'It's nothing to me, sir, by rights. I never thought of lessening the distance betwixt us, I am sure. I know it's a liberty, sir, but I never thought you'd have taken it ill. Upon my word and honour, sir,' said Young John, with emotion, 'in my poor way, I am too proud to have come, I assure you, if I had thought so.'
Mr Dorrit was ashamed. He went back to the window, and leaned his forehead against the glass for some time. When he turned, he had his handkerchief in his hand, and he had been wiping his eyes with it, and he looked tired and ill.
'Young John, I am very sorry to have been hasty with you, but--ha-- some remembrances are not happy remembrances, and--hum--you shouldn't have come.'
'I feel that now, sir,' returned John Chivery; 'but I didn't before, and Heaven knows I meant no harm, sir.'
'No. No,' said Mr Dorrit. 'I am--hum--sure of that. Ha. Give me your hand, Young John, give me your hand.'
Young John gave it; but Mr Dorrit had driven his heart out of it, and nothing could change his face now, from its white, shocked look.
'There!' said Mr Dorrit, slowly shaking hands with him. 'Sit down again, Young John.'
'Thank you, sir--but I'd rather stand.'
Mr Dorrit sat down instead. After painfully holding his head a little while, he turned it to his visitor, and said, with an effort to be easy:
'And how is your father, Young John? How--ha--how are they all, Young John?'
'Thank you, sir, They're all pretty well, sir. They're not any ways complaining.'
'Hum. You are in your--ha--old business I see, John?' said Mr Dorrit, with a glance at the offending bundle he had anathematised.
'Partly, sir. I am in my'--John hesitated a little--'father's business likewise.'
'Oh indeed!' said Mr Dorrit. 'Do you--ha hum--go upon the ha--'
'Lock, sir? Yes, sir.'
'Much to do, John?'
'Yes, sir; we're pretty heavy at present. I don't know how it is, but we generally ARE pretty heavy.'
'At this time of the year, Young John?'
'Mostly at all times of the year, sir. I don't know the time that makes much difference to us. I wish you good night, sir.'
'Stay a moment, John--ha--stay a moment. Hum. Leave me the cigars, John, I--ha--beg.'
'Certainly, sir.' John put them, with a trembling hand, on the table.
'Stay a moment, Young John; stay another moment. It would be a--ha--a gratification to me to send a little--hum--Testimonial, by such a trusty messenger, to be divided among--ha hum--them--them-- according to their wants. Would you object to take
'Not in any ways, sir. There's many of them, I'm sure, that would be the better for it.'
'Thank you, John. I--ha--I'll write it, John.'
His hand shook so that he was a long time writing it, and wrote it in a tremulous scrawl at last. It was a cheque for one hundred pounds. He folded it up, put it in Young john's hand, and pressed the hand in his.
'I hope you'll--ha--overlook--hum--what has passed, John.'
'Don't speak of it, sir, on any accounts. I don't in any ways bear malice, I'm sure.'
But nothing while John was there could change John's face to its natural colour and expression, or restore John's natural manner.
'And, John,' said Mr Dorrit, giving his hand a final pressure, and releasing it, 'I hope we--ha--agree that we have spoken together in confidence; and that you will abstain, in going out, from saying anything to any one that might--hum--suggest that--ha--once I--'
'Oh! I assure you, sir,' returned John Chivery, 'in my poor humble way, sir, I'm too proud and honourable to do it, sir.'
Mr Dorrit was not too proud and honourable to listen at the door that he might ascertain for himself whether John really went straight out, or lingered to have any talk with any one. There was no doubt that he went direct out at the door, and away down the street with a quick step. After remaining alone for an hour, Mr Dorrit rang for the Courier, who found him with his chair on the hearth-rug, sitting with his back towards him and his face to the fire.