At length the noise of wheels was faintly audible in the distance and presently the coach came splashing through the mud and mire with one miserable outside passenger crouching down among wet straw, under a saturated umbrella; and the coachman, guard, and horses, in a fellowship of dripping wretchedness. Immediately on its stopping, Mr Pecksniff let down the window-glass and hailed Tom Pinch.
'Dear me, Mr Pinch! Is it possible that you are out upon this very inclement morning?'
'Yes, sir,' cried Tom, advancing eagerly, 'Mr Chuzzlewit and I, sir.'
'Oh!' said Mr Pecksniff, looking not so much at Martin as at the spot on which he stood. 'Oh! Indeed. Do me the favour to see to the trunks, if you please, Mr Pinch.'
Then Mr Pecksniff descended, and helped his daughters to alight; but neighter he nor the young ladies took the slightest notice of Martin, who had advanced to offer his assistance, but was repulsed by Mr Pecksniff's standing immediately before his person, with his back towards him. In the same manner, and in profound silence, Mr Pecksniff handed his daughters into the gig; and following himself and taking the reins, drove off home.
Lost in astonishment, Martin stood staring at the coach, and when the coach had driven away, at Mr Pinch, and the luggage, until the cart moved off too; when he said to Tom:
'Now will you have the goodness to tell me what THIS portends?'
'What?' asked Tom.
'This fellow's behaviour. Mr Pecksniff's, I mean. You saw it?'
'No. Indeed I did not,' cried Tom. 'I was busy with the trunks.'
'It is no matter,' said Martin. 'Come! Let us make haste back!' And without another word started off at such a pace, that Tom had some difficulty in keeping up with him.
He had no care where he went, but walked through little heaps of mud and little pools of water with the utmost indifference; looking straight before him, and sometimes laughing in a strange manner within himself. Tom felt that anything he could say would only render him the more obstinate, and therefore trusted to Mr Pecksniff's manner when they reached the house, to remove the mistaken impression under which he felt convinced so great a favourite as the new pupil must unquestionably be labouring. But he was not a little amazed himself, when they did reach it, and entered the parlour where Mr Pecksniff was sitting alone before the fire, drinking some hot tea, to find that instead of taking favourable notice of his relative and keeping him, Mr Pinch, in the background, he did exactly the reverse, and was so lavish in his attentions to Tom, that Tom was thoroughly confounded.
'Take some tea, Mr Pinch--take some tea,' said Pecksniff, stirring the fire. 'You must be very cold and damp. Pray take some tea, and come into a warm place, Mr Pinch.'
Tom saw that Martin looked at Mr Pecksniff as though he could have easily found it in his heart to give HIM an invitation to a very warm place; but he was quite silent, and standing opposite that gentleman at the table, regarded him attentively.
'Take a chair, Pinch,' said Pecksniff. 'Take a chair, if you please. How have things gone on in our absence, Mr Pinch?'
'You--you will be very much pleased with the grammar-school, sir,' said Tom. 'It's nearly finished.'
'If you will have the goodness, Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff, waving his hand and smiling, 'we will not discuss anything connected with that question at present. What have YOU been doing, Thomas, humph?'
Mr Pinch looked from master to pupil, and from pupil to master, and was so perplexed and dismayed that he wanted presence of mind to answer the question. In this awkward interval, Mr Pecksniff (who was perfectly conscious of Martin's gaze, though he had never once glanced towards him) poked the fire very much, and when he couldn't do that any more, drank tea assiduously.
'Now, Mr Pecksniff,' said Martin at last, in a very quiet voice, 'if you have sufficiently refreshed and recovered yourself, I shall be glad to hear what you mean by this treatment of me.'
'And what,' said Mr Pecksniff, turning his eyes on Tom Pinch, even more placidly and gently than before, 'what have YOU been doing, Thomas, humph?'
When he had repeated this inquiry, he looked round the walls of the room as if he were curious to see whether any nails had been left there by accident in former times.