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IS A CHAPTER OF LOVE
'Pecksniff,' said Jonas, taking off his hat, to see that the black
crape band was all right; and finding that it was, putting it on again,
complacently; 'what do you mean to give your daughters when they marry?'
'My dear Mr Jonas,' cried the affectionate parent, with an ingenuous
smile, 'what a very singular inquiry!'
'Now, don't you mind whether it's a singular inquiry or a plural one,'
retorted Jonas, eyeing Mr Pecksniff with no great favour, 'but answer
it, or let it alone. One or the other.'
'Hum! The question, my dear friend,' said Mr Pecksniff, laying his hand
tenderly upon his kinsman's knee, 'is involved with many considerations.
What would I give them? Eh?'
'Ah! what would you give 'em?' repeated Jonas.
'Why, that, 'said Mr Pecksniff, 'would naturally depend in a great
measure upon the kind of husbands they might choose, my dear young
Mr Jonas was evidently disconcerted, and at a loss how to proceed.
It was a good answer. It seemed a deep one, but such is the wisdom of
'My standard for the merits I would require in a son-in-law,' said Mr
Pecksniff, after a short silence, 'is a high one. Forgive me, my dear Mr
Jonas,' he added, greatly moved, 'if I say that you have spoiled me, and
made it a fanciful one; an imaginative one; a prismatically tinged one,
if I may be permitted to call it so.'
'What do you mean by that?' growled Jonas, looking at him with increased
'Indeed, my dear friend,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'you may well inquire.
The heart is not always a royal mint, with patent machinery to work its
metal into current coin. Sometimes it throws it out in strange forms,
not easily recognized as coin at all. But it is sterling gold. It has at
least that merit. It is sterling gold.'
'Is it?' grumbled Jonas, with a doubtful shake of the head.
'Aye!' said Mr Pecksniff, warming with his subject 'it is. To be plain
with you, Mr Jonas, if I could find two such sons-in-law as you will one
day make to some deserving man, capable of appreciating a nature such as
yours, I would--forgetful of myself--bestow upon my daughters portions
reaching to the very utmost limit of my means.'
This was strong language, and it was earnestly delivered. But who can
wonder that such a man as Mr Pecksniff, after all he had seen and heard
of Mr Jonas, should be strong and earnest upon such a theme; a theme
that touched even the worldly lips of undertakers with the honey of
Mr Jonas was silent, and looked thoughtfully at the landscape. For
they were seated on the outside of the coach, at the back, and were
travelling down into the country. He accompanied Mr Pecksniff home for a
few days' change of air and scene after his recent trials.
'Well,' he said, at last, with captivating bluntness, 'suppose you got
one such son-in-law as me, what then?'
Mr Pecksniff regarded him at first with inexpressible surprise; then
gradually breaking into a sort of dejected vivacity, said:
'Then well I know whose husband he would be!'
'Whose?' asked Jonas, drily.
'My eldest girl's, Mr Jonas,' replied Pecksniff, with moistening eyes.
'My dear Cherry's; my staff, my scrip, my treasure, Mr Jonas. A hard
struggle, but it is in the nature of things! I must one day part with
her to a husband. I know it, my dear friend. I am prepared for it.'
'Ecod! you've been prepared for that a pretty long time, I should
think,' said Jonas.
'Many have sought to bear her from me,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'All have
failed. "I never will give my hand, papa"--those were her words--"unless
my heart is won." She has not been quite so happy as she used to be, of
late. I don't know why.'
Again Mr Jonas looked at the landscape; then at the coachman; then at
the luggage on the roof; finally at Mr Pecksniff.
'I suppose you'll have to part with the other one, some of these days?'
he observed, as he caught that gentleman's eye.
'Probably,' said the parent. 'Years will tame down the wildness of my
foolish bird, and then it will be caged. But Cherry, Mr Jonas, Cherry--'
'Oh, ah!' interrupted Jonas. 'Years have made her all right enough.
Nobody doubts that. But you haven't answered what I asked you. Of
course, you're not obliged to do it, you know, if you don't like. You're
the best judge.'
