To do it at once, and do it cheap.'
'Unless we do it cheap, we shall have some difficulty in doing it at all,' said Martin, pulling out the bank, and telling it over in his hand.
'The greater reason for losing no time, sir,' replied Mark. 'Whereas, when you've seen the young lady; and know what state of mind the old gentleman's in, and all about it; then you'll know what to do next.'
'No doubt,' said Martin. 'You are quite right.'
They were raising their glasses to their lips, when their hands stopped midway, and their gaze was arrested by a figure which slowly, very slowly, and reflectively, passed the window at that moment.
Mr Pecksniff. Placid, calm, but proud. Honestly proud. Dressed with peculiar care, smiling with even more than usual blandness, pondering on the beauties of his art with a mild abstraction from all sordid thoughts, and gently travelling across the disc, as if he were a figure in a magic lantern.
As Mr Pecksniff passed, a person coming in the opposite direction stopped to look after him with great interest and respect, almost with veneration; and the landlord bouncing out of the house, as if he had seen him too, joined this person, and spoke to him, and shook his head gravely, and looked after Mr Pecksniff likewise.
Martin and Mark sat staring at each other, as if they could not believe it; but there stood the landlord, and the other man still. In spite of the indignation with which this glimpse of Mr Pecksniff had inspired him, Martin could not help laughing heartily. Neither could Mark.
'We must inquire into this!' said Martin. 'Ask the landlord in, Mark.'
Mr Tapley retired for that purpose, and immediately returned with their large-headed host in safe convoy.
'Pray, landlord!' said Martin, 'who is that gentleman who passed just now, and whom you were looking after?'
The landlord poked the fire as if, in his desire to make the most of his answer, he had become indifferent even to the price of coals; and putting his hands in his pockets, said, after inflating himself to give still further effect to his reply:
'That, gentlemen, is the great Mr Pecksniff! The celebrated architect, gentlemen!'
He looked from one to the other while he said it, as if he were ready to assist the first man who might be overcome by the intelligence.
'The great Mr Pecksniff, the celebrated architect, gentlemen.' said the landlord, 'has come down here, to help to lay the first stone of a new and splendid public building.'
'Is it to be built from his designs?' asked Martin.
'The great Mr Pecksniff, the celebrated architect, gentlemen,' returned the landlord, who seemed to have an unspeakable delight in the repetition of these words, 'carried off the First Premium, and will erect the building.'
'Who lays the stone?' asked Martin.
'Our member has come down express,' returned the landlord. 'No scrubs would do for no such a purpose. Nothing less would satisfy our Directors than our member in the House of Commons, who is returned upon the Gentlemanly Interest.'
'Which interest is that?' asked Martin.
'What, don't you know!' returned the landlord.
It was quite clear the landlord didn't. They always told him at election time, that it was the Gentlemanly side, and he immediately put on his top-boots, and voted for it.
'When does the ceremony take place?' asked Martin.
'This day,' replied the landlord. Then pulling out his watch, he added, impressively, 'almost this minute.'
Martin hastily inquired whether there was any possibility of getting in to witness it; and finding that there would be no objection to the admittance of any decent person, unless indeed the ground were full, hurried off with Mark, as hard as they could go.
They were fortunate enough to squeeze themselves into a famous corner on the ground, where they could see all that passed, without much dread of being beheld by Mr Pecksniff in return. They were not a minute too soon, for as they were in the act of congratulating each other, a great noise was heard at some distance, and everybody looked towards the gate.