`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 you.'

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 sacrifice.'

A question of philosophy arises here, whether Mr. Pecksniff had or had not good reason to say, that he was specially patronised 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 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

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