(I read much less elegantly/yellow-ly)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Dickens Ladies 3

The Old Curiosity Shop: the Marchioness. A miserably-treated but spunky servant girl who strikes up a friendship with the book's other amazing character,  Richard Swiveller, who is a sort of benignant ne'er do well clerk at the law office where she works/ is neglected/ bullied by her evil mistress who is ACTUALLY SECRETLY HER MOTHER GASP. In this generally overwrought novel that oozes with saccharine sentiment, the Dick- Marchioness plot line is genuinely super touching because they are original, charming, lively and weird. We all know Dickens' how eccentrics are the best. And while Little Nell is being a flowery, infuriating sadsack, the Marchioness is learning cribbage and generally being awesome.

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 "Mr Swiveller began to think that on those evenings when Mr and Miss Brass were out (and they often went out now) he heard a kind of snorting or hard-breathing sound in the direction of the door, which it occurred to him, after some reflection, must proceed from the small servant, who always had a cold from damp living.
Looking intently that way one night, he plainly distinguished an eye gleaming and glistening at the keyhole; and having now no doubt that his suspicions were correct, he stole softly to the door and pounced upon her before she was aware of his approach.
"Oh! I didn't mean any harm indeed. Upon my word I didn't," cried the small servant, struggling like a much larger one. "It's so very dull down-stairs. Please don't you tell upon me; please don't."
"Tell upon you!" said Dick. "Do you mean to say you were looking through the keyhole for company?"
"Yes, upon my word I was," replied the small servant.
"How long have you been cooling your eye there?" said Dick.
"Oh, ever since you first began to play them cards, and long before."
Vague recollections of several fantastic exercises such as dancing around the room, and bowing to imaginary people with which he had refreshed himself after the fatigues of business; all of which, no doubt, the small servant had seen through the keyhole, made Mr. Swiveller feel rather awkward; but he was not very sensitive on such points, and recovered himself speedily.
"Well--come in," he said, after a little thought. "Here--sit down, and I'll teach you how to play."
"Oh! I durstn't do it," rejoined the small servant. "Miss Sally 'ud kill me, if she know'd I came up here."
"Have you got a fire down-stairs?" said Dick.
"A very little one," replied the small servant.
"Miss Sally couldn't kill me if she know'd I went down there, so I'll come," said Richard, putting the cards into his pocket. "Why, how thin you are! What do you mean by it?"
"It ain't my fault."
"Could you eat any bread and meat?" said Dick, taking down his hat. "Yes? Ah! I thought so. Did you ever taste beer?"
'I had a sip of it once,' said the small servant.
"Here's a state of things!" cried Mr. Swiveller, raising his eyes to the ceiling. "She never tasted it--it can't be tasted in a sip!
Why, how old are you?"
"I don't know."
Mr. Swiveller opened his eyes very wide and appeared thoughtful for a moment; then, bidding the child mind the door until he came back, vanished straightway. Presently he returned, followed by the boy from the public house, who bore in one hand a plate of bread and beef and in the other a great pot, filled with some very fragrant compound…Relieving the boy of his burden at the door, and charging his little companion to fasten it to prevent surprise, Mr. Swiveller followed her into the kitchen.There!" said Richard, putting the plate before her. "First of all, clear that off, and then you'll see what's next."
The small servant needed no second bidding, and the plate was soon empty...
"Now," said Mr. Swiveller, putting two sixpences into a saucer, and trimming the wretched candle, when the cards had been cut and dealt, "those are the stakes. If you win, you get 'em all. If I win, I get 'em. To make it seem more real and pleasant, I shall call you the Marchioness, do you hear?"
The small servant nodded.
 'Then, Marchioness,' said Mr Swiveller, 'fire away!'
The Marchioness, holding her cards very tight in both hands, considered which to play, and Mr Swiveller, assuming the gay and fashionable air which such society required, took another pull at the tankard, and waited for her lead."

They're my favorite, the end.

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