فصل 11

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فصل 11

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Chapter eleven

Richard Gets a Job

The simple and cheap office of Mr Sampson Brass (who you might remember was Quilp’s lawyer) was in a narrow street somewhere in London. There was a sign on the door that said, ‘Mr Sampson Brass, Lawyer,’ and another sign in the window which read, ‘First-floor room available to rent to a single gentleman.’

Miss Sally Brass, the lawyer’s sister, also spent her life working in this office. She was a lady of about thirty-five, who was very tall and thin and looked almost exactly the same as her brother. She had the same red hair and the same ugly nose. Her voice was deep and serious, and once you heard it you never forgot it. She was serious and hard-working and took pleasure in annoying her brother. It was a surprise, with all these attractive qualities, that no man had ever asked to marry her. Instead, she had spent her life studying law.

‘Why do we need a clerk?’ Miss Sally Brass asked her brother that morning. ‘I’ve always helped you in the office, so why do we need one now?’

‘Because Mr Quilp tells me I need one,’ he replied. ‘Mr Quilp is our biggest client. Nearly all of our work comes from him. He has told me that this Mr Swiveller, a friend of his, is perfect for the job of clerk, so what can I do? If we say no, we’ll lose all our work.’

Miss Sally did not reply, but looked coldly at him and went on with her work.

A while later there was a knock at the front door. But before Mr Brass could stand up, the door opened and in walked Mr Quilp himself, with Richard Swiveller behind him, looking uncomfortable.

‘Here he is,’ said Quilp, ‘my dear friend Mr Richard Swiveller. He is from a good family and I’m sure in the end he’ll inherit a lot of money. But he’s young and he hasn’t made very good decisions. So he is happy to accept your very kind offer of a job here as your clerk. He can start today.’

Mr Brass did not remember making the kind offer that Quilp had just mentioned. However, he stood up, put a smile on his face, shook hands with the new gentleman and then said goodbye to Quilp.

Mr Richard Swiveller was given a seat and was asked to copy out a document. About an hour later Mr Brass and Sally told him that they were going out. If anybody came to the office, they explained, he should tell them to come back later.

Richard stopped working the minute the pair had gone. He sat back and relaxed in his chair. Not long after, there was a knock at the front door. At first he did not answer it, but the person knocked again and again. Then he heard feet on the stairs. When it was clear that the knocking was not going to stop, Richard stood up and went into the hallway, where a very small, thin girl was standing at the top of the cellar steps. ‘Who are you?’ asked Richard in surprise.

The girl, who looked dirty and frightened, did not answer the question but said, Oh please, sir. Will you open the door and show him the room for rent?’

‘I don’t know anything about the room,’ said Richard. ‘Why don’t you show him yourself?’

‘Miss Sally said I wasn’t allowed to. It’s eighteen shillings a week and I cook and wash the clothes,’ she said quietly and quickly.

‘What?’ cried Richard. ‘You mean that you are the cook?’ The girl disappeared down the stairs, so Richard opened the front door. A bald, well-dressed gentleman stood there.

‘I see that you have a room for a single gentleman to rent,’ he said, pointing to the sign in the window. He walked past Richard and up the stairs, asking as he went, ‘How much does it cost?’

Richard, thinking quickly, decided to try his luck and ask for a higher rent. ‘It’s one pound a week, sir. And you will need to pay two weeks’ rent in advance.’

‘I’ll take it,’ replied the gentleman when he had seen the room. ‘But I’ll stay for more than two weeks. I will be here for two years. Here, I’ll pay you ten pounds right now. I’m quite a private person and I don’t want to be disturbed. I want to come and go when I want to, sleep when I want to.’ He was certainly an unusual man.

When Mr Brass returned home he was delighted to hear about the new lodger and how much he had agreed to pay.

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