Merry, my child, the lantern.'
'The lantern, if you please, my dear,' said Martin; 'but I couldn't think of taking your father out of doors to-night; and, to be brief, I won't.'
Mr Pecksniff already had his hat in his hand, but it was so emphatically said that he paused.
'I take Mr Pinch, or go alone,' said Martin. 'Which shall it be?'
'It shall be Thomas, sir,' cried Pecksniff, 'since you are so resolute upon it. Thomas, my friend, be very careful, if you please.'
Tom was in some need of this injunction, for he felt so nervous, and trembled to such a degree, that he found it difficult to hold the lantern. How much more difficult when, at the old man's bidding she drew her hand through his--Tom Pinch's--arm!
'And so, Mr Pinch,' said Martin, on the way, 'you are very comfortably situated here; are you?'
Tom answered, with even more than his usual enthusiasm, that he was under obligations to Mr Pecksniff which the devotion of a lifetime would but imperfectly repay.
'How long have you known my nephew?' asked Martin.
'Your nephew, sir?' faltered Tom.
'Mr Jonas Chuzzlewit,' said Mary.
'Oh dear, yes,' cried Tom, greatly relieved, for his mind was running upon Martin. 'Certainly. I never spoke to him before to- night, sir!'
'Perhaps half a lifetime will suffice for the acknowledgment of HIS kindness,' observed the old man.
Tom felt that this was a rebuff for him, and could not but understand it as a left-handed hit at his employer. So he was silent. Mary felt that Mr Pinch was not remarkable for presence of mind, and that he could not say too little under existing circumstances. So SHE was silent. The old man, disgusted by what in his suspicious nature he considered a shameless and fulsome puff of Mr Pecksniff, which was a part of Tom's hired service and in which he was determined to persevere, set him down at once for a deceitful, servile, miserable fawner. So HE was silent. And though they were all sufficiently uncomfortable, it is fair to say that Martin was perhaps the most so; for he had felt kindly towards Tom at first, and had been interested by his seeming simplicity.
'You're like the rest,' he thought, glancing at the face of the unconscious Tom. 'You had nearly imposed upon me, but you have lost your labour. You are too zealous a toad-eater, and betray yourself, Mr Pinch.'
During the whole remainder of the walk, not another word was spoken. First among the meetings to which Tom had long looked forward with a beating heart, it was memorable for nothing but embarrassment and confusion. They parted at the Dragon door; and sighing as he extinguished the candle in the lantern, Tom turned back again over the gloomy fields.
As he approached the first stile, which was in a lonely part, made very dark by a plantation of young firs, a man slipped past him and went on before. Coming to the stile he stopped, and took his seat upon it. Tom was rather startled, and for a moment stood still, but he stepped forward again immediately, and went close up to him.
It was Jonas; swinging his legs to and fro, sucking the head of a stick, and looking with a sneer at Tom.
'Good gracious me!' cried Tom, 'who would have thought of its being you! You followed us, then?'
'What's that to you?' said Jonas. 'Go to the devil!'
'You are not very civil, I think,' remarked Tom.
'Civil enough for YOU,' retorted Jonas. 'Who are you?'
'One who has as good a right to common consideration as another,' said Tom mildly.
'You're a liar,' said Jonas. 'You haven't a right to any consideration. You haven't a right to anything. You're a pretty sort of fellow to talk about your rights, upon my soul! Ha, ha!-- Rights, too!'
'If you proceed in this way,' returned Tom, reddening, 'you will oblige me to talk about my wrongs. But I hope your joke is over.'
'It's the way with you curs,' said Mr Jonas, 'that when you know a man's in real earnest, you pretend to think he's joking, so that you may turn it off. But that won't do with me.