There were leaves of ivy tapping gently at the opposite windows; and the sun poured in through only one; leaving the body of the church in tempting shade. But the most tempting spot of all, was one red- curtained and soft-cushioned pew, wherein the official dignitaries of the place (of whom Mr Pecksniff was the head and chief) enshrined themselves on Sundays. Mr Pecksniff's seat was in the corner; a remarkably comfortable corner; where his very large Prayer-Book was at that minute making the most of its quarto self upon the desk. He determined to go in and rest.
He entered very softly; in part because it was a church; in part because his tread was always soft; in part because Tom played a solemn tune; in part because he thought he would surprise him when he stopped. Unbolting the door of the high pew of state, he glided in and shut it after him; then sitting in his usual place, and stretching out his legs upon the hassocks, he composed himself to listen to the music.
It is an unaccountable circumstance that he should have felt drowsy there, where the force of association might surely have been enough to keep him wide awake; but he did. He had not been in the snug little corner five minutes before he began to nod. He had not recovered himself one minute before he began to nod again. In the very act of opening his eyes indolently, he nodded again. In the very act of shutting them, he nodded again. So he fell out of one nod into another until at last he ceased to nod at all, and was as fast as the church itself.
He had a consciousness of the organ, long after he fell asleep, though as to its being an organ he had no more idea of that than he had of its being a bull. After a while he began to have at intervals the same dreamy impressions of voices; and awakening to an indolent curiosity upon the subject, opened his eyes.
He was so indolent, that after glancing at the hassocks and the pew, he was already half-way off to sleep again, when it occurred to him that there really were voices in the church; low voices, talking earnestly hard by; while the echoes seemed to mutter responses. He roused himself, and listened.
Before he had listened half a dozen seconds, he became as broad awake as ever he had been in all his life. With eyes, and ears, and mouth, wide open, he moved himself a very little with the utmost caution, and gathering the curtain in his hand, peeped out.
Tom Pinch and Mary. Of course. He had recognized their voices, and already knew the topic they discussed. Looking like the small end of a guillotined man, with his chin on a level with the top of the pew, so that he might duck down immediately in case of either of them turning round, he listened. Listened with such concentrated eagerness, that his very hair and shirt-collar stood bristling up to help him.
'No,' cried Tom. 'No letters have ever reached me, except that one from New York. But don't be uneasy on that account, for it's very likely they have gone away to some far-off place, where the posts are neither regular nor frequent. He said in that very letter that it might be so, even in that city to which they thought of travelling--Eden, you know.'
'It is a great weight upon my mind,' said Mary.
'Oh, but you mustn't let it be,' said Tom. 'There's a true saying that nothing travels so fast as ill news; and if the slightest harm had happened to Martin, you may be sure you would have heard of it long ago. I have often wished to say this to you,' Tom continued with an embarrassment that became him very well, 'but you have never given me an opportunity.'
'I have sometimes been almost afraid,' said Mary, 'that you might suppose I hesitated to confide in you, Mr Pinch.'
'No,' Tom stammered, 'I--I am not aware that I ever supposed that. I am sure that if I have, I have checked the thought directly, as an injustice to you. I feel the delicacy of your situation in having to confide in me at all,' said Tom, 'but I would risk my life to save you from one day's uneasiness; indeed I would!'
'I have dreaded sometimes,' Tom continued, 'that I might have displeased you by--by having the boldness to try and anticipate your wishes now and then.