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A day or two after the Quilp tea-party at the Wilderness, Mr
Swiveller walked into Sampson Brass's office at the usual hour, and
being alone in that Temple of Probity, placed his hat upon the
desk, and taking from his pocket a small parcel of black crape,
applied himself to folding and pinning the same upon it, after the
manner of a hatband. Having completed the construction of this
appendage, he surveyed his work with great complacency, and put his
hat on again--very much over one eye, to increase the mournfulness
of the effect. These arrangements perfected to his entire
satisfaction, he thrust his hands into his pockets, and walked up
and down the office with measured steps.
'It has always been the same with me,' said Mr Swiveller, 'always.
'Twas ever thus--from childhood's hour I've seen my fondest hopes
decay, I never loved a tree or flower but 'twas the first to fade
away; I never nursed a dear Gazelle, to glad me with its soft black
eye, but when it came to know me well, and love me, it was sure to
marry a market-gardener.'
Overpowered by these reflections, Mr Swiveller stopped short at the
clients' chair, and flung himself into its open arms.
'And this,' said Mr Swiveller, with a kind of bantering composure,
'is life, I believe. Oh, certainly. Why not! I'm quite
satisfied. I shall wear,' added Richard, taking off his hat again
and looking hard at it, as if he were only deterred by pecuniary
considerations from spurning it with his foot, 'I shall wear this
emblem of woman's perfidy, in remembrance of her with whom I shall
never again thread the windings of the mazy; whom I shall never
more pledge in the rosy; who, during the short remainder of my
existence, will murder the balmy. Ha, ha, ha!'
It may be necessary to observe, lest there should appear any
incongruity in the close of this soliloquy, that Mr Swiveller did
not wind up with a cheerful hilarious laugh, which would have been
undoubtedly at variance with his solemn reflections, but that,
being in a theatrical mood, he merely achieved that performance
which is designated in melodramas 'laughing like a fiend,'--for it
seems that your fiends always laugh in syllables, and always in
three syllables, never more nor less, which is a remarkable
property in such gentry, and one worthy of remembrance.
The baleful sounds had hardly died away, and Mr Swiveller was still
sitting in a very grim state in the clients' chair, when there came
a ring--or, if we may adapt the sound to his then humour, a knell
--at the office bell. Opening the door with all speed, he beheld
the expressive countenance of Mr Chuckster, between whom and
himself a fraternal greeting ensued.
'You're devilish early at this pestiferous old slaughter-house,'
said that gentleman, poising himself on one leg, and shaking the
other in an easy manner.
'Rather,' returned Dick.
'Rather!' retorted Mr Chuckster, with that air of graceful trifling
which so well became him. 'I should think so. Why, my good
feller, do you know what o'clock it is--half-past nine a.m. in
'Won't you come in?' said Dick. 'All alone. Swiveller solus.
"'Tis now the witching--'
'"Hour of night!"'
'"When churchyards yawn,"'
'"And graves give up their dead."'
At the end of this quotation in dialogue, each gentleman struck an
attitude, and immediately subsiding into prose walked into the
office. Such morsels of enthusiasm are common among the Glorious
Apollos, and were indeed the links that bound them together, and
raised them above the cold dull earth.
'Well, and how are you my buck?' said Mr Chuckster, taking a stool.
'I was forced to come into the City upon some little private
matters of my own, and couldn't pass the corner of the street
without looking in, but upon my soul I didn't expect to find you.
It is so everlastingly early.'
Mr Swiveller expressed his acknowledgments; and it appearing on
further conversation that he was in good health, and that Mr
Chuckster was in the like enviable condition, both gentlemen, in
compliance with a solemn custom of the ancient Brotherhood to which
they belonged, joined in a fragment of the popular duet of 'All's
Well,' with a long shake' at the end.
'And what's the news?' said Richard.
'The town's as flat, my dear feller,' replied Mr Chuckster, 'as the
surface of a Dutch oven. There's no news. By-the-bye, that lodger
of yours is a most extraordinary person. He quite eludes the most
vigorous comprehension, you know. Never was such a feller!'
'What has he been doing now?' said Dick.
'By Jove, Sir,' returned Mr Chuckster, taking out an oblong
snuff-box, the lid whereof was ornamented with a fox's head
curiously carved in brass, 'that man is an unfathomable. Sir, that
man has made friends with our articled clerk. There's no harm in
him, but he is so amazingly slow and soft. Now, if he wanted a
friend, why couldn't he have one that knew a thing or two, and
could do him some good by his manners and conversation. I have my
faults, sir,' said Mr Chuckster--
'No, no,' interposed Mr Swiveller.