There was a warning sulkiness in the manner of this speech, which
admonished Mr Pecksniff that his dear friend was not to be trifled with
or fenced off, and that he must either return a straight-forward reply
to his question, or plainly give him to understand that he declined to
enlighten him upon the subject to which it referred. Mindful in this
dilemma of the caution old Anthony had given him almost with his
latest breath, he resolved to speak to the point, and so told Mr Jonas
(enlarging upon the communication as a proof of his great attachment and
confidence), that in the case he had put; to wit, in the event of such
a man as he proposing for his daughter's hand, he would endow her with a
fortune of four thousand pounds.
'I should sadly pinch and cramp myself to do so,' was his fatherly
remark; 'but that would be my duty, and my conscience would reward me.
For myself, my conscience is my bank. I have a trifle invested there--a
mere trifle, Mr Jonas--but I prize it as a store of value, I assure
The good man's enemies would have divided upon this question into two
parties. One would have asserted without scruple that if Mr Pecksniff's
conscience were his bank, and he kept a running account there, he must
have overdrawn it beyond all mortal means of computation. The other
would have contended that it was a mere fictitious form; a perfectly
blank book; or one in which entries were only made with a peculiar kind
of invisible ink to become legible at some indefinite time; and that he
never troubled it at all.
'It would sadly pinch and cramp me, my dear friend,' repeated Mr
Pecksniff, 'but Providence--perhaps I may be permitted to say a special
Providence--has blessed my endeavours, and I could guarantee to make the
A question of philosophy arises here, whether Mr Pecksniff had or had
not good reason to say that he was specially patronized and encouraged
in his undertakings. All his life long he had been walking up and down
the narrow ways and by-places, with a hook in one hand and a crook in
the other, scraping all sorts of valuable odds and ends into his pouch.
Now, there being a special Providence in the fall of a sparrow, it
follows (so Mr Pecksniff, and only such admirable men, would have
reasoned), that there must also be a special Providence in the alighting
of the stone or stick, or other substance which is aimed at the sparrow.
And Mr Pecksniff's hook, or crook, having invariably knocked the sparrow
on the head and brought him down, that gentleman may have been led to
consider himself as specially licensed to bag sparrows, and as being
specially seized and possessed of all the birds he had got together.
That many undertakings, national as well as individual--but especially
the former--are held to be specially brought to a glorious and
successful issue, which never could be so regarded on any other process
of reasoning, must be clear to all men. Therefore the precedents would
seem to show that Mr Pecksniff had (as things go) good argument for
what he said and might be permitted to say it, and did not say it
presumptuously, vainly, or arrogantly, but in a spirit of high faith and
Mr Jonas, not being much accustomed to perplex his mind with theories of
this nature, expressed no opinion on the subject. Nor did he receive
his companion's announcement with one solitary syllable, good, bad, or
indifferent. He preserved this taciturnity for a quarter of an hour at
least, and during the whole of that time appeared to be steadily engaged
in subjecting some given amount to the operation of every known rule in
figures; adding to it, taking from it, multiplying it, reducing it by
long and short division; working it by the rule-of-three direct and
inversed; exchange or barter; practice; simple interest; compound
interest; and other means of arithmetical calculation. The result
of these labours appeared to be satisfactory, for when he did break
silence, it was as one who had arrived at some specific result, and
freed himself from a state of distressing uncertainty.
'Come, old Pecksniff!'--Such was his jocose address, as he slapped that
gentleman on the back, at the end of the stage--'let's have something!'
'With all my heart,' said Mr Pecksniff.
'Let's treat the driver,' cried Jonas.
'If you think it won't hurt the man, or render him discontented with his
station--certainly,' faltered Mr Pecksniff.
Jonas only laughed at this, and getting down from the coach-top with
great alacrity, cut a cumbersome kind of caper in the road. After which,
he went into the public-house, and there ordered spirituous drink to
such an extent, that Mr Pecksniff had some doubts of his perfect sanity,
until Jonas set them quite at rest by saying, when the coach could wait
'I've been standing treat for a whole week and more, and letting
you have all the delicacies of the season. YOU shall pay for this
Pecksniff.' It was not a joke either, as Mr Pecksniff at first supposed;
for he went off to the coach without further ceremony, and left his
respected victim to settle the bill.
