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WHEREIN CERTAIN PERSONS ARE PRESENTED TO THE READER, WITH WHOM HE MAY,
IF HE PLEASE, BECOME BETTER ACQUAINTED
It was pretty late in the autumn of the year, when the declining sun
struggling through the mist which had obscured it all day, looked
brightly down upon a little Wiltshire village, within an easy journey of
the fair old town of Salisbury.
Like a sudden flash of memory or spirit kindling up the mind of an old
man, it shed a glory upon the scene, in which its departed youth and
freshness seemed to live again. The wet grass sparkled in the light;
the scanty patches of verdure in the hedges--where a few green twigs
yet stood together bravely, resisting to the last the tyranny of nipping
winds and early frosts--took heart and brightened up; the stream which
had been dull and sullen all day long, broke out into a cheerful smile;
the birds began to chirp and twitter on the naked boughs, as though the
hopeful creatures half believed that winter had gone by, and spring
had come already. The vane upon the tapering spire of the old church
glistened from its lofty station in sympathy with the general gladness;
and from the ivy-shaded windows such gleams of light shone back upon
the glowing sky, that it seemed as if the quiet buildings were the
hoarding-place of twenty summers, and all their ruddiness and warmth
were stored within.
Even those tokens of the season which emphatically whispered of the
coming winter, graced the landscape, and, for the moment, tinged its
livelier features with no oppressive air of sadness. The fallen leaves,
with which the ground was strewn, gave forth a pleasant fragrance, and
subduing all harsh sounds of distant feet and wheels created a repose
in gentle unison with the light scattering of seed hither and thither by
the distant husbandman, and with the noiseless passage of the plough as
it turned up the rich brown earth, and wrought a graceful pattern in
the stubbled fields. On the motionless branches of some trees, autumn
berries hung like clusters of coral beads, as in those fabled orchards
where the fruits were jewels; others stripped of all their garniture,
stood, each the centre of its little heap of bright red leaves, watching
their slow decay; others again, still wearing theirs, had them all
crunched and crackled up, as though they had been burnt; about the stems
of some were piled, in ruddy mounds, the apples they had borne that
year; while others (hardy evergreens this class) showed somewhat stern
and gloomy in their vigour, as charged by nature with the admonition
that it is not to her more sensitive and joyous favourites she grants
the longest term of life. Still athwart their darker boughs, the
sunbeams struck out paths of deeper gold; and the red light, mantling in
among their swarthy branches, used them as foils to set its brightness
off, and aid the lustre of the dying day.
A moment, and its glory was no more. The sun went down beneath the long
dark lines of hill and cloud which piled up in the west an airy city,
wall heaped on wall, and battlement on battlement; the light was all
withdrawn; the shining church turned cold and dark; the stream forgot
to smile; the birds were silent; and the gloom of winter dwelt on
An evening wind uprose too, and the slighter branches cracked and
rattled as they moved, in skeleton dances, to its moaning music. The
withering leaves no longer quiet, hurried to and fro in search of
shelter from its chill pursuit; the labourer unyoked his horses, and
with head bent down, trudged briskly home beside them; and from the
cottage windows lights began to glance and wink upon the darkening
Then the village forge came out in all its bright importance. The lusty
bellows roared Ha ha! to the clear fire, which roared in turn, and bade
the shining sparks dance gayly to the merry clinking of the hammers on
the anvil. The gleaming iron, in its emulation, sparkled too, and shed
its red-hot gems around profusely. The strong smith and his men dealt
such strokes upon their work, as made even the melancholy night rejoice,
and brought a glow into its dark face as it hovered about the door and
windows, peeping curiously in above the shoulders of a dozen loungers.
As to this idle company, there they stood, spellbound by the place, and,
casting now and then a glance upon the darkness in their rear, settled
their lazy elbows more at ease upon the sill, and leaned a little
further in: no more disposed to tear themselves away than if they had
been born to cluster round the blazing hearth like so many crickets.
Out upon the angry wind! how from sighing, it began to bluster round the
merry forge, banging at the wicket, and grumbling in the chimney, as if
it bullied the jolly bellows for doing anything to order. And what an
impotent swaggerer it was too, for all its noise; for if it had any
influence on that hoarse companion, it was but to make him roar his
cheerful song the louder, and by consequence to make the fire burn
the brighter, and the sparks to dance more gayly yet; at length, they
whizzed so madly round and round, that it was too much for such a surly
wind to bear; so off it flew with a howl giving the old sign before the
ale-house door such a cuff as it went, that the Blue Dragon was more
rampant than usual ever afterwards, and indeed, before Christmas, reared
clean out of its crazy frame.
