Charles Dickens

You don't know the arts of which such a creature is capable. Oh! it's a wicked world.'

'You are not married?' Tom hinted, to divert the conversation.

'N--no!' said Cherry, tracing out one particular paving-stone in Monument Yard with the end of her parasol. 'I--but really it's quite impossible to explain. Won't you walk in?'

'You live here, then?' said Tom

'Yes,' returned Miss Pecksniff, pointing with her parasol to Todgers's; 'I reside with this lady, AT PRESENT.'

The great stress on the two last words suggested to Tom that he was expected to say something in reference to them. So he said.

'Only at present! Are you going home again soon?'

'No, Mr Pinch,' returned Charity. 'No, thank you. No! A mother-in- law who is younger than--I mean to say, who is as nearly as possible about the same age as one's self, would not quite suit my spirit. Not quite!' said Cherry, with a spiteful shiver.

'I thought from your saying "at present"'--Tom observed.

'Really, upon my word! I had no idea you would press me so very closely on the subject, Mr Pinch,' said Charity, blushing, 'or I should not have been so foolish as to allude to--oh really!--won't you walk in?'

Tom mentioned, to excuse himself, that he had an appointment in Furnival's Inn, and that coming from Islington he had taken a few wrong turnings, and arrived at the Monument instead. Miss Pecksniff simpered very much when he asked her if she knew the way to Furnival's Inn, and at length found courage to reply.

'A gentleman who is a friend of mine, or at least who is not exactly a friend so much as a sort of acquaintance--Oh upon my word, I hardly know what I say, Mr Pinch; you mustn't suppose there is any engagement between us; or at least if there is, that it is at all a settled thing as yet--is going to Furnival's Inn immediately, I believe upon a little business, and I am sure he would be very glad to accompany you, so as to prevent your going wrong again. You had better walk in. You will very likely find my sister Merry here,' she said with a curious toss of her head, and anything but an agreeable smile.

'Then, I think, I'll endeavour to find my way alone,' said Tom, 'for I fear she would not be very glad to see me. That unfortunate occurrence, in relation to which you and I had some amicable words together, in private, is not likely to have impressed her with any friendly feeling towards me. Though it really was not my fault.'

'She has never heard of that, you may depend,' said Cherry, gathering up the corners of her mouth, and nodding at Tom. 'I am far from sure that she would bear you any mighty ill will for it, if she had.'

'You don't say so?' cried Tom, who was really concerned by this insinuation.

'I say nothing,' said Charity. 'If I had not already known what shocking things treachery and deceit are in themselves, Mr Pinch, I might perhaps have learnt it from the success they meet with--from the success they meet with.' Here she smiled as before. 'But I don't say anything. On the contrary, I should scorn it. You had better walk in!'

There was something hidden here, which piqued Tom's interest and troubled his tender heart. When, in a moment's irresolution, he looked at Charity, he could not but observe a struggle in her face between a sense of triumph and a sense of shame; nor could he but remark how, meeting even his eyes, which she cared so little for, she turned away her own, for all the splenetic defiance in her manner.

An uneasy thought entered Tom's head; a shadowy misgiving that the altered relations between himself and Pecksniff were somehow to involve an altered knowledge on his part of other people, and were to give him an insight into much of which he had had no previous suspicion. And yet he put no definite construction upon Charity's proceedings. He certainly had no idea that as he had been the audience and spectator of her mortification, she grasped with eager delight at any opportunity of reproaching her sister with his presence in HER far deeper misery; for he knew nothing of it, and only pictured that sister as the same giddy, careless, trivial creature she always had been, with the same slight estimation of himself which she had never been at the least pains to conceal.