But Mr Pecksniff was a man of meek endurance, and Mr Jonas was his
friend. Moreover, his regard for that gentleman was founded, as we know,
on pure esteem, and a knowledge of the excellence of his character. He
came out from the tavern with a smiling face, and even went so far as
to repeat the performance, on a less expensive scale, at the next
ale-house. There was a certain wildness in the spirits of Mr Jonas (not
usually a part of his character) which was far from being subdued
by these means, and, for the rest of the journey, he was so very
buoyant--it may be said, boisterous--that Mr Pecksniff had some
difficulty in keeping pace with him.
They were not expected--oh dear, no! Mr Pecksniff had proposed in London
to give the girls a surprise, and had said he wouldn't write a word to
prepare them on any account, in order that he and Mr Jonas might take
them unawares, and just see what they were doing, when they thought
their dear papa was miles and miles away. As a consequence of this
playful device, there was nobody to meet them at the finger-post, but
that was of small consequence, for they had come down by the day
coach, and Mr Pecksniff had only a carpetbag, while Mr Jonas had only
a portmanteau. They took the portmanteau between them, put the bag upon
it, and walked off up the lane without delay; Mr Pecksniff already going
on tiptoe as if, without this precaution, his fond children, being then
at a distance of a couple of miles or so, would have some filial sense
of his approach.
It was a lovely evening in the spring-time of the year; and in the soft
stillness of the twilight, all nature was very calm and beautiful. The
day had been fine and warm; but at the coming on of night, the air grew
cool, and in the mellowing distance smoke was rising gently from the
cottage chimneys. There were a thousand pleasant scents diffused around,
from young leaves and fresh buds; the cuckoo had been singing all day
long, and was but just now hushed; the smell of earth newly-upturned,
first breath of hope to the first labourer after his garden withered,
was fragrant in the evening breeze. It was a time when most men cherish
good resolves, and sorrow for the wasted past; when most men, looking
on the shadows as they gather, think of that evening which must close on
all, and that to-morrow which has none beyond.
'Precious dull,' said Mr Jonas, looking about. 'It's enough to make a
man go melancholy mad.'
'We shall have lights and a fire soon,' observed Mr Pecksniff.
'We shall need 'em by the time we get there,' said Jonas. 'Why the devil
don't you talk? What are you thinking of?'
'To tell you the truth, Mr Jonas,' said Pecksniff with great solemnity,
'my mind was running at that moment on our late dear friend, your
Mr Jonas immediately let his burden fall, and said, threatening him with
'Drop that, Pecksniff!'
Mr Pecksniff not exactly knowing whether allusion was made to the
subject or the portmanteau, stared at his friend in unaffected surprise.
'Drop it, I say!' cried Jonas, fiercely. 'Do you hear? Drop it, now and
for ever. You had better, I give you notice!'
'It was quite a mistake,' urged Mr Pecksniff, very much dismayed;
'though I admit it was foolish. I might have known it was a tender
'Don't talk to me about tender strings,' said Jonas, wiping his forehead
with the cuff of his coat. 'I'm not going to be crowed over by you,
because I don't like dead company.'
Mr Pecksniff had got out the words 'Crowed over, Mr Jonas!' when that
young man, with a dark expression in his countenance, cut him short once
'Mind!' he said. 'I won't have it. I advise you not to revive the
subject, neither to me nor anybody else. You can take a hint, if you
choose as well as another man. There's enough said about it. Come
Taking up his part of the load again, when he had said these words,
he hurried on so fast that Mr Pecksniff, at the other end of the
portmanteau, found himself dragged forward, in a very inconvenient and
ungraceful manner, to the great detriment of what is called by fancy
gentlemen 'the bark' upon his shins, which were most unmercifully bumped
against the hard leather and the iron buckles. In the course of a few
minutes, however, Mr Jonas relaxed his speed, and suffered his companion
to come up with him, and to bring the portmanteau into a tolerably
It was pretty clear that he regretted his late outbreak, and that he
mistrusted its effect on Mr Pecksniff; for as often as that gentleman
glanced towards Mr Jonas, he found Mr Jonas glancing at him, which was
a new source of embarrassment. It was but a short-lived one, though, for
Mr Jonas soon began to whistle, whereupon Mr Pecksniff, taking his cue
from his friend, began to hum a tune melodiously.