It was small tyranny for a respectable wind to go wreaking its vengeance
on such poor creatures as the fallen leaves, but this wind happening to
come up with a great heap of them just after venting its humour on the
insulted Dragon, did so disperse and scatter them that they fled away,
pell-mell, some here, some there, rolling over each other, whirling
round and round upon their thin edges, taking frantic flights into the
air, and playing all manner of extraordinary gambols in the extremity
of their distress. Nor was this enough for its malicious fury; for not
content with driving them abroad, it charged small parties of them and
hunted them into the wheel wright's saw-pit, and below the planks and
timbers in the yard, and, scattering the sawdust in the air, it looked
for them underneath, and when it did meet with any, whew! how it drove
them on and followed at their heels!
The scared leaves only flew the faster for all this, and a giddy chase
it was; for they got into unfrequented places, where there was no
outlet, and where their pursuer kept them eddying round and round at his
pleasure; and they crept under the eaves of houses, and clung tightly to
the sides of hay-ricks, like bats; and tore in at open chamber windows,
and cowered close to hedges; and, in short, went anywhere for safety.
But the oddest feat they achieved was, to take advantage of the sudden
opening of Mr Pecksniff's front-door, to dash wildly into his passage;
whither the wind following close upon them, and finding the back-door
open, incontinently blew out the lighted candle held by Miss Pecksniff,
and slammed the front-door against Mr Pecksniff who was at that moment
entering, with such violence, that in the twinkling of an eye he lay on
his back at the bottom of the steps. Being by this time weary of such
trifling performances, the boisterous rover hurried away rejoicing,
roaring over moor and meadow, hill and flat, until it got out to sea,
where it met with other winds similarly disposed, and made a night of
In the meantime Mr Pecksniff, having received from a sharp angle in the
bottom step but one, that sort of knock on the head which lights up, for
the patient's entertainment, an imaginary general illumination of very
bright short-sixes, lay placidly staring at his own street door. And it
would seem to have been more suggestive in its aspect than street
doors usually are; for he continued to lie there, rather a lengthy and
unreasonable time, without so much as wondering whether he was hurt
or no; neither, when Miss Pecksniff inquired through the key-hole in a
shrill voice, which might have belonged to a wind in its teens, 'Who's
there' did he make any reply; nor, when Miss Pecksniff opened the door
again, and shading the candle with her hand, peered out, and looked
provokingly round him, and about him, and over him, and everywhere but
at him, did he offer any remark, or indicate in any manner the least
hint of a desire to be picked up.
'I see you,' cried Miss Pecksniff, to the ideal inflicter of a runaway
knock. 'You'll catch it, sir!'
Still Mr Pecksniff, perhaps from having caught it already, said nothing.
'You're round the corner now,' cried Miss Pecksniff. She said it at a
venture, but there was appropriate matter in it too; for Mr Pecksniff,
being in the act of extinguishing the candles before mentioned pretty
rapidly, and of reducing the number of brass knobs on his street door
from four or five hundred (which had previously been juggling of their
own accord before his eyes in a very novel manner) to a dozen or so,
might in one sense have been said to be coming round the corner, and
just turning it.
With a sharply delivered warning relative to the cage and the constable,
and the stocks and the gallows, Miss Pecksniff was about to close the
door again, when Mr Pecksniff (being still at the bottom of the steps)
raised himself on one elbow, and sneezed.
'That voice!' cried Miss Pecksniff. 'My parent!'
At this exclamation, another Miss Pecksniff bounced out of the parlour;
and the two Miss Pecksniffs, with many incoherent expressions, dragged
Mr Pecksniff into an upright posture.
'Pa!' they cried in concert. 'Pa! Speak, Pa! Do not look so wild my
But as a gentleman's looks, in such a case of all others, are by no
means under his own control, Mr Pecksniff continued to keep his mouth
and his eyes very wide open, and to drop his lower jaw, somewhat after
the manner of a toy nut-cracker; and as his hat had fallen off, and his
face was pale, and his hair erect, and his coat muddy, the spectacle he
presented was so very doleful, that neither of the Miss Pecksniffs could
repress an involuntary screech.
'That'll do,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'I'm better.'
'He's come to himself!' cried the youngest Miss Pecksniff.
'He speaks again!' exclaimed the eldest.
With these joyful words they kissed Mr Pecksniff on either cheek; and
bore him into the house. Presently, the youngest Miss Pecksniff ran
out again to pick up his hat, his brown paper parcel, his umbrella, his
gloves, and other small articles; and that done, and the door closed,
both young ladies applied themselves to tending Mr Pecksniff's wounds in
the back parlour.
