|Back||1 2 3 4||Next|
'Not for a score of worlds,' replied the dwarf with a grin. 'Not even to have a score of mothers-in-law at the same time--and what a blessing that would be!'
'My daughter's your wife, Mr Quilp, certainly,' said the old lady with a giggle, meant for satirical and to imply that he needed to be reminded of the fact; 'your wedded wife.'
'So she is, certainly. So she is,' observed the dwarf.
'And she has has a right to do as she likes, I hope, Quilp,' said the old lady trembling, partly with anger and partly with a secret fear of her impish son-in-law.
'Hope she has!' he replied. 'Oh! Don't you know she has? Don't you know she has, Mrs Jiniwin?
'I know she ought to have, Quilp, and would have, if she was of my way of thiniking.'
'Why an't you of your mother's way of thinking, my dear?' said the dwarf, turing round and addressing his wife, 'why don't you always imitate your mother, my dear? She's the ornament of her sex--your father said so every day of his life. I am sure he did.'
'Her father was a blessed creetur, Quilp, and worthy twenty thousand of some people,' said Mrs Jiniwin; 'twenty hundred million thousand.'
'I should like to have known him,' remarked the dwarf. 'I dare say he was a blessed creature then; but I'm sure he is now. It was a happy release. I believe he had suffered a long time?'
The old lady gave a gasp, but nothing came of it; Quilp resumed, with the same malice in his eye and the same sarcastic politeness on his tongue.
'You look ill, Mrs Jiniwin; I know you have been exciting yourself too much--talking perhaps, for it is your weakness. Go to bed. Do go to bed.'
'I shall go when I please, Quilp, and not before.'
'But please to do now. Do please to go now,' said the dwarf.
The old woman looked angrily at him, but retreated as he advanced, and falling back before him, suffered him to shut the door upon her and bolt her out among the guests, who were by this time crowding downstairs. Being left along with his wife, who sat trembling in a corner with her eyes fixed upon the ground, the little man planted himself before her, and folding his arms looked steadily at her for a long time without speaking.
'Mrs Quilp,' he said at last.
'Yes, Quilp,' she replead meekly.
Instead of pursing the theme he had in his mind, Quilp folded his arms again, and looked at her more sternly than before, while she averted her eyes and kept them on the ground.
'If ever you listen to these beldames again, I'll bite you.'
With this laconic threat, which he accompanied with a snarl that gave him the appearance of being particularly in earnest, Mr Quilp bade her clear the teaboard away, and bring the rum. The spirit being set before him in a huge case-bottle, which had originally come out of some ship's locker, he settled himself in an arm-chair with his large head and face squeezed up against the back, and his little legs planted on the table.
'Now, Mrs Quilp,' he said; 'I feel in a smoking humour, and shall probably blaze away all night. But sit where you are, if you please, in case I want you.'
His wife returned no other reply than the necessary 'Yes, Quilp,' and the small lord of the creation took his first cigar and mixed his first glass of grog. The sun went down and the stars peeped out, the Tower turned from its own proper colours to grey and from grey to black, the room became perfectly dark and the end of the cigar a deep fiery red, but still Mr Quilp went on smoking and drinking in the same position, and staring listlessly out of window with the doglike smile always on his face, save when Mrs Quilp made some involuntary movement of restlessness or fatigue; and then it expanded into a grin of delight.
|Back||1 2 3 4||Next|
The Old Curiosity Shop -- by Charles Dickens