'Pretty nearly there, ain't we?' said Jonas, when this had lasted some
'Close, my dear friend,' said Mr Pecksniff.
'What'll they be doing, do you suppose?' asked Jonas.
'Impossible to say,' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'Giddy truants! They may be
away from home, perhaps. I was going to--he! he! he!--I was going to
propose,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'that we should enter by the back way, and
come upon them like a clap of thunder, Mr Jonas.'
It might not have been easy to decide in respect of which of their
manifold properties, Jonas, Mr Pecksniff, the carpet-bag, and the
portmanteau, could be likened to a clap of thunder. But Mr Jonas giving
his assent to this proposal, they stole round into the back yard, and
softly advanced towards the kitchen window, through which the mingled
light of fire and candle shone upon the darkening night.
Truly Mr Pecksniff is blessed in his children--in one of them, at any
rate. The prudent Cherry--staff and scrip, and treasure of her doting
father--there she sits, at a little table white as driven snow, before
the kitchen fire, making up accounts! See the neat maiden, as with pen
in hand, and calculating look addressed towards the ceiling and bunch
of keys within a little basket at her side, she checks the housekeeping
expenditure! From flat-iron, dish-cover, and warming-pan; from pot and
kettle, face of brass footman, and black-leaded stove; bright glances
of approbation wink and glow upon her. The very onions dangling from the
beam, mantle and shine like cherubs' cheeks. Something of the influence
of those vegetables sinks into Mr Pecksniff's nature. He weeps.
It is but for a moment, and he hides it from the observation of
his friend--very carefully--by a somewhat elaborate use of his
pocket-handkerchief, in fact; for he would not have his weakness known.
'Pleasant,' he murmured, 'pleasant to a father's feelings! My dear girl!
Shall we let her know we are here, Mr Jonas?'
'Why, I suppose you don't mean to spend the evening in the stable, or
the coach-house,' he returned.
'That, indeed, is not such hospitality as I would show to YOU, my
friend,' cried Mr Pecksniff, pressing his hand. And then he took a long
breath, and tapping at the window, shouted with stentorian blandness:
Cherry dropped her pen and screamed. But innocence is ever bold, or
should be. As they opened the door, the valiant girl exclaimed in a firm
voice, and with a presence of mind which even in that trying moment did
not desert her, 'Who are you? What do you want? Speak! or I will call my
Mr Pecksniff held out his arms. She knew him instantly, and rushed into
his fond embrace.
'It was thoughtless of us, Mr Jonas, it was very thoughtless,' said
Pecksniff, smoothing his daugther's hair. 'My darling, do you see that I
am not alone!'
Not she. She had seen nothing but her father until now. She saw Mr
Jonas now, though; and blushed, and hung her head down, as she gave him
But where was Merry? Mr Pecksniff didn't ask the question in reproach,
but in a vein of mildness touched with a gentle sorrow. She was
upstairs, reading on the parlour couch. Ah! Domestic details had no
charms for HER. 'But call her down,' said Mr Pecksniff, with a placid
resignation. 'Call her down, my love.'
She was called and came, all flushed and tumbled from reposing on the
sofa; but none the worse for that. No, not at all. Rather the better, if
'Oh my goodness me!' cried the arch girl, turning to her cousin when she
had kissed her father on both cheeks, and in her frolicsome nature had
bestowed a supernumerary salute upon the tip of his nose, 'YOU here,
fright! Well, I'm very thankful that you won't trouble ME much!'
'What! you're as lively as ever, are you?' said Jonas. 'Oh! You're a
'There, go along!' retorted Merry, pushing him away. 'I'm sure I don't
know what I shall ever do, if I have to see much of you. Go along, for
Mr Pecksniff striking in here, with a request that Mr Jonas would
immediately walk upstairs, he so far complied with the young lady's
adjuration as to go at once. But though he had the fair Cherry on his
arm, he could not help looking back at her sister, and exchanging some
further dialogue of the same bantering description, as they all four
ascended to the parlour; where--for the young ladies happened, by good
fortune, to be a little later than usual that night--the tea-board was
at that moment being set out.
