Chapter 75

A DAY OR TWO AFTER the Quilp tea-party at the Wilderness, Mr Swiveller walked into Sampson Brass’s office at the usual hour, and being alone in that Temple of Probity, placed his hat upon the desk, and taking from his pocket a small parcel of black crape, applied himself to folding and pinning the same upon it, after the manner of a hatband. Having completed the construction of this appendage, he surveyed his work with great complacency, and put his hat on again — very much over one eye, to increase the mournfulness of the effect. These arrangements perfected to his entire satisfaction, he thrust his hands into his pockets, and walked up and down the office with measured steps.

‘It has always been the same with me,’ said Mr Swiveller, ‘always. ’Twas ever thus — from childhood’s hour I’ve seen my fondest hopes decay, I never loved a tree or flower but ’twas the first to fade away. I never nursed a dear Gazelle, to glad me with its soft black eye, but when it came to know me well, and love me, it was sure to marry a market-gardener.’

Overpowered by these reflections, Mr Swiveller stopped short at the clients’ chair, and flung himself into its open arms.

‘And this,’ said Mr Swiveller, with a kind of bantering composure, ‘is life, I believe. Oh, certainly. Why not! I’m quite satisfied. I shall wear,’ added Richard, taking off his hat again and looking hard at it, as if he were only deterred by pecuniary considerations from spurning it with his foot, ‘I shall wear this emblem of woman’s perfidy, in remembrance of her with whom I shall never again thread the windings of the mazy; whom I shall never more pledge in the rosy; who, during the short remainder of my existence, will murder the balmy. Ha, ha, ha!’

It may be necessary to observe, lest there should appear any incongruity in the close of this soliloquy, that Mr Swiveller did not wind up with a cheerful hilarious laugh, which would have been undoubtedly at variance with his solemn reflections, but that, being in a theatrical mood, he merely achieved that performance which is designated in melodramas ‘laughing like a fiend,’ — for it seems that your fiends always laugh in syllables, and always in three syllables, never more nor less, which is a remarkable property in such gentry, and one worthy of remembrance.

The baleful sounds had hardly died away, and Mr Swiveller was still sitting in a very grim state in the clients’ chair, when there came a ring — or, if we may adapt the sound to his then humour, a knell — at the office bell. Opening the door with all speed, he beheld the expressive countenance of Mr Chuckster, between whom and himself a fraternal greeting ensued.

‘You’re devilish early at this pestiferous old slaughterhouse,’ said that gentleman, poising himself on one leg, and shaking the other in an easy manner.

‘Rather,’ returned Dick.

‘Rather!’ retorted Mr Chuckster, with that air of graceful trifling which so well became him. ‘I should think so. Why, my good feller, do you know what o’clock it is — half-past nine a.m. in the morning?’

‘Won’t you come in?’ said Dick. ‘All alone. Swiveller solus. “ ’Tis now the witching — ”’

‘“Hour of night!”’

‘“When churchyards yawn,”’

‘“And graves give up their dead.”’

At the end of this quotation in dialogue, each gentleman struck an attitude, and immediately subsiding into prose walked into the office. Such morsels of enthusiasm are common among the Glorious Apollos, and were indeed the links that bound them together, and raised them above the cold dull earth.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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