They were not very serious in their nature; being limited to abrasions
on what the eldest Miss Pecksniff called 'the knobby parts' of her
parent's anatomy, such as his knees and elbows, and to the development
of an entirely new organ, unknown to phrenologists, on the back of his
head. These injuries having been comforted externally, with patches of
pickled brown paper, and Mr Pecksniff having been comforted internally,
with some stiff brandy-and-water, the eldest Miss Pecksniff sat down
to make the tea, which was all ready. In the meantime the youngest Miss
Pecksniff brought from the kitchen a smoking dish of ham and eggs, and,
setting the same before her father, took up her station on a low stool
at his feet; thereby bringing her eyes on a level with the teaboard.
It must not be inferred from this position of humility, that the
youngest Miss Pecksniff was so young as to be, as one may say, forced to
sit upon a stool, by reason of the shortness of her legs. Miss Pecksniff
sat upon a stool because of her simplicity and innocence, which were
very great, very great. Miss Pecksniff sat upon a stool because she was
all girlishness, and playfulness, and wildness, and kittenish buoyancy.
She was the most arch and at the same time the most artless creature,
was the youngest Miss Pecksniff, that you can possibly imagine. It
was her great charm. She was too fresh and guileless, and too full of
child-like vivacity, was the youngest Miss Pecksniff, to wear combs in
her hair, or to turn it up, or to frizzle it, or braid it. She wore it
in a crop, a loosely flowing crop, which had so many rows of curls in
it, that the top row was only one curl. Moderately buxom was her shape,
and quite womanly too; but sometimes--yes, sometimes--she even wore
a pinafore; and how charming THAT was! Oh! she was indeed 'a gushing
thing' (as a young gentleman had observed in verse, in the Poet's Corner
of a provincial newspaper), was the youngest Miss Pecksniff!
Mr Pecksniff was a moral man--a grave man, a man of noble sentiments and
speech--and he had had her christened Mercy. Mercy! oh, what a charming
name for such a pure-souled Being as the youngest Miss Pecksniff! Her
sister's name was Charity. There was a good thing! Mercy and Charity!
And Charity, with her fine strong sense and her mild, yet not
reproachful gravity, was so well named, and did so well set off and
illustrate her sister! What a pleasant sight was that the contrast
they presented; to see each loved and loving one sympathizing with, and
devoted to, and leaning on, and yet correcting and counter-checking,
and, as it were, antidoting, the other! To behold each damsel in her
very admiration of her sister, setting up in business for herself on
an entirely different principle, and announcing no connection with
over-the-way, and if the quality of goods at that establishment don't
please you, you are respectfully invited to favour ME with a call! And
the crowning circumstance of the whole delightful catalogue was, that
both the fair creatures were so utterly unconscious of all this!
They had no idea of it. They no more thought or dreamed of it than Mr
Pecksniff did. Nature played them off against each other; THEY had no
hand in it, the two Miss Pecksniffs.
It has been remarked that Mr Pecksniff was a moral man. So he was.
Perhaps there never was a more moral man than Mr Pecksniff, especially
in his conversation and correspondence. It was once said of him by a
homely admirer, that he had a Fortunatus's purse of good sentiments in
his inside. In this particular he was like the girl in the fairy tale,
except that if they were not actual diamonds which fell from his lips,
they were the very brightest paste, and shone prodigiously. He was a
most exemplary man; fuller of virtuous precept than a copy book. Some
people likened him to a direction-post, which is always telling the
way to a place, and never goes there; but these were his enemies, the
shadows cast by his brightness; that was all. His very throat was moral.
You saw a good deal of it. You looked over a very low fence of white
cravat (whereof no man had ever beheld the tie for he fastened it
behind), and there it lay, a valley between two jutting heights of
collar, serene and whiskerless before you. It seemed to say, on the part
of Mr Pecksniff, 'There is no deception, ladies and gentlemen, all is
peace, a holy calm pervades me.' So did his hair, just grizzled with
an iron-grey which was all brushed off his forehead, and stood bolt
upright, or slightly drooped in kindred action with his heavy eyelids.
So did his person, which was sleek though free from corpulency. So did
his manner, which was soft and oily. In a word, even his plain black
suit, and state of widower and dangling double eye-glass, all tended to
the same purpose, and cried aloud, 'Behold the moral Pecksniff!'
The brazen plate upon the door (which being Mr Pecksniff's, could
not lie) bore this inscription, 'PECKSNIFF, ARCHITECT,' to which Mr
Pecksniff, on his cards of business, added, AND LAND SURVEYOR.' In one
sense, and only one, he may be said to have been a Land Surveyor on a
pretty large scale, as an extensive prospect lay stretched out before
the windows of his house. Of his architectural doings, nothing was
clearly known, except that he had never designed or built anything; but
it was generally understood that his knowledge of the science was almost
awful in its profundity.
