Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Martin Chuzzlewit
Author: Dickens, Charles
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Martin Chuzzlewit" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT

by Charles Dickens



PREFACE

What is exaggeration to one class of minds and perceptions, is plain
truth to another. That which is commonly called a long-sight, perceives
in a prospect innumerable features and bearings non-existent to
a short-sighted person. I sometimes ask myself whether there may
occasionally be a difference of this kind between some writers and some
readers; whether it is ALWAYS the writer who colours highly, or whether
it is now and then the reader whose eye for colour is a little dull?

On this head of exaggeration I have a positive experience, more curious
than the speculation I have just set down. It is this: I have never
touched a character precisely from the life, but some counterpart of
that character has incredulously asked me: “Now really, did I ever
really, see one like it?”

All the Pecksniff family upon earth are quite agreed, I believe, that
Mr Pecksniff is an exaggeration, and that no such character ever
existed. I will not offer any plea on his behalf to so powerful and
genteel a body, but will make a remark on the character of Jonas
Chuzzlewit.

I conceive that the sordid coarseness and brutality of Jonas would be
unnatural, if there had been nothing in his early education, and in the
precept and example always before him, to engender and develop the vices
that make him odious. But, so born and so bred, admired for that which
made him hateful, and justified from his cradle in cunning, treachery,
and avarice; I claim him as the legitimate issue of the father upon whom
those vices are seen to recoil. And I submit that their recoil upon that
old man, in his unhonoured age, is not a mere piece of poetical justice,
but is the extreme exposition of a direct truth.

I make this comment, and solicit the reader’s attention to it in his or
her consideration of this tale, because nothing is more common in real
life than a want of profitable reflection on the causes of many vices
and crimes that awaken the general horror. What is substantially true of
families in this respect, is true of a whole commonwealth. As we sow,
we reap. Let the reader go into the children’s side of any prison in
England, or, I grieve to add, of many workhouses, and judge whether
those are monsters who disgrace our streets, people our hulks and
penitentiaries, and overcrowd our penal colonies, or are creatures whom
we have deliberately suffered to be bred for misery and ruin.

The American portion of this story is in no other respect a caricature
than as it is an exhibition, for the most part (Mr Bevan expected), of
a ludicrous side, ONLY, of the American character--of that side which
was, four-and-twenty years ago, from its nature, the most obtrusive, and
the most likely to be seen by such travellers as Young Martin and Mark
Tapley. As I had never, in writing fiction, had any disposition to
soften what is ridiculous or wrong at home, so I then hoped that the
good-humored people of the United States would not be generally disposed
to quarrel with me for carrying the same usage abroad. I am happy to
believe that my confidence in that great nation was not misplaced.

When this book was first published, I was given to understand, by some
authorities, that the Watertoast Association and eloquence were beyond
all bounds of belief. Therefore I record the fact that all that portion
of Martin Chuzzlewit’s experiences is a literal paraphrase of some
reports of public proceedings in the United States (especially of the
proceedings of a certain Brandywine Association), which were printed in
the Times Newspaper in June and July, 1843--at about the time when I was
engaged in writing those parts of the book; and which remain on the file
of the Times Newspaper, of course.

In all my writings, I hope I have taken every available opportunity of
showing the want of sanitary improvements in the neglected dwellings
of the poor. Mrs Sarah Gamp was, four-and-twenty years ago, a fair
representation of the hired attendant on the poor in sickness. The
hospitals of London were, in many respects, noble Institutions; in
others, very defective. I think it not the least among the instances
of their mismanagement, that Mrs Betsey Prig was a fair specimen of
a Hospital Nurse; and that the Hospitals, with their means and funds,
should have left it to private humanity and enterprise, to enter on
an attempt to improve that class of persons--since, greatly improved
through the agency of good women.



POSTSCRIPT

At a Public Dinner given to me on Saturday the 18th of April, 1868, in
the city of New York, by two hundred representatives of the Press of
the United States of America, I made the following observations, among
others:--

“So much of my voice has lately been heard in the land, that I might
have been contented with troubling you no further from my present
standing-point, were it not a duty with which I henceforth charge
myself, not only here but on every suitable occasion, whatsoever
and wheresoever, to express my high and grateful sense of my second
reception in America, and to bear my honest testimony to the national
generosity and magnanimity. Also, to declare how astounded I have been
by the amazing changes I have seen around me on every side--changes
moral, changes physical, changes in the amount of land subdued and
peopled, changes in the rise of vast new cities, changes in the growth
of older cities almost out of recognition, changes in the graces and
amenities of life, changes in the Press, without whose advancement no
advancement can take place anywhere. Nor am I, believe me, so arrogant
as to suppose that in five-and-twenty years there have been no changes
in me, and that I had nothing to learn and no extreme impressions to
correct when I was here first. And this brings me to a point on which I
have, ever since I landed in the United States last November, observed
a strict silence, though sometimes tempted to break it, but in reference
to which I will, with your good leave, take you into my confidence now.
Even the Press, being human, may be sometimes mistaken or misinformed,
and I rather think that I have in one or two rare instances observed
its information to be not strictly accurate with reference to myself.
Indeed, I have, now and again, been more surprised by printed news that
I have read of myself, than by any printed news that I have ever read
in my present state of existence. Thus, the vigour and perseverance with
which I have for some months past been collecting materials for, and
hammering away at, a new book on America has much astonished me; seeing
that all that time my declaration has been perfectly well known to my
publishers on both sides of the Atlantic, that no consideration on earth
would induce me to write one. But what I have intended, what I have
resolved upon (and this is the confidence I seek to place in you), is,
on my return to England, in my own person, in my own Journal, to bear,
for the behoof of my countrymen, such testimony to the gigantic changes
in this country as I have hinted at to-night. Also, to record that
wherever I have been, in the smallest places equally with the largest,
I have been received with unsurpassable politeness, delicacy, sweet
temper, hospitality, consideration, and with unsurpassable respect for
the privacy daily enforced upon me by the nature of my avocation here
and the state of my health. This testimony, so long as I live, and so
long as my descendants have any legal right in my books, I shall cause
to be republished, as an appendix to every copy of those two books of
mine in which I have referred to America. And this I will do and cause
to be done, not in mere love and thankfulness, but because I regard it
as an act of plain justice and honour.”

I said these words with the greatest earnestness that I could lay upon
them, and I repeat them in print here with equal earnestness. So long as
this book shall last, I hope that they will form a part of it, and will
be fairly read as inseparable from my experiences and impressions of
America.

CHARLES DICKENS.

May, 1868.



CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTORY, CONCERNING THE PEDIGREE OF THE CHUZZLEWIT FAMILY


As no lady or gentleman, with any claims to polite breeding, can
possibly sympathize with the Chuzzlewit Family without being first
assured of the extreme antiquity of the race, it is a great satisfaction
to know that it undoubtedly descended in a direct line from Adam and
Eve; and was, in the very earliest times, closely connected with the
agricultural interest. If it should ever be urged by grudging and
malicious persons, that a Chuzzlewit, in any period of the family
history, displayed an overweening amount of family pride, surely the
weakness will be considered not only pardonable but laudable, when the
immense superiority of the house to the rest of mankind, in respect of
this its ancient origin, is taken into account.

It is remarkable that as there was, in the oldest family of which we
have any record, a murderer and a vagabond, so we never fail to meet,
in the records of all old families, with innumerable repetitions of
the same phase of character. Indeed, it may be laid down as a general
principle, that the more extended the ancestry, the greater the amount
of violence and vagabondism; for in ancient days those two amusements,
combining a wholesome excitement with a promising means of repairing
shattered fortunes, were at once the ennobling pursuit and the healthful
recreation of the Quality of this land.

Consequently, it is a source of inexpressible comfort and happiness
to find, that in various periods of our history, the Chuzzlewits were
actively connected with divers slaughterous conspiracies and bloody
frays. It is further recorded of them, that being clad from head to
heel in steel of proof, they did on many occasions lead their
leather-jerkined soldiers to the death with invincible courage, and
afterwards return home gracefully to their relations and friends.

There can be no doubt that at least one Chuzzlewit came over with
William the Conqueror. It does not appear that this illustrious ancestor
‘came over’ that monarch, to employ the vulgar phrase, at any subsequent
period; inasmuch as the Family do not seem to have been ever greatly
distinguished by the possession of landed estate. And it is well known
that for the bestowal of that kind of property upon his favourites,
the liberality and gratitude of the Norman were as remarkable as those
virtues are usually found to be in great men when they give away what
belongs to other people.

Perhaps in this place the history may pause to congratulate itself upon
the enormous amount of bravery, wisdom, eloquence, virtue, gentle birth,
and true nobility, that appears to have come into England with the
Norman Invasion: an amount which the genealogy of every ancient family
lends its aid to swell, and which would beyond all question have been
found to be just as great, and to the full as prolific in giving birth
to long lines of chivalrous descendants, boastful of their origin, even
though William the Conqueror had been William the Conquered; a change of
circumstances which, it is quite certain, would have made no manner of
difference in this respect.

There was unquestionably a Chuzzlewit in the Gunpowder Plot, if indeed
the arch-traitor, Fawkes himself, were not a scion of this remarkable
stock; as he might easily have been, supposing another Chuzzlewit
to have emigrated to Spain in the previous generation, and there
intermarried with a Spanish lady, by whom he had issue, one
olive-complexioned son. This probable conjecture is strengthened, if not
absolutely confirmed, by a fact which cannot fail to be interesting
to those who are curious in tracing the progress of hereditary tastes
through the lives of their unconscious inheritors. It is a notable
circumstance that in these later times, many Chuzzlewits, being
unsuccessful in other pursuits, have, without the smallest rational
hope of enriching themselves, or any conceivable reason, set up as
coal-merchants; and have, month after month, continued gloomily to watch
a small stock of coals, without in any one instance negotiating with a
purchaser. The remarkable similarity between this course of proceeding
and that adopted by their Great Ancestor beneath the vaults of the
Parliament House at Westminster, is too obvious and too full of
interest, to stand in need of comment.

It is also clearly proved by the oral traditions of the Family, that
there existed, at some one period of its history which is not distinctly
stated, a matron of such destructive principles, and so familiarized to
the use and composition of inflammatory and combustible engines, that
she was called ‘The Match Maker;’ by which nickname and byword she is
recognized in the Family legends to this day. Surely there can be
no reasonable doubt that this was the Spanish lady, the mother of
Chuzzlewit Fawkes.

But there is one other piece of evidence, bearing immediate reference
to their close connection with this memorable event in English History,
which must carry conviction, even to a mind (if such a mind there be)
remaining unconvinced by these presumptive proofs.

There was, within a few years, in the possession of a highly respectable
and in every way credible and unimpeachable member of the Chuzzlewit
Family (for his bitterest enemy never dared to hint at his being
otherwise than a wealthy man), a dark lantern of undoubted antiquity;
rendered still more interesting by being, in shape and pattern,
extremely like such as are in use at the present day. Now this
gentleman, since deceased, was at all times ready to make oath, and
did again and again set forth upon his solemn asseveration, that he had
frequently heard his grandmother say, when contemplating this venerable
relic, ‘Aye, aye! This was carried by my fourth son on the fifth of
November, when he was a Guy Fawkes.’ These remarkable words wrought
(as well they might) a strong impression on his mind, and he was in the
habit of repeating them very often. The just interpretation which
they bear, and the conclusion to which they lead, are triumphant and
irresistible. The old lady, naturally strong-minded, was nevertheless
frail and fading; she was notoriously subject to that confusion of
ideas, or, to say the least, of speech, to which age and garrulity
are liable. The slight, the very slight, confusion apparent in these
expressions is manifest, and is ludicrously easy of correction. ‘Aye,
aye,’ quoth she, and it will be observed that no emendation whatever is
necessary to be made in these two initiative remarks, ‘Aye, aye!
This lantern was carried by my forefather’--not fourth son, which is
preposterous--‘on the fifth of November. And HE was Guy Fawkes.’ Here
we have a remark at once consistent, clear, natural, and in strict
accordance with the character of the speaker. Indeed the anecdote is
so plainly susceptible of this meaning and no other, that it would be
hardly worth recording in its original state, were it not a proof of
what may be (and very often is) affected not only in historical prose
but in imaginative poetry, by the exercise of a little ingenious labour
on the part of a commentator.

It has been said that there is no instance, in modern times, of a
Chuzzlewit having been found on terms of intimacy with the Great. But
here again the sneering detractors who weave such miserable figments
from their malicious brains, are stricken dumb by evidence. For letters
are yet in the possession of various branches of the family, from which
it distinctly appears, being stated in so many words, that one Diggory
Chuzzlewit was in the habit of perpetually dining with Duke Humphrey.
So constantly was he a guest at that nobleman’s table, indeed; and so
unceasingly were His Grace’s hospitality and companionship forced, as
it were, upon him; that we find him uneasy, and full of constraint and
reluctance; writing his friends to the effect that if they fail to do
so and so by bearer, he will have no choice but to dine again with Duke
Humphrey; and expressing himself in a very marked and extraordinary
manner as one surfeited of High Life and Gracious Company.

It has been rumoured, and it is needless to say the rumour originated in
the same base quarters, that a certain male Chuzzlewit, whose birth must
be admitted to be involved in some obscurity, was of very mean and low
descent. How stands the proof? When the son of that individual, to whom
the secret of his father’s birth was supposed to have been communicated
by his father in his lifetime, lay upon his deathbed, this question was
put to him in a distinct, solemn, and formal way: ‘Toby Chuzzlewit,
who was your grandfather?’ To which he, with his last breath, no less
distinctly, solemnly, and formally replied: and his words were taken
down at the time, and signed by six witnesses, each with his name and
address in full: ‘The Lord No Zoo.’ It may be said--it HAS been said,
for human wickedness has no limits--that there is no Lord of that
name, and that among the titles which have become extinct, none at all
resembling this, in sound even, is to be discovered. But what is the
irresistible inference? Rejecting a theory broached by some well-meaning
but mistaken persons, that this Mr Toby Chuzzlewit’s grandfather, to
judge from his name, must surely have been a Mandarin (which is wholly
insupportable, for there is no pretence of his grandmother ever having
been out of this country, or of any Mandarin having been in it within
some years of his father’s birth; except those in the tea-shops, which
cannot for a moment be regarded as having any bearing on the question,
one way or other), rejecting this hypothesis, is it not manifest that
Mr Toby Chuzzlewit had either received the name imperfectly from his
father, or that he had forgotten it, or that he had mispronounced it?
and that even at the recent period in question, the Chuzzlewits were
connected by a bend sinister, or kind of heraldic over-the-left, with
some unknown noble and illustrious House?

From documentary evidence, yet preserved in the family, the fact is
clearly established that in the comparatively modern days of the Diggory
Chuzzlewit before mentioned, one of its members had attained to
very great wealth and influence. Throughout such fragments of his
correspondence as have escaped the ravages of the moths (who, in right
of their extensive absorption of the contents of deeds and papers, may
be called the general registers of the Insect World), we find him making
constant reference to an uncle, in respect of whom he would seem to have
entertained great expectations, as he was in the habit of seeking to
propitiate his favour by presents of plate, jewels, books, watches, and
other valuable articles. Thus, he writes on one occasion to his
brother in reference to a gravy-spoon, the brother’s property, which he
(Diggory) would appear to have borrowed or otherwise possessed himself
of: ‘Do not be angry, I have parted with it--to my uncle.’ On another
occasion he expresses himself in a similar manner with regard to a
child’s mug which had been entrusted to him to get repaired. On another
occasion he says, ‘I have bestowed upon that irresistible uncle of mine
everything I ever possessed.’ And that he was in the habit of paying
long and constant visits to this gentleman at his mansion, if, indeed,
he did not wholly reside there, is manifest from the following sentence:
‘With the exception of the suit of clothes I carry about with me,
the whole of my wearing apparel is at present at my uncle’s.’ This
gentleman’s patronage and influence must have been very extensive, for
his nephew writes, ‘His interest is too high’--‘It is too much’--‘It is
tremendous’--and the like. Still it does not appear (which is strange)
to have procured for him any lucrative post at court or elsewhere, or
to have conferred upon him any other distinction than that which was
necessarily included in the countenance of so great a man, and the being
invited by him to certain entertainment’s, so splendid and costly in
their nature, that he calls them ‘Golden Balls.’

It is needless to multiply instances of the high and lofty station, and
the vast importance of the Chuzzlewits, at different periods. If it
came within the scope of reasonable probability that further proofs were
required, they might be heaped upon each other until they formed an Alps
of testimony, beneath which the boldest scepticism should be crushed
and beaten flat. As a goodly tumulus is already collected, and decently
battened up above the Family grave, the present chapter is content to
leave it as it is: merely adding, by way of a final spadeful, that many
Chuzzlewits, both male and female, are proved to demonstration, on the
faith of letters written by their own mothers, to have had chiselled
noses, undeniable chins, forms that might have served the sculptor for a
model, exquisitely-turned limbs and polished foreheads of so transparent
a texture that the blue veins might be seen branching off in various
directions, like so many roads on an ethereal map. This fact in itself,
though it had been a solitary one, would have utterly settled and
clenched the business in hand; for it is well known, on the authority
of all the books which treat of such matters, that every one of these
phenomena, but especially that of the chiselling, are invariably
peculiar to, and only make themselves apparent in, persons of the very
best condition.

This history having, to its own perfect satisfaction, (and,
consequently, to the full contentment of all its readers,) proved the
Chuzzlewits to have had an origin, and to have been at one time or other
of an importance which cannot fail to render them highly improving and
acceptable acquaintance to all right-minded individuals, may now proceed
in earnest with its task. And having shown that they must have had, by
reason of their ancient birth, a pretty large share in the foundation
and increase of the human family, it will one day become its province to
submit, that such of its members as shall be introduced in these pages,
have still many counterparts and prototypes in the Great World about us.
At present it contents itself with remarking, in a general way, on this
head: Firstly, that it may be safely asserted, and yet without
implying any direct participation in the Manboddo doctrine touching the
probability of the human race having once been monkeys, that men do
play very strange and extraordinary tricks. Secondly, and yet without
trenching on the Blumenbach theory as to the descendants of Adam having
a vast number of qualities which belong more particularly to swine than
to any other class of animals in the creation, that some men certainly
are remarkable for taking uncommon good care of themselves.



CHAPTER TWO

WHEREIN CERTAIN PERSONS ARE PRESENTED TO THE READER, WITH WHOM HE MAY,
IF HE PLEASE, BECOME BETTER ACQUAINTED


It was pretty late in the autumn of the year, when the declining sun
struggling through the mist which had obscured it all day, looked
brightly down upon a little Wiltshire village, within an easy journey of
the fair old town of Salisbury.

Like a sudden flash of memory or spirit kindling up the mind of an old
man, it shed a glory upon the scene, in which its departed youth and
freshness seemed to live again. The wet grass sparkled in the light;
the scanty patches of verdure in the hedges--where a few green twigs
yet stood together bravely, resisting to the last the tyranny of nipping
winds and early frosts--took heart and brightened up; the stream which
had been dull and sullen all day long, broke out into a cheerful smile;
the birds began to chirp and twitter on the naked boughs, as though the
hopeful creatures half believed that winter had gone by, and spring
had come already. The vane upon the tapering spire of the old church
glistened from its lofty station in sympathy with the general gladness;
and from the ivy-shaded windows such gleams of light shone back upon
the glowing sky, that it seemed as if the quiet buildings were the
hoarding-place of twenty summers, and all their ruddiness and warmth
were stored within.

Even those tokens of the season which emphatically whispered of the
coming winter, graced the landscape, and, for the moment, tinged its
livelier features with no oppressive air of sadness. The fallen leaves,
with which the ground was strewn, gave forth a pleasant fragrance, and
subduing all harsh sounds of distant feet and wheels created a repose
in gentle unison with the light scattering of seed hither and thither by
the distant husbandman, and with the noiseless passage of the plough as
it turned up the rich brown earth, and wrought a graceful pattern in
the stubbled fields. On the motionless branches of some trees, autumn
berries hung like clusters of coral beads, as in those fabled orchards
where the fruits were jewels; others stripped of all their garniture,
stood, each the centre of its little heap of bright red leaves, watching
their slow decay; others again, still wearing theirs, had them all
crunched and crackled up, as though they had been burnt; about the stems
of some were piled, in ruddy mounds, the apples they had borne that
year; while others (hardy evergreens this class) showed somewhat stern
and gloomy in their vigour, as charged by nature with the admonition
that it is not to her more sensitive and joyous favourites she grants
the longest term of life. Still athwart their darker boughs, the
sunbeams struck out paths of deeper gold; and the red light, mantling in
among their swarthy branches, used them as foils to set its brightness
off, and aid the lustre of the dying day.

A moment, and its glory was no more. The sun went down beneath the long
dark lines of hill and cloud which piled up in the west an airy city,
wall heaped on wall, and battlement on battlement; the light was all
withdrawn; the shining church turned cold and dark; the stream forgot
to smile; the birds were silent; and the gloom of winter dwelt on
everything.

An evening wind uprose too, and the slighter branches cracked and
rattled as they moved, in skeleton dances, to its moaning music. The
withering leaves no longer quiet, hurried to and fro in search of
shelter from its chill pursuit; the labourer unyoked his horses, and
with head bent down, trudged briskly home beside them; and from the
cottage windows lights began to glance and wink upon the darkening
fields.

Then the village forge came out in all its bright importance. The lusty
bellows roared Ha ha! to the clear fire, which roared in turn, and bade
the shining sparks dance gayly to the merry clinking of the hammers on
the anvil. The gleaming iron, in its emulation, sparkled too, and shed
its red-hot gems around profusely. The strong smith and his men dealt
such strokes upon their work, as made even the melancholy night rejoice,
and brought a glow into its dark face as it hovered about the door and
windows, peeping curiously in above the shoulders of a dozen loungers.
As to this idle company, there they stood, spellbound by the place, and,
casting now and then a glance upon the darkness in their rear, settled
their lazy elbows more at ease upon the sill, and leaned a little
further in: no more disposed to tear themselves away than if they had
been born to cluster round the blazing hearth like so many crickets.

Out upon the angry wind! how from sighing, it began to bluster round the
merry forge, banging at the wicket, and grumbling in the chimney, as if
it bullied the jolly bellows for doing anything to order. And what an
impotent swaggerer it was too, for all its noise; for if it had any
influence on that hoarse companion, it was but to make him roar his
cheerful song the louder, and by consequence to make the fire burn
the brighter, and the sparks to dance more gayly yet; at length, they
whizzed so madly round and round, that it was too much for such a surly
wind to bear; so off it flew with a howl giving the old sign before the
ale-house door such a cuff as it went, that the Blue Dragon was more
rampant than usual ever afterwards, and indeed, before Christmas, reared
clean out of its crazy frame.

It was small tyranny for a respectable wind to go wreaking its vengeance
on such poor creatures as the fallen leaves, but this wind happening to
come up with a great heap of them just after venting its humour on the
insulted Dragon, did so disperse and scatter them that they fled away,
pell-mell, some here, some there, rolling over each other, whirling
round and round upon their thin edges, taking frantic flights into the
air, and playing all manner of extraordinary gambols in the extremity
of their distress. Nor was this enough for its malicious fury; for not
content with driving them abroad, it charged small parties of them and
hunted them into the wheel wright’s saw-pit, and below the planks and
timbers in the yard, and, scattering the sawdust in the air, it looked
for them underneath, and when it did meet with any, whew! how it drove
them on and followed at their heels!

The scared leaves only flew the faster for all this, and a giddy chase
it was; for they got into unfrequented places, where there was no
outlet, and where their pursuer kept them eddying round and round at his
pleasure; and they crept under the eaves of houses, and clung tightly to
the sides of hay-ricks, like bats; and tore in at open chamber windows,
and cowered close to hedges; and, in short, went anywhere for safety.
But the oddest feat they achieved was, to take advantage of the sudden
opening of Mr Pecksniff’s front-door, to dash wildly into his passage;
whither the wind following close upon them, and finding the back-door
open, incontinently blew out the lighted candle held by Miss Pecksniff,
and slammed the front-door against Mr Pecksniff who was at that moment
entering, with such violence, that in the twinkling of an eye he lay on
his back at the bottom of the steps. Being by this time weary of such
trifling performances, the boisterous rover hurried away rejoicing,
roaring over moor and meadow, hill and flat, until it got out to sea,
where it met with other winds similarly disposed, and made a night of
it.

In the meantime Mr Pecksniff, having received from a sharp angle in the
bottom step but one, that sort of knock on the head which lights up, for
the patient’s entertainment, an imaginary general illumination of very
bright short-sixes, lay placidly staring at his own street door. And it
would seem to have been more suggestive in its aspect than street
doors usually are; for he continued to lie there, rather a lengthy and
unreasonable time, without so much as wondering whether he was hurt
or no; neither, when Miss Pecksniff inquired through the key-hole in a
shrill voice, which might have belonged to a wind in its teens, ‘Who’s
there’ did he make any reply; nor, when Miss Pecksniff opened the door
again, and shading the candle with her hand, peered out, and looked
provokingly round him, and about him, and over him, and everywhere but
at him, did he offer any remark, or indicate in any manner the least
hint of a desire to be picked up.

‘I see you,’ cried Miss Pecksniff, to the ideal inflicter of a runaway
knock. ‘You’ll catch it, sir!’

Still Mr Pecksniff, perhaps from having caught it already, said nothing.

‘You’re round the corner now,’ cried Miss Pecksniff. She said it at a
venture, but there was appropriate matter in it too; for Mr Pecksniff,
being in the act of extinguishing the candles before mentioned pretty
rapidly, and of reducing the number of brass knobs on his street door
from four or five hundred (which had previously been juggling of their
own accord before his eyes in a very novel manner) to a dozen or so,
might in one sense have been said to be coming round the corner, and
just turning it.

With a sharply delivered warning relative to the cage and the constable,
and the stocks and the gallows, Miss Pecksniff was about to close the
door again, when Mr Pecksniff (being still at the bottom of the steps)
raised himself on one elbow, and sneezed.

‘That voice!’ cried Miss Pecksniff. ‘My parent!’

At this exclamation, another Miss Pecksniff bounced out of the parlour;
and the two Miss Pecksniffs, with many incoherent expressions, dragged
Mr Pecksniff into an upright posture.

‘Pa!’ they cried in concert. ‘Pa! Speak, Pa! Do not look so wild my
dearest Pa!’

But as a gentleman’s looks, in such a case of all others, are by no
means under his own control, Mr Pecksniff continued to keep his mouth
and his eyes very wide open, and to drop his lower jaw, somewhat after
the manner of a toy nut-cracker; and as his hat had fallen off, and his
face was pale, and his hair erect, and his coat muddy, the spectacle he
presented was so very doleful, that neither of the Miss Pecksniffs could
repress an involuntary screech.

‘That’ll do,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘I’m better.’

‘He’s come to himself!’ cried the youngest Miss Pecksniff.

‘He speaks again!’ exclaimed the eldest.

With these joyful words they kissed Mr Pecksniff on either cheek; and
bore him into the house. Presently, the youngest Miss Pecksniff ran
out again to pick up his hat, his brown paper parcel, his umbrella, his
gloves, and other small articles; and that done, and the door closed,
both young ladies applied themselves to tending Mr Pecksniff’s wounds in
the back parlour.

They were not very serious in their nature; being limited to abrasions
on what the eldest Miss Pecksniff called ‘the knobby parts’ of her
parent’s anatomy, such as his knees and elbows, and to the development
of an entirely new organ, unknown to phrenologists, on the back of his
head. These injuries having been comforted externally, with patches of
pickled brown paper, and Mr Pecksniff having been comforted internally,
with some stiff brandy-and-water, the eldest Miss Pecksniff sat down
to make the tea, which was all ready. In the meantime the youngest Miss
Pecksniff brought from the kitchen a smoking dish of ham and eggs, and,
setting the same before her father, took up her station on a low stool
at his feet; thereby bringing her eyes on a level with the teaboard.

It must not be inferred from this position of humility, that the
youngest Miss Pecksniff was so young as to be, as one may say, forced to
sit upon a stool, by reason of the shortness of her legs. Miss Pecksniff
sat upon a stool because of her simplicity and innocence, which were
very great, very great. Miss Pecksniff sat upon a stool because she was
all girlishness, and playfulness, and wildness, and kittenish buoyancy.
She was the most arch and at the same time the most artless creature,
was the youngest Miss Pecksniff, that you can possibly imagine. It
was her great charm. She was too fresh and guileless, and too full of
child-like vivacity, was the youngest Miss Pecksniff, to wear combs in
her hair, or to turn it up, or to frizzle it, or braid it. She wore it
in a crop, a loosely flowing crop, which had so many rows of curls in
it, that the top row was only one curl. Moderately buxom was her shape,
and quite womanly too; but sometimes--yes, sometimes--she even wore
a pinafore; and how charming THAT was! Oh! she was indeed ‘a gushing
thing’ (as a young gentleman had observed in verse, in the Poet’s Corner
of a provincial newspaper), was the youngest Miss Pecksniff!

Mr Pecksniff was a moral man--a grave man, a man of noble sentiments and
speech--and he had had her christened Mercy. Mercy! oh, what a charming
name for such a pure-souled Being as the youngest Miss Pecksniff! Her
sister’s name was Charity. There was a good thing! Mercy and Charity!
And Charity, with her fine strong sense and her mild, yet not
reproachful gravity, was so well named, and did so well set off and
illustrate her sister! What a pleasant sight was that the contrast
they presented; to see each loved and loving one sympathizing with, and
devoted to, and leaning on, and yet correcting and counter-checking,
and, as it were, antidoting, the other! To behold each damsel in her
very admiration of her sister, setting up in business for herself on
an entirely different principle, and announcing no connection with
over-the-way, and if the quality of goods at that establishment don’t
please you, you are respectfully invited to favour ME with a call! And
the crowning circumstance of the whole delightful catalogue was, that
both the fair creatures were so utterly unconscious of all this!
They had no idea of it. They no more thought or dreamed of it than Mr
Pecksniff did. Nature played them off against each other; THEY had no
hand in it, the two Miss Pecksniffs.

It has been remarked that Mr Pecksniff was a moral man. So he was.
Perhaps there never was a more moral man than Mr Pecksniff, especially
in his conversation and correspondence. It was once said of him by a
homely admirer, that he had a Fortunatus’s purse of good sentiments in
his inside. In this particular he was like the girl in the fairy tale,
except that if they were not actual diamonds which fell from his lips,
they were the very brightest paste, and shone prodigiously. He was a
most exemplary man; fuller of virtuous precept than a copy book. Some
people likened him to a direction-post, which is always telling the
way to a place, and never goes there; but these were his enemies, the
shadows cast by his brightness; that was all. His very throat was moral.
You saw a good deal of it. You looked over a very low fence of white
cravat (whereof no man had ever beheld the tie for he fastened it
behind), and there it lay, a valley between two jutting heights of
collar, serene and whiskerless before you. It seemed to say, on the part
of Mr Pecksniff, ‘There is no deception, ladies and gentlemen, all is
peace, a holy calm pervades me.’ So did his hair, just grizzled with
an iron-grey which was all brushed off his forehead, and stood bolt
upright, or slightly drooped in kindred action with his heavy eyelids.
So did his person, which was sleek though free from corpulency. So did
his manner, which was soft and oily. In a word, even his plain black
suit, and state of widower and dangling double eye-glass, all tended to
the same purpose, and cried aloud, ‘Behold the moral Pecksniff!’

The brazen plate upon the door (which being Mr Pecksniff’s, could
not lie) bore this inscription, ‘PECKSNIFF, ARCHITECT,’ to which Mr
Pecksniff, on his cards of business, added, AND LAND SURVEYOR.’ In one
sense, and only one, he may be said to have been a Land Surveyor on a
pretty large scale, as an extensive prospect lay stretched out before
the windows of his house. Of his architectural doings, nothing was
clearly known, except that he had never designed or built anything; but
it was generally understood that his knowledge of the science was almost
awful in its profundity.

Mr Pecksniff’s professional engagements, indeed, were almost, if not
entirely, confined to the reception of pupils; for the collection of
rents, with which pursuit he occasionally varied and relieved his graver
toils, can hardly be said to be a strictly architectural employment. His
genius lay in ensnaring parents and guardians, and pocketing premiums. A
young gentleman’s premium being paid, and the young gentleman come to
Mr Pecksniff’s house, Mr Pecksniff borrowed his case of mathematical
instruments (if silver-mounted or otherwise valuable); entreated him,
from that moment, to consider himself one of the family; complimented
him highly on his parents or guardians, as the case might be; and
turned him loose in a spacious room on the two-pair front; where, in the
company of certain drawing-boards, parallel rulers, very stiff-legged
compasses, and two, or perhaps three, other young gentlemen, he improved
himself, for three or five years, according to his articles, in making
elevations of Salisbury Cathedral from every possible point of sight;
and in constructing in the air a vast quantity of Castles, Houses of
Parliament, and other Public Buildings. Perhaps in no place in the
world were so many gorgeous edifices of this class erected as under
Mr Pecksniff’s auspices; and if but one-twentieth part of the churches
which were built in that front room, with one or other of the Miss
Pecksniffs at the altar in the act of marrying the architect, could only
be made available by the parliamentary commissioners, no more churches
would be wanted for at least five centuries.

‘Even the worldly goods of which we have just disposed,’ said Mr
Pecksniff, glancing round the table when he had finished, ‘even cream,
sugar, tea, toast, ham--’

‘And eggs,’ suggested Charity in a low voice.

‘And eggs,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘even they have their moral. See how they
come and go! Every pleasure is transitory. We can’t even eat, long.
If we indulge in harmless fluids, we get the dropsy; if in exciting
liquids, we get drunk. What a soothing reflection is that!’

‘Don’t say WE get drunk, Pa,’ urged the eldest Miss Pecksniff.

‘When I say we, my dear,’ returned her father, ‘I mean mankind in
general; the human race, considered as a body, and not as individuals.
There is nothing personal in morality, my love. Even such a thing as
this,’ said Mr Pecksniff, laying the fore-finger of his left hand upon
the brown paper patch on the top of his head, ‘slight casual baldness
though it be, reminds us that we are but’--he was going to say ‘worms,’
but recollecting that worms were not remarkable for heads of hair, he
substituted ‘flesh and blood.’

