In fact,' observed Tom, blushing, 'they said, "Delicious music!" at least, SHE did; and I am sure that was a greater pleasure and honour to me than any compliment I could have had. I--I--beg your pardon sir;' he was all in a tremble, and dropped his hat for the second time 'but I--I'm rather flurried, and I fear I've wandered from the point.'
'If you will come back to it, Thomas,' said Mr Pecksniff, with an icy look, 'I shall feel obliged.'
'Yes, sir,' returned Tom, 'certainly. They had a posting carriage at the porch, sir, and had stopped to hear the organ, they said. And then they said--SHE said, I mean, "I believe you live with Mr Pecksniff, sir?" I said I had that honour, and I took the liberty, sir,' added Tom, raising his eyes to his benefactor's face, 'of saying, as I always will and must, with your permission, that I was under great obligations to you, and never could express my sense of them sufficiently.'
'That,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'was very, very wrong. Take your time, Mr Pinch.'
'Thank you, sir,' cried Tom. 'On that they asked me--she asked, I mean--"Wasn't there a bridle road to Mr Pecksniff's house?"'
Mr Pecksniff suddenly became full of interest.
'"Without going by the Dragon?" When I said there was, and said how happy I should be to show it 'em, they sent the carriage on by the road, and came with me across the meadows. I left 'em at the turnstile to run forward and tell you they were coming, and they'll be here, sir, in--in less than a minute's time, I should say,' added Tom, fetching his breath with difficulty.
'Now, who,' said Mr Pecksniff, pondering, 'who may these people be?'
'Bless my soul, sir!' cried Tom, 'I meant to mention that at first, I thought I had. I knew them--her, I mean--directly. The gentleman who was ill at the Dragon, sir, last winter; and the young lady who attended him.'
Tom's teeth chattered in his head, and he positively staggered with amazement, at witnessing the extraordinary effect produced on Mr Pecksniff by these simple words. The dread of losing the old man's favour almost as soon as they were reconciled, through the mere fact of having Jonas in the house; the impossibility of dismissing Jonas, or shutting him up, or tying him hand and foot and putting him in the coal-cellar, without offending him beyond recall; the horrible discordance prevailing in the establishment, and the impossibility of reducing it to decent harmony with Charity in loud hysterics, Mercy in the utmost disorder, Jonas in the parlour, and Martin Chuzzlewit and his young charge upon the very doorsteps; the total hopelessness of being able to disguise or feasibly explain this state of rampant confusion; the sudden accumulation over his devoted head of every complicated perplexity and entanglement for his extrication from which he had trusted to time, good fortune, chance, and his own plotting, so filled the entrapped architect with dismay, that if Tom could have been a Gorgon staring at Mr Pecksniff, and Mr Pecksniff could have been a Gorgon staring at Tom, they could not have horrified each other half so much as in their own bewildered persons.
'Dear, dear!' cried Tom, 'what have I done? I hoped it would be a pleasant surprise, sir. I thought you would like to know.'
But at that moment a loud knocking was heard at the hall door.
MORE AMERICAN EXPERIENCES, MARTIN TAKES A PARTNER, AND MAKES A PURCHASE. SOME ACCOUNT OF EDEN, AS IT APPEARED ON PAPER. ALSO OF THE BRITISH LION. ALSO OF THE KIND OF SYMPATHY PROFESSED AND ENTERTAINED BY THE WATERTOAST ASSOCIATION OF UNITED SYMPATHISERS
The knocking at Mr Pecksniff's door, though loud enough, bore no resemblance whatever to the noise of an American railway train at full speed. It may be well to begin the present chapter with this frank admission, lest the reader should imagine that the sounds now deafening this history's ears have any connection with the knocker on Mr Pecksniff's door, or with the great amount of agitation pretty equally divided between that worthy man and Mr Pinch, of which its strong performance was the cause.