'I believe you are one of the best fellows in the world,' he said, 'Tom Pinch.'
'Not at all,' rejoined Tom. 'If you only knew Pecksniff as well as I do, you might say it of him, indeed, and say it truly.'
'I'll say anything of him, you like,' returned the other, 'and not another word to his disparagement.'
'It's for my sake, then; not his, I am afraid,' said Pinch, shaking his head gravely.
'For whose you please, Tom, so that it does please you. Oh! He's a famous fellow! HE never scraped and clawed into his pouch all your poor grandmother's hard savings--she was a housekeeper, wasn't she, Tom?'
'Yes,' said Mr Pinch, nursing one of his large knees, and nodding his head; 'a gentleman's housekeeper.'
'HE never scraped and clawed into his pouch all her hard savings; dazzling her with prospects of your happiness and advancement, which he knew (and no man better) never would be realised! HE never speculated and traded on her pride in you, and her having educated you, and on her desire that you at least should live to be a gentleman. Not he, Tom!'
'No,' said Tom, looking into his friend's face, as if he were a little doubtful of his meaning. 'Of course not.'
'So I say,' returned the youth, 'of course he never did. HE didn't take less than he had asked, because that less was all she had, and more than he expected; not he, Tom! He doesn't keep you as his assistant because you are of any use to him; because your wonderful faith in his pretensions is of inestimable service in all his mean disputes; because your honesty reflects honesty on him; because your wandering about this little place all your spare hours, reading in ancient books and foreign tongues, gets noised abroad, even as far as Salisbury, making of him, Pecksniff the master, a man of learning and of vast importance. HE gets no credit from you, Tom, not he.'
'Why, of course he don't,' said Pinch, gazing at his friend with a more troubled aspect than before. 'Pecksniff get credit from me! Well!'
'Don't I say that it's ridiculous,' rejoined the other, 'even to think of such a thing?'
'Why, it's madness,' said Tom.
'Madness!' returned young Westlock. 'Certainly it's madness. Who but a madman would suppose he cares to hear it said on Sundays, that the volunteer who plays the organ in the church, and practises on summer evenings in the dark, is Mr Pecksniff's young man, eh, Tom? Who but a madman would suppose it is the game of such a man as he, to have his name in everybody's mouth, connected with the thousand useless odds and ends you do (and which, of course, he taught you), eh, Tom? Who but a madman would suppose you advertised him hereabouts, much cheaper and much better than a chalker on the walls could, eh, Tom? As well might one suppose that he doesn't on all occasions pour out his whole heart and soul to you; that he doesn't make you a very liberal and indeed rather an extravagant allowance; or, to be more wild and monstrous still, if that be possible, as well might one suppose,' and here, at every word, he struck him lightly on the breast, 'that Pecksniff traded in your nature, and that your nature was to be timid and distrustful of yourself, and trustful of all other men, but most of all, of him who least deserves it. There would be madness, Tom!'
Mr Pinch had listened to all this with looks of bewilderment, which seemed to be in part occasioned by the matter of his companion's speech, and in part by his rapid and vehement manner. Now that he had come to a close, he drew a very long breath; and gazing wistfully in his face as if he were unable to settle in his own mind what expression it wore, and were desirous to draw from it as good a clue to his real meaning as it was possible to obtain in the dark, was about to answer, when the sound of the mail guard's horn came cheerily upon their ears, putting an immediate end to the conference; greatly as it seemed to the satisfaction of the younger man, who jumped up briskly, and gave his hand to his companion.
'Both hands, Tom.