide
ehmate?'


The other gentleman assentedobserving that he was expected at the
Hospitaland that several pensioners would be ready to
receive him whenever he arrived.


'Then we have nothing for it but resignation' said Mr Brass;
'nothing but resignation and expectation. It would be a comfort to
have his body; it would be a dreary comfort.'


'Ohbeyond a doubt' assented Mrs Jiniwin hastily; 'if we once had
thatwe should be quite sure.'


'With regard to the descriptive advertisement' said Sampson Brass
taking up his pen. 'It is a melancholy pleasure to recall his
traits. Respecting his legs now--?'


'Crookedcertainly' said Mrs Jiniwin.
'Do you think they WERE crooked?' said Brassin an insinuating
tone. 'I think I see them now coming up the street very wide
apartin nankeen' pantaloons a little shrunk and without straps.
Ah! what a vale of tears we live in. Do we say crooked?'


'I think they were a little so' observed Mrs Quilp with a sob.


'Legs crooked' said Brasswriting as he spoke. 'Large head
short bodylegs crooked--'


Very crooked' suggested Mrs Jiniwin.


'We'll not say very crookedma'am' said Brass piously. 'Let us
not bear hard upon the weaknesses of the deceased. He is gone
ma'amto where his legs will never come in question. --We will
content ourselves with crookedMrs Jiniwin.'


'I thought you wanted the truth' said the old lady. 'That's all.'


'Bless your eyeshow I love you' muttered Quilp. 'There she goes
again. Nothing but punch!'


'This is an occupation' said the lawyerlaying down his pen and
emptying his glass'which seems to bring him before my eyes like
the Ghost of Hamlet's fatherin the very clothes that he wore on
work-a-days. His coathis waistcoathis shoes and stockingshis
trousershis hathis wit and humourhis pathos and his umbrella
all come before me like visions of my youth. His linen!' said Mr
Brass smiling fondly at the wall'his linen which was always of a
particular colourfor such was his whim and fancy--how plain I
see his linen now!'



'You had better go onsir' said Mrs Jiniwin impatiently.

'Truema'amtrue' cried Mr Brass. 'Our faculties must not
freeze with grief. I'll trouble you for a little more of that
ma'am. A question now ariseswith relation to his nose.'

'Flat' said Mrs Jiniwin.

'Aquiline!' cried Quilpthrusting in his headand striking the
feature with his fist. 'Aquilineyou hag. Do you see it? Do you
call this flat? Do you? Eh?'

'Oh capitalcapital!' shouted Brassfrom the mere force of habit.
'Excellent! How very good he is! He's a most remarkable man--so
extremely whimsical! Such an amazing power of taking people by
surprise!'

Quilp paid no regard whatever to these complimentsnor to the
dubious and frightened look into which the lawyer gradually
subsidednor to the shrieks of his wife and mother-in-lawnor to
the latter's running from the roomnor to the former's fainting
away. Keeping his eye fixed on Sampson Brasshe walked up to the
tableand beginning with his glassdrank off the contentsand
went regularly round until he had emptied the other twowhen he
seized the case-bottleand hugging it under his armsurveyed him
with a most extraordinary leer.

'Not yetSampson' said Quilp. 'Not just yet!'

'Oh very good indeed!' cried Brassrecovering his spirits a
little. 'Ha ha ha! Oh exceedingly good! There's not another man
alive who could carry it off like that. A most difficult position
to carry off. But he has such a flow of good-humoursuch an
amazing flow!'

'Good night' said the dwarfnodding expressively.

'Good nightsirgood night' cried the lawyerretreating
backwards towards the door. 'This is a joyful occasion indeed
extremely joyful. Ha ha ha! oh very richvery rich indeed
remarkably so!'

Waiting until Mr Brass's ejaculations died away in the distance
(for he continued to pour them outall the way down stairs)Quilp
advanced towards the two menwho yet lingered in a kind of stupid
amazement.

'Have you been dragging the river all daygentlemen?' said the
dwarfholding the door open with great politeness.

'And yesterday toomaster.'

'Dear meyou've had a deal of trouble. Pray consider everything
yours that you find upon the--upon the body. Good night!'

The men looked at each otherbut had evidently no inclination to
argue the point just thenand shuffled out of the room. The
speedy clearance effectedQuilp locked the doors; and still
embracing the case-bottle with shrugged-up shoulders and folded
armsstood looking at his insensible wife like a dismounted
nightmare.


CHAPTER 50

Matrimonial differences are usually discussed by the parties
concerned in the form of dialoguein which the lady bears at least
her full half share. Those of Mr and Mrs Quilphoweverwere an
exception to the general rule; the remarks which they occasioned
being limited to a long soliloquy on the part of the gentleman
with perhaps a few deprecatory observations from the ladynot
extending beyond a trembling monosyllable uttered at long
intervalsand in a very submissive and humble tone. On the
present occasionMrs Quilp did not for a long time venture even on
this gentle defencebut when she had recovered from her
fainting-fitsat in a tearful silencemeekly listening to the
reproaches of her lord and master.

Of these Mr Quilp delivered himself with the utmost animation and
rapidityand with so many distortions of limb and featurethat
even his wifealthough tolerably well accustomed to his
proficiency in these respectswas well-nigh beside herself with
alarm. But the Jamaica rumand the joy of having occasioned a
heavy disappointmentby degrees cooled Mr Quilp's wrath; which
from being at savage heatdropped slowly to the bantering or
chuckling pointat which it steadily remained.

'So you thought I was dead and gonedid you?' said Quilp. 'You
thought you were a widoweh? Hahahayou jade."

'IndeedQuilp' returned his wife. 'I'm very sorry--'

'Who doubts it!' cried the dwarf. 'You very sorry! to be sure you
are. Who doubts that you're VERY sorry!'

'I don't mean sorry that you have come home again alive and well'
said his wife'but sorry that I should have been led into such a
belief. I am glad to see youQuilp; indeed I am.'

In truth Mrs Quilp did seem a great deal more glad to behold her
lord than might have been expectedand did evince a degree of
interest in his safety whichall things consideredwas rather
unaccountable. Upon Quilphoweverthis circumstance made no
impressionfarther than as it moved him to snap his fingers close
to his wife's eyeswith divers grins of triumph and derision.

'How could you go away so longwithout saying a word to me or
letting me hear of you or know anything about you?' asked the poor
little womansobbing. 'How could you be so cruelQuilp?'

'How could I be so cruel! cruel!' cried the dwarf. 'Because I was
in the humour. I'm in the humour now. I shall be cruel
when I like. I'm going away again.'

'Not again!'

'Yesagain. I'm going away now. I'm off directly. I mean to go
and live wherever the fancy seizes me--at the wharf--at the
counting-house--and be a jolly bachelor. You were a widow in
anticipation. Damme' screamed the dwarf'I'll be a bachelor in
earnest.'

'You can't be seriousQuilp' sobbed his wife.


'I tell you' said the dwarfexulting in his project'that I'll
be a bachelora devil-may-care bachelor; and I'll have my
bachelor's hall at the counting-houseand at such times come near
it if you dare. And mind too that I don't pounce in upon you at
unseasonable hours againfor I'll be a spy upon youand come and
go like a mole or a weazel. Tom Scott--where's Tom Scott?'

'Here I ammaster' cried the voice of the boyas Quilp threw up
the window.

'Wait thereyou dog' returned the dwarf'to carry a bachelor's
portmanteau. Pack it upMrs Quilp. Knock up the dear old lady to
help; knock her up. Halloa there! Halloa!'

With these exclamationsMr Quilp caught up the pokerand hurrying
to the door of the good lady's sleeping-closetbeat upon it
therewith until she awoke in inexpressible terrorthinking that
her amiable son-in-law surely intended to murder her in
justification of the legs she had slandered. Impressed with this
ideashe was no sooner fairly awake than she screamed violently
and would have quickly precipitated herself out of the window and
through a neighbouring skylightif her daughter had not hastened
in to undeceive herand implore her assistance. Somewhat
reassured by her account of the service she was required to render
Mrs Jiniwin made her appearance in a flannel dressing-gown; and
both mother and daughtertrembling with terror and cold--for the
night was now far advanced--obeyed Mr Quilp's directions in
submissive silence. Prolonging his preparations as much as
possiblefor their greater comfortthat eccentric gentleman
superintended the packing of his wardrobeand having added to it
with his own handsa plateknife and forkspoonteacup and
saucerand other small household matters of that naturestrapped
up the portmanteautook it on his shouldersand actually marched
off without another wordand with the case-bottle (which he had
never once put down) still tightly clasped under his arm.
Consigning his heavier burden to the care of Tom Scott when he
reached the streettaking a dram from the bottle for his own
encouragementand giving the boy a rap on the head with it as a
small taste for himselfQuilp very deliberately led the way to the
wharfand reached it at between three and four o'clock in the
morning.

'Snug!' said Quilpwhen he had groped his way to the wooden
counting-houseand opened the door with a key he carried about
with him. 'Beautifully snug! Call me at eightyou dog.'

With no more formal leave-taking or explanationhe clutched the
portmanteaushut the door on his attendantand climbing on the
deskand rolling himself up as round as a hedgehogin an old
boat-cloakfell fast asleep.

Being roused in the morning at the appointed timeand roused with
difficultyafter his late fatiguesQuilp instructed Tom Scott to
make a fire in the yard of sundry pieces of old timberand to
prepare some coffee for breakfast; for the better furnishing of
which repast he entrusted him with certain small moneysto be
expended in the purchase of hot rollsbuttersugarYarmouth
bloatersand other articles of housekeeping; so that in a few
minutes a savoury meal was smoking on the board. With this
substantial comfortthe dwarf regaled himself to his heart's
content; and being highly satisfied with this free and gipsy mode
of life (which he had often meditatedas offeringwhenever he
chose to avail himself of itan agreeable freedom from the
restraints of matrimonyand a choice means of keeping Mrs Quilp


and her mother in a state of incessant agitation and suspense)
bestirred himself to improve his retreatand render it more
commodious and comfortable.

With this viewhe issued forth to a place hard bywhere seastores
were soldpurchased a second-hand hammockand had it slung
in seamanlike fashion from the ceiling of the counting-house. He
also caused to be erectedin the same mouldy cabinan old ship's
stove with a rusty funnel to carry the smoke through the roof; and
these arrangements completedsurveyed them with ineffable delight.

'I've got a country-house like Robinson Crusoe said the dwarf,
ogling the accommodations; 'a solitary, sequestered,
desolate-island sort of spot, where I can be quite alone when I
have business on hand, and be secure from all spies and listeners.
Nobody near me here, but rats, and they are fine stealthy secret
fellows. I shall be as merry as a grig among these gentry. I'll
look out for one like Christopher, and poison him--ha, ha, ha!
Business though--business--we must be mindful of business in the
midst of pleasure, and the time has flown this morning, I declare.'

Enjoining Tom Scott to await his return, and not to stand upon his
head, or throw a summerset, or so much as walk upon his hands
meanwhile, on pain of lingering torments, the dwarf threw himself
into a boat, and crossing to the other side of the river, and then
speeding away on foot, reached Mr Swiveller's usual house of
entertainment in Bevis Marks, just as that gentleman sat down alone
to dinner in its dusky parlour.

'Dick'- said the dwarf, thrusting his head in at the door, 'my pet,
my pupil, the apple of my eye, hey, hey!'

'Oh you're there, are you?' returned Mr Swiveller; 'how are you?'

'How's Dick?' retorted Quilp. 'How's the cream of clerkship, eh?'

'Why, rather sour, sir,' replied Mr Swiveller. 'Beginning to
border upon cheesiness, in fact.'

'What's the matter?' said the dwarf, advancing. 'Has Sally proved
unkind. Of all the girls that are so smartthere's none like--"
ehDick!'

'Certainly not' replied Mr Swivellereating his dinner with great
gravity'none like her. She's the sphynx of private lifeis
Sally B.'

'You're out of spirits' said Quilpdrawing up a chair. 'What's
the matter?'

'The law don't agree with me' returned Dick. 'It isn't moist
enoughand there's too much confinement. I have been thinking of
running away.'

'Bah!' said the dwarf. 'Where would you run toDick?'

'I don't know' returned Mr Swiveller. 'Towards HighgateI
suppose. Perhaps the bells might strike up "Turn again Swiveller
Lord Mayor of London." Whittington's name was Dick. I wish cats
were scarcer."

Quilp looked at his companion with his eyes screwed up into a
comical expression of curiosityand patiently awaited his further
explanation; upon whichhoweverMr Swiveller appeared in no hurry


to enteras he ate a very long dinner in profound silencefinally
pushed away his platethrew himself back into his chairfolded
his armsand stared ruefully at the firein which some ends of
cigars were smoking on their own accountand sending up a fragrant
odour.

'Perhaps you'd like a bit of cake'--said Dickat last turning to
the dwarf. 'You're quite welcome to it. You ought to befor it's
of your making.'

'What do you mean?' said Quilp.

Mr Swiveller replied by taking from his pocket a small and very
greasy parcelslowly unfolding itand displaying a little slab of
plum-cake extremely indigestible in appearanceand bordered with
a paste of white sugar an inch and a half deep.

'What should you say this was?' demanded Mr Swiveller.

'It looks like bride-cake' replied the dwarfgrinning.

'And whose should you say it was?' inquired Mr Swivellerrubbing
the pastry against his nose with a dreadful calmness. 'Whose?'

'Not--'

'Yes' said Dick'the same. You needn't mention her name.
There's no such name now. Her name is Cheggs nowSophy Cheggs.
Yet loved I as man never loved that hadn't wooden legsand my
heartmy heart is breaking for the love of Sophy Cheggs.'

With this extemporary adaptation of a popular ballad to the
distressing circumstances of his own caseMr Swiveller folded up
the parcel againbeat it very flat between the palms of his hands
thrust it into his breastbuttoned his coat over itand folded
his arms upon the whole.

'NowI hope you're satisfiedsir' said Dick; 'and I hope Fred's
satisfied. You went partners in the mischiefand I hope you like
it. This is the triumph I was to haveis it? It's like the old
country-dance of that namewhere there are two gentlemen to one
ladyand one has herand the other hasn'tbut comes limping up
behind to make out the figure. But it's Destinyand mine's a
crusher.'

Disguising his secret joy in Mr Swiveller's defeatDaniel Quilp
adopted the surest means of soothing himby ringing the belland
ordering in a supply of rosy wine (that is to sayof its usual
representative)which he put about with great alacritycalling
upon Mr Swiveller to pledge him in various toasts derisive of
Cheggsand eulogistic of the happiness of single men. Such was
their impression on Mr Swivellercoupled with the reflection that
no man could oppose his destinythat in a very short space of time
his spirits rose surprisinglyand he was enabled to give the dwarf
an account of the receipt of the cakewhichit appearedhad been
brought to Bevis Marks by the two surviving Miss Wackleses in
personand delivered at the office door with much giggling and
joyfulness.

'Ha!' said Quilp. 'It will be our turn to giggle soon. And that
reminds me--you spoke of young Trent--where is he?'

Mr Swiveller explained that his respectable friend had recently
accepted a responsible situation in a locomotive gaming-houseand


was at that time absent on a professional tour among the
adventurous spirits of Great Britain.


'That's unfortunate' said the dwarf'for I camein factto ask
you about him. A thought has occurred to meDick; your friend
over the way--'


'Which friend?'


'In the first floor.'


'Yes?'


'Your friend in the first floorDickmay know him.'


'Nohe don't' said Mr Swivellershaking his head.


'Don't! Nobecause he has never seen him' rejoined Quilp; 'but
if we were to bring them togetherwho knowsDickbut Fred
properly introducedwould serve his turn almost as well as little
Nell or her grandfather--who knows but it might make the young
fellow's fortuneandthrough himyourseh?'


'Whythe fact isyou see' said Mr Swiveller'that they HAVE
been brought together.'


'Have been!' cried the dwarflooking suspiciously at his
companion. 'Through whose means?'
'Through mine' said Dickslightly confused. 'Didn't I mention it
to you the last time you called over yonder?'


'You know you didn't' returned the dwarf.


'I believe you're right' said Dick. 'No. I didn'tI recollect.
Oh yesI brought 'em together that very day. It was Fred's
suggestion.'


'And what came of it?'


'Whyinstead of my friend's bursting into tears when he knew who
Fred wasembracing him kindlyand telling him that he was his
grandfatheror his grandmother in disguise (which we fully
expected)he flew into a tremendous passion; called him all manner
of names; said it was in a great measure his fault that little Nell
and the old gentleman had ever been brought to poverty; didn't hint
at our taking anything to drink; and--and in short rather turned
us out of the room than otherwise.'


'That's strange' said the dwarfmusing.


'So we remarked to each other at the time' returned Dick coolly
'but quite true.'


Quilp was plainly staggered by this intelligenceover which he
brooded for some time in moody silenceoften raising his eyes to
Mr Swiveller's faceand sharply scanning its expression. As he
could read in ithoweverno additional information or anything to
lead him to believe he had spoken falsely; and as Mr Swiveller
left to his own meditationssighed deeplyand was evidently
growing maudlin on the subject of Mrs Cheggs; the dwarf soon broke
up the conference and took his departureleaving the bereaved one
to his melancholy ruminations.


