Whether an intentional or an accidental shot, it hit the mark fully for Martin, relenting more and more, said with a condescension which was inexpressibly delicious to him, after his recent humiliation:
'We'll see about it, Tapley. You shall tell me in what disposition you find yourself to-morrow.'
'Then, sir,' said Mark, rubbing his hands, 'the job's done. Go on, sir, if you please. I'm all attention.'
Throwing himself back in his arm-chair, and looking at the fire, with now and then a glance at Mark, who at such times nodded his head sagely, to express his profound interest and attention. Martin ran over the chief points in his history, to the same effect as he had related them, weeks before, to Mr Pinch. But he adapted them, according to the best of his judgment, to Mr Tapley's comprehension; and with that view made as light of his love affair as he could, and referred to it in very few words. But here he reckoned without his host; for Mark's interest was keenest in this part of the business, and prompted him to ask sundry questions in relation to it; for which he apologised as one in some measure privileged to do so, from having seen (as Martin explained to him) the young lady at the Blue Dragon.
'And a young lady as any gentleman ought to feel more proud of being in love with,' said Mark, energetically, 'don't draw breath.'
'Aye! You saw her when she was not happy,' said Martin, gazing at the fire again. 'If you had seen her in the old times, indeed--'
'Why, she certainly was a little down-hearted, sir, and something paler in her colour than I could have wished,' said Mark, 'but none the worse in her looks for that. I think she seemed better, sir, after she come to London.'
Martin withdrew his eyes from the fire; stared at Mark as if he thought he had suddenly gone mad; and asked him what he meant.
'No offence intended, sir,' urged Mark. 'I don't mean to say she was any the happier without you; but I thought she was a-looking better, sir.'
'Do you mean to tell me she has been in London?' asked Martin, rising hurriedly, and pushing back his chair.
'Of course I do,' said Mark, rising too, in great amazement from the bedstead.
'Do you mean to tell me she is in London now?'
'Most likely, sir. I mean to say she was a week ago.'
'And you know where?'
'Yes!' cried Mark. 'What! Don't you?'
'My good fellow!' exclaimed Martin, clutching him by both arms, 'I have never seen her since I left my grandfather's house.'
'Why, then!' cried Mark, giving the little table such a blow with his clenched fist that the slices of beef and ham danced upon it, while all his features seemed, with delight, to be going up into his forehead, and never coming back again any more, 'if I an't your nat'ral born servant, hired by Fate, there an't such a thing in natur' as a Blue Dragon. What! when I was a-rambling up and down a old churchyard in the City, getting myself into a jolly state, didn't I see your grandfather a-toddling to and fro for pretty nigh a mortal hour! Didn't I watch him into Todgers's commercial boarding-house, and watch him out, and watch him home to his hotel, and go and tell him as his was the service for my money, and I had said so, afore I left the Dragon! Wasn't the young lady a-sitting with him then, and didn't she fall a-laughing in a manner as was beautiful to see! Didn't your grandfather say, "Come back again next week," and didn't I go next week; and didn't he say that he couldn't make up his mind to trust nobody no more; and therefore wouldn't engage me, but at the same time stood something to drink as was handsome! Why,' cried Mr Tapley, with a comical mixture of delight and chagrin, 'where's the credit of a man's being jolly under such circumstances! Who could help it, when things come about like this!'
For some moments Martin stood gazing at him, as if he really doubted the evidence of his senses, and could not believe that Mark stood there, in the body, before him. At length he asked him whether, if the young lady were still in London, he thought he could contrive to deliver a letter to her secretly.