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While he addressed his clerk in these words, Mr Brass was, somewhat ostentatiously, engaged in minutely examining and holding up against the light a five-pound bank note, which he had brought in, in his hand.
Mr Richard not receiving his remarks with anything like enthusiasm, his employer turned his eyes to his face, and observed that it wore a troubled expression.
'You're out of spirits, sir,' said Brass. 'Mr Richard, sir, we should fall to work cheerfully, and not in a despondent state. It becomes us, Mr Richard, sir, to--'
Here the chaste Sarah heaved a loud sigh.
'Dear me!' said Mr Sampson, 'you too! Is anything the matter? Mr Richard, sir--'
Dick, glancing at Miss Sally, saw that she was making signals to him, to acquaint her brother with the subject of their recent conversation. As his own position was not a very pleasant one until the matter was set at rest one way or other, he did so; and Miss Brass, plying her snuff-box at a most wasteful rate, corroborated his account.
The countenance of Sampson fell, and anxiety overspread his features. Instead of passionately bewailing the loss of his money, as Miss Sally had expected, he walked on tiptoe to the door, opened it, looked outside, shut it softly, returned on tiptoe, and said in a whisper,
'This is a most extraordinary and painful circumstance--Mr Richard, sir, a most painful circumstance. The fact is, that I myself have missed several small sums from the desk, of late, and have refrained from mentioning it, hoping that accident would discover the offender; but it has not done so--it has not done so. Sally--Mr Richard, sir--this is a particularly distressing affair!'
As Sampson spoke, he laid the bank-note upon the desk among some papers, in an absent manner, and thrust his hands into his pockets. Richard Swiveller pointed to it, and admonished him to take it up.
'No, Mr Richard, sir,' rejoined Brass with emotion, 'I will not take it up. I will let it lie there, sir. To take it up, Mr Richard, sir, would imply a doubt of you; and in you, sir, I have unlimited confidence. We will let it lie there, Sir, if you please, and we will not take it up by any means.' With that, Mr Brass patted him twice or thrice on the shoulder, in a most friendly manner, and entreated him to believe that he had as much faith in his honesty as he had in his own.
Although at another time Mr Swiveller might have looked upon this as a doubtful compliment, he felt it, under the then- existing circumstances, a great relief to be assured that he was not wrongfully suspected. When he had made a suitable reply, Mr Brass wrung him by the hand, and fell into a brown study, as did Miss Sally likewise. Richard too remained in a thoughtful state; fearing every moment to hear the Marchioness impeached, and unable to resist the conviction that she must be guilty.
When they had severally remained in this condition for some minutes, Miss Sally all at once gave a loud rap upon the desk with her clenched fist, and cried, 'I've hit it!'--as indeed she had, and chipped a piece out of it too; but that was not her meaning.
'Well,' cried Brass anxiously. 'Go on, will you!'
'Why,' replied his sister with an air of triumph, 'hasn't there been somebody always coming in and out of this office for the last three or four weeks; hasn't that somebody been left alone in it sometimes--thanks to you; and do you mean to tell me that that somebody isn't the thief!'
'What somebody?' blustered Brass.
'Why, what do you call him--Kit.'
'Mr Garland's young man?'
'To be sure.'
'Never!' cried Brass. 'Never. I'll not hear of it. Don't tell me'-- said Sampson, shaking his head, and working with both his hands as if he were clearing away ten thousand cobwebs. 'I'll never believe it of him. Never!'
'I say,' repeated Miss Brass, taking another pinch of snuff, 'that he's the thief.'
'I say,' returned Sampson violently, 'that he is not. What do you mean? How dare you? Are characters to be whispered away like this? Do you know that he's the honestest and faithfullest fellow that ever lived, and that he has an irreproachable good name? Come in, come in!'
These last words were not addressed to Miss Sally, though they partook of the tone in which the indignant remonstrances that preceded them had been uttered. They were addressed to some person who had knocked at the office-door; and they had hardly passed the lips of Mr Brass, when this very Kit himself looked in.
'Is the gentleman up-stairs, sir, if you please?'
'Yes, Kit,' said Brass, still fired with an honest indignation, and frowning with knotted brows upon his sister; 'Yes Kit, he is. I am glad to see you Kit, I am rejoiced to see you. Look in again, as you come down-stairs, Kit. That lad a robber!' cried Brass when he had withdrawn, 'with that frank and open countenance! I'd trust him with untold gold. Mr Richard, sir, have the goodness to step directly to Wrasp and Co.'s in Broad Street, and inquire if they have had instructions to appear in Carkem and Painter. THAT lad a robber,' sneered Sampson, flushed and heated with his wrath. 'Am I blind, deaf, silly; do I know nothing of human nature when I see it before me? Kit a robber! Bah!'
Flinging this final interjection at Miss Sally with immeasurable scorn and contempt, Sampson Brass thrust his head into his desk, as if to shut the base world from his view, and breathed defiance from under its half-closed lid.
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The Old Curiosity Shop -- by Charles Dickens