'You must not attach too great weight to a remark founded on first appearances, my friend,' said I.
'No,' returned the old man thoughtfully, 'no. Come hither, Nell.'
The little girl hastened from her seat, and put her arm about his neck.
'Do I love thee, Nell?' said he. 'Say--do I love thee, Nell, or no?'
The child only answered by her caresses, and laid her head upon his breast.
'Why dost thou sob?' said the grandfather, pressing her closer to him and glancing towards me. 'Is it because thou know'st I love thee, and dost not like that I should seem to doubt it by my question? Well, well--then let us say I love thee dearly.'
'Indeed, indeed you do,' replied the child with great earnestness, 'Kit knows you do.'
Kit, who in despatching his bread and meat had been swallowing two-thirds of his knife at every mouthful with the coolness of a juggler, stopped short in his operations on being thus appealed to, and bawled 'Nobody isn't such a fool as to say he doosn't,' after which he incapacitated himself for further conversation by taking a most prodigious sandwich at one bite.
'She is poor now'--said the old men, patting the child's cheek, 'but I say again that the time is coming when she shall be rich. It has been a long time coming, but it must come at last; a very long time, but it surely must come. It has come to other men who do nothing but waste and riot. When WILL it come to me!'
'I am very happy as I am, grandfather,' said the child.
'Tush, tush!' returned the old man, 'thou dost not know--how should'st thou!' then he muttered again between his teeth, 'The time must come, I am very sure it must. It will be all the better for coming late'; and then he sighed and fell into his former musing state, and still holding the child between his knees appeared to be insensible to everything around him. By this time it wanted but a few minutes of midnight and I rose to go, which recalled him to himself.
'One moment, sir,' he said, 'Now, Kit--near midnight, boy, and you still here! Get home, get home, and be true to your time in the morning, for there's work to do. Good night! There, bid him good night, Nell, and let him be gone!'
'Good night, Kit,' said the child, her eyes lighting up with merriment and kindness.'
'Good night, Miss Nell,' returned the boy.
'And thank this gentleman,' interposed the old man, 'but for whose care I might have lost my little girl to-night.'
'No, no, master,' said Kit, 'that won't do, that won't.'
'What do you mean?' cried the old man.
'I'd have found her, master,' said Kit, 'I'd have found her. I'll bet that I'd find her if she was above ground, I would, as quick as anybody, master. Ha, ha, ha!'
Once more opening his mouth and shutting his eyes, and laughing like a stentor, Kit gradually backed to the door, and roared himself out.
Free of the room, the boy was not slow in taking his departure; when he had gone, and the child was occupied in clearing the table, the old man said:
'I haven't seemed to thank you, sir, for what you have done to-night, but I do thank you humbly and heartily, and so does she, and her thanks are better worth than mine. I should be sorry that you went away, and thought I was unmindful of your goodness, or careless of her--I am not indeed.'
I was sure of that, I said, from what I had seen.