Is it good news, pleasant news, news to make a man skip and snap his fingers? said the dwarf. Is the dear old lady dead?
I dont know what news it is, or whether its good or bad, rejoined his wife.
Then shes alive, said Quilp, and theres nothing the matter with her. Go home again, you bird of evil note, go home!
I have brought a letter cried the meek little woman.
Toss it in at the window here, and go your ways, said Quilp, interrupting her, or Ill come out and scratch you.
No, but please, Quilp do hear me speak, urged his submissive wife, in tears. Please do!
Speak then, growled the dwarf with a malicious grin. Be quick and short about it. Speak, will you?
It was left at our house this afternoon, said Mrs Quilp, trembling, by a boy who said he didnt know from whom it came, but that it was given to him to leave, and that he was told to say it must be brought on to you directly, for it was of the very greatest consequence. But please, she added, as her husband stretched out his hand for it, please let me in. You dont know how wet and cold I am, or how many times I have lost my way in coming here through this thick fog. Let me dry myself at the fire for five minutes. Ill go away directly you tell me to, Quilp. Upon my word I will.
Her amiable husband hesitated for a few moments; but, bethinking himself that the letter might require some answer, of which she could be the bearer, closed the window, opened the door, and bade her enter. Mrs Quilp obeyed right willingly, and, kneeling down before the fire to warm her hands, delivered into his a little packet.
Im glad youre wet, said Quilp, snatching it, and squinting at her. Im glad youre cold. Im glad you lost your way. Im glad your eyes are red with crying. It does my heart good to see your little nose so pinched and frosty.
Oh Quilp! sobbed his wife. How cruel it is of you!
Did she think I was dead? said Quilp, wrinkling his face into a most extraordinary series of grimaces. Did she think she was going to have all the money, and to marry somebody she liked! Ha ha ha! Did she?
These taunts elicited no reply from the poor little woman, who remained on her knees, warming her hands, and sobbing, to Mr Quilps great delight. But as he was contemplating her, and chuckling excessively, he happened to observe that Tom Scott was delighted too; wherefore, that he might have no presumptuous partner in his glee, the dwarf instantly collared him, dragged him to the door, and after a short scuffle, kicked him into the yard. In return for this mark of attention, Tom immediately walked upon his hands to the window, and if the expression be allowable looked in with his shoes: besides rattling his feet upon the glass like a Banshee upside down. As a matter of course, Mr Quilp lost no time in resorting to the infallible poker, with which, after some dodging and lying in ambush, he paid his young friend one or two such unequivocal compliments that he vanished precipitately, and left him in quiet possession of the field.
So! That little job being disposed of, said the dwarf, coolly, Ill read my letter. Humph! he muttered, looking at the direction. I ought to know this writing. Beautiful Sally!
Opening it, he read, in a fair, round, legal hand, as follows:
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