‘Well, and how are you my buck?’ said Mr Chuckster, taking a stool. ‘I was forced to come into the City upon some little private matters of my own, and couldn’t pass the corner of the street without looking in, but upon my soul I didn’t expect to find you. It is so everlastingly early.’

Mr Swiveller expressed his acknowledgments; and it appearing on further conversation that he was in good health, and that Mr Chuckster was in the like enviable condition, both gentlemen, in compliance with a solemn custom of the ancient Brotherhood to which they belonged, joined in a fragment of the popular duet of ‘All’s Well,’ with a long shake at the end.

‘And what’s the news?’ said Richard.

‘The town’s as flat, my dear feller,’ replied Mr Chuckster, ‘as the surface of a Dutch oven. There’s no news. By-the-bye, that lodger of yours is a most extraordinary person. He quite eludes the most vigorous comprehension, you know. Never was such a feller!’

‘What has he been doing now?’ said Dick.

‘By Jove, Sir,’ returned Mr Chuckster, taking out an oblong snuff-box, the lid whereof was ornamented with a fox’s head curiously carved in brass, ‘that man is an unfathomable. Sir, that man has made friends with our articled clerk. There’s no harm in him, but he is so amazingly slow and soft. Now, if he wanted a friend, why couldn’t he have one that knew a thing or two, and could do him some good by his manners and conversation. I have my faults, sir,’ said Mr Chuckster. —

‘No, no,’ interposed Mr Swiveller.

‘Oh yes I have, I have my faults, no man knows his faults better than I know mine. But,’ said Mr Chuckster, ‘I’m not meek. My worst enemies — every man has his enemies, Sir, and I have mine — never accused me of being meek. And I tell you what, Sir, if I hadn’t more of these qualities that commonly endear man to man, than our articled clerk has, I’d steal a Cheshire cheese, tie it round my neck, and drown myself. I’d die degraded, as I had lived. I would upon my honour.’

Mr Chuckster paused, rapped the fox’s head exactly on the nose with the knuckle of the fore-finger, took a pinch of snuff, and looked steadily at Mr Swiveller, as much as to say that if he thought he was going to sneeze, he would find himself mistaken.

‘Not contented, Sir,’ said Mr Chuckster, ‘with making friends with Abel, he has cultivated the acquaintance of his father and mother. Since he came home from that wild-goose chase, he has been there — actually been there. He patronises young Snobby besides; you’ll find, Sir, that he’ll be constantly coming backwards and forwards to this place: yet I don’t suppose that beyond the common forms of civility, he has ever exchanged half-a-dozen words with me. Now, upon my soul, you know,’ said Mr Chuckster, shaking his head gravely, as men are wont to do when they consider things are going a little too far, ‘this is altogether such a low-minded affair, that if I didn’t feel for the governor, and know that he could never get on without me, I should be obliged to cut the connection. I should have no alternative.’

Mr Swiveller, who sat on another stool opposite to his friend, stirred the fire in an excess of sympathy, but said nothing.

‘As to young Snob, Sir,’ pursued Mr Chuckster with a prophetic look, ‘you’ll find he’ll turn out bad. In our profession we know something of human nature, and take my word for it, that the feller that came back to work out that shilling, will show himself one of these days in his true colours. He’s a low thief, Sir. He must be.’

Mr Chuckster being roused, would probably have pursued this subject further, and in more emphatic language, but for a tap at the door, which seeming to announce the arrival of somebody on business, caused him to assume a greater appearance of meekness than was perhaps quite consistent with his

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