Snagsby in a melancholy whisper, "to speak as low as you can? For my little woman is a-listening somewheres, or I'll forfeit the business and five hundred pound!"
In deep dejection Mr. Snagsby sits down on his stool, with his back against his desk, protesting, "I never had a secret of my own, sir. I can't charge my memory with ever having once attempted to deceive my little woman on my own account since she named the day. I wouldn't have done it, sir. Not to put too fine a point upon it, I couldn't have done it, I dursn't have done it. Whereas, and nevertheless, I find myself wrapped round with secrecy and mystery, till my life is a burden to me."
His visitor professes his regret to hear it and asks him does he remember Jo. Mr. Snagsby answers with a suppressed groan, oh, don't he!
"You couldn't name an individual human being--except myself--that my little woman is more set and determined against than Jo," says Mr. Snagsby.
Allan asks why.
"Why?" repeats Mr. Snagsby, in his desperation clutching at the clump of hair at the back of his bald head. "How should I know why? But you are a single person, sir, and may you long be spared to ask a married person such a question!"
With this beneficent wish, Mr. Snagsby coughs a cough of dismal resignation and submits himself to hear what the visitor has to communicate.
"There again!" says Mr. Snagsby, who, between the earnestness of his feelings and the suppressed tones of his voice is discoloured in the face. "At it again, in a new direction! A certain person charges me, in the solemnest way, not to talk of Jo to any one, even my little woman. Then comes another certain person, in the person of yourself, and charges me, in an equally solemn way, not to mention Jo to that other certain person above all other persons. Why, this is a private asylum! Why, not to put too fine a point upon it, this is Bedlam, sir!" says Mr. Snagsby.
But it is better than he expected after all, being no explosion of the mine below him or deepening of the pit into which he has fallen. And being tender-hearted and affected by the account he hears of Jo's condition, he readily engages to "look round" as early in the evening as he can manage it quietly. He looks round very quietly when the evening comes, but it may turn out that Mrs. Snagsby is as quiet a manager as he.
Jo is very glad to see his old friend and says, when they are left alone, that he takes it uncommon kind as Mr. Sangsby should come so far out of his way on accounts of sich as him. Mr. Snagsby, touched by the spectacle before him, immediately lays upon the table half a crown, that magic balsam of his for all kinds of wounds.
"And how do you find yourself, my poor lad?" inquires the stationer with his cough of sympathy.
"I am in luck, Mr. Sangsby, I am," returns Jo, "and don't want for nothink. I'm more cumfbler nor you can't think. Mr. Sangsby! I'm wery sorry that I done it, but I didn't go fur to do it, sir."
The stationer softly lays down another half-crown and asks him what it is that he is sorry for having done.
"Mr. Sangsby," says Jo, "I went and giv a illness to the lady as wos and yit as warn't the t'other lady, and none of 'em never says nothink to me for having done it, on accounts of their being ser good and my having been s'unfortnet. The lady come herself and see me yesday, and she ses, 'Ah, Jo!' she ses. 'We thought we'd lost you, Jo!' she ses. And she sits down a-smilin so quiet, and don't pass a word nor yit a look upon me for having done it, she don't, and I turns agin the wall, I doos, Mr. Sangsby. And Mr. Jarnders, I see him a-forced to turn away his own self. And Mr. Woodcot, he come fur to giv me somethink fur to ease me, wot he's allus a-doin' on day and night, and wen he come a-bending over me and a-speakin up so bold, I see his tears a-fallin, Mr. Sangsby."
The softened stationer deposits another half-crown on the table. Nothing less than a repetition of that infallible remedy will relieve his feelings.