Mr Chester laid himself calmly down in bed again, and turning a perfectly undisturbed face towards the strange apparition, which had by this time closed the door, begged him to speak out, and to be as rational as he could, without putting himself to any very great personal inconvenience.
In the first place, sir, said Mr Tappertit, producing a small pocket-handkerchief and shaking it out of the folds, as I have not a card about me (for the envy of masters debases us below that level) allow me to offer the best substitute that circumstances will admit of. If you will take that in your own hand, sir, and cast your eye on the right-hand corner, said Mr Tappertit, offering it with a graceful air, you will meet with my credentials.
Thank you, answered Mr Chester, politely accepting it, and turning to some blood-red characters at one end. Four. Simon Tappertit. One. Is that the
Without the numbers, sir, that is my name, replied the prentice. They are merely intended as directions to the washerwoman, and have no connection with myself or family. your name, sir, said Mr Tappertit, looking very hard at his nightcap, is Chester, I suppose? You neednt pull it off, sir, thank you. I observe E. C. from here. We will take the rest for granted.
Pray, Mr Tappertit, said Mr Chester, has that complicated piece of ironmongery which you have done me the favour to bring with you, any immediate connection with the business we are to discuss?
It has not, sir, rejoined the prentice. Its going to be fitted on a wareus-door in Thames Street.
Perhaps, as that is the case, said Mr Chester, and as it has a stronger flavour of oil than I usually refresh my bedroom with, you will oblige me so far as to put it outside the door?
By all means, sir, said Mr Tappertit, suiting the action to the word.
Youll excuse my mentioning it, I hope?
Dont apologise, sir, I beg. And now, if you please, to business.
During the whole of this dialogue, Mr Chester had suffered nothing but his smile of unvarying serenity and politeness to appear upon his face. Sim Tappertit, who had far too good an opinion of himself to suspect that anybody could be playing upon him, thought within himself that this was something like the respect to which he was entitled, and drew a comparison from this courteous demeanour of a stranger, by no means favourable to the worthy locksmith.
From what passes in our house, said Mr Tappertit, I am aware, sir, that your son keeps company with a young lady against your inclinations. Sir, your son has not used me well.
Mr Tappertit, said the other, you grieve me beyond description.
Thank you, sir, replied the prentice. Im glad to hear you say so. Hes very proud, sir, is your son; very haughty.
I am afraid he is haughty, said Mr Chester. Do you know I was really afraid of that before; and you confirm me?
To recount the menial offices Ive had to do for your son, sir, said Mr Tappertit; the chairs Ive had to hand him, the coaches Ive had to call for him, the numerous degrading duties, wholly unconnected with my indenters, that Ive had to do for him, would fill a family Bible. Besides which, sir, he is but a young man himself and I do not consider Thankee Sim, a proper form of address on those occasions.
Mr Tappertit, your wisdom is beyond your years. Pray go on.
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