Mr Pinch was not at home, so they had it all to themselves, and were
very snug and talkative, Jonas sitting between the two sisters, and
displaying his gallantry in that engaging manner which was peculiar
to him. It was a hard thing, Mr Pecksniff said, when tea was done,
and cleared away, to leave so pleasant a little party, but having some
important papers to examine in his own apartment, he must beg them to
excuse him for half an hour. With this apology he withdrew, singing
a careless strain as he went. He had not been gone five minutes, when
Merry, who had been sitting in the window, apart from Jonas and her
sister, burst into a half-smothered laugh, and skipped towards the door.
'Hallo!' cried Jonas. 'Don't go.'
'Oh, I dare say!' rejoined Merry, looking back. 'You're very anxious I
should stay, fright, ain't you?'
'Yes, I am,' said Jonas. 'Upon my word I am. I want to speak to you.'
But as she left the room notwithstanding, he ran out after her,
and brought her back, after a short struggle in the passage which
scandalized Miss Cherry very much.
'Upon my word, Merry,' urged that young lady, 'I wonder at you! There
are bounds even to absurdity, my dear.'
'Thank you, my sweet,' said Merry, pursing up her rosy Lips. 'Much
obliged to it for its advice. Oh! do leave me alone, you monster, do!'
This entreaty was wrung from her by a new proceeding on the part of
Mr Jonas, who pulled her down, all breathless as she was, into a seat
beside him on the sofa, having at the same time Miss Cherry upon the
'Now,' said Jonas, clasping the waist of each; 'I have got both arms
full, haven't I?'
'One of them will be black and blue to-morrow, if you don't let me go,'
cried the playful Merry.
'Ah! I don't mind YOUR pinching,' grinned Jonas, 'a bit.'
'Pinch him for me, Cherry, pray,' said Mercy. 'I never did hate anybody
so much as I hate this creature, I declare!'
'No, no, don't say that,' urged Jonas, 'and don't pinch either, because
I want to be serious. I say--Cousin Charity--'
'Well! what?' she answered sharply.
'I want to have some sober talk,' said Jonas; 'I want to prevent any
mistakes, you know, and to put everything upon a pleasant understanding.
That's desirable and proper, ain't it?'
Neither of the sisters spoke a word. Mr Jonas paused and cleared his
throat, which was very dry.
'She'll not believe what I am going to say, will she, cousin?' said
Jonas, timidly squeezing Miss Charity.
'Really, Mr Jonas, I don't know, until I hear what it is. It's quite
'Why, you see,' said Jonas, 'her way always being to make game of
people, I know she'll laugh, or pretend to--I know that, beforehand. But
you can tell her I'm in earnest, cousin; can't you? You'll confess you
know, won't you? You'll be honourable, I'm sure,' he added persuasively.
No answer. His throat seemed to grow hotter and hotter, and to be more
and more difficult of control.
'You see, Cousin Charity,' said Jonas, 'nobody but you can tell her
what pains I took to get into her company when you were both at the
boarding-house in the city, because nobody's so well aware of it, you
know. Nobody else can tell her how hard I tried to get to know you
better, in order that I might get to know her without seeming to wish
it; can they? I always asked you about her, and said where had she gone,
and when would she come, and how lively she was, and all that; didn't I,
cousin? I know you'll tell her so, if you haven't told her so already,
and--and--I dare say you have, because I'm sure you're honourable, ain't
Still not a word. The right arm of Mr Jonas--the elder sister sat upon
his right--may have been sensible of some tumultuous throbbing which was
not within itself; but nothing else apprised him that his words had had
the least effect.
'Even if you kept it to yourself, and haven't told her,' resumed Jonas,
'it don't much matter, because you'll bear honest witness now; won't
you? We've been very good friends from the first; haven't we? and of
course we shall be quite friends in future, and so I don't mind speaking
before you a bit. Cousin Mercy, you've heard what I've been saying.
She'll confirm it, every word; she must. Will you have me for your
As he released his hold of Charity, to put this question with better
effect, she started up and hurried away to her own room, marking her
progress as she went by such a train of passionate and incoherent sound,
as nothing but a slighted woman in her anger could produce.