‘Which,’ cried Mr Pecksniff after a pause, during which he seemed to
have been casting about for a new moral, and not quite successfully,
‘which is also very soothing. Mercy, my dear, stir the fire and throw up
the cinders.’

The young lady obeyed, and having done so, resumed her stool, reposed
one arm upon her father’s knee, and laid her blooming cheek upon
it. Miss Charity drew her chair nearer the fire, as one prepared for
conversation, and looked towards her father.

‘Yes,’ said Mr Pecksniff, after a short pause, during which he had been
silently smiling, and shaking his head at the fire--‘I have again been
fortunate in the attainment of my object. A new inmate will very shortly
come among us.’

‘A youth, papa?’ asked Charity.

‘Ye-es, a youth,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘He will avail himself of the
eligible opportunity which now offers, for uniting the advantages of the
best practical architectural education with the comforts of a home, and
the constant association with some who (however humble their sphere,
and limited their capacity) are not unmindful of their moral
responsibilities.’

‘Oh Pa!’ cried Mercy, holding up her finger archly. ‘See advertisement!’

‘Playful--playful warbler,’ said Mr Pecksniff. It may be observed in
connection with his calling his daughter a ‘warbler,’ that she was not
at all vocal, but that Mr Pecksniff was in the frequent habit of using
any word that occurred to him as having a good sound, and rounding a
sentence well without much care for its meaning. And he did this so
boldly, and in such an imposing manner, that he would sometimes stagger
the wisest people with his eloquence, and make them gasp again.

His enemies asserted, by the way, that a strong trustfulness in sounds
and forms was the master-key to Mr Pecksniff’s character.

‘Is he handsome, Pa?’ inquired the younger daughter.

‘Silly Merry!’ said the eldest: Merry being fond for Mercy. ‘What is the
premium, Pa? tell us that.’

‘Oh, good gracious, Cherry!’ cried Miss Mercy, holding up her hands with
the most winning giggle in the world, ‘what a mercenary girl you are! oh
you naughty, thoughtful, prudent thing!’

It was perfectly charming, and worthy of the Pastoral age, to see how
the two Miss Pecksniffs slapped each other after this, and then subsided
into an embrace expressive of their different dispositions.

‘He is well looking,’ said Mr Pecksniff, slowly and distinctly; ‘well
looking enough. I do not positively expect any immediate premium with
him.’

Notwithstanding their different natures, both Charity and Mercy
concurred in opening their eyes uncommonly wide at this announcement,
and in looking for the moment as blank as if their thoughts had actually
had a direct bearing on the main chance.

‘But what of that!’ said Mr Pecksniff, still smiling at the fire. ‘There
is disinterestedness in the world, I hope? We are not all arrayed in two
opposite ranks; the OFfensive and the DEfensive. Some few there are
who walk between; who help the needy as they go; and take no part with
either side. Umph!’

There was something in these morsels of philanthropy which reassured the
sisters. They exchanged glances, and brightened very much.

‘Oh! let us not be for ever calculating, devising, and plotting for the
future,’ said Mr Pecksniff, smiling more and more, and looking at the
fire as a man might, who was cracking a joke with it: ‘I am weary of
such arts. If our inclinations are but good and open-hearted, let us
gratify them boldly, though they bring upon us Loss instead of Profit.
Eh, Charity?’

Glancing towards his daughters for the first time since he had begun
these reflections, and seeing that they both smiled, Mr Pecksniff eyed
them for an instant so jocosely (though still with a kind of saintly
waggishness) that the younger one was moved to sit upon his knee
forthwith, put her fair arms round his neck, and kiss him twenty times.
During the whole of this affectionate display she laughed to a most
immoderate extent: in which hilarious indulgence even the prudent Cherry
joined.

‘Tut, tut,’ said Mr Pecksniff, pushing his latest-born away and running
his fingers through his hair, as he resumed his tranquil face. ‘What
folly is this! Let us take heed how we laugh without reason lest we cry
with it. What is the domestic news since yesterday? John Westlock is
gone, I hope?’

‘Indeed, no,’ said Charity.

‘And why not?’ returned her father. ‘His term expired yesterday. And his
box was packed, I know; for I saw it, in the morning, standing in the
hall.’

‘He slept last night at the Dragon,’ returned the young lady, ‘and had
Mr Pinch to dine with him. They spent the evening together, and Mr Pinch
was not home till very late.’

‘And when I saw him on the stairs this morning, Pa,’ said Mercy with her
usual sprightliness, ‘he looked, oh goodness, SUCH a monster! with his
face all manner of colours, and his eyes as dull as if they had been
boiled, and his head aching dreadfully, I am sure from the look of
it, and his clothes smelling, oh it’s impossible to say how strong,
oh’--here the young lady shuddered--‘of smoke and punch.’

‘Now I think,’ said Mr Pecksniff with his accustomed gentleness, though
still with the air of one who suffered under injury without complaint,
‘I think Mr Pinch might have done better than choose for his companion
one who, at the close of a long intercourse, had endeavoured, as he
knew, to wound my feelings. I am not quite sure that this was delicate
in Mr Pinch. I am not quite sure that this was kind in Mr Pinch. I will
go further and say, I am not quite sure that this was even ordinarily
grateful in Mr Pinch.’

‘But what can anyone expect from Mr Pinch!’ cried Charity, with as
strong and scornful an emphasis on the name as if it would have given
her unspeakable pleasure to express it, in an acted charade, on the calf
of that gentleman’s leg.

‘Aye, aye,’ returned her father, raising his hand mildly: ‘it is
very well to say what can we expect from Mr Pinch, but Mr Pinch is
a fellow-creature, my dear; Mr Pinch is an item in the vast total of
humanity, my love; and we have a right, it is our duty, to expect in
Mr Pinch some development of those better qualities, the possession
of which in our own persons inspires our humble self-respect. No,’
continued Mr Pecksniff. ‘No! Heaven forbid that I should say, nothing
can be expected from Mr Pinch; or that I should say, nothing can be
expected from any man alive (even the most degraded, which Mr Pinch is
not, no, really); but Mr Pinch has disappointed me; he has hurt me;
I think a little the worse of him on this account, but not if human
nature. Oh, no, no!’

‘Hark!’ said Miss Charity, holding up her finger, as a gentle rap was
heard at the street door. ‘There is the creature! Now mark my words, he
has come back with John Westlock for his box, and is going to help
him to take it to the mail. Only mark my words, if that isn’t his
intention!’

Even as she spoke, the box appeared to be in progress of conveyance from
the house, but after a brief murmuring of question and answer, it was
put down again, and somebody knocked at the parlour door.

‘Come in!’ cried Mr Pecksniff--not severely; only virtuously. ‘Come in!’

An ungainly, awkward-looking man, extremely short-sighted, and
prematurely bald, availed himself of this permission; and seeing that
Mr Pecksniff sat with his back towards him, gazing at the fire,
stood hesitating, with the door in his hand. He was far from handsome
certainly; and was drest in a snuff-coloured suit, of an uncouth make at
the best, which, being shrunk with long wear, was twisted and tortured
into all kinds of odd shapes; but notwithstanding his attire, and his
clumsy figure, which a great stoop in his shoulders, and a ludicrous
habit he had of thrusting his head forward, by no means redeemed, one
would not have been disposed (unless Mr Pecksniff said so) to consider
him a bad fellow by any means. He was perhaps about thirty, but he might
have been almost any age between sixteen and sixty; being one of those
strange creatures who never decline into an ancient appearance, but look
their oldest when they are very young, and get it over at once.

Keeping his hand upon the lock of the door, he glanced from Mr Pecksniff
to Mercy, from Mercy to Charity, and from Charity to Mr Pecksniff again,
several times; but the young ladies being as intent upon the fire as
their father was, and neither of the three taking any notice of him, he
was fain to say, at last,

‘Oh! I beg your pardon, Mr Pecksniff: I beg your pardon for intruding;
but--’

‘No intrusion, Mr Pinch,’ said that gentleman very sweetly, but without
looking round. ‘Pray be seated, Mr Pinch. Have the goodness to shut the
door, Mr Pinch, if you please.’

‘Certainly, sir,’ said Pinch; not doing so, however, but holding it
rather wider open than before, and beckoning nervously to somebody
without: ‘Mr Westlock, sir, hearing that you were come home--’

‘Mr Pinch, Mr Pinch!’ said Pecksniff, wheeling his chair about, and
looking at him with an aspect of the deepest melancholy, ‘I did not
expect this from you. I have not deserved this from you!’

‘No, but upon my word, sir--’ urged Pinch.

‘The less you say, Mr Pinch,’ interposed the other, ‘the better. I utter
no complaint. Make no defence.’

‘No, but do have the goodness, sir,’ cried Pinch, with great
earnestness, ‘if you please. Mr Westlock, sir, going away for good and
all, wishes to leave none but friends behind him. Mr Westlock and you,
sir, had a little difference the other day; you have had many little
differences.’

‘Little differences!’ cried Charity.

‘Little differences!’ echoed Mercy.

‘My loves!’ said Mr Pecksniff, with the same serene upraising of his
hand; ‘My dears!’ After a solemn pause he meekly bowed to Mr Pinch, as
who should say, ‘Proceed;’ but Mr Pinch was so very much at a loss how
to resume, and looked so helplessly at the two Miss Pecksniffs, that
the conversation would most probably have terminated there, if a
good-looking youth, newly arrived at man’s estate, had not stepped
forward from the doorway and taken up the thread of the discourse.

‘Come, Mr Pecksniff,’ he said, with a smile, ‘don’t let there be any
ill-blood between us, pray. I am sorry we have ever differed, and
extremely sorry I have ever given you offence. Bear me no ill-will at
parting, sir.’

‘I bear,’ answered Mr Pecksniff, mildly, ‘no ill-will to any man on
earth.’

‘I told you he didn’t,’ said Pinch, in an undertone; ‘I knew he didn’t!
He always says he don’t.’

‘Then you will shake hands, sir?’ cried Westlock, advancing a step or
two, and bespeaking Mr Pinch’s close attention by a glance.

‘Umph!’ said Mr Pecksniff, in his most winning tone.

‘You will shake hands, sir.’

‘No, John,’ said Mr Pecksniff, with a calmness quite ethereal; ‘no, I
will not shake hands, John. I have forgiven you. I had already forgiven
you, even before you ceased to reproach and taunt me. I have embraced
you in the spirit, John, which is better than shaking hands.’

‘Pinch,’ said the youth, turning towards him, with a hearty disgust of
his late master, ‘what did I tell you?’

Poor Pinch looked down uneasily at Mr Pecksniff, whose eye was fixed
upon him as it had been from the first; and looking up at the ceiling
again, made no reply.

‘As to your forgiveness, Mr Pecksniff,’ said the youth, ‘I’ll not have
it upon such terms. I won’t be forgiven.’

‘Won’t you, John?’ retorted Mr Pecksniff, with a smile. ‘You must. You
can’t help it. Forgiveness is a high quality; an exalted virtue; far
above YOUR control or influence, John. I WILL forgive you. You cannot
move me to remember any wrong you have ever done me, John.’

‘Wrong!’ cried the other, with all the heat and impetuosity of his age.
‘Here’s a pretty fellow! Wrong! Wrong I have done him! He’ll not even
remember the five hundred pounds he had with me under false pretences;
or the seventy pounds a year for board and lodging that would have been
dear at seventeen! Here’s a martyr!’

‘Money, John,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘is the root of all evil. I grieve
to see that it is already bearing evil fruit in you. But I will not
remember its existence. I will not even remember the conduct of that
misguided person’--and here, although he spoke like one at peace with
all the world, he used an emphasis that plainly said “I have my eye
upon the rascal now”--‘that misguided person who has brought you here
to-night, seeking to disturb (it is a happiness to say, in vain) the
heart’s repose and peace of one who would have shed his dearest blood to
serve him.’

The voice of Mr Pecksniff trembled as he spoke, and sobs were heard from
his daughters. Sounds floated on the air, moreover, as if two spirit
voices had exclaimed: one, ‘Beast!’ the other, ‘Savage!’

‘Forgiveness,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘entire and pure forgiveness is not
incompatible with a wounded heart; perchance when the heart is wounded,
it becomes a greater virtue. With my breast still wrung and grieved to
its inmost core by the ingratitude of that person, I am proud and glad
to say that I forgive him. Nay! I beg,’ cried Mr Pecksniff, raising his
voice, as Pinch appeared about to speak, ‘I beg that individual not to
offer a remark; he will truly oblige me by not uttering one word, just
now. I am not sure that I am equal to the trial. In a very short space
of time, I shall have sufficient fortitude, I trust to converse with
him as if these events had never happened. But not,’ said Mr Pecksniff,
turning round again towards the fire, and waving his hand in the
direction of the door, ‘not now.’

‘Bah!’ cried John Westlock, with the utmost disgust and disdain the
monosyllable is capable of expressing. ‘Ladies, good evening. Come,
Pinch, it’s not worth thinking of. I was right and you were wrong.
That’s small matter; you’ll be wiser another time.’

So saying, he clapped that dejected companion on the shoulder, turned
upon his heel, and walked out into the passage, whither poor Mr
Pinch, after lingering irresolutely in the parlour for a few seconds,
expressing in his countenance the deepest mental misery and gloom
followed him. Then they took up the box between them, and sallied out to
meet the mail.

That fleet conveyance passed, every night, the corner of a lane at some
distance; towards which point they bent their steps. For some minutes
they walked along in silence, until at length young Westlock burst into
a loud laugh, and at intervals into another, and another. Still there
was no response from his companion.

‘I’ll tell you what, Pinch!’ he said abruptly, after another lengthened
silence--‘You haven’t half enough of the devil in you. Half enough! You
haven’t any.’

‘Well!’ said Pinch with a sigh, ‘I don’t know, I’m sure. It’s compliment
to say so. If I haven’t, I suppose, I’m all the better for it.’

‘All the better!’ repeated his companion tartly: ‘All the worse, you
mean to say.’

‘And yet,’ said Pinch, pursuing his own thoughts and not this last
remark on the part of his friend, ‘I must have a good deal of what
you call the devil in me, too, or how could I make Pecksniff so
uncomfortable? I wouldn’t have occasioned him so much distress--don’t
laugh, please--for a mine of money; and Heaven knows I could find good
use for it too, John. How grieved he was!’

‘HE grieved!’ returned the other.

‘Why didn’t you observe that the tears were almost starting out of his
eyes!’ cried Pinch. ‘Bless my soul, John, is it nothing to see a man
moved to that extent and know one’s self to be the cause! And did you
hear him say that he could have shed his blood for me?’

‘Do you WANT any blood shed for you?’ returned his friend, with
considerable irritation. ‘Does he shed anything for you that you DO
want? Does he shed employment for you, instruction for you, pocket
money for you? Does he shed even legs of mutton for you in any decent
proportion to potatoes and garden stuff?’

‘I am afraid,’ said Pinch, sighing again, ‘that I am a great eater; I
can’t disguise from myself that I’m a great eater. Now, you know that,
John.’

‘You a great eater!’ retorted his companion, with no less indignation
than before. ‘How do you know you are?’

There appeared to be forcible matter in this inquiry, for Mr Pinch only
repeated in an undertone that he had a strong misgiving on the subject,
and that he greatly feared he was.

‘Besides, whether I am or no,’ he added, ‘that has little or nothing to
do with his thinking me ungrateful. John, there is scarcely a sin in the
world that is in my eyes such a crying one as ingratitude; and when
he taxes me with that, and believes me to be guilty of it, he makes me
miserable and wretched.’

‘Do you think he don’t know that?’ returned the other scornfully.
‘But come, Pinch, before I say anything more to you, just run over the
reasons you have for being grateful to him at all, will you? Change
hands first, for the box is heavy. That’ll do. Now, go on.’

‘In the first place,’ said Pinch, ‘he took me as his pupil for much less
than he asked.’

‘Well,’ rejoined his friend, perfectly unmoved by this instance of
generosity. ‘What in the second place?’

‘What in the second place?’ cried Pinch, in a sort of desperation, ‘why,
everything in the second place. My poor old grandmother died happy to
think that she had put me with such an excellent man. I have grown up
in his house, I am in his confidence, I am his assistant, he allows me a
salary; when his business improves, my prospects are to improve too.
All this, and a great deal more, is in the second place. And in the very
prologue and preface to the first place, John, you must consider this,
which nobody knows better than I: that I was born for much plainer and
poorer things, that I am not a good hand for his kind of business, and
have no talent for it, or indeed for anything else but odds and ends
that are of no use or service to anybody.’

He said this with so much earnestness, and in a tone so full of feeling,
that his companion instinctively changed his manner as he sat down on
the box (they had by this time reached the finger-post at the end of the
lane); motioned him to sit down beside him; and laid his hand upon his
shoulder.

‘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. I shall write to you from London, mind!’

‘Yes,’ said Pinch. ‘Yes. Do, please. Good-bye. Good-bye. I can hardly
believe you’re going. It seems, now, but yesterday that you came.
Good-bye! my dear old fellow!’

John Westlock returned his parting words with no less heartiness of
manner, and sprung up to his seat upon the roof. Off went the mail at
a canter down the dark road; the lamps gleaming brightly, and the horn
awakening all the echoes, far and wide.

‘Go your ways,’ said Pinch, apostrophizing the coach; ‘I can hardly
persuade myself but you’re alive, and are some great monster who visits
this place at certain intervals, to bear my friends away into the world.
You’re more exulting and rampant than usual tonight, I think; and you
may well crow over your prize; for he is a fine lad, an ingenuous lad,
and has but one fault that I know of; he don’t mean it, but he is most
cruelly unjust to Pecksniff!’



CHAPTER THREE

IN WHICH CERTAIN OTHER PERSONS ARE INTRODUCED; ON THE SAME TERMS AS IN
THE LAST CHAPTER


Mention has been already made more than once, of a certain Dragon who
swung and creaked complainingly before the village alehouse door. A
faded, and an ancient dragon he was; and many a wintry storm of rain,
snow, sleet, and hail, had changed his colour from a gaudy blue to a
faint lack-lustre shade of grey. But there he hung; rearing, in a state
of monstrous imbecility, on his hind legs; waxing, with every month that
passed, so much more dim and shapeless, that as you gazed at him on
one side of the sign-board it seemed as if he must be gradually melting
through it, and coming out upon the other.

He was a courteous and considerate dragon, too; or had been in his
distincter days; for in the midst of his rampant feebleness, he kept
one of his forepaws near his nose, as though he would say, ‘Don’t
mind me--it’s only my fun;’ while he held out the other in polite and
hospitable entreaty. Indeed it must be conceded to the whole brood
of dragons of modern times, that they have made a great advance in
civilisation and refinement. They no longer demand a beautiful virgin
for breakfast every morning, with as much regularity as any tame single
gentleman expects his hot roll, but rest content with the society of
idle bachelors and roving married men; and they are now remarkable
rather for holding aloof from the softer sex and discouraging their
visits (especially on Saturday nights), than for rudely insisting on
their company without any reference to their inclinations, as they are
known to have done in days of yore.

Nor is this tribute to the reclaimed animals in question so wide a
digression into the realms of Natural History as it may, at first sight,
appear to be; for the present business of these pages in with the dragon
who had his retreat in Mr Pecksniff’s neighbourhood, and that courteous
animal being already on the carpet, there is nothing in the way of its
immediate transaction.

For many years, then, he had swung and creaked, and flapped himself
about, before the two windows of the best bedroom of that house of
entertainment to which he lent his name; but never in all his swinging,
creaking, and flapping, had there been such a stir within its dingy
precincts, as on the evening next after that upon which the incidents,
detailed in the last chapter occurred; when there was such a hurrying up
and down stairs of feet, such a glancing of lights, such a whispering
of voices, such a smoking and sputtering of wood newly lighted in a
damp chimney, such an airing of linen, such a scorching smell of hot
warming-pans, such a domestic bustle and to-do, in short, as never
dragon, griffin, unicorn, or other animal of that species presided over,
since they first began to interest themselves in household affairs.

An old gentleman and a young lady, travelling, unattended, in a rusty
old chariot with post-horses; coming nobody knew whence and going nobody
knew whither; had turned out of the high road, and driven unexpectedly
to the Blue Dragon; and here was the old gentleman, who had taken this
step by reason of his sudden illness in the carriage, suffering the most
horrible cramps and spasms, yet protesting and vowing in the very midst
of his pain, that he wouldn’t have a doctor sent for, and wouldn’t take
any remedies but those which the young lady administered from a small
medicine-chest, and wouldn’t, in a word, do anything but terrify the
landlady out of her five wits, and obstinately refuse compliance with
every suggestion that was made to him.

Of all the five hundred proposals for his relief which the good woman
poured out in less than half an hour, he would entertain but one. That
was that he should go to bed. And it was in the preparation of his bed
and the arrangement of his chamber, that all the stir was made in the
room behind the Dragon.

He was, beyond all question, very ill, and suffered exceedingly; not the
less, perhaps, because he was a strong and vigorous old man, with a will
of iron, and a voice of brass. But neither the apprehensions which
he plainly entertained, at times, for his life, nor the great pain he
underwent, influenced his resolution in the least degree. He would have
no person sent for. The worse he grew, the more rigid and inflexible he
became in his determination. If they sent for any person to attend him,
man, woman, or child, he would leave the house directly (so he told
them), though he quitted it on foot, and died upon the threshold of the
door.

Now, there being no medical practitioner actually resident in the
village, but a poor apothecary who was also a grocer and general dealer,
the landlady had, upon her own responsibility, sent for him, in the
very first burst and outset of the disaster. Of course it followed, as
a necessary result of his being wanted, that he was not at home. He had
gone some miles away, and was not expected home until late at night; so
the landlady, being by this time pretty well beside herself, dispatched
the same messenger in all haste for Mr Pecksniff, as a learned man
who could bear a deal of responsibility, and a moral man who could
administer a world of comfort to a troubled mind. That her guest had
need of some efficient services under the latter head was obvious enough
from the restless expressions, importing, however, rather a worldly than
a spiritual anxiety, to which he gave frequent utterance.

From this last-mentioned secret errand, the messenger returned with no
better news than from the first; Mr Pecksniff was not at home. However,
they got the patient into bed without him; and in the course of two
hours, he gradually became so far better that there were much longer
intervals than at first between his terms of suffering. By degrees, he
ceased to suffer at all; though his exhaustion was occasionally so great
that it suggested hardly less alarm than his actual endurance had done.

It was in one of his intervals of repose, when, looking round with
great caution, and reaching uneasily out of his nest of pillows, he
endeavoured, with a strange air of secrecy and distrust, to make use
of the writing materials which he had ordered to be placed on a table
beside him, that the young lady and the mistress of the Blue Dragon
found themselves sitting side by side before the fire in the sick
chamber.

The mistress of the Blue Dragon was in outward appearance just what a
landlady should be: broad, buxom, comfortable, and good looking, with a
face of clear red and white, which, by its jovial aspect, at once bore
testimony to her hearty participation in the good things of the larder
and cellar, and to their thriving and healthful influences. She was a
widow, but years ago had passed through her state of weeds, and burst
into flower again; and in full bloom she had continued ever since; and
in full bloom she was now; with roses on her ample skirts, and roses
on her bodice, roses in her cap, roses in her cheeks,--aye, and roses,
worth the gathering too, on her lips, for that matter. She had still a
bright black eye, and jet black hair; was comely, dimpled, plump, and
tight as a gooseberry; and though she was not exactly what the world
calls young, you may make an affidavit, on trust, before any mayor or
magistrate in Christendom, that there are a great many young ladies in
the world (blessings on them one and all!) whom you wouldn’t like half
as well, or admire half as much, as the beaming hostess of the Blue
Dragon.

As this fair matron sat beside the fire, she glanced occasionally with
all the pride of ownership, about the room; which was a large apartment,
such as one may see in country places, with a low roof and a sunken
flooring, all downhill from the door, and a descent of two steps on
the inside so exquisitely unexpected, that strangers, despite the
most elaborate cautioning, usually dived in head first, as into a
plunging-bath. It was none of your frivolous and preposterously bright
bedrooms, where nobody can close an eye with any kind of propriety or
decent regard to the association of ideas; but it was a good, dull,
leaden, drowsy place, where every article of furniture reminded you
that you came there to sleep, and that you were expected to go to sleep.
There was no wakeful reflection of the fire there, as in your modern
chambers, which upon the darkest nights have a watchful consciousness of
French polish; the old Spanish mahogany winked at it now and then, as
a dozing cat or dog might, nothing more. The very size and shape, and
hopeless immovability of the bedstead, and wardrobe, and in a minor
degree of even the chairs and tables, provoked sleep; they were plainly
apoplectic and disposed to snore. There were no staring portraits
to remonstrate with you for being lazy; no round-eyed birds upon the
curtains, disgustingly wide awake, and insufferably prying. The
thick neutral hangings, and the dark blinds, and the heavy heap
of bed-clothes, were all designed to hold in sleep, and act as
nonconductors to the day and getting up. Even the old stuffed fox upon
the top of the wardrobe was devoid of any spark of vigilance, for his
glass eye had fallen out, and he slumbered as he stood.

The wandering attention of the mistress of the Blue Dragon roved to
these things but twice or thrice, and then for but an instant at a time.
It soon deserted them, and even the distant bed with its strange burden,
for the young creature immediately before her, who, with her downcast
eyes intently fixed upon the fire, sat wrapped in silent meditation.

She was very young; apparently no more than seventeen; timid and
shrinking in her manner, and yet with a greater share of self possession
and control over her emotions than usually belongs to a far more
advanced period of female life. This she had abundantly shown, but now,
in her tending of the sick gentleman. She was short in stature; and her
figure was slight, as became her years; but all the charms of youth and
maidenhood set it off, and clustered on her gentle brow. Her face was
very pale, in part no doubt from recent agitation. Her dark brown hair,
disordered from the same cause, had fallen negligently from its bonds,
and hung upon her neck; for which instance of its waywardness no male
observer would have had the heart to blame it.

Her attire was that of a lady, but extremely plain; and in her manner,
even when she sat as still as she did then, there was an indefinable
something which appeared to be in kindred with her scrupulously
unpretending dress. She had sat, at first looking anxiously towards the
bed; but seeing that the patient remained quiet, and was busy with his
writing, she had softly moved her chair into its present place; partly,
as it seemed, from an instinctive consciousness that he desired to avoid
observation; and partly that she might, unseen by him, give some vent to
the natural feelings she had hitherto suppressed.

Of all this, and much more, the rosy landlady of the Blue Dragon took
as accurate note and observation as only woman can take of woman. And at
length she said, in a voice too low, she knew, to reach the bed:

‘You have seen the gentleman in this way before, miss? Is he used to
these attacks?’

‘I have seen him very ill before, but not so ill as he has been
tonight.’

‘What a Providence!’ said the landlady of the Dragon, ‘that you had the
prescriptions and the medicines with you, miss!’

‘They are intended for such an emergency. We never travel without them.’

‘Oh!’ thought the hostess, ‘then we are in the habit of travelling, and
of travelling together.’

She was so conscious of expressing this in her face, that meeting
the young lady’s eyes immediately afterwards, and being a very honest
hostess, she was rather confused.

‘The gentleman--your grandpapa’--she resumed, after a short pause,
‘being so bent on having no assistance, must terrify you very much,
miss?’

‘I have been very much alarmed to-night. He--he is not my grandfather.’

‘Father, I should have said,’ returned the hostess, sensible of having
made an awkward mistake.

‘Nor my father’ said the young lady. ‘Nor,’ she added, slightly smiling
with a quick perception of what the landlady was going to add, ‘Nor my
uncle. We are not related.’

‘Oh dear me!’ returned the landlady, still more embarrassed than before;
‘how could I be so very much mistaken; knowing, as anybody in their
proper senses might that when a gentleman is ill, he looks so much older
than he really is? That I should have called you “Miss,” too, ma’am!’
But when she had proceeded thus far, she glanced involuntarily at the
third finger of the young lady’s left hand, and faltered again; for
there was no ring upon it.

‘When I told you we were not related,’ said the other mildly, but not
without confusion on her own part, ‘I meant not in any way. Not even by
marriage. Did you call me, Martin?’

‘Call you?’ cried the old man, looking quickly up, and hurriedly drawing
beneath the coverlet the paper on which he had been writing. ‘No.’

She had moved a pace or two towards the bed, but stopped immediately,
and went no farther.

‘No,’ he repeated, with a petulant emphasis. ‘Why do you ask me? If I
had called you, what need for such a question?’

‘It was the creaking of the sign outside, sir, I dare say,’ observed the
landlady; a suggestion by the way (as she felt a moment after she had
made it), not at all complimentary to the voice of the old gentleman.

‘No matter what, ma’am,’ he rejoined: ‘it wasn’t I. Why how you stand
there, Mary, as if I had the plague! But they’re all afraid of me,’ he
added, leaning helplessly backward on his pillow; ‘even she! There is a
curse upon me. What else have I to look for?’

‘Oh dear, no. Oh no, I’m sure,’ said the good-tempered landlady, rising,
and going towards him. ‘Be of better cheer, sir. These are only sick
fancies.’

‘What are only sick fancies?’ he retorted. ‘What do you know about
fancies? Who told you about fancies? The old story! Fancies!’

‘Only see again there, how you take one up!’ said the mistress of the
Blue Dragon, with unimpaired good humour. ‘Dear heart alive, there is
no harm in the word, sir, if it is an old one. Folks in good health have
their fancies, too, and strange ones, every day.’

Harmless as this speech appeared to be, it acted on the traveller’s
distrust, like oil on fire. He raised his head up in the bed, and,
fixing on her two dark eyes whose brightness was exaggerated by the
paleness of his hollow cheeks, as they in turn, together with his
straggling locks of long grey hair, were rendered whiter by the tight
black velvet skullcap which he wore, he searched her face intently.

‘Ah! you begin too soon,’ he said, in so low a voice that he seemed to
be thinking it, rather than addressing her. ‘But you lose no time. You
do your errand, and you earn your fee. Now, who may be your client?’

The landlady looked in great astonishment at her whom he called Mary,
and finding no rejoinder in the drooping face, looked back again at him.
At first she had recoiled involuntarily, supposing him disordered in
his mind; but the slow composure of his manner, and the settled purpose
announced in his strong features, and gathering, most of all, about his
puckered mouth, forbade the supposition.

‘Come,’ he said, ‘tell me who is it? Being here, it is not very hard for
me to guess, you may suppose.’

‘Martin,’ interposed the young lady, laying her hand upon his arm;
‘reflect how short a time we have been in this house, and that even your
name is unknown here.’

‘Unless,’ he said, ‘you--’ He was evidently tempted to express a
suspicion of her having broken his confidence in favour of the landlady,
but either remembering her tender nursing, or being moved in some sort
by her face, he checked himself, and changing his uneasy posture in the
bed, was silent.

‘There!’ said Mrs Lupin; for in that name the Blue Dragon was licensed
to furnish entertainment, both to man and beast. ‘Now, you will be well
again, sir. You forgot, for the moment, that there were none but friends
here.’

‘Oh!’ cried the old man, moaning impatiently, as he tossed one restless
arm upon the coverlet; ‘why do you talk to me of friends! Can you or
anybody teach me to know who are my friends, and who my enemies?’

‘At least,’ urged Mrs Lupin, gently, ‘this young lady is your friend, I
am sure.’

‘She has no temptation to be otherwise,’ cried the old man, like one
whose hope and confidence were utterly exhausted. ‘I suppose she is.
Heaven knows. There, let me try to sleep. Leave the candle where it is.’

As they retired from the bed, he drew forth the writing which had
occupied him so long, and holding it in the flame of the taper burnt
it to ashes. That done, he extinguished the light, and turning his face
away with a heavy sigh, drew the coverlet about his head, and lay quite
still.

This destruction of the paper, both as being strangely inconsistent with
the labour he had devoted to it, and as involving considerable danger of
fire to the Dragon, occasioned Mrs Lupin not a little consternation. But
the young lady evincing no surprise, curiosity, or alarm, whispered her,
with many thanks for her solicitude and company, that she would remain
there some time longer; and that she begged her not to share her watch,
as she was well used to being alone, and would pass the time in reading.

Mrs Lupin had her full share and dividend of that large capital of
curiosity which is inherited by her sex, and at another time it might
have been difficult so to impress this hint upon her as to induce her to
take it. But now, in sheer wonder and amazement at these mysteries, she
withdrew at once, and repairing straightway to her own little parlour
below stairs, sat down in her easy-chair with unnatural composure.
At this very crisis, a step was heard in the entry, and Mr Pecksniff,
looking sweetly over the half-door of the bar, and into the vista of
snug privacy beyond, murmured:

‘Good evening, Mrs Lupin!’

‘Oh dear me, sir!’ she cried, advancing to receive him, ‘I am so very
glad you have come.’

‘And I am very glad I have come,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘if I can be of
service. I am very glad I have come. What is the matter, Mrs Lupin?’

‘A gentleman taken ill upon the road, has been so very bad upstairs,
sir,’ said the tearful hostess.

‘A gentleman taken ill upon the road, has been so very bad upstairs, has
he?’ repeated Mr Pecksniff. ‘Well, well!’

Now there was nothing that one may call decidedly original in this
remark, nor can it be exactly said to have contained any wise precept
theretofore unknown to mankind, or to have opened any hidden source of
consolation; but Mr Pecksniff’s manner was so bland, and he nodded his
head so soothingly, and showed in everything such an affable sense of
his own excellence, that anybody would have been, as Mrs Lupin was,
comforted by the mere voice and presence of such a man; and, though he
had merely said ‘a verb must agree with its nominative case in number
and person, my good friend,’ or ‘eight times eight are sixty-four, my
worthy soul,’ must have felt deeply grateful to him for his humanity and
wisdom.

‘And how,’ asked Mr Pecksniff, drawing off his gloves and warming his
hands before the fire, as benevolently as if they were somebody else’s,
not his; ‘and how is he now?’

‘He is better, and quite tranquil,’ answered Mrs Lupin.

‘He is better, and quite tranquil,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Very well! Ve-ry
well!’

Here again, though the statement was Mrs Lupin’s and not Mr Pecksniff’s,
Mr Pecksniff made it his own and consoled her with it. It was not much
when Mrs Lupin said it, but it was a whole book when Mr Pecksniff said
it. ‘I observe,’ he seemed to say, ‘and through me, morality in general
remarks, that he is better and quite tranquil.’

