‘Why then,’ said Brass, suddenly turning upon him and thrusting his face close to Kit’s with such a repulsive smile that the latter, even in the very height of his gratitude, drew back quite startled. ‘Why then, it’s done.’

Kit looked at him in some confusion.

‘Done, I say—’ added Sampson, rubbing his hands and veiling himself again in his usual oily manner. ‘Ha ha! and so you shall find, Kit, so you shall find. But dear me,’ said Brass, ‘what a time Mr Richard is gone! A sad loiterer to be sure! Will you mind the office one minute, while I run upstairs? Only one minute. I’ll not detain you an instant longer, on any account, Kit.’

Talking as he went, Mr Brass bustled out of the office, and in a very short time returned. Mr Swiveller came back almost at the same instant; and as Kit was leaving the room hastily to make up for lost time, Miss Brass herself encountered him in the doorway.

‘Oh!’ sneered Sally, looking after him as she entered. ‘There goes your pet, Sammy, eh?’

‘Ah! There he goes,’ replied Brass. ‘My pet, if you please. An honest fellow, Mr Richard, Sir—a worthy fellow indeed!’

‘Hem!’ coughed Miss Brass.

‘I tell you, you aggravating vagabond,’ said the angry Sampson, ‘that I’d stake my life upon his honesty. Am I never to hear the last of this? Am I always to be baited, and beset, by your mean suspicions? Have you no regard for true merit, you malignant fellow? If you come to that, I’d sooner suspect your honesty than his.’

Miss Sally pulled out the tin snuff-box, and took a long, slow pinch, regarding her brother with a steady gaze all the time.

‘She drives me wild, Mr Richard, Sir,’ said Brass, ‘she exasperates me beyond all bearing. I am heated and excited, Sir, I know I am. These are not business manners, Sir, nor business looks, but she carries me out of myself.’

‘Why don’t you leave him alone?’ said Dick.

‘Because she can’t, Sir,’ retorted Brass; ‘because to chafe and vex me is a part of her nature, Sir, and she will and must do it, or I don’t believe she’d have her health. But never mind,’ said Brass, ‘never mind. I’ve carried my point. I’ve shown my confidence in the lad. He has minded the office again. Ha ha! Ugh, you viper!’

The beautiful virgin took another pinch, and put the snuff-box in her pocket; still looking at her brother with perfect composure.

‘He has minded the office again,’ said Brass triumphantly; ‘he has had my confidence, and he shall continue to have it; he—why, where’s the—’

‘What have you lost?’ inquired Mr Swiveller.

‘Dear me!’ said Brass, slapping all his pockets one after another, and looking into his desk, and under it, and upon it, and wildly tossing the papers about, ‘the note, Mr Richard, Sir, the five-pound note—what can have become of it? I laid it down here—God bless me!’

‘What!’ cried Miss Sally, starting up, clapping her hands, and scattering the papers on the floor. ‘Gone! Now, who’s right? Now, who’s got it? Never mind five pounds—what’s five pounds? He’s honest you know, quite honest. It would be mean to suspect him. Don’t run after him. No, no, not for the world!’

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