Mr Pecksniff's professional engagements, indeed, were almost, if not
entirely, confined to the reception of pupils; for the collection of
rents, with which pursuit he occasionally varied and relieved his graver
toils, can hardly be said to be a strictly architectural employment. His
genius lay in ensnaring parents and guardians, and pocketing premiums. A
young gentleman's premium being paid, and the young gentleman come to
Mr Pecksniff's house, Mr Pecksniff borrowed his case of mathematical
instruments (if silver-mounted or otherwise valuable); entreated him,
from that moment, to consider himself one of the family; complimented
him highly on his parents or guardians, as the case might be; and
turned him loose in a spacious room on the two-pair front; where, in the
company of certain drawing-boards, parallel rulers, very stiff-legged
compasses, and two, or perhaps three, other young gentlemen, he improved
himself, for three or five years, according to his articles, in making
elevations of Salisbury Cathedral from every possible point of sight;
and in constructing in the air a vast quantity of Castles, Houses of
Parliament, and other Public Buildings. Perhaps in no place in the
world were so many gorgeous edifices of this class erected as under
Mr Pecksniff's auspices; and if but one-twentieth part of the churches
which were built in that front room, with one or other of the Miss
Pecksniffs at the altar in the act of marrying the architect, could only
be made available by the parliamentary commissioners, no more churches
would be wanted for at least five centuries.
'Even the worldly goods of which we have just disposed,' said Mr
Pecksniff, glancing round the table when he had finished, 'even cream,
sugar, tea, toast, ham--'
'And eggs,' suggested Charity in a low voice.
'And eggs,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'even they have their moral. See how they
come and go! Every pleasure is transitory. We can't even eat, long.
If we indulge in harmless fluids, we get the dropsy; if in exciting
liquids, we get drunk. What a soothing reflection is that!'
'Don't say WE get drunk, Pa,' urged the eldest Miss Pecksniff.
'When I say we, my dear,' returned her father, 'I mean mankind in
general; the human race, considered as a body, and not as individuals.
There is nothing personal in morality, my love. Even such a thing as
this,' said Mr Pecksniff, laying the fore-finger of his left hand upon
the brown paper patch on the top of his head, 'slight casual baldness
though it be, reminds us that we are but'--he was going to say 'worms,'
but recollecting that worms were not remarkable for heads of hair, he
substituted 'flesh and blood.'
'Which,' cried Mr Pecksniff after a pause, during which he seemed to
have been casting about for a new moral, and not quite successfully,
'which is also very soothing. Mercy, my dear, stir the fire and throw up
The young lady obeyed, and having done so, resumed her stool, reposed
one arm upon her father's knee, and laid her blooming cheek upon
it. Miss Charity drew her chair nearer the fire, as one prepared for
conversation, and looked towards her father.
'Yes,' said Mr Pecksniff, after a short pause, during which he had been
silently smiling, and shaking his head at the fire--'I have again been
fortunate in the attainment of my object. A new inmate will very shortly
come among us.'
'A youth, papa?' asked Charity.
'Ye-es, a youth,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'He will avail himself of the
eligible opportunity which now offers, for uniting the advantages of the
best practical architectural education with the comforts of a home, and
the constant association with some who (however humble their sphere,
and limited their capacity) are not unmindful of their moral
'Oh Pa!' cried Mercy, holding up her finger archly. 'See advertisement!'
'Playful--playful warbler,' said Mr Pecksniff. It may be observed in
connection with his calling his daughter a 'warbler,' that she was not
at all vocal, but that Mr Pecksniff was in the frequent habit of using
any word that occurred to him as having a good sound, and rounding a
sentence well without much care for its meaning. And he did this so
boldly, and in such an imposing manner, that he would sometimes stagger
the wisest people with his eloquence, and make them gasp again.
His enemies asserted, by the way, that a strong trustfulness in sounds
and forms was the master-key to Mr Pecksniff's character.
'Is he handsome, Pa?' inquired the younger daughter.
'Silly Merry!' said the eldest: Merry being fond for Mercy. 'What is the
premium, Pa? tell us that.'
'Oh, good gracious, Cherry!' cried Miss Mercy, holding up her hands with
the most winning giggle in the world, 'what a mercenary girl you are! oh
you naughty, thoughtful, prudent thing!'
It was perfectly charming, and worthy of the Pastoral age, to see how
the two Miss Pecksniffs slapped each other after this, and then subsided
into an embrace expressive of their different dispositions.
