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The Marchioness
by [?]

The Marchioness was a small servant employed by Sampson Brass and his sister Sally, as general house-worker and drudge, in which capacity she was discovered by Mr. Richard Swiveller, upon the very first day of his entering the Brass establishment as clerk.

The Brasses’ house was a small one in Bevis Marks, London, having upon its door a plate, “Brass, Solicitor,” and a bill tied to the knocker, “First floor to let to a single gentleman,” and served not only as habitation, but likewise as office for Sampson Brass,–of none too good legal repute,–and his sister; a gaunt, bony copy of her red-haired brother, who was his housekeeper, as well as his business partner.

When the Brasses decided to keep a clerk, Richard Swiveller was chosen to fill the place; and be it known to whom it may concern, that the said Richard was the merriest, laziest, weakest, most kind-hearted fellow who ever sowed a large crop of wild oats, and by a sudden stroke of good-luck found himself raised to a salaried position.

Clad in a blue jacket with a double row of gilt buttons, bought for acquatic expeditions, but now dedicated to office purposes, Richard entered upon his new duties, and during that first afternoon, while Mr. Brass and his sister were temporarily absent from the office, he began a minute examination of its contents.

Then, after assuaging his thirst with a pint of mild porter, and receiving and dismissing three or four small boys who dropped in on legal errands from other attorneys, with about as correct an understanding of their business as would have been shown by a clown in a pantomime under similar circumstances, he tried his hand at a pen-and-ink caricature of Miss Brass, in which work he was busily engaged, when there came a rapping at the office-door.

“Come in!” said Dick. “Don’t stand on ceremony. The business will get rather complicated if I have many more customers. Come in!”

“Oh, please,” said a little voice very low down in the doorway, “will you come and show the lodgings?”

Dick leaned over the table, and descried a small slipshod girl in a dirty coarse apron and bib, which left nothing of her visible but her face and feet. She might as well have been dressed in a violin case.

“Why, who are you?” said Dick.

To which the only reply was, “Oh, please, will you come and show the lodgings?”

There never was such an old-fashioned child in her looks and manner. She must have been at work from her cradle. She seemed as much afraid of Dick, as Dick was amazed at her.

“I haven’t got anything to do with the lodgings,” said Dick. “Tell ’em to call again.”

“Oh, but please will you come and show the lodgings?” returned the girl; “it’s eighteen shillings a week, and us finding plate and linen. Boots and clothes is extra, and fires in winter-time is eightpence a day.”

“Why don’t you show ’em yourself? You seem to know all about ’em,” said Dick.

“Miss Sally said I wasn’t to, because people wouldn’t believe the attendance was good if they saw how small I was, first.”

“Well, but they’ll see how small you are afterwards, won’t they?” said Dick.

“Ah! but then they’ll have taken ’em for a fortnight certain,” replied the child, with a shrewd look; “and people don’t like moving when they’re once settled.”

“This is a queer sort of thing,” muttered Dick, rising. “What do you mean to say you are–the cook?”

“Yes; I do plain cooking,” replied the child. “I’m housemaid too. I do all the work of the house.”

Just then certain sounds on the passage and staircase seemed to denote the applicant’s impatience. Richard Swiveller, therefore, hurried out to meet and treat with the single gentleman.

He was a little surprised to perceive that the sounds were occasioned by the progress upstairs of a trunk, which the single gentleman and his coachman were endeavoring to convey up the steep ascent. Mr. Swiveller followed slowly behind, entering a new protest on every stair against the house of Mr. Sampson Brass being thus taken by storm.