'Have been brought togethereh?' said the dwarf as he walked the



streets alone. 'My friend has stolen a march upon me. It led him
to nothingand therefore is no great mattersave in the
intention. I'm glad he has lost his mistress. Ha ha! The
blockhead mustn't leave the law at present. I'm sure of him where
he iswhenever I want him for my own purposesandbesideshe's
a good unconscious spy on Brassand tellsin his cupsall that
he sees and hears. You're useful to meDickand cost nothing but
a little treating now and then. I am not sure that it may not be
worth whilebefore longto take credit with the strangerDick
by discovering your designs upon the child; but for the present
we'll remain the best friends in the worldwith your good leave.'

Pursuing these thoughtsand gasping as he went alongafter his
own peculiar fashionMr Quilp once more crossed the Thamesand
shut himself up in his Bachelor's Hallwhichby reason of its
newly-erected chimney depositing the smoke inside the room and
carrying none of it offwas not quite so agreeable as more
fastidious people might have desired. Such inconveniences
howeverinstead of disgusting the dwarf with his new aboderather
suited his humour; soafter dining luxuriously from the
public-househe lighted his pipeand smoked against the chimney
until nothing of him was visible through the mist but a pair of red
and highly inflamed eyeswith sometimes a dim vision of his head
and faceasin a violent fit of coughinghe slightly stirred the
smoke and scattered the heavy wreaths by which they were obscured.
In the midst of this atmospherewhich must infallibly have
smothered any other manMr Quilp passed the evening with great
cheerfulness; solacing himself all the time with the pipe and the
case-bottle; and occasionally entertaining himself with a melodious
howlintended for a songbut bearing not the faintest resemblance
to any scrap of any piece of musicvocal or instrumentalever
invented by man. Thus he amused himself until nearly midnight
when he turned into his hammock with the utmost satisfaction.

The first sound that met his ears in the morning--as he half
opened his eyesandfinding himself so unusually near the
ceilingentertained a drowsy idea that he must have been
transformed into a fly or blue-bottle in the course of the night
--was that of a stifled sobbing and weeping in the room. Peeping
cautiously over the side of his hammockhe descried Mrs Quilpto
whomafter contemplating her for some time in silencehe
communicated a violent start by suddenly yelling out--'Halloa!'

'OhQuilp!' cried his poor little wifelooking up. 'How you
frightened me!'

'I meant toyou jade' returned the dwarf. 'What do you want
here? I'm deadan't I?'

'Ohplease come homedo come home' said Mrs Quilpsobbing;
'we'll never do so any moreQuilpand after all it was only a
mistake that grew out of our anxiety.'

'Out of your anxiety' grinned the dwarf. 'YesI know that--out
of your anxiety for my death. I shall come home when I pleaseI
tell you. I shall come home when I pleaseand go when I please.
I'll be a Will o' the Wispnow herenow theredancing about you
alwaysstarting up when you least expect meand keeping you in a
constant state of restlessness and irritation. Will you begone?'

Mrs Quilp durst only make a gesture of entreaty.

'I tell you no' cried the dwarf. 'No. If you dare to come here
again unless you're sent forI'll keep watch-dogs in the yard


that'll growl and bite--I'll have man-trapscunningly altered and
improved for catching women--I'll have spring gunsthat shall
explode when you tread upon the wiresand blow you into little
pieces. Will you begone?'

'Do forgive me. Do come back' said his wifeearnestly.

'No-o-o-o-o!' roared Quilp. 'Not till my own good timeand then
I'll return again as often as I chooseand be accountable to
nobody for my goings or comings. You see the door there. Will you
go?'

Mr Quilp delivered this last command in such a very energetic
voiceand moreover accompanied it with such a sudden gesture
indicative of an intention to spring out of his hammockand
night-capped as he wasbear his wife home again through the public
streetsthat she sped away like an arrow. Her worthy lord
stretched his neck and eyes until she had crossed the yardand
thennot at all sorry to have had this opportunity of carrying his
pointand asserting the sanctity of his castlefell into an
immoderate fit of laughterand laid himself down to sleep again.

CHAPTER 51

The bland and open-hearted proprietor of Bachelor's Hall slept on
amidst the congenial accompaniments of rainmuddirtdampfog
and ratsuntil late in the day; whensummoning his valet Tom
Scott to assist him to riseand to prepare breakfasthe quitted
his couchand made his toilet. This duty performedand his
repast endedhe again betook himself to Bevis Marks.

This visit was not intended for Mr Swivellerbut for his friend
and employer Mr Sampson Brass. Both gentlemen however were from
homenor was the life and light of lawMiss Sallyat her post
either. The fact of their joint desertion of the office was made
known to all comers by a scrap of paper in the hand-writing of Mr
Swivellerwhich was attached to the bell-handleand whichgiving
the reader no clue to the time of day when it was first posted
furnished him with the rather vague and unsatisfactory information
that that gentleman would 'return in an hour.'

'There's a servantI suppose' said the dwarfknocking at the
house-door. 'She'll do.'

After a sufficiently long intervalthe door was openedand a
small voice immediately accosted him with'Oh please will you
leave a card or message?'

'Eh?' said the dwarflooking down(it was something quite new to
him) upon the small servant.

To thisthe childconducting her conversation as upon the
occasion of her first interview with Mr Swivelleragain replied
'Oh please will you leave a card or message?'

'I'll write a note' said the dwarfpushing past her into the
office; 'and mind your master has it directly he comes home.' So
Mr Quilp climbed up to the top of a tall stool to write the note
and the small servantcarefully tutored for such emergencies
looked on with her eyes wide openreadyif he so much as


abstracted a waferto rush into the street and give the alarm to
the police.

As Mr Quilp folded his note (which was soon written: being a very
short one) he encountered the gaze of the small servant. He looked
at herlong and earnestly.

'How are you?' said the dwarfmoistening a wafer with horrible
grimaces.

The small servantperhaps frightened by his looksreturned no
audible reply; but it appeared from the motion of her lips that she
was inwardly repeating the same form of expression concerning the
note or message.

'Do they use you ill here? is your mistress a Tartar?' said Quilp
with a chuckle.

In reply to the last interrogationthe small servantwith a look
of infinite cunning mingled with fearscrewed up her mouth very
tight and roundand nodded violently. Whether there was anything
in the peculiar slyness of her action which fascinated Mr Quilpor
anything in the expression of her features at the moment which
attracted his attention for some other reason; or whether it merely
occurred to him as a pleasant whim to stare the small servant out
of countenance; certain it isthat he planted his elbows square
and firmly on the deskand squeezing up his cheeks with his hands
looked at her fixedly.

'Where do you come from?' he said after a long pausestroking his
chin.

'I don't know.'

'What's your name?'

'Nothing.'

'Nonsense!' retorted Quilp. 'What does your mistress call you when
she wants you?'

'A little devil' said the child.

She added in the same breathas if fearful of any further
questioning'But please will you leave a card or message?'

These unusual answers might naturally have provoked some more
inquiries. Quilphoweverwithout uttering another wordwithdrew
his eyes from the small servantstroked his chin more thoughtfully
than beforeand thenbending over the note as if to direct it
with scrupulous and hair-breadth nicetylooked at hercovertly
but very narrowlyfrom under his bushy eyebrows. The result of
this secret survey wasthat he shaded his face with his handsand
laughed slyly and noiselesslyuntil every vein in it was swollen
almost to bursting. Pulling his hat over his brow to conceal his
mirth and its effectshe tossed the letter to the childand
hastily withdrew.

Once in the streetmoved by some secret impulsehe laughedand
held his sidesand laughed againand tried to peer through the
dusty area railings as if to catch another glimpse of the child
until he was quite tired out. At lasthe travelled back to the
Wildernesswhich was within rifle-shot of his bachelor retreat
and ordered tea in the wooden summer-house that afternoon for three


persons; an invitation to Miss Sally Brass and her brother to
partake of that entertainment at that placehaving been the object
both of his journey and his note.

It was not precisely the kind of weather in which people usually
take tea in summer-housesfar less in summer-houses in an advanced
state of decayand overlooking the slimy banks of a great river at
low water. Neverthelessit was in this choice retreat that Mr
Quilp ordered a cold collation to be preparedand it was beneath
its cracked and leaky roof that hein due course of timereceived
Mr Sampson and his sister Sally.

'You're fond of the beauties of nature' said Quilp with a grin.
'Is this charmingBrass? Is it unusualunsophisticated
primitive?'

'It's delightful indeedsir' replied the lawyer.

'Cool?' said Quilp.

'N-not particularly soI thinksir' rejoined Brasswith his
teeth chattering in his head.

'Perhaps a little damp and ague-ish?' said Quilp.

'Just damp enough to be cheerfulsir' rejoined Brass. 'Nothing
moresirnothing more.'

'And Sally?' said the delighted dwarf. 'Does she like it?'

'She'll like it better' returned that strong-minded lady'when
she has tea; so let us have itand don't bother.'

'Sweet Sally!' cried Quilpextending his arms as if about to
embrace her. 'Gentlecharmingoverwhelming Sally.'

'He's a very remarkable man indeed!' soliloquised Mr Brass. 'He's
quite a Troubadouryou know; quite a Troubadour!'

These complimentary expressions were uttered in a somewhat absent
and distracted manner; for the unfortunate lawyerbesides having
a bad cold in his headhad got wet in comingand would have
willingly borne some pecuniary sacrifice if he could have shifted
his present raw quarters to a warm roomand dried himself at a
fire. Quilphowever--whobeyond the gratification of his demon
whimsowed Sampson some acknowledgment of the part he had played
in the mourning scene of which he had been a hidden witnessmarked
these symptoms of uneasiness with a delight past all expression
and derived from them a secret joy which the costliest banquet
could never have afforded him.

It is worthy of remarktooas illustrating a little feature in
the character of Miss Sally Brassthatalthough on her own
account she would have borne the discomforts of the Wilderness with
a very ill graceand would probablyindeedhave walked off
before the tea appearedshe no sooner beheld the latent uneasiness
and misery of her brother than she developed a grim satisfaction
and began to enjoy herself after her own manner. Though the wet
came stealing through the roof and trickling down upon their heads
Miss Brass uttered no complaintbut presided over the tea equipage
with imperturbable composure. While Mr Quilpin his uproarious
hospitalityseated himself upon an empty beer-barrelvaunted the
place as the most beautiful and comfortable in the three kingdoms
and elevating his glassdrank to their next merry-meeting in that


jovial spot; and Mr Brasswith the rain plashing down into his
tea-cupmade a dismal attempt to pluck up his spirits and appear
at his ease; and Tom Scottwho was in waiting at the door under an
old umbrellaexulted in his agoniesand bade fair to split his
sides with laughing; while all this was passingMiss Sally Brass
unmindful of the wet which dripped down upon her own feminine
person and fair apparelsat placidly behind the tea-boarderect
and grizzlycontemplating the unhappiness of her brother with a
mind at easeand contentin her amiable disregard of selfto sit
there all nightwitnessing the torments which his avaricious and
grovelling nature compelled him to endure and forbade him to
resent. And thisit must be observedor the illustration would
be incompletealthough in a business point of view she had the
strongest sympathy with Mr Sampsonand would have been beyond
measure indignant if he had thwarted their client in any one
respect.

In the height of his boisterous merrimentMr Quilphaving on some
pretence dismissed his attendant sprite for the momentresumed his
usual manner all at oncedismounted from his caskand laid his
hand upon the lawyer's sleeve.

'A word' said the dwarf'before we go farther. Sallyhark'ee
for a minute.'

Miss Sally drew closeras if accustomed to business conferences
with their host which were the better for not having air.

'Business' said the dwarfglancing from brother to sister. 'Very
private business. Lay your heads together when you're by
yourselves.'

'Certainlysir' returned Brasstaking out his pocket-book and
pencil. 'I'll take down the heads if you pleasesir. Remarkable
documents' added the lawyerraising his eyes to the ceiling
'most remarkable documents. He states his points so clearly that
it's a treat to have 'em! I don't know any act of parliament
that's equal to him in clearness.'

'I shall deprive you of a treat' said Quilp. 'Put up your book.
We don't want any documents. So. There's a lad named Kit--'

Miss Sally noddedimplying that she knew of him.

'Kit!' said Mr Sampson. --'Kit! Ha! I've heard the name before
but I don't exactly call to mind--I don't exactly--'

'You're as slow as a tortoiseand more thick-headed than a
rhinoceros' returned his obliging client with an impatient
gesture.

'He's extremely pleasant!' cried the obsequious Sampson. 'His
acquaintance with Natural History too is surprising. Quite a
Buffoonquite!'

There is no doubt that Mr Brass intended some compliment or other;
and it has been argued with show of reason that he would have said
Buffonbut made use of a superfluous vowel. Be this as it may
Quilp gave him no time for correctionas he performed that office
himself by more than tapping him on the head with the handle of his
umbrella.

'Don't let's have any wrangling' said Miss Sallystaying his
hand. 'I've showed you that I know himand that's enough.'


'She's always foremost!' said the dwarfpatting her on the back
and looking contemptuously at Sampson. 'I don't like KitSally.'

'Nor I' rejoined Miss Brass.

'Nor I' said Sampson.

'Whythat's right!' cried Quilp. 'Half our work is done already.
This Kit is one of your honest people; one of your fair characters;
a prowling prying hound; a hypocrite; a double- facedwhitelivered
sneaking spy; a crouching cur to those that feed and coax
himand a barking yelping dog to all besides.'

'Fearfully eloquent!' cried Brass with a sneeze. 'Quite
appalling!'

'Come to the point' said Miss Sally'and don't talk so much.'

'Right again!' exclaimed Quilpwith another contemptuous look at
Sampson'always foremost! I saySallyhe is a yelpinginsolent
dog to all besidesand most of allto me. In shortI owe him a
grudge.'
'That's enoughsir' said Sampson.

'Noit's not enoughsir' sneered Quilp; 'will you hear me out?
Besides that I owe him a grudge on that accounthe thwarts me at
this minuteand stands between me and an end which might otherwise
prove a golden one to us all. Apart from thatI repeat that he
crosses my humourand I hate him. Nowyou know the ladand can
guess the rest. Devise your own means of putting him out of my
wayand execute them. Shall it be done?'

'It shallsir' said Sampson.

'Then give me your hand' retorted Quilp. 'Sallygirlyours.
rely as muchor moreon you than him. Tom Scott comes back.
Lanternpipesmore grogand a jolly night of it!'

No other word was spokenno other look exchangedwhich had the
slightest reference to thisthe real occasion of their meeting.
The trio were well accustomed to act togetherand were linked to
each other by ties of mutual interest and advantageand nothing
more was needed. Resuming his boisterous manner with the same ease
with which he had thrown it offQuilp was in an instant the same
uproariousreckless little savage he had been a few seconds
before. It was ten o'clock at night before the amiable Sally
supported her beloved and loving brother from the Wildernessby
which time he needed the utmost support her tender frame could
render; his walk being from some unknown reason anything but
steadyand his legs constantly doubling up in unexpected places.

Overpowerednotwithstanding his late prolonged slumbersby the
fatigues of the last few daysthe dwarf lost no time in creeping
to his dainty houseand was soon dreaming in his hammock. Leaving
him to visionsin which perhaps the quiet figures we quitted in
the old church porch were not without their sharebe it our task
to rejoin them as they sat and watched.

CHAPTER 57


After a long timethe schoolmaster appeared at the wicket-gate of
the churchyardand hurried towards themTingling in his handas
he came alonga bundle of rusty keys. He was quite breathless
with pleasure and haste when he reached the porchand at first
could only point towards the old building which the child had been
contemplating so earnestly.

'You see those two old houses' he said at last.

'Yessurely' replied Nell. 'I have been looking at them nearly
all the time you have been away.'

'And you would have looked at them more curiously yetif you could
have guessed what I have to tell you' said her friend. 'One of
those houses is mine.'

Without saying any moreor giving the child time to replythe
schoolmaster took her handandhis honest face quite radiant with
exultationled her to the place of which he spoke.

They stopped before its low arched door. After trying several of
the keys in vainthe schoolmaster found one to fit the huge lock
which turned backcreakingand admitted them into the house.

The room into which they entered was a vaulted chamber once nobly
ornamented by cunning architectsand still retainingin its
beautiful groined roof and rich stone tracerychoice remnants of
its ancient splendour. Foliage carved in the stoneand emulating
the mastery of Nature's handyet remained to tell how many times
the leaves outside had come and gonewhile it lived on unchanged.
The broken figures supporting the burden of the chimney-piece
though mutilatedwere still distinguishable for what they had
been--far different from the dust without--and showed sadly by the
empty hearthlike creatures who had outlived their kindand
mourned their own too slow decay.

In some old time--for even change was old in that old place--a
wooden partition had been constructed in one part of the chamber to
form a sleeping-closetinto which the light was admitted at the
same period by a rude windowor rather nichecut in the solid
wall. This screentogether with two seats in the broad chimney
had at some forgotten date been part of the church or convent; for
the oakhastily appropriated to its present purposehad been
little altered from its former shapeand presented to the eye a
pile of fragments of rich carving from old monkish stalls.

An open door leading to a small room or celldim with the light
that came through leaves of ivycompleted the interior of this
portion of the ruin. It was not quite destitute of furniture. A
few strange chairswhose arms and legs looked as though they had
dwindled away with age; a tablethe very spectre of its race: a
great old chest that had once held records in the churchwith
other quaintly-fashioned domestic necessariesand store of
fire-wood for the winterwere scattered aroundand gave evident
tokens of its occupation as a dwelling-place at no very distant
time.

