That I have come back, maimed and crippled? You know that.'
'It was took off,' muttered Mr Willet,with his eyes upon the fire, 'at the defence of the Salwanners, in America, where the war is.'
'Quite right,' returned Joe, smiling, and leaning with his remaining elbow on the back of his father's chair; 'the very subject I came to speak to you about. A man with one arm, father, is not of much use in the busy world.'
This was one of those vast propositions which Mr Willet had never considered for an instant, and required time to 'tackle.' Wherefore he made no answer.
'At all events,' said Joe, 'he can't pick and choose his means of earning a livelihood, as another man may. He can't say "I will turn my hand to this," or "I won't turn my hand to that," but must take what he can do, and be thankful it's no worse.--What did you say?'
Mr Willet had been softly repeating to himself, in a musing tone, the words 'defence of the Salwanners:' but he seemed embarrassed at having been overheard, and answered 'Nothing.'
'Now look here, father.--Mr Edward has come to England from the West Indies. When he was lost sight of (I ran away on the same day, father), he made a voyage to one of the islands, where a school-friend of his had settled; and, finding him, wasn't too proud to be employed on his estate, and--and in short, got on well, and is prospering, and has come over here on business of his own, and is going back again speedily. Our returning nearly at the same time, and meeting in the course of the late troubles, has been a good thing every way; for it has not only enabled us to do old friends some service, but has opened a path in life for me which I may tread without being a burden upon you. To be plain, father, he can employ me; I have satisfied myself that I can be of real use to him; and I am going to carry my one arm away with him, and to make the most of it.
In the mind's eye of Mr Willet, the West Indies, and indeed all foreign countries, were inhabited by savage nations, who were perpetually burying pipes of peace, flourishing tomahawks, and puncturing strange patterns in their bodies. He no sooner heard this announcement, therefore, than he leaned back in his chair, took his pipe from his lips, and stared at his son with as much dismay as if he already beheld him tied to a stake, and tortured for the entertainment of a lively population. In what form of expression his feelings would have found a vent, it is impossible to say. Nor is it necessary: for, before a syllable occurred to him, Dolly Varden came running into the room, in tears, threw herself on Joe's breast without a word of explanation, and clasped her white arms round his neck.
'Dolly!' cried Joe. 'Dolly!'
'Ay, call me that; call me that always,' exclaimed the locksmith's little daughter; 'never speak coldly to me, never be distant, never again reprove me for the follies I have long repented, or I shall die, Joe.'
'I reprove you!' said Joe.
'Yes--for every kind and honest word you uttered, went to my heart. For you, who have borne so much from me--for you, who owe your sufferings and pain to my caprice--for you to be so kind--so noble to me, Joe--'
He could say nothing to her. Not a syllable. There was an odd sort of eloquence in his one arm, which had crept round her waist: but his lips were mute.
'If you had reminded me by a word--only by one short word,' sobbed Dolly, clinging yet closer to him, 'how little I deserved that you should treat me with so much forbearance; if you had exulted only for one moment in your triumph, I could have borne it better.'
'Triumph!' repeated Joe, with a smile which seemed to say, 'I am a pretty figure for that.'
'Yes, triumph,' she cried, with her whole heart and soul in her earnest voice, and gushing tears; 'for it is one. I am glad to think and know it is. I wouldn't be less humbled, dear--I wouldn't be without the recollection of that last time we spoke together in this place--no, not if I could recall the past, and make our parting, yesterday.'
Did ever lover look as Joe looked now!
'Dear Joe,' said Dolly, 'I always loved you--in my own heart I always did, although I was so vain and giddy.