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20. Chapter Twenty
IS A CHAPTER OF LOVE
'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 disfavour.
'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.'
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