The Old Curiosity Shop Chapter 57 by Charles Dickens Audiobook

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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 illnessóthe
consequence most probably of his late excited feelings and subsequent disappointmentófurnished
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 Richardócharming
countenance siróextremely calmóbenevolence in every feature, sir. He quite realises my
idea of King Lear, as he appeared when in possession of his kingdom, Mr Richardóthe
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'óMr Brass is patting the ponyó'does you great creditóamazingly
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.óI 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 smileónot at all a pleasant one in its expressionóand
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
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
'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.
'Wellócome in'óhe said, after a little consideration. 'Hereósit down, and I'll teach you how to
'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 itóit 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.