‘There must be weighty matters on his mind, though,’ said the hostess,
shaking her head, ‘for he talks, sir, in the strangest way you ever
heard. He is far from easy in his thoughts, and wants some proper advice
from those whose goodness makes it worth his having.’

‘Then,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘he is the sort of customer for me.’ But
though he said this in the plainest language, he didn’t speak a word. 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. In course of time his eyes opened; and he
lay for a few moments as people newly roused sometimes will, gazing
indolently at his visitor, without any distinct consciousness of his
presence.

There was nothing remarkable in these proceedings, except the influence
they worked on Mr Pecksniff, which could hardly have been surpassed by
the most marvellous of natural phenomena. Gradually his hands became
tightly clasped upon the elbows of the chair, his eyes dilated with
surprise, his mouth opened, his hair stood more erect upon his forehead
than its custom was, until, at length, when the old man rose in bed,
and stared at him with scarcely less emotion than he showed himself, the
Pecksniff doubts were all resolved, and he exclaimed aloud:

‘You ARE Martin Chuzzlewit!’

His consternation of surprise was so genuine, that the old man, with all
the disposition that he clearly entertained to believe it assumed, was
convinced of its reality.

‘I am Martin Chuzzlewit,’ he said, bitterly: ‘and Martin Chuzzlewit
wishes you had been hanged, before you had come here to disturb him in
his sleep. Why, I dreamed of this fellow!’ he said, lying down again,
and turning away his face, ‘before I knew that he was near me!’

‘My good cousin--’ said Mr Pecksniff.

‘There! His very first words!’ cried the old man, shaking his grey head
to and fro upon the pillow, and throwing up his hands. ‘In his very
first words he asserts his relationship! I knew he would; they all do
it! Near or distant, blood or water, it’s all one. Ugh! What a calendar
of deceit, and lying, and false-witnessing, the sound of any word of
kindred opens before me!’

‘Pray do not be hasty, Mr Chuzzlewit,’ said Pecksniff, in a tone that
was at once in the sublimest degree compassionate and dispassionate;
for he had by this time recovered from his surprise, and was in full
possession of his virtuous self. ‘You will regret being hasty, I know
you will.’

‘You know!’ said Martin, contemptuously.

‘Yes,’ retorted Mr Pecksniff. ‘Aye, aye, Mr Chuzzlewit; and don’t
imagine that I mean to court or flatter you; for nothing is further from
my intention. Neither, sir, need you entertain the least misgiving that
I shall repeat that obnoxious word which has given you so much offence
already. Why should I? What do I expect or want from you? There is
nothing in your possession that I know of, Mr Chuzzlewit, which is much
to be coveted for the happiness it brings you.’

‘That’s true enough,’ muttered the old man.

‘Apart from that consideration,’ said Mr Pecksniff, watchful of the
effect he made, ‘it must be plain to you (I am sure) by this time, that
if I had wished to insinuate myself into your good opinion, I should
have been, of all things, careful not to address you as a relative;
knowing your humour, and being quite certain beforehand that I could not
have a worse letter of recommendation.’

Martin made not any verbal answer; but he as clearly implied though only
by a motion of his legs beneath the bed-clothes, that there was reason
in this, and that he could not dispute it, as if he had said as much in
good set terms.

‘No,’ said Mr Pecksniff, keeping his hand in his waistcoat as though
he were ready, on the shortest notice, to produce his heart for
Martin Chuzzlewit’s inspection, ‘I came here to offer my services to
a stranger. I make no offer of them to you, because I know you would
distrust me if I did. But lying on that bed, sir, I regard you as a
stranger, and I have just that amount of interest in you which I hope I
should feel in any stranger, circumstanced as you are. Beyond that, I am
quite as indifferent to you, Mr Chuzzlewit, as you are to me.’

Having said which, Mr Pecksniff threw himself back in the easy-chair;
so radiant with ingenuous honesty, that Mrs Lupin almost wondered not to
see a stained-glass Glory, such as the Saint wore in the church, shining
about his head.

A long pause succeeded. The old man, with increased restlessness,
changed his posture several times. Mrs Lupin and the young lady gazed
in silence at the counterpane. Mr Pecksniff toyed abstractedly with his
eye-glass, and kept his eyes shut, that he might ruminate the better.

‘Eh?’ he said at last, opening them suddenly, and looking towards the
bed. ‘I beg your pardon. I thought you spoke. Mrs Lupin,’ he continued,
slowly rising ‘I am not aware that I can be of any service to you here.
The gentleman is better, and you are as good a nurse as he can have.
Eh?’

This last note of interrogation bore reference to another change
of posture on the old man’s part, which brought his face towards Mr
Pecksniff for the first time since he had turned away from him.

‘If you desire to speak to me before I go, sir,’ continued that
gentleman, after another pause, ‘you may command my leisure; but I
must stipulate, in justice to myself, that you do so as to a stranger,
strictly as to a stranger.’

Now if Mr Pecksniff knew, from anything Martin Chuzzlewit had expressed
in gestures, that he wanted to speak to him, he could only have found it
out on some such principle as prevails in melodramas, and in virtue of
which the elderly farmer with the comic son always knows what the dumb
girl means when she takes refuge in his garden, and relates her personal
memoirs in incomprehensible pantomime. But without stopping to make any
inquiry on this point, Martin Chuzzlewit signed to his young companion
to withdraw, which she immediately did, along with the landlady leaving
him and Mr Pecksniff alone together. For some time they looked at each
other in silence; or rather the old man looked at Mr Pecksniff, and Mr
Pecksniff again closing his eyes on all outward objects, took an inward
survey of his own breast. That it amply repaid him for his trouble,
and afforded a delicious and enchanting prospect, was clear from the
expression of his face.

‘You wish me to speak to you as to a total stranger,’ said the old man,
‘do you?’

Mr Pecksniff replied, by a shrug of his shoulders and an apparent
turning round of his eyes in their sockets before he opened them, that
he was still reduced to the necessity of entertaining that desire.

‘You shall be gratified,’ said Martin. ‘Sir, I am a rich man. Not so
rich as some suppose, perhaps, but yet wealthy. I am not a miser sir,
though even that charge is made against me, as I hear, and currently
believed. I have no pleasure in hoarding. I have no pleasure in the
possession of money, The devil that we call by that name can give me
nothing but unhappiness.’

It would be no description of Mr Pecksniff’s gentleness of manner to
adopt the common parlance, and say that he looked at this moment as if
butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. He rather looked as if any quantity
of butter might have been made out of him, by churning the milk of human
kindness, as it spouted upwards from his heart.

‘For the same reason that I am not a hoarder of money,’ said the old
man, ‘I am not lavish of it. Some people find their gratification in
storing it up; and others theirs in parting with it; but I have no
gratification connected with the thing. Pain and bitterness are the only
goods it ever could procure for me. I hate it. It is a spectre walking
before me through the world, and making every social pleasure hideous.’

A thought arose in Pecksniff’s mind, which must have instantly mounted
to his face, or Martin Chuzzlewit would not have resumed as quickly and
as sternly as he did:

‘You would advise me for my peace of mind, to get rid of this source of
misery, and transfer it to some one who could bear it better. Even you,
perhaps, would rid me of a burden under which I suffer so grievously.
But, kind stranger,’ said the old man, whose every feature darkened as
he spoke, ‘good Christian stranger, that is a main part of my trouble.
In other hands, I have known money do good; in other hands I have known
it triumphed in, and boasted of with reason, as the master-key to all
the brazen gates that close upon the paths to worldly honour,
fortune, and enjoyment. To what man or woman; to what worthy, honest,
incorruptible creature; shall I confide such a talisman, either now
or when I die? Do you know any such person? YOUR virtues are of course
inestimable, but can you tell me of any other living creature who will
bear the test of contact with myself?’

‘Of contact with yourself, sir?’ echoed Mr Pecksniff.

‘Aye,’ returned the old man, ‘the test of contact with me--with me. You
have heard of him whose misery (the gratification of his own foolish
wish) was, that he turned every thing he touched into gold. The curse
of my existence, and the realisation of my own mad desire is that by the
golden standard which I bear about me, I am doomed to try the metal of
all other men, and find it false and hollow.’

Mr Pecksniff shook his head, and said, ‘You think so.’

‘Oh yes,’ cried the old man, ‘I think so! and in your telling me “I
think so,” I recognize the true unworldly ring of YOUR metal. I tell
you, man,’ he added, with increasing bitterness, ‘that I have gone, a
rich man, among people of all grades and kinds; relatives, friends, and
strangers; among people in whom, when I was poor, I had confidence, and
justly, for they never once deceived me then, or, to me, wronged each
other. But I have never found one nature, no, not one, in which, being
wealthy and alone, I was not forced to detect the latent corruption that
lay hid within it waiting for such as I to bring it forth. Treachery,
deceit, and low design; hatred of competitors, real or fancied, for my
favour; meanness, falsehood, baseness, and servility; or,’ and here
he looked closely in his cousin’s eyes, ‘or an assumption of honest
independence, almost worse than all; these are the beauties which my
wealth has brought to light. Brother against brother, child against
parent, friends treading on the faces of friends, this is the social
company by whom my way has been attended. There are stories told--they
may be true or false--of rich men who, in the garb of poverty, have
found out virtue and rewarded it. They were dolts and idiots for their
pains. They should have made the search in their own characters. They
should have shown themselves fit objects to be robbed and preyed upon
and plotted against and adulated by any knaves, who, but for joy, would
have spat upon their coffins when they died their dupes; and then their
search would have ended as mine has done, and they would be what I am.’

Mr Pecksniff, not at all knowing what it might be best to say in the
momentary pause which ensued upon these remarks, made an elaborate
demonstration of intending to deliver something very oracular indeed;
trusting to the certainty of the old man interrupting him, before he
should utter a word. Nor was he mistaken, for Martin Chuzzlewit having
taken breath, went on to say:

‘Hear me to an end; judge what profit you are like to gain from any
repetition of this visit; and leave me. I have so corrupted and changed
the nature of all those who have ever attended on me, by breeding
avaricious plots and hopes within them; I have engendered such domestic
strife and discord, by tarrying even with members of my own family; I
have been such a lighted torch in peaceful homes, kindling up all the
inflammable gases and vapours in their moral atmosphere, which, but for
me, might have proved harmless to the end, that I have, I may say, fled
from all who knew me, and taking refuge in secret places have lived, of
late, the life of one who is hunted. The young girl whom you just now
saw--what! your eye lightens when I talk of her! You hate her already,
do you?’

‘Upon my word, sir!’ said Mr Pecksniff, laying his hand upon his breast,
and dropping his eyelids.

‘I forgot,’ cried the old man, looking at him with a keenness which the
other seemed to feel, although he did not raise his eyes so as to see
it. ‘I ask your pardon. I forgot you were a stranger. For the moment
you reminded me of one Pecksniff, a cousin of mine. As I was saying--the
young girl whom you just now saw, is an orphan child, whom, with one
steady purpose, I have bred and educated, or, if you prefer the word,
adopted. For a year or more she has been my constant companion, and she
is my only one. I have taken, as she knows, a solemn oath never to
leave her sixpence when I die, but while I live I make her an annual
allowance; not extravagant in its amount and yet not stinted. There is
a compact between us that no term of affectionate cajolery shall ever be
addressed by either to the other, but that she shall call me always by
my Christian name; I her, by hers. She is bound to me in life by ties
of interest, and losing by my death, and having no expectation
disappointed, will mourn it, perhaps; though for that I care little.
This is the only kind of friend I have or will have. Judge from such
premises what a profitable hour you have spent in coming here, and leave
me, to return no more.’

With these words, the old man fell slowly back upon his pillow. Mr
Pecksniff as slowly rose, and, with a prefatory hem, began as follows:

‘Mr Chuzzlewit.’

‘There. Go!’ interposed the other. ‘Enough of this. I am weary of you.’

‘I am sorry for that, sir,’ rejoined Mr Pecksniff, ‘because I have a
duty to discharge, from which, depend upon it, I shall not shrink. No,
sir, I shall not shrink.’

It is a lamentable fact, that as Mr Pecksniff stood erect beside the
bed, in all the dignity of Goodness, and addressed him thus, the old man
cast an angry glance towards the candlestick, as if he were possessed
by a strong inclination to launch it at his cousin’s head. But he
constrained himself, and pointing with his finger to the door, informed
him that his road lay there.

‘Thank you,’ said Mr Pecksniff; ‘I am aware of that. I am going.
But before I go, I crave your leave to speak, and more than that, Mr
Chuzzlewit, I must and will--yes indeed, I repeat it, must and will--be
heard. I am not surprised, sir, at anything you have told me tonight.
It is natural, very natural, and the greater part of it was known to
me before. I will not say,’ continued Mr Pecksniff, drawing out his
pocket-handkerchief, and winking with both eyes at once, as it were,
against his will, ‘I will not say that you are mistaken in me. While
you are in your present mood I would not say so for the world. I almost
wish, indeed, that I had a different nature, that I might repress even
this slight confession of weakness; which I cannot disguise from you;
which I feel is humiliating; but which you will have the goodness to
excuse. We will say, if you please,’ added Mr Pecksniff, with great
tenderness of manner, ‘that it arises from a cold in the head, or is
attributable to snuff, or smelling-salts, or onions, or anything but the
real cause.’

Here he paused for an instant, and concealed his face behind his
pocket-handkerchief. Then, smiling faintly, and holding the bed
furniture with one hand, he resumed:

‘But, Mr Chuzzlewit, while I am forgetful of myself, I owe it to myself,
and to my character--aye, sir, and I HAVE a character which is very dear
to me, and will be the best inheritance of my two daughters--to tell
you, on behalf of another, that your conduct is wrong, unnatural,
indefensible, monstrous. And I tell you, sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff,
towering on tiptoe among the curtains, as if he were literally rising
above all worldly considerations, and were fain to hold on tight, to
keep himself from darting skyward like a rocket, ‘I tell you without
fear or favour, that it will not do for you to be unmindful of your
grandson, young Martin, who has the strongest natural claim upon you.
It will not do, sir,’ repeated Mr Pecksniff, shaking his head. ‘You may
think it will do, but it won’t. You must provide for that young man;
you shall provide for him; you WILL provide for him. I believe,’ said Mr
Pecksniff, glancing at the pen-and-ink, ‘that in secret you have already
done so. Bless you for doing so. Bless you for doing right, sir. Bless
you for hating me. And good night!’

So saying, Mr Pecksniff waved his right hand with much solemnity, and
once more inserting it in his waistcoat, departed. There was emotion in
his manner, but his step was firm. Subject to human weaknesses, he was
upheld by conscience.

Martin lay for some time, with an expression on his face of silent
wonder, not unmixed with rage; at length he muttered in a whisper:

‘What does this mean? Can the false-hearted boy have chosen such a
tool as yonder fellow who has just gone out? Why not! He has conspired
against me, like the rest, and they are but birds of one feather. A new
plot; a new plot! Oh self, self, self! At every turn nothing but self!’

He fell to trifling, as he ceased to speak, with the ashes of the burnt
paper in the candlestick. He did so, at first, in pure abstraction, but
they presently became the subject of his thoughts.

‘Another will made and destroyed,’ he said, ‘nothing determined on,
nothing done, and I might have died to-night! I plainly see to what foul
uses all this money will be put at last,’ he cried, almost writhing in
the bed; ‘after filling me with cares and miseries all my life, it will
perpetuate discord and bad passions when I am dead. So it always is.
What lawsuits grow out of the graves of rich men, every day; sowing
perjury, hatred, and lies among near kindred, where there should be
nothing but love! Heaven help us, we have much to answer for! Oh self,
self, self! Every man for himself, and no creature for me!’

Universal self! Was there nothing of its shadow in these reflections,
and in the history of Martin Chuzzlewit, on his own showing?



CHAPTER FOUR

FROM WHICH IT WILL APPEAR THAT IF UNION BE STRENGTH, AND FAMILY
AFFECTION BE PLEASANT TO CONTEMPLATE, THE CHUZZLEWITS WERE THE STRONGEST
AND MOST AGREEABLE FAMILY IN THE WORLD


That worthy man Mr Pecksniff having taken leave of his cousin in the
solemn terms recited in the last chapter, withdrew to his own home, and
remained there three whole days; not so much as going out for a walk
beyond the boundaries of his own garden, lest he should be hastily
summoned to the bedside of his penitent and remorseful relative,
whom, in his ample benevolence, he had made up his mind to forgive
unconditionally, and to love on any terms. But such was the obstinacy
and such the bitter nature of that stern old man, that no repentant
summons came; and the fourth day found Mr Pecksniff apparently much
farther from his Christian object than the first.

During the whole of this interval, he haunted the Dragon at all times
and seasons in the day and night, and, returning good for evil evinced
the deepest solicitude in the progress of the obdurate invalid, in so
much that Mrs Lupin was fairly melted by his disinterested anxiety (for
he often particularly required her to take notice that he would do the
same by any stranger or pauper in the like condition), and shed many
tears of admiration and delight.

Meantime, old Martin Chuzzlewit remained shut up in his own chamber, and
saw no person but his young companion, saving the hostess of the Blue
Dragon, who was, at certain times, admitted to his presence. So surely
as she came into the room, however, Martin feigned to fall asleep. It
was only when he and the young lady were alone, that he would utter a
word, even in answer to the simplest inquiry; though Mr Pecksniff
could make out, by hard listening at the door, that they two being left
together, he was talkative enough.

It happened on the fourth evening, that Mr Pecksniff walking, as usual,
into the bar of the Dragon and finding no Mrs Lupin there, went straight
upstairs; purposing, in the fervour of his affectionate zeal, to apply
his ear once more to the keyhole, and quiet his mind by assuring himself
that the hard-hearted patient was going on well. It happened that Mr
Pecksniff, coming softly upon the dark passage into which a spiral ray
of light usually darted through the same keyhole, was astonished to find
no such ray visible; and it happened that Mr Pecksniff, when he had felt
his way to the chamber-door, stooping hurriedly down to ascertain by
personal inspection whether the jealousy of the old man had caused this
keyhole to be stopped on the inside, brought his head into such violent
contact with another head that he could not help uttering in an audible
voice the monosyllable ‘Oh!’ which was, as it were, sharply unscrewed
and jerked out of him by very anguish. It happened then, and lastly,
that Mr Pecksniff found himself immediately collared by something which
smelt like several damp umbrellas, a barrel of beer, a cask of warm
brandy-and-water, and a small parlour-full of stale tobacco smoke,
mixed; and was straightway led downstairs into the bar from which he
had lately come, where he found himself standing opposite to, and in
the grasp of, a perfectly strange gentleman of still stranger appearance
who, with his disengaged hand, rubbed his own head very hard, and looked
at him, Pecksniff, with an evil countenance.

The gentleman was of that order of appearance which is currently termed
shabby-genteel, though in respect of his dress he can hardly be said to
have been in any extremities, as his fingers were a long way out of his
gloves, and the soles of his feet were at an inconvenient distance from
the upper leather of his boots. His nether garments were of a
bluish grey--violent in its colours once, but sobered now by age and
dinginess--and were so stretched and strained in a tough conflict
between his braces and his straps, that they appeared every moment in
danger of flying asunder at the knees. His coat, in colour blue and of
a military cut, was buttoned and frogged up to his chin. His cravat was,
in hue and pattern, like one of those mantles which hairdressers are
accustomed to wrap about their clients, during the progress of the
professional mysteries. His hat had arrived at such a pass that it would
have been hard to determine whether it was originally white or black.
But he wore a moustache--a shaggy moustache too; nothing in the meek and
merciful way, but quite in the fierce and scornful style; the regular
Satanic sort of thing--and he wore, besides, a vast quantity of
unbrushed hair. He was very dirty and very jaunty; very bold and very
mean; very swaggering and very slinking; very much like a man who might
have been something better, and unspeakably like a man who deserved to
be something worse.

‘You were eaves-dropping at that door, you vagabond!’ said this
gentleman.

Mr Pecksniff cast him off, as Saint George might have repudiated the
Dragon in that animal’s last moments, and said:

‘Where is Mrs Lupin, I wonder! can the good woman possibly be aware that
there is a person here who--’

‘Stay!’ said the gentleman. ‘Wait a bit. She DOES know. What then?’

‘What then, sir?’ cried Mr Pecksniff. ‘What then? Do you know, sir,
that I am the friend and relative of that sick gentleman? That I am his
protector, his guardian, his--’

‘Not his niece’s husband,’ interposed the stranger, ‘I’ll be sworn; for
he was there before you.’

‘What do you mean?’ said Mr Pecksniff, with indignant surprise. ‘What do
you tell me, sir?’

‘Wait a bit!’ cried the other, ‘Perhaps you are a cousin--the cousin who
lives in this place?’

‘I AM the cousin who lives in this place,’ replied the man of worth.

‘Your name is Pecksniff?’ said the gentleman.

‘It is.’

‘I am proud to know you, and I ask your pardon,’ said the gentleman,
touching his hat, and subsequently diving behind his cravat for a
shirt-collar, which however he did not succeed in bringing to the
surface. ‘You behold in me, sir, one who has also an interest in that
gentleman upstairs. Wait a bit.’

As he said this, he touched the tip of his high nose, by way of
intimation that he would let Mr Pecksniff into a secret presently; and
pulling off his hat, began to search inside the crown among a mass of
crumpled documents and small pieces of what may be called the bark of
broken cigars; whence he presently selected the cover of an old letter,
begrimed with dirt and redolent of tobacco.

‘Read that,’ he cried, giving it to Mr Pecksniff.

‘This is addressed to Chevy Slyme, Esquire,’ said that gentleman.

‘You know Chevy Slyme, Esquire, I believe?’ returned the stranger.

Mr Pecksniff shrugged his shoulders as though he would say ‘I know there
is such a person, and I am sorry for it.’

‘Very good,’ remarked the gentleman. ‘That is my interest and business
here.’ With that he made another dive for his shirt-collar and brought
up a string.

‘Now, this is very distressing, my friend,’ said Mr Pecksniff, shaking
his head and smiling composedly. ‘It is very distressing to me, to be
compelled to say that you are not the person you claim to be. I know Mr
Slyme, my friend; this will not do; honesty is the best policy you had
better not; you had indeed.’

‘Stop’ cried the gentleman, stretching forth his right arm, which was
so tightly wedged into his threadbare sleeve that it looked like a cloth
sausage. ‘Wait a bit!’

He paused to establish himself immediately in front of the fire with his
back towards it. Then gathering the skirts of his coat under his left
arm, and smoothing his moustache with his right thumb and forefinger, he
resumed:

‘I understand your mistake, and I am not offended. Why? Because it’s
complimentary. You suppose I would set myself up for Chevy Slyme.
Sir, if there is a man on earth whom a gentleman would feel proud and
honoured to be mistaken for, that man is my friend Slyme. For he is,
without an exception, the highest-minded, the most independent-spirited,
most original, spiritual, classical, talented, the most thoroughly
Shakspearian, if not Miltonic, and at the same time the most
disgustingly-unappreciated dog I know. But, sir, I have not the vanity
to attempt to pass for Slyme. Any other man in the wide world, I am
equal to; but Slyme is, I frankly confess, a great many cuts above me.
Therefore you are wrong.’

‘I judged from this,’ said Mr Pecksniff, holding out the cover of the
letter.

‘No doubt you did,’ returned the gentleman. ‘But, Mr Pecksniff, the
whole thing resolves itself into an instance of the peculiarities
of genius. Every man of true genius has his peculiarity. Sir, the
peculiarity of my friend Slyme is, that he is always waiting round the
corner. He is perpetually round the corner, sir. He is round the corner
at this instant. Now,’ said the gentleman, shaking his forefinger before
his nose, and planting his legs wider apart as he looked attentively in
Mr Pecksniff’s face, ‘that is a remarkably curious and interesting trait
in Mr Slyme’s character; and whenever Slyme’s life comes to be written,
that trait must be thoroughly worked out by his biographer or society
will not be satisfied. Observe me, society will not be satisfied!’

Mr Pecksniff coughed.

‘Slyme’s biographer, sir, whoever he may be,’ resumed the gentleman,
‘must apply to me; or, if I am gone to that what’s-his-name from which
no thingumbob comes back, he must apply to my executors for leave to
search among my papers. I have taken a few notes in my poor way, of some
of that man’s proceedings--my adopted brother, sir,--which would amaze
you. He made use of an expression, sir, only on the fifteenth of last
month when he couldn’t meet a little bill and the other party wouldn’t
renew, which would have done honour to Napoleon Bonaparte in addressing
the French army.’

‘And pray,’ asked Mr Pecksniff, obviously not quite at his ease, ‘what
may be Mr Slyme’s business here, if I may be permitted to inquire, who
am compelled by a regard for my own character to disavow all interest in
his proceedings?’

‘In the first place,’ returned the gentleman, ‘you will permit me to
say, that I object to that remark, and that I strongly and indignantly
protest against it on behalf of my friend Slyme. In the next place, you
will give me leave to introduce myself. My name, sir, is Tigg. The name
of Montague Tigg will perhaps be familiar to you, in connection with the
most remarkable events of the Peninsular War?’

Mr Pecksniff gently shook his head.

‘No matter,’ said the gentleman. ‘That man was my father, and I bear his
name. I am consequently proud--proud as Lucifer. Excuse me one moment.
I desire my friend Slyme to be present at the remainder of this
conference.’

With this announcement he hurried away to the outer door of the Blue
Dragon, and almost immediately returned with a companion shorter than
himself, who was wrapped in an old blue camlet cloak with a lining of
faded scarlet. His sharp features being much pinched and nipped by long
waiting in the cold, and his straggling red whiskers and frowzy hair
being more than usually dishevelled from the same cause, he certainly
looked rather unwholesome and uncomfortable than Shakspearian or
Miltonic.

‘Now,’ said Mr Tigg, clapping one hand on the shoulder of his
prepossessing friend, and calling Mr Pecksniff’s attention to him with
the other, ‘you two are related; and relations never did agree, and
never will; which is a wise dispensation and an inevitable thing, or
there would be none but family parties, and everybody in the world
would bore everybody else to death. If you were on good terms, I should
consider you a most confoundedly unnatural pair; but standing
towards each other as you do, I took upon you as a couple of devilish
deep-thoughted fellows, who may be reasoned with to any extent.’

Here Mr Chevy Slyme, whose great abilities seemed one and all to point
towards the sneaking quarter of the moral compass, nudged his friend
stealthily with his elbow, and whispered in his ear.

‘Chiv,’ said Mr Tigg aloud, in the high tone of one who was not to
be tampered with. ‘I shall come to that presently. I act upon my own
responsibility, or not at all. To the extent of such a trifling loan
as a crownpiece to a man of your talents, I look upon Mr Pecksniff
as certain;’ and seeing at this juncture that the expression of Mr
Pecksniff’s face by no means betokened that he shared this certainty, Mr
Tigg laid his finger on his nose again for that gentleman’s private
and especial behoof; calling upon him thereby to take notice that the
requisition of small loans was another instance of the peculiarities of
genius as developed in his friend Slyme; that he, Tigg, winked at the
same, because of the strong metaphysical interest which these weaknesses
possessed; and that in reference to his own personal advocacy of such
small advances, he merely consulted the humour of his friend, without
the least regard to his own advantage or necessities.

‘Oh, Chiv, Chiv!’ added Mr Tigg, surveying his adopted brother with an
air of profound contemplation after dismissing this piece of pantomime.
‘You are, upon my life, a strange instance of the little frailties that
beset a mighty mind. If there had never been a telescope in the world,
I should have been quite certain from my observation of you, Chiv,
that there were spots on the sun! I wish I may die, if this isn’t the
queerest state of existence that we find ourselves forced into without
knowing why or wherefore, Mr Pecksniff! Well, never mind! Moralise as we
will, the world goes on. As Hamlet says, Hercules may lay about him with
his club in every possible direction, but he can’t prevent the cats from
making a most intolerable row on the roofs of the houses, or the
dogs from being shot in the hot weather if they run about the streets
unmuzzled. Life’s a riddle; a most infernally hard riddle to guess, Mr
Pecksniff. My own opinions, that like that celebrated conundrum, “Why’s
a man in jail like a man out of jail?” there’s no answer to it. Upon my
soul and body, it’s the queerest sort of thing altogether--but there’s
no use in talking about it. Ha! Ha!’

With which consolatory deduction from the gloomy premises recited,
Mr Tigg roused himself by a great effort, and proceeded in his former
strain.

‘Now I’ll tell you what it is. I’m a most confoundedly soft-hearted
kind of fellow in my way, and I cannot stand by, and see you two blades
cutting each other’s throats when there’s nothing to be got by it. Mr
Pecksniff, you’re the cousin of the testator upstairs and we’re the
nephew--I say we, meaning Chiv. Perhaps in all essential points you are
more nearly related to him than we are. Very good. If so, so be it. But
you can’t get at him, neither can we. I give you my brightest word of
honour, sir, that I’ve been looking through that keyhole with short
intervals of rest, ever since nine o’clock this morning, in expectation
of receiving an answer to one of the most moderate and gentlemanly
applications for a little temporary assistance--only fifteen pounds, and
MY security--that the mind of man can conceive. In the meantime, sir, he
is perpetually closeted with, and pouring his whole confidence into the
bosom of, a stranger. Now I say decisively with regard to this state of
circumstances, that it won’t do; that it won’t act; that it can’t be;
and that it must not be suffered to continue.’

‘Every man,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘has a right, an undoubted right, (which
I, for one, would not call in question for any earthly consideration; oh
no!) to regulate his own proceedings by his own likings and dislikings,
supposing they are not immoral and not irreligious. I may feel in my
own breast, that Mr Chuzzlewit does not regard--me, for instance; say
me--with exactly that amount of Christian love which should subsist
between us. I may feel grieved and hurt at the circumstance; still I
may not rush to the conclusion that Mr Chuzzlewit is wholly without a
justification in all his coldnesses. Heaven forbid! Besides; how, Mr
Tigg,’ continued Pecksniff even more gravely and impressively than he
had spoken yet, ‘how could Mr Chuzzlewit be prevented from having these
peculiar and most extraordinary confidences of which you speak; the
existence of which I must admit; and which I cannot but deplore--for
his sake? Consider, my good sir--’ and here Mr Pecksniff eyed him
wistfully--‘how very much at random you are talking.’

‘Why, as to that,’ rejoined Tigg, ‘it certainly is a difficult
question.’

‘Undoubtedly it is a difficult question,’ Mr Pecksniff answered. As he
spoke he drew himself aloft, and seemed to grow more mindful, suddenly,
of the moral gulf between himself and the creature he addressed.
‘Undoubtedly it is a very difficult question. And I am far from feeling
sure that it is a question any one is authorized to discuss. Good
evening to you.’

‘You don’t know that the Spottletoes are here, I suppose?’ said Mr Tigg.

‘What do you mean, sir? what Spottletoes?’ asked Pecksniff, stopping
abruptly on his way to the door.

‘Mr and Mrs Spottletoe,’ said Chevy Slyme, Esquire, speaking aloud for
the first time, and speaking very sulkily; shambling with his legs the
while. ‘Spottletoe married my father’s brother’s child, didn’t he?
And Mrs Spottletoe is Chuzzlewit’s own niece, isn’t she? She was his
favourite once. You may well ask what Spottletoes.’

‘Now upon my sacred word!’ cried Mr Pecksniff, looking upwards. ‘This is
dreadful. The rapacity of these people is absolutely frightful!’

‘It’s not only the Spottletoes either, Tigg,’ said Slyme, looking at
that gentleman and speaking at Mr Pecksniff. ‘Anthony Chuzzlewit and his
son have got wind of it, and have come down this afternoon. I saw ‘em
not five minutes ago, when I was waiting round the corner.’

‘Oh, Mammon, Mammon!’ cried Mr Pecksniff, smiting his forehead.

‘So there,’ said Slyme, regardless of the interruption, ‘are his brother
and another nephew for you, already.’

‘This is the whole thing, sir,’ said Mr Tigg; ‘this is the point and
purpose at which I was gradually arriving when my friend Slyme here,
with six words, hit it full. Mr Pecksniff, now that your cousin (and
Chiv’s uncle) has turned up, some steps must be taken to prevent his
disappearing again; and, if possible, to counteract the influence which
is exercised over him now, by this designing favourite. Everybody who
is interested feels it, sir. The whole family is pouring down to this
place. The time has come when individual jealousies and interests must
be forgotten for a time, sir, and union must be made against the
common enemy. When the common enemy is routed, you will all set up for
yourselves again; every lady and gentleman who has a part in the game,
will go in on their own account and bowl away, to the best of their
ability, at the testator’s wicket, and nobody will be in a worse
position than before. Think of it. Don’t commit yourself now. You’ll
find us at the Half Moon and Seven Stars in this village, at any time,
and open to any reasonable proposition. Hem! Chiv, my dear fellow, go
out and see what sort of a night it is.’

Mr Slyme lost no time in disappearing, and it is to be presumed in going
round the corner. Mr Tigg, planting his legs as wide apart as he could
be reasonably expected by the most sanguine man to keep them, shook his
head at Mr Pecksniff and smiled.

‘We must not be too hard,’ he said, ‘upon the little eccentricities of
our friend Slyme. You saw him whisper me?’

Mr Pecksniff had seen him.

‘You heard my answer, I think?’

Mr Pecksniff had heard it.

‘Five shillings, eh?’ said Mr Tigg, thoughtfully. ‘Ah! what an
extraordinary fellow! Very moderate too!’

Mr Pecksniff made no answer.

‘Five shillings!’ pursued Mr Tigg, musing; ‘and to be punctually repaid
next week; that’s the best of it. You heard that?’

Mr Pecksniff had not heard that.

‘No! You surprise me!’ cried Tigg. ‘That’s the cream of the thing sir. I
never knew that man fail to redeem a promise, in my life. You’re not in
want of change, are you?’

‘No,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘thank you. Not at all.’

‘Just so,’ returned Mr Tigg. ‘If you had been, I’d have got it for you.’
With that he began to whistle; but a dozen seconds had not elapsed when
he stopped short, and looking earnestly at Mr Pecksniff, said:

‘Perhaps you’d rather not lend Slyme five shillings?’

‘I would much rather not,’ Mr Pecksniff rejoined.

‘Egad!’ cried Tigg, gravely nodding his head as if some ground of
objection occurred to him at that moment for the first time, ‘it’s
very possible you may be right. Would you entertain the same sort of
objection to lending me five shillings now?’

‘Yes, I couldn’t do it, indeed,’ said Mr Pecksniff.

