Chapter 20

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 friend.'

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 simplicity!'

`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 disfavour.

`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 recognised 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 eloquence!

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!'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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