'He is well looking,' said Mr Pecksniff, slowly and distinctly; 'well
looking enough. I do not positively expect any immediate premium with
Notwithstanding their different natures, both Charity and Mercy
concurred in opening their eyes uncommonly wide at this announcement,
and in looking for the moment as blank as if their thoughts had actually
had a direct bearing on the main chance.
'But what of that!' said Mr Pecksniff, still smiling at the fire. 'There
is disinterestedness in the world, I hope? We are not all arrayed in two
opposite ranks; the OFfensive and the DEfensive. Some few there are
who walk between; who help the needy as they go; and take no part with
either side. Umph!'
There was something in these morsels of philanthropy which reassured the
sisters. They exchanged glances, and brightened very much.
'Oh! let us not be for ever calculating, devising, and plotting for the
future,' said Mr Pecksniff, smiling more and more, and looking at the
fire as a man might, who was cracking a joke with it: 'I am weary of
such arts. If our inclinations are but good and open-hearted, let us
gratify them boldly, though they bring upon us Loss instead of Profit.
Glancing towards his daughters for the first time since he had begun
these reflections, and seeing that they both smiled, Mr Pecksniff eyed
them for an instant so jocosely (though still with a kind of saintly
waggishness) that the younger one was moved to sit upon his knee
forthwith, put her fair arms round his neck, and kiss him twenty times.
During the whole of this affectionate display she laughed to a most
immoderate extent: in which hilarious indulgence even the prudent Cherry
'Tut, tut,' said Mr Pecksniff, pushing his latest-born away and running
his fingers through his hair, as he resumed his tranquil face. 'What
folly is this! Let us take heed how we laugh without reason lest we cry
with it. What is the domestic news since yesterday? John Westlock is
gone, I hope?'
'Indeed, no,' said Charity.
'And why not?' returned her father. 'His term expired yesterday. And his
box was packed, I know; for I saw it, in the morning, standing in the
'He slept last night at the Dragon,' returned the young lady, 'and had
Mr Pinch to dine with him. They spent the evening together, and Mr Pinch
was not home till very late.'
'And when I saw him on the stairs this morning, Pa,' said Mercy with her
usual sprightliness, 'he looked, oh goodness, SUCH a monster! with his
face all manner of colours, and his eyes as dull as if they had been
boiled, and his head aching dreadfully, I am sure from the look of
it, and his clothes smelling, oh it's impossible to say how strong,
oh'--here the young lady shuddered--'of smoke and punch.'
'Now I think,' said Mr Pecksniff with his accustomed gentleness, though
still with the air of one who suffered under injury without complaint,
'I think Mr Pinch might have done better than choose for his companion
one who, at the close of a long intercourse, had endeavoured, as he
knew, to wound my feelings. I am not quite sure that this was delicate
in Mr Pinch. I am not quite sure that this was kind in Mr Pinch. I will
go further and say, I am not quite sure that this was even ordinarily
grateful in Mr Pinch.'
'But what can anyone expect from Mr Pinch!' cried Charity, with as
strong and scornful an emphasis on the name as if it would have given
her unspeakable pleasure to express it, in an acted charade, on the calf
of that gentleman's leg.
'Aye, aye,' returned her father, raising his hand mildly: 'it is
very well to say what can we expect from Mr Pinch, but Mr Pinch is
a fellow-creature, my dear; Mr Pinch is an item in the vast total of
humanity, my love; and we have a right, it is our duty, to expect in
Mr Pinch some development of those better qualities, the possession
of which in our own persons inspires our humble self-respect. No,'
continued Mr Pecksniff. 'No! Heaven forbid that I should say, nothing
can be expected from Mr Pinch; or that I should say, nothing can be
expected from any man alive (even the most degraded, which Mr Pinch is
not, no, really); but Mr Pinch has disappointed me; he has hurt me;
I think a little the worse of him on this account, but not if human
nature. Oh, no, no!'
'Hark!' said Miss Charity, holding up her finger, as a gentle rap was
heard at the street door. 'There is the creature! Now mark my words, he
has come back with John Westlock for his box, and is going to help
him to take it to the mail. Only mark my words, if that isn't his
Even as she spoke, the box appeared to be in progress of conveyance from
the house, but after a brief murmuring of question and answer, it was
put down again, and somebody knocked at the parlour door.
'Come in!' cried Mr Pecksniff--not severely; only virtuously. 'Come in!'
An ungainly, awkward-looking man, extremely short-sighted, and
prematurely bald, availed himself of this permission; and seeing that
Mr Pecksniff sat with his back towards him, gazing at the fire,
stood hesitating, with the door in his hand. He was far from handsome
certainly; and was drest in a snuff-coloured suit, of an uncouth make at
the best, which, being shrunk with long wear, was twisted and tortured
into all kinds of odd shapes; but notwithstanding his attire, and his
clumsy figure, which a great stoop in his shoulders, and a ludicrous
habit he had of thrusting his head forward, by no means redeemed, one
would not have been disposed (unless Mr Pecksniff said so) to consider
him a bad fellow by any means. He was perhaps about thirty, but he might
have been almost any age between sixteen and sixty; being one of those
strange creatures who never decline into an ancient appearance, but look
their oldest when they are very young, and get it over at once.
