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Summary Chapter 49

Mr. Quilp does not pursue the Nubbles. He returns home. He didn’t notify his wife of his trip. He delights in how upset she’ll be, since he has been gone for several days. He is furious, though, when he sees that the house is brightly lit—which does not give it the appearance of a house in mourning. He also hears a gentleman talking inside, and he realizes they are entertaining a guest.

Having forgotten his key, he knocks on the door. Tom Scott, the tumbling boy in his employ, answers the door. Quilp drags him into the street and asks who the visitor is. The boy, in between giggles—which annoy Quilp further—tells him that everyone thinks he is dead. They believe he drowned in the wharf, since that was the last place he had been seen.

Quilp is pleased at the prospect of disappointing them. The boy also finds this to be amusing. Quilp quietly makes his way upstairs. He goes into a room next to the one his family and the guests are in. He can see and hear everything going on in the next room.

He sees Sampson Brass and Mrs. Jiniwin drinking heartily at the table. Mrs. Quilp is sitting in a chair, looking sorrowful even though she is not dressed in mourning. There are two mariners carrying drags, who are also partaking of the drink and food. Mr. Quilp thinks he could die happy if he could poison Mrs. Jiniwin.

Brass reflects on how Quilp may be looking down on them now, and how fragile life is. One second you’re here, and the next you’re up there. He asks the mariners if the search has been unsuccessful, which they confirm. They suspect he will wash up with the tide. Brass and Mrs. Jiniwin both remark it will be a comfort to have his body.

Brass is working on a descriptive advertisement. Brass, Mrs. Jiniwin, and Betsy Quilp can’t agree on how crooked Quilp’s legs were. Quilp is insulted to see how Mrs. Jiniwin makes him more deformed in appearance than he is. When she says his nose is flat, he pokes his head into the room and says it is aquiline.

Brass praises Quilp’s whimsical ability to take people by surprise. Mrs. Jiniwin flees the room. Betsy Quilp shrieks and faints. Brass and the two mariners take their leave. Brass spouts compliments all the way down the stairs, and the two mariners are stupefied.

Charles Dickens