'Oh yes I have, I have my faults, no man knows his faults better
than I know mine. But,' said Mr Chuckster, 'I'm not meek. My
worst enemies--every man has his enemies, Sir, and I have mine--
never accused me of being meek. And I tell you what, Sir, if I
hadn't more of these qualities that commonly endear man to man,
than our articled clerk has, I'd steal a Cheshire cheese, tie it
round my neck, and drown myself. I'd die degraded, as I had lived.
I would upon my honour.'
Mr Chuckster paused, rapped the fox's head exactly on the nose with
the knuckle of the fore-finger, took a pinch of snuff, and looked
steadily at Mr Swiveller, as much as to say that if he thought he
was going to sneeze, he would find himself mistaken.
'Not contented, Sir,' said Mr Chuckster, 'with making friends with
Abel, he has cultivated the acquaintance of his father and mother.
Since he came home from that wild-goose chase, he has been there--
actually been there. He patronises young Snobby besides; you'll
find, Sir, that he'll be constantly coming backwards and forwards
to this place: yet I don't suppose that beyond the common forms of
civility, he has ever exchanged half-a-dozen words with me. Now,
upon my soul, you know,' said Mr Chuckster, shaking his head
gravely, as men are wont to do when they consider things are going
a little too far, 'this is altogether such a low-minded affair,
that if I didn't feel for the governor, and know that he could
never get on without me, I should be obliged to cut the connection.
I should have no alternative.'
Mr Swiveller, who sat on another stool opposite to his friend,
stirred the fire in an excess of sympathy, but said nothing.
'As to young Snob, sir,' pursued Mr Chuckster with a prophetic
look, 'you'll find he'll turn out bad. In our profession we know
something of human nature, and take my word for it, that the feller
that came back to work out that shilling, will show himself one of
these days in his true colours. He's a low thief, sir. He must
Mr Chuckster being roused, would probably have pursued this subject
further, and in more emphatic language, but for a tap at the door,
which seeming to announce the arrival of somebody on business,
caused him to assume a greater appearance of meekness than was
perhaps quite consistent with his late declaration. Mr Swiveller,
hearing the same sound, caused his stool to revolve rapidly on one
leg until it brought him to his desk, into which, having forgotten
in the sudden flurry of his spirits to part with the poker, he
thrust it as he cried 'Come in!'
Who should present himself but that very Kit who had been the theme
of Mr Chuckster's wrath! Never did man pluck up his courage so
quickly, or look so fierce, as Mr Chuckster when he found it was
he. Mr Swiveller stared at him for a moment, and then leaping from
his stool, and drawing out the poker from its place of concealment,
performed the broad-sword exercise with all the cuts and guards
complete, in a species of frenzy.
'Is the gentleman at home?' said Kit, rather astonished by this
Before Mr Swiveller could make any reply, Mr Chuckster took
occasion to enter his indignant protest against this form of
inquiry; which he held to be of a disrespectful and snobbish
tendency, inasmuch as the inquirer, seeing two gentlemen then and
there present, should have spoken of the other gentleman; or rather
(for it was not impossible that the object of his search might be
of inferior quality) should have mentioned his name, leaving it to
his hearers to determine his degree as they thought proper. Mr
Chuckster likewise remarked, that he had some reason to believe
this form of address was personal to himself, and that he was not
a man to be trifled with--as certain snobs (whom he did not more
particularly mention or describe) might find to their cost.
'I mean the gentleman up-stairs,' said Kit, turning to Richard
Swiveller. 'Is he at home?'
'Why?' rejoined Dick.
'Because if he is, I have a letter for him.'
'From whom?' said Dick.
'From Mr Garland.'
'Oh!' said Dick, with extreme politeness. 'Then you may hand it
over, Sir. And if you're to wait for an answer, Sir, you may wait
in the passage, Sir, which is an airy and well-ventilated
'Thank you,' returned Kit. 'But I am to give it to himself, if you
The excessive audacity of this retort so overpowered Mr Chuckster,
and so moved his tender regard for his friend's honour, that he
declared, if he were not restrained by official considerations, he
must certainly have annihilated Kit upon the spot; a resentment of
the affront which he did consider, under the extraordinary
circumstances of aggravation attending it, could but have met with
the proper sanction and approval of a jury of Englishmen, who, he
had no doubt, would have returned a verdict of justifiable
Homicide, coupled with a high testimony to the morals and character
of the Avenger. Mr Swiveller, without being quite so hot upon the
matter, was rather shamed by his friend's excitement, and not a
little puzzled how to act (Kit being quite cool and good-humoured),
when the single gentleman was heard to call violently down the
'Didn't I see somebody for me, come in?' cried the lodger.
