Chapter 21

by Charles Dickens

Kit turned away and very soon forgot the pony, and the chaise, and the little old lady, and the little old gentleman, and the little young gentleman to boot, in thinking what could have become of his late master and his lovely grandchild, who were the fountain-head of all his meditations. Still casting about for some plausible means of accounting for their non-appearance, and of persuading himself that they must soon return, he bent his steps towards home, intending to finish the task which the sudden recollection of his contract had interrupted, and then to sally forth once more to seek his fortune for the day.

When he came to the corner of the court in which he lived, lo and behold there was the pony again! Yes, there he was, looking more obstinate than ever; and alone in the chaise, keeping a steady watch upon his every wink, sat Mr Abel, who, lifting up his eyes by chance and seeing Kit pass by, nodded to him as though he would have nodded his head off.

Kit wondered to see the pony again, so near his own home too, but it never occurred to him for what purpose the pony might have come there, or where the old lady and the old gentleman had gone, until he lifted the latch of the door, and walking in, found them seated in the room in conversation with his mother, at which unexpected sight he pulled off his hat and made his best bow in some confusion.

‘We are here before you, you see, Christopher,’ said Mr Garland smiling.

‘Yes, sir,’ said Kit; and as he said it, he looked towards his mother for an explanation of the visit.

‘The gentleman’s been kind enough, my dear,’ said she, in reply to this mute interrogation, ‘to ask me whether you were in a good place, or in any place at all, and when I told him no, you were not in any, he was so good as to say that—’

‘—That we wanted a good lad in our house,’ said the old gentleman and the old lady both together, ‘and that perhaps we might think of it, if we found everything as we would wish it to be.’

As this thinking of it, plainly meant the thinking of engaging Kit, he immediately partook of his mother’s anxiety and fell into a great flutter; for the little old couple were very methodical and cautious, and asked so many questions that he began to be afraid there was no chance of his success.

‘You see, my good woman,’ said Mrs Garland to Kit’s mother, ‘that it’s necessary to be very careful and particular in such a matter as this, for we’re only three in family, and are very quiet regular folks, and it would be a sad thing if we made any kind of mistake, and found things different from what we hoped and expected.’

To this, Kit’s mother replied, that certainly it was quite true, and quite right, and quite proper, and Heaven forbid that she should shrink, or have cause to shrink, from any inquiry into her character or that of her son, who was a very good son though she was his mother, in which respect, she was bold to say, he took after his father, who was not only a good son to his mother, but the best of husbands and the best of fathers besides, which Kit could and would corroborate she knew, and so would little Jacob and the baby likewise if they were old enough, which unfortunately they were not, though as they didn’t know what a loss they had had, perhaps it was a great deal better that they should be as young as they were; and so Kit’s mother wound up a long story by wiping her eyes with her apron, and patting little Jacob’s head, who was rocking the cradle and staring with all his might at the strange lady and gentleman.

When Kit’s mother had done speaking, the old lady struck in again, and said that she was quite sure she was a very honest and very respectable person or she never would have expressed herself in that manner, and that certainly the appearance of the children and the cleanliness of the house deserved great praise and did her the utmost credit, whereat Kit’s mother dropped a curtsey and became consoled. Then the good woman entered in a long and minute account of Kit’s life and history from the earliest period down to that time, not omitting to make mention of his miraculous fall out of a back-parlour window when an infant of tender years, or his uncommon sufferings in a state of measles, which were illustrated by correct imitations of the plaintive manner in which he called for toast and water, day and night, and said, ‘don’t cry, mother, I shall soon be better;’ for proof of which statements reference was made to Mrs Green, lodger, at the cheesemonger’s round the corner, and divers other ladies and gentlemen in various parts of England and Wales (and one Mr Brown who was supposed to be then a corporal in the East Indies, and who could of course be found with very little trouble), within whose personal knowledge the circumstances had occurred. This narration ended, Mr Garland put some questions to Kit respecting his qualifications and general acquirements, while Mrs Garland noticed the children, and hearing from Kit’s mother certain remarkable circumstances which had attended the birth of each, related certain other remarkable circumstances which had attended the birth of her own son, Mr Abel, from which it appeared that both Kit’s mother and herself had been, above and beyond all other women of what condition or age soever, peculiarly hemmed in with perils and dangers. Lastly, inquiry was made into the nature and extent of Kit’s wardrobe, and a small advance being made to improve the same, he was formally hired at an annual income of Six Pounds, over and above his board and lodging, by Mr and Mrs Garland, of Abel Cottage, Finchley.

error: Content is protected !!