The child looked around herwith that solemn feeling with which we
contemplate the work of ages that have become but drops of water in
the great ocean of eternity. The old man had followed thembut
they were all three hushed for a spaceand drew their breath
softlyas if they feared to break the silence even by so slight a
sound.


'It is a very beautiful place!' said the childin a low voice.

'I almost feared you thought otherwise' returned the schoolmaster.
'You shivered when we first came inas if you felt it cold or
gloomy.'

'It was not that' said Nellglancing round with a slight shudder.
'Indeed I cannot tell you what it wasbut when I saw the outside
from the church porchthe same feeling came over me. It is its
being so old and grey perhaps.'

'A peaceful place to live indon't you think so)' said her friend.

'Oh yes' rejoined the childclasping her hands earnestly. 'A
quiethappy place--a place to live and learn to die in!' She
would have said morebut that the energy of her thoughts caused
her voice to falterand come in trembling whispers from her lips.

'A place to liveand learn to liveand gather health of mind and
body in' said the schoolmaster; 'for this old house is yours.'

'Ours!' cried the child.

'Ay' returned the schoolmaster gaily'for many a merry year to
comeI hope. I shall be a close neighbour--only next door--but
this house is yours.'

Having now disburdened himself of his great surprisethe
schoolmaster sat downand drawing Nell to his sidetold her how
he had learnt that ancient tenement had been occupied for a very
long time by an old personnearly a hundred years of agewho kept
the keys of the churchopened and closed it for the servicesand
showed it to strangers; how she had died not many weeks agoand
nobody had yet been found to fill the office; howlearning all
this in an interview with the sextonwho was confined to his bed
by rheumatismhe had been bold to make mention of his
fellow-travellerwhich had been so favourably received by that
high authoritythat he had taken courageacting on his adviceto
propound the matter to the clergyman. In a wordthe result of his
exertions wasthat Nell and her grandfather were to be carried
before the last-named gentleman next day; andhis approval of
their conduct and appearance reserved as a matter of formthat
they were already appointed to the vacant post.

'There's a small allowance of money' said the schoolmaster. 'It
is not muchbut still enough to live upon in this retired spot.
By clubbing our funds togetherwe shall do bravely; no fear of
that.'

'Heaven bless and prosper you!' sobbed the child.

'Amenmy dear' returned her friend cheerfully; 'and all of usas
it willand hasin leading us through sorrow and trouble to this
tranquil life. But we must look at MY house now. Come!'

They repaired to the other tenement; tried the rusty keys as
before; at length found the right one; and opened the worm-eaten
door. It led into a chambervaulted and oldlike that from which
they had comebut not so spaciousand having only one other
little room attached. It was not difficult to divine that the
other house was of right the schoolmaster'sand that he had chosen
for himself the least commodiousin his care and regard for them.


Like the adjoining habitationit held such old articles of
furniture as were absolutely necessaryand had its stack of
fire-wood.

To make these dwellings as habitable and full of comfort as they
couldwas now their pleasant care. In a short timeeach had its
cheerful fire glowing and crackling on the hearthand reddening
the pale old wall with a hale and healthy blush. Nellbusily
plying her needlerepaired the tattered window-hangingsdrew
together the rents that time had worn in the threadbare scraps of
carpetand made them whole and decent. The schoolmaster swept and
smoothed the ground before the doortrimmed the long grass
trained the ivy and creeping plants which hung their drooping heads
in melancholy neglect; and gave to the outer walls a cheery air of
home. The old mansometimes by his side and sometimes with the
childlent his aid to bothwent here and there on little patient
servicesand was happy. Neighbourstooas they came from work
proffered their help; or sent their children with such small
presents or loans as the strangers needed most. It was a busy day;
and night came onand found them wondering that there was yet so
much to doand that it should be dark so soon.

They took their supper togetherin the house which may be
henceforth called the child's; andwhen they had finished their
mealdrew round the fireand almost in whispers--their hearts
were too quiet and glad for loud expression--discussed their
future plans. Before they separatedthe schoolmaster read some
prayers aloud; and thenfull of gratitude and happinessthey
parted for the night.

At that silent hourwhen her grandfather was sleeping peacefully
in his bedand every sound was hushedthe child lingered before
the dying embersand thought of her past fortunes as if they had
been a dream And she only now awoke. The glare of the sinking
flamereflected in the oaken panels whose carved tops were dimly
seen in the dusky roof--the aged wallswhere strange shadows came
and went with every flickering of the fire--the solemn presence
withinof that decay which falls on senseless things the most
enduring in their nature: andwithoutand round about on every
sideof Death--filled her with deep and thoughtful feelingsbut
with none of terror or alarm. A change had been gradually stealing
over herin the time of her loneliness and sorrow. With failing
strength and heightening resolutionthere had sprung up a purified
and altered mind; there had grown in her bosom blessed thoughts and
hopeswhich are the portion of few but the weak and drooping.
There were none to see the frailperishable figureas it glided
from the fire and leaned pensively at the open casement; none but
the starsto look into the upturned face and read its history.
The old church bell rang out the hour with a mournful soundas if
it had grown sad from so much communing with the dead and unheeded
warning to the living; the fallen leaves rustled; the grass stirred
upon the graves; all else was still and sleeping.

Some of those dreamless sleepers lay close within the shadow of the
church--touching the wallas if they clung to it for comfort and
protection. Others had chosen to lie beneath the changing shade of
trees; others by the paththat footsteps might come near them;
othersamong the graves of little children. Some had desired to
rest beneath the very ground they had trodden in their daily walks;
somewhere the setting sun might shine upon their beds; some
where its light would fall upon them when it rose. Perhaps not one
of the imprisoned souls had been able quite to separate itself in
living thought from its old companion. If any hadit had still
felt for it a love like that which captives have been known to bear


towards the cell in which they have been long confinedandeven
at partinghung upon its narrow bounds affectionately.


It was long before the child closed the windowand approached her
bed. Again something of the same sensation as before--an
involuntary chill--a momentary feeling akin to fear--but
vanishing directlyand leaving no alarm behind. Againtoo
dreams of the little scholar; of the roof openingand a column of
bright facesrising far away into the skyas she had seen in some
old scriptural picture onceand looking down on herasleep. It
was a sweet and happy dream. The quiet spotoutsideseemed to
remain the samesaving that there was music in the airand a
sound of angels' wings. After a time the sisters came therehand
in handand stood among the graves. And then the dream grew dim
and faded.


With the brightness and joy of morningcame the renewal of
yesterday's laboursthe revival of its pleasant thoughtsthe
restoration of its energiescheerfulnessand hope. They worked
gaily in ordering and arranging their houses until noonand then
went to visit the clergyman.


He was a simple-hearted old gentlemanof a shrinkingsubdued
spiritaccustomed to retirementand very little acquainted with
the worldwhich he had left many years before to come and settle
in that place. His wife had died in the house in which he still
livedand he had long since lost sight of any earthly cares or
hopes beyond it.


He received them very kindlyand at once showed an interest in
Nell; asking her nameand ageher birthplacethe circumstances
which had led her thereand so forth. The schoolmaster had
already told her story. They had no other friends or home to
leavehe saidand had come to share his fortunes. He loved the
child as though she were his own.


'Wellwell' said the clergyman. 'Let it be as you desire. She
is very young.'
'Old in adversity and trialsir' replied the schoolmaster.


'God help her. Let her restand forget them' said the old
gentleman. 'But an old church is a dull and gloomy place for one
so young as youmy child.'


'Oh nosir' returned Nell. 'I have no such thoughtsindeed.'


'I would rather see her dancing on the green at nights' said the
old gentlemanlaying his hand upon her headand smiling sadly
'than have her sitting in the shadow of our mouldering arches. You
must look to thisand see that her heart does not grow heavy among
these solemn ruins. Your request is grantedfriend.'


After more kind wordsthey withdrewand repaired to the child's
house; where they were yet in conversation on their happy fortune
when another friend appeared.


This was a little old gentlemanwho lived in the parsonage-house
and had resided there (so they learnt soon afterwards) ever since
the death of the clergyman's wifewhich had happened fifteen years
before. He had been his college friend and always his close
companion; in the first shock of his grief he had come to console
and comfort him; and from that time they had never parted company.
The little old gentleman was the active spirit of the placethe
adjuster of all differencesthe promoter of all merry-makingsthe



dispenser of his friend's bountyand of no small charity of his
own besides; the universal mediatorcomforterand friend. None
of the simple villagers had cared to ask his nameorwhen they
knew itto store it in their memory. Perhaps from some vague
rumour of his college honours which had been whispered abroad on
his first arrivalperhaps because he was an unmarried
unencumbered gentlemanhe had been called the bachelor. The name
pleased himor suited him as well as any otherand the Bachelor
he had ever since remained. And the bachelor it wasit may be
addedwho with his own hands had laid in the stock of fuel which
the wanderers had found in their new habitation.

The bachelorthen--to call him by his usual appellation--lifted
the latchshowed his little round mild face for a moment at the
doorand stepped into the room like one who was no stranger to it.

'You are Mr Martonthe new schoolmaster?' he saidgreeting Nell's
kind friend.

'I amsir.'

'You come well recommendedand I am glad to see you. I should
have been in the way yesterdayexpecting youbut I rode across
the country to carry a message from a sick mother to her daughter
in service some miles offand have but just now returned. This is
our young church-keeper? You are not the less welcomefriendfor
her sakeor for this old man's; nor the worse teacher for having
learnt humanity.'
'She has been illsirvery lately' said the schoolmasterin
answer to the look with which their visitor regarded Nell when he
had kissed her cheek.

'Yesyes. I know she has' he rejoined. 'There have been
suffering and heartache here.'

'Indeed there havesir.'

The little old gentleman glanced at the grandfatherand back again
at the childwhose hand he took tenderly in hisand held.

'You will be happier here' he said; 'we will tryat leastto
make you so. You have made great improvements here already. Are
they the work of your hands?'

'Yessir.'

'We may make some others--not better in themselvesbut with
better means perhaps' said the bachelor. 'Let us see nowlet us
see.'

Nell accompanied him into the other little roomsand over both the
housesin which he found various small comforts wantingwhich he
engaged to supply from a certain collection of odds and ends he had
at homeand which must have been a very miscellaneous and
extensive oneas it comprehended the most opposite articles
imaginable. They all camehoweverand came without loss of time;
for the little old gentlemandisappearing for some five or ten
minutespresently returnedladen with old shelvesrugs
blanketsand other household gearand followed by a boy bearing
a similar load. These being cast on the floor in a promiscuous
heapyielded a quantity of occupation in arrangingerectingand
putting away; the superintendence of which task evidently afforded
the old gentleman extreme delightand engaged him for some time
with great briskness and activity. When nothing more was left to


be donehe charged the boy to run off and bring his schoolmates to
be marshalled before their new masterand solemnly reviewed.

'As good a set of fellowsMartonas you'd wish to see' he said
turning to the schoolmaster when the boy was gone; 'but I don't let
'em know I think so. That wouldn't doat all.'

The messenger soon returned at the head of a long row of urchins
great and smallwhobeing confronted by the bachelor at the house
doorfell into various convulsions of politeness; clutching their
hats and capssqueezing them into the smallest possible
dimensionsand making all manner of bows and scrapeswhich the
little old gentleman contemplated with excessive satisfactionand
expressed his approval of by a great many nods and smiles. Indeed
his approbation of the boys was by no means so scrupulously
disguised as he had led the schoolmaster to supposeinasmuch as it
broke out in sundry loud whispers and confidential remarks which
were perfectly audible to them every one.
'This first boyschoolmaster' said the bachelor'is John Owen;
a lad of good partssirand frankhonest temper; but too
thoughtlesstoo playfultoo light-headed by far. That boymy
good sirwould break his neck with pleasureand deprive his
parents of their chief comfort--and between ourselveswhen you
come to see him at hare and houndstaking the fence and ditch by
the finger-postand sliding down the face of the little quarry
you'll never forget it. It's beautiful!'

John Owen having been thus rebukedand being in perfect possession
of the speech asidethe bachelor singled out another boy.

'Nowlook at that ladsir' said the bachelor. 'You see that
fellow? Richard Evans his name issir. An amazing boy to learn
blessed with a good memoryand a ready understandingand moreover
with a good voice and ear for psalm-singingin which he is the
best among us. Yetsirthat boy will come to a bad end; he'll
never die in his bed; he's always falling asleep in sermon-time-and
to tell you the truthMr MartonI always did the same at his
ageand feel quite certain that it was natural to my constitution
and I couldn't help it.'

This hopeful pupil edified by the above terrible reprovalthe
bachelor turned to another.

'But if we talk of examples to be shunned' said he'if we come to
boys that should be a warning and a beacon to all their fellows
here's the oneand I hope you won't spare him. This is the lad
sir; this one with the blue eyes and light hair. This is a
swimmersirthis fellow--a diverLord save us! This is a boy
sirwho had a fancy for plunging into eighteen feet of waterwith
his clothes onand bringing up a blind man's dogwho was being
drowned by the weight of his chain and collarwhile his master
stood wringing his hands upon the bankbewailing the loss of his
guide and friend. I sent the boy two guineas anonymouslysir'
added the bachelorin his peculiar whisper'directly I heard of
it; but never mention it on any accountfor he hasn't the least
idea that it came from me. '

Having disposed of this culpritthe bachelor turned to another
and from him to anotherand so on through the whole arraylaying
for their wholesome restriction within due boundsthe same cutting
emphasis on such of their propensities as were dearest to his heart
and were unquestionably referrable to his own precept and example.
Thoroughly persuadedin the endthat he had made them miserable
by his severityhe dismissed them with a small presentand an


admonition to walk quietly homewithout any leapingsscufflings
or turnings out of the way; which injunctionhe informed the
schoolmaster in the same audible confidencehe did not think he
could have obeyed when he was a boyhad his life depended on it.


Hailing these little tokens of the bachelor's disposition as so
many assurances of his own welcome course from that timethe
schoolmaster parted from him with a light heart and joyous spirits
and deemed himself one of the happiest men on earth. The windows
of the two old houses were ruddy againthat nightwith the
reflection of the cheerful fires that burnt within; and the
bachelor and his friendpausing to look upon them as they returned
from their evening walkspoke softly together of the beautiful
childand looked round upon the churchyard with a sigh.


CHAPTER 53


Nell was stirring early in the morningand having discharged her
household tasksand put everything in order for the good
schoolmaster (though sorely against his willfor he would have
spared her the pains)took downfrom its nail by the firesidea
little bundle of keys with which the bachelor had formally invested
her on the previous dayand went out alone to visit the old
church.


The sky was serene and brightthe air clearperfumed with the
fresh scent of newly fallen leavesand grateful to every sense.
The neighbouring stream sparkledand rolled onward with a tuneful
sound; the dew glistened on the green moundslike tears shed by
Good Spirits over the dead. Some young children sported among the
tombsand hid from each otherwith laughing faces. They had an
infant with themand had laid it down asleep upon a child's grave
in a little bed of leaves. It was a new grave--the resting-place
perhapsof some little creaturewhomeek and patient in its
illnesshad often sat and watched themand now seemedto their
mindsscarcely changed.


She drew near and asked one of them whose grave it was. The child
answered that that was not its name; it was a garden--his
brother's. It was greenerhe saidthan all the other gardens
and the birds loved it better because he had been used to feed
them. When he had done speakinghe looked at her with a smile
and kneeling down and nestling for a moment with his cheek against
the turfbounded merrily away.


She passed the churchgazing upward at its old towerwent through
the wicket gateand so into the village. The old sextonleaning
on a crutchwas taking the air at his cottage doorand gave her
good morrow.


'You are better?' said the childstopping to speak with him.


'Ay surely' returned the old man. 'I'm thankful to saymuch
better.'


'YOU will be quite well soon.'


'With Heaven's leaveand a little patience. But come income
in!'
The old man limped on beforeand warning her of the downward step



which he achieved himself with no small difficultyled the way
into his little cottage.

'It is but one room you see. There is another up abovebut the
stair has got harder to climb o' late yearsand I never use it.
I'm thinking of taking to it againnext summerthough.'

The child wondered how a grey-headed man like him--one of his
trade too--could talk of time so easily. He saw her eyes
wandering to the tools that hung upon the walland smiled.

'I warrant now' he said'that you think all those are used in
making graves.'

'IndeedI wondered that you wanted so many.'

'And well you might. I am a gardener. I dig the groundand plant
things that are to live and grow. My works don't all moulder away
and rot in the earth. You see that spade in the centre?'

'The very old one--so notched and worn? Yes.'

'That's the sexton's spadeand it's a well-used oneas you see.
We're healthy people herebut it has done a power of work. If it
could speak nowthat spadeit would tell you of many an
unexpected job that it and I have done together; but I forget 'em
for my memory's a poor one. --That's nothing new' he added
hastily. 'It always was.'

'There are flowers and shrubs to speak to your other work' said
the child.

'Oh yes. And tall trees. But they are not so separate from the
sexton's labours as you think.'

'No!'

'Not in my mindand recollection--such as it is' said the old
man. 'Indeed they often help it. For say that I planted such a
tree for such a man. There it standsto remind me that he died.
When I look at its broad shadowand remember what it was in his
timeit helps me to the age of my other workand I can tell you
pretty nearly when I made his grave.'

