Charles Dickens

'You wouldn't care to know him, I can promise you.'

'Jonas! my dear Jonas!' remonstrated Mr Pecksniff. 'Really!'

'Oh! it's all very well for you to speak up for him,' said Jonas. 'You have nailed him. You'll get a fortune by him.'

'Oho! Is the wind in that quarter?' cried Montague. 'Ha, ha, ha!' and here they all laughed--especially Mr Pecksniff.

'No, no!' said that gentleman, clapping his son-in-law playfully upon the shoulder. 'You must not believe all that my young relative says, Mr Montague. You may believe him in official business, and trust him in official business, but you must not attach importance to his flights of fancy.'

'Upon my life, Mr Pecksniff,' cried Montague, 'I attach the greatest importance to that last observation of his. I trust and hope it's true. Money cannot be turned and turned again quickly enough in the ordinary course, Mr Pecksniff. There is nothing like building our fortune on the weaknesses of mankind.'

'Oh fie! oh fie, for shame!' cried Mr Pecksniff. But they all laughed again--especially Mr Pecksniff.

'I give you my honour that WE do it,' said Montague.

'Oh fie, fie!' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'You are very pleasant. That I am sure you don't! That I am sure you don't! How CAN you, you know?'

Again they all laughed in concert; and again Mr Pecksniff laughed especially.

This was very agreeable indeed. It was confidential, easy, straight-forward; and still left Mr Pecksniff in the position of being in a gentle way the Mentor of the party. The greatest achievements in the article of cookery that the Dragon had ever performed, were set before them; the oldest and best wines in the Dragon's cellar saw the light on that occasion; a thousand bubbles, indicative of the wealth and station of Mr Montague in the depths of his pursuits, were constantly rising to the surface of the conversation; and they were as frank and merry as three honest men could be. Mr Pecksniff thought it a pity (he said so) that Mr Montague should think lightly of mankind and their weaknesses. He was anxious upon this subject; his mind ran upon it; in one way or another he was constantly coming back to it; he must make a convert of him, he said. And as often as Mr Montague repeated his sentiment about building fortunes on the weaknesses of mankind, and added frankly, 'WE do it!' just as often Mr Pecksniff repeated 'Oh fie! oh fie, for shame! I am sure you don't. How CAN you, you know?' laying a greater stress each time on those last words.

The frequent repetition of this playful inquiry on the part of Mr Pecksniff, led at last to playful answers on the part of Mr Montague; but after some little sharp-shooting on both sides, Mr Pecksniff became grave, almost to tears; observing that if Mr Montague would give him leave, he would drink the health of his young kinsman, Mr Jonas; congratulating him upon the valuable and distinguished friendship he had formed, but envying him, he would confess, his usefulness to his fellow-creatures. For, if he understood the objects of that Institution with which he was newly and advantageously connected--knowing them but imperfectly--they were calculated to do Good; and for his (Mr Pecksniff's) part, if he could in any way promote them, he thought he would be able to lay his head upon his pillow every night, with an absolute certainty of going to sleep at once.

The transition from this accidental remark (for it was quite accidental and had fallen from Mr Pecksniff in the openness of his soul), to the discussion of the subject as a matter of business, was easy. Books, papers, statements, tables, calculations of various kinds, were soon spread out before them; and as they were all framed with one object, it is not surprising that they should all have tended to one end. But still, whenever Montague enlarged upon the profits of the office, and said that as long as there were gulls upon the wing it must succeed, Mr Pecksniff mildly said 'Oh fie!'-- and might indeed have remonstrated with him, but that he knew he was joking.