I am very glad you will not refer to the past.'
'The present is enough,' said Mr Pecksniff, dropping a penny, 'and the sooner THAT is past, the better. Mr Pinch, I will not dismiss you without a word of explanation. Even such a course would be quite justifiable under the circumstances; but it might wear an appearance of hurry, and I will not do it; for I am,' said Mr Pecksniff, knocking down another penny, 'perfectly self-possessed. Therefore I will say to you, what I have already said to Mr Chuzzlewit.'
Tom glanced at the old gentleman, who nodded now and then as approving of Mr Pecksniff's sentences and sentiments, but interposed between them in no other way.
'From fragments of a conversation which I overheard in the church, just now, Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff, 'between yourself and Miss Graham--I say fragments, because I was slumbering at a considerable distance from you, when I was roused by your voices--and from what I saw, I ascertained (I would have given a great deal not to have ascertained, Mr Pinch) that you, forgetful of all ties of duty and of honour, sir; regardless of the sacred laws of hospitality, to which you were pledged as an inmate of this house; have presumed to address Miss Graham with unreturned professions of attachment and proposals of love.'
Tom looked at him steadily.
'Do you deny it, sir?' asked Mr Pecksniff, dropping one pound two and fourpence, and making a great business of picking it up again.
'No, sir,' replied Tom. 'I do not.'
'You do not,' said Mr Pecksniff, glancing at the old gentleman. 'Oblige me by counting this money, Mr Pinch, and putting your name to this receipt. You do not?'
No, Tom did not. He scorned to deny it. He saw that Mr Pecksniff having overheard his own disgrace, cared not a jot for sinking lower yet in his contempt. He saw that he had devised this fiction as the readiest means of getting rid of him at once, but that it must end in that any way. He saw that Mr Pecksniff reckoned on his not denying it, because his doing so and explaining would incense the old man more than ever against Martin and against Mary; while Pecksniff himself would only have been mistaken in his 'fragments.' Deny it! No.
'You find the amount correct, do you, Mr Pinch?' said Pecksniff.
'Quite correct, sir,' answered Tom.
'A person is waiting in the kitchen,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'to carry your luggage wherever you please. We part, Mr Pinch, at once, and are strangers from this time.'
Something without a name; compassion, sorrow, old tenderness, mistaken gratitude, habit; none of these, and yet all of them; smote upon Tom's gentle heart at parting. There was no such soul as Pecksniff's in that carcase; and yet, though his speaking out had not involved the compromise of one he loved, he couldn't have denounced the very shape and figure of the man. Not even then.
'I will not say,' cried Mr Pecksniff, shedding tears, 'what a blow this is. I will not say how much it tries me; how it works upon my nature; how it grates upon my feelings. I do not care for that. I can endure as well as another man. But what I have to hope, and what you have to hope, Mr Pinch (otherwise a great responsibility rests upon you), is, that this deception may not alter my ideas of humanity; that it may not impair my freshness, or contract, if I may use the expression, my Pinions. I hope it will not; I don't think it will. It may be a comfort to you, if not now, at some future time, to know that I shall endeavour not to think the worse of my fellow-creatures in general, for what has passed between us. Farewell!'
Tom had meant to spare him one little puncturation with a lancet, which he had it in his power to administer, but he changed his mind on hearing this, and said:
'I think you left something in the church, sir.'
'Thank you, Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff. 'I am not aware that I did.'
'This is your double eye-glass, I believe?' said Tom.
'Oh!' cried Pecksniff, with some degree of confusion. 'I am obliged to you.