But these have long since dwindled away. He defers to him in everything, and has no opinion upon any question, but that which is forced upon him by this treacherous man.'
Such was the account, rapidly furnished in whispers, and interrupted, brief as it was, by many false alarms of Mr Pecksniff's return; which Martin received of his grandfather's decline, and of that good gentleman's ascendancy. He heard of Tom Pinch too, and Jonas too, with not a little about himself into the bargain; for though lovers are remarkable for leaving a great deal unsaid on all occasions, and very properly desiring to come back and say it, they are remarkable also for a wonderful power of condensation, and can, in one way or other, give utterance to more language--eloquent language--in any given short space of time, than all the six hundred and fifty-eight members in the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; who are strong lovers no doubt, but of their country only, which makes all the difference; for in a passion of that kind (which is not always returned), it is the custom to use as many words as possible, and express nothing whatever.
A caution from Mr Tapley; a hasty interchange of farewells, and of something else which the proverb says must not be told of afterwards; a white hand held out to Mr Tapley himself, which he kissed with the devotion of a knight-errant; more farewells, more something else's; a parting word from Martin that he would write from London and would do great things there yet (Heaven knows what, but he quite believed it); and Mark and he stood on the outside of the Pecksniffian halls.
'A short interview after such an absence!' said Martin, sorrowfully. 'But we are well out of the house. We might have placed ourselves in a false position by remaining there, even so long, Mark.'
'I don't know about ourselves, sir,' he returned; 'but somebody else would have got into a false position, if he had happened to come back again, while we was there. I had the door all ready, sir. If Pecksniff had showed his head, or had only so much as listened behind it, I would have caught him like a walnut. He's the sort of man,' added Mr Tapley, musing, 'as would squeeze soft, I know.'
A person who was evidently going to Mr Pecksniff's house, passed them at this moment. He raised his eyes at the mention of the architect's name; and when he had gone on a few yards, stopped and gazed at them. Mr Tapley, also, looked over his shoulder, and so did Martin; for the stranger, as he passed, had looked very sharply at them.
'Who may that be, I wonder!' said Martin. 'The face seems familiar to me, but I don't know the man.'
'He seems to have a amiable desire that his face should be tolerable familiar to us,' said Mr Tapley, 'for he's a-staring pretty hard. He'd better not waste his beauty, for he ain't got much to spare.'
Coming in sight of the Dragon, they saw a travelling carriage at the door.
'And a Salisbury carriage, eh?' said Mr Tapley. 'That's what he came in depend upon it. What's in the wind now? A new pupil, I shouldn't wonder. P'raps it's a order for another grammar-school, of the same pattern as the last.'
Before they could enter at the door, Mrs Lupin came running out; and beckoning them to the carriage showed them a portmanteau with the name of CHUZZLEWIT upon it.
'Miss Pecksniff's husband that was,' said the good woman to Martin. 'I didn't know what terms you might be on, and was quite in a worry till you came back.'
'He and I have never interchanged a word yet,' observed Martin; 'and as I have no wish to be better or worse acquainted with him, I will not put myself in his way. We passed him on the road, I have no doubt. I am glad he timed his coming as he did. Upon my word! Miss Pecksniff's husband travels gayly!'
'A very fine-looking gentleman with him--in the best room now,' whispered Mrs Lupin, glancing up at the window as they went into the house. 'He has ordered everything that can be got for dinner; and has the glossiest moustaches and whiskers ever you saw.'
'Has he?' cried Martin, 'why then we'll endeavour to avoid him too, in the hope that our self-denial may be strong enough for the sacrifice.