When she had filled it to the brim in a very workmanlike and skilful manner, she crept upstairs again, and chuckled as she went.

'There!' cried Miggs, rubbing her hands, 'now let's see whether you won't be glad to take some notice of me, mister. He, he, he! You'll have eyes for somebody besides Miss Dolly now, I think. A fat-faced puss she is, as ever I come across!'

As she uttered this criticism, she glanced approvingly at her small mirror, as who should say, I thank my stars that can't be said of me!--as it certainly could not; for Miss Miggs's style of beauty was of that kind which Mr Tappertit himself had not inaptly termed, in private, 'scraggy.'

'I don't go to bed this night!' said Miggs, wrapping herself in a shawl, and drawing a couple of chairs near the window, flouncing down upon one, and putting her feet upon the other, 'till you come home, my lad. I wouldn't,' said Miggs viciously, 'no, not for five-and-forty pound!'

With that, and with an expression of face in which a great number of opposite ingredients, such as mischief, cunning, malice, triumph, and patient expectation, were all mixed up together in a kind of physiognomical punch, Miss Miggs composed herself to wait and listen, like some fair ogress who had set a trap and was watching for a nibble from a plump young traveller.

She sat there, with perfect composure, all night. At length, just upon break of day, there was a footstep in the street, and presently she could hear Mr Tappertit stop at the door. Then she could make out that he tried his key--that he was blowing into it-- that he knocked it on the nearest post to beat the dust out--that he took it under a lamp to look at it--that he poked bits of stick into the lock to clear it--that he peeped into the keyhole, first with one eye, and then with the other--that he tried the key again-- that he couldn't turn it, and what was worse, couldn't get it out-- that he bent it--that then it was much less disposed to come out than before--that he gave it a mighty twist and a great pull, and then it came out so suddenly that he staggered backwards--that he kicked the door--that he shook it--finally, that he smote his forehead, and sat down on the step in despair.

When this crisis had arrived, Miss Miggs, affecting to be exhausted with terror, and to cling to the window-sill for support, put out her nightcap, and demanded in a faint voice who was there.

Mr Tappertit cried 'Hush!' and, backing to the road, exhorted her in frenzied pantomime to secrecy and silence.

'Tell me one thing,' said Miggs. 'Is it thieves?'

'No--no--no!' cried Mr Tappertit.

'Then,' said Miggs, more faintly than before, 'it's fire. Where is it, sir? It's near this room, I know. I've a good conscience, sir, and would much rather die than go down a ladder. All I wish is, respecting my love to my married sister, Golden Lion Court, number twenty-sivin, second bell-handle on the right-hand door- post.'

'Miggs!' cried Mr Tappertit, 'don't you know me? Sim, you know-- Sim--'

'Oh! what about him!' cried Miggs, clasping her hands. 'Is he in any danger? Is he in the midst of flames and blazes! Oh gracious, gracious!'

'Why I'm here, an't I?' rejoined Mr Tappertit, knocking himself on the breast. 'Don't you see me? What a fool you are, Miggs!'

'There!' cried Miggs, unmindful of this compliment. 'Why--so it-- Goodness, what is the meaning of--If you please, mim, here's--'

'No, no!' cried Mr Tappertit, standing on tiptoe, as if by that means he, in the street, were any nearer being able to stop the mouth of Miggs in the garret. 'Don't!--I've been out without leave, and something or another's the matter with the lock. Come down, and undo the shop window, that I may get in that way.'

'I dursn't do it, Simmun,' cried Miggs--for that was her pronunciation of his Christian name. 'I dursn't do it, indeed. You know as well as anybody, how particular I am. And to come down in the dead of night, when the house is wrapped in slumbers and weiled in obscurity.' And there she stopped and shivered, for her modesty caught cold at the very thought.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
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