'Left an infant by my parents, at an early age,' said Mr Swiveller, bewailing his hard lot, 'cast upon the world in my tenderest period, and thrown upon the mercies of a deluding dwarf, who can wonder at my weakness! Here's a miserable orphan for you. Here,' said Mr Swiveller raising his voice to a high pitch, and looking sleepily round, 'is a miserable orphan!'
'Then,' said somebody hard by, 'let me be a father to you.'
Mr Swiveller swayed himself to and fro to preserve his balance, and, looking into a kind of haze which seemed to surround him, at last perceived two eyes dimly twinkling through the mist, which he observed after a short time were in the neighbourhood of a nose and mouth. Casting his eyes down towards that quarter in which, with reference to a man's face, his legs are usually to be found, he observed that the face had a body attached; and when he looked more intently he was satisfied that the person was Mr Quilp, who indeed had been in his company all the time, but whom he had some vague idea of having left a mile or two behind.
'You have deceived an orphan, Sir,' said Mr Swiveller solemnly.'
'I! I'm a second father to you,' replied Quilp.
'You my father, Sir!' retorted Dick. 'Being all right myself, Sir, I request to be left alone--instantly, Sir.'
'What a funny fellow you are!' cried Quilp.
'Go, Sir,' returned Dick, leaning against a post and waving his hand. 'Go, deceiver, go, some day, Sir, p'r'aps you'll waken, from pleasure's dream to know, the grief of orphans forsaken. Will you go, Sir?'
The dwarf taking no heed of this adjuration, Mr Swiveller advanced with the view of inflicting upon him condign chastisement. But forgetting his purpose or changing his mind before he came close to him, he seized his hand and vowed eternal friendship, declaring with an agreeable frankness that from that time forth they were brothers in everything but personal appearance. Then he told his secret over again, with the addition of being pathetic on the subject of Miss Wackles, who, he gave Mr Quilp to understand, was the occasion of any slight incoherency he might observe in his speech at that moment, which was attributable solely to the strength of his affection and not to rosy wine or other fermented liquor. And then they went on arm-in-arm, very lovingly together.
'I'm as sharp,' said Quilp to him, at parting, 'as sharp as a ferret, and as cunning as a weazel. You bring Trent to me; assure him that I'm his friend though i fear he a little distrusts me (I don't know why, I have not deserved it); and you've both of you made your fortunes--in perspective.'
'That's the worst of it,' returned Dick. 'These fortunes in perspective look such a long way off.'
'But they look smaller than they really are, on that account,' said Quilp, pressing his arm. 'You'll have no conception of the value of your prize until you draw close to it. Mark that.'
'D'ye think not?' said Dick.
'Aye, I do; and I am certain of what I say, that's better,' returned the dwarf. 'You bring Trent to me. Tell him I am his friend and yours--why shouldn't I be?'
'There's no reason why you shouldn't, certainly,' replied Dick, 'and perhaps there are a great many why you should--at least there would be nothing strange in your wanting to be my friend, if you were a choice spirit, but then you know you're not a choice spirit.'
'I not a choice spirit?' cried Quilp.
'Devil a bit,sir,' returned Dick. 'A man of your appearance couldn't be. If you're any spirit at all,sir, you're an evil spirit. Choice spirits,' added Dick, smiting himself on the breast, 'are quite a different looking sort of people, you may take your oath of that,sir.'
Quilp glanced at his free-spoken friend with a mingled expression of cunning and dislike, and wringing his hand almost at the same moment, declared that he was an uncommon character and had his warmest esteem. With that they parted; Mr Swiveller to make the best of his way home and sleep himself sober; and Quilp to cogitate upon the discovery he had made, and exult in the prospect of the rich field of enjoyment and reprisal it opened to him.