door, while Joe, who took it in the best part, avowed himself more obliged than he could well express, but politely intimated his intention nevertheless of taking his own course uninfluenced by anybody.
You have always been a very good friend to me, Mr Varden, he said, as they stood without, in the porch, and the locksmith was equipping himself for his journey home; I take it very kind of you to say all this, but the times nearly come when the Maypole and I must part company.
Roving stones gather no moss, Joe, said Gabriel.
Nor milestones much, replied Joe. Im little better than one here, and see as much of the world.
Then, what would you do, Joe? pursued the locksmith, stroking his chin reflectively. What could you be? Where could you go, you see?
I must trust to chance, Mr Varden.
A bad thing to trust to, Joe. I dont like it. I always tell my girl when we talk about a husband for her, never to trust to chance, but to make sure beforehand that she has a good man and true, and then chance will neither make her nor break her. What are you fidgeting about there, Joe? Nothing gone in the harness, I hope?
No no, said Joefinding, however, something very engrossing to do in the way of strapping and bucklingMiss Dolly quite well?
Hearty, thankye. She looks pretty enough to be well, and good too.
Shes always both, sir
So she is, thank God!
I hope, said Joe after some hesitation, that you wont tell this story against methis of my having been beat like the boy theyd make of meat all events, till I have met this man again and settled the account. Itll be a better story then.
Why who should I tell it to? returned Gabriel. They know it here, and Im not likely to come across anybody else who would care about it.
Thats true enough, said the young fellow with a sigh. I quite forgot that. Yes, thats true!
So saying, he raised his face, which was very red,no doubt from the exertion of strapping and buckling as aforesaid,and giving the reins to the old man, who had by this time taken his seat, sighed again and bade him good night.
Good night! cried Gabriel. Now think better of what we have just been speaking of; and dont be rash, theres a good fellow! I have an interest in you, and wouldnt have you cast yourself away. Good night!
Returning his cheery farewell with cordial goodwill, Joe Willet lingered until the sound of wheels ceased to vibrate in his ears, and then, shaking his head mournfully, re-entered the house.
Gabriel Varden went his way towards London, thinking of a great many things, and most of all of flaming terms in which to relate his adventure, and so account satisfactorily to Mrs Varden for visiting the Maypole, despite certain solemn covenants between himself and that lady. Thinking begets, not only thought, but drowsiness occasionally, and the more the locksmith thought, the more sleepy he became.
A man may be very soberor at least firmly set upon his legs on that neutral ground which lies between the confines of perfect sobriety and slight tipsinessand yet feel a strong tendency to mingle up present
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