Tom would have helped him with the box, but he made no more of it, though it was a heavy one, than an elephant would have made of a castle; just swinging it on his back and bowling downstairs as if, being naturally a heavy sort of fellow, he could carry a box infinitely better than he could go alone. Tom took the carpet-bag, and went downstairs along with him. At the outer door stood Jane, crying with all her might; and on the steps was Mrs Lupin, sobbing bitterly, and putting out her hand for Tom to shake.
'You're coming to the Dragon, Mr Pinch?'
'No,' said Tom, 'no. I shall walk to Salisbury to-night. I couldn't stay here. For goodness' sake, don't make me so unhappy, Mrs Lupin.'
'But you'll come to the Dragon, Mr Pinch. If it's only for tonight. To see me, you know; not as a traveller.'
'God bless my soul!' said Tom, wiping his eyes. 'The kindness of people is enough to break one's heart! I mean to go to Salisbury to-night, my dear good creature. If you'll take care of my box for me till I write for it, I shall consider it the greatest kindness you can do me.'
'I wish,' cried Mrs Lupin, 'there were twenty boxes, Mr Pinch, that I might have 'em all.'
'Thank'ee,' said Tom. 'It's like you. Good-bye. Good-bye.'
There were several people, young and old, standing about the door, some of whom cried with Mrs Lupin; while others tried to keep up a stout heart, as Tom did; and others were absorbed in admiration of Mr Pecksniff--a man who could build a church, as one may say, by squinting at a sheet of paper; and others were divided between that feeling and sympathy with Tom. Mr Pecksniff had appeared on the top of the steps, simultaneously with his old pupil, and while Tom was talking with Mrs Lupin kept his hand stretched out, as though he said 'Go forth!' When Tom went forth, and had turned the corner Mr Pecksniff shook his head, shut his eyes, and heaving a deep sigh, shut the door. On which, the best of Tom's supporters said he must have done some dreadful deed, or such a man as Mr Pecksniff never could have felt like that. If it had been a common quarrel (they observed), he would have said something, but when he didn't, Mr Pinch must have shocked him dreadfully.
Tom was out of hearing of their shrewd opinions, and plodded on as steadily as he could go, until he came within sight of the turnpike where the tollman's family had cried out 'Mr Pinch!' that frosty morning, when he went to meet young Martin. He had got through the village, and this toll-bar was his last trial; but when the infant toll-takers came screeching out, he had half a mind to run for it, and make a bolt across the country.
'Why, deary Mr Pinch! oh, deary sir!' cried the tollman's wife. 'What an unlikely time for you to be a-going this way with a bag!'
'I am going to Salisbury,' said Tom.
'Why, goodness, where's the gig, then?' cried the tollman's wife, looking down the road, as if she thought Tom might have been upset without observing it.
'I haven't got it,' said Tom. 'I--' he couldn't evade it; he felt she would have him in the next question, if he got over this one. 'I have left Mr Pecksniff.'
The tollman--a crusty customer, always smoking solitary pipes in a Windsor chair, inside, set artfully between two little windows that looked up and down the road, so that when he saw anything coming up he might hug himself on having toll to take, and when he saw it going down, might hug himself on having taken it--the tollman was out in an instant.
'Left Mr Pecksniff!' cried the tollman.
'Yes,' said Tom, 'left him.'
The tollman looked at his wife, uncertain whether to ask her if she had anything to suggest, or to order her to mind the children. Astonishment making him surly, he preferred the latter, and sent her into the toll-house with a flea in her ear.
'You left Mr Pecksniff!' cried the tollman, folding his arms, and spreading his legs. 'I should as soon have thought of his head leaving him.'
'Aye!' said Tom, 'so should I, yesterday. Good night!'
If a heavy drove of oxen hadn't come by immediately, the tollman would have gone down to the village straight, to inquire into it. As things turned out, he smoked another pipe, and took his wife into his confidence.