'Yes, Sir,' replied Dick. 'Certainly, Sir.'
'Then where is he?' roared the single gentleman.
'He's here, sir,' rejoined Mr Swiveller. 'Now young man, don't you
hear you're to go up-stairs? Are you deaf?'
Kit did not appear to think it worth his while to enter into any
altercation, but hurried off and left the Glorious Apollos gazing
at each other in silence.
'Didn't I tell you so?' said Mr Chuckster. 'What do you think of
Mr Swiveller being in the main a good-natured fellow, and not
perceiving in the conduct of Kit any villany of enormous magnitude,
scarcely knew what answer to return. He was relieved from his
perplexity, however, by the entrance of Mr Sampson and his sister,
Sally, at sight of whom Mr Chuckster precipitately retired.
Mr Brass and his lovely companion appeared to have been holding a
consultation over their temperate breakfast, upon some matter of
great interest and importance. On the occasion of such
conferences, they generally appeared in the office some half an
hour after their usual time, and in a very smiling state, as though
their late plots and designs had tranquillised their minds and shed
a light upon their toilsome way. In the present instance, they
seemed particularly gay; Miss Sally's aspect being of a most oily
kind, and Mr Brass rubbing his hands in an exceedingly jocose and
light-hearted manner. 'Well, Mr Richard,' said Brass. 'How are we
this morning? Are we pretty fresh and cheerful sir--eh, Mr
'Pretty well, sir,' replied Dick.
'That's well,' said Brass. 'Ha ha! We should be as gay as larks,
Mr Richard--why not? It's a pleasant world we live in sir, a very
pleasant world. There are bad people in it, Mr Richard, but if
there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers. Ha ha!
Any letters by the post this morning, Mr Richard?'
Mr Swiveller answered in the negative.
'Ha!' said Brass, 'no matter. If there's little business to-day,
there'll be more to-morrow. A contented spirit, Mr Richard, is the
sweetness of existence. Anybody been here, sir?'
'Only my friend'--replied Dick. '"May we ne'er want a--'
'Friend,' Brass chimed in quickly, 'or a bottle to give him.' Ha
ha! That's the way the song runs, isn't it? A very good song, Mr
Richard, very good. I like the sentiment of it. Ha ha! Your
friend's the young man from Witherden's office I think--yes--May
we ne'er want a-- Nobody else at all, been, Mr Richard?'
'Only somebody to the lodger,' replied Mr Swiveller.
'Oh indeed!' cried Brass. 'Somebody to the lodger eh? Ha ha! May
we ne'er want a friend, or a-- Somebody to the lodger, eh, Mr
'Yes,' said Dick, a little disconcerted by the excessive buoyancy
of spirits which his employer displayed. 'With him now.'
'With him now!' cried Brass; 'Ha ha! There let 'em be, merry and
free, toor rul rol le. Eh, Mr Richard? Ha ha!'
'Oh certainly,' replied Dick.
'And who,' said Brass, shuffling among his papers, 'who is the
lodger's visitor--not a lady visitor, I hope, eh, Mr Richard? The
morals of the Marks you know, sir--"when lovely women stoops to
folly"--and all that--eh, Mr Richard?'
'Another young man, who belongs to Witherden's too, or half belongs
there,' returned Richard. 'Kit, they call him.'
'Kit, eh!' said Brass. 'Strange name--name of a dancing- master's
fiddle, eh, Mr Richard? Ha ha! Kit's there, is he? Oh!'
Dick looked at Miss Sally, wondering that she didn't check this
uncommon exuberance on the part of Mr Sampson; but as she made no
attempt to do so, and rather appeared to exhibit a tacit
acquiescence in it, he concluded that they had just been cheating
somebody, and receiving the bill.
'Will you have the goodness, Mr Richard,' said Brass, taking a
letter from his desk, 'just to step over to Peckham Rye with that?
There's no answer, but it's rather particular and should go by
hand. Charge the office with your coach-hire back, you know; don't
spare the office; get as much out of it as you can--clerk's motto--
Eh, Mr Richard? Ha ha!'
Mr Swiveller solemnly doffed the aquatic jacket, put on his coat,
took down his hat from its peg, pocketed the letter, and departed.