'But it may remind you of one who is still alive' said the child.

'Of twenty that are deadin connexion with that one who lives
then' rejoined the old man; 'wifehusbandparentsbrothers
sisterschildrenfriends--a score at least. So it happens that
the sexton's spade gets worn and battered. I shall need a new one
--next summer.'

The child looked quickly towards himthinking that he jested with
his age and infirmity: but the unconscious sexton was quite in
earnest.

'Ah!' he saidafter a brief silence. 'People never learn. They
never learn. It's only we who turn up the groundwhere nothing
grows and everything decayswho think of such things as these-who
think of them properlyI mean. You have been into the
church?'

'I am going there now' the child replied.


'There's an old well there' said the sexton'right underneath the
belfry; a deepdarkechoing well. Forty year agoyou had only
to let down the bucket till the first knot in the rope was free of
the windlassand you heard it splashing in the cold dull water.
By little and little the water fell awayso that in ten year after
thata second knot was madeand you must unwind so much ropeor
the bucket swung tight and empty at the end. In ten years' time
the water fell againand a third knot was made. In ten years
morethe well dried up; and nowif you lower the bucket till your
arms are tiredand let out nearly all the cordyou'll hear itof
a suddenclanking and rattling on the ground below; with a sound
of being so deep and so far downthat your heart leaps into your
mouthand you start away as if you were falling in.'

'A dreadful place to come on in the dark!' exclaimed the childwho
had followed the old man's looks and words until she seemed to
stand upon its brink.

'What is it but a grave!' said the sexton. 'What else! And which
of our old folksknowing all thisthoughtas the spring
subsidedof their own failing strengthand lessening life? Not
one!'

'Are you very old yourself?' asked the childinvoluntarily.

'I shall be seventy-nine--next summer.'

'You still work when you are well?'

'Work! To be sure. You shall see my gardens hereabout. Look at
the window there. I madeand have keptthat plot of ground
entirely with my own hands. By this time next year I shall hardly
see the skythe boughs will have grown so thick. I have my winter
work at night besides.'

He openedas he spokea cupboard close to where he satand
produced some miniature boxescarved in a homely manner and made
of old wood.

'Some gentlefolks who are fond of ancient daysand what belongs to
them' he said'like to buy these keepsakes from our church and
ruins. SometimesI make them of scraps of oakthat turn up here
and there; sometimes of bits of coffins which the vaults have long
preserved. See here--this is a little chest of the last kind
clasped at the edges with fragments of brass plates that had
writing on 'em oncethough it would be hard to read it now. I
haven't many by me at this time of yearbut these shelves will be
full--next summer.'

The child admired and praised his workand shortly afterwards
departed; thinkingas she wenthow strange it wasthat this old
mandrawing from his pursuitsand everything around himone
stern moralnever contemplated its application to himself; and
while he dwelt upon the uncertainty of human lifeseemed both in
word and deed to deem himself immortal. But her musings did not
stop herefor she was wise enough to think that by a good and
merciful adjustment this must be human natureand that the old
sextonwith his plans for next summerwas but a type of all
mankind.

Full of these meditationsshe reached the church. It was easy to
find the key belonging to the outer doorfor each was labelled on
a scrap of yellow parchment. Its very turning in the lock awoke a
hollow soundand when she entered with a faltering stepthe


echoes that it raised in closingmade her start.

If the peace of the simple village had moved the child more
stronglybecause of the dark and troubled ways that lay beyond
and through which she had journeyed with such failing feetwhat
was the deep impression of finding herself alone in that solemn
buildingwhere the very lightcoming through sunken windows
seemed old and greyand the airredolent of earth and mould
seemed laden with decaypurified by time of all its grosser
particlesand sighing through arch and aisleand clustered
pillarslike the breath of ages gone! Here was the broken
pavementwornso long agoby pious feetthat Timestealing on
the pilgrims' stepshad trodden out their trackand left but
crumbling stones. Here were the rotten beamthe sinking archthe
sapped and mouldering wallthe lowly trench of earththe stately
tomb on which no epitaph remained--all--marblestoneiron
woodand dust--one common monument of ruin. The best work and the
worstthe plainest and the richestthe stateliest and the least
imposing--both of Heaven's work and Man's--all found one common
level hereand told one common tale.

Some part of the edifice had been a baronial chapeland here were
effigies of warriors stretched upon their beds of stone with folded
hands--cross-leggedthose who had fought in the Holy Wars-girded
with their swordsand cased in armour as they had lived.
Some of these knights had their own weaponshelmetscoats of
mailhanging upon the walls hard byand dangling from rusty
hooks. Broken and dilapidated as they werethey yet retained
their ancient formand something of their ancient aspect. Thus
violent deeds live after men upon the earthand traces of war and
bloodshed will survive in mournful shapes long after those who
worked the desolation are but atoms of earth themselves.

The child sat downin this oldsilent placeamong the stark
figures on the tombs--they made it more quiet therethan
elsewhereto her fancy--and gazing round with a feeling of awe
tempered with a calm delightfelt that now she was happyand at
rest. She took a Bible from the shelfand read; thenlaying it
downthought of the summer days and the bright springtime that
would come--of the rays of sun that would fall in aslantupon the
sleeping forms--of the leaves that would flutter at the window
and play in glistening shadows on the pavement--of the songs of
birdsand growth of buds and blossoms out of doors--of the sweet
airthat would steal inand gently wave the tattered banners
overhead. What if the spot awakened thoughts of death! Die who
wouldit would still remain the same; these sights and sounds
would still go onas happily as ever. It would be no pain to
sleep amidst them.

She left the chapel--very slowly and often turning back to gaze
again--and coming to a low doorwhich plainly led into the tower
opened itand climbed the winding stair in darkness; save where
she looked downthrough narrow loopholeson the place she had
leftor caught a glimmering vision of the dusty bells. At length
she gained the end of the ascent and stood upon the turret top.

Oh! the glory of the sudden burst of light; the freshness of the
fields and woodsstretching away on every sideand meeting the
bright blue sky; the cattle grazing in the pasturage; the smoke
thatcoming from among the treesseemed to rise upward from the
green earth; the children yet at their gambols down below--all
everythingso beautiful and happy! It was like passing from death
to life; it was drawing nearer Heaven.


The children were gonewhen she emerged into the porchand locked
the door. As she passed the school-house she could hear the busy
hum of voices. Her friend had begun his labours only on that day.
The noise grew louderandlooking backshe saw the boys come
trooping out and disperse themselves with merry shouts and play.
'It's a good thing' thought the child'I am very glad they pass
the church.' And then she stoppedto fancy how the noise would
sound insideand how gently it would seem to die away upon the
ear.

Again that dayyestwice againshe stole back to the old chapel
and in her former seat read from the same bookor indulged the
same quiet train of thought. Even when it had grown duskand the
shadows of coming night made it more solemn stillthe child
remainedlike one rooted to the spotand had no fear or thought
of stirring.

They found her thereat lastand took her home. She looked pale
but very happyuntil they separated for the night; and thenas
the poor schoolmaster stooped down to kiss her cheekhe thought he
felt a tear upon his face.

CHAPTER 54

The bacheloramong his various occupationsfound in the old
church a constant source of interest and amusement. Taking that
pride in it which men conceive for the wonders of their own little
worldhe had made its history his study; and many a summer day
within its wallsand many a winter's night beside the parsonage
firehad found the bachelor still poring overand adding tohis
goodly store of tale and legend.

As he was not one of those rough spirits who would strip fair Truth
of every little shadowy vestment in which time and teeming fancies
love to array her--and some of which become her pleasantly enough
servinglike the waters of her wellto add new graces to the
charms they half conceal and half suggestand to awaken interest
and pursuit rather than languor and indifference--asunlike this
stern and obdurate classhe loved to see the goddess crowned with
those garlands of wild flowers which tradition wreathes for her
gentle wearingand which are often freshest in their homeliest
shapes--he trod with a light step and bore with a light hand upon
the dust of centuriesunwilling to demolish any of the airy
shrines that had been raised above itif any good feeling or
affection of the human heart were hiding thereabouts. Thusin the
case of an ancient coffin of rough stonesupposedfor many
generationsto contain the bones of a certain baronwhoafter
ravagingwith cutand thrustand plunderin foreign landscame
back with a penitent and sorrowing heart to die at homebut which
had been lately shown by learned antiquaries to be no such thing
as the baron in question (so they contended) had died hard in
battlegnashing his teeth and cursing with his latest breath-the
bachelor stoutly maintained that the old tale was the true one;
that the baronrepenting him of the evilhad done great charities
and meekly given up the ghost; and thatif ever baron went to
heaventhat baron was then at peace. In like mannerwhen the
aforesaid antiquaries did argue and contend that a certain secret
vault was not the tomb of a grey-haired lady who had been hanged
and drawn and quartered by glorious Queen Bess for succouring a
wretched priest who fainted of thirst and hunger at her doorthe


bachelor did solemnly maintainagainst all comersthat the church
was hallowed by the said poor lady's ashes; that her remains had
been collected in the night from four of the city's gatesand
thither in secret broughtand there deposited; and the bachelor
did further (being highly excited at such times) deny the glory of
Queen Bessand assert the immeasurably greater glory of the
meanest woman in her realmwho had a merciful and tender heart.
As to the assertion that the flat stone near the door was not the
grave of the miser who had disowned his only child and left a sum
of money to the church to buy a peal of bellsthe bachelor did
readily admit the sameand that the place had given birth to no
such man. In a wordhe would have had every stoneand plate of
brassthe monument only of deeds whose memory should survive. All
others he was willing to forget. They might be buried in
consecrated groundbut he would have had them buried deepand
never brought to light again.

It was from the lips of such a tutorthat the child learnt her
easy task. Already impressedbeyond all tellingby the silent
building and the peaceful beauty of the spot in which it stood-majestic
age surrounded by perpetual youth--it seemed to herwhen
she heard these thingssacred to all goodness and virtue. It was
another worldwhere sin and sorrow never came; a tranquil place of
restwhere nothing evil entered.

When the bachelor had given her in connection with almost every
tomb and flat grave-stone some history of its ownhe took her down
into the old cryptnow a mere dull vaultand showed her how it
had been lighted up in the time of the monksand howamid lamps
depending from the roofand swinging censers exhaling scented
odoursand habits glittering with gold and silverand pictures
and precious stuffsand jewels all flashing and glistening through
the low archesthe chaunt of aged voices had been many a time
heard thereat midnightin old dayswhile hooded figures knelt
and prayed aroundand told their rosaries of beads. Thencehe
took her above ground againand showed herhigh up in the old
wallssmall gallerieswhere the nuns had been wont to glide along
--dimly seen in their dark dresses so far off--or to pause like
gloomy shadowslistening to the prayers. He showed her toohow
the warriorswhose figures rested on the tombshad worn those
rotting scraps of armour up above--how this had been a helmetand
that a shieldand that a gauntlet--and how they had wielded the
great two-handed swordsand beaten men downwith yonder iron
mace. All that he told the child she treasured in her mind; and
sometimeswhen she awoke at night from dreams of those old times
and rising from her bed looked out at the dark churchshe almost
hoped to see the windows lighted upand hear the organ's swell
and sound of voiceson the rushing wind.

The old sexton soon got betterand was about again. From him the
child learnt many other thingsthough of a different kind. He was
not able to workbut one day there was a grave to be madeand he
came to overlook the man who dug it. He was in a talkative mood;
and the childat first standing by his sideand afterwards
sitting on the grass at his feetwith her thoughtful face raised
towards hisbegan to converse with him.

Nowthe man who did the sexton's duty was a little older than he
though much more active. But he was deaf; and when the sexton (who
peradventureon a pinchmight have walked a mile with great
difficulty in half-a-dozen hours) exchanged a remark with him about
his workthe child could not help noticing that he did so with an
impatient kind of pity for his infirmityas if he were himself the
strongest and heartiest man alive.


'I'm sorry to see there is this to do' said the child when she
approached. 'I heard of no one having died.'

'She lived in another hamletmy dear' returned the sexton.
'Three mile away.'

'Was she young?'

'Ye-yes' said the sexton; not more than sixty-fourI think.
Davidwas she more than sixty-four?'

Davidwho was digging hardheard nothing of the question. The
sextonas he could not reach to touch him with his crutchand was
too infirm to rise without assistancecalled his attention by
throwing a little mould upon his red nightcap.

'What's the matter now?' said Davidlooking up.

'How old was Becky Morgan?' asked the sexton.

'Becky Morgan?' repeated David.

'Yes' replied the sexton; adding in a half compassionatehalf
irritable tonewhich the old man couldn't hear'you're getting
very deafDavyvery deaf to be sure!'

The old man stopped in his workand cleansing his spade with a
piece of slate he had by him for the purpose--and scraping offin
the processthe essence of Heaven knows how many Becky Morgans-set
himself to consider the subject.

'Let me think' quoth he. 'I saw last night what they had put upon
the coffin--was it seventy-nine?'

'Nono' said the sexton.

'Ah yesit was though' returned the old man with a sigh. 'For I
remember thinking she was very near our age. Yesit was
seventy-nine.'

'Are you sure you didn't mistake a figureDavy?' asked the sexton
with signs of some emotion.

'What?' said the old man. 'Say that again.'

'He's very deaf. He's very deaf indeed' cried the sexton
petulantly; 'are you sure you're right about the figures?'

'Oh quite' replied the old man. 'Why not?'

'He's exceedingly deaf' muttered the sexton to himself. 'I think
he's getting foolish.'

The child rather wondered what had led him to this beliefasto
say the truththe old man seemed quite as sharp as heand was
infinitely more robust. As the sexton said nothing more just then
howevershe forgot it for the timeand spoke again.

'You were telling me' she said'about your gardening. Do you
ever plant things here?'

'In the churchyard?' returned the sexton'Not I.'


'I have seen some flowers and little shrubs about' the child
rejoined; 'there are some over thereyou see. I thought they were
of your rearingthough indeed they grow but poorly.'

'They grow as Heaven wills' said the old man; 'and it kindly
ordains that they shall never flourish here.'

'I do not understand you.'

'Whythis it is' said the sexton. 'They mark the graves of those
who had very tenderloving friends.'

'I was sure they did!' the child exclaimed. 'I am very glad to
know they do!'

'Aye' returned the old man'but stay. Look at them. See how
they hang their headsand droopand wither. Do you guess the
reason?'

'No' the child replied.

'Because the memory of those who lie belowpasses away so soon.
At first they tend themmorningnoonand night; they soon begin
to come less frequently; from once a dayto once a week; from once
a week to once a month; thenat long and uncertain intervals;
thennot at all. Such tokens seldom flourish long. I have known
the briefest summer flowers outlive them.'

'I grieve to hear it' said the child.

'Ah! so say the gentlefolks who come down here to look about them'
returned the old manshaking his head'but I say otherwise.
It's a pretty custom you have in this part of the country,they
say to me sometimesto plant the graves, but it's melancholy to
see these things all withering or dead.I crave their pardon and
tell them thatas I take it'tis a good sign for the happiness of
the living. And so it is. It's nature.'

'Perhaps the mourners learn to look to the blue sky by dayand to
the stars by nightand to think that the dead are thereand not
in graves' said the child in an earnest voice.

'Perhaps so' replied the old man doubtfully. 'It may be.'

'Whether it be as I believe it isor no' thought the child within
herself'I'll make this place my garden. It will be no harm at
least to work here day by dayand pleasant thoughts will come of
itI am sure.'

Her glowing cheek and moistened eye passed unnoticed by the sexton
who turned towards old Davidand called him by his name. It was
plain that Becky Morgan's age still troubled him; though whythe
child could scarcely understand.

The second or third repetition of his name attracted the old man's
attention. Pausing from his workhe leant on his spadeand put
his hand to his dull ear.

'Did you call?' he said.

'I have been thinkingDavy' replied the sexton'that she' he
pointed to the grave'must have been a deal older than you or me.'

'Seventy-nine' answered the old man with a shake of the head'I


tell you that I saw it.'

'Saw it?' replied the sexton; 'ayebutDavywomen don't always
tell the truth about their age.'

'That's true indeed' said the other old manwith a sudden sparkle
in his eye. 'She might have been older.'

'I'm sure she must have been. Whyonly think how old she looked.
You and I seemed but boys to her.'

'She did look old' rejoined David. 'You're right. She did look
old.'

'Call to mind how old she looked for many a longlong yearand
say if she could be but seventy-nine at last--only our age' said
the sexton.

'Five year older at the very least!' cried the other.

'Five!' retorted the sexton. 'Ten. Good eighty-nine. I call to
mind the time her daughter died. She was eighty-nine if she was a
dayand tries to pass upon us nowfor ten year younger. Oh!
human vanity!'

The other old man was not behindhand with some moral reflections on
this fruitful themeand both adduced a mass of evidenceof such
weight as to render it doubtful--not whether the deceased was of
the age suggestedbut whether she had not almost reached the
patriarchal term of a hundred. When they had settled this question
to their mutual satisfactionthe sextonwith his friend's
assistancerose to go.

'It's chillysitting hereand I must be careful--till the
summer' he saidas he prepared to limp away.

'What?' asked old David.

