Old Martin gave his arm to the younger sister without speaking; and led her out. Mrs Todgers, with her holiday garments fluttering in the wind, accompanied them to the carriage, clung round Merry's neck at parting, and ran back to her own dingy house, crying the whole way. She had a lean, lank body, Mrs Todgers, but a well-conditioned soul within. Perhaps the good Samaritan was lean and lank, and found it hard to live. Who knows!
Mr Chuzzlewit followed her so closely with his eyes, that, until she had shut her own door, they did not encounter Mr Tapley's face.
'Why, Mark!' he said, as soon as he observed it, 'what's the matter?'
'The wonderfulest ewent, sir!' returned Mark, pumping at his voice in a most laborious manner, and hardly able to articulate with all his efforts. 'A coincidence as never was equalled! I'm blessed if here ain't two old neighbours of ourn, sir!'
'What neighbours?' cried old Martin, looking out of window. 'Where?'
'I was a-walkin' up and down not five yards from this spot,' said Mr Tapley, breathless, 'and they come upon me like their own ghosts, as I thought they was! It's the wonderfulest ewent that ever happened. Bring a feather, somebody, and knock me down with it!'
'What do you mean!' exclaimed old Martin, quite as much excited by the spectacle of Mark's excitement as that strange person was himself. 'Neighbours, where?'
'Here, sir!' replied Mr Tapley. 'Here in the city of London! Here upon these very stones! Here they are, sir! Don't I know 'em? Lord love their welcome faces, don't I know 'em!'
With which ejaculations Mr Tapley not only pointed to a decent- looking man and woman standing by, but commenced embracing them alternately, over and over again, in Monument Yard.
'Neighbours, WHERE? old Martin shouted; almost maddened by his ineffectual efforts to get out at the coach-door.
'Neighbours in America! Neighbours in Eden!' cried Mark. 'Neighbours in the swamp, neighbours in the bush, neighbours in the fever. Didn't she nurse us! Didn't he help us! Shouldn't we both have died without 'em! Haven't they come a-strugglin' back, without a single child for their consolation! And talk to me of neighbours!'
Away he went again, in a perfectly wild state, hugging them, and skipping round them, and cutting in between them, as if he were performing some frantic and outlandish dance.
Mr Chuzzlewit no sooner gathered who these people were, than he burst open the coach-door somehow or other, and came tumbling out among them; and as if the lunacy of Mr Tapley were contagious, he immediately began to shake hands too, and exhibit every demonstration of the liveliest joy.
'Get up, behind!' he said. 'Get up in the rumble. Come along with me! Go you on the box, Mark. Home! Home!'
'Home!' cried Mr Tapley, seizing the old man's hand in a burst of enthusiasm. 'Exactly my opinion, sir. Home for ever! Excuse the liberty, sir, I can't help it. Success to the Jolly Tapley! There's nothin' in the house they shan't have for the askin' for, except a bill. Home to be sure! Hurrah!'
Home they rolled accordingly, when he had got the old man in again, as fast as they could go; Mark abating nothing of his fervour by the way, by allowing it to vent itself as unrestrainedly as if he had been on Salisbury Plain.
And now the wedding party began to assemble at Todgers's. Mr Jinkins, the only boarder invited, was on the ground first. He wore a white favour in his button-hole, and a bran new extra super double-milled blue saxony dress coat (that was its description in the bill), with a variety of tortuous embellishments about the pockets, invented by the artist to do honour to the day. The miserable Augustus no longer felt strongly even on the subject of Jinkins. He hadn't strength of mind enough to do it. 'Let him come!' he had said, in answer to Miss Pecksniff, when she urged the point. 'Let him come! He has ever been my rock ahead through life. 'Tis meet he should be there. Ha, ha! Oh, yes! let Jinkins come!'
Jinkins had come with all the pleasure in life, and there he was. For some few minutes he had no companion but the breakfast, which was set forth in the drawing-room, with unusual taste and ceremony. But Mrs Todgers soon joined him; and the bachelor cousin, the hairy young gentleman, and Mr and Mrs Spottletoe, arrived in quick succession.