POPULAR RUMOUR CONCERNING the single gentleman and his errand, travelling from mouth to mouth, and waxing stronger in the marvellous as it was bandied about for your popular rumour, unlike the rolling stone of the proverb, is one which gathers a deal of moss in its wanderings up and down, occasioned his dismounting at the inn-door to be looked upon as an exciting and attractive spectacle, which could scarcely be enough admired; and drew together a large concourse of idlers, who having recently been, as it were, thrown out of employment by the closing of the wax-work and the completion of the nuptial ceremonies, considered his arrival as little else than a special providence, and hailed it with demonstrations of the liveliest joy.
Not at all participating in the general sensation, but wearing the depressed and wearied look of one who sought to meditate on his disappointment in silence and privacy, the single gentleman alighted, and handed out Kits mother with a gloomy politeness which impressed the lookers-on extremely. That done, he gave her his arm and escorted her into the house, while several active waiters ran on before as a skirmishing party, to clear the way and to show the room which was ready for their reception.
Any room will do, said the single gentleman. Let it be near at hand, thats all.
Close here, Sir, if you please to walk this way.
Would the gentleman like this room? said a voice, as a little out-of-the-way door at the foot of the well- staircase flew briskly open and a head popped out. Hes quite welcome to it. Hes as welcome as flowers in May, or coals at Christmas. Would you like this room, Sir? Honour me by walking in. Do me the favour, pray.
Goodness gracious me! cried Kits mother, falling back in extreme surprise, only think of this!
She had some reason to be astonished, for the person who proffered the gracious invitation was no other than Daniel Quilp. The little door out of which he had thrust his head was close to the inn larder; and there he stood, bowing with grotesque politeness; as much at his ease as if the door were that of his own house; blighting all the legs of mutton and cold roast fowls by his close companionship, and looking like the evil genius of the cellars come from underground upon some work of mischief.
Would you do me the honour? said Quilp.
I prefer being alone, replied the single gentleman.
Oh! said Quilp. And with that, he darted in again with one jerk and clapped the little door to, like a figure in a Dutch clock when the hour strikes.
Why it was only last night, Sir, whispered Kits mother, that I left him in Little Bethel.
Indeed! said her fellow-passenger. When did that person come here, waiter?
Come down by the night-coach this morning, Sir.
Humph! And when is he going?
Cant say, Sir, really. When the chambermaid asked him just now if he should want a bed, Sir, he first made faces at her, and then wanted to kiss her.
Beg him to walk this way, said the single gentleman. I should be glad to exchange a word with him, tell him. Beg him to come at once, do you hear?
The man stared on receiving these instructions, for the single gentleman had not only displayed as much astonishment as Kits mother at sight of the dwarf, but, standing in no fear of him, had been at less pains
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