'I'm not going to be crowed over by you, because I don't like dead company.'
Mr Pecksniff had got out the words 'Crowed over, Mr Jonas!' when that young man, with a dark expression in his countenance, cut him short once more:
'Mind!' he said. 'I won't have it. I advise you not to revive the subject, neither to me nor anybody else. You can take a hint, if you choose as well as another man. There's enough said about it. Come along!'
Taking up his part of the load again, when he had said these words, he hurried on so fast that Mr Pecksniff, at the other end of the portmanteau, found himself dragged forward, in a very inconvenient and ungraceful manner, to the great detriment of what is called by fancy gentlemen 'the bark' upon his shins, which were most unmercifully bumped against the hard leather and the iron buckles. In the course of a few minutes, however, Mr Jonas relaxed his speed, and suffered his companion to come up with him, and to bring the portmanteau into a tolerably straight position.
It was pretty clear that he regretted his late outbreak, and that he mistrusted its effect on Mr Pecksniff; for as often as that gentleman glanced towards Mr Jonas, he found Mr Jonas glancing at him, which was a new source of embarrassment. It was but a short- lived one, though, for Mr Jonas soon began to whistle, whereupon Mr Pecksniff, taking his cue from his friend, began to hum a tune melodiously.
'Pretty nearly there, ain't we?' said Jonas, when this had lasted some time.
'Close, my dear friend,' said Mr Pecksniff.
'What'll they be doing, do you suppose?' asked Jonas.
'Impossible to say,' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'Giddy truants! They may be away from home, perhaps. I was going to--he! he! he!--I was going to propose,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'that we should enter by the back way, and come upon them like a clap of thunder, Mr Jonas.'
It might not have been easy to decide in respect of which of their manifold properties, Jonas, Mr Pecksniff, the carpet-bag, and the portmanteau, could be likened to a clap of thunder. But Mr Jonas giving his assent to this proposal, they stole round into the back yard, and softly advanced towards the kitchen window, through which the mingled light of fire and candle shone upon the darkening night.
Truly Mr Pecksniff is blessed in his children--in one of them, at any rate. The prudent Cherry--staff and scrip, and treasure of her doting father--there she sits, at a little table white as driven snow, before the kitchen fire, making up accounts! See the neat maiden, as with pen in hand, and calculating look addressed towards the ceiling and bunch of keys within a little basket at her side, she checks the housekeeping expenditure! From flat-iron, dish-cover, and warming-pan; from pot and kettle, face of brass footman, and black-leaded stove; bright glances of approbation wink and glow upon her. The very onions dangling from the beam, mantle and shine like cherubs' cheeks. Something of the influence of those vegetables sinks into Mr Pecksniff's nature. He weeps.
It is but for a moment, and he hides it from the observation of his friend--very carefully--by a somewhat elaborate use of his pocket- handkerchief, in fact; for he would not have his weakness known.
'Pleasant,' he murmured, 'pleasant to a father's feelings! My dear girl! Shall we let her know we are here, Mr Jonas?'
'Why, I suppose you don't mean to spend the evening in the stable, or the coach-house,' he returned.
'That, indeed, is not such hospitality as I would show to YOU, my friend,' cried Mr Pecksniff, pressing his hand. And then he took a long breath, and tapping at the window, shouted with stentorian blandness:
Cherry dropped her pen and screamed. But innocence is ever bold, or should be. As they opened the door, the valiant girl exclaimed in a firm voice, and with a presence of mind which even in that trying moment did not desert her, 'Who are you? What do you want? Speak! or I will call my Pa.'
Mr Pecksniff held out his arms.