Keeping his hand upon the lock of the door, he glanced from Mr Pecksniff
to Mercy, from Mercy to Charity, and from Charity to Mr Pecksniff again,
several times; but the young ladies being as intent upon the fire as
their father was, and neither of the three taking any notice of him, he
was fain to say, at last,
'Oh! I beg your pardon, Mr Pecksniff: I beg your pardon for intruding;
'No intrusion, Mr Pinch,' said that gentleman very sweetly, but without
looking round. 'Pray be seated, Mr Pinch. Have the goodness to shut the
door, Mr Pinch, if you please.'
'Certainly, sir,' said Pinch; not doing so, however, but holding it
rather wider open than before, and beckoning nervously to somebody
without: 'Mr Westlock, sir, hearing that you were come home--'
'Mr Pinch, Mr Pinch!' said Pecksniff, wheeling his chair about, and
looking at him with an aspect of the deepest melancholy, 'I did not
expect this from you. I have not deserved this from you!'
'No, but upon my word, sir--' urged Pinch.
'The less you say, Mr Pinch,' interposed the other, 'the better. I utter
no complaint. Make no defence.'
'No, but do have the goodness, sir,' cried Pinch, with great
earnestness, 'if you please. Mr Westlock, sir, going away for good and
all, wishes to leave none but friends behind him. Mr Westlock and you,
sir, had a little difference the other day; you have had many little
'Little differences!' cried Charity.
'Little differences!' echoed Mercy.
'My loves!' said Mr Pecksniff, with the same serene upraising of his
hand; 'My dears!' After a solemn pause he meekly bowed to Mr Pinch, as
who should say, 'Proceed;' but Mr Pinch was so very much at a loss how
to resume, and looked so helplessly at the two Miss Pecksniffs, that
the conversation would most probably have terminated there, if a
good-looking youth, newly arrived at man's estate, had not stepped
forward from the doorway and taken up the thread of the discourse.
'Come, Mr Pecksniff,' he said, with a smile, 'don't let there be any
ill-blood between us, pray. I am sorry we have ever differed, and
extremely sorry I have ever given you offence. Bear me no ill-will at
'I bear,' answered Mr Pecksniff, mildly, 'no ill-will to any man on
'I told you he didn't,' said Pinch, in an undertone; 'I knew he didn't!
He always says he don't.'
'Then you will shake hands, sir?' cried Westlock, advancing a step or
two, and bespeaking Mr Pinch's close attention by a glance.
'Umph!' said Mr Pecksniff, in his most winning tone.
'You will shake hands, sir.'
'No, John,' said Mr Pecksniff, with a calmness quite ethereal; 'no, I
will not shake hands, John. I have forgiven you. I had already forgiven
you, even before you ceased to reproach and taunt me. I have embraced
you in the spirit, John, which is better than shaking hands.'
'Pinch,' said the youth, turning towards him, with a hearty disgust of
his late master, 'what did I tell you?'
Poor Pinch looked down uneasily at Mr Pecksniff, whose eye was fixed
upon him as it had been from the first; and looking up at the ceiling
again, made no reply.
'As to your forgiveness, Mr Pecksniff,' said the youth, 'I'll not have
it upon such terms. I won't be forgiven.'
'Won't you, John?' retorted Mr Pecksniff, with a smile. 'You must. You
can't help it. Forgiveness is a high quality; an exalted virtue; far
above YOUR control or influence, John. I WILL forgive you. You cannot
move me to remember any wrong you have ever done me, John.'
'Wrong!' cried the other, with all the heat and impetuosity of his age.
'Here's a pretty fellow! Wrong! Wrong I have done him! He'll not even
remember the five hundred pounds he had with me under false pretences;
or the seventy pounds a year for board and lodging that would have been
dear at seventeen! Here's a martyr!'
'Money, John,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'is the root of all evil. I grieve
to see that it is already bearing evil fruit in you. But I will not
remember its existence. I will not even remember the conduct of that
misguided person'--and here, although he spoke like one at peace with
all the world, he used an emphasis that plainly said "I have my eye
upon the rascal now"--'that misguided person who has brought you here
to-night, seeking to disturb (it is a happiness to say, in vain) the
heart's repose and peace of one who would have shed his dearest blood to
The voice of Mr Pecksniff trembled as he spoke, and sobs were heard from
his daughters. Sounds floated on the air, moreover, as if two spirit
voices had exclaimed: one, 'Beast!' the other, 'Savage!'
