Impatient, wet, and weary though they were, Martin and Mark were overjoyed to see these old faces, and watched them with delighted interest as they departed from the house, and passed close by them.
'There's the old tailor, Mark!' whispered Martin.
'There he goes, sir! A little bandier than he was, I think, sir, ain't he? His figure's so far altered, as it seems to me, that you might wheel a rather larger barrow between his legs as he walks, than you could have done conveniently when we know'd him. There's Sam a-coming out, sir.'
'Ah, to be sure!' cried Martin; 'Sam, the hostler. I wonder whether that horse of Pecksniff's is alive still?'
'Not a doubt on it, sir,' returned Mark. 'That's a description of animal, sir, as will go on in a bony way peculiar to himself for a long time, and get into the newspapers at last under the title of "Sing'lar Tenacity of Life in a Quadruped." As if he had ever been alive in all his life, worth mentioning! There's the clerk, sir-- wery drunk, as usual.'
'I see him!' said Martin, laughing. 'But, my life, how wet you are, Mark!'
'I am! What do you consider yourself, sir?'
'Oh, not half as bad,' said his fellow-traveller, with an air of great vexation. 'I told you not to keep on the windy side, Mark, but to let us change and change about. The rain has been beating on you ever since it began.'
'You don't know how it pleases me, sir,' said Mark, after a short silence, 'if I may make so bold as say so, to hear you a-going on in that there uncommon considerate way of yours; which I don't mean to attend to, never, but which, ever since that time when I was floored in Eden, you have showed.'
'Ah, Mark!' sighed Martin, 'the less we say of that the better. Do I see the light yonder?'
'That's the light!' cried Mark. 'Lord bless her, what briskness she possesses! Now for it, sir. Neat wines, good beds, and first-rate entertainment for man or beast.'
The kitchen fire burnt clear and red, the table was spread out, the kettle boiled; the slippers were there, the boot-jack too, sheets of ham were there, cooking on the gridiron; half-a-dozen eggs were there, poaching in the frying-pan; a plethoric cherry-brandy bottle was there, winking at a foaming jug of beer upon the table; rare provisions were there, dangling from the rafters as if you had only to open your mouth, and something exquisitely ripe and good would be glad of the excuse for tumbling into it. Mrs Lupin, who for their sakes had dislodged the very cook, high priestess of the temple, with her own genial hands was dressing their repast.
It was impossible to help it--a ghost must have hugged her. The Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea being, in that respect, all one, Martin hugged her instantly. Mr Tapley (as if the idea were quite novel, and had never occurred to him before), followed, with much gravity, on the same side.
'Little did I ever think,' said Mrs Lupin, adjusting her cap and laughing heartily; yes, and blushing too; 'often as I have said that Mr Pecksniff's young gentlemen were the life and soul of the Dragon, and that without them it would be too dull to live in--little did I ever think I am sure, that any one of them would ever make so free as you, Mr Martin! And still less that I shouldn't be angry with him, but should be glad with all my heart to be the first to welcome him home from America, with Mark Tapley for his--'
'For his friend, Mrs Lupin,' interposed Martin.
'For his friend,' said the hostess, evidently gratified by this distinction, but at the same time admonishing Mr Tapley with a fork to remain at a respectful distance. 'Little did I ever think that! But still less, that I should ever have the changes to relate that I shall have to tell you of, when you have done your supper!'
'Good Heaven!' cried Martin, changing colour, 'what changes?'
'SHE,' said the hostess, 'is quite well, and now at Mr Pecksniff's. Don't be at all alarmed about her. She is everything you could wish. It's of no use mincing matters, or making secrets, is it?' added Mrs Lupin.