The room in which Kit sat himself down, in this condition, was an extremely poor and homely place, but with that air of comfort about it, nevertheless, which--or the spot must be a wretched one indeed-- cleanliness and order can always impart in some degree. Late as the Dutch clock' showed it to be, the poor woman was still hard at work at an ironing-table; a young child lay sleeping in a cradle near the fire; and another, a sturdy boy of two or three years old, very wide awake, with a very tight night-cap on his head, and a night-gown very much too small for him on his body, was sitting bolt upright in a clothes-basket, staring over the rim with his great round eyes, and looking as if he had thoroughly made up his mind never to go to sleep any more; which, as he had already declined to take his natural rest and had been brought out of bed in consequence, opened a cheerful prospect for his relations and friends. It was rather a queer-looking family: Kit, his mother, and the children, being all strongly alike.
Kit was disposed to be out of temper, as the best of us are too often--but he looked at the youngest child who was sleeping soundly, and from him to his other brother in the clothes-basket, and from him to their mother, who had been at work without complaint since morning, and thought it would be a better and kinder thing to be good-humoured. So he rocked the cradle with his foot; made a face at the rebel in the clothes-basket, which put him in high good-humour directly; and stoutly determined to be talkative and make himself agreeable.
'Ah, mother!' said Kit, taking out his clasp-knife, and falling upon a great piece of bread and meat which she had had ready for him, hours before, 'what a one you are! There an't many such as you, I know.'
'I hope there are many a great deal better, Kit,' said Mrs Nubbles; 'and that there are, or ought to be, accordin' to what the parson at chapel says.'
'Much he knows about it,' returned Kit contemptuously. 'Wait till he's a widder and works like you do, and gets as little, and does as much, and keeps his spirit up the same, and then I'll ask him what's o'clock and trust him for being right to half a second.'
'Well,' said Mrs Nubbles, evading the point, 'your beer's down there by the fender, Kit.'
'I see,' replied her son, taking up the porter pot, 'my love to you, mother. And the parson's health too if you like. I don't bear him any malice, not I!'
'Did you tell me, just now, that your master hadn't gone out to-night?' inquired Mrs Nubbles.
'Yes,' said Kit, 'worse luck!'
'You should say better luck, I think,' returned his mother, 'because Miss Nelly won't have been left alone.'
'Ah!' said Kit, 'I forgot that. I said worse luck, because I've been watching ever since eight o'clock, and seen nothing of her.'
'I wonder what she'd say,' cried his mother, stopping in her work and looking round, 'if she knew that every night, when she--poor thing--is sitting alone at that window, you are watching in the open street for fear any harm should come to her, and that you never leave the place or come home to your bed though you're ever so tired, till such time as you think she's safe in hers.'
'Never mind what she'd say,' replied Kit, with something like a blush on his uncouth face; 'she'll never know nothing, and consequently, she'll never say nothing.'
Mrs Nubbles ironed away in silence for a minute or two, and coming to the fireplace for another iron, glanced stealthily at Kit while she rubbed it on a board and dusted it with a duster, but said nothing until she had returned to her table again: when, holding the iron at an alarmingly short distance from her cheek, to test its temperature, and looking round with a smile, she observed:
'I know what some people would say, Kit--'
'Nonsense,' interposed Kit with a perfect apprehension of what was to follow.
'No, but they would indeed. Some people would say that you'd fallen in love with her, I know they would.'
To this, Kit only replied by bashfully bidding his mother 'get out,' and forming sundry strange figures with his legs and arms, accompanied by sympathetic contortions of his face.