Having nothing to oppose to this reproof, the man was about to withdraw, when the visitor who had given occasion to it, probably rendered impatient by delay, knocked with his knuckles at the chamber-door, and called out that he had urgent business with Sir John Chester, which admitted of no delay.
Let him in, said Sir John. My good fellow, he added, when the door was opened, how come you to intrude yourself in this extraordinary manner upon the privacy of a gentleman? How can you be so wholly destitute of self-respect as to be guilty of such remarkable ill-breeding?
My business, Sir John, is not of a common kind, I do assure you, returned the person he addressed. If I have taken any uncommon course to get admission to you, I hope I shall be pardoned on that account.
Well! we shall see; we shall see, returned Sir John, whose face cleared up when he saw who it was, and whose prepossessing smile was now restored. I am sure we have met before, he added in his winning tone, but really I forget your name?
My name is Gabriel Varden, sir.
Varden, of course, Varden, returned Sir John, tapping his forehead. Dear me, how very defective my memory becomes! Varden to be sureMr Varden the locksmith. You have a charming wife, Mr Varden, and a most beautiful daughter. They are well?
Gabriel thanked him, and said they were.
I rejoice to hear it, said Sir John. Commend me to them when you return, and say that I wished I were fortunate enough to convey, myself, the salute which I entrust you to deliver. And what, he asked very sweetly, after a moments pause, can I do for you? You may command me freely.
I thank you, Sir John, said Gabriel, with some pride in his manner, but I have come to ask no favour of you, though I come on business.Private, he added, with a glance at the man who stood looking on, and very pressing business.
I cannot say you are the more welcome for being independent, and having nothing to ask of me, returned Sir John, graciously, for I should have been happy to render you a service; still, you are welcome on any terms. Oblige me with some more chocolate, Peak, and dont wait.
The man retired, and left them alone.
Sir John, said Gabriel, I am a working-man, and have been so, all my life. If I dont prepare you enough for what I have to tell; if I come to the point too abruptly; and give you a shock, which a gentleman could have spared you, or at all events lessened very much; I hope you will give me credit for meaning well. I wish to be careful and considerate, and I trust that in a straightforward person like me, youll take the will for the deed.
Mr Varden, returned the other, perfectly composed under this exordium; I beg youll take a chair. Chocolate, perhaps, you dont relish? Well! it IS an acquired taste, no doubt.
Sir John, said Gabriel, who had acknowledged with a bow the invitation to be seated, but had not availed himself of it. Sir Johnhe dropped his voice and drew nearer to the bedI am just now come from Newgate
Good Gad! cried Sir John, hastily sitting up in bed; from Newgate, Mr Varden! How could you be so very imprudent as to come from Newgate! Newgate, where there are jail-fevers, and ragged people, and bare-footed men and women, and a thousand horrors! Peak, bring the camphor, quick! Heaven and earth, Mr Varden, my dear, good soul, how could you come from Newgate?
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