Chapter 35

MR BRASS on returning home received the report of his clerk with much complacency and satisfaction, and was particular in inquiring after the ten-pound note, which, proving on examination to be a good and lawful note of the Governor and Company of the Bank of England, increased his good-humour considerably. Indeed he so overflowed with liberality and condescension, that in the fulness of his heart he 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; and, as that useful member ought never to grow rusty or creak in turning on its hinges in the case of a practitioner of the law, in whom it should be always glib and easy, he lost few opportunities of improving himself by the utterance of handsome speeches and eulogistic expressions. And this had passed into such a habit with him, that, if he could not be correctly said to have his tongue at his fingers’ ends, he might certainly be said to have it anywhere but in his face: which being, as we have already seen, of a harsh and repulsive character, was not oiled so easily, but frowned above all the smooth speeches—one of nature’s beacons, warning off those who navigated the shoals and breakers of the World, or of that dangerous strait the Law, and 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 note, Miss Sally showed little emotion and that of no pleasurable kind, for 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 wisdom, she was not a little disappointed that the single gentleman had obtained the lodgings at such an easy rate, arguing that when he was seen to have set his mind upon them, he should have been at the least charged double or treble the usual terms, and that, in exact proportion as he pressed forward, Mr Swiveller should have hung back. But neither the good opinion of Mr Brass, nor the dissatisfaction of Miss Sally, wrought any impression upon that young gentleman, who, throwing the responsibility of this and all other acts and deeds thereafter to be done by him, upon his unlucky destiny, was quite resigned and comfortable: fully prepared for the worst, and philosophically indifferent to the best.

‘Good-morning, Mr Richard,’ said Brass, on the second day of Mr Swiveller’s clerkship. ‘Sally found you a second-hand stool, Sir, yesterday evening in Whitechapel. She’s a rare fellow at a bargain, I can tell you, Mr Richard. You’ll find that a first-rate stool, Sir, take 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 upon, you may depend,’ returned Mr Brass. ‘It was bought in the open street just opposite the hospital, and as it has been standing there a month or two, it has got rather dusty and a little brown from being in the sun, that’s all.’

‘I hope it hasn’t got any fevers or anything of that sort in it,’ said Dick, sitting himself down discontentedly, between Mr Sampson and the chaste Sally. ‘One of the legs is longer than the others.’

‘Then we get a bit of timber in, Sir,’ retorted Brass. ‘Ha, ha, ha! We get a bit of timber in, Sir, and that’s another advantage of my sister’s going to market for us. Miss Brass, Mr Richard, is the—’

‘Will you keep quiet?’ interrupted the fair subject of these remarks, looking 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 Miss Sally, ‘so don’t disturb me, if 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 help, I dare say.’

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