'But Miggs,' cried Mr Tappertit, getting under the lamp, that she might see his eyes. 'My darling Miggs--'
Miggs screamed slightly.
'--That I love so much, and never can help thinking of,' and it is impossible to describe the use he made of his eyes when he said this--'do--for my sake, do.'
'Oh Simmun,' cried Miggs, 'this is worse than all. I know if I come down, you'll go, and--'
'And what, my precious?' said Mr Tappertit.
'And try,' said Miggs, hysterically, 'to kiss me, or some such dreadfulness; I know you will!'
'I swear I won't,' said Mr Tappertit, with remarkable earnestness. 'Upon my soul I won't. It's getting broad day, and the watchman's waking up. Angelic Miggs! If you'll only come and let me in, I promise you faithfully and truly I won't.'
Miss Miggs, whose gentle heart was touched, did not wait for the oath (knowing how strong the temptation was, and fearing he might forswear himself), but tripped lightly down the stairs, and with her own fair hands drew back the rough fastenings of the workshop window. Having helped the wayward 'prentice in, she faintly articulated the words 'Simmun is safe!' and yielding to her woman's nature, immediately became insensible.
'I knew I should quench her,' said Sim, rather embarrassed by this circumstance. 'Of course I was certain it would come to this, but there was nothing else to be done--if I hadn't eyed her over, she wouldn't have come down. Here. Keep up a minute, Miggs. What a slippery figure she is! There's no holding her, comfortably. Do keep up a minute, Miggs, will you?'
As Miggs, however, was deaf to all entreaties, Mr Tappertit leant her against the wall as one might dispose of a walking-stick or umbrella, until he had secured the window, when he took her in his arms again, and, in short stages and with great difficulty--arising from her being tall and his being short, and perhaps in some degree from that peculiar physical conformation on which he had already remarked--carried her upstairs, and planting her, in the same umbrella and walking-stick fashion, just inside her own door, left her to her repose.
'He may be as cool as he likes,' said Miss Miggs, recovering as soon as she was left alone; 'but I'm in his confidence and he can't help himself, nor couldn't if he was twenty Simmunses!'
It was on one of those mornings, common in early spring, when the year, fickle and changeable in its youth like all other created things, is undecided whether to step backward into winter or forward into summer, and in its uncertainty inclines now to the one and now to the other, and now to both at once--wooing summer in the sunshine, and lingering still with winter in the shade--it was, in short, on one of those mornings, when it is hot and cold, wet and dry, bright and lowering, sad and cheerful, withering and genial, in the compass of one short hour, that old John Willet, who was dropping asleep over the copper boiler, was roused by the sound of a horse's feet, and glancing out at window, beheld a traveller of goodly promise, checking his bridle at the Maypole door.
He was none of your flippant young fellows, who would call for a tankard of mulled ale, and make themselves as much at home as if they had ordered a hogshead of wine; none of your audacious young swaggerers, who would even penetrate into the bar--that solemn sanctuary--and, smiting old John upon the back, inquire if there was never a pretty girl in the house, and where he hid his little chambermaids, with a hundred other impertinences of that nature; none of your free-and-easy companions, who would scrape their boots upon the firedogs in the common room, and be not at all particular on the subject of spittoons; none of your unconscionable blades, requiring impossible chops, and taking unheard-of pickles for granted. He was a staid, grave, placid gentleman, something past the prime of life, yet upright in his carriage, for all that, and slim as a greyhound. He was well-mounted upon a sturdy chestnut cob, and had the graceful seat of an experienced horseman; while his riding gear, though free from such fopperies as were then in vogue, was handsome and well chosen.