More cups and saucers, if you please. Bless my soul, how glad I am to see you both!'
And then Tom (as John Westlock had done on his arrival) ran off to the loaf to cut some bread and butter for them; and before he had spread a single slice, remembered something else, and came running back again to tell it; and then he shook hands with them again; and then he introduced his sister again; and then he did everything he had done already all over again; and nothing Tom could do, and nothing Tom could say, was half sufficient to express his joy at their safe return.
Mr Tapley was the first to resume his composure. In a very short space of time he was discovered to have somehow installed himself in office as waiter, or attendant upon the party; a fact which was first suggested to them by his temporary absence in the kitchen, and speedy return with a kettle of boiling water, from which he replenished the tea-pot with a self-possession that was quite his own.
'Sit down, and take your breakfast, Mark,' said Tom. 'Make him sit down and take his breakfast, Martin.'
'Oh! I gave him up, long ago, as incorrigible,' Martin replied. 'He takes his own way, Tom. You would excuse him, Miss Pinch, if you knew his value.'
'She knows it, bless you!' said Tom. 'I have told her all about Mark Tapley. Have I not, Ruth?'
'Not all,' returned Martin, in a low voice. 'The best of Mark Tapley is only known to one man, Tom; and but for Mark he would hardly be alive to tell it!'
'Mark!' said Tom Pinch energetically; 'if you don't sit down this minute, I'll swear at you!'
'Well, sir,' returned Mr Tapley, 'sooner than you should do that, I'll com-ply. It's a considerable invasion of a man's jollity to be made so partickler welcome, but a Werb is a word as signifies to be, to do, or to suffer (which is all the grammar, and enough too, as ever I wos taught); and if there's a Werb alive, I'm it. For I'm always a-bein', sometimes a-doin', and continually a-sufferin'.'
'Not jolly yet?' asked Tom, with a smile.
'Why, I was rather so, over the water, sir,' returned Mr Tapley; 'and not entirely without credit. But Human Natur' is in a conspiracy again' me; I can't get on. I shall have to leave it in my will, sir, to be wrote upon my tomb: "He was a man as might have come out strong if he could have got a chance. But it was denied him."'
Mr Tapley took this occasion of looking about him with a grin, and subsequently attacking the breakfast, with an appetite not at all expressive of blighted hopes, or insurmountable despondency.
In the meanwhile, Martin drew his chair a little nearer to Tom and his sister, and related to them what had passed at Mr Pecksniff's house; adding in few words a general summary of the distresses and disappointments he had undergone since he left England.
'For your faithful stewardship in the trust I left with you, Tom,' he said, 'and for all your goodness and disinterestedness, I can never thank you enough. When I add Mary's thanks to mine--'
Ah, Tom! The blood retreated from his cheeks, and came rushing back, so violently, that it was pain to feel it; ease though, ease, compared with the aching of his wounded heart.
'When I add Mary's thanks to mine,' said Martin, 'I have made the only poor acknowledgment it is in our power to offer; but if you knew how much we feel, Tom, you would set some store by it, I am sure.'
And if they had known how much Tom felt--but that no human creature ever knew--they would have set some store by him. Indeed they would.
Tom changed the topic of discourse. He was sorry he could not pursue it, as it gave Martin pleasure; but he was unable, at that moment. No drop of envy or bitterness was in his soul; but he could not master the firm utterance of her name.
He inquired what Martin's projects were.
'No longer to make your fortune, Tom,' said Martin, 'but to try to live. I tried that once in London, Tom; and failed. If you will give me the benefit of your advice and friendly counsel, I may succeed better under your guidance.