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at these same insignificant papers of yours!"
In less than two minutes' further time, Mr Gammon was sitting at Titmouse's little rickety round table, at his lodgings, with a sheet of paper, and his pens and portable inkstand before him, asking him a number of questions concerning his birth and family connexions, and taking down his answers very carefully-perhaps almost word for word. Mr Titmouse was quite surprised at the knowledge which Mr Gammon possessed of the family history of the Titmouses. As for papers, &c., Mr Titmouse succeeded in producing four or five old letters and memoranda from the bottom of his trunk, and the fly-leaf of a bible of his father's, which he did not recollect having opened before for very many years, and of which said entries, till pressed on the subject by Mr Gammon, he had been hardly even aware of the existence. With these several documents Mr Gammon was so much struck that he proposed to take them away with him, for better and more leisurely examination, and safer custody, at their office; but Mr Titmouse significantly hinted at his very recent acquaintance with Mr Gammon, who, he intimated, was at liberty to come and make exact copies of them whenever he pleased, in his (Mr Titmouse's) presence.
"Oh, certainly-yes," replied Mr Gammon, slightly colouring at the distrust implied by this observation; "I applaud your caution, Mr Tit mouse. By all means keep them, and most carefully; because, (I do not say that they are,) but it is quite possible, that they may become rather valuable."
"Thank you, sir: and now, hoping you'll excuse the liberty, I should uncommonly like to know what all this means-what is to turn up out of it at all ?"
"The law, my dear sir, is proverbially uncertain—.
"Oh, Lord! but the law can give me a hint
"Ah, yes-exactly; those are very interesting questions."
"Yes, sir; and them and a great many more I was going to ask long go, but I saw you were.
"Sir, I perceive that we have positively been absent from your place of business nearly an hour-your employers will be getting rather impatient."
"Meaning no offence sir-bother their impatience; I'm impatient, I assure you, to know what all this means. Come, sir, see how openly I have told you every thing."
"Why, certainly, you see, Mr Titmouse," said Gammon, with an agreeable smile (it was that smile of his that had been the making of Gammon)-"it is only candid in me to acknowledge that your curiosity is perfectly reasonable; and I see no difficulty in admitting that I have had a motive
"Yes, sir-and all that-I know, sir,"-hastily interrupted Titmouse, but without irritating or disturbing the placid speaker.
"And that we waited with some anxiety for the result of our advertisement." "Ah, you can't escape from that, you know, sir!" interposed Titmouse, with a confident air.
"But it is a maxim with us, my dear sir, never to be premature in any thing, especially when it may be very prejudicial; you've really no idea, my dear Mr Titmouse, of the world of mischief that is often done by precipitancy in legal matters; and in the present step of the business-the present stage, my dear sir-I really do see it necessary not to-do any thing premature, and without consulting my partners."
"Lord, sir!" exclaimed Titmouse, getting more and more irritated and impatient as he reflected on the length of his absence from Dowlas & Co's.
"I quite feel for your anxiety— so perfectly natural.”
"Oh, dear sir! if you'd only tell me the least bit
"If, my dear sir, I were to disclose just now the exact object we had in writing that advertisement in the
"How did you come to know of it at all, sir? Come, there can't be any harm."
“Not the least, my dear sir. It was in the course of business-in the urse of business."
"Is it money that's been left meor-any thing of that sort?"
"It quite pains me, I assure you, Mr Titmouse-I think, by the way"added Gammon suddenly, as something occurred to him of their previous conversation, which he was not sure of "you told me that that Bible was given you by your father.
"Oh yes, sir! yes-no doubt of it; surely that can't signify, seeing he's dead, and I'm his only son?" asked Titmouse, quickly and eagerly.
"Oh, 'tis only a circumstance—a mere circumstance; but in business, you know, Mr Titmouse, every little helps." Why, meaning no offence, sir, I can't abide being put off in this kind of way. See what I've told youyou've told me nothing at all. I hope you haven't been only making me a cat's-paw of? I hate being made a cat's-paw of, sir!"
Gracious, Mr Titmouse! how can you imagine it? You are at this moment the object of a considerable share of our anxiety
"Not meaning it rudely, sir-please to tell me at once, plainly, am I to be the better for any thing you're now about?
"That may or may not be, sir," answered Gammon, in the same imperturbable manner, drawing on his gloves, and rising from his chair. "In justice to yourself, and other parties concerned
"Oh! is any body to share in it?" exclaimed Titmouse, alarmedly.