As soon as he was gone, up rose Miss Sally Brass, and smiling
sweetly at her brother (who nodded and smote his nose in return)
Sampson Brass was no sooner left alone, than he set the office-
door wide open, and establishing himself at his desk directly
opposite, so that he could not fail to see anybody who came
down-stairs and passed out at the street door, began to write with
extreme cheerfulness and assiduity; humming as he did so, in a
voice that was anything but musical, certain vocal snatches which
appeared to have reference to the union between Church and State,
inasmuch as they were compounded of the Evening Hymn and God save
Thus, the attorney of Bevis Marks sat, and wrote, and hummed, for
a long time, except when he stopped to listen with a very cunning
face, and hearing nothing, went on humming louder, and writing
slower than ever. At length, in one of these pauses, he heard his
lodger's door opened and shut, and footsteps coming down the
stairs. Then, Mr Brass left off writing entirely, and, with his
pen in his hand, hummed his very loudest; shaking his head
meanwhile from side to side, like a man whose whole soul was in the
music, and smiling in a manner quite seraphic.
It was towards this moving spectacle that the staircase and the
sweet sounds guided Kit; on whose arrival before his door, Mr Brass
stopped his singing, but not his smiling, and nodded affably: at
the same time beckoning to him with his pen.
'Kit,' said Mr Brass, in the pleasantest way imaginable, 'how do
Kit, being rather shy of his friend, made a suitable reply, and had
his hand upon the lock of the street door when Mr Brass called him
'You are not to go, if you please, Kit,' said the attorney in a
mysterious and yet business-like way. 'You are to step in here, if
you please. Dear me, dear me! When I look at you,' said the
lawyer, quitting his stool, and standing before the fire with his
back towards it, 'I am reminded of the sweetest little face that
ever my eyes beheld. I remember your coming there, twice or
thrice, when we were in possession. Ah Kit, my dear fellow,
gentleman in my profession have such painful duties to perform
sometimes, that you needn't envy us--you needn't indeed!'
'I don't, sir,' said Kit, 'though it isn't for the like of me to
'Our only consolation, Kit,' pursued the lawyer, looking at him in
a sort of pensive abstraction, 'is, that although we cannot turn
away the wind, we can soften it; we can temper it, if I may say so,
to the shorn lambs.'
'Shorn indeed!' thought Kit. 'Pretty close!' But he didn't say SO.
'On that occasion, Kit,' said Mr Brass, 'on that occasion that I
have just alluded to, I had a hard battle with Mr Quilp (for Mr
Quilp is a very hard man) to obtain them the indulgence they had.
It might have cost me a client. But suffering virtue inspired me,
and I prevailed.'
'He's not so bad after all,' thought honest Kit, as the attorney
pursed up his lips and looked like a man who was struggling with
his better feelings.
'I respect you, Kit,' said Brass with emotion. 'I saw enough of
your conduct, at that time, to respect you, though your station is
humble, and your fortune lowly. It isn't the waistcoat that I look
at. It is the heart. The checks in the waistcoat are but the
wires of the cage. But the heart is the bird. Ah! How many sich
birds are perpetually moulting, and putting their beaks through the
wires to peck at all mankind!'
This poetic figure, which Kit took to be in a special allusion to
his own checked waistcoat, quite overcame him; Mr Brass's voice and
manner added not a little to its effect, for he discoursed with all
the mild austerity of a hermit, and wanted but a cord round the
waist of his rusty surtout, and a skull on the chimney-piece, to be
completely set up in that line of business.
'Well, well,' said Sampson, smiling as good men smile when they
compassionate their own weakness or that of their fellow-
creatures, 'this is wide of the bull's-eye. You're to take that,
if you please.' As he spoke, he pointed to a couple of half-crowns
on the desk.
Kit looked at the coins, and then at Sampson, and hesitated.
'For yourself,' said Brass.
'No matter about the person they came from,' replied the lawyer.
'Say me, if you like. We have eccentric friends overhead, Kit, and
we mustn't ask questions or talk too much--you understand? You're
to take them, that's all; and between you and me, I don't think
they'll be the last you'll have to take from the same place. I
hope not. Good bye, Kit. Good bye!'
With many thanks, and many more self-reproaches for having on such
slight grounds suspected one who in their very first conversation
turned out such a different man from what he had supposed, Kit took
the money and made the best of his way home. Mr Brass remained
airing himself at the fire, and resumed his vocal exercise, and his
seraphic smile, simultaneously.
'May I come in?' said Miss Sally, peeping.
'Oh yes, you may come in,' returned her brother.
'Ahem!' coughed Miss Brass interrogatively.
'Why, yes,' returned Sampson, 'I should say as good as done.'