A little devil, said the child.
She added in the same breath, as if fearful of any further questioning, But please will you leave a card or message?
These unusual answers might naturally have provoked some more inquiries. Quilp, however, without uttering another word, withdrew his eyes from the small servant, stroked his chin more thoughtfully than before, and then, bending over the note as if to direct it with scrupulous and hair-breadth nicety, looked at her, covertly but very narrowly, from under his bushy eyebrows. The result of this secret survey was, that he shaded his face with his hands, and laughed slyly and noiselessly, until every vein in it was swollen almost to bursting. Pulling his hat over his brow to conceal his mirth and its effects, he tossed the letter to the child, and hastily withdrew.
Once in the street, moved by some secret impulse, he laughed, and held his sides, and laughed again, and tried to peer through the dusty area railings as if to catch another glimpse of the child, until he was quite tired out. At last, he travelled back to the Wilderness, which was within rifle-shot of his bachelor retreat, and ordered tea in the wooden summer-house that afternoon for three persons; an invitation to Miss Sally Brass and her brother to partake of that entertainment at that place, having been the object both of his journey and his note.
It was not precisely the kind of weather in which people usually take tea in summer-houses, far less in summer-houses in an advanced state of decay, and overlooking the slimy banks of a great river at low water. Nevertheless, it was in this choice retreat that Mr Quilp ordered a cold collation to be prepared, and it was beneath its cracked and leaky roof that he in due course of time received Mr Sampson and his sister Sally.
Youre fond of the beauties of nature, said Quilp with a grin. Is this charming, Brass? Is it unusual, unsophisticated, primitive?
Its delightful indeed, Sir, replied the lawyer.
Cool? said Quilp.
N-not particularly so, I think, Sir, rejoined Brass, with his teeth chattering in his head.
Perhaps a little damp and ague-ish? said Quilp.
Just damp enough to be cheerful, Sir, rejoined Brass. Nothing more, Sir, nothing more.
And Sally? said the delighted dwarf. Does she like it?
Shell like it better, returned that strong-minded lady, when she has tea; so let us have it, and dont bother.
Sweet Sally! cried Quilp, extending his arms as if about to embrace her. Gentle, charming, overwhelming Sally.
Hes a very remarkable man indeed! soliloquised Mr Brass. Hes quite a Troubadour, you know; quite a Troubadour!
These complimentary expressions were uttered in a somewhat absent and distracted manner; for the unfortunate lawyer, besides having a bad cold in his head, had got wet in coming, and would have willingly borne some pecuniary sacrifice if he could have shifted his present raw quarters to a warm room, and have dried himself at a fire. Quilp, however, who, beyond the gratification of his demon whims, owed Sampson some acknowledgment of the part he had played in the mourning scene of which he had been a hidden witness, marked these symptoms of uneasiness with a delight past all expression, and derived from them a secret joy which the costliest banquet could never have afforded him.
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