MATRIMONIAL DIFFERENCES are usually discussed by the parties concerned in the form of dialogue, in which the lady bears at least her full half share. Those of Mr and Mrs Quilp, however, were an exception to the general rule; the remarks which they occasioned being limited to a long soliloquy on the part of the gentleman, with perhaps a few deprecatory observations from the lady, not extending beyond a trembling monosyllable uttered at long intervals, and in a very submissive and humble tone. On the present occasion, Mrs Quilp did not for a long time venture even upon this gentle defence, but when she had recovered from her fainting-fit sat in a tearful silence, meekly listening to the reproaches of her lord and master.
Of these Mr Quilp delivered himself with the utmost animation and rapidity, and with so many distortions of limb and feature, that even his wife, although tolerably well accustomed to his proficiency in these respects, was well-nigh beside herself with alarm. But the Jamaica rum, and the joy of having occasioned a heavy disappointment, by degrees cooled Mr Quilps wrath; which, from being at savage heat, dropped slowly to the bantering or chuckling point, at which it steadily remained.
So you thought I was dead and gone, did you? said Quilp. You thought you were a widow, eh? Ha, ha, ha, you jade!
Indeed, Quilp, returned his wife. Im very sorry
Who doubts it! cried the dwarf. You very sorry! to be sure you are. Who doubts that youre very sorry!
I dont mean sorry that you have come home again alive and well, said his wife, but sorry that I should have been led into such a belief. I am glad to see you, Quilp; indeed I am.
In truth Mrs Quilp did seem a great deal more glad to behold her lord than might have been expected, and did evince a degree of interest in his safety which, all things considered, was rather unaccountable. Upon Quilp, however, this circumstance made no impression, further than as it moved him to snap his fingers close to his wifes eyes, with divers grins of triumph and derision.
How could you go away so long without saying a word to me or letting me hear of you or know anything about you? asked the poor little woman, sobbing. How could you be so cruel, Quilp?
How could I be so cruel! cruel! cried the dwarf. Because I was in the humour. Im in the humour now. I shall be cruel when I like. Im going away again.
Yes again. Im going away now. Im off directly. I mean to go and live wherever the fancy seizes me, at the wharfat the counting-houseand be a jolly bachelor. You were a widow in anticipation. Damme, screamed the dwarf, Ill be a bachelor in earnest.
You cant be serious, Quilp, sobbed his wife
I tell you, said the dwarf, exulting in his project, that Ill be a bachelor, a devil-may-care bachelor; and Ill have my bachelors hall at the counting-house, and at such times come near it if you dare. And mind too that I dont pounce in upon you at unseasonable hours again, for Ill be a spy upon you, and come and go like a mole or a weasel. Tom Scottwheres Tom Scott?
Here I am, master, cried the voice of the boy, as Quilp threw up the window.
Wait there, you dog, returned the dwarf, to carry a bachelors portmanteau. Pack it up, Mrs Quilp. Knock up the dear old lady to help; knock her up. Halloa there! Hallo!
With these exclamations, Mr Quilp caught up the poker, and hurrying to the door of the good ladys sleeping- closet, beat upon it therewith until she awoke in inexpressible terror, thinking that her amiable son-in-law surely intended to murder her in justification of the legs she had slandered. Impressed with this idea,
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