'Let me go away. Let me go after her,' said Merry, pushing him off,
and giving him--to tell the truth--more than one sounding slap upon his
'Not till you say yes. You haven't told me. Will you have me for your
'No, I won't. I can't bear the sight of you. I have told you so a
hundred times. You are a fright. Besides, I always thought you liked my
sister best. We all thought so.'
'But that wasn't my fault,' said Jonas.
'Yes it was; you know it was.'
'Any trick is fair in love,' said Jonas. 'She may have thought I liked
her best, but you didn't.'
'No, you didn't. You never could have thought I liked her best, when you
'There's no accounting for tastes,' said Merry; 'at least I didn't mean
to say that. I don't know what I mean. Let me go to her.'
'Say "Yes," and then I will.'
'If I ever brought myself to say so, it should only be that I might hate
and tease you all my life.'
'That's as good,' cried Jonas, 'as saying it right out. It's a bargain,
cousin. We're a pair, if ever there was one.'
This gallant speech was succeeded by a confused noise of kissing and
slapping; and then the fair but much dishevelled Merry broke away, and
followed in the footsteps of her sister.
Now whether Mr Pecksniff had been listening--which in one of his
character appears impossible; or divined almost by inspiration what the
matter was--which, in a man of his sagacity is far more probable; or
happened by sheer good fortune to find himself in exactly the
right place, at precisely the right time--which, under the special
guardianship in which he lived might very reasonably happen; it is quite
certain that at the moment when the sisters came together in their own
room, he appeared at the chamber door. And a marvellous contrast it
was--they so heated, noisy, and vehement; he so calm, so self-possessed,
so cool and full of peace, that not a hair upon his head was stirred.
'Children!' said Mr Pecksniff, spreading out his hands in wonder, but
not before he had shut the door, and set his back against it. 'Girls!
Daughters! What is this?'
'The wretch; the apostate; the false, mean, odious villain; has before
my very face proposed to Mercy!' was his eldest daughter's answer.
'Who has proposed to Mercy!' asked Mr Pecksniff.
'HE has. That thing, Jonas, downstairs.'
'Jonas proposed to Mercy?' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Aye, aye! Indeed!'
'Have you nothing else to say?' cried Charity. 'Am I to be driven mad,
papa? He has proposed to Mercy, not to me.'
'Oh, fie! For shame!' said Mr Pecksniff, gravely. 'Oh, for shame! Can
the triumph of a sister move you to this terrible display, my child? Oh,
really this is very sad! I am sorry; I am surprised and hurt to see
you so. Mercy, my girl, bless you! See to her. Ah, envy, envy, what a
passion you are!'
Uttering this apostrophe in a tone full of grief and lamentation, Mr
Pecksniff left the room (taking care to shut the door behind him),
and walked downstairs into the parlour. There he found his intended
son-in-law, whom he seized by both hands.
'Jonas!' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'Jonas! the dearest wish of my heart is now
'Very well; I'm glad to hear it,' said Jonas. 'That'll do. I say! As
it ain't the one you're so fond of, you must come down with another
thousand, Pecksniff. You must make it up five. It's worth that, to keep
your treasure to yourself, you know. You get off very cheap that way,
and haven't a sacrifice to make.'
The grin with which he accompanied this, set off his other attractions
to such unspeakable advantage, that even Mr Pecksniff lost his presence
of mind for a moment, and looked at the young man as if he were quite
stupefied with wonder and admiration. But he quickly regained his
composure, and was in the very act of changing the subject, when a hasty
step was heard without, and Tom Pinch, in a state of great excitement,
came darting into the room.
On seeing a stranger there, apparently engaged with Mr Pecksniff in
private conversation, Tom was very much abashed, though he still looked
as if he had something of great importance to communicate, which would
be a sufficient apology for his intrusion.
'Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff, 'this is hardly decent. You will excuse my
saying that I think your conduct scarcely decent, Mr Pinch.'
'I beg your pardon, sir,' replied Tom, 'for not knocking at the door.'
'Rather beg this gentleman's pardon, Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff. 'I know
you; he does not.--My young man, Mr Jonas.'
