The result of this further inspection was, to convince Mr Swiveller that the objects by which he was surrounded were real, and that he saw them, beyond all question, with his waking eyes.

‘It’s an Arabian Night, that’s what it is,’ said Richard. ‘I’m in Damascus or Grand Cairo. The Marchioness is a Genie, and having had a wager with another Genie about who is the handsomest young man alive, and the worthiest to be the husband of the Princess of China, has brought me away, room and all, to compare us together. Perhaps,’ said Mr Swiveller, turning languidly round on his pillow, and looking on that size of his bed which was next the wall, ‘the Princess may be still — No, she’s gone.’

Not feeling quite satisfied with this explanation, as, even taking it to be the correct one, it still involved a little mystery and doubt, Mr Swiveller raised the curtain again, determined to take the first favourable opportunity of addressing his companion. An occasion presented itself. The Marchioness dealt, turned up a knave, and omitted to take the usual advantage; upon which Mr Swiveller called out as loud as he could — ‘Two for his heels!’

The Marchioness jumped up quickly, and clapped her hands. ‘Arabian Night, certainly,’ thought Mr Swiveller; ‘they always clap their hands instead of ringing the bell. Now for the two thousand black slaves, with jars of jewels on their heads!’

It appeared, however, that she had only clapped her hands in joy; for directly afterward she began to laugh, and then to cry; declaring, not in choice Arabic but in familiar English, that she was ‘so glad, she didn’t know what to do.’

‘Marchioness,’ said Mr Swiveller, thoughtfully, ‘be pleased to draw nearer. First of all, will you have the goodness to inform me where I shall find my voice; and secondly, what has become of my flesh?’

The Marchioness only shook her head mournfully, and cried again; whereupon Mr Swiveller (being very weak) felt his own eyes affected likewise.

‘I begin to infer, from your manner and these appearances, Marchioness,’ — said Richard after a pause, and smiling with a trembling lip, ‘that I have been ill.’

‘You just have!’ replied the small servant, wiping her eyes. ‘And haven’t you been a talking nonsense!’

‘Oh!’ said Dick. ‘Very ill, Marchioness, have been?’

‘Dead, all but,’ replied the small servant. ‘I never thought you’d get better. Thank Heaven you have!’

Mr Swiveller was silent for a long while. By and bye, he began to talk again — inquiring how long he had been there.

‘Three weeks tomorrow,’ replied the small servant.

‘Three what?’ said Dick.

‘Weeks,’ returned the Marchioness emphatically; ‘three long, slow weeks.’

The bare thought of having been in such extremity caused Richard to fall into another silence, and to lie flat down again at his full length. The Marchioness, having arranged the bed-clothes more comfortably, and felt that his hands and forehead were quite cool — a discovery that filled her with delight — cried a little more, and then applied herself to getting tea ready, and making some thin dry toast.

While she was thus engaged, Mr Swiveller looked on with a grateful heart, very much astonished to see how thoroughly at home she made herself, and attributing this attention, in its origin, to Sally Brass, whom, in his own mind, he could not thank enough. When the Marchioness had finished her toasting, she spread a clean cloth on a tray, and brought him some crisp slices and a great basin of weak tea,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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