Page:Martin Chuzzlewit.djvu/103

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Tom lost no time in entreating the gentleman last mentioned, to undertake the delivery of his letter.

"Oh!" said Mr. Pecksniff, glancing at the superscription. "For your sister, Thomas. Yes, oh yes, it shall be delivered, Mr. Pinch. Make your mind easy upon that score. She shall certainly have it, Mr. Pinch."

He made the promise with so much condescension and patronage, that Tom felt he had asked a great deal (this had not occurred to his mind before), and thanked him earnestly. The Miss Pecksniffs, according to a custom they had, were amused beyond description at the mention of Mr. Pinch's sister. Oh the fright! The bare idea of a Miss Pinch! Good heavens!

Tom was greatly pleased to see them so merry, for he took it as a token of their favour, and good-humoured regard. Therefore he laughed too and rubbed his hands and wished them a pleasant journey and safe return, and was quite brisk. Even when the coach had rolled away with the olive-branches in the boot and the family of doves inside, he stood waving his hand and bowing; so much gratified by the unusually courteous demeanour of the young ladies, that he was quite regardless, for the moment, of Martin Chuzzlewit, who stood leaning thoughtfully against the finger-post, and who after disposing of his fair charge had hardly lifted his eyes from the ground.

The perfect silence which ensued upon the bustle and departure of the coach, together with the sharp air of the wintry afternoon, roused them both at the same time. They turned, as by mutual consent, and moved off arm-in-arm.

"How melancholy you are!" said Tom; "what is the matter?"

"Nothing worth speaking of," said Martin. "Very little more than was the matter yesterday, and much more, I hope, than will be the matter to-morrow. I'm out of spirits, Pinch."

"Well," cried Tom, "now do you know I am in capital spirits to-day, and scarcely ever felt more disposed to be good company. It was a very kind thing in your predecessor, John, to write to me, was it not?"

"Why, yes,' said Martin carelessly; "I should have thought he would have had enough to do to enjoy himself, without thinking of you, Pinch."

"Just what I felt to be so very likely," Tom rejoined; "but no, he keeps his word, and says, 'My dear Pinch, I often think of you,' and all sorts of kind and considerate things of that description.'

"He must be a devilish good-natured fellow," said Martin, somewhat peevishly: "because he can't mean that, you know."

"I don't suppose he can, eh?" said Tom, looking wistfully in his companion's face. "He says so to please me, you think?"

"Why, is it likely," rejoined Martin, with greater earnestness, "that a young man newly escaped from this kennel of a place, and fresh to all the delights of being his own master in London, can have much leisure or inclination to think favourably of anything or anybody he has left behind him here? I put it to you, Pinch, is it natural?"

After a short reflection, Mr. Pinch replied, in a more subdued tone, that to be sure it was unreasonable to expect any such thing, and that he had no doubt Martin knew best.