Chapter 30Proves that changes may be rung in the best-regulated families, and that Mr. Peckniff was a special hand at a triple-bob-major
AS THE SURGEON'S FIRST CARE after amputating a limb is to take up the arteries the cruel knife has severed, so it is the duty of this history, which in its remorseless course has cut from the Pecksniffian trunk its right arm, Mercy, to look to the parent stem, and see how in all its various ramifications it got on without her.
And first of Mr. Pecksniff it may be observed, that having provided for his youngest daughter that choicest of blessings, a tender and indulgent husband; and having gratified the dearest wish of his parental heart by establishing her in life so happily; he renewed his youth, and spreading the plumage of his own bright conscience, felt himself equal to all kinds of flights. It is customary with fathers in stage-plays, after giving their daughters to the men of their hearts to congratulate themselves on having no other business on their hands but to die immediately: though it is rarely found that they are in a hurry to do it. Mr. Pecksniff, being a father of a more sage and practical class, appeared to think that his immediate business was to live; and having deprived himself of one comfort, to surround himself with others.
But however much inclined the good man was to be jocose and playful, and in the garden of his fancy to disport himself (if one may say so) like an architectural kitten, he had one impediment constantly opposed to him. The gentle Cherry, stung by a sense of slight and injury, which far from softening down or wearing out, rankled and festered in her heart, was in flat rebellion. She waged fierce war against her dear papa, she led her parent what is usually called, for want of a better figure of speech, the life of a dog. But never did that dog live, in kennel, stable-yard, or house, whose life was half as hard as Mr. Pecksniff's with his gentle child.
The father and daughter were sitting at their breakfast. Tom had retired, and they were alone. Mr. Pecksniff frowned at first; but having cleared his brow, looked stealthily at his child. Her nose was very red indeed, and screwed up tight, with hostile preparation.
`Cherry,' cried Mr. Pecksniff, `what is amiss between us? My child, why are we disunited?'
Miss Pecksniff's answer was scarcely a response to this gush of affection, for it was simply, `Bother, Pa!'
`Bother!' repeated Mr. Pecksniff, in a tone of anguish.
`Oh! 'tis too late, Pa,' said his daughter, calmly `to talk to me like this. I know what it means, and what its value is.'
`This is hard!' cried Mr. Pecksniff, addressing his breakfast-cup. `This is very hard! She is my child. I carried her in my arms when she wore shapeless worsted shoes--I might say, mufflers--many years ago!'
`You needn't taunt me with that, Pa,' retorted Cherry, with a spiteful look. `I am not so many years older than my sister, either, though she is married to your friend!'
`Ah, human nature, human nature! Poor human nature!' said Mr. Pecksniff, shaking his head at human nature, as if he didn't belong to it. `To think that this discord should arise from such a cause! oh dear, oh dear!'
`From such a cause indeed!' cried Cherry. `State the real cause, Pa, or I'll state it myself. Mind! I will!'
Perhaps the energy with which she said this was infectious. However that may be, Mr. Pecksniff changed his tone and the expression of his face for one of anger, if not downright violence, when he said:
`You will! you have. You did yesterday. You do always. You have no decency; you make no secret of your temper; you have exposed yourself to Mr. Chuzzlewit a hundred times.'
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