'Forgiveness,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'entire and pure forgiveness is not
incompatible with a wounded heart; perchance when the heart is wounded,
it becomes a greater virtue. With my breast still wrung and grieved to
its inmost core by the ingratitude of that person, I am proud and glad
to say that I forgive him. Nay! I beg,' cried Mr Pecksniff, raising his
voice, as Pinch appeared about to speak, 'I beg that individual not to
offer a remark; he will truly oblige me by not uttering one word, just
now. I am not sure that I am equal to the trial. In a very short space
of time, I shall have sufficient fortitude, I trust to converse with
him as if these events had never happened. But not,' said Mr Pecksniff,
turning round again towards the fire, and waving his hand in the
direction of the door, 'not now.'
'Bah!' cried John Westlock, with the utmost disgust and disdain the
monosyllable is capable of expressing. 'Ladies, good evening. Come,
Pinch, it's not worth thinking of. I was right and you were wrong.
That's small matter; you'll be wiser another time.'
So saying, he clapped that dejected companion on the shoulder, turned
upon his heel, and walked out into the passage, whither poor Mr
Pinch, after lingering irresolutely in the parlour for a few seconds,
expressing in his countenance the deepest mental misery and gloom
followed him. Then they took up the box between them, and sallied out to
meet the mail.
That fleet conveyance passed, every night, the corner of a lane at some
distance; towards which point they bent their steps. For some minutes
they walked along in silence, until at length young Westlock burst into
a loud laugh, and at intervals into another, and another. Still there
was no response from his companion.
'I'll tell you what, Pinch!' he said abruptly, after another lengthened
silence--'You haven't half enough of the devil in you. Half enough! You
'Well!' said Pinch with a sigh, 'I don't know, I'm sure. It's compliment
to say so. If I haven't, I suppose, I'm all the better for it.'
'All the better!' repeated his companion tartly: 'All the worse, you
mean to say.'
'And yet,' said Pinch, pursuing his own thoughts and not this last
remark on the part of his friend, 'I must have a good deal of what
you call the devil in me, too, or how could I make Pecksniff so
uncomfortable? I wouldn't have occasioned him so much distress--don't
laugh, please--for a mine of money; and Heaven knows I could find good
use for it too, John. How grieved he was!'
'HE grieved!' returned the other.
'Why didn't you observe that the tears were almost starting out of his
eyes!' cried Pinch. 'Bless my soul, John, is it nothing to see a man
moved to that extent and know one's self to be the cause! And did you
hear him say that he could have shed his blood for me?'
'Do you WANT any blood shed for you?' returned his friend, with
considerable irritation. 'Does he shed anything for you that you DO
want? Does he shed employment for you, instruction for you, pocket
money for you? Does he shed even legs of mutton for you in any decent
proportion to potatoes and garden stuff?'
'I am afraid,' said Pinch, sighing again, 'that I am a great eater; I
can't disguise from myself that I'm a great eater. Now, you know that,
'You a great eater!' retorted his companion, with no less indignation
than before. 'How do you know you are?'
There appeared to be forcible matter in this inquiry, for Mr Pinch only
repeated in an undertone that he had a strong misgiving on the subject,
and that he greatly feared he was.
'Besides, whether I am or no,' he added, 'that has little or nothing to
do with his thinking me ungrateful. John, there is scarcely a sin in the
world that is in my eyes such a crying one as ingratitude; and when
he taxes me with that, and believes me to be guilty of it, he makes me
miserable and wretched.'
'Do you think he don't know that?' returned the other scornfully.
'But come, Pinch, before I say anything more to you, just run over the
reasons you have for being grateful to him at all, will you? Change
hands first, for the box is heavy. That'll do. Now, go on.'
'In the first place,' said Pinch, 'he took me as his pupil for much less
than he asked.'
'Well,' rejoined his friend, perfectly unmoved by this instance of
generosity. 'What in the second place?'
'What in the second place?' cried Pinch, in a sort of desperation, 'why,
everything in the second place. My poor old grandmother died happy to
think that she had put me with such an excellent man. I have grown up
in his house, I am in his confidence, I am his assistant, he allows me a
salary; when his business improves, my prospects are to improve too.
All this, and a great deal more, is in the second place. And in the very
prologue and preface to the first place, John, you must consider this,
which nobody knows better than I: that I was born for much plainer and
poorer things, that I am not a good hand for his kind of business, and
have no talent for it, or indeed for anything else but odds and ends
that are of no use or service to anybody.'