"I am sure," said Gammon, smiling, "that you will give us credit for consulting your best interests. We sincerely desire to advance them; and this matter occupies a good deal of our time and anxiety. It-it is really," looking at his watch, "an hour since we quitted your place of business-I fear I shall get into disgrace with your employers. Will you favour us with a call at our office to-morrow night, when the business of the day is over? When do you quit at night ?"
"About a quarter to ten, sir; but, really-to-morrow night! Couldn't I come to-night, sir?"
"Not to-night, I fear, my dear sir. We have a very important engagement. Let us say to-morrow night, at a quarter past ten-shall we say that hour?"
"Well, sir, if not before-yes-I'll be with you. But I must say--" "Good-day, Mr Titmouse." They
were by this time in Oxford Street again. "Good-day, my dear sirgood-day-to-morrow night, as soon after ten as possible-eh? Good-by."
This was all that Mr Titmouse could get out of Mr Gammon, who, hailing a coach off the stand beside them, popped into it, and it was soon making its way eastward. What a miserable mixture of doubts, hopes, and fears, had Mr Gammon left Titmouse! He felt as if he were like a squeezed orange; he had told every thing he knew about himself, and got nothing in return out of the smooth, imperturbable, impenetrable Mr Gammon, but empty civilities." Lord, Lord!" thought Titmouse, as Mr Gammon's coach turned the corner; "what would I give to know half about it that that man knows! But, Mr Tag-rag! good gracious! what will he say? It's struck twelve. I've been an hour awayand he gave me ten minutes! Sha'n't I catch it ? "
And he did. person he met, on entering the shop, was his respected employer, Mr Tagrag, who, plucking his watch out of his fob, and, looking furiously at it, motioned the trembling Titmouse to follow him to the further end of the long shop, where there happened to be then no
Almost the very first
"Is this your ten minutes, sir, eh ?' "I am sorry
"Where the devil have you been, sir ?"
With that gentleman, sir, and I really did not know
"You didn't know, sir! Who cares what you know, or don't know? You know you ought to have been back fifty-five minutes ago, sir. You do, sir! Isn't your time my property, sir? Don't I pay for it, sir? An hour!in the middle of the day! My God! I've not had such a thing happen this five years! I'll stop it out of your salary, sir."
Titmouse did not attempt to interrupt him.
"What have you been gossiping about, sir?"
"Something that he wanted to say to me, sir."
"Impudence!-do you suppose I don't see your impertinence? I insist, sir, in knowing what all this gossiping with that fellow has been about?"
"Then you won't know, sir," replied Titmouse, doggedly; returning to his usual station behind the counter.
"You won't!!" "No, sir, you sha'n't know a single word about it."
"Sha'n't know a single word about it! My God! Do you know whom you're talking to, sir? Do you really know who I am, sir?-whom you are speaking to, sir?"
"Mr Tag-rag, I presume, of the firm of Dowlas, Tag-rag, and Co."one or two of his companions near him, almost turned pale at the audacity he was displaying.
"And who are you, sir, that dare to presume to bandy words with ME, sir?" enquired Tag-rag, quivering with rage.
"Tittlebat Titmouse, at your service," was the answer, in a glib tone, and with a sufficiently saucy air.
"You heard that, I hope?" enquired Tag-rag, with forced calmness, of a pale-faced young man, the nearest to him.
"Ye-es," was the meekly reluc
"Then you sha'n't leave, sir," said Tag-rag, furiously.
But I will, sir. You've given me warning; and, if you haven't, now I give you warning," replied Titmouse; turning, however, very pale, and experiencing a certain sudden sinking of the heart-for this was a serious and most unlooked-for event, and for a while put out of his head all the agitating thoughts of the last few hours. Poor Titmouse had enough to bear what with the delicate raillery and banter of his accomplished companions for the rest of the day, and the galling tyranny of Mr Tag-rag, who dogged him about all day, setting him about the most menial and troublesome offices he could, and constantly saying mortifying things to him before customers, and the state of miserable suspense in which Mr Gammon had thought fit to leave him; I say that surely all this was enough for him to bear without having to encounter at night, as he did, on his return to his lodgings, his blustering landlady, who
vowed that if she sold him out and out she'd be put off no longer-and his pertinacious and melancholy tailor, who, with sallow unshaven face, told him of five children at home, all ill of the smallpox, and his wife in an hospital-and he implored a payment on account. This sufferer succeeded in squeezing out of Titmouse seven shillings on account, and his landlady extorted ten; which staved off a distress
direful word-for some week or two longer; and so they left him in the possession of eight shillings, or so, to last till next quarter-day. He sighed heavily, barred his door, and sat down opposite his little table, on which was nothing but a solitary thin candle, and on which his eyes rested unconsciously, till the stench of it, burning right down in the socket, roused him from his wretched reverie. He then hastily threw off his clothes, and flung him. self on his bed, to pass a far more dis. mal night than he had known for years.