'He's very deafpoor fellow!' cried the sexton. 'Good-bye!'
'Ah!' said old Davidlooking after him. 'He's failing very fast.
He ages every day.'

And so they parted; each persuaded that the other had less life in
him than himself; and both greatly consoled and comforted by the
little fiction they had agreed uponrespecting Becky Morganwhose
decease was no longer a precedent of uncomfortable applicationand
would be no business of theirs for half a score of years to come.

The child remainedfor some minuteswatching the deaf old man as
he threw out the earth with his shovelandoften stopping to
cough and fetch his breathstill muttered to himselfwith a kind
of sober chucklethat the sexton was wearing fast. At length she
turned awayand walking thoughtfully through the churchyardcame
unexpectedly upon the schoolmasterwho was sitting on a green
grave in the sunreading.

'Nell here?' he said cheerfullyas he closed his book. 'It does
me good to see you in the air and light. I feared you were again
in the churchwhere you so often are.'

'Feared!' replied the childsitting down beside him. 'Is it not
a good place?'

'Yesyes' said the schoolmaster. 'But you must be gay


sometimes--naydon't shake your head and smile so sadly.'

'Not sadlyif you knew my heart. Do not look at me as if you
thought me sorrowful. There is not a happier creature on earth
than I am now.'

Full of grateful tendernessthe child took his handand folded it
between her own. 'It's God's will!' she saidwhen they had been
silent for some time.

'What?'

'All this' she rejoined; 'all this about us. But which of us is
sad now? You see that I am smiling.'

'And so am I' said the schoolmaster; 'smiling to think how often
we shall laugh in this same place. Were you not talking yonder?'

'Yes'the child rejoined.

'Of something that has made you sorrowful?'

There was a long pause.

'What was it?' said the schoolmastertenderly. '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 usare so soon
forgotten.'

'And do you think' said the schoolmastermarking the glance she
had thrown around'that an unvisited gravea withered treea
faded flower or twoare tokens of forgetfulness or cold neglect?
Do you think there are no deedsfar away from herein which these
dead may be best remembered? NellNellthere may be people busy
in the worldat this instantin 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
feelI know it. How could I be unmindful of itwhen I thought of
you?'

'There is nothing' cried her friend'nonothing innocent or
goodthat diesand is forgotten. Let us hold to that faithor
none. An infanta prattling childdying in its cradlewill live
again in the better thoughts of those who loved itand will play
its partthrough themin 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
sourcehow beautiful would even death appear; for how much
charitymercyand purified affectionwould 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 Iin whom your little scholar lives
again! Deardeargood friendif you knew the comfort you have
given me!'

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


They were yet seated in the same placewhen the grandfather
approached. Before they had spoken many words togetherthe church
clock struck the hour of schooland their friend withdrew.


'A good man' said the grandfatherlooking after him; 'a kind man.
Surely he will never harm usNell. We are safe hereat lasteh?
We will never go away from here?'


The child shook her head and smiled.


'She needs rest' said the old manpatting 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 betterdear' replied the child. 'We will forget them; or
if we ever call them to mindit shall be only as some uneasy dream
that has passed away.'


'Hush!' said the old manmotioning hastily to her with his hand
and looking over his shoulder; 'no more talk of the dreamand all
the miseries it brought. There are no dreams here. 'Tis a quiet
placeand they keep away. Let us never think about themlest
they should pursue us again. Sunken eyes and hollow cheeks--wet
coldand famine--and horrors before them allthat 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'humblevery thankfuland
obedientif you will let me stay. But do not hide from me; do not
steal away alone; let me keep beside you. IndeedI will be very
true and faithfulNell.'


'I steal away alone! why that' replied the childwith assumed
gaiety'would be a pleasant jest indeed. See heredear
grandfatherwe'll make this place our garden--why not! It is a
very good one--and to-morrow we'll beginand work togetherside
by side.'


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


Who so delighted as the old manwhen they next day began their
labour! Who so unconscious of all associations connected with the
spotas he! They plucked the long grass and nettles from the
tombsthinned the poor shrubs and rootsmade the turf smoothand
cleared it of the leaves and weeds. They were yet in the ardour of
their workwhen the childraising her head from the ground over
which she bentobserved that the bachelor was sitting on the stile
close bywatching them in silence.


'A kind office' said the little gentlemannodding to Nell as she
curtseyed to him. 'Have you done all thatthis morning?'


'It is very littlesir' returned the childwith downcast eyes
'to what we mean to do.'


'Good workgood work' said the bachelor. 'But do you only labour



at the graves of childrenand young people?'

'We shall come to the others in good timesir' replied Nell
turning her head asideand speaking softly.

It was a slight incidentand might have been design or accident
or the child's unconscious sympathy with youth. But it seemed to
strike upon her grandfatherthough he had not noticed it before.
He looked in @ hurried manner at the gravesthen anxiously at the
childthen pressed her to his sideand bade her stop to rest.
Something he had long forgottenappeared to struggle faintly in
his mind. It did not pass awayas weightier things had done; but
came uppermost againand yet againand many times that dayand
often afterwards. Oncewhile they were yet at workthe child
seeing that he often turned and looked uneasily at heras though
he were trying to resolve some painful doubts or collect some
scattered thoughtsurged him to tell the reason. But he said it
was nothing--nothing--andlaying her head upon his armpatted
her fair cheek with his handand muttered that she grew stronger
every dayand would be a womansoon.

CHAPTER 55

From that timethere sprung up in the old man's minda solicitude
about the child which never slept or left him. There are chords in
the human heart--strangevarying strings--which are only struck
by accident; which will remain mute and senseless to appeals the
most passionate and earnestand respond at last to the slightest
casual touch. In the most insensible or childish mindsthere is
some train of reflection which art can seldom leador skill
assistbut which will reveal itselfas great truths have doneby
chanceand when the discoverer has the plainest end in view. From
that timethe old man neverfor a momentforgot the weakness and
devotion of the child; from the time of that slight incidenthe
who had seen her toiling by his side through so much difficulty and
sufferingand had scarcely thought of her otherwise than as the
partner of miseries which he felt severely in his own personand
deplored for his own sake at least as much as hersawoke to a
sense of what he owed herand what those miseries had made her.
Nevernonever oncein one unguarded moment from that time to
the enddid any care for himselfany 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 downwaiting till she should tire and
lean upon his arm--he would sit opposite to her in the
chimney-cornercontent to watchand lookuntil 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 risein the cold dark nightsto listen to her breathing in
her sleepand sometimes crouch for hours by her bedside only to
touch her hand. He who knows allcan only know what hopesand
fearsand thoughts of deep affectionwere in that one disordered
brainand what a change had fallen on the poor old man.
Sometimes--weeks had crept onthen--the childexhaustedthough
with little fatiguewould pass whole evenings on a couch beside the
fire. At such timesthe schoolmaster would bring in booksand
read to her aloud; and seldom an evening passedbut the bachelor
came inand took his turn of reading. The old man sat and
listened--with little understanding for the wordsbut with his


eyes fixed upon the child--and if she smiled or brightened with
the storyhe would say it was a good oneand conceive a fondness
for the very book. Whenin their evening talkthe 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; naywhen the
bachelor left themhe would sometimes slip out after himand
humbly beg that he would tell him such a part againthat he might
learn to win a smile from Nell.

But these were rare occasionshappily; for the child yearned to be
out of doorsand walking in her solemn garden. Partiestoo
would come to see the church; and those who camespeaking to
others of the childsent 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 buildinglistening to the voice he
loved so well; and when the strangers leftand parted from Nell
he would mingle with them to catch up fragments of their
conversation; or he would stand for the same purposewith his grey
head uncoveredat the gate as they passed through.

They always praised the childher sense and beautyand he was
proud to hear them! But what was thatso often addedwhich wrung
his heartand made him sob and weep alonein 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 compassionatelyand
whispered as they passed.

The people of the villagetooof whom there was not one but grew
to have a fondness for poor Nell; even among themthere was the
same feeling; a tenderness towards her--a compassionate regard for
herincreasing every day. The very schoolboyslight-hearted and
thoughtless as they wereeven they cared for her. The roughest
among them was sorry if he missed her in the usual place upon his
way to schooland would turn out of the path to ask for her at the
latticed window. If she were sitting in the churchthey 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.

Sowhen Sunday came. They were all poor country people in the
churchfor the castle in which the old family had livedwas an
empty ruinand there were none but humble folks for seven miles
around. Thereas elsewherethey had an interest in Nell. They
would gather round her in the porchbefore and after service;
young children would cluster at her skirts; and aged men and women
forsake their gossipsto give her kindly greeting. None of them
young or oldthought of passing the child without a friendly
word. Many who came from three or four miles distantbrought 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 friendand often sat by her side in
the churchor climbed with her to the tower-top. It was his
delight to help heror to fancy that he did soand they soon
became close companions.

It happenedthatas she was reading in the old spot by herself
one daythis child came running in with his eyes full of tears
and after holding her from himand looking at her eagerly for a
momentclasped his little arms passionately about her neck.


'What now?' said Nellsoothing him. 'What is the matter?'

'She is not one yet!' cried the boyembracing her still more
closely. 'Nono. Not yet.'

She looked at him wonderinglyand putting his hair back from his
faceand kissing himasked what he meant.

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

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

'Whythey sayreplied the boylooking up into her facethat
you will be an Angelbefore the birds sing again. But you won't
bewill you? Don't leave us Nellthough the sky is bright. Do
not leave us!'

The child dropped her headand put her hands before her face.

'She cannot bear the thought!' cried the boyexulting through his
tears. 'You will not go. You know how sorry we should be. Dear
Nelltell me that you'll stay amongst us. Oh! Praypraytell
me that you will.'

The little creature folded his handsand knelt down at her feet.

'Only look at meNell' said the boy'and tell me that you'll
stopand then I shall know that they are wrongand will cry no
more. Won't you say yesNell?'

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

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

Yet the child could make him no answerand sobbed as though her
heart were bursting.
'Why would you godear 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 nowand that it's always summer thereand yet I'm
sure he grieves when I lie down upon his garden bedand he cannot
turn to kiss me. But if you do goNell' said the boycaressing
herand pressing his face to hers'be fond of him for my sake.
Tell him how I love him stilland how much I loved you; and when
I think that you two are togetherand are happyI'll try to bear
itand never give you pain by doing wrong--indeed I never will!'

The child suffered him to move her handsand put them round his
neck. There was a tearful silencebut it was not long before she
looked upon him with a smileand promised himin a very gentle
quiet voicethat she would stayand be his friendas long as
Heaven would let her. He clapped his hands for joyand thanked
her many times; and being charged to tell no person what had passed
between themgave her an earnest promise that he never would.

Nor did heso far as the child could learn; but was her quiet
companion in all her walks and musingsand never again adverted to


the themewhich he felt had given her painalthough he was
unconscious of its cause. Something of distrust lingered about him
still; for he would often comeeven in the dark eveningsand call
in a timid voice outside the door to know if she were safe within;
and being answered yesand bade to enterwould take his station
on a low stool at her feetand sit there patiently until they came
to seekand take him home. Sure as the morning cameit found him
lingering near the house to ask if she were well; andmorning
noonor nightgo where she wouldhe would forsake his playmates
and his sports to bear her company.

'And a good little friend he istoo' 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 herand felt
how its truth was shadowed out even in this infant.

'It has given him something of a quiet wayI 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 churchand 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 cryptand
paused among the gloomy archesin a dim and murky spot.

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

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

'Look in' said the old manpointing downward with his finger.

The child compliedand 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 gloomyand the old
monks more religious. It's to be closed upand built over.'

The child still stoodlooking thoughtfully into the vault.

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

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


CHAPTER 56

A day or two after the Quilp tea-party at the WildernessMr
Swiveller walked into Sampson Brass's office at the usual hourand
being alone in that Temple of Probityplaced his hat upon the
deskand taking from his pocket a small parcel of black crape
applied himself to folding and pinning the same upon itafter the
manner of a hatband. Having completed the construction of this
appendagehe surveyed his work with great complacencyand put his
hat on again--very much over one eyeto increase the mournfulness
of the effect. These arrangements perfected to his entire
satisfactionhe thrust his hands into his pocketsand 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
decayI never loved a tree or flower but 'twas the first to fade
away; I never nursed a dear Gazelleto glad me with its soft black
eyebut when it came to know me welland love meit was sure to
marry a market-gardener.'

Overpowered by these reflectionsMr Swiveller stopped short at the
clients' chairand flung himself into its open arms.

'And this' said Mr Swivellerwith a kind of bantering composure
'is lifeI believe. Ohcertainly. Why not! I'm quite
satisfied. I shall wear' added Richardtaking off his hat again
and looking hard at itas if he were only deterred by pecuniary
considerations from spurning it with his foot'I shall wear this
emblem of woman's perfidyin remembrance of her with whom I shall
never again thread the windings of the mazy; whom I shall never
more pledge in the rosy; whoduring the short remainder of my
existencewill murder the balmy. Hahaha!'

It may be necessary to observelest there should appear any
incongruity in the close of this soliloquythat Mr Swiveller did
not wind up with a cheerful hilarious laughwhich would have been
undoubtedly at variance with his solemn reflectionsbut that
being in a theatrical moodhe merely achieved that performance
which is designated in melodramas 'laughing like a fiend'--for it
seems that your fiends always laugh in syllablesand always in
three syllablesnever more nor lesswhich is a remarkable
property in such gentryand one worthy of remembrance.

The baleful sounds had hardly died awayand Mr Swiveller was still
sitting in a very grim state in the clients' chairwhen there came
a ring--orif we may adapt the sound to his then humoura knell
--at the office bell. Opening the door with all speedhe beheld
the expressive countenance of Mr Chucksterbetween whom and
himself a fraternal greeting ensued.

'You're devilish early at this pestiferous old slaughter-house'
said that gentlemanpoising himself on one legand shaking the
other in an easy manner.

'Rather' returned Dick.

'Rather!' retorted Mr Chucksterwith that air of graceful trifling
which so well became him. 'I should think so. Whymy good
fellerdo 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 dialogueeach gentleman struck an
attitudeand immediately subsiding into prose walked into the
office. Such morsels of enthusiasm are common among the Glorious
Apollosand were indeed the links that bound them togetherand
raised them above the cold dull earth.

'Welland how are you my buck?' said Mr Chuckstertaking a stool.
'I was forced to come into the City upon some little private
matters of my ownand couldn't pass the corner of the street
without looking inbut 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 healthand that Mr
Chuckster was in the like enviable conditionboth gentlemenin
compliance with a solemn custom of the ancient Brotherhood to which
they belongedjoined 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 flatmy dear feller' replied Mr Chuckster'as the
surface of a Dutch oven. There's no news. By-the-byethat lodger
of yours is a most extraordinary person. He quite eludes the most
vigorous comprehensionyou know. Never was such a feller!'

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

'By JoveSir' returned Mr Chuckstertaking out an oblong
snuff-boxthe lid whereof was ornamented with a fox's head
curiously carved in brass'that man is an unfathomable. Sirthat
man has made friends with our articled clerk. There's no harm in
himbut he is so amazingly slow and soft. Nowif he wanted a
friendwhy couldn't he have one that knew a thing or twoand
could do him some good by his manners and conversation. I have my
faultssir' said Mr Chuckster-


'Nono' interposed Mr Swiveller.

'Oh yes I haveI have my faultsno man knows his faults better
than I know mine. But' said Mr Chuckster'I'm not meek. My
worst enemies--every man has his enemiesSirand I have mine-never
accused me of being meek. And I tell you whatSirif I
hadn't more of these qualities that commonly endear man to man
than our articled clerk hasI'd steal a Cheshire cheesetie it
round my neckand drown myself. I'd die degradedas I had lived.
I would upon my honour.'

Mr Chuckster pausedrapped the fox's head exactly on the nose with
the knuckle of the fore-fingertook a pinch of snuffand looked
steadily at Mr Swivelleras much as to say that if he thought he
was going to sneezehe would find himself mistaken.

'Not contentedSir' said Mr Chuckster'with making friends with
Abelhe has cultivated the acquaintance of his father and mother.
Since he came home from that wild-goose chasehe has been there-



actually been there. He patronises young Snobby besides; you'll
findSirthat he'll be constantly coming backwards and forwards
to this place: yet I don't suppose that beyond the common forms of
civilityhe has ever exchanged half-a-dozen words with me. Now
upon my soulyou know' said Mr Chuckstershaking his head
gravelyas 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 governorand know that he could
never get on without meI should be obliged to cut the connection.
I should have no alternative.'

Mr Swivellerwho sat on another stool opposite to his friend
stirred the fire in an excess of sympathybut said nothing.

'As to young Snobsir' pursued Mr Chuckster with a prophetic
look'you'll find he'll turn out bad. In our profession we know
something of human natureand take my word for itthat the feller
that came back to work out that shillingwill show himself one of
these days in his true colours. He's a low thiefsir. He must
be.'

Mr Chuckster being rousedwould probably have pursued this subject
furtherand in more emphatic languagebut 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 soundcaused his stool to revolve rapidly on one
leg until it brought him to his deskinto whichhaving forgotten
in the sudden flurry of his spirits to part with the pokerhe
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
quicklyor look so fierceas Mr Chuckster when he found it was
he. Mr Swiveller stared at him for a momentand then leaping from
his stooland drawing out the poker from its place of concealment
performed the broad-sword exercise with all the cuts and guards
completein a species of frenzy.

