What was that which checked Tom Pinch so suddenly, in the high flow of his gladness: bringing the blood into his honest cheeks, and a remorseful feeling to his honest heart, as if he were unworthy of his friend's regard?
`I should be married to her then,' said Martin, looking with a smile towards the light: `and we should have, I hope, children about us. They'd be very fond of you, Tom.'
But not a word said Mr. Pinch. The words he would have uttered died upon his lips, and found a life more spiritual in self-denying thoughts.
`All the children hereabouts are fond of you, Tom, and mine would be, of course,' pursued Martin. `Perhaps I might name one of 'em after you. Tom, eh? Well, I don't know. Tom's not a bad name. Thomas Pinch Chuzzlewit. T. P. C. on his pinafores. No objection to that, I should say?'
Tom cleared his throat, and smiled.
`She would like you, Tom, I know,' said Martin.
`Aye!' cried Tom Pinch, faintly.
`I can tell exactly what she would think of you,' said Martin leaning his chin upon his hand, and looking through the window-glass as if he read there what he said; `I know her so well. She would smile, Tom, often at first when you spoke to her, or when she looked at you--merrily too--but you wouldn't mind that. A brighter smile you never saw.'
`No, no,' said Tom. `I wouldn't mind that.'
`She would be as tender with you, Tom,' said Martin, `as if you were a child yourself. So you are almost, in some things, an't you, Tom?'
Mr. Pinch nodded his entire assent.
`She would always be kind and good-humoured, and glad to see you,' said Martin; `and when she found out exactly what sort of fellow you were (which she'd do very soon), she would pretend to give you little commissions to execute, and to ask little services of you, which she knew you were burning to render; so that when she really pleased you most, she would try to make you think you most pleased her. She would take to you uncommonly, Tom; and would understand you far more delicately than I ever shall; and would often say, I know, that you were a harmless, gentle, well-intentioned, good fellow.'
How silent Tom Pinch was!
`In honour of old time,' said Martin, `and of her having heard you play the organ in this damp little church down here--for nothing too--we will have one in the house. I shall build an architectural music-room on a plan of my own, and it'll look rather knowing in a recess at one end. There you shall play away, Tom, till you tire yourself; and, as you like to do so in the dark, it shall be dark; and many's the summer evening she and I will sit and listen to you, Tom; be sure of that!'
It may have required a stronger effort on Tom Pinch's part to leave the seat on which he sat, and shake his friend by both hands, with nothing but serenity and grateful feeling painted on his face; it may have required a stronger effort to perform this simple act with a pure heart, than to achieve many and many a deed to which the doubtful trumpet blown by Fame has lustily resounded. Doubtful, because from its long hovering over scenes of violence, the smoke and steam of death have clogged the keys of that brave instrument; and it is not always that its notes are either true er tuneful.
`It's a proof of the kindness of human nature,' said Tom, characteristically putting himself quite out of sight in the matter, `that everybody who comes here, as you have done, is more considerate and affectionate
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