Your late husband's estate, if not wasted by the confession of a large debt to the broken office (which document, being useless to the runaways, has been sent over to England by them; not so much for the sake of the creditors as for the gratification of their dislike to him, whom they suppose to be still living), will be seized upon by law; for it is not exempt, as I learn, from the claims of those who have suffered by the fraud in which he was engaged. Your father's property was all, or nearly all, embarked in the same transaction. If there be any left, it will be seized on, in like manner. There is no home THERE.'
'I couldn't return to him,' she said, with an instinctive reference to his having forced her marriage on. 'I could not return to him.'
'I know it,' Mr Chuzzlewit resumed; 'and I am here because I know it. Come with me! From all who are about me, you are certain (I have ascertained it) of a generous welcome. But until your health is re-established, and you are sufficiently composed to bear that welcome, you shall have your abode in any quiet retreat of your own choosing, near London; not so far removed but that this kind-hearted lady may still visit you as often as she pleases. You have suffered much; but you are young, and have a brighter and a better future stretching out before you. Come with me. Your sister is careless of you, I know. She hurries on and publishes her marriage, in a spirit which (to say no more of it) is barely decent, is unsisterly, and bad. Leave the house before her guests arrive. She means to give you pain. Spare her the offence, and come with me!'
Mrs Todgers, though most unwilling to part with her, added her persuasions. Even poor old Chuffey (of course included in the project) added his. She hurriedly attired herself, and was ready to depart, when Miss Pecksniff dashed into the room.
Miss Pecksniff dashed in so suddenly, that she was placed in an embarrassing position. For though she had completed her bridal toilette as to her head, on which she wore a bridal bonnet with orange flowers, she had not completed it as to her skirts, which displayed no choicer decoration than a dimity bedgown. She had dashed in, in fact, about half-way through, to console her sister, in her affliction, with a sight of the aforesaid bonnet; and being quite unconscious of the presence of a visitor, until she found Mr Chuzzlewit standing face to face with her, her surprise was an uncomfortable one.
'So, young lady!' said the old man, eyeing her with strong disfavour. 'You are to be married to-day!'
'Yes, sir,' returned Miss Pecksniff, modestly. 'I am. I--my dress is rather--really, Mrs Todgers!'
'Your delicacy,' said old Martin, 'is troubled, I perceive. I am not surprised to find it so. You have chosen the period of your marriage unfortunately.'
'I beg your pardon, Mr Chuzzlewit,' retorted Cherry; very red and angry in a moment; 'but if you have anything to say on that subject, I must beg to refer you to Augustus. You will scarcely think it manly, I hope, to force an argument on me, when Augustus is at all times ready to discuss it with you. I have nothing to do with any deceptions that may have been practiced on my parent,' said Miss Pecksniff, pointedly; 'and as I wish to be on good terms with everybody at such a time, I should have been glad if you would have favoured us with your company at breakfast.