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CHAPTER 51 (continued)
'How are you?' said the dwarf, moistening a wafer with horrible grimaces.
The small servant, perhaps frightened by his looks, returned no audible reply; but it appeared from the motion of her lips that she was inwardly repeating the same form of expression concerning the note or message.
'Do they use you ill here? is your mistress a Tartar?' said Quilp with a chuckle.
In reply to the last interrogation, the small servant, with a look of infinite cunning mingled with fear, screwed up her mouth very tight and round, and nodded violently. Whether there was anything in the peculiar slyness of her action which fascinated Mr Quilp, or anything in the expression of her features at the moment which attracted his attention for some other reason; or whether it merely occurred to him as a pleasant whim to stare the small servant out of countenance; certain it is, that he planted his elbows square and firmly on the desk, and squeezing up his cheeks with his hands, looked at her fixedly.
'Where do you come from?' he said after a long pause, stroking his chin.
'I don't know.'
'What's your name?'
'Nonsense!' retorted Quilp. 'What does your mistress call you when she wants you?'
'A little devil,' said the child.
She added in the same breath, as if fearful of any further questioning, 'But please will you leave a card or message?'
These unusual answers might naturally have provoked some more inquiries. Quilp, however, without uttering another word, withdrew his eyes from the small servant, stroked his chin more thoughtfully than before, and then, bending over the note as if to direct it with scrupulous and hair-breadth nicety, looked at her, covertly but very narrowly, from under his bushy eyebrows. The result of this secret survey was, that he shaded his face with his hands, and laughed slyly and noiselessly, until every vein in it was swollen almost to bursting. Pulling his hat over his brow to conceal his mirth and its effects, he tossed the letter to the child, and hastily withdrew.
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