'You know I always desire it. I wish to pay as I go, even when I buy of you. Not that I do not leave a balance to be settled one day, Pecksniff.'
The architect was too much overcome to speak. He tried to drop a tear upon his patron's hand, but couldn't find one in his dry distillery.
'May that day be very distant!' was his pious exclamation. 'Ah, sir! If I could say how deep an interest I have in you and yours! I allude to our beautiful young friend.'
'True,' he answered. 'True. She need have some one interested in her. I did her wrong to train her as I did. Orphan though she was, she would have found some one to protect her whom she might have loved again. When she was a child, I pleased myself with the thought that in gratifying my whim of placing her between me and false-hearted knaves, I had done her a kindness. Now she is a woman, I have no such comfort. She has no protector but herself. I have put her at such odds with the world, that any dog may bark or fawn upon her at his pleasure. Indeed she stands in need of delicate consideration. Yes; indeed she does!'
'If her position could be altered and defined, sir?' Mr Pecksniff hinted.
'How can that be done? Should I make a seamstress of her, or a governess?'
'Heaven forbid!' said Mr Pecksniff. 'My dear sir, there are other ways. There are indeed. But I am much excited and embarrassed at present, and would rather not pursue the subject. I scarcely know what I mean. Permit me to resume it at another time.'
'You are not unwell?' asked Martin anxiously.
'No, no!' cried Pecksniff. 'No. Permit me to resume it at another time. I'll walk a little. Bless you!'
Old Martin blessed him in return, and squeezed his hand. As he turned away, and slowly walked towards the house, Mr Pecksniff stood gazing after him; being pretty well recovered from his late emotion, which, in any other man, one might have thought had been assumed as a machinery for feeling Martin's pulse. The change in the old man found such a slight expression in his figure, that Mr Pecksniff, looking after him, could not help saying to himself:
'And I can wind him round my little finger! Only think!'
Old Martin happening to turn his head, saluted him affectionately. Mr Pecksniff returned the gesture.
'Why, the time was,' said Mr Pecksniff; 'and not long ago, when he wouldn't look at me! How soothing is this change. Such is the delicate texture of the human heart; so complicated is the process of its being softened! Externally he looks the same, and I can wind him round my little finger. Only think!'
In sober truth, there did appear to be nothing on which Mr Pecksniff might not have ventured with Martin Chuzzlewit; for whatever Mr Pecksniff said or did was right, and whatever he advised was done. Martin had escaped so many snares from needy fortune-hunters, and had withered in the shell of his suspicion and distrust for so many years, but to become the good man's tool and plaything. With the happiness of this conviction painted on his face, the architect went forth upon his morning walk.
The summer weather in his bosom was reflected in the breast of Nature. Through deep green vistas where the boughs arched overhead, and showed the sunlight flashing in the beautiful perspective; through dewy fern from which the startled hares leaped up, and fled at his approach; by mantled pools, and fallen trees, and down in hollow places, rustling among last year's leaves whose scent woke memory of the past; the placid Pecksniff strolled. By meadow gates and hedges fragrant with wild roses; and by thatched-roof cottages whose inmates humbly bowed before him as a man both good and wise; the worthy Pecksniff walked in tranquil meditation. The bee passed onward, humming of the work he had to do; the idle gnats for ever going round and round in one contracting and expanding ring, yet always going on as fast as he, danced merrily before him; the colour of the long grass came and went, as if the light clouds made it timid as they floated through the distant air.