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The Old Curiosity Shop - Chapter 57 Post by :kingsleys123 Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :June 2011 Read :1597

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The Old Curiosity Shop - Chapter 57

CHAPTER 57


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'It ain't my fault.'

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

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

'I don't know.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The small servant nodded.

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

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

Content of CHAPTER 57 (Charles Dickens' novel: The Old Curiosity Shop)

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CHAPTER 58Mr Swiveller and his partner played several rubbers with varyingsuccess, until the loss of three sixpences, the gradual sinking ofthe purl, and the striking of ten o'clock, combined to render thatgentleman mindful of the flight of Time, and the expediency ofwithdrawing before Mr Sampson and Miss Sally Brass returned.'With which object in view, Marchioness,' said Mr Swivellergravely, 'I shall ask your ladyship's permission to put the boardin my pocket, and to retire from the presence when I have finishedthis tankard; merely observing, Marchioness, that since life likea river is flowing, I care not how fast it rolls on, ma'am, on,while
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CHAPTER 56A day or two after the Quilp tea-party at the Wilderness, MrSwiveller walked into Sampson Brass's office at the usual hour, andbeing alone in that Temple of Probity, placed his hat upon thedesk, and taking from his pocket a small parcel of black crape,applied himself to folding and pinning the same upon it, after themanner of a hatband. Having completed the construction of thisappendage, he surveyed his work with great complacency, and put hishat on again--very much over one eye, to increase the mournfulnessof the effect. These arrangements perfected to his entiresatisfaction, he thrust his hands into his
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