Perhaps, indeed, so singular a mixture of defiance and obsequiousness, of fear and hardihood, of dogged sullenness and an attempt at enraging and propitiation, never was expressed in any one human figure as in that of Jonas, when, having raised his downcast eyes to Martin's face, he let them fall again, and uneasily closing and unclosing his hands without a moment's intermission, stood swinging himself from side to side, waiting to be addressed.
'Nephew,' said the old man. 'You have been a dutiful son, I hear.'
'As dutiful as sons in general, I suppose,' returned Jonas, looking up and down once more. 'I don't brag to have been any better than other sons; but I haven't been any worse, I dare say.'
'A pattern to all sons, I am told,' said the old man, glancing towards Mr Pecksniff.
'Ecod!' said Jonas, looking up again for a moment, and shaking his head, 'I've been as good a son as ever you were a brother. It's the pot and the kettle, if you come to that.'
'You speak bitterly, in the violence of your regret,' said Martin, after a pause. 'Give me your hand.'
Jonas did so, and was almost at his ease. 'Pecksniff,' he whispered, as they drew their chairs about the table; 'I gave him as good as he brought, eh? He had better look at home, before he looks out of window, I think?'
Mr Pecksniff only answered by a nudge of the elbow, which might either be construed into an indignant remonstrance or a cordial assent; but which, in any case, was an emphatic admonition to his chosen son-in-law to be silent. He then proceeded to do the honours of the house with his accustomed ease and amiability.
But not even Mr Pecksniff's guileless merriment could set such a party at their ease, or reconcile materials so utterly discordant and conflicting as those with which he had to deal. The unspeakable jealously and hatred which that night's explanation had sown in Charity's breast, was not to be so easily kept down; and more than once it showed itself in such intensity, as seemed to render a full disclosure of all the circumstances then and there, impossible to be avoided. The beauteous Merry, too, with all the glory of her conquest fresh upon her, so probed and lanced the rankling disappointment of her sister by her capricious airs and thousand little trials of Mr Jonas's obedience, that she almost goaded her into a fit of madness, and obliged her to retire from table in a burst of passion, hardly less vehement than that to which she had abandoned herself in the first tumult of her wrath. The constraint imposed upon the family by the presence among them for the first time of Mary Graham (for by that name old Martin Chuzzlewit had introduced her) did not at all improve this state of things; gentle and quiet though her manner was. Mr Pecksniff's situation was peculiarly trying; for, what with having constantly to keep the peace between his daughters; to maintain a reasonable show of affection and unity in his household; to curb the growing ease and gaiety of Jonas, which vented itself in sundry insolences towards Mr Pinch, and an indefinable coarseness of manner in reference to Mary (they being the two dependants); to make no mention at all of his having perpetually to conciliate his rich old relative, and to smooth down, or explain away, some of the ten thousand bad appearances and combinations of bad appearances, by which they were surrounded on that unlucky evening--what with having to do this, and it would be difficult to sum up how much more, without the least relief or assistance from anybody, it may be easily imagined that Mr Pecksniff had in his enjoyment something more than that usual portion of alloy which is mixed up with the best of men's delights. Perhaps he had never in his life felt such relief as when old Martin, looking at his watch, announced that it was time to go.
'We have rooms,' he said, 'at the Dragon, for the present. I have a fancy for the evening walk. The nights are dark just now; perhaps Mr Pinch would not object to light us home?'
'My dear sir!' cried Pecksniff, 'I shall be delighted.