‘Not even half-a-crown, perhaps?’ urged Mr Tigg.

‘Not even half-a-crown.’

‘Why, then we come,’ said Mr Tigg, ‘to the ridiculously small amount of
eighteen pence. Ha! ha!’

‘And that,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘would be equally objectionable.’

On receipt of this assurance, Mr Tigg shook him heartily by both hands,
protesting with much earnestness, that he was one of the most consistent
and remarkable men he had ever met, and that he desired the honour
of his better acquaintance. He moreover observed that there were many
little characteristics about his friend Slyme, of which he could by no
means, as a man of strict honour, approve; but that he was prepared to
forgive him all these slight drawbacks, and much more, in consideration
of the great pleasure he himself had that day enjoyed in his social
intercourse with Mr Pecksniff, which had given him a far higher and more
enduring delight than the successful negotiation of any small loan on
the part of his friend could possibly have imparted. With which remarks
he would beg leave, he said, to wish Mr Pecksniff a very good evening.
And so he took himself off; as little abashed by his recent failure as
any gentleman would desire to be.

The meditations of Mr Pecksniff that evening at the bar of the Dragon,
and that night in his own house, were very serious and grave indeed; the
more especially as the intelligence he had received from Messrs Tigg and
Slyme touching the arrival of other members of the family, were fully
confirmed on more particular inquiry. For the Spottletoes had actually
gone straight to the Dragon, where they were at that moment housed and
mounting guard, and where their appearance had occasioned such a vast
sensation that Mrs Lupin, scenting their errand before they had been
under her roof half an hour, carried the news herself with all possible
secrecy straight to Mr Pecksniff’s house; indeed it was her great
caution in doing so which occasioned her to miss that gentleman, who
entered at the front door of the Dragon just as she emerged from
the back one. Moreover, Mr Anthony Chuzzlewit and his son Jonas were
economically quartered at the Half Moon and Seven Stars, which was an
obscure ale-house; and by the very next coach there came posting to the
scene of action, so many other affectionate members of the family (who
quarrelled with each other, inside and out, all the way down, to the
utter distraction of the coachman), that in less than four-and-twenty
hours the scanty tavern accommodation was at a premium, and all the
private lodgings in the place, amounting to full four beds and sofa,
rose cent per cent in the market.

In a word, things came to that pass that nearly the whole family sat
down before the Blue Dragon, and formally invested it; and Martin
Chuzzlewit was in a state of siege. But he resisted bravely; refusing
to receive all letters, messages, and parcels; obstinately declining to
treat with anybody; and holding out no hope or promise of capitulation.
Meantime the family forces were perpetually encountering each other
in divers parts of the neighbourhood; and, as no one branch of the
Chuzzlewit tree had ever been known to agree with another within the
memory of man, there was such a skirmishing, and flouting, and snapping
off of heads, in the metaphorical sense of that expression; such a
bandying of words and calling of names; such an upturning of noses and
wrinkling of brows; such a formal interment of good feelings and violent
resurrection of ancient grievances; as had never been known in those
quiet parts since the earliest record of their civilized existence.

At length, in utter despair and hopelessness, some few of the
belligerents began to speak to each other in only moderate terms of
mutual aggravation; and nearly all addressed themselves with a show of
tolerable decency to Mr Pecksniff, in recognition of his high character
and influential position. Thus, by little and little, they made common
cause of Martin Chuzzlewit’s obduracy, until it was agreed (if such a
word can be used in connection with the Chuzzlewits) that there should
be a general council and conference held at Mr Pecksniff’s house upon
a certain day at noon; which all members of the family who had brought
themselves within reach of the summons, were forthwith bidden and
invited, solemnly, to attend.

If ever Mr Pecksniff wore an apostolic look, he wore it on this
memorable day. If ever his unruffled smile proclaimed the words, ‘I am
a messenger of peace!’ that was its mission now. If ever man combined
within himself all the mild qualities of the lamb with a considerable
touch of the dove, and not a dash of the crocodile, or the least
possible suggestion of the very mildest seasoning of the serpent, that
man was he. And, oh, the two Miss Pecksniffs! Oh, the serene expression
on the face of Charity, which seemed to say, ‘I know that all my family
have injured me beyond the possibility of reparation, but I forgive
them, for it is my duty so to do!’ And, oh, the gay simplicity of Mercy;
so charming, innocent, and infant-like, that if she had gone out
walking by herself, and it had been a little earlier in the season, the
robin-redbreasts might have covered her with leaves against her will,
believing her to be one of the sweet children in the wood, come out of
it, and issuing forth once more to look for blackberries in the young
freshness of her heart! What words can paint the Pecksniffs in that
trying hour? Oh, none; for words have naughty company among them, and
the Pecksniffs were all goodness.

But when the company arrived! That was the time. When Mr Pecksniff,
rising from his seat at the table’s head, with a daughter on either
hand, received his guests in the best parlour and motioned them to
chairs, with eyes so overflowing and countenance so damp with gracious
perspiration, that he may be said to have been in a kind of moist
meekness! And the company; the jealous stony-hearted distrustful
company, who were all shut up in themselves, and had no faith in
anybody, and wouldn’t believe anything, and would no more allow
themselves to be softened or lulled asleep by the Pecksniffs than if
they had been so many hedgehogs or porcupines!

First, there was Mr Spottletoe, who was so bald and had such big
whiskers, that he seemed to have stopped his hair, by the sudden
application of some powerful remedy, in the very act of falling off his
head, and to have fastened it irrevocably on his face. Then there was
Mrs Spottletoe, who being much too slim for her years, and of a poetical
constitution, was accustomed to inform her more intimate friends that
the said whiskers were ‘the lodestar of her existence;’ and who could
now, by reason of her strong affection for her uncle Chuzzlewit, and the
shock it gave her to be suspected of testamentary designs upon him, do
nothing but cry--except moan. Then there were Anthony Chuzzlewit, and
his son Jonas; the face of the old man so sharpened by the wariness and
cunning of his life, that it seemed to cut him a passage through the
crowded room, as he edged away behind the remotest chairs; while the son
had so well profited by the precept and example of the father, that he
looked a year or two the elder of the twain, as they stood winking their
red eyes, side by side, and whispering to each other softly. Then there
was the widow of a deceased brother of Mr Martin Chuzzlewit, who being
almost supernaturally disagreeable, and having a dreary face and a bony
figure and a masculine voice, was, in right of these qualities, what is
commonly called a strong-minded woman; and who, if she could, would have
established her claim to the title, and have shown herself, mentally
speaking, a perfect Samson, by shutting up her brother-in-law in a
private madhouse, until he proved his complete sanity by loving her very
much. Beside her sat her spinster daughters, three in number, and of
gentlemanly deportment, who had so mortified themselves with tight
stays, that their tempers were reduced to something less than their
waists, and sharp lacing was expressed in their very noses. Then there
was a young gentleman, grandnephew of Mr Martin Chuzzlewit, very dark
and very hairy, and apparently born for no particular purpose but to
save looking-glasses the trouble of reflecting more than just the first
idea and sketchy notion of a face, which had never been carried out.
Then there was a solitary female cousin who was remarkable for nothing
but being very deaf, and living by herself, and always having the
toothache. Then there was George Chuzzlewit, a gay bachelor cousin,
who claimed to be young but had been younger, and was inclined to
corpulency, and rather overfed himself; to that extent, indeed, that his
eyes were strained in their sockets, as if with constant surprise; and
he had such an obvious disposition to pimples, that the bright spots on
his cravat, the rich pattern on his waistcoat, and even his glittering
trinkets, seemed to have broken out upon him, and not to have come into
existence comfortably. Last of all there were present Mr Chevy Slyme and
his friend Tigg. And it is worthy of remark, that although each person
present disliked the other, mainly because he or she DID belong to the
family, they one and all concurred in hating Mr Tigg because he didn’t.

Such was the pleasant little family circle now assembled in Mr
Pecksniff’s best parlour, agreeably prepared to fall foul of Mr
Pecksniff or anybody else who might venture to say anything whatever
upon any subject.

‘This,’ said Mr Pecksniff, rising and looking round upon them with
folded hands, ‘does me good. It does my daughters good. We thank you for
assembling here. We are grateful to you with our whole hearts. It is a
blessed distinction that you have conferred upon us, and believe me’--it
is impossible to conceive how he smiled here--‘we shall not easily
forget it.’

‘I am sorry to interrupt you, Pecksniff,’ remarked Mr Spottletoe, with
his whiskers in a very portentous state; ‘but you are assuming too much
to yourself, sir. Who do you imagine has it in contemplation to confer a
distinction upon YOU, sir?’

A general murmur echoed this inquiry, and applauded it.

‘If you are about to pursue the course with which you have begun, sir,’
pursued Mr Spottletoe in a great heat, and giving a violent rap on
the table with his knuckles, ‘the sooner you desist, and this assembly
separates, the better. I am no stranger, sir, to your preposterous
desire to be regarded as the head of this family, but I can tell YOU,
sir--’

Oh yes, indeed! HE tell. HE! What? He was the head, was he? From the
strong-minded woman downwards everybody fell, that instant, upon Mr
Spottletoe, who after vainly attempting to be heard in silence was
fain to sit down again, folding his arms and shaking his head most
wrathfully, and giving Mrs Spottletoe to understand in dumb show, that
that scoundrel Pecksniff might go on for the present, but he would cut
in presently, and annihilate him.

‘I am not sorry,’ said Mr Pecksniff in resumption of his address, ‘I am
really not sorry that this little incident has happened. It is good to
feel that we are met here without disguise. It is good to know that we
have no reserve before each other, but are appearing freely in our own
characters.’

Here, the eldest daughter of the strong-minded woman rose a little way
from her seat, and trembling violently from head to foot, more as it
seemed with passion than timidity, expressed a general hope that some
people WOULD appear in their own characters, if it were only for such
a proceeding having the attraction of novelty to recommend it; and that
when they (meaning the some people before mentioned) talked about their
relations, they would be careful to observe who was present in company
at the time; otherwise it might come round to those relations’ ears, in
a way they little expected; and as to red noses (she observed) she
had yet to learn that a red nose was any disgrace, inasmuch as people
neither made nor coloured their own noses, but had that feature provided
for them without being first consulted; though even upon that branch of
the subject she had great doubts whether certain noses were redder than
other noses, or indeed half as red as some. This remark being received
with a shrill titter by the two sisters of the speaker, Miss Charity
Pecksniff begged with much politeness to be informed whether any of
those very low observations were levelled at her; and receiving no more
explanatory answer than was conveyed in the adage ‘Those the cap fits,
let them wear it,’ immediately commenced a somewhat acrimonious and
personal retort, wherein she was much comforted and abetted by her
sister Mercy, who laughed at the same with great heartiness; indeed
far more naturally than life. And it being quite impossible that any
difference of opinion can take place among women without every woman who
is within hearing taking active part in it, the strong-minded lady and
her two daughters, and Mrs Spottletoe, and the deaf cousin (who was
not at all disqualified from joining in the dispute by reason of being
perfectly unacquainted with its merits), one and all plunged into the
quarrel directly.

The two Miss Pecksniffs being a pretty good match for the three Miss
Chuzzlewits, and all five young ladies having, in the figurative
language of the day, a great amount of steam to dispose of, the
altercation would no doubt have been a long one but for the high valour
and prowess of the strong-minded woman, who, in right of her reputation
for powers of sarcasm, did so belabour and pummel Mrs Spottletoe with
taunting words that the poor lady, before the engagement was two minutes
old, had no refuge but in tears. These she shed so plentifully, and so
much to the agitation and grief of Mr Spottletoe, that that gentleman,
after holding his clenched fist close to Mr Pecksniff’s eyes, as if
it were some natural curiosity from the near inspection whereof he was
likely to derive high gratification and improvement, and after offering
(for no particular reason that anybody could discover) to kick Mr George
Chuzzlewit for, and in consideration of, the trifling sum of sixpence,
took his wife under his arm and indignantly withdrew. This diversion, by
distracting the attention of the combatants, put an end to the strife,
which, after breaking out afresh some twice or thrice in certain
inconsiderable spurts and dashes, died away in silence.

It was then that Mr Pecksniff once more rose from his chair. It was then
that the two Miss Pecksniffs composed themselves to look as if there
were no such beings--not to say present, but in the whole compass of the
world--as the three Miss Chuzzlewits; while the three Miss Chuzzlewits
became equally unconscious of the existence of the two Miss Pecksniffs.

‘It is to be lamented,’ said Mr Pecksniff, with a forgiving recollection
of Mr Spottletoe’s fist, ‘that our friend should have withdrawn himself
so very hastily, though we have cause for mutual congratulation even in
that, since we are assured that he is not distrustful of us in regard
to anything we may say or do while he is absent. Now, that is very
soothing, is it not?’

‘Pecksniff,’ said Anthony, who had been watching the whole party with
peculiar keenness from the first--‘don’t you be a hypocrite.’

‘A what, my good sir?’ demanded Mr Pecksniff.

‘A hypocrite.’

‘Charity, my dear,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘when I take my chamber
candlestick to-night, remind me to be more than usually particular in
praying for Mr Anthony Chuzzlewit; who has done me an injustice.’

This was said in a very bland voice, and aside, as being addressed to
his daughter’s private ear. With a cheerfulness of conscience, prompting
almost a sprightly demeanour, he then resumed:

‘All our thoughts centring in our very dear but unkind relative, and he
being as it were beyond our reach, we are met to-day, really as if we
were a funeral party, except--a blessed exception--that there is no body
in the house.’

The strong-minded lady was not at all sure that this was a blessed
exception. Quite the contrary.

‘Well, my dear madam!’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Be that as it may, here we
are; and being here, we are to consider whether it is possible by any
justifiable means--’

‘Why, you know as well as I,’ said the strong-minded lady, ‘that any
means are justifiable in such a case, don’t you?’

‘Very good, my dear madam, very good; whether it is possible by ANY
means, we will say by ANY means, to open the eyes of our valued
relative to his present infatuation. Whether it is possible to make
him acquainted by any means with the real character and purpose of that
young female whose strange, whose very strange position, in reference
to himself’--here Mr Pecksniff sunk his voice to an impressive
whisper--‘really casts a shadow of disgrace and shame upon this family;
and who, we know’--here he raised his voice again--‘else why is she his
companion? harbours the very basest designs upon his weakness and his
property.’

In their strong feeling on this point, they, who agreed in nothing else,
all concurred as one mind. Good Heaven, that she should harbour designs
upon his property! The strong-minded lady was for poison, her three
daughters were for Bridewell and bread-and-water, the cousin with
the toothache advocated Botany Bay, the two Miss Pecksniffs suggested
flogging. Nobody but Mr Tigg, who, notwithstanding his extreme
shabbiness, was still understood to be in some sort a lady’s man,
in right of his upper lip and his frogs, indicated a doubt of the
justifiable nature of these measures; and he only ogled the three Miss
Chuzzlewits with the least admixture of banter in his admiration, as
though he would observe, ‘You are positively down upon her to too great
an extent, my sweet creatures, upon my soul you are!’

‘Now,’ said Mr Pecksniff, crossing his two forefingers in a manner which
was at once conciliatory and argumentative; ‘I will not, upon the one
hand, go so far as to say that she deserves all the inflictions which
have been so very forcibly and hilariously suggested;’ one of his
ornamental sentences; ‘nor will I, upon the other, on any account
compromise my common understanding as a man, by making the assertion
that she does not. What I would observe is, that I think some practical
means might be devised of inducing our respected, shall I say our
revered--?’

‘No!’ interposed the strong-minded woman in a loud voice.

‘Then I will not,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘You are quite right, my
dear madam, and I appreciate and thank you for your discriminating
objection--our respected relative, to dispose himself to listen to the
promptings of nature, and not to the--’

‘Go on, Pa!’ cried Mercy.

‘Why, the truth is, my dear,’ said Mr Pecksniff, smiling upon his
assembled kindred, ‘that I am at a loss for a word. The name of those
fabulous animals (pagan, I regret to say) who used to sing in the water,
has quite escaped me.’

Mr George Chuzzlewit suggested ‘swans.’

‘No,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Not swans. Very like swans, too. Thank you.’

The nephew with the outline of a countenance, speaking for the first and
last time on that occasion, propounded ‘Oysters.’

‘No,’ said Mr Pecksniff, with his own peculiar urbanity, ‘nor oysters.
But by no means unlike oysters; a very excellent idea; thank you, my
dear sir, very much. Wait! Sirens. Dear me! sirens, of course. I think,
I say, that means might be devised of disposing our respected relative
to listen to the promptings of nature, and not to the siren-like
delusions of art. Now we must not lose sight of the fact that our
esteemed friend has a grandson, to whom he was, until lately, very much
attached, and whom I could have wished to see here to-day, for I have a
real and deep regard for him. A fine young man, a very fine young man!
I would submit to you, whether we might not remove Mr Chuzzlewit’s
distrust of us, and vindicate our own disinterestedness by--’

‘If Mr George Chuzzlewit has anything to say to ME,’ interposed the
strong-minded woman, sternly, ‘I beg him to speak out like a man; and
not to look at me and my daughters as if he could eat us.’

‘As to looking, I have heard it said, Mrs Ned,’ returned Mr George,
angrily, ‘that a cat is free to contemplate a monarch; and therefore
I hope I have some right, having been born a member of this family, to
look at a person who only came into it by marriage. As to eating, I
beg to say, whatever bitterness your jealousies and disappointed
expectations may suggest to you, that I am not a cannibal, ma’am.’

‘I don’t know that!’ cried the strong-minded woman.

‘At all events, if I was a cannibal,’ said Mr George Chuzzlewit, greatly
stimulated by this retort, ‘I think it would occur to me that a lady
who had outlived three husbands, and suffered so very little from their
loss, must be most uncommonly tough.’

The strong-minded woman immediately rose.

‘And I will further add,’ said Mr George, nodding his head violently at
every second syllable; ‘naming no names, and therefore hurting nobody
but those whose consciences tell them they are alluded to, that I think
it would be much more decent and becoming, if those who hooked and
crooked themselves into this family by getting on the blind side of some
of its members before marriage, and manslaughtering them afterwards by
crowing over them to that strong pitch that they were glad to die, would
refrain from acting the part of vultures in regard to other members of
this family who are living. I think it would be full as well, if not
better, if those individuals would keep at home, contenting themselves
with what they have got (luckily for them) already; instead of hovering
about, and thrusting their fingers into, a family pie, which they
flavour much more than enough, I can tell them, when they are fifty
miles away.’

‘I might have been prepared for this!’ cried the strong-minded woman,
looking about her with a disdainful smile as she moved towards the door,
followed by her three daughters. ‘Indeed I was fully prepared for it
from the first. What else could I expect in such an atmosphere as this!’

‘Don’t direct your halfpay-officers’ gaze at me, ma’am, if you please,’
interposed Miss Charity; ‘for I won’t bear it.’

This was a smart stab at a pension enjoyed by the strong-minded woman,
during her second widowhood and before her last coverture. It told
immensely.

‘I passed from the memory of a grateful country, you very miserable
minx,’ said Mrs Ned, ‘when I entered this family; and I feel now, though
I did not feel then, that it served me right, and that I lost my claim
upon the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland when I so degraded
myself. Now, my dears, if you’re quite ready, and have sufficiently
improved yourselves by taking to heart the genteel example of these two
young ladies, I think we’ll go. Mr Pecksniff, we are very much obliged
to you, really. We came to be entertained, and you have far surpassed
our utmost expectations, in the amusement you have provided for us.
Thank you. Good-bye!’

With such departing words, did this strong-minded female paralyse the
Pecksniffian energies; and so she swept out of the room, and out of
the house, attended by her daughters, who, as with one accord, elevated
their three noses in the air, and joined in a contemptuous titter.
As they passed the parlour window on the outside, they were seen to
counterfeit a perfect transport of delight among themselves; and
with this final blow and great discouragement for those within, they
vanished.

Before Mr Pecksniff or any of his remaining visitors could offer a
remark, another figure passed this window, coming, at a great rate in
the opposite direction; and immediately afterwards, Mr Spottletoe burst
into the chamber. Compared with his present state of heat, he had gone
out a man of snow or ice. His head distilled such oil upon his whiskers,
that they were rich and clogged with unctuous drops; his face was
violently inflamed, his limbs trembled; and he gasped and strove for
breath.

‘My good sir!’ cried Mr Pecksniff.

‘Oh yes!’ returned the other; ‘oh yes, certainly! Oh to be sure! Oh, of
course! You hear him? You hear him? all of you!’

‘What’s the matter?’ cried several voices.

‘Oh nothing!’ cried Spottletoe, still gasping. ‘Nothing at all! It’s of
no consequence! Ask him! HE’ll tell you!’

‘I do not understand our friend,’ said Mr Pecksniff, looking about him
in utter amazement. ‘I assure you that he is quite unintelligible to
me.’

‘Unintelligible, sir!’ cried the other. ‘Unintelligible! Do you mean
to say, sir, that you don’t know what has happened! That you haven’t
decoyed us here, and laid a plot and a plan against us! Will you venture
to say that you didn’t know Mr Chuzzlewit was going, sir, and that you
don’t know he’s gone, sir?’

‘Gone!’ was the general cry.

‘Gone,’ echoed Mr Spottletoe. ‘Gone while we were sitting here. Gone.
Nobody knows where he’s gone. Oh, of course not! Nobody knew he was
going. Oh, of course not! The landlady thought up to the very last
moment that they were merely going for a ride; she had no other
suspicion. Oh, of course not! She’s not this fellow’s creature. Oh, of
course not!’

Adding to these exclamations a kind of ironical howl, and gazing upon
the company for one brief instant afterwards, in a sudden silence, the
irritated gentleman started off again at the same tremendous pace, and
was seen no more.

It was in vain for Mr Pecksniff to assure them that this new and
opportune evasion of the family was at least as great a shock
and surprise to him as to anybody else. Of all the bullyings and
denunciations that were ever heaped on one unlucky head, none can
ever have exceeded in energy and heartiness those with which he was
complimented by each of his remaining relatives, singly, upon bidding
him farewell.

The moral position taken by Mr Tigg was something quite tremendous; and
the deaf cousin, who had the complicated aggravation of seeing all the
proceedings and hearing nothing but the catastrophe, actually scraped
her shoes upon the scraper, and afterwards distributed impressions of
them all over the top step, in token that she shook the dust from her
feet before quitting that dissembling and perfidious mansion.

Mr Pecksniff had, in short, but one comfort, and that was the knowledge
that all these his relations and friends had hated him to the very
utmost extent before; and that he, for his part, had not distributed
among them any more love than, with his ample capital in that respect,
he could comfortably afford to part with. This view of his affairs
yielded him great consolation; and the fact deserves to be noted, as
showing with what ease a good man may be consoled under circumstances of
failure and disappointment.



CHAPTER FIVE

CONTAINING A FULL ACCOUNT OF THE INSTALLATION OF MR PECKSNIFF’S NEW
PUPIL INTO THE BOSOM OF MR PECKSNIFF’S FAMILY. WITH ALL THE FESTIVITIES
HELD ON THAT OCCASION, AND THE GREAT ENJOYMENT OF MR PINCH


The best of architects and land surveyors kept a horse, in whom the
enemies already mentioned more than once in these pages pretended to
detect a fanciful resemblance to his master. Not in his outward
person, for he was a raw-boned, haggard horse, always on a much shorter
allowance of corn than Mr Pecksniff; but in his moral character,
wherein, said they, he was full of promise, but of no performance.
He was always in a manner, going to go, and never going. When at his
slowest rate of travelling he would sometimes lift up his legs so high,
and display such mighty action, that it was difficult to believe he was
doing less than fourteen miles an hour; and he was for ever so
perfectly satisfied with his own speed, and so little disconcerted by
opportunities of comparing himself with the fastest trotters, that the
illusion was the more difficult of resistance. He was a kind of animal
who infused into the breasts of strangers a lively sense of hope, and
possessed all those who knew him better with a grim despair. In what
respect, having these points of character, he might be fairly likened
to his master, that good man’s slanderers only can explain. But it is a
melancholy truth, and a deplorable instance of the uncharitableness of
the world, that they made the comparison.

In this horse, and the hooded vehicle, whatever its proper name might
be, to which he was usually harnessed--it was more like a gig with a
tumour than anything else--all Mr Pinch’s thoughts and wishes centred,
one bright frosty morning; for with this gallant equipage he was about
to drive to Salisbury alone, there to meet with the new pupil, and
thence to bring him home in triumph.

Blessings on thy simple heart, Tom Pinch, how proudly dost thou button
up that scanty coat, called by a sad misnomer, for these many years,
a ‘great’ one; and how thoroughly, as with thy cheerful voice thou
pleasantly adjurest Sam the hostler ‘not to let him go yet,’ dost thou
believe that quadruped desires to go, and would go if he might! Who
could repress a smile--of love for thee, Tom Pinch, and not in jest at
thy expense, for thou art poor enough already, Heaven knows--to think
that such a holiday as lies before thee should awaken that quick flow
and hurry of the spirits, in which thou settest down again, almost
untasted, on the kitchen window-sill, that great white mug (put by, by
thy own hands, last night, that breakfast might not hold thee late), and
layest yonder crust upon the seat beside thee, to be eaten on the road,
when thou art calmer in thy high rejoicing! Who, as thou drivest off, a
happy, man, and noddest with a grateful lovingness to Pecksniff in his
nightcap at his chamber-window, would not cry, ‘Heaven speed thee, Tom,
and send that thou wert going off for ever to some quiet home where thou
mightst live at peace, and sorrow should not touch thee!’

What better time for driving, riding, walking, moving through the air by
any means, than a fresh, frosty morning, when hope runs cheerily through
the veins with the brisk blood, and tingles in the frame from head to
foot! This was the glad commencement of a bracing day in early winter,
such as may put the languid summer season (speaking of it when it can’t
be had) to the blush, and shame the spring for being sometimes cold by
halves. The sheep-bells rang as clearly in the vigorous air, as if they
felt its wholesome influence like living creatures; the trees, in lieu
of leaves or blossoms, shed upon the ground a frosty rime that sparkled
as it fell, and might have been the dust of diamonds. So it was to Tom.
From cottage chimneys, smoke went streaming up high, high, as if the
earth had lost its grossness, being so fair, and must not be oppressed
by heavy vapour. The crust of ice on the else rippling brook was so
transparent, and so thin in texture, that the lively water might of its
own free will have stopped--in Tom’s glad mind it had--to look upon the
lovely morning. And lest the sun should break this charm too eagerly,
there moved between him and the ground, a mist like that which waits
upon the moon on summer nights--the very same to Tom--and wooed him to
dissolve it gently.

Tom Pinch went on; not fast, but with a sense of rapid motion, which did
just as well; and as he went, all kinds of things occurred to keep him
happy. Thus when he came within sight of the turnpike, and was--oh a
long way off!--he saw the tollman’s wife, who had that moment checked a
waggon, run back into the little house again like mad, to say (she knew)
that Mr Pinch was coming up. And she was right, for when he drew within
hail of the gate, forth rushed the tollman’s children, shrieking in tiny
chorus, ‘Mr Pinch!’ to Tom’s intense delight. The very tollman, though
an ugly chap in general, and one whom folks were rather shy of handling,
came out himself to take the toll, and give him rough good morning; and
that with all this, and a glimpse of the family breakfast on a little
round table before the fire, the crust Tom Pinch had brought away with
him acquired as rich a flavour as though it had been cut from a fairy
loaf.

But there was more than this. It was not only the married people and the
children who gave Tom Pinch a welcome as he passed. No, no. Sparkling
eyes and snowy breasts came hurriedly to many an upper casement as he
clattered by, and gave him back his greeting: not stinted either, but
sevenfold, good measure. They were all merry. They all laughed. And some
of the wickedest among them even kissed their hands as Tom looked back.
For who minded poor Mr Pinch? There was no harm in HIM.

And now the morning grew so fair, and all things were so wide awake and
gay, that the sun seeming to say--Tom had no doubt he said--‘I can’t
stand it any longer; I must have a look,’ streamed out in radiant
majesty. The mist, too shy and gentle for such lusty company, fled off,
quite scared, before it; and as it swept away, the hills and mounds and
distant pasture lands, teeming with placid sheep and noisy crows, came
out as bright as though they were unrolled bran new for the occasion. In
compliment to which discovery, the brook stood still no longer, but ran
briskly off to bear the tidings to the water-mill, three miles away.

Mr Pinch was jogging along, full of pleasant thoughts and cheerful
influences, when he saw, upon the path before him, going in the same
direction with himself, a traveller on foot, who walked with a light
quick step, and sang as he went--for certain in a very loud voice, but
not unmusically. He was a young fellow, of some five or six-and-twenty
perhaps, and was dressed in such a free and fly-away fashion, that the
long ends of his loose red neckcloth were streaming out behind him
quite as often as before; and the bunch of bright winter berries in the
buttonhole of his velveteen coat was as visible to Mr Pinch’s rearward
observation, as if he had worn that garment wrong side foremost. He
continued to sing with so much energy, that he did not hear the sound
of wheels until it was close behind him; when he turned a whimsical
face and a very merry pair of blue eyes on Mr Pinch, and checked himself
directly.

‘Why, Mark?’ said Tom Pinch, stopping. ‘Who’d have thought of seeing you
here? Well! this is surprising!’

Mark touched his hat, and said, with a very sudden decrease of vivacity,
that he was going to Salisbury.

‘And how spruce you are, too!’ said Mr Pinch, surveying him with great
pleasure. ‘Really, I didn’t think you were half such a tight-made
fellow, Mark!’

‘Thankee, Mr Pinch. Pretty well for that, I believe. It’s not my fault,
you know. With regard to being spruce, sir, that’s where it is, you
see.’ And here he looked particularly gloomy.

‘Where what is?’ Mr Pinch demanded.

‘Where the aggravation of it is. Any man may be in good spirits and good
temper when he’s well dressed. There an’t much credit in that. If I was
very ragged and very jolly, then I should begin to feel I had gained a
point, Mr Pinch.’

‘So you were singing just now, to bear up, as it were, against being
well dressed, eh, Mark?’ said Pinch.

‘Your conversation’s always equal to print, sir,’ rejoined Mark, with a
broad grin. ‘That was it.’

‘Well!’ cried Pinch, ‘you are the strangest young man, Mark, I ever knew
in my life. I always thought so; but now I am quite certain of it. I am
going to Salisbury, too. Will you get in? I shall be very glad of your
company.’

The young fellow made his acknowledgments and accepted the offer;
stepping into the carriage directly, and seating himself on the very
edge of the seat with his body half out of it, to express his being
there on sufferance, and by the politeness of Mr Pinch. As they went
along, the conversation proceeded after this manner.

‘I more than half believed, just now, seeing you so very smart,’ said
Pinch, ‘that you must be going to be married, Mark.’

‘Well, sir, I’ve thought of that, too,’ he replied. ‘There might be some
credit in being jolly with a wife, ‘specially if the children had the
measles and that, and was very fractious indeed. But I’m a’most afraid
to try it. I don’t see my way clear.’

‘You’re not very fond of anybody, perhaps?’ said Pinch.

‘Not particular, sir, I think.’

‘But the way would be, you know, Mark, according to your views of
things,’ said Mr Pinch, ‘to marry somebody you didn’t like, and who was
very disagreeable.’

‘So it would, sir; but that might be carrying out a principle a little
too far, mightn’t it?’

‘Perhaps it might,’ said Mr Pinch. At which they both laughed gayly.

‘Lord bless you, sir,’ said Mark, ‘you don’t half know me, though. I
don’t believe there ever was a man as could come out so strong under
circumstances that would make other men miserable, as I could, if I
could only get a chance. But I can’t get a chance. It’s my opinion
that nobody never will know half of what’s in me, unless something very
unexpected turns up. And I don’t see any prospect of that. I’m a-going
to leave the Dragon, sir.’

‘Going to leave the Dragon!’ cried Mr Pinch, looking at him with great
astonishment. ‘Why, Mark, you take my breath away!’

‘Yes, sir,’ he rejoined, looking straight before him and a long way off,
as men do sometimes when they cogitate profoundly. ‘What’s the use of my
stopping at the Dragon? It an’t at all the sort of place for ME. When
I left London (I’m a Kentish man by birth, though), and took that
situation here, I quite made up my mind that it was the dullest little
out-of-the-way corner in England, and that there would be some credit in
being jolly under such circumstances. But, Lord, there’s no dullness at
the Dragon! Skittles, cricket, quoits, nine-pins, comic songs, choruses,
company round the chimney corner every winter’s evening. Any man could
be jolly at the Dragon. There’s no credit in THAT.’

‘But if common report be true for once, Mark, as I think it is, being
able to confirm it by what I know myself,’ said Mr Pinch, ‘you are the
cause of half this merriment, and set it going.’

‘There may be something in that, too, sir,’ answered Mark. ‘But that’s
no consolation.’

‘Well!’ said Mr Pinch, after a short silence, his usually subdued tone
being even now more subdued than ever. ‘I can hardly think enough of
what you tell me. Why, what will become of Mrs Lupin, Mark?’

Mark looked more fixedly before him, and further off still, as he
answered that he didn’t suppose it would be much of an object to her.
There were plenty of smart young fellows as would be glad of the place.
He knew a dozen himself.

‘That’s probable enough,’ said Mr Pinch, ‘but I am not at all sure that
Mrs Lupin would be glad of them. Why, I always supposed that Mrs Lupin
and you would make a match of it, Mark; and so did every one, as far as
I know.’

‘I never,’ Mark replied, in some confusion, ‘said nothing as was in a
direct way courting-like to her, nor she to me, but I don’t know what I
mightn’t do one of these odd times, and what she mightn’t say in answer.
Well, sir, THAT wouldn’t suit.’

‘Not to be landlord of the Dragon, Mark?’ cried Mr Pinch.

‘No, sir, certainly not,’ returned the other, withdrawing his gaze from
the horizon, and looking at his fellow-traveller. ‘Why that would be the
ruin of a man like me. I go and sit down comfortably for life, and no
man never finds me out. What would be the credit of the landlord of the
Dragon’s being jolly? Why, he couldn’t help it, if he tried.’

‘Does Mrs Lupin know you are going to leave her?’ Mr Pinch inquired.

‘I haven’t broke it to her yet, sir, but I must. I’m looking out this
morning for something new and suitable,’ he said, nodding towards the
city.