'Is the gentleman at home?' said Kitrather astonished by this
uncommon reception.

Before Mr Swiveller could make any replyMr Chuckster took
occasion to enter his indignant protest against this form of
inquiry; which he held to be of a disrespectful and snobbish
tendencyinasmuch as the inquirerseeing two gentlemen then and
there presentshould 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 nameleaving it to
his hearers to determine his degree as they thought proper. Mr
Chuckster likewise remarkedthat he had some reason to believe
this form of address was personal to himselfand 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 Kitturning to Richard
Swiveller. 'Is he at home?'

'Why?' rejoined Dick.

'Because if he isI have a letter for him.'

'From whom?' said Dick.


'From Mr Garland.'

'Oh!' said Dickwith extreme politeness. 'Then you may hand it
overSir. And if you're to wait for an answerSiryou may wait
in the passageSirwhich is an airy and well-ventilated
apartmentsir.'

'Thank you' returned Kit. 'But I am to give it to himselfif you
please.'

The excessive audacity of this retort so overpowered Mr Chuckster
and so moved his tender regard for his friend's honourthat he
declaredif he were not restrained by official considerationshe
must certainly have annihilated Kit upon the spot; a resentment of
the affront which he did considerunder the extraordinary
circumstances of aggravation attending itcould but have met with
the proper sanction and approval of a jury of Englishmenwhohe
had no doubtwould have returned a verdict of justifiable
Homicidecoupled with a high testimony to the morals and character
of the Avenger. Mr Swivellerwithout being quite so hot upon the
matterwas rather shamed by his friend's excitementand 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 mecome in?' cried the lodger.

'YesSir' replied Dick. 'CertainlySir.'

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

'He's heresir' rejoined Mr Swiveller. 'Now young mandon'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
altercationbut 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 fellowand not
perceiving in the conduct of Kit any villany of enormous magnitude
scarcely knew what answer to return. He was relieved from his
perplexityhoweverby the entrance of Mr Sampson and his sister
Sallyat sight of whom Mr Chuckster precipitately retired.

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

'Pretty wellsir' 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 sira very


pleasant world. There are bad people in itMr Richardbut if
there were no bad peoplethere would be no good lawyers. Ha ha!
Any letters by the post this morningMr 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 spiritMr Richardis the
sweetness of existence. Anybody been heresir?'

'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 runsisn't it? A very good songMr
Richardvery 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 allbeenMr 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 friendor a-- Somebody to the lodgerehMr
Richard?'

'Yes' said Dicka 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 bemerry and
freetoor rul rol le. EhMr Richard? Ha ha!'

'Oh certainly' replied Dick.

'And who' said Brassshuffling among his papers'who is the
lodger's visitor--not a lady visitorI hopeehMr Richard? The
morals of the Marks you knowsir--"when lovely women stoops to
folly"--and all that--ehMr Richard?'

'Another young manwho belongs to Witherden's tooor half belongs
there' returned Richard. 'Kitthey call him.'

'Kiteh!' said Brass. 'Strange name--name of a dancing- master's
fiddleehMr Richard? Ha ha! Kit's thereis he? Oh!'

Dick looked at Miss Sallywondering that she didn't check this
uncommon exuberance on the part of Mr Sampson; but as she made no
attempt to do soand rather appeared to exhibit a tacit
acquiescence in ithe concluded that they had just been cheating
somebodyand receiving the bill.

'Will you have the goodnessMr Richard' said Brasstaking a
letter from his desk'just to step over to Peckham Rye with that?
There's no answerbut it's rather particular and should go by
hand. Charge the office with your coach-hire backyou know; don't
spare the office; get as much out of it as you can--clerk's motto--
EhMr Richard? Ha ha!'

Mr Swiveller solemnly doffed the aquatic jacketput on his coat
took down his hat from its pegpocketed the letterand departed.
As soon as he was goneup rose Miss Sally Brassand smiling
sweetly at her brother (who nodded and smote his nose in return)
withdrew also.

Sampson Brass was no sooner left alonethan he set the officedoor
wide openand establishing himself at his desk directly


oppositeso that he could not fail to see anybody who came
down-stairs and passed out at the street doorbegan to write with
extreme cheerfulness and assiduity; humming as he did soin a
voice that was anything but musicalcertain 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.

Thusthe attorney of Bevis Marks satand wroteand hummedfor
a long timeexcept when he stopped to listen with a very cunning
faceand hearing nothingwent on humming louderand writing
slower than ever. At lengthin one of these pauseshe heard his
lodger's door opened and shutand footsteps coming down the
stairs. ThenMr Brass left off writing entirelyandwith his
pen in his handhummed his very loudest; shaking his head
meanwhile from side to sidelike a man whose whole soul was in the
musicand 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 doorMr Brass
stopped his singingbut not his smilingand nodded affably: at
the same time beckoning to him with his pen.

'Kit' said Mr Brassin the pleasantest way imaginable'how do
you do?'

Kitbeing rather shy of his friendmade a suitable replyand had
his hand upon the lock of the street door when Mr Brass called him
softly back.

'You are not to goif you pleaseKit' said the attorney in a
mysterious and yet business-like way. 'You are to step in hereif
you please. Dear medear me! When I look at you' said the
lawyerquitting his stooland 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 theretwice or
thricewhen we were in possession. Ah Kitmy dear fellow
gentleman in my profession have such painful duties to perform
sometimesthat you needn't envy us--you needn't indeed!'

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

'Our only consolationKit' pursued the lawyerlooking at him in
a sort of pensive abstraction'isthat although we cannot turn
away the windwe can soften it; we can temper itif I may say so
to the shorn lambs.'

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

'On that occasionKit' said Mr Brass'on that occasion that I
have just alluded toI 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 Kitas the attorney
pursed up his lips and looked like a man who was struggling with
his better feelings.

'I respect youKit' said Brass with emotion. 'I saw enough of
your conductat that timeto respect youthough your station is
humbleand 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 moultingand putting their beaks through the
wires to peck at all mankind!'

This poetic figurewhich Kit took to be in a special allusion to
his own checked waistcoatquite overcame him; Mr Brass's voice and
manner added not a little to its effectfor he discoursed with all
the mild austerity of a hermitand wanted but a cord round the
waist of his rusty surtoutand a skull on the chimney-pieceto be
completely set up in that line of business.

'Wellwell' said Sampsonsmiling as good men smile when they
compassionate their own weakness or that of their fellowcreatures
'this is wide of the bull's-eye. You're to take that
if you please.' As he spokehe pointed to a couple of half-crowns
on the desk.

Kit looked at the coinsand then at Sampsonand hesitated.

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

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

With many thanksand 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 supposedKit took
the money and made the best of his way home. Mr Brass remained
airing himself at the fireand resumed his vocal exerciseand his
seraphic smilesimultaneously.

'May I come in?' said Miss Sallypeeping.

'Oh yesyou may come in' returned her brother.

'Ahem!' coughed Miss Brass interrogatively.

'Whyyes' 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 coolbut 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
CottageFinchleycame backwards and forwards between that place
and Bevis Marksalmost every day.

As the pony had now thrown off all disguiseand without any
mincing of the matter or beating about the bushsturdily refused


to be driven by anybody but Kitit generally happened that whether
old Mr Garland cameor Mr AbelKit was of the party. Of all
messages and inquiriesKit wasin right of his positionthe
bearer; thus it came about thatwhile the single gentleman
remained indisposedKit turned into Bevis Marks every morning with
nearly as much regularity as the General Postman.

Mr Sampson Brasswho no doubt had his reasons for looking sharply
about himsoon 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 earshe 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
ponyextremely docileehMr Richardeh sir?'

Dick would return some matter-of-course replyand Mr Brass
standing on the bottom rail of his stoolso as to get a view of
the street over the top of the window-blindwould take an
observation of the visitors.

'The old gentleman again!' he would exclaim'a very prepossessing
old gentlemanMr Richard--charming countenance sir--extremely
calm--benevolence in every featuresir. He quite realises my
idea of King Learas he appeared when in possession of his
kingdomMr Richard--the same good humourthe same white hair and
partial baldnessthe same liability to be imposed upon. Ah! A
sweet subject for contemplationsirvery sweet!'

Then Mr Garland having alighted and gone up-stairsSampson would
nod and smile to Kit from the windowand presently walk out into
the street to greet himwhen some such conversation as the
following would ensue.

'Admirably groomedKit'--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 hatsmilespats the pony himselfand 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 Brasswho 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 himSir' says Kitpleased
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 Brassbrim-full of moral precepts and love of
virtue. 'A charming subject of reflection for youvery charming.
A subject of proper pride and congratulationChristopher. 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
gainit's gain!'

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


'A man' says Sampson'who loses forty-seven pound ten in one
morning by his honestyis a man to be envied. If it had been
eighty poundthe luxuriousness of feeling would have been
increased. Every pound lostwould have been a hundredweight of
happiness gained. The still small voiceChristopher' cries
Brasssmilingand tapping himself on the bosom'is a-singing
comic songs within meand all is happiness and joy!'

Kit is so improved by the conversationand finds it go so
completely home to his feelingsthat he is considering what he
shall saywhen Mr Garland appears. The old gentleman is helped
into the chaise with great obsequiousness by Mr Sampson Brass; and
the ponyafter shaking his head several timesand standing for
three or four minutes with all his four legs planted firmly on the
groundas if he had made up his mind never to stir from that spot
but there to live and diesuddenly darts offwithout the smallest
noticeat the rate of twelve English miles an hour. ThenMr
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 Swivellerwhoduring
their absencehas been regaling himself with various feats of
pantomimeand is discovered at his deskin a very flushed and
heated conditionviolently scratching out nothing with half a
penknife.

Whenever Kit came aloneand without the chaiseit always happened
that Sampson Brass was reminded of some missioncalling Mr
Swivellerif not to Peckham Rye againat all events to some
pretty distant place from Which he could not be expected to return
for two or three hoursor in all probability a much longer period
as that gentleman was notto say the truthrenowned for using
great expedition on such occasionsbut rather for protracting and
spinning out the time to the very utmost limit of possibility. Mr
Swiveller out of sightMiss Sally immediately withdrew. Mr Brass
would then set the office-door wide openhum his old tune with
great gaiety of heartand 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 oftenthat Kitnothing doubting but that they came
from the single gentleman who had already rewarded his mother with
great liberalitycould not enough admire his generosity; and
bought so many cheap presents for herand for little Jacoband
for the babyand for Barbara to bootthat 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 BrassRichard Swivellerbeing often left alone
thereinbegan to find the time hang heavy on his hands. For the
better preservation of his cheerfulness thereforeand to prevent
his faculties from rustinghe provided himself with a
cribbage-board and pack of cardsand accustomed himself to play at
cribbage with a dummyfor twentythirtyor sometimes even fifty
thousand pounds asidebesides many hazardous bets to a
considerable amount.

As these games were very silently conductednotwithstanding the
magnitude of the interests involvedMr 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 doorwhich it occurred to himafter
some reflectionmust proceed from the small servantwho 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 doorand pounced upon her before she was
aware of his approach.


'Oh! I didn't mean any harm indeedupon my word I didn't' cried
the small servantstruggling like a much larger one. 'It's so
very dulldown-stairsPlease don't you tell upon meplease
don't.'


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


'Yesupon 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 cardsand long
before.'


Vague recollections of several fantastic exercises with which he
had refreshed himself after the fatigues of businessand to all of
whichno doubtthe small servant was a partyrather disconcerted
Mr Swiveller; but he was not very sensitive on such pointsand
recovered himself speedily.


'Well--come in'--he saidafter a little consideration. 'Here--
sit downand I'll teach you how to play.'


'Oh! I durstn't do it' rejoined the small servant; 'Miss Sally 'ud
kill meif 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 thereso
I'll come' said Richardputting 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 Dicktaking 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 Swivellerraising his eyes to
the ceiling. 'She never tasted it--it can't be tasted in a sip!
Whyhow old are you?'


'I don't know.'


Mr Swiveller opened his eyes very wideand appeared thoughtful for
a moment; thenbidding the child mind the door until he came back
vanished straightway.


Presentlyhe returnedfollowed by the boy from the public- house
who bore in one hand a plate of bread and beefand in the other a
great potfilled with some very fragrant compoundwhich sent
forth a grateful steamand was indeed choice purlmade 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



doorand charging his little companion to fasten it to prevent
surpriseMr Swiveller followed her into the kitchen.

'There!' said Richardputting the plate before her. 'First of all
clear that offand then you'll see what's next.'

The small servant needed no second biddingand the plate was soon
empty.

'Next' said Dickhanding the purl'take a pull at that; but
moderate your transportsyou knowfor you're not used to it.
Wellis it good?'

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

Mr Swiveller appeared gratified beyond all expression by this
replyand took a long draught himselfsteadfastly regarding his
companion while he did so. These preliminaries disposed ofhe
applied himself to teaching her the gamewhich she soon learnt
tolerably wellbeing both sharp-witted and cunning.

'Now' said Mr Swivellerputting two sixpences into a saucerand
trimming the wretched candlewhen the cards had been cut and
dealt'those are the stakes. If you winyou get 'em all. If I
winI get 'em. To make it seem more real and pleasantI shall
call you the Marchionessdo you hear?'

The small servant nodded.

'ThenMarchioness' said Mr Swiveller'fire away!'

The Marchionessholding her cards very tight in both hands
considered which to playand Mr Swivellerassuming the gay and
fashionable air which such society requiredtook another pull at
the tankardand waited for her lead.

CHAPTER 58

Mr Swiveller and his partner played several rubbers with varying
successuntil the loss of three sixpencesthe gradual sinking of
the purland the striking of ten o'clockcombined to render that
gentleman mindful of the flight of Timeand the expediency of
withdrawing before Mr Sampson and Miss Sally Brass returned.

'With which object in viewMarchioness' said Mr Swiveller
gravely'I shall ask your ladyship's permission to put the board
in my pocketand to retire from the presence when I have finished
this tankard; merely observingMarchionessthat since life like
a river is flowingI care not how fast it rolls onma'amon
while such purl on the bank still is growingand such eyes light
the waves as they run. Marchionessyour health. You will excuse
my wearing my hatbut the palace is dampand the marble floor is
--if I may be allowed the expression--sloppy.'

As a precaution against this latter inconvenienceMr Swiveller had
been sitting for some time with his feet on the hobin 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 Swivellerleaning his left arm heavily upon the
tableand raising his voice and his right leg after the manner of
a theatrical bandit.

The Marchioness nodded.

'Ha!' said Mr Swivellerwith 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 humilityreceiving it haughtilydrinking from
it thirstilyand smacking his lips fiercely.

The small servantwho was not so well acquainted with theatrical
conventionalities as Mr Swiveller (having indeed never seen a play
or heard one spoken ofexcept by chance through chinks of doors
and in other forbidden places)was rather alarmed by
demonstrations so novel in their natureand showed her concern so
plainly in her looksthat 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 'emand leave you here?'

'Ohyes; I believe you they do' returned the small servant.
'Miss Sally's such a one-er for thatshe is.'

'Such a what?' said Dick.

'Such a one-er' returned the Marchioness.

After a moment's reflectionMr Swiveller determined to forego his
responsible duty of setting her rightand to suffer her to talk
on; as it was evident that her tongue was loosened by the purland
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 placesbless you!'

'Is Mr Brass a wunner?' said Dick.

'Not half what Miss Sally ishe isn't' replied the small servant
shaking her head. 'Bless youhe'd never do anything without her.'

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

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

'I suppose' said Dick'that they consult togethera good deal
and talk about a great many people--about me for instance
sometimesehMarchioness?'

The Marchioness nodded amazingly.

'Complimentary?' said Mr Swiveller.

The Marchioness changed the motion of her headwhich had not yet
left off noddingand 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


Marchionessto 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.

'WellMarchioness' said Mr Swiveller'that's not
uncomplimentary. MerrimentMarchionessis not a bad or a
degrading quality. Old King Cole was himself a merry old soulif
we may put any faith in the pages of history.'

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

'Whyreally Marchioness' said Mr Swivellerthoughtfully;
'several ladies and gentlemen--not exactly professional persons
but tradespeoplema'amtradespeople--have made the same remark.
The obscure citizen who keeps the hotel over the wayinclined
strongly to that opinion to-night when I ordered him to prepare the
banquet. It's a popular prejudiceMarchioness; and yet I am sure
I don't know whyfor I have been trusted in my time to a
considerable amountand I can safely say that I never forsook my
trust until it deserted me--never. Mr Brass is of the same
opinionI suppose?'

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

'Marchioness' said Mr Swivellerrising'the word of a gentleman
is as good as his bond--sometimes betteras in the present case
where his bond might prove but a doubtful sort of security. I am
your friendand I hope we shall play many more rubbers together in
this same saloon. ButMarchioness' added Richardstopping in
his way to the doorand wheeling slowly round upon the small
servantwho 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 muchif 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 nightMarchioness. Fare thee welland
if for everthen for ever fare thee well--and put up the chain
Marchionessin case of accidents.'

With this parting injunctionMr 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 lodgingsand 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 officehe was soon seated in his own
bed-chamberwherehaving pulled off one boot and forgotten the
otherhe fell into deep cogitation.

