else that watches the speculation. But no, that wouldn't suit you. That would be natural conduct to your own son, and you like to be unnatural, and to keep him out of his rights. Why, I should be ashamed of myself if I was you, and glad to hide my head in the what-you-may-call it.'
Possibly this general phrase supplied the place of grave, or tomb, or sepulchre, or cemetery, or mausoleum, or other such word which the filial tenderness of Mr. Jonas made him delicate of pronouncing. He pursued the theme no further; for Chuffey, somehow discovering, from his old corner by the fireside, that Anthony was in the attitude of a listener, and that Jonas appeared to be speaking, suddenly cried out, like one inspired:
`He is your own son, Mr. Chuzzlewit. Your own son, sir!'
Old Chuffey little suspected what depth of application these words had, or that, in the bitter satire which they bore, they might have sunk into the old man's very soul, could he have known what words here hanging on his own son's lips, or what was passing in his thoughts. But the voice diverted the current of Anthony's reflections, and roused him.
`Yes, yes, Chuffey, Jonas is a chip of the old block. It is a very old block, now, Chuffey,' said the old man, with a strange look of discomposure.
`Precious old,' assented Jonas
`No, no, no,' said Chuffey. `No, Mr. Chuzzlewit. Not old at all, sir.'
`Oh! He's worse than ever, you know!' cried Jonas, quite disgusted. `Upon my soul, father, he's getting too bad. Hold your tongue, will you?'
`He says you're wrong!' cried Anthony to the old clerk.
`Tut, tut!' was Chuffey's answer. `I know better. I say he's wrong. I say he's wrong. He's a boy. That's what he is. So are you, Mr. Chuzzlewit -- a kind of boy. Ha! ha! ha! You're quite a boy to many I have known; you're a boy to me; you're a boy to hundreds of us. Don't mind him!'
With which extraordinary speech -- for in the case of Chuffey this was a burst of eloquence without a parallel -- the poor old shadow drew through his palsied arm his master's hand, and held it there, with his own folded upon it, as if he would defend him.
`I grow deafer every day, Chuff,' said Anthony, with as much softness of manner, or, to describe it more correctly, with as little hardness as he was capable of expressing.
`No, no,' cried Chuffey. `No, you don't. What if you did? I've been deaf this twenty year.'
`I grow blinder, too,' said the old man, shaking his head.
`That's a good sign!' cried Chuffey. `Ha! ha! The best sign in the world! You saw too well before.'
He patted Anthony upon the hand as one might comfort a child, and drawing the old man's arm still further through his own, shook his trembling fingers towards the spot where Jonas sat, as though he would wave him off. But, Anthony remaining quite still and silent, he relaxed his hold by slow degrees and lapsed into his usual niche in the corner: merely putting forth his hand at intervals and touching his old employer gently on the coat, as with the design of assuring himself that he was yet beside him.
Mr. Jonas was so very much amazed by these proceedings that he could do nothing but stare at the two old men, until Chuffey had fallen into his usual state, and Anthony had sunk into a doze; when he gave some vent to his emotions by going close up to the former personage, and making as though he would, in vulgar parlance, `punch his head.'
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|