'Very fine talking, Tom; but I'm at Pecksniff's, I remember, and perhaps a mile or so out of the high-road to fortune just at this minute. So you've heard again this morning from what's his name, eh?'
'Who may that be?' asked Tom, seeming to enter a mild protest on behalf of the dignity of an absent person.
'YOU know. What is it? Northkey.'
'Westlock,' rejoined Tom, in rather a louder tone than usual.
'Ah! to be sure,' said Martin, 'Westlock. I knew it was something connected with a point of the compass and a door. Well! and what says Westlock?'
'Oh! he has come into his property,' answered Tom, nodding his head, and smiling.
'He's a lucky dog,' said Martin. 'I wish it were mine instead. Is that all the mystery you were to tell me?'
'No,' said Tom; 'not all.'
'What's the rest?' asked Martin.
'For the matter of that,' said Tom, 'it's no mystery, and you won't think much of it; but it's very pleasant to me. John always used to say when he was here, "Mark my words, Pinch. When my father's executors cash up"--he used strange expressions now and then, but that was his way.'
'Cash-up's a very good expression,' observed Martin, 'when other people don't apply it to you. Well!--What a slow fellow you are, Pinch!'
'Yes, I am I know,' said Tom; 'but you'll make me nervous if you tell me so. I'm afraid you have put me out a little now, for I forget what I was going to say.'
'When John's father's executors cashed up,' said Martin impatiently.
'Oh yes, to be sure,' cried Tom; 'yes. "Then," says John, "I'll give you a dinner, Pinch, and come down to Salisbury on purpose." Now, when John wrote the other day--the morning Pecksniff left, you know--he said his business was on the point of being immediately settled, and as he was to receive his money directly, when could I meet him at Salisbury? I wrote and said, any day this week; and I told him besides, that there was a new pupil here, and what a fine fellow you were, and what friends we had become. Upon which John writes back this letter'--Tom produced it--'fixes to-morrow; sends his compliments to you; and begs that we three may have the pleasure of dining together; not at the house where you and I were, either; but at the very first hotel in the town. Read what he says.'
'Very well,' said Martin, glancing over it with his customary coolness; 'much obliged to him. I'm agreeable.'
Tom could have wished him to be a little more astonished, a little more pleased, or in some form or other a little more interested in such a great event. But he was perfectly self-possessed; and falling into his favourite solace of whistling, took another turn at the grammar-school, as if nothing at all had happened.
Mr Pecksniff's horse being regarded in the light of a sacred animal, only to be driven by him, the chief priest of that temple, or by some person distinctly nominated for the time being to that high office by himself, the two young men agreed to walk to Salisbury; and so, when the time came, they set off on foot; which was, after all, a better mode of travelling than in the gig, as the weather was very cold and very dry.
Better! A rare strong, hearty, healthy walk--four statute miles an hour--preferable to that rumbling, tumbling, jolting, shaking, scraping, creaking, villanous old gig? Why, the two things will not admit of comparison. It is an insult to the walk, to set them side by side. Where is an instance of a gig having ever circulated a man's blood, unless when, putting him in danger of his neck, it awakened in his veins and in his ears, and all along his spine, a tingling heat, much more peculiar than agreeable? When did a gig ever sharpen anybody's wits and energies, unless it was when the horse bolted, and, crashing madly down a steep hill with a stone wall at the bottom, his desperate circumstances suggested to the only gentleman left inside, some novel and unheard-of mode of dropping out behind? Better than the gig!
The air was cold, Tom; so it was, there was no denying it; but would it have been more genial in the gig? The blacksmith's fire burned very bright, and leaped up high, as though it wanted men to warm; but would it have been less tempting, looked at from the clammy cushions of a gig? The wind blew keenly, nipping the features of the hardy wight who fought his way along; blinding him with his own hair if he had enough to it, and wintry dust if he hadn't; stopping his breath as though he had been soused in a cold bath; tearing aside his wrappings-up, and whistling in the very marrow of his bones; but it would have done all this a hundred times more fiercely to a man in a gig, wouldn't it? A fig for gigs!
Better than the gig! When were travellers by wheels and hoofs seen with such red-hot cheeks as those? when were they so good- humouredly and merrily bloused? when did their laughter ring upon the air, as they turned them round, what time the stronger gusts came sweeping up; and, facing round again as they passed by, dashed on, in such a glow of ruddy health as nothing could keep pace with, but the high spirits it engendered? Better than the gig! Why, here is a man in a gig coming the same way now.