'This Marchioness' said Mr Swivellerfolding his arms'is a very
extraordinary person--surrounded by mysteriesignorant of the
taste of beerunacquainted 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 destinyor 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 pointhe
became aware of his remaining bootof whichwith unimpaired
solemnity he proceeded to divest himself; shaking his head with
exceeding gravity all the timeand sighing deeply.

'These rubbers' said Mr Swivellerputting 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 regretsand when they win a smile
from herthey think that she forgets--but she don't. By this
timeI should say' added Richardgetting his left cheek into
profileand looking complacently at the reflection of a very
little scrap of whisker in the looking-glass; 'by this timeI
should saythe iron has entered into her soul. It serves her
right!'

Melting from this stern and obdurateinto the tender and pathetic
moodMr Swiveller groaned a littlewalked wildly up and downand
even made a show of tearing his hairwhichhoweverhe thought
better ofand wrenched the tassel from his nightcap instead. At
lastundressing himself with a gloomy resolutionhe got into bed.

Some men in his blighted position would have taken to drinking; but
as Mr Swiveller had taken to that beforehe only tookon
receiving the news that Sophy Wackles was lost to him for everto
playing the flute; thinking after mature consideration that it was
a goodsounddismal occupationnot only in unison with his own
sad thoughtsbut calculated to awaken a fellow- feeling in the
bosoms of his neighbours. In pursuance of this resolutionhe now
drew a little table to his bedsideand arranging the light and a
small oblong music-book to the best advantagetook his flute from
its boxand began to play most mournfully.

The air was 'Away with melancholy'--a compositionwhichwhen it
is played very slowly on the flutein bedwith the further
disadvantage of being performed by a gentleman but imperfectly
acquainted with the instrumentwho repeats one note a great many
times before he can find the nexthas not a lively effect. Yet
for half the nightor moreMr Swivellerlying sometimes on his
back with his eyes upon the ceilingand sometimes half out of bed
to correct himself by the bookplayed this unhappy tune over and
over again; never leaving offsave for a minute or two at a time
to take breath and soliloquise about the Marchionessand then
beginning again with renewed vigour. It was not until he had quite
exhausted his several subjects of meditationand had breathed into
the flute the whole sentiment of the purl down to its very dregs
and had nearly maddened the people of the houseand at both the
next doorsand over the way--that he shut up the music-book
extinguished the candleand finding himself greatly lightened and
relieved in his mindturned round and fell asleep.

He awoke in the morningmuch refreshed; and having taken half an
hour's exercise at the fluteand graciously received a notice to
quit from his landladywho had been in waiting on the stairs for
that purpose since the dawn of dayrepaired to Bevis Marks; where
the beautiful Sally was already at her postbearing in her looks
a radiancemild as that which beameth from the virgin moon.

Mr Swiveller acknowledged her presence by a nodand exchanged his
coat for the aquatic jacket; which usually took some time fitting
onfor in consequence of a tightness in the sleevesit 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 Brassabruptly breaking silence'you haven't
seen a silver pencil-case this morninghave 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 penknifeand a young toothpick with
whom he was in earnest conversationI felt a delicacy in speaking
to him.'

'Nobut have you?' returned Miss Brass. 'Seriouslyyou know.'

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

'Wellall I know is' replied Miss Sally'that it's not to be
foundand that it disappeared one day this weekwhen 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 fatheryears agoand are both gone.
You haven't missed anything yourselfhave 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 thishis only moveable in Bevis
Marksmade answer in the negative.

'It's a very unpleasant thingDick' said Miss Brasspulling out
the tin box and refreshing herself with a pinch of snuff; 'but
between you and me--between friends you knowfor if Sammy knew
itI should never hear the last of it--some of the office- money
toothat has been left abouthas gone in the same way. In
particularI have missed three half-crowns at three different
times.'

'You don't mean that?' cried Dick. 'Be careful what you sayold
boyfor this is a serious matter. Are you quite sure? Is there
no mistake?'

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

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

The more he discussed the subject in his thoughtsthe 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 livedhow neglected and untaught she wasand how her natural
cunning had been sharpened by necessity and privationhe scarcely
doubted it. And yet he pitied her so muchand felt so unwilling
to have a matter of such gravity disturbing the oddity of their
acquaintancethat he thoughtand thought trulythat rather than
receive fifty pounds downhe would have the Marchioness proved
innocent.

While he was plunged in very profound and serious meditation upon
this themeMiss Sally sat shaking her head with an air of great


mystery and doubt; when the voice of her brother Sampsoncarolling
a cheerful strainwas heard in the passageand that gentleman
himselfbeaming with virtuous smilesappeared.

'Mr Richardsirgood morning! Here we are againsirentering
upon another daywith our bodies strengthened by slumber and
breakfastand our spirits fresh and flowing. Here we areMr
Richardrising with the sun to run our little course--our course
of dutysir--andlike himto get through our day's work with
credit to ourselves and advantage to our fellow- creatures. A
charming reflection sirvery charming!'

While he addressed his clerk in these wordsMr Brass wassomewhat
ostentatiouslyengaged in minutely examining and holding up
against the light a five-pound bank notewhich he had brought in
in his hand.

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

'You're out of spiritssir' said Brass. 'Mr Richardsirwe
should fall to work cheerfullyand not in a despondent state. It
becomes usMr Richardsirto--'

Here the chaste Sarah heaved a loud sigh.

'Dear me!' said Mr Sampson'you too! Is anything the matter? Mr
Richardsir--'

Dickglancing at Miss Sallysaw that she was making signals to
himto 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 otherhe did so; and
Miss Brassplying her snuff-box at a most wasteful rate
corroborated his account.

The countenance of Sampson felland anxiety overspread his
features. Instead of passionately bewailing the loss of his money
as Miss Sally had expectedhe walked on tiptoe to the dooropened
itlooked outsideshut it softlyreturned on tiptoeand said in
a whisper

'This is a most extraordinary and painful circumstance--Mr
Richardsira most painful circumstance. The fact isthat I
myself have missed several small sums from the deskof lateand
have refrained from mentioning ithoping that accident would
discover the offender; but it has not done so--it has not done so.
Sally--Mr Richardsir--this is a particularly distressing
affair!'

As Sampson spokehe laid the bank-note upon the desk among some
papersin an absent mannerand thrust his hands into his pockets.
Richard Swiveller pointed to itand admonished him to take it up.

'NoMr Richardsir' rejoined Brass with emotion'I will not
take it up. I will let it lie theresir. To take it upMr
Richardsirwould imply a doubt of you; and in yousirI have
unlimited confidence. We will let it lie thereSirif you
pleaseand we will not take it up by any means.' With thatMr
Brass patted him twice or thrice on the shoulderin a most
friendly mannerand 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 complimenthe felt itunder the then- existing
circumstancesa great relief to be assured that he was not
wrongfully suspected. When he had made a suitable replyMr Brass
wrung him by the handand fell into a brown studyas did Miss
Sally likewise. Richard too remained in a thoughtful state;
fearing every moment to hear the Marchioness impeachedand unable
to resist the conviction that she must be guilty.

When they had severally remained in this condition for some
minutesMiss Sally all at once gave a loud rap upon the desk with
her clenched fistand 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 onwill 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.

'Whywhat 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 Sampsonshaking his headand 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 Brasstaking 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 livedand that he has an irreproachable good name? Come
income in!'

These last words were not addressed to Miss Sallythough 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 Brasswhen this very Kit himself looked in.

'Is the gentleman up-stairssirif you please?'

'YesKit' said Brassstill fired with an honest indignationand
frowning with knotted brows upon his sister; 'Yes Kithe is. I am
glad to see you KitI am rejoiced to see you. Look in againas
you come down-stairsKit. That lad a robber!' cried Brass when he
had withdrawn'with that frank and open countenance! I'd trust
him with untold gold. Mr Richardsirhave the goodness to step
directly to Wrasp and Co.'s in Broad Streetand inquire if they
have had instructions to appear in Carkem and Painter. THAT lad a
robber' sneered Sampsonflushed and heated with his wrath. 'Am
I blinddeafsilly; 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 contemptSampson Brass thrust his head into his deskas
if to shut the base world from his viewand breathed defiance from
under its half-closed lid.

CHAPTER 59

When Kithaving discharged his errandcame down-stairs from the
single gentleman's apartment after the lapse of a quarter of an
hour or soMr Sampson Brass was alone in the office. He was not
singing as usualnor was he seated at his desk. The open door
showed him standing before the fire with his back towards itand
looking so very strange that Kit supposed he must have been
suddenly taken ill.

'Is anything the mattersir?' 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 Brassstooping to throw up the
cinders. 'Never betterKitnever better in all my life. Merry
too. Ha ha! How's our friend above-stairseh?'

'A great deal better' said Kit.

'I'm glad to hear it' rejoined Brass; 'thankfulI may say. An
excellent gentleman--worthyliberalgenerousgives very little
trouble--an admirable lodger. Ha ha! Mr Garland--he's well I
hopeKit--and the pony--my friendmy particular friend you
know. Ha ha!'

Kit gave a satisfactory account of all the little household at Abel
Cottage. Mr Brasswho seemed remarkably inattentive and
impatientmounted on his stooland beckoning him to come nearer
took him by the button-hole.

'I have been thinkingKit' said the lawyer'that I could throw
some little emoluments in your mother's way--You have a motherI
think? If I recollect rightyou told me--'

'Oh yesSiryes certainly.'

'A widowI think? an industrious widow?'

'A harder-working woman or a better mother never livedSir.'

'Ah!' cried Brass. 'That's affectingtruly affecting. A poor
widow struggling to maintain her orphans in decency and comfortis
a delicious picture of human goodness.--Put down your hatKit.'

'Thank you SirI must be going directly.'

'Put it down while you stayat any rate' said Brasstaking it
from him and making some confusion among the papersin finding a
place for it on the desk. 'I was thinkingKitthat we have often
houses to let for people we are concerned forand 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 uponand enjoying the delight of doing a good action at the
same time? I saywhat's to prevent our employing this worthy
womanyour mother? What with one job and anotherthere's lodging-and
good lodging too--pretty well all the year roundrent free
and a weekly allowance besidesKitthat 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
youKit; therefore if you dosay so freely.'

As Brass spokehe moved the hat twice or thriceand shuffled
among the papers againas if in search of something.

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

'Why then' said Brasssuddenly 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 gratitudedrew backquite
startled. 'Why thenit's done.'

Kit looked at him in some confusion.

'DoneI say' added Sampsonrubbing 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 minutewhile I run up-stairs? Only one minute. I'll
not detain you an instant longeron any accountKit.'

Talking as he wentMr Brass bustled out of the officeand in a
very short time returned. Mr Swiveller came backalmost at the
same instant; and as Kit was leaving the room hastilyto make up
for lost timeMiss Brass herself encountered him in the doorway.

'Oh!' sneered Sallylooking after him as she entered. 'There goes
your petSammyeh?'

'Ah! There he goes' replied Brass. 'My petif you please. An
honest fellowMr Richardsir--a worthy fellow indeed!'

'Hem!' coughed Miss Brass.

'I tell youyou 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 baitedand besetby your mean
suspicions? Have you no regard for true merityou malignant
fellow? If you come to thatI'd sooner suspect your honesty than
his.'

Miss Sally pulled out the tin snuff-boxand took a longslow
pinchregarding her brother with a steady gaze all the time.

'She drives me wildMr Richardsir' said Brass'she exasperates
me beyond all bearing. I am heated and excitedsirI know I am.
These are not business mannerssirnor business looksbut she
carries me out of myself.'

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

'Because she can'tsir' retorted Brass; 'because to chafe and vex
me is a part of her natureSirand she will and must do itor 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! Ughyou viper!'

The beautiful virgin took another pinchand 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 confidenceand he shall continue to have it; he--why
where's the--'

'What have you lost?' inquired Mr Swiveller.

'Dear me!' said Brassslapping all his pocketsone after another
and looking into his deskand under itand upon itand wildly
tossing the papers about'the noteMr Richardsirthe
five-pound note--what can have become of it? I laid it down here--
God bless me!'

'What!' cried Miss Sallystarting upclapping her handsand
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
honestyou knowquite honest. It would be mean to suspect him.
Don't run after him. Nononot for the world!'

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

'Upon my wordMr RichardSir' replied the lawyerfeeling in all
his pockets with looks of the greatest agitation'I fear this is
a black business. It's certainly goneSir. What's to be done?'

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

Mr Swiveller and Sampson Brass looked from Miss Sally to each
otherin a state of bewildermentand thenas by one impulse
caught up their hats and rushed out into the street--darting along
in the middle of the roadand dashing aside all obstructionsas
though they were running for their lives.

It happened that Kit had been running toothough not so fastand
having the start of them by some few minuteswas a good distance
ahead. As they were pretty certain of the road he must have taken
howeverand kept on at a great pacethey came up with himat the
very moment when he had taken breathand was breaking into a run
again.

'Stop!' cried Sampsonlaying his hand on one shoulderwhile Mr
Swiveller pounced upon the other. 'Not so fast sir. You're in a
hurry?'

'YesI am' said Kitlooking 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 HeavenMr Brass!' cried Kittrembling from head
to foot; 'you don't suppose--'

'Nono' rejoined Brass quickly'I don't suppose anything. Don't
say I said you did. You'll come back quietlyI 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 inthis morning
through taking your partChristopheryou'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 quickerthe better. Mr Richard-have
the goodnesssirto take that arm. I'll take this one.
It's not easy walking three abreastbut under these circumstances
it must be donesir; there's no help for it.'

Kit did turn from white to redand from red to white againwhen
they secured him thusand for a moment seemed disposed to resist.
Butquickly recollecting himselfand remembering that if he made
any strugglehe would perhaps be dragged by the collar through the
public streetshe only repeatedwith great earnestness and with
the tears standing in his eyesthat they would be sorry for this-and
suffered them to lead him off. While they were on the way
backMr Swivellerupon whom his present functions sat very
irksomelytook an opportunity of whispering in his ear that if he
would confess his guilteven by so much as a nodand promise not
to do so any morehe would connive at his kicking Sampson Brass on
the shins and escaping up a court; but Kit indignantly rejecting
this proposalMr Richard had nothing for itbut to hold him tight
until they reached Bevis Marksand ushered him into the presence
of the charming Sarahwho immediately took the precaution of
locking the door.

'Nowyou know' said Brass'if this is a case of innocenceit is
a case of that descriptionChristopherwhere 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 Kitproudly holding up his arms. 'But mindsir-I
know you'll be sorry for thisto the last day of your life.'

'It is certainly a very painful occurrence' said Brass with a
sighas he dived into one of Kit's pocketsand fished up a
miscellaneous collection of small articles; 'very painful. Nothing
hereMr RichardSirall perfectly satisfactory. Nor heresir.
Nor in the waistcoatMr Richardnor in the coat tails. So far
I am rejoicedI am sure.'

Richard Swivellerholding Kit's hat in his handwas watching the
proceedings with great interestand bore upon his face the
slightest possible indication of a smileas Brassshutting one of
his eyeslooked 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 himbade him search the hat.

'Here's a handkerchief' said Dick.

'No harm in that sir' rejoined Brassapplying his eye to the
other sleeveand speaking in the voice of one who was
contemplating an immense extent of prospect. 'No harm in a
handkerchief Sirwhatever. The faculty don't consider it a
healthy customI believeMr Richardto carry one's handkerchief
in one's hat--I have heard that it keeps the head too warm--but


in every other point of viewits being thereis extremely
satisfactory--extremely so.'

An exclamationat once from Richard SwivellerMiss Sallyand Kit
himselfcut the lawyer short. He turned his headand saw Dick
standing with the bank-note in his hand.

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

'Under the handkerchiefand tucked beneath the lining' said Dick
aghast at the discovery.

Mr Brass looked at himat his sisterat the wallsat the
ceilingat the floor--everywhere but at Kitwho stood quite
stupefied and motionless.

'And this' cried Sampsonclasping his hands'is the world that
turns upon its own axisand has Lunar influencesand revolutions
round Heavenly Bodiesand various games of that sort! This is
human naturis it! Oh naturnatur! This is the miscreant that
I was going to benefit with all my little artsand thateven now
I feel so much foras to wish to let him go! But' added Mr Brass
with greater fortitude'I am myself a lawyerand bound to set an
example in carrying the laws of my happy country into effect.
Sally my dearforgive meand catch hold of him on the other side.
Mr Richardsirhave the goodness to run and fetch a constable.
The weakness is past and over sirand moral strength returns. A
constablesirif you please!'

CHAPTER 60

Kit stood as one entrancedwith his eyes opened wide and fixed
upon the groundregardless alike of the tremulous hold which Mr
Brass maintained on one side of his cravatand of the firmer grasp
of Miss Sally upon the other; although this latter detention was in
itself no small inconvenienceas that fascinating womanbesides
screwing her knuckles inconveniently into his throat from time to
timehad 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 posturequite
unresisting and passiveuntil Mr Swiveller returnedwith a police
constable at his heels.

This functionarybeingof coursewell used to such scenes;
looking upon all kinds of robberyfrom petty larceny up to
housebreaking or ventures on the highwayas 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
surpriseas 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 usMr Brassand the--' he looked at Miss Sally as
if in some doubt whether she might not be a griffin or other


fabulous monster.

'The ladyeh?' said Sampson.

