'Walk up, pray, Mr Pinch,' said Miss Pecksniff. For Tom halted, irresolutely, at the door.
'I am doubtful whether I should be welcome,' replied Tom, 'or, I ought rather to say, I have no doubt about it. I will send up a message, I think.'
'But what nonsense that is!' returned Miss Pecksniff, speaking apart to Tom. 'He is not at home, I am certain. I know he is not; and Merry hasn't the least idea that you ever--'
'No,' interrupted Tom. 'Nor would I have her know it, on any account. I am not so proud of that scuffle, I assure you.'
'Ah, but then you are so modest, you see,' returned Miss Pecksniff, with a smile. 'But pray walk up. If you don't wish her to know it, and do wish to speak to her, pray walk up. Pray walk up, Miss Pinch. Don't stand here.'
Tom still hesitated for he felt that he was in an awkward position. But Cherry passing him at this juncture, and leading his sister upstairs, and the house-door being at the same time shut behind them, he followed without quite knowing whether it was well or ill- judged so to do.
'Merry, my darling!' said the fair Miss Pecksniff, opening the door of the usual sitting-room. 'Here are Mr Pinch and his sister come to see you! I thought we should find you here, Mrs Todgers! How do you do, Mrs Gamp? And how do you do, Mr Chuffey, though it's of no use asking you the question, I am well aware.'
Honouring each of these parties, as she severally addressed them, with an acid smile, Miss Charity presented 'Mr Moddle.'
'I believe you have seen HIM before,' she pleasantly observed. 'Augustus, my sweet child, bring me a chair.'
The sweet child did as he was told; and was then about to retire into a corner to mourn in secret, when Miss Charity, calling him in an audible whisper a 'little pet,' gave him leave to come and sit beside her. It is to be hoped, for the general cheerfulness of mankind, that such a doleful little pet was never seen as Mr Moddle looked when he complied. So despondent was his temper, that he showed no outward thrill of ecstasy when Miss Pecksniff placed her lily hand in his, and concealed this mark of her favour from the vulgar gaze by covering it with a corner of her shawl. Indeed, he was infinitely more rueful then than he had been before; and, sitting uncomfortably upright in his chair, surveyed the company with watery eyes, which seemed to say, without the aid of language, 'Oh, good gracious! look here! Won't some kind Christian help me!'
But the ecstasies of Mrs Gamp were sufficient to have furnished forth a score of young lovers; and they were chiefly awakened by the sight of Tom Pinch and his sister. Mrs Gamp was a lady of that happy temperament which can be ecstatic without any other stimulating cause than a general desire to establish a large and profitable connection. She added daily so many strings to her bow, that she made a perfect harp of it; and upon that instrument she now began to perform an extemporaneous concerto.
'Why, goodness me!' she said, 'Mrs Chuzzlewit! To think as I should see beneath this blessed 'ouse, which well I know it, Miss Pecksniff, my sweet young lady, to be a 'ouse as there is not a many like, worse luck, and wishin' it were not so, which then this tearful walley would be changed into a flowerin' guardian, Mr Chuffey; to think as I should see beneath this indiwidgle roof, identically comin', Mr Pinch (I take the liberty, though almost unbeknown), and do assure you of it, sir, the smilinest and sweetest face as ever, Mrs Chuzzlewit, I see exceptin' yourn, my dear good lady, and YOUR good lady's too, sir, Mr Moddle, if I may make so bold as speak so plain of what is plain enough to them as needn't look through millstones, Mrs Todgers, to find out wot is wrote upon the wall behind. Which no offence is meant, ladies and gentlemen; none bein' took, I hope. To think as I should see that smilinest and sweetest face which me and another friend of mine, took notice of among the packages down London Bridge, in this promiscous place, is a surprige in-deed!'
Having contrived, in this happy manner, to invest every member of her audience with an individual share and immediate personal interest in her address, Mrs Gamp dropped several curtseys to Ruth, and smilingly shaking her head a great many times, pursued the thread of her discourse:
'Now, ain't we rich in beauty this here joyful arternoon, I'm sure. I knows a lady, which her name, I'll not deceive you, Mrs Chuzzlewit, is Harris, her husband's brother bein' six foot three, and marked with a mad bull in Wellington boots upon his left arm, on account of his precious mother havin' been worrited by one into a shoemaker's shop, when in a sitiwation which blessed is the man as has his quiver full of sech, as many times I've said to Gamp when words has roge betwixt us on account of the expense--and often have I said to Mrs Harris, "Oh, Mrs Harris, ma'am! your countenance is quite a angel's!" Which, but for Pimples, it would be.