HE will take the card. With my compliments, if you please, young man. My dears, we are interrupting the studies. Let us go.'
Some confusion was occasioned for an instant by Mrs Todgers's unstrapping her little flat hand-basket, and hurriedly entrusting the 'young man' with one of her own cards, which, in addition to certain detailed information relative to the terms of the commercial establishment, bore a foot-note to the effect that M. T. took that opportunity of thanking those gentlemen who had honoured her with their favours, and begged they would have the goodness, if satisfied with the table, to recommend her to their friends. But Mr Pecksniff, with admirable presence of mind, recovered this document, and buttoned it up in his own pocket.
Then he said to Miss Pinch--with more condescension and kindness than ever, for it was desirable the footman should expressly understand that they were not friends of hers, but patrons:
'Good morning. Good-bye. God bless you! You may depend upon my continued protection of your brother Thomas. Keep your mind quite at ease, Miss Pinch!'
'Thank you,' said Tom's sister heartily; 'a thousand times.'
'Not at all,' he retorted, patting her gently on the head. 'Don't mention it. You will make me angry if you do. My sweet child'--to the pupil--'farewell! That fairy creature,' said Mr Pecksniff, looking in his pensive mood hard at the footman, as if he meant him, 'has shed a vision on my path, refulgent in its nature, and not easily to be obliterated. My dears, are you ready?'
They were not quite ready yet, for they were still caressing the pupil. But they tore themselves away at length; and sweeping past Miss Pinch with each a haughty inclination of the head and a curtsey strangled in its birth, flounced into the passage.
The young man had rather a long job in showing them out; for Mr Pecksniff's delight in the tastefulness of the house was such that he could not help often stopping (particularly when they were near the parlour door) and giving it expression, in a loud voice and very learned terms. Indeed, he delivered, between the study and the hall, a familiar exposition of the whole science of architecture as applied to dwelling-houses, and was yet in the freshness of his eloquence when they reached the garden.
'If you look,' said Mr Pecksniff, backing from the steps, with his head on one side and his eyes half-shut that he might the better take in the proportions of the exterior: 'If you look, my dears, at the cornice which supports the roof, and observe the airiness of its construction, especially where it sweeps the southern angle of the building, you will feel with me--How do you do, sir? I hope you're well?'
Interrupting himself with these words, he very politely bowed to a middle-aged gentleman at an upper window, to whom he spoke--not because the gentleman could hear him (for he certainly could not), but as an appropriate accompaniment to his salutation.
'I have no doubt, my dears,' said Mr Pecksniff, feigning to point out other beauties with his hand, 'that this is the proprietor. I should be glad to know him. It might lead to something. Is he looking this way, Charity?'
'He is opening the window pa!'
'Ha, ha!' cried Mr Pecksniff softly. 'All right! He has found I'm professional. He heard me inside just now, I have no doubt. Don't look! With regard to the fluted pillars in the portico, my dears--'
'Hallo!' cried the gentleman.
'Sir, your servant!' said Mr Pecksniff, taking off his hat. 'I am proud to make your acquaintance.'
'Come off the grass, will you!' roared the gentleman.
'I beg your pardon, sir,' said Mr Pecksniff, doubtful of his having heard aright. 'Did you--?'
'Come off the grass!' repeated the gentleman, warmly.
'We are unwilling to intrude, sir,' Mr Pecksniff smilingly began.
'But you ARE intruding,' returned the other, 'unwarrantably intruding. Trespassing. You see a gravel walk, don't you? What do you think it's meant for? Open the gate there! Show that party out!'
With that he clapped down the window again, and disappeared.