He ran the gauntlet at Messrs Dowlas, Tag-rag, and Co.'s all Tuesday, as he had done on the day preceding. One should have supposed that when his companions beheld him persecuted by their common employer and master, whom they all equally hated, they would have made common cause with their suffering companion, or at all events given no countenance to his persecution; yet it was far otherwise. Without stopping to analyze the feeling which produced it, (and which the moderately reflective reader may easily analyze for himself if so disposed,) I am grieved to have to say, that when all the young men saw that Tag-rag would be gratified by their cutting poor Titmouse, who, with all his little vanities and emptinesses, had never offended or injured any of them—they did so; and, when Tag-rag observed it, his miserable mind was more gratified with them by far than it had ever been before. He spoke to all of them with unusual blandness; to the sinner, Titmouse, with augmented bitterness.
A few minutes after ten o'clock that night, a gentle ringing at the bell of Messrs Quirk, Gammon, and Snap's office, announced the arrival of poor Titmouse. The door was quickly opened by a clerk, who seemed in the act of quitting for the night.
"Ah-Mr Titmouse, I presume? he enquired, with a kind of deference in his manner that Titmouse had never been accustomed to.
"The same, sir-Tittlebat Tit
"Oh! allow me, sir, to conduct you in to Messrs Quirk, Gammon, and Snap, who are, I know, in expectation of seeing you. It is very rarely that they are here at so late an hour." With this he led the way to an inner room, and opening a green-baize door in the further side of it, announced Mr Titmouse, and left him-sufficiently flustered. Three gentlemen were sitting at a large table, on which he saw, by the strong but circumscribed light of two large shaded candlesticks, were lying a great number of papers and parchments. The three gentlemen rose when he entered, and Mr Gammon came and shook hands with him.
"Mr Titmouse, let me introduce you to Mr Quirk-(This was the senior partner, a short, stout, elderly gentleman, with a shining bald head and white hair, and sharp black eyes, and who looked very earnestly at him) -and Mr Snap-(this was the junior partner, having recently been promoted to be such after ten years' service in the office of managing clerk; he was about thirty, particularly welldressed, slight, active, and with a face like a terrier-so hard, sharp, and wiry!—Mr Gammon himself was about forty, very genteel, with a ready bow, insinuating smile, and low tone of voice; his look, withal, acute and cautious.)
"A seat, Mr Titmouse," said Mr Quirk, placing a chair for him, on which he sat down, they resuming theirs.
"Punctual, Mr Titmouse!" exclaimed Mr Gammon, with a smile; "more so than, I fear, you were yesterday, after our long interview, eh? Pray what did that worthy person, Mr Ragbag, say, on your return ?"
"Say, gents?"-(he tried to clear his throat, for he spoke somewhat more thickly, and his heart beat more perceptibly, than usual)" I'm ruined by it, and no mistake."
"Ruined! I'm sorry to hear it," interposed Mr Gammon, with a concerned air.
"I am, indeed, sir. Such a towering rage as he has been in ever since; and he's given me warning to go on the 10th of next month." He thought he observed a faint smile flit over the faces of all three. "He has, indeed!"
"Dear me, Mr Titmouse--what cause did he allege for dismissing you?" keenly enquired Mr Quirk.
"Stopping out longer than I was allowed, and refusing to tell him what this gentleman and I had been talking about."
"Don't think that'll do ; sure it wont!" briskly exclaimed Mr Snap; "no just cause, that," and he jumped up, whisked down a book from the shelves behind him, and eagerly turned over the leaves.
"Never mind that now, Mr Snap," said Mr Quirk, rather petulantly; surely we have other matters to talk about to-night."
"Asking pardon, sir, but I think it does matter to me, sir," interposed Titmouse; " for on the 10th of next month I'm a beggar-being next door to it now."
"Not quite, we trust," said Mr Gammon.
"But Mr Tag-rag said he'd make me as good as one."
"That's evidence to show malice," again eagerly interjected Mr Snap, who was again tartly rebuffed by Mr Quirk; even Mr Gammon turning towards him with a surprised—" Really, Mr Snap!"
"So Mr Tag-rag said he'd make you a beggar ?" enquired Mr Quirk. "He vowed he would, sir!"
