Charles Dickens

Well. It wasn't very clean. So far he spoke the truth.

'Was it poetry now?' said Mr Pecksniff, shaking the forefinger of his right hand with an air of cheerful banter. 'Or was it politics? Or was it the price of stock? The main chance, Mr Jonas, the main chance, I suspect.'

'You ain't far from the truth,' answered Jonas, recovering himself and snuffing the candle; 'but how the deuce do you come to be in London again? Ecod! it's enough to make a man stare, to see a fellow looking at him all of a sudden, who he thought was sixty or seventy mile away.'

'So it is,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'No doubt of it, my dear Mr Jonas. For while the human mind is constituted as it is--'

'Oh, bother the human mind,' interrupted Jonas with impatience 'what have you come up for?'

'A little matter of business,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'which has arisen quite unexpectedly.'

'Oh!' cried Jonas, 'is that all? Well. Here's father in the next room. Hallo father, here's Pecksniff! He gets more addle-pated every day he lives, I do believe,' muttered Jonas, shaking his honoured parent roundly. 'Don't I tell you Pecksniff's here, stupid-head?'

The combined effects of the shaking and this loving remonstrance soon awoke the old man, who gave Mr Pecksniff a chuckling welcome which was attributable in part to his being glad to see that gentleman, and in part to his unfading delight in the recollection of having called him a hypocrite. As Mr Pecksniff had not yet taken tea (indeed he had, but an hour before, arrived in London) the remains of the late collation, with a rasher of bacon, were served up for his entertainment; and as Mr Jonas had a business appointment in the next street, he stepped out to keep it; promising to return before Mr Pecksniff could finish his repast.

'And now, my good sir,' said Mr Pecksniff to Anthony; 'now that we are alone, pray tell me what I can do for you. I say alone, because I believe that our dear friend Mr Chuffey is, metaphysically speaking, a--shall I say a dummy?' asked Mr Pecksniff with his sweetest smile, and his head very much on one side.

'He neither hears us,' replied Anthony, 'nor sees us.'

'Why, then,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'I will be bold to say, with the utmost sympathy for his afflictions, and the greatest admiration of those excellent qualities which do equal honour to his head and to his heart, that he is what is playfully termed a dummy. You were going to observe, my dear sir--?'

'I was not going to make any observation that I know of,' replied the old man.

'I was,' said Mr Pecksniff, mildly.

'Oh! YOU were? What was it?'

'That I never,' said Mr Pecksniff, previously rising to see that the door was shut, and arranging his chair when he came back, so that it could not be opened in the least without his immediately becoming aware of the circumstance; 'that I never in my life was so astonished as by the receipt of your letter yesterday. That you should do me the honour to wish to take counsel with me on any matter, amazed me; but that you should desire to do so, to the exclusion even of Mr Jonas, showed an amount of confidence in one to whom you had done a verbal injury--merely a verbal injury, you were anxious to repair--which gratified, which moved, which overcame me.'

He was always a glib speaker, but he delivered this short address very glibly; having been at some pains to compose it outside the coach.

Although he paused for a reply, and truly said that he was there at Anthony's request, the old man sat gazing at him in profound silence and with a perfectly blank face. Nor did he seem to have the least desire or impulse to pursue the conversation, though Mr Pecksniff looked towards the door, and pulled out his watch, and gave him many other hints that their time was short, and Jonas, if he kept his word, would soon return. But the strangest incident in all this strange behaviour was, that of a sudden, in a moment, so swiftly that it was impossible to trace how, or to observe any process of change, his features fell into their old expression, and he cried, striking his hand passionately upon the table as if no interval at all had taken place:

'Will you hold your tongue, sir, and let me speak?'

Mr Pecksniff deferred to him with a submissive bow; and said within himself, 'I knew his hand was changed, and that his writing staggered.