‘What kind of thing now?’ Mr Pinch demanded.

‘I was thinking,’ Mark replied, ‘of something in the grave-digging.
way.’

‘Good gracious, Mark?’ cried Mr Pinch.

‘It’s a good damp, wormy sort of business, sir,’ said Mark, shaking his
head argumentatively, ‘and there might be some credit in being jolly,
with one’s mind in that pursuit, unless grave-diggers is usually given
that way; which would be a drawback. You don’t happen to know how that
is in general, do you, sir?’

‘No,’ said Mr Pinch, ‘I don’t indeed. I never thought upon the subject.’

‘In case of that not turning out as well as one could wish, you know,’
said Mark, musing again, ‘there’s other businesses. Undertaking now.
That’s gloomy. There might be credit to be gained there. A broker’s man
in a poor neighbourhood wouldn’t be bad perhaps. A jailor sees a deal of
misery. A doctor’s man is in the very midst of murder. A bailiff’s an’t
a lively office nat’rally. Even a tax-gatherer must find his feelings
rather worked upon, at times. There’s lots of trades in which I should
have an opportunity, I think.’

Mr Pinch was so perfectly overwhelmed by these remarks that he could
do nothing but occasionally exchange a word or two on some indifferent
subject, and cast sidelong glances at the bright face of his odd friend
(who seemed quite unconscious of his observation), until they reached a
certain corner of the road, close upon the outskirts of the city, when
Mark said he would jump down there, if he pleased.

‘But bless my soul, Mark,’ said Mr Pinch, who in the progress of
his observation just then made the discovery that the bosom of his
companion’s shirt was as much exposed as if it was Midsummer, and was
ruffled by every breath of air, ‘why don’t you wear a waistcoat?’

‘What’s the good of one, sir?’ asked Mark.

‘Good of one?’ said Mr Pinch. ‘Why, to keep your chest warm.’

‘Lord love you, sir!’ cried Mark, ‘you don’t know me. My chest don’t
want no warming. Even if it did, what would no waistcoat bring it to?
Inflammation of the lungs, perhaps? Well, there’d be some credit in
being jolly, with a inflammation of the lungs.’

As Mr Pinch returned no other answer than such as was conveyed in his
breathing very hard, and opening his eyes very wide, and nodding his
head very much, Mark thanked him for his ride, and without troubling
him to stop, jumped lightly down. And away he fluttered, with his red
neckerchief, and his open coat, down a cross-lane; turning back from
time to time to nod to Mr Pinch, and looking one of the most careless,
good-humoured comical fellows in life. His late companion, with a
thoughtful face pursued his way to Salisbury.

Mr Pinch had a shrewd notion that Salisbury was a very desperate sort of
place; an exceeding wild and dissipated city; and when he had put up the
horse, and given the hostler to understand that he would look in again
in the course of an hour or two to see him take his corn, he set forth
on a stroll about the streets with a vague and not unpleasant idea that
they teemed with all kinds of mystery and bedevilment. To one of
his quiet habits this little delusion was greatly assisted by the
circumstance of its being market-day, and the thoroughfares about the
market-place being filled with carts, horses, donkeys, baskets, waggons,
garden-stuff, meat, tripe, pies, poultry and huckster’s wares of every
opposite description and possible variety of character. Then there were
young farmers and old farmers with smock-frocks, brown great-coats, drab
great-coats, red worsted comforters, leather-leggings, wonderful shaped
hats, hunting-whips, and rough sticks, standing about in groups, or
talking noisily together on the tavern steps, or paying and receiving
huge amounts of greasy wealth, with the assistance of such bulky
pocket-books that when they were in their pockets it was apoplexy to
get them out, and when they were out it was spasms to get them in again.
Also there were farmers’ wives in beaver bonnets and red cloaks, riding
shaggy horses purged of all earthly passions, who went soberly into all
manner of places without desiring to know why, and who, if required,
would have stood stock still in a china shop, with a complete
dinner-service at each hoof. Also a great many dogs, who were strongly
interested in the state of the market and the bargains of their masters;
and a great confusion of tongues, both brute and human.

Mr Pinch regarded everything exposed for sale with great delight, and
was particularly struck by the itinerant cutlery, which he considered
of the very keenest kind, insomuch that he purchased a pocket knife with
seven blades in it, and not a cut (as he afterwards found out) among
them. When he had exhausted the market-place, and watched the farmers
safe into the market dinner, he went back to look after the horse.
Having seen him eat unto his heart’s content he issued forth again,
to wander round the town and regale himself with the shop windows;
previously taking a long stare at the bank, and wondering in what
direction underground the caverns might be where they kept the money;
and turning to look back at one or two young men who passed him, whom
he knew to be articled to solicitors in the town; and who had a sort of
fearful interest in his eyes, as jolly dogs who knew a thing or two, and
kept it up tremendously.

But the shops. First of all there were the jewellers’ shops, with all
the treasures of the earth displayed therein, and such large silver
watches hanging up in every pane of glass, that if they were anything
but first-rate goers it certainly was not because the works could
decently complain of want of room. In good sooth they were big enough,
and perhaps, as the saying is, ugly enough, to be the most correct of
all mechanical performers; in Mr Pinch’s eyes, however they were smaller
than Geneva ware; and when he saw one very bloated watch announced as a
repeater, gifted with the uncommon power of striking every quarter of an
hour inside the pocket of its happy owner, he almost wished that he were
rich enough to buy it.

But what were even gold and silver, precious stones and clockwork, to
the bookshops, whence a pleasant smell of paper freshly pressed came
issuing forth, awakening instant recollections of some new grammar had
at school, long time ago, with ‘Master Pinch, Grove House Academy,’
inscribed in faultless writing on the fly-leaf! That whiff of russia
leather, too, and all those rows on rows of volumes neatly ranged
within--what happiness did they suggest! And in the window were
the spick-and-span new works from London, with the title-pages, and
sometimes even the first page of the first chapter, laid wide open;
tempting unwary men to begin to read the book, and then, in the
impossibility of turning over, to rush blindly in, and buy it! Here too
were the dainty frontispiece and trim vignette, pointing like handposts
on the outskirts of great cities, to the rich stock of incident beyond;
and store of books, with many a grave portrait and time-honoured name,
whose matter he knew well, and would have given mines to have, in any
form, upon the narrow shell beside his bed at Mr Pecksniff’s. What a
heart-breaking shop it was!

There was another; not quite so bad at first, but still a trying shop;
where children’s books were sold, and where poor Robinson Crusoe
stood alone in his might, with dog and hatchet, goat-skin cap and
fowling-pieces; calmly surveying Philip Quarn and the host of imitators
round him, and calling Mr Pinch to witness that he, of all the crowd,
impressed one solitary footprint on the shore of boyish memory, whereof
the tread of generations should not stir the lightest grain of sand.
And there too were the Persian tales, with flying chests and students of
enchanted books shut up for years in caverns; and there too was Abudah,
the merchant, with the terrible little old woman hobbling out of the box
in his bedroom; and there the mighty talisman, the rare Arabian Nights,
with Cassim Baba, divided by four, like the ghost of a dreadful sum,
hanging up, all gory, in the robbers’ cave. Which matchless wonders,
coming fast on Mr Pinch’s mind, did so rub up and chafe that wonderful
lamp within him, that when he turned his face towards the busy street,
a crowd of phantoms waited on his pleasure, and he lived again, with new
delight, the happy days before the Pecksniff era.

He had less interest now in the chemists’ shops, with their great
glowing bottles (with smaller repositories of brightness in their very
stoppers); and in their agreeable compromises between medicine and
perfumery, in the shape of toothsome lozenges and virgin honey. Neither
had he the least regard (but he never had much) for the tailors’, where
the newest metropolitan waistcoat patterns were hanging up, which by
some strange transformation always looked amazing there, and never
appeared at all like the same thing anywhere else. But he stopped to
read the playbill at the theatre and surveyed the doorway with a kind
of awe, which was not diminished when a sallow gentleman with long dark
hair came out, and told a boy to run home to his lodgings and bring down
his broadsword. Mr Pinch stood rooted to the spot on hearing this, and
might have stood there until dark, but that the old cathedral bell began
to ring for vesper service, on which he tore himself away.

Now, the organist’s assistant was a friend of Mr Pinch’s, which was a
good thing, for he too was a very quiet gentle soul, and had been, like
Tom, a kind of old-fashioned boy at school, though well liked by the
noisy fellow too. As good luck would have it (Tom always said he had
great good luck) the assistant chanced that very afternoon to be on duty
by himself, with no one in the dusty organ loft but Tom; so while he
played, Tom helped him with the stops; and finally, the service being
just over, Tom took the organ himself. It was then turning dark, and the
yellow light that streamed in through the ancient windows in the choir
was mingled with a murky red. As the grand tones resounded through
the church, they seemed, to Tom, to find an echo in the depth of every
ancient tomb, no less than in the deep mystery of his own heart. Great
thoughts and hopes came crowding on his mind as the rich music rolled
upon the air and yet among them--something more grave and solemn in
their purpose, but the same--were all the images of that day, down to
its very lightest recollection of childhood. The feeling that the sounds
awakened, in the moment of their existence, seemed to include his whole
life and being; and as the surrounding realities of stone and wood
and glass grew dimmer in the darkness, these visions grew so much the
brighter that Tom might have forgotten the new pupil and the expectant
master, and have sat there pouring out his grateful heart till midnight,
but for a very earthy old verger insisting on locking up the cathedral
forthwith. So he took leave of his friend, with many thanks, groped his
way out, as well as he could, into the now lamp-lighted streets, and
hurried off to get his dinner.

All the farmers being by this time jogging homewards, there was nobody
in the sanded parlour of the tavern where he had left the horse; so he
had his little table drawn out close before the fire, and fell to
work upon a well-cooked steak and smoking hot potatoes, with a strong
appreciation of their excellence, and a very keen sense of enjoyment.
Beside him, too, there stood a jug of most stupendous Wiltshire beer;
and the effect of the whole was so transcendent, that he was obliged
every now and then to lay down his knife and fork, rub his hands, and
think about it. By the time the cheese and celery came, Mr Pinch had
taken a book out of his pocket, and could afford to trifle with the
viands; now eating a little, now drinking a little, now reading a
little, and now stopping to wonder what sort of a young man the new
pupil would turn out to be. He had passed from this latter theme and was
deep in his book again, when the door opened, and another guest came in,
bringing with him such a quantity of cold air, that he positively seemed
at first to put the fire out.

‘Very hard frost to-night, sir,’ said the newcomer, courteously
acknowledging Mr Pinch’s withdrawal of the little table, that he might
have place: ‘Don’t disturb yourself, I beg.’

Though he said this with a vast amount of consideration for Mr Pinch’s
comfort, he dragged one of the great leather-bottomed chairs to the
very centre of the hearth, notwithstanding; and sat down in front of the
fire, with a foot on each hob.

‘My feet are quite numbed. Ah! Bitter cold to be sure.’

‘You have been in the air some considerable time, I dare say?’ said Mr
Pinch.

‘All day. Outside a coach, too.’

‘That accounts for his making the room so cool,’ thought Mr Pinch. ‘Poor
fellow! How thoroughly chilled he must be!’

The stranger became thoughtful likewise, and sat for five or ten minutes
looking at the fire in silence. At length he rose and divested himself
of his shawl and great-coat, which (far different from Mr Pinch’s) was
a very warm and thick one; but he was not a whit more conversational out
of his great-coat than in it, for he sat down again in the same place
and attitude, and leaning back in his chair, began to bite his nails. He
was young--one-and-twenty, perhaps--and handsome; with a keen dark eye,
and a quickness of look and manner which made Tom sensible of a great
contrast in his own bearing, and caused him to feel even more shy than
usual.

There was a clock in the room, which the stranger often turned to
look at. Tom made frequent reference to it also; partly from a nervous
sympathy with its taciturn companion; and partly because the new pupil
was to inquire for him at half after six, and the hands were getting
on towards that hour. Whenever the stranger caught him looking at this
clock, a kind of confusion came upon Tom as if he had been found out in
something; and it was a perception of his uneasiness which caused the
younger man to say, perhaps, with a smile:

‘We both appear to be rather particular about the time. The fact is, I
have an engagement to meet a gentleman here.’

‘So have I,’ said Mr Pinch.

‘At half-past six,’ said the stranger.

‘At half-past six,’ said Tom in the very same breath; whereupon the
other looked at him with some surprise.

‘The young gentleman, I expect,’ remarked Tom, timidly, ‘was to inquire
at that time for a person by the name of Pinch.’

‘Dear me!’ cried the other, jumping up. ‘And I have been keeping the
fire from you all this while! I had no idea you were Mr Pinch. I am the
Mr Martin for whom you were to inquire. Pray excuse me. How do you do?
Oh, do draw nearer, pray!’

‘Thank you,’ said Tom, ‘thank you. I am not at all cold, and you are;
and we have a cold ride before us. Well, if you wish it, I will. I--I am
very glad,’ said Tom, smiling with an embarrassed frankness peculiarly
his, and which was as plainly a confession of his own imperfections, and
an appeal to the kindness of the person he addressed, as if he had drawn
one up in simple language and committed it to paper: ‘I am very glad
indeed that you turn out to be the party I expected. I was thinking, but
a minute ago, that I could wish him to be like you.’

‘I am very glad to hear it,’ returned Martin, shaking hands with him
again; ‘for I assure you, I was thinking there could be no such luck as
Mr Pinch’s turning out like you.’

‘No, really!’ said Tom, with great pleasure. ‘Are you serious?’

‘Upon my word I am,’ replied his new acquaintance. ‘You and I will get
on excellently well, I know; which it’s no small relief to me to feel,
for to tell you the truth, I am not at all the sort of fellow who could
get on with everybody, and that’s the point on which I had the greatest
doubts. But they’re quite relieved now.--Do me the favour to ring the
bell, will you?’

Mr Pinch rose, and complied with great alacrity--the handle hung just
over Martin’s head, as he warmed himself--and listened with a smiling
face to what his friend went on to say. It was:

‘If you like punch, you’ll allow me to order a glass apiece, as hot
as it can be made, that we may usher in our friendship in a becoming
manner. To let you into a secret, Mr Pinch, I never was so much in want
of something warm and cheering in my life; but I didn’t like to run the
chance of being found drinking it, without knowing what kind of person
you were; for first impressions, you know, often go a long way, and last
a long time.’

Mr Pinch assented, and the punch was ordered. In due course it came; hot
and strong. After drinking to each other in the steaming mixture, they
became quite confidential.

‘I’m a sort of relation of Pecksniff’s, you know,’ said the young man.

‘Indeed!’ cried Mr Pinch.

‘Yes. My grandfather is his cousin, so he’s kith and kin to me, somehow,
if you can make that out. I can’t.’

‘Then Martin is your Christian name?’ said Mr Pinch, thoughtfully. ‘Oh!’

‘Of course it is,’ returned his friend: ‘I wish it was my surname for
my own is not a very pretty one, and it takes a long time to sign
Chuzzlewit is my name.’

‘Dear me!’ cried Mr Pinch, with an involuntary start.

‘You’re not surprised at my having two names, I suppose?’ returned the
other, setting his glass to his lips. ‘Most people have.’

‘Oh, no,’ said Mr Pinch, ‘not at all. Oh dear no! Well!’ And then
remembering that Mr Pecksniff had privately cautioned him to say nothing
in reference to the old gentleman of the same name who had lodged at
the Dragon, but to reserve all mention of that person for him, he had
no better means of hiding his confusion than by raising his own glass
to his mouth. They looked at each other out of their respective tumblers
for a few seconds, and then put them down empty.

‘I told them in the stable to be ready for us ten minutes ago,’ said Mr
Pinch, glancing at the clock again. ‘Shall we go?’

‘If you please,’ returned the other.

‘Would you like to drive?’ said Mr Pinch; his whole face beaming with a
consciousness of the splendour of his offer. ‘You shall, if you wish.’

‘Why, that depends, Mr Pinch,’ said Martin, laughing, ‘upon what sort
of a horse you have. Because if he’s a bad one, I would rather keep my
hands warm by holding them comfortably in my greatcoat pockets.’

He appeared to think this such a good joke, that Mr Pinch was quite sure
it must be a capital one. Accordingly, he laughed too, and was fully
persuaded that he enjoyed it very much. Then he settled his bill, and Mr
Chuzzlewit paid for the punch; and having wrapped themselves up, to the
extent of their respective means, they went out together to the front
door, where Mr Pecksniff’s property stopped the way.

‘I won’t drive, thank you, Mr Pinch,’ said Martin, getting into the
sitter’s place. ‘By the bye, there’s a box of mine. Can we manage to
take it?’

‘Oh, certainly,’ said Tom. ‘Put it in, Dick, anywhere!’

It was not precisely of that convenient size which would admit of its
being squeezed into any odd corner, but Dick the hostler got it in
somehow, and Mr Chuzzlewit helped him. It was all on Mr Pinch’s side,
and Mr Chuzzlewit said he was very much afraid it would encumber him; to
which Tom said, ‘Not at all;’ though it forced him into such an awkward
position, that he had much ado to see anything but his own knees. But it
is an ill wind that blows nobody any good; and the wisdom of the saying
was verified in this instance; for the cold air came from Mr Pinch’s
side of the carriage, and by interposing a perfect wall of box and
man between it and the new pupil, he shielded that young gentleman
effectually; which was a great comfort.

It was a clear evening, with a bright moon. The whole landscape was
silvered by its light and by the hoar-frost; and everything looked
exquisitely beautiful. At first, the great serenity and peace through
which they travelled, disposed them both to silence; but in a very short
time the punch within them and the healthful air without, made them
loquacious, and they talked incessantly. When they were halfway home,
and stopped to give the horse some water, Martin (who was very generous
with his money) ordered another glass of punch, which they drank between
them, and which had not the effect of making them less conversational
than before. Their principal topic of discourse was naturally Mr
Pecksniff and his family; of whom, and of the great obligations they had
heaped upon him, Tom Pinch, with the tears standing in his eyes, drew
such a picture as would have inclined any one of common feeling
almost to revere them; and of which Mr Pecksniff had not the slightest
foresight or preconceived idea, or he certainly (being very humble)
would not have sent Tom Pinch to bring the pupil home.

In this way they went on, and on, and on--in the language of the
story-books--until at last the village lights appeared before them, and
the church spire cast a long reflection on the graveyard grass; as if
it were a dial (alas, the truest in the world!) marking, whatever light
shone out of Heaven, the flight of days and weeks and years, by some new
shadow on that solemn ground.

‘A pretty church!’ said Martin, observing that his companion slackened
the slack pace of the horse, as they approached.

‘Is it not?’ cried Tom, with great pride. ‘There’s the sweetest little
organ there you ever heard. I play it for them.’

‘Indeed?’ said Martin. ‘It is hardly worth the trouble, I should think.
What do you get for that, now?’

‘Nothing,’ answered Tom.

‘Well,’ returned his friend, ‘you ARE a very strange fellow!’

To which remark there succeeded a brief silence.

‘When I say nothing,’ observed Mr Pinch, cheerfully, ‘I am wrong, and
don’t say what I mean, because I get a great deal of pleasure from it,
and the means of passing some of the happiest hours I know. It led to
something else the other day; but you will not care to hear about that I
dare say?’

‘Oh yes I shall. What?’

‘It led to my seeing,’ said Tom, in a lower voice, ‘one of the loveliest
and most beautiful faces you can possibly picture to yourself.’

‘And yet I am able to picture a beautiful one,’ said his friend,
thoughtfully, ‘or should be, if I have any memory.’

‘She came’ said Tom, laying his hand upon the other’s arm, ‘for the
first time very early in the morning, when it was hardly light; and when
I saw her, over my shoulder, standing just within the porch, I turned
quite cold, almost believing her to be a spirit. A moment’s reflection
got the better of that, of course, and fortunately it came to my relief
so soon, that I didn’t leave off playing.’

‘Why fortunately?’

‘Why? Because she stood there, listening. I had my spectacles on, and
saw her through the chinks in the curtains as plainly as I see you; and
she was beautiful. After a while she glided off, and I continued to play
until she was out of hearing.’

‘Why did you do that?’

‘Don’t you see?’ responded Tom. ‘Because she might suppose I hadn’t seen
her; and might return.’

‘And did she?’

‘Certainly she did. Next morning, and next evening too; but always when
there were no people about, and always alone. I rose earlier and sat
there later, that when she came, she might find the church door open,
and the organ playing, and might not be disappointed. She strolled that
way for some days, and always stayed to listen. But she is gone now,
and of all unlikely things in this wide world, it is perhaps the most
improbable that I shall ever look upon her face again.’

‘You don’t know anything more about her?’

‘No.’

‘And you never followed her when she went away?’

‘Why should I distress her by doing that?’ said Tom Pinch. ‘Is it likely
that she wanted my company? She came to hear the organ, not to see me;
and would you have had me scare her from a place she seemed to grow
quite fond of? Now, Heaven bless her!’ cried Tom, ‘to have given her but
a minute’s pleasure every day, I would have gone on playing the organ
at those times until I was an old man; quite contented if she sometimes
thought of a poor fellow like me, as a part of the music; and more than
recompensed if she ever mixed me up with anything she liked as well as
she liked that!’

The new pupil was clearly very much amazed by Mr Pinch’s weakness, and
would probably have told him so, and given him some good advice, but
for their opportune arrival at Mr Pecksniff’s door; the front door this
time, on account of the occasion being one of ceremony and rejoicing.
The same man was in waiting for the horse who had been adjured by Mr
Pinch in the morning not to yield to his rabid desire to start;
and after delivering the animal into his charge, and beseeching Mr
Chuzzlewit in a whisper never to reveal a syllable of what he had just
told him in the fullness of his heart, Tom led the pupil in, for instant
presentation.

Mr Pecksniff had clearly not expected them for hours to come; for he was
surrounded by open books, and was glancing from volume to volume, with a
black lead-pencil in his mouth, and a pair of compasses in his hand,
at a vast number of mathematical diagrams, of such extraordinary shapes
that they looked like designs for fireworks. Neither had Miss Charity
expected them, for she was busied, with a capacious wicker basket before
her, in making impracticable nightcaps for the poor. Neither had Miss
Mercy expected them, for she was sitting upon her stool, tying on
the--oh good gracious!--the petticoat of a large doll that she was
dressing for a neighbour’s child--really, quite a grown-up doll, which
made it more confusing--and had its little bonnet dangling by the ribbon
from one of her fair curls, to which she had fastened it lest it should
be lost or sat upon. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to
conceive a family so thoroughly taken by surprise as the Pecksniffs
were, on this occasion.

Bless my life!’ said Mr Pecksniff, looking up, and gradually exchanging
his abstracted face for one of joyful recognition. ‘Here already!
Martin, my dear boy, I am delighted to welcome you to my poor house!’

With this kind greeting, Mr Pecksniff fairly took him to his arms, and
patted him several times upon the back with his right hand the while,
as if to express that his feelings during the embrace were too much for
utterance.

‘But here,’ he said, recovering, ‘are my daughters, Martin; my two only
children, whom (if you ever saw them) you have not beheld--ah, these sad
family divisions!--since you were infants together. Nay, my dears, why
blush at being detected in your everyday pursuits? We had prepared
to give you the reception of a visitor, Martin, in our little room of
state,’ said Mr Pecksniff, smiling, ‘but I like this better, I like this
better!’

Oh blessed star of Innocence, wherever you may be, how did you glitter
in your home of ether, when the two Miss Pecksniffs put forth each her
lily hand, and gave the same, with mantling cheeks, to Martin! How did
you twinkle, as if fluttering with sympathy, when Mercy, reminded of
the bonnet in her hair, hid her fair face and turned her head aside; the
while her gentle sister plucked it out, and smote her with a sister’s
soft reproof, upon her buxom shoulder!

‘And how,’ said Mr Pecksniff, turning round after the contemplation of
these passages, and taking Mr Pinch in a friendly manner by the elbow,
‘how has our friend used you, Martin?’

‘Very well indeed, sir. We are on the best terms, I assure you.’

‘Old Tom Pinch!’ said Mr Pecksniff, looking on him with affectionate
sadness. ‘Ah! It seems but yesterday that Thomas was a boy fresh from
a scholastic course. Yet years have passed, I think, since Thomas Pinch
and I first walked the world together!’

Mr Pinch could say nothing. He was too much moved. But he pressed his
master’s hand, and tried to thank him.

‘And Thomas Pinch and I,’ said Mr Pecksniff, in a deeper voice, ‘will
walk it yet, in mutual faithfulness and friendship! And if it comes to
pass that either of us be run over in any of those busy crossings which
divide the streets of life, the other will convey him to the hospital in
Hope, and sit beside his bed in Bounty!’

‘Well, well, well!’ he added in a happier tone, as he shook Mr Pinch’s
elbow hard. ‘No more of this! Martin, my dear friend, that you may be at
home within these walls, let me show you how we live, and where. Come!’

With that he took up a lighted candle, and, attended by his young
relative, prepared to leave the room. At the door, he stopped.

‘You’ll bear us company, Tom Pinch?’

Aye, cheerfully, though it had been to death, would Tom have followed
him; glad to lay down his life for such a man!

‘This,’ said Mr Pecksniff, opening the door of an opposite parlour, ‘is
the little room of state, I mentioned to you. My girls have pride in it,
Martin! This,’ opening another door, ‘is the little chamber in which my
works (slight things at best) have been concocted. Portrait of myself
by Spiller. Bust by Spoker. The latter is considered a good likeness.
I seem to recognize something about the left-hand corner of the nose,
myself.’

Martin thought it was very like, but scarcely intellectual enough. Mr
Pecksniff observed that the same fault had been found with it before. It
was remarkable it should have struck his young relation too. He was glad
to see he had an eye for art.

‘Various books you observe,’ said Mr Pecksniff, waving his hand towards
the wall, ‘connected with our pursuit. I have scribbled myself, but
have not yet published. Be careful how you come upstairs. This,’ opening
another door, ‘is my chamber. I read here when the family suppose I have
retired to rest. Sometimes I injure my health rather more than I can
quite justify to myself, by doing so; but art is long and time is short.
Every facility you see for jotting down crude notions, even here.’

These latter words were explained by his pointing to a small round table
on which were a lamp, divers sheets of paper, a piece of India rubber,
and a case of instruments; all put ready, in case an architectural idea
should come into Mr Pecksniff’s head in the night; in which event he
would instantly leap out of bed, and fix it for ever.

Mr Pecksniff opened another door on the same floor, and shut it again,
all at once, as if it were a Blue Chamber. But before he had well done
so, he looked smilingly round, and said, ‘Why not?’

Martin couldn’t say why not, because he didn’t know anything at all
about it. So Mr Pecksniff answered himself, by throwing open the door,
and saying:

‘My daughters’ room. A poor first-floor to us, but a bower to them. Very
neat. Very airy. Plants you observe; hyacinths; books again; birds.’
These birds, by the bye, comprised, in all, one staggering old sparrow
without a tail, which had been borrowed expressly from the kitchen.
‘Such trifles as girls love are here. Nothing more. Those who seek
heartless splendour, would seek here in vain.’

With that he led them to the floor above.

‘This,’ said Mr Pecksniff, throwing wide the door of the memorable
two-pair front; ‘is a room where some talent has been developed I
believe. This is a room in which an idea for a steeple occurred to me
that I may one day give to the world. We work here, my dear Martin. Some
architects have been bred in this room; a few, I think, Mr Pinch?’

Tom fully assented; and, what is more, fully believed it.

‘You see,’ said Mr Pecksniff, passing the candle rapidly from roll to
roll of paper, ‘some traces of our doings here. Salisbury Cathedral
from the north. From the south. From the east. From the west. From the
south-east. From the nor’west. A bridge. An almshouse. A jail. A
church. A powder-magazine. A wine-cellar. A portico. A summer-house. An
ice-house. Plans, elevations, sections, every kind of thing. And this,’
he added, having by this time reached another large chamber on the same
story, with four little beds in it, ‘this is your room, of which Mr
Pinch here is the quiet sharer. A southern aspect; a charming prospect;
Mr Pinch’s little library, you perceive; everything agreeable and
appropriate. If there is any additional comfort you would desire to have
here at anytime, pray mention it. Even to strangers, far less to you, my
dear Martin, there is no restriction on that point.’

It was undoubtedly true, and may be stated in corroboration of Mr
Pecksniff, that any pupil had the most liberal permission to mention
anything in this way that suggested itself to his fancy. Some young
gentlemen had gone on mentioning the very same thing for five years
without ever being stopped.

‘The domestic assistants,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘sleep above; and that
is all.’ After which, and listening complacently as he went, to the
encomiums passed by his young friend on the arrangements generally, he
led the way to the parlour again.

Here a great change had taken place; for festive preparations on
a rather extensive scale were already completed, and the two Miss
Pecksniffs were awaiting their return with hospitable looks. There were
two bottles of currant wine, white and red; a dish of sandwiches (very
long and very slim); another of apples; another of captain’s biscuits
(which are always a moist and jovial sort of viand); a plate of oranges
cut up small and gritty; with powdered sugar, and a highly geological
home-made cake. The magnitude of these preparations quite took away Tom
Pinch’s breath; for though the new pupils were usually let down softly,
as one may say, particularly in the wine department, which had so many
stages of declension, that sometimes a young gentleman was a whole
fortnight in getting to the pump; still this was a banquet; a sort of
Lord Mayor’s feast in private life; a something to think of, and hold on
by, afterwards.

To this entertainment, which apart from its own intrinsic merits, had
the additional choice quality, that it was in strict keeping with the
night, being both light and cool, Mr Pecksniff besought the company to
do full justice.

‘Martin,’ he said, ‘will seat himself between you two, my dears, and
Mr Pinch will come by me. Let us drink to our new inmate, and may we be
happy together! Martin, my dear friend, my love to you! Mr Pinch, if you
spare the bottle we shall quarrel.’

And trying (in his regard for the feelings of the rest) to look as if
the wine were not acid and didn’t make him wink, Mr Pecksniff did honour
to his own toast.

‘This,’ he said, in allusion to the party, not the wine, ‘is a mingling
that repays one for much disappointment and vexation. Let us be merry.’
Here he took a captain’s biscuit. ‘It is a poor heart that never
rejoices; and our hearts are not poor. No!’

With such stimulants to merriment did he beguile the time, and do the
honours of the table; while Mr Pinch, perhaps to assure himself that
what he saw and heard was holiday reality, and not a charming dream, ate
of everything, and in particular disposed of the slim sandwiches to a
surprising extent. Nor was he stinted in his draughts of wine; but on
the contrary, remembering Mr Pecksniff’s speech, attacked the bottle
with such vigour, that every time he filled his glass anew, Miss
Charity, despite her amiable resolves, could not repress a fixed and
stony glare, as if her eyes had rested on a ghost. Mr Pecksniff also
became thoughtful at those moments, not to say dejected; but as he
knew the vintage, it is very likely he may have been speculating on the
probable condition of Mr Pinch upon the morrow, and discussing within
himself the best remedies for colic.

Martin and the young ladies were excellent friends already, and compared
recollections of their childish days, to their mutual liveliness and
entertainment. Miss Mercy laughed immensely at everything that was said;
and sometimes, after glancing at the happy face of Mr Pinch, was
seized with such fits of mirth as brought her to the very confines of
hysterics. But for these bursts of gaiety, her sister, in her better
sense, reproved her; observing, in an angry whisper, that it was far
from being a theme for jest; and that she had no patience with the
creature; though it generally ended in her laughing too--but much more
moderately--and saying that indeed it was a little too ridiculous and
intolerable to be serious about.

At length it became high time to remember the first clause of that great
discovery made by the ancient philosopher, for securing health, riches,
and wisdom; the infallibility of which has been for generations verified
by the enormous fortunes constantly amassed by chimney-sweepers and
other persons who get up early and go to bed betimes. The young ladies
accordingly rose, and having taken leave of Mr Chuzzlewit with much
sweetness, and of their father with much duty and of Mr Pinch with
much condescension, retired to their bower. Mr Pecksniff insisted on
accompanying his young friend upstairs for personal superintendence of
his comforts; and taking him by the arm, conducted him once more to his
bedroom, followed by Mr Pinch, who bore the light.

‘Mr Pinch,’ said Pecksniff, seating himself with folded arms on one of
the spare beds. ‘I don’t see any snuffers in that candlestick. Will you
oblige me by going down, and asking for a pair?’

Mr Pinch, only too happy to be useful, went off directly.

‘You will excuse Thomas Pinch’s want of polish, Martin,’ said Mr
Pecksniff, with a smile of patronage and pity, as soon as he had left
the room. ‘He means well.’

‘He is a very good fellow, sir.’

‘Oh, yes,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Yes. Thomas Pinch means well. He is very
grateful. I have never regretted having befriended Thomas Pinch.’

‘I should think you never would, sir.’

‘No,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘No. I hope not. Poor fellow, he is always
disposed to do his best; but he is not gifted. You will make him useful
to you, Martin, if you please. If Thomas has a fault, it is that he is
sometimes a little apt to forget his position. But that is soon checked.
Worthy soul! You will find him easy to manage. Good night!’

‘Good night, sir.’

By this time Mr Pinch had returned with the snuffers.

‘And good night to YOU, Mr Pinch,’ said Pecksniff. ‘And sound sleep to
you both. Bless you! Bless you!’

Invoking this benediction on the heads of his young friends with great
fervour, he withdrew to his own room; while they, being tired, soon fell
asleep. If Martin dreamed at all, some clue to the matter of his visions
may possibly be gathered from the after-pages of this history. Those
of Thomas Pinch were all of holidays, church organs, and seraphic
Pecksniffs. It was some time before Mr Pecksniff dreamed at all, or even
sought his pillow, as he sat for full two hours before the fire in his
own chamber, looking at the coals and thinking deeply. But he, too,
slept and dreamed at last. Thus in the quiet hours of the night, one
house shuts in as many incoherent and incongruous fancies as a madman’s
head.



