That was the best of it!
'But I don't know any gentlemen, Bailey,' said Miss Pecksniff. 'I think you must have made a mistake.'
Mr Bailey smiled at the extreme wildness of such a supposition, and regarded the young ladies with unimpaired affability.
'My dear Merry,' said Charity, 'who CAN it be? Isn't it odd? I have a great mind not to go to him really. So very strange, you know!'
The younger sister plainly considered that this appeal had its origin in the pride of being called upon and asked for; and that it was intended as an assertion of superiority, and a retaliation upon her for having captured the commercial gentlemen. Therefore, she replied, with great affection and politeness, that it was, no doubt, very strange indeed; and that she was totally at a loss to conceive what the ridiculous person unknown could mean by it.
'Quite impossible to divine!' said Charity, with some sharpness, 'though still, at the same time, you needn't be angry, my dear.'
'Thank you,' retorted Merry, singing at her needle. 'I am quite aware of that, my love.'
'I am afraid your head is turned, you silly thing,' said Cherry.
'Do you know, my dear,' said Merry, with engaging candour, 'that I have been afraid of that, myself, all along! So much incense and nonsense, and all the rest of it, is enough to turn a stronger head than mine. What a relief it must be to you, my dear, to be so very comfortable in that respect, and not to be worried by those odious men! How do you do it, Cherry?'
This artless inquiry might have led to turbulent results, but for the strong emotions of delight evinced by Bailey junior, whose relish in the turn the conversation had lately taken was so acute, that it impelled and forced him to the instantaneous performance of a dancing step, extremely difficult in its nature, and only to be achieved in a moment of ecstasy, which is commonly called The Frog's Hornpipe. A manifestation so lively, brought to their immediate recollection the great virtuous precept, 'Keep up appearances whatever you do,' in which they had been educated. They forbore at once, and jointly signified to Mr Bailey that if he should presume to practice that figure any more in their presence, they would instantly acquaint Mrs Todgers with the fact, and would demand his condign punishment, at the hands of that lady. The young gentleman having expressed the bitterness of his contrition by affecting to wipe away scalding tears with his apron, and afterwards feigning to wring a vast amount of water from that garment, held the door open while Miss Charity passed out; and so that damsel went in state upstairs to receive her mysterious adorer.
By some strange occurrence of favourable circumstances he had found out the drawing-room, and was sitting there alone.
'Ah, cousin!' he said. 'Here I am, you see. You thought I was lost, I'll be bound. Well! how do you find yourself by this time?'
Miss Charity replied that she was quite well, and gave Mr Jonas Chuzzlewit her hand.
'That's right,' said Mr Jonas, 'and you've got over the fatigues of the journey have you? I say. How's the other one?'
'My sister is very well, I believe,' returned the young lady. 'I have not heard her complain of any indisposition, sir. Perhaps you would like to see her, and ask her yourself?'
'No, no cousin!' said Mr Jonas, sitting down beside her on the window-seat. 'Don't be in a hurry. There's no occasion for that, you know. What a cruel girl you are!'
'It's impossible for YOU to know,' said Cherry, 'whether I am or not.'
'Well, perhaps it is,' said Mr Jonas. 'I say--Did you think I was lost? You haven't told me that.'
'I didn't think at all about it,' answered Cherry.
'Didn't you though?' said Jonas, pondering upon this strange reply. 'Did the other one?'
'I am sure it's impossible for me to say what my sister may, or may not have thought on such a subject,' cried Cherry. 'She never said anything to me about it, one way or other.'
'Didn't she laugh about it?' inquired Jonas.