Charles Dickens

And a marvellous contrast it was--they so heated, noisy, and vehement; he so calm, so self-possessed, so cool and full of peace, that not a hair upon his head was stirred.

'Children!' said Mr Pecksniff, spreading out his hands in wonder, but not before he had shut the door, and set his back against it. 'Girls! Daughters! What is this?'

'The wretch; the apostate; the false, mean, odious villain; has before my very face proposed to Mercy!' was his eldest daughter's answer.

'Who has proposed to Mercy!' asked Mr Pecksniff.

'HE has. That thing, Jonas, downstairs.'

'Jonas proposed to Mercy?' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Aye, aye! Indeed!'

'Have you nothing else to say?' cried Charity. 'Am I to be driven mad, papa? He has proposed to Mercy, not to me.'

'Oh, fie! For shame!' said Mr Pecksniff, gravely. 'Oh, for shame! Can the triumph of a sister move you to this terrible display, my child? Oh, really this is very sad! I am sorry; I am surprised and hurt to see you so. Mercy, my girl, bless you! See to her. Ah, envy, envy, what a passion you are!'

Uttering this apostrophe in a tone full of grief and lamentation, Mr Pecksniff left the room (taking care to shut the door behind him), and walked downstairs into the parlour. There he found his intended son-in-law, whom he seized by both hands.

'Jonas!' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'Jonas! the dearest wish of my heart is now fulfilled!'

'Very well; I'm glad to hear it,' said Jonas. 'That'll do. I say! As it ain't the one you're so fond of, you must come down with another thousand, Pecksniff. You must make it up five. It's worth that, to keep your treasure to yourself, you know. You get off very cheap that way, and haven't a sacrifice to make.'

The grin with which he accompanied this, set off his other attractions to such unspeakable advantage, that even Mr Pecksniff lost his presence of mind for a moment, and looked at the young man as if he were quite stupefied with wonder and admiration. But he quickly regained his composure, and was in the very act of changing the subject, when a hasty step was heard without, and Tom Pinch, in a state of great excitement, came darting into the room.

On seeing a stranger there, apparently engaged with Mr Pecksniff in private conversation, Tom was very much abashed, though he still looked as if he had something of great importance to communicate, which would be a sufficient apology for his intrusion.

'Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff, 'this is hardly decent. You will excuse my saying that I think your conduct scarcely decent, Mr Pinch.'

'I beg your pardon, sir,' replied Tom, 'for not knocking at the door.'

'Rather beg this gentleman's pardon, Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff. 'I know you; he does not.--My young man, Mr Jonas.'

The son-in-law that was to be gave him a slight nod--not actively disdainful or contemptuous, only passively; for he was in a good humour.

'Could I speak a word with you, sir, if you please?' said Tom. 'It's rather pressing.'

'It should be very pressing to justify this strange behaviour, Mr Pinch,' returned his master. 'Excuse me for one moment, my dear friend. Now, sir, what is the reason of this rough intrusion?'

'I am very sorry, sir, I am sure,' said Tom, standing, cap in hand, before his patron in the passage; 'and I know it must have a very rude appearance--'

'It HAS a very rude appearance, Mr Pinch.'

'Yes, I feel that, sir; but the truth is, I was so surprised to see them, and knew you would be too, that I ran home very fast indeed, and really hadn't enough command over myself to know what I was doing very well. I was in the church just now, sir, touching the organ for my own amusement, when I happened to look round, and saw a gentleman and lady standing in the aisle listening. They seemed to be strangers, sir, as well as I could make out in the dusk; and I thought I didn't know them; so presently I left off, and said, would they walk up into the organ-loft, or take a seat? No, they said, they wouldn't do that; but they thanked me for the music they had heard.