Chapter 20

by Charles Dickens

Day after day as he bent his steps homeward, returning from some new effort to procure employment, Kit raised his eyes to the window of the little room he had so much commended to the child, and hoped to see some indication of her presence. His own earnest wish, coupled with the assurance he had received from Quilp, filled him with the belief that she would yet arrive to claim the humble shelter he had offered, and from the death of each day’s hope another hope sprung up to live to-morrow.

‘I think they must certainly come to-morrow, eh mother?’ said Kit, laying aside his hat with a weary air and sighing as he spoke. ‘They have been gone a week. They surely couldn’t stop away more than a week, could they now?’

The mother shook her head, and reminded him how often he had been disappointed already.

‘For the matter of that,’ said Kit, ‘you speak true and sensible enough, as you always do, mother. Still, I do consider that a week is quite long enough for ‘em to be rambling about; don’t you say so?’

‘Quite long enough, Kit, longer than enough, but they may not come back for all that.’

Kit was for a moment disposed to be vexed by this contradiction, and not the less so from having anticipated it in his own mind and knowing how just it was. But the impulse was only momentary, and the vexed look became a kind one before it had crossed the room.

‘Then what do you think, mother, has become of ‘em? You don’t think they’ve gone to sea, anyhow?’

‘Not gone for sailors, certainly,’ returned the mother with a smile. ‘But I can’t help thinking that they have gone to some foreign country.’

‘I say,’ cried Kit with a rueful face, ‘don’t talk like that, mother.’

‘I am afraid they have, and that’s the truth,’ she said. ‘It’s the talk of all the neighbours, and there are some even that know of their having been seen on board ship, and can tell you the name of the place they’ve gone to, which is more than I can, my dear, for it’s a very hard one.’

‘I don’t believe it,’ said Kit. ‘Not a word of it. A set of idle chatterboxes, how should they know!’

‘They may be wrong of course,’ returned the mother, ‘I can’t tell about that, though I don’t think it’s at all unlikely that they’re in the right, for the talk is that the old gentleman had put by a little money that nobody knew of, not even that ugly little man you talk to me about—what’s his name—Quilp; and that he and Miss Nell have gone to live abroad where it can’t be taken from them, and they will never be disturbed. That don’t seem very far out of the way now, do it?’

Kit scratched his head mournfully, in reluctant admission that it did not, and clambering up to the old nail took down the cage and set himself to clean it and to feed the bird. His thoughts reverting from this occupation to the little old gentleman who had given him the shilling, he suddenly recollected that that was the very day—nay, nearly the very hour—at which the little old gentleman had said he should be at the Notary’s house again. He no sooner remembered this, than he hung up the cage with great precipitation, and hastily explaining the nature of his errand, went off at full speed to the appointed place.

It was some two minutes after the time when he reached the spot, which was a considerable distance from his home, but by great good luck the little old gentleman had not yet arrived; at least there was no pony-chaise to be seen, and it was not likely that he had come and gone again in so short a space. Greatly relieved to find that he was not too late, Kit leant against a lamp-post to take breath, and waited the advent of the pony and his charge.

Sure enough, before long the pony came trotting round the corner of the street, looking as obstinate as pony might, and picking his steps as if he were spying about for the cleanest places, and would by no means dirty his feet or hurry himself inconveniently. Behind the pony sat the little old gentleman, and by the old gentleman’s side sat the little old lady, carrying just such a nosegay as she had brought before.

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