him that he was in skilful and experienced hands. Nothing daunted by this reception, he clung tight to his opponent, and bit and hammered away with such good-will and heartiness, that it was at least a couple of minutes before he was dislodged. Then, and not until then, Daniel Quilp found himself, all flushed and dishevelled, in the middle of the street, with Mr Richard Swiveller performing a kind of dance round him and requiring to know whether he wanted any more?
Theres plenty more of it at the same shop, said Mr Swiveller, by 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 more, Sir dont say no, if youd rather not.
I thought it was somebody else, said Quilp rubbing his shoulders, why didnt you say who you were?
Why didnt 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 dwarf, getting up with a short groan, was it?
Yes, I am the man, replied Dick. That lady had begun when I came, but she knocked too soft, so I relieved her. As he said this, he pointed towards Mrs Quilp, who stood trembling at a little distance.
Humph! muttered the dwarf, darting an angry look at his wife, I thought it was your fault! And you, Sir dont you know there has been somebody in here, that you knock as if youd beat the door down?
Damme! answered Dick, thats why I did it. I thought there was somebody dead here.
You came for some purpose, I 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 herself, with whom I should like to have a little talk. Im a friend of the family, Sir,at least Im the friend of one of the family, and thats the same thing.
Youd better walk in then, said the dwarf. Go on, Sir, go on. Now, Mrs Quilpafter you, maam.
Mrs Quilp hesitated, but Mr Quilp insisted. And it was not a contest of politeness, or by any means a matter of form, for she knew very well that her husband wished to enter the house in this order, that he might have a favourable opportunity of inflicting a few pinches on her arms, which were seldom free from impressions of his fingers in black and blue colours. Mr Swiveller, who was not in the secret, was a little surprised to hear a suppressed scream, and, looking round, to see Mrs Quilp following him with a sudden jerk; but he did not remark on these appearances, and soon forgot them.
Now, Mrs Quilp, said the dwarf when they had entered the shop, go you up stairs, if you please, to Nellys room, and tell her that shes wanted.
You seem to make yourself at home here, said Dick, who was unacquainted with Mr Quilps authority.
I am at home, young gentleman, returned the dwarf.
Dick was pondering what these words might mean, and still more what the presence of Mr Brass might mean, when Mrs Quilp came hurrying downstairs, declaring that the rooms above were empty.
Empty, you fool! said the dwarf.
I give you my word, Quilp, answered his trembling wife, that I have been into every room and theres not a soul in any of them.
And that, said Mr Brass, clapping his hands once, with an emphasis, explains the mystery of the key!
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