‘Thank you, sir,’ said Mr Chivery, without advancing; ‘it’s no odds me coming in. Mr Clennam, don’t you take no notice of my son (if you’ll be so good) in case you find him cut up anyways difficult. My son has a ‘art, and my son’s ‘art is in the right place. Me and his mother knows where to find it, and we find it sitiwated correct.’

With this mysterious speech, Mr Chivery took his ear away and shut the door. He might have been gone ten minutes, when his son succeeded him.

‘Here’s your portmanteau,’ he said to Arthur, putting it carefully down.

‘It’s very kind of you. I am ashamed that you should have the trouble.’

He was gone before it came to that; but soon returned, saying exactly as before, ‘Here’s your black box:’ which he also put down with care.

‘I am very sensible of this attention. I hope we may shake hands now, Mr John.’

Young John, however, drew back, turning his right wrist in a socket made of his left thumb and middle- finger and said as he had said at first, ‘I don’t know as I can. No; I find I can’t!’ He then stood regarding the prisoner sternly, though with a swelling humour in his eyes that looked like pity.

‘Why are you angry with me,’ said Clennam, ‘and yet so ready to do me these kind services? There must be some mistake between us. If I have done anything to occasion it I am sorry.’

‘No mistake, sir,’ returned John, turning the wrist backwards and forwards in the socket, for which it was rather tight. ‘No mistake, sir, in the feelings with which my eyes behold you at the present moment! If I was at all fairly equal to your weight, Mr Clennam—which I am not; and if you weren’t under a cloud—which you are; and if it wasn’t against all rules of the Marshalsea— which it is; those feelings are such, that they would stimulate me, more to having it out with you in a Round on the present spot than to anything else I could name.’ Arthur looked at him for a moment in some wonder, and some little anger. ‘Well, well!’ he said. ‘A mistake, a mistake!’ Turning away, he sat down with a heavy sigh in the faded chair again.

Young John followed him with his eyes, and, after a short pause, cried out, ‘I beg your pardon!’

‘Freely granted,’ said Clennam, waving his hand without raising his sunken head. ‘Say no more. I am not worth it.’

‘This furniture, sir,’ said Young John in a voice of mild and soft explanation, ‘belongs to me. I am in the habit of letting it out to parties without furniture, that have the room. It ain’t much, but it’s at your service. Free, I mean. I could not think of letting you have it on any other terms. You’re welcome to it for nothing.’

Arthur raised his head again to thank him, and to say he could not accept the favour. John was still turning his wrist, and still contending with himself in his former divided manner.

‘What is the matter between us?’ said Arthur.

‘I decline to name it, sir,’ returned Young John, suddenly turning loud and sharp. ‘Nothing’s the matter.’

Arthur looked at him again, in vain, for an explanation of his behaviour. After a while, Arthur turned away his head again. Young John said, presently afterwards, with the utmost mildness:

‘The little round table, sir, that’s nigh your elbow, was—you know whose—I needn’t mention him—he died a great gentleman. I bought it of an individual that he gave it to, and that lived here after him. But the individual wasn’t any ways equal to him. Most individuals would find it hard to come up to his level.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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