‘Indeed, Sir! It’s very kind in him, but I don’t want him to, I’m sure,’ said Kit, hammering stoutly at an obdurate nail.

‘He is rather anxious,’ pursued the old gentleman, ‘to have you in his own service — take care what you’re doing, or you will fall down and hurt yourself.’

‘To have me in his service, Sir?’ cried Kit, who had stopped short in his work and faced about upon the ladder like some dexterous tumbler. ‘Why, Sir, I don’t think he can be in earnest when he says that.’

‘Oh! But he is indeed,’ said Mr Garland. ‘And he has told Mr Abel so.’

‘I never heard of such a thing!’ muttered Kit, looking ruefully at his master and mistress. ‘I wonder at him; that I do.’

‘You see, Christopher,’ said Mr Garland, ‘this is a point of much importance to you, and you should understand and consider it in that light. This gentleman is able to give you more money than I — not, I hope, to carry through the various relations of master and servant, more kindness and confidence, but certainly, Christopher, to give you more money.’

‘Well,’ said Kit, ‘after that, Sir — ’

‘Wait a moment,’ interposed Mr Garland. ‘That is not all. You were a very faithful servant to your old employers, as I understand, and should this gentleman recover them, as it is his purpose to attempt doing by every means in his power, I have no doubt that you, being in his service, would meet with your reward. Besides,’ added the old gentleman with stronger emphasis, ‘besides having the pleasure of being again brought into communication with those to whom you seem to be so very strongly and disinterestedly attached. You must think of all this, Christopher, and not be rash or hasty in your choice.’

Kit did suffer one twinge, one momentary pang in keeping the resolution he had already formed, when this last argument passed swiftly into his thoughts, and conjured up the realization of all his hopes and fancies. But it was gone in a minute, and he sturdily rejoined that the gentleman must look out for somebody else, as he did think he might have done at first.

‘He has no right to think that I’d be led away to go to him, Sir,’ said Kit, turning round again after half a minute’s hammering. ‘Does he think I’m a fool?’

‘He may, perhaps, Christopher, if you refuse his offer,’ said Mr Garland gravely.

‘Then let him, Sir,’ retorted Kit; ‘what do I care, Sir, what he thinks? why should I care for his thinking, Sir, when I know that I should be a fool, and worse than a fool, Sir, to leave the kindest master and mistress that ever was or can be, who took me out of the streets a very poor and hungry lad indeed — poorer and hungrier perhaps than even you think for, Sir — to go to him or anybody? If Miss Nell was to come back, ma’am,’ added Kit, turning suddenly to his mistress, ‘why that would be another thing, and perhaps if she wanted me, I might ask you now and then to let me work for her when all was done at home. But when she comes back, I see now that she’ll be rich as old master always said she would, and being a rich young lady, what could she want of me? No, no,’ added Kit, shaking his head sorrowfully, ‘she’ll never want me any more, and bless her, I hope she never may, though I should like to see her too!’

Here Kit drove a nail into the wall, very hard — much harder than was necessary — and having done so, faced about again.

‘There’s the pony, Sir,’ said Kit — ‘Whisker, ma’am (and he knows so well I’m talking about him that he begins to neigh directly, Sir), — would he let anybody come near him but me, ma’am? Here’s the garden, Sir, and Mr Abel, ma’am. Would Mr Abel part with me, Sir, or is there anybody that could be

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