CHAPTER SIX

COMPRISES, AMONG OTHER IMPORTANT MATTERS, PECKSNIFFIAN AND
ARCHITECTURAL, AND EXACT RELATION OF THE PROGRESS MADE BY MR PINCH IN
THE CONFIDENCE AND FRIENDSHIP OF THE NEW PUPIL


It was morning; and the beautiful Aurora, of whom so much hath been
written, said, and sung, did, with her rosy fingers, nip and tweak Miss
Pecksniff’s nose. It was the frolicsome custom of the Goddess, in her
intercourse with the fair Cherry, so to do; or in more prosaic phrase,
the tip of that feature in the sweet girl’s countenance was always
very red at breakfast-time. For the most part, indeed, it wore, at that
season of the day, a scraped and frosty look, as if it had been rasped;
while a similar phenomenon developed itself in her humour, which was
then observed to be of a sharp and acid quality, as though an extra
lemon (figuratively speaking) had been squeezed into the nectar of her
disposition, and had rather damaged its flavour.

This additional pungency on the part of the fair young creature led, on
ordinary occasions, to such slight consequences as the copious dilution
of Mr Pinch’s tea, or to his coming off uncommonly short in respect
of butter, or to other the like results. But on the morning after the
Installation Banquet, she suffered him to wander to and fro among the
eatables and drinkables, a perfectly free and unchecked man; so utterly
to Mr Pinch’s wonder and confusion, that like the wretched captive who
recovered his liberty in his old age, he could make but little use of
his enlargement, and fell into a strange kind of flutter for want of
some kind hand to scrape his bread, and cut him off in the article of
sugar with a lump, and pay him those other little attentions to which
he was accustomed. There was something almost awful, too, about the
self-possession of the new pupil; who ‘troubled’ Mr Pecksniff for the
loaf, and helped himself to a rasher of that gentleman’s own particular
and private bacon, with all the coolness in life. He even seemed to
think that he was doing quite a regular thing, and to expect that Mr
Pinch would follow his example, since he took occasion to observe of
that young man ‘that he didn’t get on’; a speech of so tremendous a
character, that Tom cast down his eyes involuntarily, and felt as if
he himself had committed some horrible deed and heinous breach of Mr
Pecksniff’s confidence. Indeed, the agony of having such an indiscreet
remark addressed to him before the assembled family, was breakfast
enough in itself, and would, without any other matter of reflection,
have settled Mr Pinch’s business and quenched his appetite, for one
meal, though he had been never so hungry.

The young ladies, however, and Mr Pecksniff likewise, remained in
the very best of spirits in spite of these severe trials, though with
something of a mysterious understanding among themselves. When the meal
was nearly over, Mr Pecksniff smilingly explained the cause of their
common satisfaction.

‘It is not often,’ he said, ‘Martin, that my daughters and I desert our
quiet home to pursue the giddy round of pleasures that revolves abroad.
But we think of doing so to-day.’

‘Indeed, sir!’ cried the new pupil.

‘Yes,’ said Mr Pecksniff, tapping his left hand with a letter which
he held in his right. ‘I have a summons here to repair to London;
on professional business, my dear Martin; strictly on professional
business; and I promised my girls, long ago, that whenever that happened
again, they should accompany me. We shall go forth to-night by the
heavy coach--like the dove of old, my dear Martin--and it will be a week
before we again deposit our olive-branches in the passage. When I say
olive-branches,’ observed Mr Pecksniff, in explanation, ‘I mean, our
unpretending luggage.’

‘I hope the young ladies will enjoy their trip,’ said Martin.

‘Oh! that I’m sure we shall!’ cried Mercy, clapping her hands. ‘Good
gracious, Cherry, my darling, the idea of London!’

‘Ardent child!’ said Mr Pecksniff, gazing on her in a dreamy way. ‘And
yet there is a melancholy sweetness in these youthful hopes! It is
pleasant to know that they never can be realised. I remember thinking
once myself, in the days of my childhood, that pickled onions grew on
trees, and that every elephant was born with an impregnable castle on
his back. I have not found the fact to be so; far from it; and yet those
visions have comforted me under circumstances of trial. Even when I have
had the anguish of discovering that I have nourished in my breast on
ostrich, and not a human pupil--even in that hour of agony, they have
soothed me.’

At this dread allusion to John Westlock, Mr Pinch precipitately choked
in his tea; for he had that very morning received a letter from him, as
Mr Pecksniff very well knew.

‘You will take care, my dear Martin,’ said Mr Pecksniff, resuming his
former cheerfulness, ‘that the house does not run away in our absence.
We leave you in charge of everything. There is no mystery; all is free
and open. Unlike the young man in the Eastern tale--who is described as
a one-eyed almanac, if I am not mistaken, Mr Pinch?--’

‘A one-eyed calender, I think, sir,’ faltered Tom.

‘They are pretty nearly the same thing, I believe,’ said Mr Pecksniff,
smiling compassionately; ‘or they used to be in my time. Unlike that
young man, my dear Martin, you are forbidden to enter no corner of this
house; but are requested to make yourself perfectly at home in every
part of it. You will be jovial, my dear Martin, and will kill the fatted
calf if you please!’

There was not the least objection, doubtless, to the young man’s
slaughtering and appropriating to his own use any calf, fat or lean,
that he might happen to find upon the premises; but as no such animal
chanced at that time to be grazing on Mr Pecksniff’s estate, this
request must be considered rather as a polite compliment that
a substantial hospitality. It was the finishing ornament of the
conversation; for when he had delivered it, Mr Pecksniff rose and led
the way to that hotbed of architectural genius, the two-pair front.

‘Let me see,’ he said, searching among the papers, ‘how you can best
employ yourself, Martin, while I am absent. Suppose you were to give
me your idea of a monument to a Lord Mayor of London; or a tomb for a
sheriff; or your notion of a cow-house to be erected in a nobleman’s
park. Do you know, now,’ said Mr Pecksniff, folding his hands, and
looking at his young relation with an air of pensive interest, ‘that I
should very much like to see your notion of a cow-house?’

But Martin by no means appeared to relish this suggestion.

‘A pump,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘is very chaste practice. I have found that
a lamp post is calculated to refine the mind and give it a classical
tendency. An ornamental turnpike has a remarkable effect upon the
imagination. What do you say to beginning with an ornamental turnpike?’

‘Whatever Mr Pecksniff pleased,’ said Martin, doubtfully.

‘Stay,’ said that gentleman. ‘Come! as you’re ambitious, and are a very
neat draughtsman, you shall--ha ha!--you shall try your hand on these
proposals for a grammar-school; regulating your plan, of course, by the
printed particulars. Upon my word, now,’ said Mr Pecksniff, merrily, ‘I
shall be very curious to see what you make of the grammar-school.
Who knows but a young man of your taste might hit upon something,
impracticable and unlikely in itself, but which I could put into shape?
For it really is, my dear Martin, it really is in the finishing touches
alone, that great experience and long study in these matters tell. Ha,
ha, ha! Now it really will be,’ continued Mr Pecksniff, clapping his
young friend on the back in his droll humour, ‘an amusement to me, to
see what you make of the grammar-school.’

Martin readily undertook this task, and Mr Pecksniff forthwith proceeded
to entrust him with the materials necessary for its execution; dwelling
meanwhile on the magical effect of a few finishing touches from the hand
of a master; which, indeed, as some people said (and these were the
old enemies again!) was unquestionably very surprising, and almost
miraculous; as there were cases on record in which the masterly
introduction of an additional back window, or a kitchen door, or
half-a-dozen steps, or even a water spout, had made the design of a
pupil Mr Pecksniff’s own work, and had brought substantial rewards into
that gentleman’s pocket. But such is the magic of genius, which changes
all it handles into gold!

‘When your mind requires to be refreshed by change of occupation,’ said
Mr Pecksniff, ‘Thomas Pinch will instruct you in the art of surveying
the back garden, or in ascertaining the dead level of the road between
this house and the finger-post, or in any other practical and pleasing
pursuit. There are a cart-load of loose bricks, and a score or two of
old flower-pots, in the back yard. If you could pile them up my dear
Martin, into any form which would remind me on my return say of St.
Peter’s at Rome, or the Mosque of St. Sophia at Constantinople, it would
be at once improving to you and agreeable to my feelings. And now,’ said
Mr Pecksniff, in conclusion, ‘to drop, for the present, our professional
relations and advert to private matters, I shall be glad to talk with
you in my own room, while I pack up my portmanteau.’

Martin attended him; and they remained in secret conference together for
an hour or more; leaving Tom Pinch alone. When the young man returned,
he was very taciturn and dull, in which state he remained all day; so
that Tom, after trying him once or twice with indifferent conversation,
felt a delicacy in obtruding himself upon his thoughts, and said no
more.

He would not have had leisure to say much, had his new friend been ever
so loquacious; for first of all Mr Pecksniff called him down to stand
upon the top of his portmanteau and represent ancient statues there,
until such time as it would consent to be locked; and then Miss Charity
called him to come and cord her trunk; and then Miss Mercy sent for him
to come and mend her box; and then he wrote the fullest possible cards
for all the luggage; and then he volunteered to carry it all downstairs;
and after that to see it safely carried on a couple of barrows to the
old finger-post at the end of the lane; and then to mind it till the
coach came up. In short, his day’s work would have been a pretty heavy
one for a porter, but his thorough good-will made nothing of it; and as
he sat upon the luggage at last, waiting for the Pecksniffs, escorted by
the new pupil, to come down the lane, his heart was light with the hope
of having pleased his benefactor.

‘I was almost afraid,’ said Tom, taking a letter from his pocket and
wiping his face, for he was hot with bustling about though it was a cold
day, ‘that I shouldn’t have had time to write it, and that would have
been a thousand pities; postage from such a distance being a serious
consideration, when one’s not rich. She will be glad to see my hand,
poor girl, and to hear that Pecksniff is as kind as ever. I would have
asked John Westlock to call and see her, and tell her all about me by
word of mouth, but I was afraid he might speak against Pecksniff to her,
and make her uneasy. Besides, they are particular people where she is,
and it might have rendered her situation uncomfortable if she had had a
visit from a young man like John. Poor Ruth!’

Tom Pinch seemed a little disposed to be melancholy for half a minute or
so, but he found comfort very soon, and pursued his ruminations thus:

‘I’m a nice man, I don’t think, as John used to say (John was a kind,
merry-hearted fellow; I wish he had liked Pecksniff better), to be
feeling low, on account of the distance between us, when I ought to
be thinking, instead, of my extraordinary good luck in having ever got
here. I must have been born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I am sure,
to have ever come across Pecksniff. And here have I fallen again into
my usual good luck with the new pupil! Such an affable, generous, free
fellow, as he is, I never saw. Why, we were companions directly! and he
a relation of Pecksniff’s too, and a clever, dashing youth who might cut
his way through the world as if it were a cheese! Here he comes while
the words are on my lips’ said Tom; ‘walking down the lane as if the
lane belonged to him.’

In truth, the new pupil, not at all disconcerted by the honour of having
Miss Mercy Pecksniff on his arm, or by the affectionate adieux of that
young lady, approached as Mr Pinch spoke, followed by Miss Charity and
Mr Pecksniff. As the coach appeared at the same moment, Tom lost no time
in entreating the gentleman last mentioned, to undertake the delivery of
his letter.

‘Oh!’ said Mr Pecksniff, glancing at the superscription. ‘For your
sister, Thomas. Yes, oh yes, it shall be delivered, Mr Pinch. Make your
mind easy upon that score. She shall certainly have it, Mr Pinch.’

He made the promise with so much condescension and patronage, that
Tom felt he had asked a great deal (this had not occurred to his mind
before), and thanked him earnestly. The Miss Pecksniffs, according to
a custom they had, were amused beyond description at the mention of
Mr Pinch’s sister. Oh the fright! The bare idea of a Miss Pinch! Good
heavens!

Tom was greatly pleased to see them so merry, for he took it as a token
of their favour, and good-humoured regard. Therefore he laughed too and
rubbed his hands and wished them a pleasant journey and safe return,
and was quite brisk. Even when the coach had rolled away with the
olive-branches in the boot and the family of doves inside, he stood
waving his hand and bowing; so much gratified by the unusually courteous
demeanour of the young ladies, that he was quite regardless, for the
moment, of Martin Chuzzlewit, who stood leaning thoughtfully against
the finger-post, and who after disposing of his fair charge had hardly
lifted his eyes from the ground.

The perfect silence which ensued upon the bustle and departure of the
coach, together with the sharp air of the wintry afternoon, roused them
both at the same time. They turned, as by mutual consent, and moved off
arm-in-arm.

‘How melancholy you are!’ said Tom; ‘what is the matter?’

‘Nothing worth speaking of,’ said Martin. ‘Very little more than was
the matter yesterday, and much more, I hope, than will be the matter
to-morrow. I’m out of spirits, Pinch.’

‘Well,’ cried Tom, ‘now do you know I am in capital spirits today, and
scarcely ever felt more disposed to be good company. It was a very kind
thing in your predecessor, John, to write to me, was it not?’

‘Why, yes,’ said Martin carelessly; ‘I should have thought he would have
had enough to do to enjoy himself, without thinking of you, Pinch.’

‘Just what I felt to be so very likely,’ Tom rejoined; ‘but no, he keeps
his word, and says, “My dear Pinch, I often think of you,” and all sorts
of kind and considerate things of that description.’

‘He must be a devilish good-natured fellow,’ said Martin, somewhat
peevishly: ‘because he can’t mean that, you know.’

‘I don’t suppose he can, eh?’ said Tom, looking wistfully in his
companion’s face. ‘He says so to please me, you think?’

‘Why, is it likely,’ rejoined Martin, with greater earnestness, ‘that
a young man newly escaped from this kennel of a place, and fresh to all
the delights of being his own master in London, can have much leisure
or inclination to think favourably of anything or anybody he has left
behind him here? I put it to you, Pinch, is it natural?’

After a short reflection, Mr Pinch replied, in a more subdued tone, that
to be sure it was unreasonable to expect any such thing, and that he had
no doubt Martin knew best.

‘Of course I know best,’ Martin observed.

‘Yes, I feel that,’ said Mr Pinch mildly. ‘I said so.’ And when he had
made this rejoinder, they fell into a blank silence again, which lasted
until they reached home; by which time it was dark.

Now, Miss Charity Pecksniff, in consideration of the inconvenience of
carrying them with her in the coach, and the impossibility of preserving
them by artificial means until the family’s return, had set forth, in a
couple of plates, the fragments of yesterday’s feast. In virtue of which
liberal arrangement, they had the happiness to find awaiting them in
the parlour two chaotic heaps of the remains of last night’s pleasure,
consisting of certain filmy bits of oranges, some mummied sandwiches,
various disrupted masses of the geological cake, and several entire
captain’s biscuits. That choice liquor in which to steep these dainties
might not be wanting, the remains of the two bottles of currant wine
had been poured together and corked with a curl-paper; so that every
material was at hand for making quite a heavy night of it.

Martin Chuzzlewit beheld these roystering preparations with infinite
contempt, and stirring the fire into a blaze (to the great destruction
of Mr Pecksniff’s coals), sat moodily down before it, in the most
comfortable chair he could find. That he might the better squeeze
himself into the small corner that was left for him, Mr Pinch took up
his position on Miss Mercy Pecksniff’s stool, and setting his glass down
upon the hearthrug and putting his plate upon his knees, began to enjoy
himself.

If Diogenes coming to life again could have rolled himself, tub and all,
into Mr Pecksniff’s parlour and could have seen Tom Pinch as he sat on
Mercy Pecksniff’s stool with his plate and glass before him he could
not have faced it out, though in his surliest mood, but must have
smiled good-temperedly. The perfect and entire satisfaction of Tom; his
surpassing appreciation of the husky sandwiches, which crumbled in his
mouth like saw-dust; the unspeakable relish with which he swallowed the
thin wine by drops, and smacked his lips, as though it were so rich and
generous that to lose an atom of its fruity flavour were a sin; the look
with which he paused sometimes, with his glass in his hand, proposing
silent toasts to himself; and the anxious shade that came upon his
contented face when, after wandering round the room, exulting in
its uninvaded snugness, his glance encountered the dull brow of his
companion; no cynic in the world, though in his hatred of its men a very
griffin, could have withstood these things in Thomas Pinch.

Some men would have slapped him on the back, and pledged him in a bumper
of the currant wine, though it had been the sharpest vinegar--aye, and
liked its flavour too; some would have seized him by his honest hand,
and thanked him for the lesson that his simple nature taught them. Some
would have laughed with, and others would have laughed at him; of which
last class was Martin Chuzzlewit, who, unable to restrain himself, at
last laughed loud and long.

‘That’s right,’ said Tom, nodding approvingly. ‘Cheer up! That’s
capital!’

At which encouragement young Martin laughed again; and said, as soon as
he had breath and gravity enough:

‘I never saw such a fellow as you are, Pinch.’

‘Didn’t you though?’ said Tom. ‘Well, it’s very likely you do find me
strange, because I have hardly seen anything of the world, and you have
seen a good deal I dare say?’

‘Pretty well for my time of life,’ rejoined Martin, drawing his chair
still nearer to the fire, and spreading his feet out on the fender.
‘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. There is nothing very selfish in THAT love, I think?’

‘Selfish!’ cried Tom. ‘You have acted nobly. To love her as I am sure
you do, and yet in consideration for her state of dependence, not even
to disclose--’

‘What are you talking about, Pinch?’ said Martin pettishly: ‘don’t
make yourself ridiculous, my good fellow! What do you mean by not
disclosing?’

‘I beg your pardon,’ answered Tom. ‘I thought you meant that, or I
wouldn’t have said it.’

‘If I didn’t tell her I loved her, where would be the use of my being in
love?’ said Martin: ‘unless to keep myself in a perpetual state of worry
and vexation?’

‘That’s true,’ Tom answered. ‘Well! I can guess what SHE said when you
told her,’ he added, glancing at Martin’s handsome face.

‘Why, not exactly, Pinch,’ he rejoined, with a slight frown; ‘because
she has some girlish notions about duty and gratitude, and all the rest
of it, which are rather hard to fathom; but in the main you are right.
Her heart was mine, I found.’

‘Just what I supposed,’ said Tom. ‘Quite natural!’ and, in his great
satisfaction, he took a long sip out of his wine-glass.

‘Although I had conducted myself from the first with the utmost
circumspection,’ pursued Martin, ‘I had not managed matters so well but
that my grandfather, who is full of jealousy and distrust, suspected me
of loving her. He said nothing to her, but straightway attacked me
in private, and charged me with designing to corrupt the fidelity to
himself (there you observe his selfishness), of a young creature whom
he had trained and educated to be his only disinterested and faithful
companion, when he should have disposed of me in marriage to his heart’s
content. Upon that, I took fire immediately, and told him that with his
good leave I would dispose of myself in marriage, and would rather
not be knocked down by him or any other auctioneer to any bidder
whomsoever.’

Mr Pinch opened his eyes wider, and looked at the fire harder than he
had done yet.

‘You may be sure,’ said Martin, ‘that this nettled him, and that he
began to be the very reverse of complimentary to myself. Interview
succeeded interview; words engendered words, as they always do; and the
upshot of it was, that I was to renounce her, or be renounced by him.
Now you must bear in mind, Pinch, that I am not only desperately fond
of her (for though she is poor, her beauty and intellect would reflect
great credit on anybody, I don’t care of what pretensions who might
become her husband), but that a chief ingredient in my composition is a
most determined--’

‘Obstinacy,’ suggested Tom in perfect good faith. But the suggestion was
not so well received as he had expected; for the young man immediately
rejoined, with some irritation,

‘What a fellow you are, Pinch!’

‘I beg your pardon,’ said Tom, ‘I thought you wanted a word.’

‘I didn’t want that word,’ he rejoined. ‘I told you obstinacy was no
part of my character, did I not? I was going to say, if you had given
me leave, that a chief ingredient in my composition is a most determined
firmness.’

‘Oh!’ cried Tom, screwing up his mouth, and nodding. ‘Yes, yes; I see!’

‘And being firm,’ pursued Martin, ‘of course I was not going to yield to
him, or give way by so much as the thousandth part of an inch.’

‘No, no,’ said Tom.

‘On the contrary, the more he urged, the more I was determined to oppose
him.’

‘To be sure!’ said Tom.

‘Very well,’ rejoined Martin, throwing himself back in his chair, with
a careless wave of both hands, as if the subject were quite settled, and
nothing more could be said about it--‘There is an end of the matter, and
here am I!’

Mr Pinch sat staring at the fire for some minutes with a puzzled look,
such as he might have assumed if some uncommonly difficult conundrum had
been proposed, which he found it impossible to guess. At length he said:

‘Pecksniff, of course, you had known before?’

‘Only by name. No, I had never seen him, for my grandfather kept not
only himself but me, aloof from all his relations. But our separation
took place in a town in the adjoining country. From that place I came to
Salisbury, and there I saw Pecksniff’s advertisement, which I answered,
having always had some natural taste, I believe, in the matters to which
it referred, and thinking it might suit me. As soon as I found it to be
his, I was doubly bent on coming to him if possible, on account of his
being--’

‘Such an excellent man,’ interposed Tom, rubbing his hands: ‘so he is.
You were quite right.’

‘Why, not so much on that account, if the truth must be spoken,’
returned Martin, ‘as because my grandfather has an inveterate dislike to
him, and after the old man’s arbitrary treatment of me, I had a natural
desire to run as directly counter to all his opinions as I could. Well!
As I said before, here I am. My engagement with the young lady I have
been telling you about is likely to be a tolerably long one; for neither
her prospects nor mine are very bright; and of course I shall not think
of marrying until I am well able to do so. It would never do, you know,
for me to be plunging myself into poverty and shabbiness and love in one
room up three pair of stairs, and all that sort of thing.’

‘To say nothing of her,’ remarked Tom Pinch, in a low voice.

‘Exactly so,’ rejoined Martin, rising to warm his back, and leaning
against the chimney-piece. ‘To say nothing of her. At the same time,
of course it’s not very hard upon her to be obliged to yield to the
necessity of the case; first, because she loves me very much; and
secondly, because I have sacrificed a great deal on her account, and
might have done much better, you know.’

It was a very long time before Tom said ‘Certainly;’ so long, that he
might have taken a nap in the interval, but he did say it at last.

‘Now, there is one odd coincidence connected with this love-story,’ said
Martin, ‘which brings it to an end. You remember what you told me last
night as we were coming here, about your pretty visitor in the church?’

‘Surely I do,’ said Tom, rising from his stool, and seating himself in
the chair from which the other had lately risen, that he might see his
face. ‘Undoubtedly.’

‘That was she.’

‘I knew what you were going to say,’ cried Tom, looking fixedly at him,
and speaking very softly. ‘You don’t tell me so?’

‘That was she,’ repeated the young man. ‘After what I have heard
from Pecksniff, I have no doubt that she came and went with my
grandfather.--Don’t you drink too much of that sour wine, or you’ll have
a fit of some sort, Pinch, I see.’

‘It is not very wholesome, I am afraid,’ said Tom, setting down the
empty glass he had for some time held. ‘So that was she, was it?’

Martin nodded assent; and adding, with a restless impatience, that if
he had been a few days earlier he would have seen her; and that now she
might be, for anything he knew, hundreds of miles away; threw himself,
after a few turns across the room, into a chair, and chafed like a
spoilt child.

Tom Pinch’s heart was very tender, and he could not bear to see the
most indifferent person in distress; still less one who had awakened
an interest in him, and who regarded him (either in fact, or as he
supposed) with kindness, and in a spirit of lenient construction.
Whatever his own thoughts had been a few moments before--and to judge
from his face they must have been pretty serious--he dismissed them
instantly, and gave his young friend the best counsel and comfort that
occurred to him.

‘All will be well in time,’ said Tom, ‘I have no doubt; and some trial
and adversity just now will only serve to make you more attached to each
other in better days. I have always read that the truth is so, and I
have a feeling within me, which tells me how natural and right it is
that it should be. That never ran smooth yet,’ said Tom, with a smile
which, despite the homeliness of his face, was pleasanter to see than
many a proud beauty’s brightest glance; ‘what never ran smooth yet, can
hardly be expected to change its character for us; so we must take it as
we find it, and fashion it into the very best shape we can, by patience
and good-humour. I have no power at all; I needn’t tell you that; but I
have an excellent will; and if I could ever be of use to you, in any way
whatever, how very glad I should be!’

‘Thank you,’ said Martin, shaking his hand. ‘You’re a good fellow, upon
my word, and speak very kindly. Of course you know,’ he added, after a
moment’s pause, as he drew his chair towards the fire again, ‘I should
not hesitate to avail myself of your services if you could help me at
all; but mercy on us!’--Here he rumpled his hair impatiently with his
hand, and looked at Tom as if he took it rather ill that he was not
somebody else--‘you might as well be a toasting-fork or a frying-pan,
Pinch, for any help you can render me.’

‘Except in the inclination,’ said Tom, gently.

‘Oh! to be sure. I meant that, of course. If inclination went for
anything, I shouldn’t want help. I tell you what you may do, though, if
you will, and at the present moment too.’

‘What is that?’ demanded Tom.

‘Read to me.’

‘I shall be delighted,’ cried Tom, catching up the candle with
enthusiasm. ‘Excuse my leaving you in the dark a moment, and I’ll fetch
a book directly. What will you like? Shakespeare?’

‘Aye!’ replied his friend, yawning and stretching himself. ‘He’ll do. I
am tired with the bustle of to-day, and the novelty of everything about
me; and in such a case, there’s no greater luxury in the world, I think,
than being read to sleep. You won’t mind my going to sleep, if I can?’

‘Not at all!’ cried Tom.

‘Then begin as soon as you like. You needn’t leave off when you see
me getting drowsy (unless you feel tired), for it’s pleasant to wake
gradually to the sounds again. Did you ever try that?’

‘No, I never tried that,’ said Tom

‘Well! You can, you know, one of these days when we’re both in the right
humour. Don’t mind leaving me in the dark. Look sharp!’

Mr Pinch lost no time in moving away; and in a minute or two returned
with one of the precious volumes from the shelf beside his bed. Martin
had in the meantime made himself as comfortable as circumstances would
permit, by constructing before the fire a temporary sofa of three chairs
with Mercy’s stool for a pillow, and lying down at full-length upon it.

‘Don’t be too loud, please,’ he said to Pinch.

‘No, no,’ said Tom.

‘You’re sure you’re not cold’

‘Not at all!’ cried Tom.

‘I am quite ready, then.’

Mr Pinch accordingly, after turning over the leaves of his book with as
much care as if they were living and highly cherished creatures, made
his own selection, and began to read. Before he had completed fifty
lines his friend was snoring.

‘Poor fellow!’ said Tom, softly, as he stretched out his head to peep
at him over the backs of the chairs. ‘He is very young to have so much
trouble. How trustful and generous in him to bestow all this confidence
in me. And that was she, was it?’

But suddenly remembering their compact, he took up the poem at the place
where he had left off, and went on reading; always forgetting to snuff
the candle, until its wick looked like a mushroom. He gradually became
so much interested, that he quite forgot to replenish the fire; and was
only reminded of his neglect by Martin Chuzzlewit starting up after the
lapse of an hour or so, and crying with a shiver.

‘Why, it’s nearly out, I declare! No wonder I dreamed of being frozen.
Do call for some coals. What a fellow you are, Pinch!’



CHAPTER SEVEN

IN WHICH MR CHEVY SLYME ASSERTS THE INDEPENDENCE OF HIS SPIRIT, AND THE
BLUE DRAGON LOSES A LIMB


Martin began to work at the grammar-school next morning, with so much
vigour and expedition, that Mr Pinch had new reason to do homage to
the natural endowments of that young gentleman, and to acknowledge
his infinite superiority to himself. The new pupil received Tom’s
compliments very graciously; and having by this time conceived a real
regard for him, in his own peculiar way, predicted that they would
always be the very best of friends, and that neither of them, he was
certain (but particularly Tom), would ever have reason to regret the day
on which they became acquainted. Mr Pinch was delighted to hear him say
this, and felt so much flattered by his kind assurances of friendship
and protection, that he was at a loss how to express the pleasure they
afforded him. And indeed it may be observed of this friendship, such as
it was, that it had within it more likely materials of endurance than
many a sworn brotherhood that has been rich in promise; for so long as
the one party found a pleasure in patronizing, and the other in
being patronised (which was in the very essence of their respective
characters), it was of all possible events among the least probable,
that the twin demons, Envy and Pride, would ever arise between them. So
in very many cases of friendship, or what passes for it, the old axiom
is reversed, and like clings to unlike more than to like.

They were both very busy on the afternoon succeeding the family’s
departure--Martin with the grammar-school, and Tom in balancing certain
receipts of rents, and deducting Mr Pecksniff’s commission from the
same; in which abstruse employment he was much distracted by a habit his
new friend had of whistling aloud while he was drawing--when they were
not a little startled by the unexpected obtrusion into that sanctuary of
genius, of a human head which, although a shaggy and somewhat alarming
head in appearance, smiled affably upon them from the doorway, in
a manner that was at once waggish, conciliatory, and expressive of
approbation.

‘I am not industrious myself, gents both,’ said the head, ‘but I know
how to appreciate that quality in others. I wish I may turn grey
and ugly, if it isn’t in my opinion, next to genius, one of the very
charmingest qualities of the human mind. Upon my soul, I am grateful
to my friend Pecksniff for helping me to the contemplation of such
a delicious picture as you present. You remind me of Whittington,
afterwards thrice Lord Mayor of London. I give you my unsullied word of
honour, that you very strongly remind me of that historical character.
You are a pair of Whittingtons, gents, without the cat; which is a most
agreeable and blessed exception to me, for I am not attached to the
feline species. My name is Tigg; how do you do?’

Martin looked to Mr Pinch for an explanation; and Tom, who had never in
his life set eyes on Mr Tigg before, looked to that gentleman himself.

‘Chevy Slyme?’ said Mr Tigg, interrogatively, and kissing his left hand
in token of friendship. ‘You will understand me when I say that I am the
accredited agent of Chevy Slyme; that I am the ambassador from the court
of Chiv? Ha ha!’

‘Heyday!’ asked Martin, starting at the mention of a name he knew.
‘Pray, what does he want with me?’

‘If your name is Pinch’--Mr Tigg began.

‘It is not’ said Martin, checking himself. ‘That is Mr Pinch.’

‘If that is Mr Pinch,’ cried Tigg, kissing his hand again, and beginning
to follow his head into the room, ‘he will permit me to say that I
greatly esteem and respect his character, which has been most highly
commended to me by my friend Pecksniff; and that I deeply appreciate his
talent for the organ, notwithstanding that I do not, if I may use the
expression, grind myself. If that is Mr Pinch, I will venture to express
a hope that I see him well, and that he is suffering no inconvenience
from the easterly wind?’

‘Thank you,’ said Tom. ‘I am very well.’

‘That is a comfort,’ Mr Tigg rejoined. ‘Then,’ he added, shielding his
lips with the palm of his hand, and applying them close to Mr Pinch’s
ear, ‘I have come for the letter.’

‘For the letter,’ said Tom, aloud. ‘What letter?’

‘The letter,’ whispered Tigg in the same cautious manner as before,
‘which my friend Pecksniff addressed to Chevy Slyme, Esquire, and left
with you.’

‘He didn’t leave any letter with me,’ said Tom.

‘Hush!’ cried the other. ‘It’s all the same thing, though not so
delicately done by my friend Pecksniff as I could have wished. The
money.’

‘The money!’ cried Tom quite scared.

‘Exactly so,’ said Mr Tigg. With which he rapped Tom twice or thrice
upon the breast and nodded several times, as though he would say that he
saw they understood each other; that it was unnecessary to mention
the circumstance before a third person; and that he would take it as a
particular favour if Tom would slip the amount into his hand, as quietly
as possible.

Mr Pinch, however, was so very much astounded by this (to him)
inexplicable deportment, that he at once openly declared there must be
some mistake, and that he had been entrusted with no commission whatever
having any reference to Mr Tigg or to his friend, either. Mr Tigg
received this declaration with a grave request that Mr Pinch would have
the goodness to make it again; and on Tom’s repeating it in a still more
emphatic and unmistakable manner, checked it off, sentence for sentence,
by nodding his head solemnly at the end of each. When it had come to
a close for the second time, Mr Tigg sat himself down in a chair and
addressed the young men as follows:

‘Then I tell you what it is, gents both. There is at this present moment
in this very place, a perfect constellation of talent and genius, who is
involved, through what I cannot but designate as the culpable negligence
of my friend Pecksniff, in a situation as tremendous, perhaps, as the
social intercourse of the nineteenth century will readily admit
of. There is actually at this instant, at the Blue Dragon in this
village--an ale-house, observe; a common, paltry, low-minded,
clodhopping, pipe-smoking ale-house--an individual, of whom it may be
said, in the language of the Poet, that nobody but himself can in any
way come up to him; who is detained there for his bill. Ha! ha! For his
bill. I repeat it--for his bill. Now,’ said Mr Tigg, ‘we have heard
of Fox’s Book of Martyrs, I believe, and we have heard of the Court of
Requests, and the Star Chamber; but I fear the contradiction of no man
alive or dead, when I assert that my friend Chevy Slyme being held
in pawn for a bill, beats any amount of cockfighting with which I am
acquainted.’

Martin and Mr Pinch looked, first at each other, and afterwards at Mr
Tigg, who with his arms folded on his breast surveyed them, half in
despondency and half in bitterness.

‘Don’t mistake me, gents both,’ he said, stretching forth his right
hand. ‘If it had been for anything but a bill, I could have borne it,
and could still have looked upon mankind with some feeling of respect;
but when such a man as my friend Slyme is detained for a score--a thing
in itself essentially mean; a low performance on a slate, or possibly
chalked upon the back of a door--I do feel that there is a screw of
such magnitude loose somewhere, that the whole framework of society
is shaken, and the very first principles of things can no longer be
trusted. In short, gents both,’ said Mr Tigg with a passionate flourish
of his hands and head, ‘when a man like Slyme is detained for such
a thing as a bill, I reject the superstitions of ages, and believe
nothing. I don’t even believe that I DON’T believe, curse me if I do!’

‘I am very sorry, I am sure,’ said Tom after a pause, ‘but Mr
Pecksniff said nothing to me about it, and I couldn’t act without his
instructions. Wouldn’t it be better, sir, if you were to go to--to
wherever you came from--yourself, and remit the money to your friend?’

‘How can that be done, when I am detained also?’ said Mr Tigg; ‘and when
moreover, owing to the astounding, and I must add, guilty negligence of
my friend Pecksniff, I have no money for coach-hire?’

