Martin Chuzzlewit HTML version

Chapter 20
'Pecksniff,' said Jonas, taking off his hat, to see that the black crape band was all
right; and finding that it was, putting it on again, complacently; 'what do you mean
to give your daughters when they marry?'
'My dear Mr Jonas,' cried the affectionate parent, with an ingenuous smile, 'what
a very singular inquiry!'
'Now, don't you mind whether it's a singular inquiry or a plural one,' retorted
Jonas, eyeing Mr Pecksniff with no great favour, 'but answer it, or let it alone.
One or the other.'
'Hum! The question, my dear friend,' said Mr Pecksniff, laying his hand tenderly
upon his kinsman's knee, 'is involved with many considerations. What would I
give them? Eh?'
'Ah! what would you give 'em?' repeated Jonas.
'Why, that, 'said Mr Pecksniff, 'would naturally depend in a great measure upon
the kind of husbands they might choose, my dear young friend.'
Mr Jonas was evidently disconcerted, and at a loss how to proceed. It was a
good answer. It seemed a deep one, but such is the wisdom of simplicity!'
'My standard for the merits I would require in a son-in-law,' said Mr Pecksniff,
after a short silence, 'is a high one. Forgive me, my dear Mr Jonas,' he added,
greatly moved, 'if I say that you have spoiled me, and made it a fanciful one; an
imaginative one; a prismatically tinged one, if I may be permitted to call it so.'
'What do you mean by that?' growled Jonas, looking at him with increased
'Indeed, my dear friend,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'you may well inquire. The heart is not
always a royal mint, with patent machinery to work its metal into current coin.
Sometimes it throws it out in strange forms, not easily recognized as coin at all.
But it is sterling gold. It has at least that merit. It is sterling gold.'
'Is it?' grumbled Jonas, with a doubtful shake of the head.
'Aye!' said Mr Pecksniff, warming with his subject 'it is. To be plain with you, Mr
Jonas, if I could find two such sons-in-law as you will one day make to some
deserving man, capable of appreciating a nature such as yours, I would--forgetful
of myself--bestow upon my daughters portions reaching to the very utmost limit
of my means.'
This was strong language, and it was earnestly delivered. But who can wonder
that such a man as Mr Pecksniff, after all he had seen and heard of Mr Jonas,
should be strong and earnest upon such a theme; a theme that touched even the
worldly lips of undertakers with the honey of eloquence!
Mr Jonas was silent, and looked thoughtfully at the landscape. For they were
seated on the outside of the coach, at the back, and were travelling down into the
country. He accompanied Mr Pecksniff home for a few days' change of air and
scene after his recent trials.
'Well,' he said, at last, with captivating bluntness, 'suppose you got one such son-
in-law as me, what then?'