I say HE'S wrong. He's a boy. That's what he is. So are you, Mr Chuzzlewit--a kind of boy. Ha! ha! ha! You're quite a boy to many I have known; you're a boy to me; you're a boy to hundreds of us. Don't mind him!'
With which extraordinary speech--for in the case of Chuffey this was a burst of eloquence without a parallel--the poor old shadow drew through his palsied arm his master's hand, and held it there, with his own folded upon it, as if he would defend him.
'I grow deafer every day, Chuff,' said Anthony, with as much softness of manner, or, to describe it more correctly, with as little hardness as he was capable of expressing.
'No, no,' cried Chuffey. 'No, you don't. What if you did? I've been deaf this twenty year.'
'I grow blinder, too,' said the old man, shaking his head.
'That's a good sign!' cried Chuffey. 'Ha! ha! The best sign in the world! You saw too well before.'
He patted Anthony upon the hand as one might comfort a child, and drawing the old man's arm still further through his own, shook his trembling fingers towards the spot where Jonas sat, as though he would wave him off. But, Anthony remaining quite still and silent, he relaxed his hold by slow degrees and lapsed into his usual niche in the corner; merely putting forth his hand at intervals and touching his old employer gently on the coat, as with the design of assuring himself that he was yet beside him.
Mr Jonas was so very much amazed by these proceedings that he could do nothing but stare at the two old men, until Chuffey had fallen into his usual state, and Anthony had sunk into a doze; when he gave some vent to his emotions by going close up to the former personage, and making as though he would, in vulgar parlance, 'punch his head.'
'They've been carrying on this game,' thought Jonas in a brown study, 'for the last two or three weeks. I never saw my father take so much notice of him as he has in that time. What! You're legacy hunting, are you, Mister Chuff? Eh?'
But Chuffey was as little conscious of the thought as of the bodily advance of Mr Jonas's clenched fist, which hovered fondly about his ear. When he had scowled at him to his heart's content, Jonas took the candle from the table, and walking into the glass office, produced a bunch of keys from his pocket. With one of these he opened a secret drawer in the desk; peeping stealthily out, as he did so, to be certain that the two old men were still before the fire.
'All as right as ever,' said Jonas, propping the lid of the desk open with his forehead, and unfolding a paper. 'Here's the will, Mister Chuff. Thirty pound a year for your maintenance, old boy, and all the rest to his only son, Jonas. You needn't trouble yourself to be too affectionate. You won't get anything by it. What's that?'
It WAS startling, certainly. A face on the other side of the glass partition looking curiously in; and not at him but at the paper in his hand. For the eyes were attentively cast down upon the writing, and were swiftly raised when he cried out. Then they met his own, and were as the eyes of Mr Pecksniff.
Suffering the lid of the desk to fall with a loud noise, but not forgetting even then to lock it, Jonas, pale and breathless, gazed upon this phantom. It moved, opened the door, and walked in.
'What's the matter?' cried Jonas, falling back. 'Who is it? Where do you come from? What do you want?'
'Matter!' cried the voice of Mr Pecksniff, as Pecksniff in the flesh smiled amiably upon him. 'The matter, Mr Jonas!'
'What are you prying and peering about here for?' said Jonas, angrily. 'What do you mean by coming up to town in this way, and taking one unawares? It's precious odd a man can't read the--the newspaper--in his own office without being startled out of his wits by people coming in without notice. Why didn't you knock at the door?'
'So I did, Mr Jonas,' answered Pecksniff, 'but no one heard me. I was curious,' he added in his gentle way as he laid his hand upon the young man's shoulder, 'to find out what part of the newspaper interested you so much; but the glass was too dim and dirty.'
Jonas glanced in haste at the partition.