'I thank him from my heart!'
'Yes, he was,' said Martin, 'and is, and gets nothing for it either. There never was such a simple fellow! Quite an infant! But a very good sort of creature, I assure you.'
'I am sure of that,' she said with great earnestness. 'He must be!'
'Oh, yes, no doubt at all about it,' rejoined Martin, in his usual careless way. 'He is. Well! It has occurred to me--but stay. If I read you what I have written and intend sending to him by post to- night it will explain itself. "My dear Tom Pinch." That's rather familiar perhaps,' said Martin, suddenly remembering that he was proud when they had last met, 'but I call him my dear Tom Pinch because he likes it, and it pleases him.'
'Very right, and very kind,' said Mary.
'Exactly so!' cried Martin. 'It's as well to be kind whenever one can; and, as I said before, he really is an excellent fellow. "My dear Tom Pinch--I address this under cover to Mrs Lupin, at the Blue Dragon, and have begged her in a short note to deliver it to you without saying anything about it elsewhere; and to do the same with all future letters she may receive from me. My reason for so doing will be at once apparent to you"--I don't know that it will be, by the bye,' said Martin, breaking off, 'for he's slow of comprehension, poor fellow; but he'll find it out in time. My reason simply is, that I don't want my letters to be read by other people; and particularly by the scoundrel whom he thinks an angel.'
'Mr Pecksniff again?' asked Mary.
'The same,' said Martin '--will be at once apparent to you. I have completed my arrangements for going to America; and you will be surprised to hear that I am to be accompanied by Mark Tapley, upon whom I have stumbled strangely in London, and who insists on putting himself under my protection'--meaning, my love,' said Martin, breaking off again, 'our friend in the rear, of course.'
She was delighted to hear this, and bestowed a kind glance upon Mark, which he brought his eyes down from the fog to encounter and received with immense satisfaction. She said in his hearing, too, that he was a good soul and a merry creature, and would be faithful, she was certain; commendations which Mr Tapley inwardly resolved to deserve, from such lips, if he died for it.
'"Now, my dear Pinch,"' resumed Martin, proceeding with his letter; '"I am going to repose great trust in you, knowing that I may do so with perfect reliance on your honour and secrecy, and having nobody else just now to trust in."'
'I don't think I would say that, Martin.'
'Wouldn't you? Well! I'll take that out. It's perfectly true, though.'
'But it might seem ungracious, perhaps.'
'Oh, I don't mind Pinch,' said Martin. 'There's no occasion to stand on any ceremony with HIM. However, I'll take it out, as you wish it, and make the full stop at "secrecy." Very well! "I shall not only"--this is the letter again, you know.'
'"I shall not only enclose my letters to the young lady of whom I have told you, to your charge, to be forwarded as she may request; but I most earnestly commit her, the young lady herself, to your care and regard, in the event of your meeting in my absence. I have reason to think that the probabilities of your encountering each other--perhaps very frequently--are now neither remote nor few; and although in our position you can do very little to lessen the uneasiness of hers, I trust to you implicitly to do that much, and so deserve the confidence I have reposed in you." You see, my dear Mary,' said Martin, 'it will be a great consolation to you to have anybody, no matter how simple, with whom you can speak about ME; and the very first time you talk to Pinch, you'll feel at once that there is no more occasion for any embarrassment or hesitation in talking to him, than if he were an old woman.'
'However that may be,' she returned, smiling, 'he is your friend, and that is enough.'
'Oh, yes, he's my friend,' said Martin, 'certainly. In fact, I have told him in so many words that we'll always take notice of him, and protect him; and it's a good trait in his character that he's grateful--very grateful indeed.