Mr Pecksniff looked at him. 'Did you speak, my worthy sir?' said Mr Pecksniff, with a smile. The old man answered in the negative. 'I know what you thought,' said Mr Pecksniff, with another smile. 'Let him go on my friend. The development of self-interest in the human mind is always a curious study. Let him go on, sir.'
'Go on!' observed the old man; in a mechanical obedience, it appeared, to Mr Pecksniff's suggestion.
'I have been so wretched and so poor,' said Martin, 'that I am indebted to the charitable help of a stranger, in a land of strangers, for the means of returning here. All this tells against me in your mind, I know. I have given you cause to think I have been driven here wholly by want, and have not been led on, in any degree, by affection or regret. When I parted from you, Grandfather, I deserved that suspicion, but I do not now. I do not now.'
The Chorus put its hand in its waistcoat, and smiled. 'Let him go on, my worthy sir,' it said. 'I know what you are thinking of, but don't express it prematurely.'
Old Martin raised his eyes to Mr Pecksniff's face, and appearing to derive renewed instruction from his looks and words, said, once again:
'I have little more to say,' returned Martin. 'And as I say it now, with little or no hope, Grandfather; whatever dawn of hope I had on entering the room; believe it to be true. At least, believe it to be true.'
'Beautiful Truth!' exclaimed the Chorus, looking upward. 'How is your name profaned by vicious persons! You don't live in a well, my holy principle, but on the lips of false mankind. It is hard to bear with mankind, dear sir'--addressing the elder Mr Chuzzlewit; 'but let us do so meekly. It is our duty so to do. Let us be among the Few who do their duty. If,' pursued the Chorus, soaring up into a lofty flight, 'as the poet informs us, England expects Every man to do his duty, England is the most sanguine country on the face of the earth, and will find itself continually disappointed.'
'Upon that subject,' said Martin, looking calmly at the old man as he spoke, but glancing once at Mary, whose face was now buried in her hands, upon the back of his easy-chair; 'upon that subject which first occasioned a division between us, my mind and heart are incapable of change. Whatever influence they have undergone, since that unhappy time, has not been one to weaken but to strengthen me. I cannot profess sorrow for that, nor irresolution in that, nor shame in that. Nor would you wish me, I know. But that I might have trusted to your love, if I had thrown myself manfully upon it; that I might have won you over with ease, if I had been more yielding and more considerate; that I should have best remembered myself in forgetting myself, and recollecting you; reflection, solitude, and misery, have taught me. I came resolved to say this, and to ask your forgiveness; not so much in hope for the future, as in regret for the past; for all that I would ask of you is, that you would aid me to live. Help me to get honest work to do, and I would do it. My condition places me at the disadvantage of seeming to have only my selfish ends to serve, but try if that be so or not. Try if I be self-willed, obdurate, and haughty, as I was; or have been disciplined in a rough school. Let the voice of nature and association plead between us, Grandfather; and do not, for one fault, however thankless, quite reject me!'
As he ceased, the grey head of the old man drooped again; and he concealed his face behind his outspread fingers.
'My dear sir,' cried Mr Pecksniff, bending over him, 'you must not give way to this. It is very natural, and very amiable, but you must not allow the shameless conduct of one whom you long ago cast off, to move you so far. Rouse yourself. Think,' said Pecksniff, 'think of Me, my friend.'
'I will,' returned old Martin, looking up into his face. 'You recall me to myself. I will.'
'Why, what,' said Mr Pecksniff, sitting down beside him in a chair which he drew up for the purpose, and tapping him playfully on the arm, 'what is the matter with my strong-minded compatriot, if I may venture to take the liberty of calling him by that endearing expression? Shall I have to scold my coadjutor, or to reason with an intellect like this? I think not.'