Chapter 44Further continuation of the enterprise of Mr. Jonas and his friend
IT WAS A SPECIAL QUALITY, among the many admirable qualities possessed by Mr. Pecksniff, that the more he was found out, the more hypocrisy he practised. Let him be discomfited in one quarter, and he refreshed and recompensed himself by carrying the war into another. If his workings and windings were detected by A, so much the greater reason was there for practising without loss of time on B, if it were only to keep his hand in. He had never been such a saintly and improving spectacle to all about him, as after his detection by Thomas Pinch. He had scarcely ever been at once so tender in his humanity, and so dignified and exalted in his virtue, as when young Martin's scorn was fresh and hot upon him.
Having this large stock of superfluous sentiment and morality on hand which must positively be cleared off at any sacrifice, Mr. Pecksniff no sooner heard his son-in-law announced, than he regarded him as a kind of wholesale or general order, to be immediately executed. Descending, therefore, swiftly to the parlour, and clasping the young man in his arms, he exclaimed, with looks and gestures that denoted the perturbation of his spirit:
`Jonas. My child! She is well! There is nothing the matter?'
`What, you're at it again, are you?' replied his son-in-law. `Even with me? Get away with you, will you?'
`Tell me she is well then,' said Mr. Pecksniff. `Tell me she is well my boy!'
`She's well enough,' retorted Jonas, disengaging himself. `There's nothing the matter with her.'
`There is nothing the matter with her!' cried Mr. Pecksniff, sitting down in the nearest chair, and rubbing up his hair. `Fie upon my weakness! I cannot help it, Jonas. Thank you. I am better now. How is my other child; my eldest; my Cherrywerrychigo?' said Mr Pecksniff, inventing a playful little name for her, in the restored lightness of his heart.
`She's much about the same as usual,' returned Jonas. `She sticks pretty close to the vinegar-bottle. You know she's got a sweetheart, I suppose?'
`I have heard of it,' said Mr. Pecksniff, `from headquarters; from my child herself I will not deny that it moved me to contemplate the loss of my remaining daughter, Jonas--I am afraid we parents are selfish, I am afraid we are--but it has ever been the study of my life to qualify them for the domestic hearth; and it is a sphere which Cherry will adorn.'
`She need adorn some sphere or other,' observed the son-in-law, for she ain't very ornamental in general.'
`My girls are now provided for,' said Mr. Pecksniff. `They are now happily provided for, and I have not laboured in vain!'
This is exactly what Mr. Pecksniff would have said, if one of his daughters had drawn a prize of thirty thousand pounds in the lottery, or if the other had picked up a valuable purse in the street, which nobody appeared to claim. In either of these cases he would have invoked a patriarchal blessing on the fortunate head, with great solemnity, and would have taken immense credit to himself, as having meant it from the infant's cradle.
`Suppose we talk about something else, now,' observed Jonas, drily. `just for a change. Are you quite agreeable?'
`Quite,' said Mr. Pecksniff. `Ah, you wag, you naughty wag! You laugh at poor old fond papa. Well! He deserves it. And he don't mind it either, for his feelings are their own reward. You have come to stay with me, Jonas?'
`No. I've got a friend with me,' said Jonas.
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