'Merry,' cried that more prudent damsel, 'really I am ashamed of you. How can you go on so? You wild thing!' At which Miss Merry only laughed the more, of course.
'I saw a wildness in her eye, t'other day,' said Mr Jonas, addressing Charity. 'But you're the one to sit solemn! I say--You were regularly prim, cousin!'
"Oh! The old-fashioned fright!' cried Merry, in a whisper. 'Cherry my dear, upon my word you must sit next him. I shall die outright if he talks to me any more; I shall, positively!' To prevent which fatal consequence, the buoyant creature skipped out of her seat as she spoke, and squeezed her sister into the place from which she had risen.
'Don't mind crowding me,' cried Mr Jonas. 'I like to be crowded by gals. Come a little closer, cousin.'
'No, thank you, sir,' said Charity.
'There's that other one a-laughing again,' said Mr Jonas; 'she's a- laughing at my father, I shouldn't wonder. If he puts on that old flannel nightcap of his, I don't know what she'll do! Is that my father a-snoring, Pecksniff?'
'Yes, Mr Jonas.'
'Tread upon his foot, will you be so good?' said the young gentleman. 'The foot next you's the gouty one.'
Mr Pecksniff hesitating to perform this friendly office, Mr Jonas did it himself; at the same time crying:
'Come, wake up, father, or you'll be having the nightmare, and screeching out, I know.--Do you ever have the nightmare, cousin?' he asked his neighbour, with characteristic gallantry, as he dropped his voice again.
'Sometimes,' answered Charity. 'Not often.'
'The other one,' said Mr Jonas, after a pause. 'Does SHE ever have the nightmare?'
'I don't know,' replied Charity. 'You had better ask her.'
'She laughs so,' said Jonas; 'there's no talking to her. Only hark how she's a-going on now! You're the sensible one, cousin!'
'Tut, tut!' cried Charity.
'Oh! But you are! You know you are!'
'Mercy is a little giddy,' said Miss Charity. But she'll sober down in time.'
'It'll be a very long time, then, if she does at all,' rejoined her cousin. 'Take a little more room.'
'I am afraid of crowding you,' said Charity. But she took it notwithstanding; and after one or two remarks on the extreme heaviness of the coach, and the number of places it stopped at, they fell into a silence which remained unbroken by any member of the party until supper-time.
Although Mr Jonas conducted Charity to the hotel and sat himself beside her at the board, it was pretty clear that he had an eye to 'the other one' also, for he often glanced across at Mercy, and seemed to draw comparisons between the personal appearance of the two, which were not unfavourable to the superior plumpness of the younger sister. He allowed himself no great leisure for this kind of observation, however, being busily engaged with the supper, which, as he whispered in his fair companion's ear, was a contract business, and therefore the more she ate, the better the bargain was. His father and Mr Pecksniff, probably acting on the same wise principle, demolished everything that came within their reach, and by that means acquired a greasy expression of countenance, indicating contentment, if not repletion, which it was very pleasant to contemplate.
When they could eat no more, Mr Pecksniff and Mr Jonas subscribed for two sixpenny-worths of hot brandy-and-water, which the latter gentleman considered a more politic order than one shillingsworth; there being a chance of their getting more spirit out of the innkeeper under this arrangement than if it were all in one glass. Having swallowed his share of the enlivening fluid, Mr Pecksniff, under pretence of going to see if the coach were ready, went secretly to the bar, and had his own little bottle filled, in order that he might refresh himself at leisure in the dark coach without being observed.
These arrangements concluded, and the coach being ready, they got into their old places and jogged on again. But before he composed himself for a nap, Mr Pecksniff delivered a kind of grace after meat, in these words:
'The process of digestion, as I have been informed by anatomical friends, is one of the most wonderful works of nature.