'Ladies, good evening. Come, Pinch, it's not worth thinking of. I was right and you were wrong. That's small matter; you'll be wiser another time.'
So saying, he clapped that dejected companion on the shoulder, turned upon his heel, and walked out into the passage, whither poor Mr Pinch, after lingering irresolutely in the parlour for a few seconds, expressing in his countenance the deepest mental misery and gloom followed him. Then they took up the box between them, and sallied out to meet the mail.
That fleet conveyance passed, every night, the corner of a lane at some distance; towards which point they bent their steps. For some minutes they walked along in silence, until at length young Westlock burst into a loud laugh, and at intervals into another, and another. Still there was no response from his companion.
'I'll tell you what, Pinch!' he said abruptly, after another lengthened silence--'You haven't half enough of the devil in you. Half enough! You haven't any.'
'Well!' said Pinch with a sigh, 'I don't know, I'm sure. It's compliment to say so. If I haven't, I suppose, I'm all the better for it.'
'All the better!' repeated his companion tartly: 'All the worse, you mean to say.'
'And yet,' said Pinch, pursuing his own thoughts and not this last remark on the part of his friend, 'I must have a good deal of what you call the devil in me, too, or how could I make Pecksniff so uncomfortable? I wouldn't have occasioned him so much distress-- don't laugh, please--for a mine of money; and Heaven knows I could find good use for it too, John. How grieved he was!'
'HE grieved!' returned the other.
'Why didn't you observe that the tears were almost starting out of his eyes!' cried Pinch. 'Bless my soul, John, is it nothing to see a man moved to that extent and know one's self to be the cause! And did you hear him say that he could have shed his blood for me?'
'Do you WANT any blood shed for you?' returned his friend, with considerable irritation. 'Does he shed anything for you that you DO want? Does he shed employment for you, instruction for you, pocket money for you? Does he shed even legs of mutton for you in any decent proportion to potatoes and garden stuff?'
'I am afraid,' said Pinch, sighing again, 'that I am a great eater; I can't disguise from myself that I'm a great eater. Now, you know that, John.'
'You a great eater!' retorted his companion, with no less indignation than before. 'How do you know you are?'
There appeared to be forcible matter in this inquiry, for Mr Pinch only repeated in an undertone that he had a strong misgiving on the subject, and that he greatly feared he was.
'Besides, whether I am or no,' he added, 'that has little or nothing to do with his thinking me ungrateful. John, there is scarcely a sin in the world that is in my eyes such a crying one as ingratitude; and when he taxes me with that, and believes me to be guilty of it, he makes me miserable and wretched.'
'Do you think he don't know that?' returned the other scornfully. 'But come, Pinch, before I say anything more to you, just run over the reasons you have for being grateful to him at all, will you? Change hands first, for the box is heavy. That'll do. Now, go on.'
'In the first place,' said Pinch, 'he took me as his pupil for much less than he asked.'
'Well,' rejoined his friend, perfectly unmoved by this instance of generosity. 'What in the second place?'
'What in the second place?' cried Pinch, in a sort of desperation, 'why, everything in the second place. My poor old grandmother died happy to think that she had put me with such an excellent man. I have grown up in his house, I am in his confidence, I am his assistant, he allows me a salary; when his business improves, my prospects are to improve too. All this, and a great deal more, is in the second place. And in the very prologue and preface to the first place, John, you must consider this, which nobody knows better than I: that I was born for much plainer and poorer things, that I am not a good hand for his kind of business, and have no talent for it, or indeed for anything else but odds and ends that are of no use or service to anybody.'
He said this with so much earnestness, and in a tone so full of feeling, that his companion instinctively changed his manner as he sat down on the box (they had by this time reached the finger-post at the end of the lane); motioned him to sit down beside him; and laid his hand upon his shoulder.