'Deuce take it, I must talk openly to somebody. I'll talk openly to you, Pinch.'
'Do!' said Tom. 'I shall take it as being very friendly of you,'
'I'm not in your way, am I?' inquired Martin, glancing down at Mr Pinch, who was by this time looking at the fire over his leg.
'Not at all!' cried Tom.
'You must know then, to make short of a long story,' said Martin, beginning with a kind of effort, as if the revelation were not agreeable to him; 'that I have been bred up from childhood with great expectations, and have always been taught to believe that I should be, one day, very rich. So I should have been, but for certain brief reasons which I am going to tell you, and which have led to my being disinherited.'
'By your father?' inquired Mr Pinch, with open eyes.
'By my grandfather. I have had no parents these many years. Scarcely within my remembrance.'
'Neither have I,' said Tom, touching the young man's hand with his own and timidly withdrawing it again. 'Dear me!'
'Why, as to that, you know, Pinch,' pursued the other, stirring the fire again, and speaking in his rapid, off-hand way; 'it's all very right and proper to be fond of parents when we have them, and to bear them in remembrance after they're dead, if you have ever known anything of them. But as I never did know anything about mine personally, you know, why, I can't be expected to be very sentimental about 'em. And I am not; that's the truth.'
Mr Pinch was just then looking thoughtfully at the bars. But on his companion pausing in this place, he started, and said 'Oh! of course'--and composed himself to listen again.
'In a word,' said Martin, 'I have been bred and reared all my life by this grandfather of whom I have just spoken. Now, he has a great many good points--there is no doubt about that; I'll not disguise the fact from you--but he has two very great faults, which are the staple of his bad side. In the first place, he has the most confirmed obstinacy of character you ever met with in any human creature. In the second, he is most abominably selfish.'
'Is he indeed?' cried Tom.
'In those two respects,' returned the other, 'there never was such a man. I have often heard from those who know, that they have been, time out of mind, the failings of our family; and I believe there's some truth in it. But I can't say of my own knowledge. All I have to do, you know, is to be very thankful that they haven't descended to me, and, to be very careful that I don't contract 'em.'
'To be sure,' said Mr Pinch. 'Very proper.'
'Well, sir,' resumed Martin, stirring the fire once more, and drawing his chair still closer to it, 'his selfishness makes him exacting, you see; and his obstinacy makes him resolute in his exactions. The consequence is that he has always exacted a great deal from me in the way of respect, and submission, and self-denial when his wishes were in question, and so forth. I have borne a great deal from him, because I have been under obligations to him (if one can ever be said to be under obligations to one's own grandfather), and because I have been really attached to him; but we have had a great many quarrels for all that, for I could not accommodate myself to his ways very often--not out of the least reference to myself, you understand, but because--' he stammered here, and was rather at a loss.
Mr Pinch being about the worst man in the world to help anybody out of a difficulty of this sort, said nothing.
'Well! as you understand me,' resumed Martin, quickly, 'I needn't hunt for the precise expression I want. Now I come to the cream of my story, and the occasion of my being here. I am in love, Pinch.'
Mr Pinch looked up into his face with increased interest.
'I say I am in love. I am in love with one of the most beautiful girls the sun ever shone upon. But she is wholly and entirely dependent upon the pleasure of my grandfather; and if he were to know that she favoured my passion, she would lose her home and everything she possesses in the world.