'And will be again,' said Tom.
'No, never more. No, never, never more. If you should talk with old Mr Chuzzlewit, at any time,' she added, looking hurriedly into his face--'I sometimes thought he liked you, but suppressed it--will you promise me to tell him that you saw me here, and that I said I bore in mind the time we talked together in the churchyard?'
Tom promised that he would.
'Many times since then, when I have wished I had been carried there before that day, I have recalled his words. I wish that he should know how true they were, although the least acknowledgment to that effect has never passed my lips and never will.'
Tom promised this, conditionally too. He did not tell her how improbable it was that he and the old man would ever meet again, because he thought it might disturb her more.
'If he should ever know this, through your means, dear Mr Pinch,' said Mercy, 'tell him that I sent the message, not for myself, but that he might be more forbearing and more patient, and more trustful to some other person, in some other time of need. Tell him that if he could know how my heart trembled in the balance that day, and what a very little would have turned the scale, his own would bleed with pity for me.'
'Yes, yes,' said Tom, 'I will.'
'When I appeared to him the most unworthy of his help, I was--I know I was, for I have often, often, thought about it since--the most inclined to yield to what he showed me. Oh! if he had relented but a little more; if he had thrown himself in my way for but one other quarter of an hour; if he had extended his compassion for a vain, unthinking, miserable girl, in but the least degree; he might, and I believe he would, have saved her! Tell him that I don't blame him, but am grateful for the effort that he made; but ask him for the love of God, and youth, and in merciful consideration for the struggle which an ill-advised and unwakened nature makes to hide the strength it thinks its weakness--ask him never, never, to forget this, when he deals with one again!'
Although Tom did not hold the clue to her full meaning, he could guess it pretty nearly. Touched to the quick, he took her hand and said, or meant to say, some words of consolation. She felt and understood them, whether they were spoken or no. He was not quite certain, afterwards, but that she had tried to kneel down at his feet, and bless him.
He found that he was not alone in the room when she had left it. Mrs Todgers was there, shaking her head. Tom had never seen Mrs Todgers, it is needless to say, but he had a perception of her being the lady of the house; and he saw some genuine compassion in her eyes, that won his good opinion.
'Ah, sir! You are an old friend, I see,' said Mrs Todgers.
'Yes,' said Tom.
'And yet,' quoth Mrs Todgers, shutting the door softly, 'she hasn't told you what her troubles are, I'm certain.'
Tom was struck by these words, for they were quite true. 'Indeed,' he said, 'she has not.'
'And never would,' said Mrs Todgers, 'if you saw her daily. She never makes the least complaint to me, or utters a single word of explanation or reproach. But I know,' said Mrs Todgers, drawing in her breath, 'I know!'
Tom nodded sorrowfully, 'So do I.'
'I fully believe,' said Mrs Todgers, taking her pocket-handkerchief from the flat reticule, 'that nobody can tell one half of what that poor young creature has to undergo. But though she comes here, constantly, to ease her poor full heart without his knowing it; and saying, "Mrs Todgers, I am very low to-day; I think that I shall soon be dead," sits crying in my room until the fit is past; I know no more from her. And, I believe,' said Mrs Todgers, putting back her handkerchief again, 'that she considers me a good friend too.'
Mrs Todgers might have said her best friend. Commercial gentlemen and gravy had tried Mrs Todgers's temper; the main chance--it was such a very small one in her case, that she might have been excused for looking sharp after it, lest it should entirely vanish from her sight--had taken a firm hold on Mrs Todgers's attention.