A new inmate will very shortly come among us.'
'A youth, papa?' asked Charity.
'Ye-es, a youth,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'He will avail himself of the eligible opportunity which now offers, for uniting the advantages of the best practical architectural education with the comforts of a home, and the constant association with some who (however humble their sphere, and limited their capacity) are not unmindful of their moral responsibilities.'
'Oh Pa!' cried Mercy, holding up her finger archly. 'See advertisement!'
'Playful--playful warbler,' said Mr Pecksniff. It may be observed in connection with his calling his daughter a 'warbler,' that she was not at all vocal, but that Mr Pecksniff was in the frequent habit of using any word that occurred to him as having a good sound, and rounding a sentence well without much care for its meaning. And he did this so boldly, and in such an imposing manner, that he would sometimes stagger the wisest people with his eloquence, and make them gasp again.
His enemies asserted, by the way, that a strong trustfulness in sounds and forms was the master-key to Mr Pecksniff's character.
'Is he handsome, Pa?' inquired the younger daughter.
'Silly Merry!' said the eldest: Merry being fond for Mercy. 'What is the premium, Pa? tell us that.'
'Oh, good gracious, Cherry!' cried Miss Mercy, holding up her hands with the most winning giggle in the world, 'what a mercenary girl you are! oh you naughty, thoughtful, prudent thing!'
It was perfectly charming, and worthy of the Pastoral age, to see how the two Miss Pecksniffs slapped each other after this, and then subsided into an embrace expressive of their different dispositions.
'He is well looking,' said Mr Pecksniff, slowly and distinctly; 'well looking enough. I do not positively expect any immediate premium with him.'
Notwithstanding their different natures, both Charity and Mercy concurred in opening their eyes uncommonly wide at this announcement, and in looking for the moment as blank as if their thoughts had actually had a direct bearing on the main chance.
'But what of that!' said Mr Pecksniff, still smiling at the fire. 'There is disinterestedness in the world, I hope? We are not all arrayed in two opposite ranks; the OFfensive and the DEfensive. Some few there are who walk between; who help the needy as they go; and take no part with either side. Umph!'
There was something in these morsels of philanthropy which reassured the sisters. They exchanged glances, and brightened very much.
'Oh! let us not be for ever calculating, devising, and plotting for the future,' said Mr Pecksniff, smiling more and more, and looking at the fire as a man might, who was cracking a joke with it: 'I am weary of such arts. If our inclinations are but good and open- hearted, let us gratify them boldly, though they bring upon us Loss instead of Profit. Eh, Charity?'
Glancing towards his daughters for the first time since he had begun these reflections, and seeing that they both smiled, Mr Pecksniff eyed them for an instant so jocosely (though still with a kind of saintly waggishness) that the younger one was moved to sit upon his knee forthwith, put her fair arms round his neck, and kiss him twenty times. During the whole of this affectionate display she laughed to a most immoderate extent: in which hilarious indulgence even the prudent Cherry joined.
'Tut, tut,' said Mr Pecksniff, pushing his latest-born away and running his fingers through his hair, as he resumed his tranquil face. 'What folly is this! Let us take heed how we laugh without reason lest we cry with it. What is the domestic news since yesterday? John Westlock is gone, I hope?'
'Indeed, no,' said Charity.
'And why not?' returned her father. 'His term expired yesterday. And his box was packed, I know; for I saw it, in the morning, standing in the hall.'
'He slept last night at the Dragon,' returned the young lady, 'and had Mr Pinch to dine with him. They spent the evening together, and Mr Pinch was not home till very late.'
'And when I saw him on the stairs this morning, Pa,' said Mercy with her usual sprightliness, 'he looked, oh goodness, SUCH a monster! with his face all manner of colours, and his eyes as dull as if they had been boiled, and his head aching dreadfully, I am sure from the look of it, and his clothes smelling, oh it's impossible to say how strong, oh'--here the young lady shuddered--'of smoke and punch.'
'Now I think,' said Mr Pecksniff with his accustomed gentleness, though still with the air of one who suffered under injury without complaint, 'I think Mr Pinch might have done better than choose for his companion one who, at the close of a long intercourse, had endeavoured, as he knew, to wound my feelings.