To obtain a foreknowledge of the bearer of this taper, Mr Bailey skipped back to the door again, and put his eye to the keyhole.
It was the merry one herself. But sadly, strangely altered! So careworn and dejected, so faltering and full of fear; so fallen, humbled, broken; that to have seen her quiet in her coffin would have been a less surprise.
She set the light upon a bracket in the hall, and laid her hand upon her heart; upon her eyes; upon her burning head. Then she came on towards the door with such a wild and hurried step that Mr Bailey lost his self-possession, and still had his eye where the keyhole had been, when she opened it.
'Aha!' said Mr Bailey, with an effort. 'There you are, are you? What's the matter? Ain't you well, though?'
In the midst of her astonishment as she recognized him in his altered dress, so much of her old smile came back to her face that Bailey was glad. But next moment he was sorry again, for he saw tears standing in her poor dim eyes.
'Don't be frightened,' said Bailey. 'There ain't nothing the matter. I've brought home Mr Chuzzlewit. He ain't ill. He's only a little swipey, you know.' Mr Bailey reeled in his boots, to express intoxication.
'Have you come from Mrs Todgers's?' asked Merry, trembling.
'Todgers's, bless you! No!' cried Mr Bailey. 'I haven't got nothin, to do with Todgers's. I cut that connection long ago. He's been a- dining with my governor at the west-end. Didn't you know he was a- coming to see us?'
'No,' she said, faintly.
'Oh yes! We're heavy swells too, and so I tell you. Don't you come out, a-catching cold in your head. I'll wake him!' Mr Bailey expressing in his demeanour a perfect confidence that he could carry him in with ease, if necessary, opened the coach door, let down the steps, and giving Jonas a shake, cried 'We've got home, my flower! Tumble up, then!'
He was so far recovered as to be able to respond to this appeal, and to come stumbling out of the coach in a heap, to the great hazard of Mr Bailey's person. When he got upon the pavement, Mr Bailey first butted at him in front, and then dexterously propped him up behind; and having steadied him by these means, he assisted him into the house.
'You go up first with the light,' said Bailey to Mr Jonas, 'and we'll foller. Don't tremble so. He won't hurt you. When I've had a drop too much, I'm full of good natur myself.'
She went on before; and her husband and Bailey, by dint of tumbling over each other, and knocking themselves about, got at last into the sitting-room above stairs, where Jonas staggered into a seat.
'There!' said Mr Bailey. 'He's all right now. You ain't got nothing to cry for, bless you! He's righter than a trivet!'
The ill-favoured brute, with dress awry, and sodden face, and rumpled hair, sat blinking and drooping, and rolling his idiotic eyes about, until, becoming conscious by degrees, he recognized his wife, and shook his fist at her.
'Ah!' cried Mr Bailey, squaring his arms with a sudden emotion. 'What, you're wicious, are you? Would you though! You'd better not!'
'Pray, go away!' said Merry. 'Bailey, my good boy, go home. Jonas!' she said; timidly laying her hand upon his shoulder, and bending her head down over him. 'Jonas!'
'Look at her!' cried Jonas, pushing her off with his extended arm. 'Look here! Look at her! Here's a bargain for a man!'
'Dear Devil!' he replied, with a fierce gesture. 'You're a pretty clog to be tied to a man for life, you mewling, white-faced cat! Get out of my sight!'
'I know you don't mean it, Jonas. You wouldn't say it if you were sober.'
With affected gayety she gave Bailey a piece of money, and again implored him to be gone. Her entreaty was so earnest, that the boy had not the heart to stay there. But he stopped at the bottom of the stairs, and listened.
'I wouldn't say it if I was sober!' retorted Jonas. 'You know better. Have I never said it when I was sober?'
'Often, indeed!' she answered through her tears.