The son-in-law that was to be gave him a slight nod--not actively
disdainful or contemptuous, only passively; for he was in a good humour.
'Could I speak a word with you, sir, if you please?' said Tom. 'It's
'It should be very pressing to justify this strange behaviour, Mr
Pinch,' returned his master. 'Excuse me for one moment, my dear friend.
Now, sir, what is the reason of this rough intrusion?'
'I am very sorry, sir, I am sure,' said Tom, standing, cap in hand,
before his patron in the passage; 'and I know it must have a very rude
'It HAS a very rude appearance, Mr Pinch.'
'Yes, I feel that, sir; but the truth is, I was so surprised to see
them, and knew you would be too, that I ran home very fast indeed, and
really hadn't enough command over myself to know what I was doing very
well. I was in the church just now, sir, touching the organ for my own
amusement, when I happened to look round, and saw a gentleman and lady
standing in the aisle listening. They seemed to be strangers, sir, as
well as I could make out in the dusk; and I thought I didn't know
them; so presently I left off, and said, would they walk up into the
organ-loft, or take a seat? No, they said, they wouldn't do that; but
they thanked me for the music they had heard. In fact,' observed Tom,
blushing, 'they said, "Delicious music!" at least, SHE did; and I am
sure that was a greater pleasure and honour to me than any compliment I
could have had. I--I--beg your pardon sir;' he was all in a tremble, and
dropped his hat for the second time 'but I--I'm rather flurried, and I
fear I've wandered from the point.'
'If you will come back to it, Thomas,' said Mr Pecksniff, with an icy
look, 'I shall feel obliged.'
'Yes, sir,' returned Tom, 'certainly. They had a posting carriage at the
porch, sir, and had stopped to hear the organ, they said. And then they
said--SHE said, I mean, "I believe you live with Mr Pecksniff, sir?" I
said I had that honour, and I took the liberty, sir,' added Tom, raising
his eyes to his benefactor's face, 'of saying, as I always will and
must, with your permission, that I was under great obligations to you,
and never could express my sense of them sufficiently.'
'That,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'was very, very wrong. Take your time, Mr
'Thank you, sir,' cried Tom. 'On that they asked me--she asked, I
mean--"Wasn't there a bridle road to Mr Pecksniff's house?"'
Mr Pecksniff suddenly became full of interest.
'"Without going by the Dragon?" When I said there was, and said how
happy I should be to show it 'em, they sent the carriage on by the road,
and came with me across the meadows. I left 'em at the turnstile to run
forward and tell you they were coming, and they'll be here, sir, in--in
less than a minute's time, I should say,' added Tom, fetching his breath
'Now, who,' said Mr Pecksniff, pondering, 'who may these people be?'
'Bless my soul, sir!' cried Tom, 'I meant to mention that at first, I
thought I had. I knew them--her, I mean--directly. The gentleman who
was ill at the Dragon, sir, last winter; and the young lady who attended
Tom's teeth chattered in his head, and he positively staggered with
amazement, at witnessing the extraordinary effect produced on Mr
Pecksniff by these simple words. The dread of losing the old man's
favour almost as soon as they were reconciled, through the mere fact
of having Jonas in the house; the impossibility of dismissing Jonas,
or shutting him up, or tying him hand and foot and putting him in
the coal-cellar, without offending him beyond recall; the horrible
discordance prevailing in the establishment, and the impossibility of
reducing it to decent harmony with Charity in loud hysterics, Mercy in
the utmost disorder, Jonas in the parlour, and Martin Chuzzlewit and his
young charge upon the very doorsteps; the total hopelessness of being
able to disguise or feasibly explain this state of rampant confusion;
the sudden accumulation over his devoted head of every complicated
perplexity and entanglement for his extrication from which he had
trusted to time, good fortune, chance, and his own plotting, so filled
the entrapped architect with dismay, that if Tom could have been a
Gorgon staring at Mr Pecksniff, and Mr Pecksniff could have been a
Gorgon staring at Tom, they could not have horrified each other half so
much as in their own bewildered persons.
'Dear, dear!' cried Tom, 'what have I done? I hoped it would be a
pleasant surprise, sir. I thought you would like to know.'
But at that moment a loud knocking was heard at the hall door.