He only shook his head; disparagingly of himself too.

'I am afraid, sir,' continued the landlady, first looking round to assure herself that there was nobody within hearing, and then looking down upon the floor. 'I am very much afraid, sir, that his conscience is troubled by his not being related to--or--or even married to--a very young lady--'

'Mrs Lupin!' said Mr Pecksniff, holding up his hand with something in his manner as nearly approaching to severity as any expression of his, mild being that he was, could ever do. 'Person! young person?'

'A very young person,' said Mrs Lupin, curtseying and blushing; '--I beg your pardon, sir, but I have been so hurried to-night, that I don't know what I say--who is with him now.'

'Who is with him now,' ruminated Mr Pecksniff, warming his back (as he had warmed his hands) as if it were a widow's back, or an orphan's back, or an enemy's back, or a back that any less excellent man would have suffered to be cold. 'Oh dear me, dear me!'

'At the same time I am bound to say, and I do say with all my heart,' observed the hostess, earnestly, 'that her looks and manner almost disarm suspicion.'

'Your suspicion, Mrs Lupin,' said Mr Pecksniff gravely, 'is very natural.'

Touching which remark, let it be written down to their confusion, that the enemies of this worthy man unblushingly maintained that he always said of what was very bad, that it was very natural; and that he unconsciously betrayed his own nature in doing so.

'Your suspicion, Mrs Lupin,' he repeated, 'is very natural, and I have no doubt correct. I will wait upon these travellers.'

With that he took off his great-coat, and having run his fingers through his hair, thrust one hand gently in the bosom of his waist- coat and meekly signed to her to lead the way.

'Shall I knock?' asked Mrs Lupin, when they reached the chamber door.

'No,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'enter if you please.'

They went in on tiptoe; or rather the hostess took that precaution for Mr Pecksniff always walked softly. The old gentleman was still asleep, and his young companion still sat reading by the fire.

'I am afraid,' said Mr Pecksniff, pausing at the door, and giving his head a melancholy roll, 'I am afraid that this looks artful. I am afraid, Mrs Lupin, do you know, that this looks very artful!'

As he finished this whisper, he advanced before the hostess; and at the same time the young lady, hearing footsteps, rose. Mr Pecksniff glanced at the volume she held, and whispered Mrs Lupin again; if possible, with increased despondency.

'Yes, ma'am,' he said, 'it is a good book. I was fearful of that beforehand. I am apprehensive that this is a very deep thing indeed!'

'What gentleman is this?' inquired the object of his virtuous doubts.

'Hush! don't trouble yourself, ma'am,' said Mr Pecksniff, as the landlady was about to answer. 'This young'--in spite of himself he hesitated when "person" rose to his lips, and substituted another word: 'this young stranger, Mrs Lupin, will excuse me for replying briefly, that I reside in this village; it may be in an influential manner, however, undeserved; and that I have been summoned here by you. I am here, as I am everywhere, I hope, in sympathy for the sick and sorry.'

With these impressive words, Mr Pecksniff passed over to the bedside, where, after patting the counterpane once or twice in a very solemn manner, as if by that means he gained a clear insight into the patient's disorder, he took his seat in a large arm-chair, and in an attitude of some thoughtfulness and much comfort, waited for his waking. Whatever objection the young lady urged to Mrs Lupin went no further, for nothing more was said to Mr Pecksniff, and Mr Pecksniff said nothing more to anybody else.

Full half an hour elapsed before the old man stirred, but at length he turned himself in bed, and, though not yet awake, gave tokens that his sleep was drawing to an end. By little and little he removed the bed-clothes from about his head, and turned still more towards the side where Mr Pecksniff sat.

Charles Dickens
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