It was even a pleasanter breakfast than usual; and it was always a pleasant one. For little Ruth had now two pupils to attend, each three times a week; and each two hours at a time; and besides this, she had painted some screens and card-racks, and, unknown to Tom (was there ever anything so delightful!), had walked into a certain shop which dealt in such articles, after often peeping through the window; and had taken courage to ask the Mistress of that shop whether she would buy them. And the mistress had not only bought them, but had ordered more, and that very morning Ruth had made confession of these facts to Tom, and had handed him the money in a little purse she had worked expressly for the purpose. They had been in a flutter about this, and perhaps had shed a happy tear or two for anything the history knows to the contrary; but it was all over now; and a brighter face than Tom's, or a brighter face than Ruth's, the bright sun had not looked on since he went to bed last night.
'My dear girl,' said Tom, coming so abruptly on the subject, that he interrupted himself in the act of cutting a slice of bread, and left the knife sticking in the loaf, 'what a queer fellow our landlord is! I don't believe he has been home once since he got me into that unsatisfactory scrape. I begin to think he will never come home again. What a mysterious life that man does lead, to be sure!'
'Very strange. Is it not, Tom?'
'Really,' said Tom, 'I hope it is only strange. I hope there may be nothing wrong in it. Sometimes I begin to be doubtful of that. I must have an explanation with him,' said Tom, shaking his head as if this were a most tremendous threat, 'when I can catch him!'
A short double knock at the door put Tom's menacing looks to flight, and awakened an expression of surprise instead.
'Heyday!' said Tom. 'An early hour for visitors! It must be John, I suppose.'
'I--I--don't think it was his knock, Tom,' observed his little sister.
'No?' said Tom. 'It surely can't be my employer suddenly arrived in town; directed here by Mr Fips; and come for the key of the office. It's somebody inquiring for me, I declare! Come in, if you please!'
But when the person came in, Tom Pinch, instead of saying, 'Did you wish to speak with me, sir?' or, 'My name is Pinch, sir; what is your business, may I ask?' or addressing him in any such distant terms; cried out, 'Good gracious Heaven!' and seized him by both hands, with the liveliest manifestations of astonishment and pleasure.
The visitor was not less moved than Tom himself, and they shook hands a great many times, without another word being spoken on either side. Tom was the first to find his voice.
'Mark Tapley, too!' said Tom, running towards the door, and shaking hands with somebody else. 'My dear Mark, come in. How are you, Mark? He don't look a day older than he used to do at the Dragon. How ARE you, Mark?'
'Uncommonly jolly, sir, thank'ee,' returned Mr Tapley, all smiles and bows. 'I hope I see you well, sir.'
'Good gracious me!' cried Tom, patting him tenderly on the back. 'How delightful it is to hear his old voice again! My dear Martin, sit down. My sister, Martin. Mr Chuzzlewit, my love. Mark Tapley from the Dragon, my dear. Good gracious me, what a surprise this is! Sit down. Lord, bless me!'
Tom was in such a state of excitement that he couldn't keep himself still for a moment, but was constantly running between Mark and Martin, shaking hands with them alternately, and presenting them over and over again to his sister.
'I remember the day we parted, Martin, as well as if it were yesterday,' said Tom. 'What a day it was! and what a passion you were in! And don't you remember my overtaking you in the road that morning, Mark, when I was going to Salisbury in the gig to fetch him, and you were looking out for a situation? And don't you recollect the dinner we had at Salisbury, Martin, with John Westlock, eh! Good gracious me! Ruth, my dear, Mr Chuzzlewit. Mark Tapley, my love, from the Dragon.