'Your daughters,' said Martin, after a short silence. 'I don't know them. Are they like you?'
'In the nose of my eldest and the chin of my youngest, Mr Chuzzlewit,' returned the widower, 'their sainted parent (not myself, their mother) lives again.'
'I don't mean in person,' said the old man. 'Morally, morally.'
''Tis not for me to say,' retorted Mr Pecksniff with a gentle smile. 'I have done my best, sir.'
'I could wish to see them,' said Martin; 'are they near at hand?'
They were, very near; for they had in fact been listening at the door from the beginning of this conversation until now, when they precipitately retired. Having wiped the signs of weakness from his eyes, and so given them time to get upstairs, Mr Pecksniff opened the door, and mildly cried in the passage,
'My own darlings, where are you?'
'Here, my dear pa!' replied the distant voice of Charity.
'Come down into the back parlour, if you please, my love,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'and bring your sister with you.'
'Yes, my dear pa,' cried Merry; and down they came directly (being all obedience), singing as they came.
Nothing could exceed the astonishment of the two Miss Pecksniffs when they found a stranger with their dear papa. Nothing could surpass their mute amazement when he said, 'My children, Mr Chuzzlewit!' But when he told them that Mr Chuzzlewit and he were friends, and that Mr Chuzzlewit had said such kind and tender words as pierced his very heart, the two Miss Pecksniffs cried with one accord, 'Thank Heaven for this!' and fell upon the old man's neck. And when they had embraced him with such fervour of affection that no words can describe it, they grouped themselves about his chair, and hung over him, as figuring to themselves no earthly joy like that of ministering to his wants, and crowding into the remainder of his life, the love they would have diffused over their whole existence, from infancy, if he--dear obdurate!--had but consented to receive the precious offering.
The old man looked attentively from one to the other, and then at Mr Pecksniff, several times.
'What,' he asked of Mr Pecksniff, happening to catch his eye in its descent; for until now it had been piously upraised, with something of that expression which the poetry of ages has attributed to a domestic bird, when breathing its last amid the ravages of an electric storm: 'What are their names?'
Mr Pecksniff told him, and added, rather hastily; his caluminators would have said, with a view to any testamentary thoughts that might be flitting through old Martin's mind; 'Perhaps, my dears, you had better write them down. Your humble autographs are of no value in themselves, but affection may prize them.'
'Affection,' said the old man, 'will expend itself on the living originals. Do not trouble yourselves, my girls, I shall not so easily forget you, Charity and Mercy, as to need such tokens of remembrance. Cousin!'
'Sir!' said Mr Pecksniff, with alacrity.
'Do you never sit down?'
'Why--yes--occasionally, sir,' said Mr Pecksniff, who had been standing all this time.
'Will you do so now?'
'Can you ask me,' returned Mr Pecksniff, slipping into a chair immediately, 'whether I will do anything that you desire?'
'You talk confidently,' said Martin, 'and you mean well; but I fear you don't know what an old man's humours are. You don't know what it is to be required to court his likings and dislikings; to adapt yourself to his prejudices; to do his bidding, be it what it may; to bear with his distrusts and jealousies; and always still be zealous in his service. When I remember how numerous these failings are in me, and judge of their occasional enormity by the injurious thoughts I lately entertained of you, I hardly dare to claim you for my friend.'
'My worthy sir,' returned his relative, 'how CAN you talk in such a painful strain! What was more natural than that you should make one slight mistake, when in all other respects you were so very correct, and have had such reason--such very sad and undeniable reason--to judge of every one about you in the worst light!'
'True,' replied the other.