He said this with so much earnestness, and in a tone so full of feeling,
that his companion instinctively changed his manner as he sat down on
the box (they had by this time reached the finger-post at the end of the
lane); motioned him to sit down beside him; and laid his hand upon his
'I believe you are one of the best fellows in the world,' he said, 'Tom
'Not at all,' rejoined Tom. 'If you only knew Pecksniff as well as I do,
you might say it of him, indeed, and say it truly.'
'I'll say anything of him, you like,' returned the other, 'and not
another word to his disparagement.'
'It's for my sake, then; not his, I am afraid,' said Pinch, shaking his
'For whose you please, Tom, so that it does please you. Oh! He's a
famous fellow! HE never scraped and clawed into his pouch all your poor
grandmother's hard savings--she was a housekeeper, wasn't she, Tom?'
'Yes,' said Mr Pinch, nursing one of his large knees, and nodding his
head; 'a gentleman's housekeeper.'
'HE never scraped and clawed into his pouch all her hard savings;
dazzling her with prospects of your happiness and advancement, which he
knew (and no man better) never would be realised! HE never speculated
and traded on her pride in you, and her having educated you, and on her
desire that you at least should live to be a gentleman. Not he, Tom!'
'No,' said Tom, looking into his friend's face, as if he were a little
doubtful of his meaning. 'Of course not.'
'So I say,' returned the youth, 'of course he never did. HE didn't take
less than he had asked, because that less was all she had, and more than
he expected; not he, Tom! He doesn't keep you as his assistant
because you are of any use to him; because your wonderful faith in his
pretensions is of inestimable service in all his mean disputes; because
your honesty reflects honesty on him; because your wandering about this
little place all your spare hours, reading in ancient books and foreign
tongues, gets noised abroad, even as far as Salisbury, making of him,
Pecksniff the master, a man of learning and of vast importance. HE gets
no credit from you, Tom, not he.'
'Why, of course he don't,' said Pinch, gazing at his friend with a more
troubled aspect than before. 'Pecksniff get credit from me! Well!'
'Don't I say that it's ridiculous,' rejoined the other, 'even to think
of such a thing?'
'Why, it's madness,' said Tom.
'Madness!' returned young Westlock. 'Certainly it's madness. Who but
a madman would suppose he cares to hear it said on Sundays, that the
volunteer who plays the organ in the church, and practises on summer
evenings in the dark, is Mr Pecksniff's young man, eh, Tom? Who but a
madman would suppose it is the game of such a man as he, to have his
name in everybody's mouth, connected with the thousand useless odds and
ends you do (and which, of course, he taught you), eh, Tom? Who but a
madman would suppose you advertised him hereabouts, much cheaper and
much better than a chalker on the walls could, eh, Tom? As well might
one suppose that he doesn't on all occasions pour out his whole heart
and soul to you; that he doesn't make you a very liberal and indeed
rather an extravagant allowance; or, to be more wild and monstrous
still, if that be possible, as well might one suppose,' and here, at
every word, he struck him lightly on the breast, 'that Pecksniff traded
in your nature, and that your nature was to be timid and distrustful
of yourself, and trustful of all other men, but most of all, of him who
least deserves it. There would be madness, Tom!'
Mr Pinch had listened to all this with looks of bewilderment, which
seemed to be in part occasioned by the matter of his companion's speech,
and in part by his rapid and vehement manner. Now that he had come to a
close, he drew a very long breath; and gazing wistfully in his face as
if he were unable to settle in his own mind what expression it wore, and
were desirous to draw from it as good a clue to his real meaning as it
was possible to obtain in the dark, was about to answer, when the sound
of the mail guard's horn came cheerily upon their ears, putting
an immediate end to the conference; greatly as it seemed to the
satisfaction of the younger man, who jumped up briskly, and gave his
hand to his companion.
'Both hands, Tom. I shall write to you from London, mind!'
'Yes,' said Pinch. 'Yes. Do, please. Good-bye. Good-bye. I can hardly
believe you're going. It seems, now, but yesterday that you came.
Good-bye! my dear old fellow!'
John Westlock returned his parting words with no less heartiness of
manner, and sprung up to his seat upon the roof. Off went the mail at
a canter down the dark road; the lamps gleaming brightly, and the horn
awakening all the echoes, far and wide.
'Go your ways,' said Pinch, apostrophizing the coach; 'I can hardly
persuade myself but you're alive, and are some great monster who visits
this place at certain intervals, to bear my friends away into the world.
You're more exulting and rampant than usual tonight, I think; and you
may well crow over your prize; for he is a fine lad, an ingenuous lad,
and has but one fault that I know of; he don't mean it, but he is most
cruelly unjust to Pecksniff!'