Tom thought of reminding the gentleman (who, no doubt, in his agitation
had forgotten it) that there was a post-office in the land; and that
possibly if he wrote to some friend or agent for a remittance it might
not be lost upon the road; or at all events that the chance, however
desperate, was worth trusting to. But, as his good-nature presently
suggested to him certain reasons for abstaining from this hint, he
paused again, and then asked:

‘Did you say, sir, that you were detained also?’

‘Come here,’ said Mr Tigg, rising. ‘You have no objection to my opening
this window for a moment?’

‘Certainly not,’ said Tom.

‘Very good,’ said Mr Tigg, lifting the sash. ‘You see a fellow down
there in a red neckcloth and no waistcoat?’

‘Of course I do,’ cried Tom. ‘That’s Mark Tapley.’

‘Mark Tapley is it?’ said the gentleman. ‘Then Mark Tapley had not only
the great politeness to follow me to this house, but is waiting now, to
see me home again. And for that attention, sir,’ added Mr Tigg, stroking
his moustache, ‘I can tell you, that Mark Tapley had better in his
infancy have been fed to suffocation by Mrs Tapley, than preserved to
this time.’

Mr Pinch was not so dismayed by this terrible threat, but that he had
voice enough to call to Mark to come in, and upstairs; a summons which
he so speedily obeyed, that almost as soon as Tom and Mr Tigg had drawn
in their heads and closed the window again, he, the denounced, appeared
before them.

‘Come here, Mark!’ said Mr Pinch. ‘Good gracious me! what’s the matter
between Mrs Lupin and this gentleman?’

‘What gentleman, sir?’ said Mark. ‘I don’t see no gentleman here sir,
excepting you and the new gentleman,’ to whom he made a rough kind of
bow--‘and there’s nothing wrong between Mrs Lupin and either of you, Mr
Pinch, I am sure.’

‘Nonsense, Mark!’ cried Tom. ‘You see Mr--’

‘Tigg,’ interposed that gentleman. ‘Wait a bit. I shall crush him soon.
All in good time!’

‘Oh HIM!’ rejoined Mark, with an air of careless defiance. ‘Yes, I see
HIM. I could see him a little better, if he’d shave himself, and get his
hair cut.’

Mr Tigg shook his head with a ferocious look, and smote himself once
upon the breast.

‘It’s no use,’ said Mark. ‘If you knock ever so much in that quarter,
you’ll get no answer. I know better. There’s nothing there but padding;
and a greasy sort it is.’

‘Nay, Mark,’ urged Mr Pinch, interposing to prevent hostilities, ‘tell
me what I ask you. You’re not out of temper, I hope?’

‘Out of temper, sir!’ cried Mark, with a grin; ‘why no, sir. There’s
a little credit--not much--in being jolly, when such fellows as him is
a-going about like roaring lions; if there is any breed of lions, at
least, as is all roar and mane. What is there between him and Mrs Lupin,
sir? Why, there’s a score between him and Mrs Lupin. And I think Mrs
Lupin lets him and his friend off very easy in not charging ‘em double
prices for being a disgrace to the Dragon. That’s my opinion. I wouldn’t
have any such Peter the Wild Boy as him in my house, sir, not if I was
paid race-week prices for it. He’s enough to turn the very beer in
the casks sour with his looks; he is! So he would, if it had judgment
enough.’

‘You’re not answering my question, you know, Mark,’ observed Mr Pinch.

‘Well, sir,’ said Mark, ‘I don’t know as there’s much to answer further
than that. Him and his friend goes and stops at the Moon and Stars till
they’ve run a bill there; and then comes and stops with us and does the
same. The running of bills is common enough Mr Pinch; it an’t that as
we object to; it’s the ways of this chap. Nothing’s good enough for him;
all the women is dying for him he thinks, and is overpaid if he winks at
‘em; and all the men was made to be ordered about by him. This not being
aggravation enough, he says this morning to me, in his usual captivating
way, “We’re going to-night, my man.” “Are you, sir?” says I. “Perhaps
you’d like the bill got ready, sir?” “Oh no, my man,” he says; “you
needn’t mind that. I’ll give Pecksniff orders to see to that.” In reply
to which, the Dragon makes answer, “Thankee, sir, you’re very kind to
honour us so far, but as we don’t know any particular good of you, and
you don’t travel with luggage, and Mr Pecksniff an’t at home (which
perhaps you mayn’t happen to be aware of, sir), we should prefer
something more satisfactory;” and that’s where the matter stands. And I
ask,’ said Mr Tapley, pointing, in conclusion, to Mr Tigg, with his hat,
‘any lady or gentleman, possessing ordinary strength of mind, to say
whether he’s a disagreeable-looking chap or not!’

‘Let me inquire,’ said Martin, interposing between this candid speech
and the delivery of some blighting anathema by Mr Tigg, ‘what the amount
of this debt may be?’

‘In point of money, sir, very little,’ answered Mark. ‘Only just turned
of three pounds. But it an’t that; it’s the--’

‘Yes, yes, you told us so before,’ said Martin. ‘Pinch, a word with
you.’

‘What is it?’ asked Tom, retiring with him to a corner of the room.

‘Why, simply--I am ashamed to say--that this Mr Slyme is a relation of
mine, of whom I never heard anything pleasant; and that I don’t want him
here just now, and think he would be cheaply got rid of, perhaps, for
three or four pounds. You haven’t enough money to pay this bill, I
suppose?’

Tom shook his head to an extent that left no doubt of his entire
sincerity.

‘That’s unfortunate, for I am poor too; and in case you had had it, I’d
have borrowed it of you. But if we told this landlady we would see her
paid, I suppose that would answer the same purpose?’

‘Oh dear, yes!’ said Tom. ‘She knows me, bless you!’

‘Then let us go down at once and tell her so; for the sooner we are rid
of their company the better. As you have conducted the conversation with
this gentleman hitherto, perhaps you’ll tell him what we purpose doing;
will you?’

Mr Pinch, complying, at once imparted the intelligence to Mr Tigg, who
shook him warmly by the hand in return, assuring him that his faith in
anything and everything was again restored. It was not so much, he said,
for the temporary relief of this assistance that he prized it, as for
its vindication of the high principle that Nature’s Nobs felt with
Nature’s Nobs, and that true greatness of soul sympathized with true
greatness of soul, all the world over. It proved to him, he said, that
like him they admired genius, even when it was coupled with the alloy
occasionally visible in the metal of his friend Slyme; and on behalf
of that friend, he thanked them; as warmly and heartily as if the
cause were his own. Being cut short in these speeches by a general move
towards the stairs, he took possession at the street door of the lapel
of Mr Pinch’s coat, as a security against further interruption; and
entertained that gentleman with some highly improving discourse until
they reached the Dragon, whither they were closely followed by Mark and
the new pupil.

The rosy hostess scarcely needed Mr Pinch’s word as a preliminary to
the release of her two visitors, of whom she was glad to be rid on
any terms; indeed, their brief detention had originated mainly with
Mr Tapley, who entertained a constitutional dislike to gentleman
out-at-elbows who flourished on false pretences; and had conceived a
particular aversion to Mr Tigg and his friend, as choice specimens of
the species. The business in hand thus easily settled, Mr Pinch and
Martin would have withdrawn immediately, but for the urgent entreaties
of Mr Tigg that they would allow him the honour of presenting them
to his friend Slyme, which were so very difficult of resistance that,
yielding partly to these persuasions and partly to their own curiosity,
they suffered themselves to be ushered into the presence of that
distinguished gentleman.

He was brooding over the remains of yesterday’s decanter of brandy, and
was engaged in the thoughtful occupation of making a chain of rings on
the top of the table with the wet foot of his drinking-glass. Wretched
and forlorn as he looked, Mr Slyme had once been in his way, the
choicest of swaggerers; putting forth his pretensions boldly, as a
man of infinite taste and most undoubted promise. The stock-in-trade
requisite to set up an amateur in this department of business is very
slight, and easily got together; a trick of the nose and a curl of the
lip sufficient to compound a tolerable sneer, being ample provision for
any exigency. But, in an evil hour, this off-shoot of the Chuzzlewit
trunk, being lazy, and ill qualified for any regular pursuit and having
dissipated such means as he ever possessed, had formally established
himself as a professor of Taste for a livelihood; and finding, too late,
that something more than his old amount of qualifications was necessary
to sustain him in this calling, had quickly fallen to his present level,
where he retained nothing of his old self but his boastfulness and his
bile, and seemed to have no existence separate or apart from his friend
Tigg. And now so abject and so pitiful was he--at once so maudlin,
insolent, beggarly, and proud--that even his friend and parasite,
standing erect beside him, swelled into a Man by contrast.

‘Chiv,’ said Mr Tigg, clapping him on the back, ‘my friend Pecksniff not
being at home, I have arranged our trifling piece of business with Mr
Pinch and friend. Mr Pinch and friend, Mr Chevy Slyme! Chiv, Mr Pinch
and friend!’

‘These are agreeable circumstances in which to be introduced to
strangers,’ said Chevy Slyme, turning his bloodshot eyes towards Tom
Pinch. ‘I am the most miserable man in the world, I believe!’

Tom begged he wouldn’t mention it; and finding him in this condition,
retired, after an awkward pause, followed by Martin. But Mr Tigg so
urgently conjured them, by coughs and signs, to remain in the shadow of
the door, that they stopped there.

‘I swear,’ cried Mr Slyme, giving the table an imbecile blow with his
fist, and then feebly leaning his head upon his hand, while some drunken
drops oozed from his eyes, ‘that I am the wretchedest creature on
record. Society is in a conspiracy against me. I’m the most literary
man alive. I’m full of scholarship. I’m full of genius; I’m full of
information; I’m full of novel views on every subject; yet look at my
condition! I’m at this moment obliged to two strangers for a tavern
bill!’

Mr Tigg replenished his friend’s glass, pressed it into his hand, and
nodded an intimation to the visitors that they would see him in a better
aspect immediately.

‘Obliged to two strangers for a tavern bill, eh!’ repeated Mr Slyme,
after a sulky application to his glass. ‘Very pretty! And crowds of
impostors, the while, becoming famous; men who are no more on a level
with me than--Tigg, I take you to witness that I am the most persecuted
hound on the face of the earth.’

With a whine, not unlike the cry of the animal he named, in its lowest
state of humiliation, he raised his glass to his mouth again. He found
some encouragement in it; for when he set it down he laughed scornfully.
Upon that Mr Tigg gesticulated to the visitors once more, and with great
expression, implying that now the time was come when they would see Chiv
in his greatness.

‘Ha, ha, ha,’ laughed Mr Slyme. ‘Obliged to two strangers for a tavern
bill! Yet I think I’ve a rich uncle, Tigg, who could buy up the uncles
of fifty strangers! Have I, or have I not? I come of a good family,
I believe! Do I, or do I not? I’m not a man of common capacity or
accomplishments, I think! Am I, or am I not?’

‘You are the American aloe of the human race, my dear Chiv,’ said Mr
Tigg, ‘which only blooms once in a hundred years!’

‘Ha, ha, ha!’ laughed Mr Slyme again. ‘Obliged to two strangers for
a tavern bill! I obliged to two architect’s apprentices. Fellows who
measure earth with iron chains, and build houses like bricklayers. Give
me the names of those two apprentices. How dare they oblige me!’

Mr Tigg was quite lost in admiration of this noble trait in his friend’s
character; as he made known to Mr Pinch in a neat little ballet of
action, spontaneously invented for the purpose.

‘I’ll let ‘em know, and I’ll let all men know,’ cried Chevy Slyme,
‘that I’m none of the mean, grovelling, tame characters they meet with
commonly. I have an independent spirit. I have a heart that swells in my
bosom. I have a soul that rises superior to base considerations.’

‘Oh Chiv, Chiv,’ murmured Mr Tigg, ‘you have a nobly independent nature,
Chiv!’

‘You go and do your duty, sir,’ said Mr Slyme, angrily, ‘and borrow
money for travelling expenses; and whoever you borrow it of, let ‘em
know that I possess a haughty spirit, and a proud spirit, and have
infernally finely-touched chords in my nature, which won’t brook
patronage. Do you hear? Tell ‘em I hate ‘em, and that that’s the way
I preserve my self-respect; and tell ‘em that no man ever respected
himself more than I do!’

He might have added that he hated two sorts of men; all those who did
him favours, and all those who were better off than himself; as in
either case their position was an insult to a man of his stupendous
merits. But he did not; for with the apt closing words above recited, Mr
Slyme; of too haughty a stomach to work, to beg, to borrow, or to steal;
yet mean enough to be worked or borrowed, begged or stolen for, by any
catspaw that would serve his turn; too insolent to lick the hand that
fed him in his need, yet cur enough to bite and tear it in the dark;
with these apt closing words Mr Slyme fell forward with his head upon
the table, and so declined into a sodden sleep.

‘Was there ever,’ cried Mr Tigg, joining the young men at the door,
and shutting it carefully behind him, ‘such an independent spirit as is
possessed by that extraordinary creature? Was there ever such a Roman as
our friend Chiv? Was there ever a man of such a purely classical turn of
thought, and of such a toga-like simplicity of nature? Was there ever a
man with such a flow of eloquence? Might he not, gents both, I ask, have
sat upon a tripod in the ancient times, and prophesied to a perfectly
unlimited extent, if previously supplied with gin-and-water at the
public cost?’

Mr Pinch was about to contest this latter position with his usual
mildness, when, observing that his companion had already gone
downstairs, he prepared to follow him.

‘You are not going, Mr Pinch?’ said Tigg.

‘Thank you,’ answered Tom. ‘Yes. Don’t come down.’

‘Do you know that I should like one little word in private with you Mr
Pinch?’ said Tigg, following him. ‘One minute of your company in the
skittle-ground would very much relieve my mind. Might I beseech that
favour?’

‘Oh, certainly,’ replied Tom, ‘if you really wish it.’ So he accompanied
Mr Tigg to the retreat in question; on arriving at which place that
gentleman took from his hat what seemed to be the fossil remains of an
antediluvian pocket-handkerchief, and wiped his eyes therewith.

‘You have not beheld me this day,’ said Mr Tigg, ‘in a favourable
light.’

‘Don’t mention that,’ said Tom, ‘I beg.’

‘But you have NOT,’ cried Tigg. ‘I must persist in that opinion. If you
could have seen me, Mr Pinch, at the head of my regiment on the coast
of Africa, charging in the form of a hollow square, with the women and
children and the regimental plate-chest in the centre, you would not
have known me for the same man. You would have respected me, sir.’

Tom had certain ideas of his own upon the subject of glory; and
consequently he was not quite so much excited by this picture as Mr Tigg
could have desired.

‘But no matter!’ said that gentleman. ‘The school-boy writing home to
his parents and describing the milk-and-water, said “This is indeed
weakness.” I repeat that assertion in reference to myself at the present
moment; and I ask your pardon. Sir, you have seen my friend Slyme?’

‘No doubt,’ said Mr Pinch.

‘Sir, you have been impressed by my friend Slyme?’

‘Not very pleasantly, I must say,’ answered Tom, after a little
hesitation.

‘I am grieved but not surprised,’ cried Mr Tigg, detaining him with both
hands, ‘to hear that you have come to that conclusion; for it is my own.
But, Mr Pinch, though I am a rough and thoughtless man, I can honour
Mind. I honour Mind in following my friend. To you of all men, Mr Pinch,
I have a right to make appeal on Mind’s behalf, when it has not the art
to push its fortune in the world. And so, sir--not for myself, who have
no claim upon you, but for my crushed, my sensitive and independent
friend, who has--I ask the loan of three half-crowns. I ask you for the
loan of three half-crowns, distinctly, and without a blush. I ask it,
almost as a right. And when I add that they will be returned by post,
this week, I feel that you will blame me for that sordid stipulation.’

Mr Pinch took from his pocket an old-fashioned red-leather purse with
a steel clasp, which had probably once belonged to his deceased
grandmother. It held one half-sovereign and no more. All Tom’s worldly
wealth until next quarter-day.

‘Stay!’ cried Mr Tigg, who had watched this proceeding keenly. ‘I was
just about to say, that for the convenience of posting you had better
make it gold. Thank you. A general direction, I suppose, to Mr Pinch at
Mr Pecksniff’s--will that find you?’

‘That’ll find me,’ said Tom. ‘You had better put Esquire to Mr
Pecksniff’s name, if you please. Direct to me, you know, at Seth
Pecksniff’s, Esquire.’

‘At Seth Pecksniff’s, Esquire,’ repeated Mr Tigg, taking an exact note
of it with a stump of pencil. ‘We said this week, I believe?’

‘Yes; or Monday will do,’ observed Tom.

‘No, no, I beg your pardon. Monday will NOT do,’ said Mr Tigg. ‘If we
stipulated for this week, Saturday is the latest day. Did we stipulate
for this week?’

‘Since you are so particular about it,’ said Tom, ‘I think we did.’

Mr Tigg added this condition to his memorandum; read the entry over to
himself with a severe frown; and that the transaction might be the more
correct and business-like, appended his initials to the whole. That
done, he assured Mr Pinch that everything was now perfectly regular;
and, after squeezing his hand with great fervour, departed.

Tom entertained enough suspicion that Martin might possibly turn this
interview into a jest, to render him desirous to avoid the company of
that young gentleman for the present. With this view he took a few turns
up and down the skittle-ground, and did not re-enter the house until
Mr Tigg and his friend had quitted it, and the new pupil and Mark were
watching their departure from one of the windows.

‘I was just a-saying, sir, that if one could live by it,’ observed Mark,
pointing after their late guests, ‘that would be the sort of service
for me. Waiting on such individuals as them would be better than
grave-digging, sir.’

‘And staying here would be better than either, Mark,’ replied Tom. ‘So
take my advice, and continue to swim easily in smooth water.’

‘It’s too late to take it now, sir,’ said Mark. ‘I have broke it to her,
sir. I am off to-morrow morning.’

‘Off!’ cried Mr Pinch, ‘where to?’

‘I shall go up to London, sir.’

‘What to be?’ asked Mr Pinch.

‘Well! I don’t know yet, sir. Nothing turned up that day I opened my
mind to you, as was at all likely to suit me. All them trades I thought
of was a deal too jolly; there was no credit at all to be got in any
of ‘em. I must look for a private service, I suppose, sir. I might be
brought out strong, perhaps, in a serious family, Mr Pinch.’

‘Perhaps you might come out rather too strong for a serious family’s
taste, Mark.’

‘That’s possible, sir. If I could get into a wicked family, I might
do myself justice; but the difficulty is to make sure of one’s ground,
because a young man can’t very well advertise that he wants a place, and
wages an’t so much an object as a wicked sitivation; can he, sir?’

‘Why, no,’ said Mr Pinch, ‘I don’t think he can.’

‘An envious family,’ pursued Mark, with a thoughtful face; ‘or a
quarrelsome family, or a malicious family, or even a good out-and-out
mean family, would open a field of action as I might do something in.
The man as would have suited me of all other men was that old gentleman
as was took ill here, for he really was a trying customer. Howsever, I
must wait and see what turns up, sir; and hope for the worst.’

‘You are determined to go then?’ said Mr Pinch.

‘My box is gone already, sir, by the waggon, and I’m going to walk on
to-morrow morning, and get a lift by the day coach when it overtakes me.
So I wish you good-bye, Mr Pinch--and you too, sir--and all good luck
and happiness!’

They both returned his greeting laughingly, and walked home arm-in-arm.
Mr Pinch imparting to his new friend, as they went, such further
particulars of Mark Tapley’s whimsical restlessness as the reader is
already acquainted with.

In the meantime Mark, having a shrewd notion that his mistress was
in very low spirits, and that he could not exactly answer for the
consequences of any lengthened TETE-A-TETE in the bar, kept himself
obstinately out of her way all the afternoon and evening. In this piece
of generalship he was very much assisted by the great influx of company
into the taproom; for the news of his intention having gone abroad,
there was a perfect throng there all the evening, and much drinking of
healths and clinking of mugs. At length the house was closed for the
night; and there being now no help for it, Mark put the best face he
could upon the matter, and walked doggedly to the bar-door.

‘If I look at her,’ said Mark to himself, ‘I’m done. I feel that I’m
a-going fast.’

‘You have come at last,’ said Mrs Lupin.

Aye, Mark said: There he was.

‘And you are determined to leave us, Mark?’ cried Mrs Lupin.

‘Why, yes; I am,’ said Mark; keeping his eyes hard upon the floor.

‘I thought,’ pursued the landlady, with a most engaging hesitation,
‘that you had been--fond--of the Dragon?’

‘So I am,’ said Mark.

‘Then,’ pursued the hostess--and it really was not an unnatural
inquiry--‘why do you desert it?’

But as he gave no manner of answer to this question; not even on
its being repeated; Mrs Lupin put his money into his hand, and asked
him--not unkindly, quite the contrary--what he would take?

It is proverbial that there are certain things which flesh and blood
cannot bear. Such a question as this, propounded in such a manner, at
such a time, and by such a person, proved (at least, as far as, Mark’s
flesh and blood were concerned) to be one of them. He looked up in spite
of himself directly; and having once looked up, there was no
looking down again; for of all the tight, plump, buxom, bright-eyed,
dimple-faced landladies that ever shone on earth, there stood before him
then, bodily in that bar, the very pink and pineapple.

‘Why, I tell you what,’ said Mark, throwing off all his constraint in an
instant and seizing the hostess round the waist--at which she was not at
all alarmed, for she knew what a good young man he was--‘if I took what
I liked most, I should take you. If I only thought what was best for me,
I should take you. If I took what nineteen young fellows in twenty would
be glad to take, and would take at any price, I should take you. Yes,
I should,’ cried Mr Tapley, shaking his head expressively enough, and
looking (in a momentary state of forgetfulness) rather hard at the
hostess’s ripe lips. ‘And no man wouldn’t wonder if I did!’

Mrs Lupin said he amazed her. She was astonished how he could say such
things. She had never thought it of him.

‘Why, I never thought if of myself till now!’ said Mark, raising his
eyebrows with a look of the merriest possible surprise. ‘I always
expected we should part, and never have no explanation; I meant to do it
when I come in here just now; but there’s something about you, as makes
a man sensible. Then let us have a word or two together; letting it be
understood beforehand,’ he added this in a grave tone, to prevent the
possibility of any mistake, ‘that I’m not a-going to make no love, you
know.’

There was for just one second a shade, though not by any means a dark
one, on the landlady’s open brow. But it passed off instantly, in a
laugh that came from her very heart.

‘Oh, very good!’ she said; ‘if there is to be no love-making, you had
better take your arm away.’

‘Lord, why should I!’ cried Mark. ‘It’s quite innocent.’

‘Of course it’s innocent,’ returned the hostess, ‘or I shouldn’t allow
it.’

‘Very well!’ said Mark. ‘Then let it be.’

There was so much reason in this that the landlady laughed again,
suffered it to remain, and bade him say what he had to say, and be quick
about it. But he was an impudent fellow, she added.

‘Ha ha! I almost think I am!’ cried Mark, ‘though I never thought so
before. Why, I can say anything to-night!’

‘Say what you’re going to say if you please, and be quick,’ returned the
landlady, ‘for I want to get to bed.’

‘Why, then, my dear good soul,’ said Mark, ‘and a kinder woman than you
are never drawed breath--let me see the man as says she did!--what would
be the likely consequence of us two being--’

‘Oh nonsense!’ cried Mrs Lupin. ‘Don’t talk about that any more.’

‘No, no, but it an’t nonsense,’ said Mark; ‘and I wish you’d attend.
What would be the likely consequence of us two being married? If I can’t
be content and comfortable in this here lively Dragon now, is it to be
looked for as I should be then? By no means. Very good. Then you, even
with your good humour, would be always on the fret and worrit, always
uncomfortable in your own mind, always a-thinking as you was getting too
old for my taste, always a-picturing me to yourself as being chained
up to the Dragon door, and wanting to break away. I don’t know that it
would be so,’ said Mark, ‘but I don’t know that it mightn’t be. I am a
roving sort of chap, I know. I’m fond of change. I’m always a-thinking
that with my good health and spirits it would be more creditable in me
to be jolly where there’s things a-going on to make one dismal. It may
be a mistake of mine you see, but nothing short of trying how it acts
will set it right. Then an’t it best that I should go; particular when
your free way has helped me out to say all this, and we can part as
good friends as we have ever been since first I entered this here noble
Dragon, which,’ said Mr Tapley in conclusion, ‘has my good word and my
good wish to the day of my death!’

The hostess sat quite silent for a little time, but she very soon put
both her hands in Mark’s and shook them heartily.

‘For you are a good man,’ she said; looking into his face with a smile,
which was rather serious for her. ‘And I do believe have been a better
friend to me to-night than ever I have had in all my life.’

‘Oh! as to that, you know,’ said Mark, ‘that’s nonsense. But love my
heart alive!’ he added, looking at her in a sort of rapture, ‘if you ARE
that way disposed, what a lot of suitable husbands there is as you may
drive distracted!’

She laughed again at this compliment; and, once more shaking him by both
hands, and bidding him, if he should ever want a friend, to remember
her, turned gayly from the little bar and up the Dragon staircase.

‘Humming a tune as she goes,’ said Mark, listening, ‘in case I should
think she’s at all put out, and should be made down-hearted. Come,
here’s some credit in being jolly, at last!’

With that piece of comfort, very ruefully uttered, he went, in anything
but a jolly manner, to bed.

He rose early next morning, and was a-foot soon after sunrise. But it
was of no use; the whole place was up to see Mark Tapley off; the boys,
the dogs, the children, the old men, the busy people and the idlers;
there they were, all calling out ‘Good-b’ye, Mark,’ after their own
manner, and all sorry he was going. Somehow he had a kind of sense that
his old mistress was peeping from her chamber-window, but he couldn’t
make up his mind to look back.

‘Good-b’ye one, good-b’ye all!’ cried Mark, waving his hat on the top
of his walking-stick, as he strode at a quick pace up the little street.
‘Hearty chaps them wheelwrights--hurrah! Here’s the butcher’s dog
a-coming out of the garden--down, old fellow! And Mr Pinch a-going to
his organ--good-b’ye, sir! And the terrier-bitch from over the way--hie,
then, lass! And children enough to hand down human natur to the latest
posterity--good-b’ye, boys and girls! There’s some credit in it now. I’m
a-coming out strong at last. These are the circumstances that would try
a ordinary mind; but I’m uncommon jolly. Not quite as jolly as I could
wish to be, but very near. Good-b’ye! good-b’ye!’



CHAPTER EIGHT

ACCOMPANIES MR PECKSNIFF AND HIS CHARMING DAUGHTERS TO THE CITY OF
LONDON; AND RELATES WHAT FELL OUT UPON THEIR WAY THITHER


When Mr Pecksniff and the two young ladies got into the heavy coach at
the end of the lane, they found it empty, which was a great comfort;
particularly as the outside was quite full and the passengers looked
very frosty. For as Mr Pecksniff justly observed--when he and his
daughters had burrowed their feet deep in the straw, wrapped themselves
to the chin, and pulled up both windows--it is always satisfactory to
feel, in keen weather, that many other people are not as warm as
you are. And this, he said, was quite natural, and a very beautiful
arrangement; not confined to coaches, but extending itself into many
social ramifications. ‘For’ (he observed), ‘if every one were warm and
well-fed, we should lose the satisfaction of admiring the fortitude with
which certain conditions of men bear cold and hunger. And if we were
no better off than anybody else, what would become of our sense of
gratitude; which,’ said Mr Pecksniff with tears in his eyes, as he shook
his fist at a beggar who wanted to get up behind, ‘is one of the holiest
feelings of our common nature.’

His children heard with becoming reverence these moral precepts from the
lips of their father, and signified their acquiescence in the same, by
smiles. That he might the better feed and cherish that sacred flame of
gratitude in his breast, Mr Pecksniff remarked that he would trouble
his eldest daughter, even in this early stage of their journey, for the
brandy-bottle. And from the narrow neck of that stone vessel he imbibed
a copious refreshment.

‘What are we?’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘but coaches? Some of us are slow
coaches’--

‘Goodness, Pa!’ cried Charity.

‘Some of us, I say,’ resumed her parent with increased emphasis, ‘are
slow coaches; some of us are fast coaches. Our passions are the horses;
and rampant animals too--!’

‘Really, Pa,’ cried both the daughters at once. ‘How very unpleasant.’

‘And rampant animals too’ repeated Mr Pecksniff with so much
determination, that he may be said to have exhibited, at the moment a
sort of moral rampancy himself;’--and Virtue is the drag. We start from
The Mother’s Arms, and we run to The Dust Shovel.’

When he had said this, Mr Pecksniff, being exhausted, took some further
refreshment. When he had done that, he corked the bottle tight, with the
air of a man who had effectually corked the subject also; and went to
sleep for three stages.

The tendency of mankind when it falls asleep in coaches, is to wake up
cross; to find its legs in its way; and its corns an aggravation.
Mr Pecksniff not being exempt from the common lot of humanity found
himself, at the end of his nap, so decidedly the victim of these
infirmities, that he had an irresistible inclination to visit them upon
his daughters; which he had already begun to do in the shape of divers
random kicks, and other unexpected motions of his shoes, when the coach
stopped, and after a short delay the door was opened.

‘Now mind,’ said a thin sharp voice in the dark. ‘I and my son go
inside, because the roof is full, but you agree only to charge us
outside prices. It’s quite understood that we won’t pay more. Is it?’

‘All right, sir,’ replied the guard.

‘Is there anybody inside now?’ inquired the voice.

‘Three passengers,’ returned the guard.

‘Then I ask the three passengers to witness this bargain, if they will
be so good,’ said the voice. ‘My boy, I think we may safely get in.’

In pursuance of which opinion, two people took their seats in the
vehicle, which was solemnly licensed by Act of Parliament to carry any
six persons who could be got in at the door.

‘That was lucky!’ whispered the old man, when they moved on again. ‘And
a great stroke of policy in you to observe it. He, he, he! We couldn’t
have gone outside. I should have died of the rheumatism!’

Whether it occurred to the dutiful son that he had in some degree
over-reached himself by contributing to the prolongation of his father’s
days; or whether the cold had effected his temper; is doubtful. But he
gave his father such a nudge in reply, that that good old gentleman
was taken with a cough which lasted for full five minutes without
intermission, and goaded Mr Pecksniff to that pitch of irritation, that
he said at last--and very suddenly:

‘There is no room! There is really no room in this coach for any
gentleman with a cold in his head!’

‘Mine,’ said the old man, after a moment’s pause, ‘is upon my chest,
Pecksniff.’

The voice and manner, together, now that he spoke out; the composure of
the speaker; the presence of his son; and his knowledge of Mr Pecksniff;
afforded a clue to his identity which it was impossible to mistake.

‘Hem! I thought,’ said Mr Pecksniff, returning to his usual mildness,
‘that I addressed a stranger. I find that I address a relative, Mr
Anthony Chuzzlewit and his son Mr Jonas--for they, my dear children,
are our travelling companions--will excuse me for an apparently harsh
remark. It is not MY desire to wound the feelings of any person with
whom I am connected in family bonds. I may be a Hypocrite,’ said Mr
Pecksniff, cuttingly; ‘but I am not a Brute.’

‘Pooh, pooh!’ said the old man. ‘What signifies that word, Pecksniff?
Hypocrite! why, we are all hypocrites. We were all hypocrites t’other
day. I am sure I felt that to be agreed upon among us, or I shouldn’t
have called you one. We should not have been there at all, if we had not
been hypocrites. The only difference between you and the rest was--shall
I tell you the difference between you and the rest now, Pecksniff?’

‘If you please, my good sir; if you please.’

‘Why, the annoying quality in YOU, is,’ said the old man, ‘that you
never have a confederate or partner in YOUR juggling; you would deceive
everybody, even those who practise the same art; and have a way with
you, as if you--he, he, he!--as if you really believed yourself. I’d
lay a handsome wager now,’ said the old man, ‘if I laid wagers, which
I don’t and never did, that you keep up appearances by a tacit
understanding, even before your own daughters here. Now I, when I have
a business scheme in hand, tell Jonas what it is, and we discuss it
openly. You’re not offended, Pecksniff?’

‘Offended, my good sir!’ cried that gentleman, as if he had received the
highest compliments that language could convey.

‘Are you travelling to London, Mr Pecksniff?’ asked the son.

‘Yes, Mr Jonas, we are travelling to London. We shall have the pleasure
of your company all the way, I trust?’

‘Oh! ecod, you had better ask father that,’ said Jonas. ‘I am not
a-going to commit myself.’

Mr Pecksniff was, as a matter of course, greatly entertained by this
retort. His mirth having subsided, Mr Jonas gave him to understand
that himself and parent were in fact travelling to their home in the
metropolis; and that, since the memorable day of the great family
gathering, they had been tarrying in that part of the country, watching
the sale of certain eligible investments, which they had had in their
copartnership eye when they came down; for it was their custom, Mr Jonas
said, whenever such a thing was practicable, to kill two birds with one
stone, and never to throw away sprats, but as bait for whales. When he
had communicated to Mr Pecksniff these pithy scraps of intelligence,
he said, ‘That if it was all the same to him, he would turn him over
to father, and have a chat with the gals;’ and in furtherance of
this polite scheme, he vacated his seat adjoining that gentleman, and
established himself in the opposite corner, next to the fair Miss Mercy.

The education of Mr Jonas had been conducted from his cradle on the
strictest principles of the main chance. The very first word he learnt
to spell was ‘gain,’ and the second (when he got into two syllables),
‘money.’ But for two results, which were not clearly foreseen perhaps by
his watchful parent in the beginning, his training may be said to have
been unexceptionable. One of these flaws was, that having been long
taught by his father to over-reach everybody, he had imperceptibly
acquired a love of over-reaching that venerable monitor himself.
The other, that from his early habits of considering everything as a
question of property, he had gradually come to look, with impatience,
on his parent as a certain amount of personal estate, which had no
right whatever to be going at large, but ought to be secured in that
particular description of iron safe which is commonly called a coffin,
and banked in the grave.

‘Well, cousin!’ said Mr Jonas--‘Because we ARE cousins, you know, a few
times removed--so you’re going to London?’

Miss Mercy replied in the affirmative, pinching her sister’s arm at the
same time, and giggling excessively.

‘Lots of beaux in London, cousin!’ said Mr Jonas, slightly advancing his
elbow.

‘Indeed, sir!’ cried the young lady. ‘They won’t hurt us, sir, I dare
say.’ And having given him this answer with great demureness she was so
overcome by her own humour, that she was fain to stifle her merriment in
her sister’s shawl.

