Sim Tappertit, who had far too good an opinion of himself to suspect that anybody could be playing upon him, thought within himself that this was something like the respect to which he was entitled, and drew a comparison from this courteous demeanour of a stranger, by no means favourable to the worthy locksmith.
'From what passes in our house,' said Mr Tappertit, 'I am aware, sir, that your son keeps company with a young lady against your inclinations. Sir, your son has not used me well.'
'Mr Tappertit,' said the other, 'you grieve me beyond description.'
'Thank you, sir,' replied the 'prentice. 'I'm glad to hear you say so. He's very proud, sir, is your son; very haughty.'
'I am afraid he IS haughty,' said Mr Chester. 'Do you know I was really afraid of that before; and you confirm me?'
'To recount the menial offices I've had to do for your son, sir,' said Mr Tappertit; 'the chairs I've had to hand him, the coaches I've had to call for him, the numerous degrading duties, wholly unconnected with my indenters, that I've had to do for him, would fill a family Bible. Besides which, sir, he is but a young man himself and I do not consider "thank'ee Sim," a proper form of address on those occasions.'
'Mr Tappertit, your wisdom is beyond your years. Pray go on.'
'I thank you for your good opinion, sir,' said Sim, much gratified, 'and will endeavour so to do. Now sir, on this account (and perhaps for another reason or two which I needn't go into) I am on your side. And what I tell you is this--that as long as our people go backwards and forwards, to and fro, up and down, to that there jolly old Maypole, lettering, and messaging, and fetching and carrying, you couldn't help your son keeping company with that young lady by deputy,--not if he was minded night and day by all the Horse Guards, and every man of 'em in the very fullest uniform.'
Mr Tappertit stopped to take breath after this, and then started fresh again.
'Now, sir, I am a coming to the point. You will inquire of me, "how is this to he prevented?" I'll tell you how. If an honest, civil, smiling gentleman like you--'
'No, no, I'm serious,' rejoined the 'prentice, 'I am, upon my soul. If an honest, civil, smiling gentleman like you, was to talk but ten minutes to our old woman--that's Mrs Varden--and flatter her up a bit, you'd gain her over for ever. Then there's this point got-- that her daughter Dolly,'--here a flush came over Mr Tappertit's face--'wouldn't be allowed to be a go-between from that time forward; and till that point's got, there's nothing ever will prevent her. Mind that.'
'Mr Tappertit, your knowledge of human nature--'
'Wait a minute,' said Sim, folding his arms with a dreadful calmness. 'Now I come to THE point. Sir, there is a villain at that Maypole, a monster in human shape, a vagabond of the deepest dye, that unless you get rid of and have kidnapped and carried off at the very least--nothing less will do--will marry your son to that young woman, as certainly and as surely as if he was the Archbishop of Canterbury himself. He will, sir, for the hatred and malice that he bears to you; let alone the pleasure of doing a bad action, which to him is its own reward. If you knew how this chap, this Joseph Willet--that's his name--comes backwards and forwards to our house, libelling, and denouncing, and threatening you, and how I shudder when I hear him, you'd hate him worse than I do,-- worse than I do, sir,' said Mr Tappertit wildly, putting his hair up straighter, and making a crunching noise with his teeth; 'if sich a thing is possible.'
'A little private vengeance in this, Mr Tappertit?'
'Private vengeance, sir, or public sentiment, or both combined-- destroy him,' said Mr Tappertit. 'Miggs says so too. Miggs and me both say so. We can't bear the plotting and undermining that takes place. Our souls recoil from it. Barnaby Rudge and Mrs Rudge are in it likewise; but the villain, Joseph Willet, is the ringleader. Their plottings and schemes are known to me and Miggs.