For such is the rash boldness of the uninitiated, that they will frequently set up some monstrous abstract principle, such as humanity, or tenderness, or the like idle folly, in obstinate defiance of all precedent and usage; and will even venture to maintain the same against the persons who have made the precedents and established the usage, and who must therefore be the best and most impartial judges of the subject.
'Ah, Mr Pinch!' said Miss Pecksniff. 'It all comes of this unfortunate marriage. If my sister had not been so precipitate, and had not united herself to a Wretch, there would have been no Mr Chuffey in the house.'
'Hush!' cried Tom. 'She'll hear you.'
'I should be very sorry if she did hear me, Mr Pinch,' said Cherry, raising her voice a little; 'for it is not in my nature to add to the uneasiness of any person; far less of my own sister. I know what a sister's duties are, Mr Pinch, and I hope I always showed it in my practice. Augustus, my dear child, find my pocket- handkerchief, and give it to me.'
Augustus obeyed, and took Mrs Todgers aside to pour his griefs into her friendly bosom.
'I am sure, Mr Pinch,' said Charity, looking after her betrothed and glancing at her sister, 'that I ought to be very grateful for the blessings I enjoy, and those which are yet in store for me. When I contrast Augustus'--here she was modest and embarrased--'who, I don't mind saying to you, is all softness, mildness, and devotion, with the detestable man who is my sister's husband; and when I think, Mr Pinch, that in the dispensations of this world, our cases might have been reversed; I have much to be thankful for, indeed, and much to make me humble and contented.'
Contented she might have been, but humble she assuredly was not. Her face and manner experienced something so widely different from humility, that Tom could not help understanding and despising the base motives that were working in her breast. He turned away, and said to Ruth, that it was time for them to go.
'I will write to your husband,' said Tom to Merry, 'and explain to him, as I would have done if I had met him here, that if he has sustained any inconvenience through my means, it is not my fault; a postman not being more innocent of the news he brings, than I was when I handed him that letter.'
'I thank you!' said Merry. 'It may do some good.'
She parted tenderly from Ruth, who with her brother was in the act of leaving the room, when a key was heard in the lock of the door below, and immediately afterwards a quick footstep in the passage. Tom stopped, and looked at Merry.
It was Jonas, she said timidly.
'I had better not meet him on the stairs, perhaps,' said Tom, drawing his sister's arm through his, and coming back a step or two. 'I'll wait for him here, a moment.'
He had scarcely said it when the door opened, and Jonas entered. His wife came forward to receive him; but he put her aside with his hand, and said in a surly tone:
'I didn't know you'd got a party.'
As he looked, at the same time, either by accident or design, towards Miss Pecksniff; and as Miss Pecksniff was only too delighted to quarrel with him, she instantly resented it.
'Oh dear!' she said, rising. 'Pray don't let us intrude upon your domestic happiness! That would be a pity. We have taken tea here, sir, in your absence; but if you will have the goodness to send us a note of the expense, receipted, we shall be happy to pay it. Augustus, my love, we will go, if you please. Mrs Todgers, unless you wish to remain here, we shall be happy to take you with us. It would be a pity, indeed, to spoil the bliss which this gentleman always brings with him, especially into his own home.'
'Charity! Charity!' remonstrated her sister, in such a heartfelt tone that she might have been imploring her to show the cardinal virtue whose name she bore.
'Merry, my dear, I am much obliged to you for your advice,' returned Miss Pecksniff, with a stately scorn--by the way, she had not been offered any--'but I am not his slave--'
'No, nor wouldn't have been if you could,' interrupted Jonas.