'Blessed in each other, and in the society of our venerable friend, my darling,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'we shall be happy. When he is wafted to a haven of rest, we will console each other. My pretty primrose, what do you say?'
'It is possible,' Mary answered, in a hurried manner, 'that I ought to feel grateful for this mark of your confidence. I cannot say that I do, but I am willing to suppose you may deserve my thanks. Take them; and pray leave me, Mr Pecksniff.'
The good man smiled a greasy smile; and drew her closer to him.
'Pray, pray release me, Mr Pecksniff. I cannot listen to your proposal. I cannot receive it. There are many to whom it may be acceptable, but it is not so to me. As an act of kindness and an act of pity, leave me!'
Mr Pecksniff walked on with his arm round her waist, and her hand in his, as contentedly as if they had been all in all to each other, and were joined in the bonds of truest love.
'If you force me by your superior strength,' said Mary, who finding that good words had not the least effect upon him, made no further effort to suppress her indignation; 'if you force me by your superior strength to accompany you back, and to be the subject of your insolence upon the way, you cannot constrain the expression of my thoughts. I hold you in the deepest abhorrence. I know your real nature and despise it.'
'No, no,' said Mr Pecksniff, sweetly. 'No, no, no!'
'By what arts or unhappy chances you have gained your influence over Mr Chuzzlewit, I do not know,' said Mary; 'it may be strong enough to soften even this, but he shall know of this, trust me, sir.'
Mr Pecksniff raised his heavy eyelids languidly, and let them fall again. It was saying with perfect coolness, 'Aye, aye! Indeed!'
'Is it not enough,' said Mary, 'that you warp and change his nature, adapt his every prejudice to your bad ends, and harden a heart naturally kind by shutting out the truth and allowing none but false and distorted views to reach it; is it not enough that you have the power of doing this, and that you exercise it, but must you also be so coarse, so cruel, and so cowardly to me?'
Still Mr Pecksniff led her calmly on, and looked as mild as any lamb that ever pastured in the fields.
'Will nothing move you, sir?' cried Mary.
'My dear,' observed Mr Pecksniff, with a placid leer, 'a habit of self-examination, and the practice of--shall I say of virtue?'
'Of hypocrisy,' said Mary.
'No, no,' resumed Mr Pecksniff, chafing the captive hand reproachfully, 'of virtue--have enabled me to set such guards upon myself, that it is really difficult to ruffle me. It is a curious fact, but it is difficult, do you know, for any one to ruffle me. And did she think,' said Mr Pecksniff, with a playful tightening of his grasp 'that SHE could! How little did she know his heart!'
Little, indeed! Her mind was so strangely constituted that she would have preferred the caresses of a toad, an adder, or a serpent--nay, the hug of a bear--to the endearments of Mr Pecksniff.
'Come, come,' said that good gentleman, 'a word or two will set this matter right, and establish a pleasant understanding between us. I am not angry, my love.'
'No,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'I am not. I say so. Neither are you.'
There was a beating heart beneath his hand that told another story though.
'I am sure you are not,' said Mr Pecksniff: 'and I will tell you why. There are two Martin Chuzzlewits, my dear; and your carrying your anger to one might have a serious effect--who knows!--upon the other. You wouldn't wish to hurt him, would you?'
She trembled violently, and looked at him with such a proud disdain that he turned his eyes away. No doubt lest he should be offended with her in spite of his better self.
'A passive quarrel, my love,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'may be changed into an active one, remember. It would be sad to blight even a disinherited young man in his already blighted prospects; but how easy to do it. Ah, how easy! HAVE I influence with our venerable friend, do you think? Well, perhaps I have.