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Mr Quirk and Mr Gammon-but such a laugh! -not careless, or hearty, but subdued, and with a dash of deference in it.
"Well-it perhaps may not signify much, by that time;" and he laughed again, followed by the soft laugh of Mr Gammon, and a kind of sharp quick sound, like a bark, from Mr Snap.
"But, gents, you'll excuse me if I say I think it does signify to me, and an't any laughing matter! Without being rude, I'd rather come to business, if there's any to be done, without this laughing at me.'
"Laughing at you! my dear sir,— no, no!" exclaimed all three in a breath-"laughing with you" said Mr Quirk! By the time you mention, you may perhaps be able to laugh at Mr Rag-bag, and every body else, for
Why should we mince the matter?' he whispered, in a low tone, to Mr Gammon, who nodded acquiescence, and fixed his eyes earnestly on Titmouse.]
"I really think we are warranted in preparing to expect by that time an extraordinary change in your circum
stances." Titmouse began to tremble violently, and his hands were bedewed with a cold moisture."
"I hear, sir," he murmured; and he also heard a faint ringing in his ears. "In all human probability, Mr Titmouse," continued Mr Quirk, himself a little excited with the important communication that trembled on the tip of his tongue," you will erelong be put into possession of somewhere about Ten Thousand a-year."
The words seemed to have struck Titmouse blind-as he saw nothing for some moments; then every thing seemed swimming around him, and he felt a sort of faintness or sickness stealing over him. They had hardly been prepared for their communication's affecting their visitor so powerfully. Mr Snap hastened out and in with a glass of water; and the earnest attentions of the three soon restored Mr Titmouse to his senses. It was a good while, however, before he could appreciate the little conversation which they now and then addressed to him, or estimate the full importance of the astounding event Mr Quirk had just communicated. "May I make free to ask for a little brandy and water, gents? I feel all over in a kind of tremble, said he, some half an hour afterwards."
"Yes-by all means, Mr Titmouse. Mr Snap, will you be kind enough to order Betty to bring in a glass of brandy and water from the Jolly Thieves, next door?"-Snap shot out, gave the order, and returned in a trice. The old woman, in a few minutes' time followed, with a large tumbler of dark brandy and water, quite hot, for which Mr Gammon apologized, but Mr Titmouse said he preferred it so and soon addressed himself to the inspiriting mixture. quickly manifested its influence, reassuring him wonderfully. As he sat sipping it, Messrs Quirk, Gammon, and Snap being engaged in an earnest conversation, of which he could understand little or nothing, he had leisure to look about him, and observed that there was lying before them a large sheet of paper, at which they all of them often and earnestly looked, filled with lines, so—
them, and round and square figures. When he saw them all bending over and scrutinising this mysterious object, it puzzled him (and many a better head than his has a pedigree puzzled before) sorely, and he began to suspect it was a sort of conjuringpaper!—
"I hope, gents, that paper's all right-eh?" said he, supported by the brandy, which he had nearly finished. They turned towards him with a smile of momentary surprise, and then
"We hope so-a vast deal depends on it," said Mr Quirk, looking over his glasses at Titmouse. Now what he had hinted at, as far as he could venture to do so, was a thought that glanced across his as yet unsettled brain, that there might have been invoked more than mere earthly assistance; but he prudently pressed the matter no farther-that was all Messrs Quirk, Gammon, and Snap's look out; he had been no party to any thing of the sort, nor would he, knowingly. He also observed the same sheets of paper written all over, which Mr Gammon had filled at his (Titmouse's) room, the night before; and many new and more old-looking papers and parchments. Sometimes they addressed questions to him, but found it somewhat difficult to keep his attention up to any thing that was said to him for the wild visions that were chasing one another through his heated brain; the passage of which said visions was not a little accelerated by the large tumbler of brandy and water which he had just taken.
"Then, in fact," said Mr Gammon, as the three simultaneously sat down, after having been for some time standing poring over the paper before Mr Quirk. "Tittlebat's title accrued in 1818?"
"Precisely so,” said Mr Quirk emphatically.
"To be sure," confidently added Snap; who having devoted himself exclusively all his life to the sharpest practice of the common law as it is called, knew about as much of real property law as a snipe-but it would not do to appear ignorant, or taking no part in the matter, in the presence of the heir-at-law, and the future great client of the House.
"Well, Mr Titmouse," at length said Mr Quirk, laying aside his glasses you are likely to be one of the
with writing at the ends of each of luckiest men of your day! We may