But I will not ask you as it is; seeing that you have been prepossessed and set against me in another quarter. I hope I have my natural affections for another quarter, and my natural pity for another quarter; but I cannot always submit to be subservient to it, Mr Chuzzlewit. That would be a little too much. I trust I have more respect for myself, as well as for the man who claims me as his Bride.'
'Your sister, meeting--as I think; not as she says, for she has said nothing about it--with little consideration from you, is going away with me,' said Mr Chuzzlewit.
'I am very happy to find that she has some good fortune at last,' returned Miss Pecksniff, tossing her head. 'I congratulate her, I am sure. I am not surprised that this event should be painful to her--painful to her--but I can't help that, Mr Chuzzlewit. It's not my fault.'
'Come, Miss Pecksniff!' said the old man, quietly. 'I should like to see a better parting between you. I should like to see a better parting on your side, in such circumstances. It would make me your friend. You may want a friend one day or other.'
'Every relation of life, Mr Chuzzlewit, begging your pardon; and every friend in life,' returned Miss Pecksniff, with dignity, 'is now bound up and cemented in Augustus. So long as Augustus is my own, I cannot want a friend. When you speak of friends, sir, I must beg, once for all, to refer you to Augustus. That is my impression of the religious ceremony in which I am so soon to take a part at that altar to which Augustus will conduct me. I bear no malice at any time, much less in a moment of triumph, towards any one; much less towards my sister. On the contrary, I congratulate her. If you didn't hear me say so, I am not to blame. And as I owe it to Augustus, to be punctual on an occasion when he may naturally be supposed to be--to be impatient--really, Mrs Todgers!--I must beg your leave, sir, to retire.'
After these words the bridal bonnet disappeared; with as much state as the dimity bedgown left in it.
Old Martin gave his arm to the younger sister without speaking; and led her out. Mrs Todgers, with her holiday garments fluttering in the wind, accompanied them to the carriage, clung round Merry's neck at parting, and ran back to her own dingy house, crying the whole way. She had a lean, lank body, Mrs Todgers, but a well-conditioned soul within. Perhaps the good Samaritan was lean and lank, and found it hard to live. Who knows!
Mr Chuzzlewit followed her so closely with his eyes, that, until she had shut her own door, they did not encounter Mr Tapley's face.
'Why, Mark!' he said, as soon as he observed it, 'what's the matter?'
'The wonderfulest ewent, sir!' returned Mark, pumping at his voice in a most laborious manner, and hardly able to articulate with all his efforts. 'A coincidence as never was equalled! I'm blessed if here ain't two old neighbours of ourn, sir!'
'What neighbours?' cried old Martin, looking out of window. 'Where?'
'I was a-walkin' up and down not five yards from this spot,' said Mr Tapley, breathless, 'and they come upon me like their own ghosts, as I thought they was! It's the wonderfulest ewent that ever happened. Bring a feather, somebody, and knock me down with it!'
'What do you mean!' exclaimed old Martin, quite as much excited by the spectacle of Mark's excitement as that strange person was himself. 'Neighbours, where?'
'Here, sir!' replied Mr Tapley.