Charles Dickens

She knew him instantly, and rushed into his fond embrace.

'It was thoughtless of us, Mr Jonas, it was very thoughtless,' said Pecksniff, smoothing his daugther's hair. 'My darling, do you see that I am not alone!'

Not she. She had seen nothing but her father until now. She saw Mr Jonas now, though; and blushed, and hung her head down, as she gave him welcome.

But where was Merry? Mr Pecksniff didn't ask the question in reproach, but in a vein of mildness touched with a gentle sorrow. She was upstairs, reading on the parlour couch. Ah! Domestic details had no charms for HER. 'But call her down,' said Mr Pecksniff, with a placid resignation. 'Call her down, my love.'

She was called and came, all flushed and tumbled from reposing on the sofa; but none the worse for that. No, not at all. Rather the better, if anything.

'Oh my goodness me!' cried the arch girl, turning to her cousin when she had kissed her father on both cheeks, and in her frolicsome nature had bestowed a supernumerary salute upon the tip of his nose, 'YOU here, fright! Well, I'm very thankful that you won't trouble ME much!'

'What! you're as lively as ever, are you?' said Jonas. 'Oh! You're a wicked one!'

'There, go along!' retorted Merry, pushing him away. 'I'm sure I don't know what I shall ever do, if I have to see much of you. Go along, for gracious' sake!'

Mr Pecksniff striking in here, with a request that Mr Jonas would immediately walk upstairs, he so far complied with the young lady's adjuration as to go at once. But though he had the fair Cherry on his arm, he could not help looking back at her sister, and exchanging some further dialogue of the same bantering description, as they all four ascended to the parlour; where--for the young ladies happened, by good fortune, to be a little later than usual that night--the tea-board was at that moment being set out.

Mr Pinch was not at home, so they had it all to themselves, and were very snug and talkative, Jonas sitting between the two sisters, and displaying his gallantry in that engaging manner which was peculiar to him. It was a hard thing, Mr Pecksniff said, when tea was done, and cleared away, to leave so pleasant a little party, but having some important papers to examine in his own apartment, he must beg them to excuse him for half an hour. With this apology he withdrew, singing a careless strain as he went. He had not been gone five minutes, when Merry, who had been sitting in the window, apart from Jonas and her sister, burst into a half-smothered laugh, and skipped towards the door.

'Hallo!' cried Jonas. 'Don't go.'

'Oh, I dare say!' rejoined Merry, looking back. 'You're very anxious I should stay, fright, ain't you?'

'Yes, I am,' said Jonas. 'Upon my word I am. I want to speak to you.' But as she left the room notwithstanding, he ran out after her, and brought her back, after a short struggle in the passage which scandalized Miss Cherry very much.

'Upon my word, Merry,' urged that young lady, 'I wonder at you! There are bounds even to absurdity, my dear.'

'Thank you, my sweet,' said Merry, pursing up her rosy Lips. 'Much obliged to it for its advice. Oh! do leave me alone, you monster, do!' This entreaty was wrung from her by a new proceeding on the part of Mr Jonas, who pulled her down, all breathless as she was, into a seat beside him on the sofa, having at the same time Miss Cherry upon the other side.

'Now,' said Jonas, clasping the waist of each; 'I have got both arms full, haven't I?'

'One of them will be black and blue to-morrow, if you don't let me go,' cried the playful Merry.

'Ah! I don't mind YOUR pinching,' grinned Jonas, 'a bit.'

'Pinch him for me, Cherry, pray,' said Mercy. 'I never did hate anybody so much as I hate this creature, I declare!'

'No, no, don't say that,' urged Jonas, 'and don't pinch either, because I want to be serious. I say--Cousin Charity--'

'Well! what?' she answered sharply.

'I want to have some sober talk,' said Jonas; 'I want to prevent any mistakes, you know, and to put everything upon a pleasant understanding.