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

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

'You'll have a hackney-coachI suppose?' interrupted the
constableholding Kit (whom his other captors had released)
carelessly by the arma little above the elbow. 'Be so good as
send for onewill you?'

'Buthear me speak a word' cried Kitraising 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! OhMr Brassyou know me better. I am sure you know me
better. This is not right of youindeed.'

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

'Quite trueconstable' assented Brass in the same mournful tone.
'Strictly correct. I give you my oathconstablethat down to a
few minutes agowhen this fatal discovery was madeI had such
confidence in that ladthat I'd have trusted him with--a
hackney-coachMr Richardsir; you're very slowSir.'

'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 hungryand is it likely I would
begin now! Oh consider what you do. How can I meet the kindest
friends that ever human creature hadwith this dreadful charge
upon me!'

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

'And he can hardly believe iteither' said Sampsonwhen he
returned'nor nobody will. I wish I could doubt the evidence of
my sensesbut their depositions are unimpeachable. It's of no use
cross-examining my eyes' cried Sampsonwinking and rubbing them
'they stick to their first accountand will. NowSarahI hear
the coach in the Marks; get on your bonnetand we'll be off. A
sad errand! a moral funeralquite!'

'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 saketake me
therefirst.'


'WellI don't know' stammered Brasswho 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 timeconstableeh?'

The constablewho had been chewing a straw all this while with
great philosophyreplied that if they went away at once they would
have time enoughbut that if they stood shilly-shallying there
any longerthey must go straight to the Mansion House; and finally
expressed his opinion that that was where it wasand that was all
about it.

Mr Richard Swiveller having arrived inside the coachand still
remaining immoveable in the most commodious corner with his face to
the horsesMr Brass instructed the officer to remove his prisoner
and declared himself quite ready. Thereforethe constablestill
holding Kit in the same mannerand pushing him on a little before
himso 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 insideSampson Brass got upon the boxand made the
coachman drive on.

Still completely stunned by the sudden and terrible change which
had taken place in his affairsKit sat gazing out of the coach
windowalmost 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
turningsthe same housesthe same streams of people running side
by side in different directions upon the pavementthe same bustle
of carts and carriages in the roadthe 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 himthough he was innocent in thought and deed; and
they were carrying him backa prisoner.

Absorbed in these painful ruminationsthinking with a drooping
heart of his mother and little Jacobfeeling as though even the
consciousness of innocence would be insufficient to support him in
the presence of his friends if they believed him guiltyand
sinking in hope and courage more and more as they drew nearer to
the notary'spoor Kit was looking earnestly out of the window
observant of nothing--when all at onceas though it had been
conjured up by magiche 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 itwith his elbows on the window-sill and his head
resting on both his handsthat what between this attitude and his
being swoln with suppressed laughterhe looked puffed and bloated
into twice his usual breadth. Mr Brasson recognising him
immediately stopped the coach. As it came to a halt directly
opposite to where he stoodthe dwarf pulled off his hatand
saluted the party with a hideous and grotesque politeness.
'Aha!' he cried. 'Where nowBrass? 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! Ahsir--a sad business! Never believe in honesty any more
sir.'

'Why not?' returned the dwarf. 'Why notyou rogue of a lawyer


why not?'

'Bank-note lost in our office sir' said Brassshaking 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 dwarfleaning half his body out of window. 'Kit
a thief! Kit a thief! Ha ha ha! Whyhe's an uglier-looking
thief than can be seen anywhere for a penny. EhKit--eh? Ha ha
ha! Have you taken Kit into custody before he had time and
opportunity to beat me! EhKiteh?' And with thathe burst
into a yell of laughtermanifestly to the great terror of the
coachmanand pointed to a dyer's pole hard bywhere a dangling
suit of clothes bore some resemblance to a man upon a gibbet.

'Is it coming to thatKit!' cried the dwarfrubbing 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 himBrass. EhKiteh? Drive on coachey
drive on. Bye byeKit; all good go with you; keep up your
spirits; my love to the Garlands--the dear old lady and gentleman.
Say I inquired after 'emwill you? Blessings on 'emon youand
on everybodyKit. Blessings on all the world!'

With such good wishes and farewellspoured out in a rapid torrent
until they were out of hearingQuilp suffered them to depart; and
when he could see the coach no longerdrew in his headand rolled
upon the ground in an ecstacy of enjoyment.

When they reached the notary'swhich they were not long in doing
for they had encountered the dwarf in a bye street at a very little
distance from the houseMr Brass dismounted; and opening the coach
door with a melancholy visagerequested his sister to accompany
him into the officewith the view of preparing the good people
withinfor the mournful intelligence that awaited them. Miss
Sally complyinghe desired Mr Swiveller to accompany them. So
into the office they went; Mr Sampson and his sister arm-in-arm;
and Mr Swiveller followingalone.

The notary was standing before the fire in the outer office
talking to Mr Abel and the elder Mr Garlandwhile Mr Chuckster sat
writing at the deskpicking 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 handleand
seeing that the notary recognised himhe began to shake his head
and sigh deeply while that partition yet divided them.

'Sir' said Sampsontaking off his hatand kissing the two forefingers
of his right hand beaver glove'my name is Brass--Brass
of Bevis MarksSir. I have had the honour and pleasureSirof
being concerned against you in some little testamentary matters.
How do you dosir?'

'My clerk will attend to any business you may have come uponMr
Brass' said the notaryturning away.

'Thank you Sir' said Brass'thank youI am sure. Allow meSir
to introduce my sister--quite one of us Siralthough of the
weaker sex--of great use in my business SirI assure you. Mr
Richardsirhave the goodness to come foward if you please--No
really' said Brassstepping between the notary and his private
office (towards which he had begun to retreat)and speaking in the
tone of an injured man'really SirI mustunder favourrequest
a word or two with youindeed.'


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


'Gentlemen' said Brasslaying his right hand on his waistcoat
and looking towards the father and son with a smooth smile--
'GentlemenI appeal to you--reallygentlemen--considerI 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
musicstage actorswriters of booksor painters of pictureswho
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 mehe must describe me as a gentlemanor his
action is null and void. I appeal to you--is this quite
respectful? Really gentlemen--'


'Wellwill you have the goodness to state your business thenMr
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 pointsirI
believe the name of one of these gentlemen is Garland.'


'Of both' said the notary.


'In-deed!' rejoined Brasscringing excessively. 'But I might have
known thatfrom the uncommon likeness. Extremely happyI am
sureto 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?'


'Both' replied the notary.
'Two Kits?' said Brass smiling. 'Dear me!'


'One Kitsir' returned Mr Witherden angrily'who is employed by
both gentlemen. What of him?'


'This of himsir' rejoined Brassdropping his voice
impressively. 'That young mansirthat I have felt unbounded and
unlimited confidence inand always behaved to as if he was my
equal--that young man has this morning committed a robbery in my
officeand been taken almost in the fact.'


'This must be some falsehood!' cried the notary.


'It is not possible' said Mr Abel.


'I'll not believe one word of it' exclaimed the old gentleman.


Mr Brass looked mildly round upon themand rejoined


'Mr WitherdensirYOUR words are actionableand if I was a man
of low and mean standingwho couldn't afford to be slanderedI
should proceed for damages. Hows'eversirbeing what I amI
merely scorn such expressions. The honest warmth of the other
gentleman I respectand I'm truly sorry to be the messenger of
such unpleasant news. I shouldn't have put myself in this painful
positionI assure youbut that the lad himself desired to be
brought here in the first instanceand I yielded to his prayers.
Mr Chuckstersirwill you have the goodness to tap at the window
for the constable that's waiting in the coach?'



The three gentlemen looked at each other with blank faces when
these words were utteredand Mr Chucksterdoing as he was
desiredand leaping off his stool with something of the excitement
of an inspired prophet whose foretellings had in the fulness of
time been realisedheld the door open for the entrance of the
wretched captive.

Such a scene as there waswhen Kit came inand bursting into the
rude eloquence with which Truth at length inspired himcalled
Heaven to witness that he was innocentand that how the property
came to be found upon him he knew not! Such a confusion of
tonguesbefore the circumstances were relatedand the proofs
disclosed! Such a dead silence when all was toldand his three
friends exchanged looks of doubt and amazement!

'Is it not possible' said Mr Witherdenafter a long pause'that
this note may have found its way into the hat by some accident-such
as the removal of papers on the deskfor instance?'

But this was clearly shown to be quite impossible. Mr Swiveller
though an unwilling witnesscould not help proving to
demonstrationfrom the position in which it was foundthat it
must have been designedly secreted.

'It's very distressing' said Brass'immensely distressingI am
sure. When he comes to be triedI shall be very happy to
recommend him to mercy on account of his previous good character.
I did lose money beforecertainlybut it doesn't quite follow
that he took it. The presumption's against him--strongly against
him--but we're ChristiansI hope?'

'I suppose' said the constablelooking round'that no gentleman
here can give evidence as to whether he's been flush of money of
lateDo you happen to knowSir?'

'He has had money from time to timecertainly' returned Mr
Garlandto whom the man had put the question. 'But thatas he
always told mewas given him by Mr Brass himself.'

'Yes to be sure' said Kit eagerly. 'You can bear me out in that
Sir?'

'Eh?' cried Brasslooking from face to face with an expression of
stupid amazement.

'The money you knowthe half-crownsthat you gave me--from the
lodger' said Kit.

'Oh dear me!' cried Brassshaking his head and frowning heavily.
'This is a bad caseI find; a very bad case indeed.'

'What! Did you give him no money on account of anybodySir?'
asked Mr Garlandwith great anxiety.

'I give him moneySir!' returned Sampson. 'Ohcome you know
this is too barefaced. Constablemy good fellowwe had better be
going.'

'What!' shrieked Kit. 'Does he deny that he did? ask him
somebodypray. Ask him to tell you whether he did or not!'

'Did yousir?' asked the notary.


'I tell you whatgentlemen' replied Brassin a very grave
manner'he'll not serve his case this wayand reallyif you feel
any interest in himyou had better advise him to go upon some
other tack. Did Isir? Of course I never did.'

'Gentlemen' cried Kiton whom a light broke suddenly'MasterMr
AbelMr Witherdenevery one of you--he did it! What I have done
to offend himI don't knowbut this is a plot to ruin me. Mind
gentlemenit's a plotand whatever comes of itI will say with
my dying breath that he put that note in my hat himself! Look at
himgentlemen! see how he changes colour. Which of us looks the
guilty person--heor I?'

'You hear himgentlemen?' said Brasssmiling'you hear him.
Nowdoes this case strike you as assuming rather a black
complexionor does it not? Is it at all a treacherous casedo
you thinkor is it one of mere ordinary guilt? Perhaps
gentlemenif he had not said this in your presence and I had
reported ityou'd have held this to be impossible likewiseeh?'

With such pacific and bantering remarks did Mr Brass refute the
foul aspersion on his character; but the virtuous Sarahmoved by
stronger feelingsand having at heartperhapsa more jealous
regard for the honour of her familyflew from her brother's side
without any previous intimation of her designand darted at the
prisoner with the utmost fury. It would undoubtedly have gone hard
with Kit's facebut that the wary constableforeseeing her
designdrew him aside at the critical momentand thus placed Mr
Chuckster in circumstances of some jeopardy; for that gentleman
happening to be next the object of Miss Brass's wrath; and rage
beinglike love and fortuneblind; was pounced upon by the fair
enslaverand had a false collar plucked up by the rootsand his
hair very much dishevelledbefore the exertions of the company
could make her sensible of her mistake.

The constabletaking warning by this desperate attackand
thinking perhaps that it would be more satisfactory to the ends of
justice if the prisoner were taken before a magistratewhole
rather than in small piecesled him back to the hackney-coach
without more adoand moreover insisted on Miss Brass becoming an
outside passenger; to which proposal the charming creatureafter
a little angry discussionyielded her consent; and so took her
brother Sampson's place upon the box: Mr Brass with some reluctance
agreeing to occupy her seat inside. These arrangements perfected
they drove to the justice-room with all speedfollowed by the
notary and his two friends in another coach. Mr Chuckster alone
was left behind--greatly to his indignation; for he held the
evidence he could have givenrelative to Kit's returning to work
out the shillingto be so very material as bearing upon his
hypocritical and designing characterthat he considered its
suppression little better than a compromise of felony.

At the justice-roomthey found the single gentlemanwho had gone
straight thereand was expecting them with desperate impatience.
But not fifty single gentlemen rolled into one could have helped
poor Kitwho in half an hour afterwards was committed for trial
and was assured by a friendly officer on his way to prison that
there was no occasion to be cast downfor the sessions would soon
be onand he wouldin all likelihoodget his little affair
disposed ofand be comfortably transportedin less than a
fortnight.


CHAPTER 61

Let moralists and philosophers say what they mayit is very
questionable whether a guilty man would have felt half as much
misery that nightas Kit didbeing innocent. The worldbeing in
the constant commission of vast quantities of injusticeis a
little too apt to comfort itself with the idea that if the victim
of its falsehood and malice have a clear consciencehe cannot fail
to be sustained under his trialsand somehow or other to come
right at last; 'in which case' say they who have hunted him down
'--though we certainly don't expect it--nobody will be better
pleased than we.' Whereasthe world would do well to reflect
that injustice is in itselfto every generous and properly
constituted mindan injuryof all others the most insufferable
the most torturingand the most hard to bear; and that many clear
consciences have gone to their account elsewhereand many sound
hearts have brokenbecause of this very reason; the knowledge of
their own deserts only aggravating their sufferingsand rendering
them the less endurable.

The worldhoweverwas not in fault in Kit's case. But Kit was
innocent; and knowing thisand feeling that his best friends
deemed him guilty--that Mr and Mrs Garland would look upon him as
a monster of ingratitude--that Barbara would associate him with
all that was bad and criminal--that the pony would consider
himself forsaken--and that even his own mother might perhaps yield
to the strong appearances against himand believe him to be the
wretch he seemed--knowing and feeling all thishe experiencedat
firstan agony of mind which no words can describeand walked up
and down the little cell in which he was locked up for the night
almost beside himself with grief.

Even when the violence of these emotions had in some degree
subsidedand he was beginning to grow more calmthere came into
his mind a new thoughtthe anguish of which was scarcely less.
The child--the bright star of the simple fellow's life--shewho
always came back upon him like a beautiful dream--who had made
the poorest part of his existencethe happiest and best--who had
ever been so gentleand considerateand good--if she were ever
to hear of thiswhat would she think! As this idea occurred to
himthe walls of the prison seemed to melt awayand the old place
to reveal itself in their steadas it was wont to be on winter
nights--the firesidethe little supper tablethe old man's hat
and coatand stick--the half-opened doorleading to her little
room--they were all there. And Nell herself was thereand he-both
laughing heartily as they had often done--and when he had got
as far as thisKit could go no fartherbut flung himself upon his
poor bedstead and wept.

It was a long nightwhich seemed as though it would have no end;
but he slept tooand dreamed--always of being at libertyand
roving aboutnow with one person and now with anotherbut ever
with a vague dread of being recalled to prison; not that prison
but one which was in itself a dim idea--not of a placebut of a
care and sorrow: of something oppressive and always presentand
yet impossible to define. At lastthe morning dawnedand there
was the jail itself--coldblackand drearyand very real
indeed.
He was left to himselfhoweverand there was comfort in that. He
had liberty to walk in a small paved yard at a certain hourand
learnt from the turnkeywho came to unlock his cell and show him
where to washthat there was a regular time for visitingevery


dayand that if any of his friends came to see himhe would be
fetched down to the grate. When he had given him this information
and a tin porringer containing his breakfastthe man locked him up
again; and went clattering along the stone passageopening and
shutting a great many other doorsand raising numberless loud
echoes which resounded through the building for a long timeas if
they were in prison tooand unable to get out.

This turnkey had given him to understand that he was lodgedlike
some few others in the jailapart from the mass of prisoners;
because he was not supposed to be utterly depraved and
irreclaimableand had never occupied apartments in that mansion
before. Kit was thankful for this indulgenceand sat reading the
church catechism very attentively (though he had known it by heart
from a little child)until he heard the key in the lockand the
man entered again.

'Now then' he said'come on!'

'Where toSir?' asked Kit.

The man contented himself by briefly replying 'Wisitors;' and
taking him by the arm in exactly the same manner as the constable
had done the day beforeled himthrough several winding ways and
strong gatesinto a passagewhere he placed him at a grating and
turned upon his heel. Beyond this gratingat the distance of
about four or five feetwas another exactly like it. In the space
betweensat a turnkey reading a newspaperand outside the further
railingKit sawwith a palpitating hearthis mother with the
baby in her arms; Barbara's mother with her never-failing umbrella;
and poor little Jacobstaring in with all his mightas though he
were looking for the birdor the wild beastand thought the men
were mere accidents with whom the bars could have no possible
concern.

But when little Jacob saw his brotherandthrusting his arms
between the rails to hug himfound that he came no nearerbut
still stood afar off with his head resting on the arm by which he
held to one of the barshe began to cry most piteously; whereupon
Kit's mother and Barbara's motherwho had restrained themselves as
much as possibleburst out sobbing and weeping afresh. Poor Kit
could not help joining themand not one of them could speak a
word. During this melancholy pausethe turnkey read his newspaper
with a waggish look (he had evidently got among the facetious
paragraphs) untilhappening to take his eyes off for an instant
as if to get by dint of contemplation at the very marr