And if we were no better off than anybody else, what would become of our sense of gratitude; which,' said Mr Pecksniff with tears in his eyes, as he shook his fist at a beggar who wanted to get up behind, 'is one of the holiest feelings of our common nature.'
His children heard with becoming reverence these moral precepts from the lips of their father, and signified their acquiescence in the same, by smiles. That he might the better feed and cherish that sacred flame of gratitude in his breast, Mr Pecksniff remarked that he would trouble his eldest daughter, even in this early stage of their journey, for the brandy-bottle. And from the narrow neck of that stone vessel he imbibed a copious refreshment.
'What are we?' said Mr Pecksniff, 'but coaches? Some of us are slow coaches'--
'Goodness, Pa!' cried Charity.
'Some of us, I say,' resumed her parent with increased emphasis, 'are slow coaches; some of us are fast coaches. Our passions are the horses; and rampant animals too--!'
'Really, Pa,' cried both the daughters at once. 'How very unpleasant.'
'And rampant animals too' repeated Mr Pecksniff with so much determination, that he may be said to have exhibited, at the moment a sort of moral rampancy himself;'--and Virtue is the drag. We start from The Mother's Arms, and we run to The Dust Shovel.'
When he had said this, Mr Pecksniff, being exhausted, took some further refreshment. When he had done that, he corked the bottle tight, with the air of a man who had effectually corked the subject also; and went to sleep for three stages.
The tendency of mankind when it falls asleep in coaches, is to wake up cross; to find its legs in its way; and its corns an aggravation. Mr Pecksniff not being exempt from the common lot of humanity found himself, at the end of his nap, so decidedly the victim of these infirmities, that he had an irresistible inclination to visit them upon his daughters; which he had already begun to do in the shape of divers random kicks, and other unexpected motions of his shoes, when the coach stopped, and after a short delay the door was opened.
'Now mind,' said a thin sharp voice in the dark. 'I and my son go inside, because the roof is full, but you agree only to charge us outside prices. It's quite understood that we won't pay more. Is it?'
'All right, sir,' replied the guard.
'Is there anybody inside now?' inquired the voice.
'Three passengers,' returned the guard.
'Then I ask the three passengers to witness this bargain, if they will be so good,' said the voice. 'My boy, I think we may safely get in.'
In pursuance of which opinion, two people took their seats in the vehicle, which was solemnly licensed by Act of Parliament to carry any six persons who could be got in at the door.
'That was lucky!' whispered the old man, when they moved on again. 'And a great stroke of policy in you to observe it. He, he, he! We couldn't have gone outside. I should have died of the rheumatism!'
Whether it occurred to the dutiful son that he had in some degree over-reached himself by contributing to the prolongation of his father's days; or whether the cold had effected his temper; is doubtful. But he gave his father such a nudge in reply, that that good old gentleman was taken with a cough which lasted for full five minutes without intermission, and goaded Mr Pecksniff to that pitch of irritation, that he said at last--and very suddenly:
'There is no room! There is really no room in this coach for any gentleman with a cold in his head!'
'Mine,' said the old man, after a moment's pause, 'is upon my chest, Pecksniff.'
The voice and manner, together, now that he spoke out; the composure of the speaker; the presence of his son; and his knowledge of Mr Pecksniff; afforded a clue to his identity which it was impossible to mistake.
'Hem! I thought,' said Mr Pecksniff, returning to his usual mildness, 'that I addressed a stranger. I find that I address a relative, Mr Anthony Chuzzlewit and his son Mr Jonas--for they, my dear children, are our travelling companions--will excuse me for an apparently harsh remark.