Mr Pecksniff did know he was joking; because he said so.
There never had been before, and there never would be again, such an opportunity for the investment of a considerable sum (the rate of advantage increased in proportion to the amount invested), as at that moment. The only time that had at all approached it, was the time when Jonas had come into the concern; which made him ill-natured now, and inclined him to pick out a doubt in this place, and a flaw in that, and grumbling to advise Mr Pecksniff to think better of it. The sum which would complete the proprietorship in this snug concern, was nearly equal to Mr Pecksniff's whole hoard; not counting Mr Chuzzlewit, that is to say, whom he looked upon as money in the Bank, the possession of which inclined him the more to make a dash with his own private sprats for the capture of such a whale as Mr Montague described. The returns began almost immediately, and were immense. The end of it was, that Mr Pecksniff agreed to become the last partner and proprietor in the Anglo-Bengalee, and made an appointment to dine with Mr Montague, at Salisbury, on the next day but one, then and there to complete the negotiation.
It took so long to bring the subject to this head, that it was nearly midnight when they parted. When Mr Pecksniff walked downstairs to the door, he found Mrs Lupin standing there, looking out.
'Ah, my good friend!' he said; 'not a-bed yet! Contemplating the stars, Mrs Lupin?'
'It's a beautiful starlight night, sir.'
'A beautiful starlight night,' said Mr Pecksniff, looking up. 'Behold the planets, how they shine! Behold the--those two persons who were here this morning have left your house, I hope, Mrs Lupin?'
'Yes, sir. They are gone.'
'I am glad to hear it,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Behold the wonders of the firmament, Mrs Lupin! how glorious is the scene! When I look up at those shining orbs, I think that each of them is winking to the other to take notice of the vanity of men's pursuits. My fellowmen!' cried Mr Pecksniff, shaking his head in pity; 'you are much mistaken; my wormy relatives, you are much deceived! The stars are perfectly contented (I suppose so) in their several spheres. Why are not you? Oh! do not strive and struggle to enrich yourselves, or to get the better of each other, my deluded friends, but look up there, with me!'
Mrs Lupin shook her head, and heaved a sigh. It was very affecting.
'Look up there, with me!' repeated Mr Pecksniff, stretching out his hand; 'With me, a humble individual who is also an insect like yourselves. Can silver, gold, or precious stones, sparkle like those constellations! I think not. Then do not thirst for silver, gold, or precious stones; but look up there, with me!'
With those words, the good man patted Mrs Lupin's hand between his own, as if he would have added 'think of this, my good woman!' and walked away in a sort of ecstasy or rapture, with his hat under his arm.
Jonas sat in the attitude in which Mr Pecksniff had left him, gazing moodily at his friend; who, surrounded by a heap of documents, was writing something on an oblong slip of paper.
'You mean to wait at Salisbury over the day after to-morrow, do you, then?' said Jonas.
'You heard our appointment,' returned Montague, without raising his eyes. 'In any case I should have waited to see after the boy.'
They appeared to have changed places again; Montague being in high spirits; Jonas gloomy and lowering.
'You don't want me, I suppose?' said Jonas.
'I want you to put your name here,' he returned, glancing at him with a smile, 'as soon as I have filled up the stamp. I may as well have your note of hand for that extra capital. That's all I want. If you wish to go home, I can manage Mr Pecksniff now, alone. There is a perfect understanding between us.'
Jonas sat scowling at him as he wrote, in silence. When he had finished his writing, and had dried it on the blotting paper in his travelling-desk; he looked up, and tossed the pen towards him.
'What, not a day's grace, not a day's trust, eh?' said Jonas bitterly.