'Him as formerly lived at the Dragon, sir, and was forced to leave in consequence of a want of jollity, sir.'
'To be sure!' cried Martin. 'Why, how did you come here?'
'Right through the passage, and up the stairs, sir,' said Mark.
'How did you find me out, I mean?' asked Martin.
'Why, sir,' said Mark, 'I've passed you once or twice in the street, if I'm not mistaken; and when I was a-looking in at the beef-and-ham shop just now, along with a hungry sweep, as was very much calculated to make a man jolly, sir--I see you a-buying that.'
Martin reddened as he pointed to the table, and said, somewhat hastily:
'Well! What then?'
'Why, then, sir,' said Mark, 'I made bold to foller; and as I told 'em downstairs that you expected me, I was let up.'
'Are you charged with any message, that you told them you were expected?' inquired Martin.
'No, sir, I an't,' said Mark. 'That was what you may call a pious fraud, sir, that was.'
Martin cast an angry look at him; but there was something in the fellow's merry face, and in his manner--which with all its cheerfulness was far from being obtrusive or familiar--that quite disarmed him. He had lived a solitary life too, for many weeks, and the voice was pleasant in his ear.
'Tapley,' he said, 'I'll deal openly with you. From all I can judge and from all I have heard of you through Pinch, you are not a likely kind of fellow to have been brought here by impertinent curiosity or any other offensive motive. Sit down. I'm glad to see you.'
'Thankee, sir,' said Mark. 'I'd as lieve stand.'
"If you don't sit down,' retorted Martin, 'I'll not talk to you.'
'Very good, sir,' observed Mark. 'Your will's a law, sir. Down it is;' and he sat down accordingly upon the bedstead.
'Help yourself,' said Martin, handing him the only knife.
'Thankee, sir,' rejoined Mark. 'After you've done.'
'If you don't take it now, you'll not have any,' said Martin.
'Very good, sir,' rejoined Mark. 'That being your desire--now it is.' With which reply he gravely helped himself and went on eating. Martin having done the like for a short time in silence, said abruptly:
'What are you doing in London?'
'Nothing at all, sir,' rejoined Mark.
'How's that?' asked Martin.
'I want a place,' said Mark.
'I'm sorry for you,' said Martin.
'--To attend upon a single gentleman,' resumed Mark. 'If from the country the more desirable. Makeshifts would be preferred. Wages no object.'
He said this so pointedly, that Martin stopped in his eating, and said:
'If you mean me--'
'Yes, I do, sir,' interposed Mark.
'Then you may judge from my style of living here, of my means of keeping a man-servant. Besides, I am going to America immediately.'
'Well, sir,' returned Mark, quite unmoved by this intelligence 'from all that ever I heard about it, I should say America is a very likely sort of place for me to be jolly in!'
Again Martin looked at him angrily; and again his anger melted away in spite of himself.
'Lord bless you, sir,' said Mark, 'what is the use of us a-going round and round, and hiding behind the corner, and dodging up and down, when we can come straight to the point in six words? I've had my eye upon you any time this fortnight. I see well enough there's a screw loose in your affairs. I know'd well enough the first time I see you down at the Dragon that it must be so, sooner or later. Now, sir here am I, without a sitiwation; without any want of wages for a year to come; for I saved up (I didn't mean to do it, but I couldn't help it) at the Dragon--here am I with a liking for what's wentersome, and a liking for you, and a wish to come out strong under circumstances as would keep other men down; and will you take me, or will you leave me?'
'How can I take you?' cried Martin.
'When I say take,' rejoined Mark, 'I mean will you let me go? and when I say will you let me go, I mean will you let me go along with you? for go I will, somehow or another. Now that you've said America, I see clear at once, that that's the place for me to be jolly in.