Charles Dickens

The clock's a-striking now, sir.'

'Come in!'

'Thank'ee, sir,' rejoined Mr Tapley, 'what could I do for you first, sir?'

'You gave my message to Martin?' said the old man, bending his eyes upon him.

'I did, sir,' returned Mark; 'and you never see a gentleman more surprised in all your born days than he was.'

'What more did you tell him?' Mr Chuzzlewit inquired.

'Why, sir,' said Mr Tapley, smiling, 'I should have liked to tell him a deal more, but not being able, sir, I didn't tell it him.'

'You told him all you knew?'

'But it was precious little, sir,' retorted Mr Tapley. 'There was very little respectin' you that I was able to tell him, sir. I only mentioned my opinion that Mr Pecksniff would find himself deceived, sir, and that you would find yourself deceived, and that he would find himself deceived, sir.'

'In what?' asked Mr Chuzzlewit.

'Meaning him, sir?'

'Meaning both him and me.'

'Well, sir,' said Mr Tapley. 'In your old opinions of each other. As to him, sir, and his opinions, I know he's a altered man. I know it. I know'd it long afore he spoke to you t'other day, and I must say it. Nobody don't know half as much of him as I do. Nobody can't. There was always a deal of good in him, but a little of it got crusted over, somehow. I can't say who rolled the paste of that 'ere crust myself, but--'

'Go on,' said Martin. 'Why do you stop?'

'But it--well! I beg your pardon, but I think it may have been you, sir. Unintentional I think it may have been you. I don't believe that neither of you gave the other quite a fair chance. There! Now I've got rid on it,' said Mr Tapley in a fit of desperation: 'I can't go a-carryin' it about in my own mind, bustin' myself with it; yesterday was quite long enough. It's out now. I can't help it. I'm sorry for it. Don't wisit on him, sir, that's all.'

It was clear that Mark expected to be ordered out immediately, and was quite prepared to go.

'So you think,' said Martin, 'that his old faults are, in some degree, of my creation, do you?'

'Well, sir,' retorted Mr Tapley, 'I'm werry sorry, but I can't unsay it. It's hardly fair of you, sir, to make a ignorant man conwict himself in this way, but I DO think so. I am as respectful disposed to you, sir, as a man can be; but I DO think so.'

The light of a faint smile seemed to break through the dull steadiness of Martin's face, as he looked attentively at him, without replying.

'Yet you are an ignorant man, you say,' he observed after a long pause.

'Werry much so,' Mr Tapley replied.

'And I a learned, well-instructed man, you think?'

'Likewise wery much so,' Mr Tapley answered.

The old man, with his chin resting on his hand, paced the room twice or thrice before he added:

'You have left him this morning?'

'Come straight from him now, sir.'

'For what does he suppose?'

'He don't know what to suppose, sir, no more than myself. I told him jest wot passed yesterday, sir, and that you had said to me, "Can you be here by seven in the morning?" and that you had said to him, through me, "Can you be here by ten in the morning?" and that I had said "Yes" to both. That's all, sir.'

His frankness was so genuine that it plainly WAS all.

'Perhaps,' said Martin, 'he may think you are going to desert him, and to serve me?'

'I have served him in that sort of way, sir,' replied Mark, without the loss of any atom of his self-possession; 'and we have been that sort of companions in misfortune, that my opinion is, he don't believe a word on it. No more than you do, sir.'

'Will you help me to dress, and get me some breakfast from the hotel?' asked Martin.

'With pleasure, sir,' said Mark.

'And by-and-bye,' said Martin, 'remaining in the room, as I wish you to do, will you attend to the door yonder--give admission to visitors, I mean, when they knock?'

'Certainly, sir,' said Mr Tapley.

'You will not find it necessary to express surprise at their appearance,' Martin suggested.

'Oh dear no, sir!' said Mr Tapley, 'not at all.'

Although he pledged himself to this with perfect confidence, he was in a state of unbounded astonishment even now.