‘Merry,’ cried that more prudent damsel, ‘really I am ashamed of you.
How can you go on so? You wild thing!’ At which Miss Merry only laughed
the more, of course.

‘I saw a wildness in her eye, t’other day,’ said Mr Jonas, addressing
Charity. ‘But you’re the one to sit solemn! I say--You were regularly
prim, cousin!’

‘Oh! The old-fashioned fright!’ cried Merry, in a whisper. ‘Cherry my
dear, upon my word you must sit next him. I shall die outright if he
talks to me any more; I shall, positively!’ To prevent which fatal
consequence, the buoyant creature skipped out of her seat as she spoke,
and squeezed her sister into the place from which she had risen.

‘Don’t mind crowding me,’ cried Mr Jonas. ‘I like to be crowded by gals.
Come a little closer, cousin.’

‘No, thank you, sir,’ said Charity.

‘There’s that other one a-laughing again,’ said Mr Jonas; ‘she’s
a-laughing at my father, I shouldn’t wonder. If he puts on that old
flannel nightcap of his, I don’t know what she’ll do! Is that my father
a-snoring, Pecksniff?’

‘Yes, Mr Jonas.’

‘Tread upon his foot, will you be so good?’ said the young gentleman.
‘The foot next you’s the gouty one.’

Mr Pecksniff hesitating to perform this friendly office, Mr Jonas did it
himself; at the same time crying:

‘Come, wake up, father, or you’ll be having the nightmare, and
screeching out, I know.--Do you ever have the nightmare, cousin?’ he
asked his neighbour, with characteristic gallantry, as he dropped his
voice again.

‘Sometimes,’ answered Charity. ‘Not often.’

‘The other one,’ said Mr Jonas, after a pause. ‘Does SHE ever have the
nightmare?’

‘I don’t know,’ replied Charity. ‘You had better ask her.’

‘She laughs so,’ said Jonas; ‘there’s no talking to her. Only hark how
she’s a-going on now! You’re the sensible one, cousin!’

‘Tut, tut!’ cried Charity.

‘Oh! But you are! You know you are!’

‘Mercy is a little giddy,’ said Miss Charity. But she’ll sober down in
time.’

‘It’ll be a very long time, then, if she does at all,’ rejoined her
cousin. ‘Take a little more room.’

‘I am afraid of crowding you,’ said Charity. But she took it
notwithstanding; and after one or two remarks on the extreme heaviness
of the coach, and the number of places it stopped at, they fell into
a silence which remained unbroken by any member of the party until
supper-time.

Although Mr Jonas conducted Charity to the hotel and sat himself beside
her at the board, it was pretty clear that he had an eye to ‘the other
one’ also, for he often glanced across at Mercy, and seemed to draw
comparisons between the personal appearance of the two, which were not
unfavourable to the superior plumpness of the younger sister. He allowed
himself no great leisure for this kind of observation, however, being
busily engaged with the supper, which, as he whispered in his fair
companion’s ear, was a contract business, and therefore the more she
ate, the better the bargain was. His father and Mr Pecksniff, probably
acting on the same wise principle, demolished everything that came
within their reach, and by that means acquired a greasy expression of
countenance, indicating contentment, if not repletion, which it was very
pleasant to contemplate.

When they could eat no more, Mr Pecksniff and Mr Jonas subscribed for
two sixpenny-worths of hot brandy-and-water, which the latter gentleman
considered a more politic order than one shillingsworth; there being
a chance of their getting more spirit out of the innkeeper under this
arrangement than if it were all in one glass. Having swallowed his share
of the enlivening fluid, Mr Pecksniff, under pretence of going to see if
the coach were ready, went secretly to the bar, and had his own little
bottle filled, in order that he might refresh himself at leisure in the
dark coach without being observed.

These arrangements concluded, and the coach being ready, they got into
their old places and jogged on again. But before he composed himself
for a nap, Mr Pecksniff delivered a kind of grace after meat, in these
words:

‘The process of digestion, as I have been informed by anatomical
friends, is one of the most wonderful works of nature. I do not know
how it may be with others, but it is a great satisfaction to me to know,
when regaling on my humble fare, that I am putting in motion the most
beautiful machinery with which we have any acquaintance. I really feel
at such times as if I was doing a public service. When I have wound
myself up, if I may employ such a term,’ said Mr Pecksniff with
exquisite tenderness, ‘and know that I am Going, I feel that in the
lesson afforded by the works within me, I am a Benefactor to my Kind!’

As nothing could be added to this, nothing was said; and Mr Pecksniff,
exulting, it may be presumed, in his moral utility, went to sleep again.

The rest of the night wore away in the usual manner. Mr Pecksniff
and Old Anthony kept tumbling against each other and waking up much
terrified, or crushed their heads in opposite corners of the coach and
strangely tattooed the surface of their faces--Heaven knows how--in
their sleep. The coach stopped and went on, and went on and stopped,
times out of number. Passengers got up and passengers got down, and
fresh horses came and went and came again, with scarcely any interval
between each team as it seemed to those who were dozing, and with a gap
of a whole night between every one as it seemed to those who were broad
awake. At length they began to jolt and rumble over horribly uneven
stones, and Mr Pecksniff looking out of window said it was to-morrow
morning, and they were there.

Very soon afterwards the coach stopped at the office in the city; and
the street in which it was situated was already in a bustle, that fully
bore out Mr Pecksniff’s words about its being morning, though for any
signs of day yet appearing in the sky it might have been midnight. There
was a dense fog too; as if it were a city in the clouds, which they had
been travelling to all night up a magic beanstalk; and there was a thick
crust upon the pavement like oilcake; which, one of the outsides (mad,
no doubt) said to another (his keeper, of course), was Snow.

Taking a confused leave of Anthony and his son, and leaving the luggage
of himself and daughters at the office to be called for afterwards, Mr
Pecksniff, with one of the young ladies under each arm, dived across the
street, and then across other streets, and so up the queerest courts,
and down the strangest alleys and under the blindest archways, in a kind
of frenzy; now skipping over a kennel, now running for his life from a
coach and horses; now thinking he had lost his way, now thinking he had
found it; now in a state of the highest confidence, now despondent to
the last degree, but always in a great perspiration and flurry; until at
length they stopped in a kind of paved yard near the Monument. That is
to say, Mr Pecksniff told them so; for as to anything they could see
of the Monument, or anything else but the buildings close at hand, they
might as well have been playing blindman’s buff at Salisbury.

Mr Pecksniff looked about him for a moment, and then knocked at the
door of a very dingy edifice, even among the choice collection of dingy
edifices at hand; on the front of which was a little oval board like
a tea-tray, with this inscription--‘Commercial Boarding-House: M.
Todgers.’

It seemed that M. Todgers was not up yet, for Mr Pecksniff knocked twice
and rang thrice, without making any impression on anything but a dog
over the way. At last a chain and some bolts were withdrawn with a rusty
noise, as if the weather had made the very fastenings hoarse, and a
small boy with a large red head, and no nose to speak of, and a very
dirty Wellington boot on his left arm, appeared; who (being surprised)
rubbed the nose just mentioned with the back of a shoe-brush, and said
nothing.

‘Still a-bed my man?’ asked Mr Pecksniff.

‘Still a-bed!’ replied the boy. ‘I wish they wos still a-bed. They’re
very noisy a-bed; all calling for their boots at once. I thought you
was the Paper, and wondered why you didn’t shove yourself through the
grating as usual. What do you want?’

Considering his years, which were tender, the youth may be said to have
preferred this question sternly, and in something of a defiant manner.
But Mr Pecksniff, without taking umbrage at his bearing put a card
in his hand, and bade him take that upstairs, and show them in the
meanwhile into a room where there was a fire.

‘Or if there’s one in the eating parlour,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘I can
find it myself.’ So he led his daughters, without waiting for any
further introduction, into a room on the ground-floor, where a
table-cloth (rather a tight and scanty fit in reference to the table it
covered) was already spread for breakfast; displaying a mighty dish of
pink boiled beef; an instance of that particular style of loaf which
is known to housekeepers as a slack-baked, crummy quartern; a liberal
provision of cups and saucers; and the usual appendages.

Inside the fender were some half-dozen pairs of shoes and boots, of
various sizes, just cleaned and turned with the soles upwards to dry;
and a pair of short black gaiters, on one of which was chalked--in
sport, it would appear, by some gentleman who had slipped down for the
purpose, pending his toilet, and gone up again--‘Jinkins’s Particular,’
while the other exhibited a sketch in profile, claiming to be the
portrait of Jinkins himself.

M. Todgers’s Commercial Boarding-House was a house of that sort which is
likely to be dark at any time; but that morning it was especially dark.
There was an odd smell in the passage, as if the concentrated essence of
all the dinners that had been cooked in the kitchen since the house was
built, lingered at the top of the kitchen stairs to that hour, and like
the Black Friar in Don Juan, ‘wouldn’t be driven away.’ In particular,
there was a sensation of cabbage; as if all the greens that had ever
been boiled there, were evergreens, and flourished in immortal strength.
The parlour was wainscoted, and communicated to strangers a magnetic
and instinctive consciousness of rats and mice. The staircase was very
gloomy and very broad, with balustrades so thick and heavy that they
would have served for a bridge. In a sombre corner on the first landing,
stood a gruff old giant of a clock, with a preposterous coronet of three
brass balls on his head; whom few had ever seen--none ever looked in the
face--and who seemed to continue his heavy tick for no other reason than
to warn heedless people from running into him accidentally. It had not
been papered or painted, hadn’t Todgers’s, within the memory of man. It
was very black, begrimed, and mouldy. And, at the top of the staircase,
was an old, disjointed, rickety, ill-favoured skylight, patched
and mended in all kinds of ways, which looked distrustfully down at
everything that passed below, and covered Todgers’s up as if it were a
sort of human cucumber-frame, and only people of a peculiar growth were
reared there.

Mr Pecksniff and his fair daughters had not stood warming themselves at
the fire ten minutes, when the sound of feet was heard upon the stairs,
and the presiding deity of the establishment came hurrying in.

M. Todgers was a lady, rather a bony and hard-featured lady, with a row
of curls in front of her head, shaped like little barrels of beer;
and on the top of it something made of net--you couldn’t call it a cap
exactly--which looked like a black cobweb. She had a little basket on
her arm, and in it a bunch of keys that jingled as she came. In her
other hand she bore a flaming tallow candle, which, after surveying Mr
Pecksniff for one instant by its light, she put down upon the table, to
the end that she might receive him with the greater cordiality.

‘Mr Pecksniff!’ cried Mrs Todgers. ‘Welcome to London! Who would have
thought of such a visit as this, after so--dear, dear!--so many years!
How do you DO, Mr Pecksniff?’

‘As well as ever; and as glad to see you, as ever;’ Mr Pecksniff made
response. ‘Why, you are younger than you used to be!’

‘YOU are, I am sure!’ said Mrs Todgers. ‘You’re not a bit changed.’

‘What do you say to this?’ cried Mr Pecksniff, stretching out his hand
towards the young ladies. ‘Does this make me no older?’

‘Not your daughters!’ exclaimed the lady, raising her hands and clasping
them. ‘Oh, no, Mr Pecksniff! Your second, and her bridesmaid!’

Mr Pecksniff smiled complacently; shook his head; and said, ‘My
daughters, Mrs Todgers. Merely my daughters.’

‘Ah!’ sighed the good lady, ‘I must believe you, for now I look at ‘em
I think I should have known ‘em anywhere. My dear Miss Pecksniffs, how
happy your Pa has made me!’

She hugged them both; and being by this time overpowered by her feelings
or the inclemency of the morning, jerked a little pocket handkerchief
out of the little basket, and applied the same to her face.

‘Now, my good madam,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘I know the rules of your
establishment, and that you only receive gentlemen boarders. But
it occurred to me, when I left home, that perhaps you would give my
daughters house room, and make an exception in their favour.’

‘Perhaps?’ cried Mrs Todgers ecstatically. ‘Perhaps?’

‘I may say then, that I was sure you would,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘I
know that you have a little room of your own, and that they can be
comfortable there, without appearing at the general table.’

‘Dear girls!’ said Mrs Todgers. ‘I must take that liberty once more.’

Mrs Todgers meant by this that she must embrace them once more, which
she accordingly did with great ardour. But the truth was that the house
being full with the exception of one bed, which would now be occupied
by Mr Pecksniff, she wanted time for consideration; and so much time too
(for it was a knotty point how to dispose of them), that even when
this second embrace was over, she stood for some moments gazing at the
sisters, with affection beaming in one eye, and calculation shining out
of the other.

‘I think I know how to arrange it,’ said Mrs Todgers, at length. ‘A sofa
bedstead in the little third room which opens from my own parlour.--Oh,
you dear girls!’

Thereupon she embraced them once more, observing that she could not
decide which was most like their poor mother (which was highly probable,
seeing that she had never beheld that lady), but that she rather thought
the youngest was; and then she said that as the gentlemen would be down
directly, and the ladies were fatigued with travelling, would they step
into her room at once?

It was on the same floor; being, in fact, the back parlour; and had,
as Mrs Todgers said, the great advantage (in London) of not being
overlooked; as they would see when the fog cleared off. Nor was this
a vainglorious boast, for it commanded at a perspective of two feet,
a brown wall with a black cistern on the top. The sleeping apartment
designed for the young ladies was approached from this chamber by a
mightily convenient little door, which would only open when fallen
against by a strong person. It commanded from a similar point of sight
another angle of the wall, and another side of the cistern. ‘Not the
damp side,’ said Mrs Todgers. ‘THAT is Mr Jinkins’s.’

In the first of these sanctuaries a fire was speedily kindled by the
youthful porter, who, whistling at his work in the absence of Mrs
Todgers (not to mention his sketching figures on his corduroys with
burnt firewood), and being afterwards taken by that lady in the fact,
was dismissed with a box on his ears. Having prepared breakfast for the
young ladies with her own hands, she withdrew to preside in the other
room; where the joke at Mr Jinkins’s expense seemed to be proceeding
rather noisily.

‘I won’t ask you yet, my dears,’ said Mr Pecksniff, looking in at the
door, ‘how you like London. Shall I?’

‘We haven’t seen much of it, Pa!’ cried Merry.

‘Nothing, I hope,’ said Cherry. (Both very miserably.)

‘Indeed,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘that’s true. We have our pleasure, and our
business too, before us. All in good time. All in good time!’

Whether Mr Pecksniff’s business in London was as strictly professional
as he had given his new pupil to understand, we shall see, to adopt that
worthy man’s phraseology, ‘all in good time.’



CHAPTER NINE

TOWN AND TODGER’S


Surely there never was, in any other borough, city, or hamlet in the
world, such a singular sort of a place as Todgers’s. And surely London,
to judge from that part of it which hemmed Todgers’s round and hustled
it, and crushed it, and stuck its brick-and-mortar elbows into it, and
kept the air from it, and stood perpetually between it and the
light, was worthy of Todgers’s, and qualified to be on terms of close
relationship and alliance with hundreds and thousands of the odd family
to which Todgers’s belonged.

You couldn’t walk about Todgers’s neighbourhood, as you could in any
other neighbourhood. You groped your way for an hour through lanes and
byways, and court-yards, and passages; and you never once emerged upon
anything that might be reasonably called a street. A kind of resigned
distraction came over the stranger as he trod those devious mazes, and,
giving himself up for lost, went in and out and round about and quietly
turned back again when he came to a dead wall or was stopped by an
iron railing, and felt that the means of escape might possibly present
themselves in their own good time, but that to anticipate them was
hopeless. Instances were known of people who, being asked to dine at
Todgers’s, had travelled round and round for a weary time, with its very
chimney-pots in view; and finding it, at last, impossible of attainment,
had gone home again with a gentle melancholy on their spirits,
tranquil and uncomplaining. Nobody had ever found Todgers’s on a verbal
direction, though given within a few minutes’ walk of it. Cautious
emigrants from Scotland or the North of England had been known to reach
it safely, by impressing a charity-boy, town-bred, and bringing him
along with them; or by clinging tenaciously to the postman; but these
were rare exceptions, and only went to prove the rule that Todgers’s was
in a labyrinth, whereof the mystery was known but to a chosen few.

Several fruit-brokers had their marts near Todgers’s; and one of the
first impressions wrought upon the stranger’s senses was of oranges--of
damaged oranges--with blue and green bruises on them, festering in
boxes, or mouldering away in cellars. All day long, a stream of porters
from the wharves beside the river, each bearing on his back a bursting
chest of oranges, poured slowly through the narrow passages; while
underneath the archway by the public-house, the knots of those who
rested and regaled within, were piled from morning until night. Strange
solitary pumps were found near Todgers’s hiding themselves for the most
part in blind alleys, and keeping company with fire-ladders. There were
churches also by dozens, with many a ghostly little churchyard, all
overgrown with such straggling vegetation as springs up spontaneously
from damp, and graves, and rubbish. In some of these dingy
resting-places which bore much the same analogy to green churchyards,
as the pots of earth for mignonette and wall-flower in the windows
overlooking them did to rustic gardens, there were trees; tall trees;
still putting forth their leaves in each succeeding year, with such a
languishing remembrance of their kind (so one might fancy, looking on
their sickly boughs) as birds in cages have of theirs. Here, paralysed
old watchmen guarded the bodies of the dead at night, year after year,
until at last they joined that solemn brotherhood; and, saving that they
slept below the ground a sounder sleep than even they had ever known
above it, and were shut up in another kind of box, their condition can
hardly be said to have undergone any material change when they, in turn,
were watched themselves.

Among the narrow thoroughfares at hand, there lingered, here and there,
an ancient doorway of carved oak, from which, of old, the sounds of
revelry and feasting often came; but now these mansions, only used
for storehouses, were dark and dull, and, being filled with wool, and
cotton, and the like--such heavy merchandise as stifles sound and stops
the throat of echo--had an air of palpable deadness about them which,
added to their silence and desertion, made them very grim. In like
manner, there were gloomy courtyards in these parts, into which few but
belated wayfarers ever strayed, and where vast bags and packs of goods,
upward or downward bound, were for ever dangling between heaven and
earth from lofty cranes There were more trucks near Todgers’s than
you would suppose whole city could ever need; not active trucks, but
a vagabond race, for ever lounging in the narrow lanes before
their masters’ doors and stopping up the pass; so that when a stray
hackney-coach or lumbering waggon came that way, they were the cause of
such an uproar as enlivened the whole neighbourhood, and made the bells
in the next churchtower vibrate again. In the throats and maws of dark
no-thoroughfares near Todgers’s, individual wine-merchants and wholesale
dealers in grocery-ware had perfect little towns of their own; and, deep
among the foundations of these buildings, the ground was undermined and
burrowed out into stables, where cart-horses, troubled by rats, might be
heard on a quiet Sunday rattling their halters, as disturbed spirits in
tales of haunted houses are said to clank their chains.

To tell of half the queer old taverns that had a drowsy and secret
existence near Todgers’s, would fill a goodly book; while a second
volume no less capacious might be devoted to an account of the quaint
old guests who frequented their dimly lighted parlours. These were, in
general, ancient inhabitants of that region; born, and bred there from
boyhood, who had long since become wheezy and asthmatical, and short of
breath, except in the article of story-telling; in which respect they
were still marvellously long-winded. These gentry were much opposed to
steam and all new-fangled ways, and held ballooning to be sinful, and
deplored the degeneracy of the times; which that particular member
of each little club who kept the keys of the nearest church,
professionally, always attributed to the prevalence of dissent and
irreligion; though the major part of the company inclined to the belief
that virtue went out with hair-powder, and that Old England’s greatness
had decayed amain with barbers.

As to Todgers’s itself--speaking of it only as a house in that
neighbourhood, and making no reference to its merits as a commercial
boarding establishment--it was worthy to stand where it did. There was
one staircase-window in it, at the side of the house, on the ground
floor; which tradition said had not been opened for a hundred years at
least, and which, abutting on an always dirty lane, was so begrimed and
coated with a century’s mud, that no one pane of glass could possibly
fall out, though all were cracked and broken twenty times. But the grand
mystery of Todgers’s was the cellarage, approachable only by a little
back door and a rusty grating; which cellarage within the memory of man
had had no connection with the house, but had always been the freehold
property of somebody else, and was reported to be full of wealth; though
in what shape--whether in silver, brass, or gold, or butts of wine,
or casks of gun-powder--was matter of profound uncertainty and supreme
indifference to Todgers’s and all its inmates.

The top of the house was worthy of notice. There was a sort of terrace
on the roof, with posts and fragments of rotten lines, once intended to
dry clothes upon; and there were two or three tea-chests out there,
full of earth, with forgotten plants in them, like old walking-sticks.
Whoever climbed to this observatory, was stunned at first from having
knocked his head against the little door in coming out; and after that,
was for the moment choked from having looked perforce, straight down the
kitchen chimney; but these two stages over, there were things to gaze
at from the top of Todgers’s, well worth your seeing too. For first
and foremost, if the day were bright, you observed upon the house-tops,
stretching far away, a long dark path; the shadow of the Monument; and
turning round, the tall original was close beside you, with every hair
erect upon his golden head, as if the doings of the city frightened him.
Then there were steeples, towers, belfries, shining vanes, and masts of
ships; a very forest. Gables, housetops, garret-windows, wilderness upon
wilderness. Smoke and noise enough for all the world at once.

After the first glance, there were slight features in the midst of this
crowd of objects, which sprung out from the mass without any reason, as
it were, and took hold of the attention whether the spectator would or
no. Thus, the revolving chimney-pots on one great stack of buildings
seemed to be turning gravely to each other every now and then, and
whispering the result of their separate observation of what was going
on below. Others, of a crook-backed shape, appeared to be maliciously
holding themselves askew, that they might shut the prospect out and
baffle Todgers’s. The man who was mending a pen at an upper window over
the way, became of paramount importance in the scene, and made a blank
in it, ridiculously disproportionate in its extent, when he retired. The
gambols of a piece of cloth upon the dyer’s pole had far more interest
for the moment than all the changing motion of the crowd. Yet even while
the looker-on felt angry with himself for this, and wondered how it was,
the tumult swelled into a roar; the hosts of objects seemed to thicken
and expand a hundredfold, and after gazing round him, quite scared, he
turned into Todgers’s again, much more rapidly than he came out; and ten
to one he told M. Todgers afterwards that if he hadn’t done so, he would
certainly have come into the street by the shortest cut; that is to say,
head-foremost.

So said the two Miss Pecksniffs, when they retired with Mrs Todgers from
this place of espial, leaving the youthful porter to close the door
and follow them downstairs; who, being of a playful temperament, and
contemplating with a delight peculiar to his sex and time of life, any
chance of dashing himself into small fragments, lingered behind to walk
upon the parapet.

It being the second day of their stay in London, the Miss Pecksniffs
and Mrs Todgers were by this time highly confidential, insomuch that the
last-named lady had already communicated the particulars of three early
disappointments of a tender nature; and had furthermore possessed her
young friends with a general summary of the life, conduct, and character
of Mr Todgers. Who, it seemed, had cut his matrimonial career rather
short, by unlawfully running away from his happiness, and establishing
himself in foreign countries as a bachelor.

‘Your pa was once a little particular in his attentions, my dears,’ said
Mrs Todgers, ‘but to be your ma was too much happiness denied me. You’d
hardly know who this was done for, perhaps?’

She called their attention to an oval miniature, like a little blister,
which was tacked up over the kettle-holder, and in which there was a
dreamy shadowing forth of her own visage.

‘It’s a speaking likeness!’ cried the two Miss Pecksniffs.

‘It was considered so once,’ said Mrs Todgers, warming herself in a
gentlemanly manner at the fire; ‘but I hardly thought you would have
known it, my loves.’

They would have known it anywhere. If they could have met with it in
the street, or seen it in a shop window, they would have cried ‘Good
gracious! Mrs Todgers!’

‘Presiding over an establishment like this, makes sad havoc with the
features, my dear Miss Pecksniffs,’ said Mrs Todgers. ‘The gravy alone,
is enough to add twenty years to one’s age, I do assure you.’

‘Lor’!’ cried the two Miss Pecksniffs.

‘The anxiety of that one item, my dears,’ said Mrs Todgers, ‘keeps the
mind continually upon the stretch. There is no such passion in human
nature, as the passion for gravy among commercial gentlemen. It’s
nothing to say a joint won’t yield--a whole animal wouldn’t yield--the
amount of gravy they expect each day at dinner. And what I have
undergone in consequence,’ cried Mrs Todgers, raising her eyes and
shaking her head, ‘no one would believe!’

‘Just like Mr Pinch, Merry!’ said Charity. ‘We have always noticed it in
him, you remember?’

‘Yes, my dear,’ giggled Merry, ‘but we have never given it him, you
know.’

‘You, my dears, having to deal with your pa’s pupils who can’t help
themselves, are able to take your own way,’ said Mrs Todgers; ‘but in
a commercial establishment, where any gentleman may say any Saturday
evening, “Mrs Todgers, this day week we part, in consequence of the
cheese,” it is not so easy to preserve a pleasant understanding. Your pa
was kind enough,’ added the good lady, ‘to invite me to take a ride with
you to-day; and I think he mentioned that you were going to call upon
Miss Pinch. Any relation to the gentleman you were speaking of just now,
Miss Pecksniff?’

‘For goodness sake, Mrs Todgers,’ interposed the lively Merry, ‘don’t
call him a gentleman. My dear Cherry, Pinch a gentleman! The idea!’

‘What a wicked girl you are!’ cried Mrs Todgers, embracing her with
great affection. ‘You are quite a quiz, I do declare! My dear Miss
Pecksniff, what a happiness your sister’s spirits must be to your pa and
self!’

‘He’s the most hideous, goggle-eyed creature, Mrs Todgers, in
existence,’ resumed Merry: ‘quite an ogre. The ugliest, awkwardest
frightfullest being, you can imagine. This is his sister, so I leave you
to suppose what SHE is. I shall be obliged to laugh outright, I know
I shall!’ cried the charming girl, ‘I never shall be able to keep my
countenance. The notion of a Miss Pinch presuming to exist at all is
sufficient to kill one, but to see her--oh my stars!’

Mrs Todgers laughed immensely at the dear love’s humour, and declared
she was quite afraid of her, that she was. She was so very severe.

‘Who is severe?’ cried a voice at the door. ‘There is no such thing as
severity in our family, I hope!’ And then Mr Pecksniff peeped smilingly
into the room, and said, ‘May I come in, Mrs Todgers?’

Mrs Todgers almost screamed, for the little door of communication
between that room and the inner one being wide open, there was a full
disclosure of the sofa bedstead in all its monstrous impropriety. But
she had the presence of mind to close this portal in the twinkling of an
eye; and having done so, said, though not without confusion, ‘Oh yes, Mr
Pecksniff, you can come in, if you please.’

‘How are we to-day,’ said Mr Pecksniff, jocosely, ‘and what are our
plans? Are we ready to go and see Tom Pinch’s sister? Ha, ha, ha! Poor
Thomas Pinch!’

‘Are we ready,’ returned Mrs Todgers, nodding her head with mysterious
intelligence, ‘to send a favourable reply to Mr Jinkins’s round-robin?
That’s the first question, Mr Pecksniff.’

‘Why Mr Jinkins’s robin, my dear madam?’ asked Mr Pecksniff, putting one
arm round Mercy, and the other round Mrs Todgers, whom he seemed, in the
abstraction of the moment, to mistake for Charity. ‘Why Mr Jinkins’s?’

‘Because he began to get it up, and indeed always takes the lead in the
house,’ said Mrs Todgers, playfully. ‘That’s why, sir.’

‘Jinkins is a man of superior talents,’ observed Mr Pecksniff. ‘I have
conceived a great regard for Jinkins. I take Jinkins’s desire to pay
polite attention to my daughters, as an additional proof of the friendly
feeling of Jinkins, Mrs Todgers.’

‘Well now,’ returned that lady, ‘having said so much, you must say the
rest, Mr Pecksniff; so tell the dear young ladies all about it.’

With these words she gently eluded Mr Pecksniff’s grasp, and took Miss
Charity into her own embrace; though whether she was impelled to this
proceeding solely by the irrepressible affection she had conceived for
that young lady, or whether it had any reference to a lowering, not to
say distinctly spiteful expression which had been visible in her face
for some moments, has never been exactly ascertained. Be this as it may,
Mr Pecksniff went on to inform his daughters of the purport and history
of the round-robin aforesaid, which was in brief, that the commercial
gentlemen who helped to make up the sum and substance of that noun of
multitude signifying many, called Todgers’s, desired the honour of their
presence at the general table, so long as they remained in the house,
and besought that they would grace the board at dinner-time next
day, the same being Sunday. He further said, that Mrs Todgers being a
consenting party to this invitation, he was willing, for his part, to
accept it; and so left them that he might write his gracious answer, the
while they armed themselves with their best bonnets for the utter defeat
and overthrow of Miss Pinch.

Tom Pinch’s sister was governess in a family, a lofty family; perhaps
the wealthiest brass and copper founders’ family known to mankind.
They lived at Camberwell; in a house so big and fierce, that its mere
outside, like the outside of a giant’s castle, struck terror into vulgar
minds and made bold persons quail. There was a great front gate; with a
great bell, whose handle was in itself a note of admiration; and a
great lodge; which being close to the house, rather spoilt the look-out
certainly but made the look-in tremendous. At this entry, a great porter
kept constant watch and ward; and when he gave the visitor high leave
to pass, he rang a second great bell, responsive to whose note a great
footman appeared in due time at the great halldoor, with such great
tags upon his liveried shoulder that he was perpetually entangling and
hooking himself among the chairs and tables, and led a life of torment
which could scarcely have been surpassed, if he had been a blue-bottle
in a world of cobwebs.

To this mansion Mr Pecksniff, accompanied by his daughters and Mrs
Todgers, drove gallantly in a one-horse fly. The foregoing ceremonies
having been all performed, they were ushered into the house; and so, by
degrees, they got at last into a small room with books in it, where Mr
Pinch’s sister was at that moment instructing her eldest pupil; to wit,
a premature little woman of thirteen years old, who had already arrived
at such a pitch of whalebone and education that she had nothing girlish
about her, which was a source of great rejoicing to all her relations
and friends.

‘Visitors for Miss Pinch!’ said the footman. He must have been
an ingenious young man, for he said it very cleverly; with a nice
discrimination between the cold respect with which he would have
announced visitors to the family, and the warm personal interest with
which he would have announced visitors to the cook.

‘Visitors for Miss Pinch!’

Miss Pinch rose hastily; with such tokens of agitation as plainly
declared that her list of callers was not numerous. At the same time,
the little pupil became alarmingly upright, and prepared herself to take
mental notes of all that might be said and done. For the lady of the
establishment was curious in the natural history and habits of the
animal called Governess, and encouraged her daughters to report thereon
whenever occasion served; which was, in reference to all parties
concerned, very laudable, improving, and pleasant.

It is a melancholy fact; but it must be related, that Mr Pinch’s sister
was not at all ugly. On the contrary, she had a good face; a very mild
and prepossessing face; and a pretty little figure--slight and short,
but remarkable for its neatness. There was something of her brother,
much of him indeed, in a certain gentleness of manner, and in her look
of timid trustfulness; but she was so far from being a fright, or
a dowdy, or a horror, or anything else, predicted by the two Miss
Pecksniffs, that those young ladies naturally regarded her with great
indignation, feeling that this was by no means what they had come to
see.

Miss Mercy, as having the larger share of gaiety, bore up the best
against this disappointment, and carried it off, in outward show at
least, with a titter; but her sister, not caring to hide her disdain,
expressed it pretty openly in her looks. As to Mrs Todgers, she leaned
on Mr Pecksniff’s arm and preserved a kind of genteel grimness, suitable
to any state of mind, and involving any shade of opinion.

‘Don’t be alarmed, Miss Pinch,’ said Mr Pecksniff, taking her hand
condescendingly in one of his, and patting it with the other. ‘I have
called to see you, in pursuance of a promise given to your brother,
Thomas Pinch. My name--compose yourself, Miss Pinch--is Pecksniff.’

The good man emphasised these words as though he would have said, ‘You
see in me, young person, the benefactor of your race; the patron of your
house; the preserver of your brother, who is fed with manna daily from
my table; and in right of whom there is a considerable balance in my
favour at present standing in the books beyond the sky. But I have no
pride, for I can afford to do without it!’

The poor girl felt it all as if it had been Gospel truth. Her brother
writing in the fullness of his simple heart, had often told her so, and
how much more! As Mr Pecksniff ceased to speak, she hung her head, and
dropped a tear upon his hand.

‘Oh very well, Miss Pinch!’ thought the sharp pupil, ‘crying before
strangers, as if you didn’t like the situation!’

‘Thomas is well,’ said Mr Pecksniff; ‘and sends his love and this
letter. I cannot say, poor fellow, that he will ever be distinguished in
our profession; but he has the will to do well, which is the next thing
to having the power; and, therefore, we must bear with him. Eh?’

‘I know he has the will, sir,’ said Tom Pinch’s sister, ‘and I know how
kindly and considerately you cherish it, for which neither he nor I can
ever be grateful enough, as we very often say in writing to each
other. The young ladies too,’ she added, glancing gratefully at his two
daughters, ‘I know how much we owe to them.’

‘My dears,’ said Mr Pecksniff, turning to them with a smile: ‘Thomas’s
sister is saying something you will be glad to hear, I think.’

‘We can’t take any merit to ourselves, papa!’ cried Cherry, as they
both apprised Tom Pinch’s sister, with a curtsey, that they would
feel obliged if she would keep her distance. ‘Mr Pinch’s being so well
provided for is owing to you alone, and we can only say how glad we are
to hear that he is as grateful as he ought to be.’

‘Oh very well, Miss Pinch!’ thought the pupil again. ‘Got a grateful
brother, living on other people’s kindness!’

‘It was very kind of you,’ said Tom Pinch’s sister, with Tom’s own
simplicity and Tom’s own smile, ‘to come here; very kind indeed; though
how great a kindness you have done me in gratifying my wish to see you,
and to thank you with my own lips, you, who make so light of benefits
conferred, can scarcely think.’

‘Very grateful; very pleasant; very proper,’ murmured Mr Pecksniff.

‘It makes me happy too,’ said Ruth Pinch, who now that her first
surprise was over, had a chatty, cheerful way with her, and a
single-hearted desire to look upon the best side of everything, which
was the very moral and image of Tom; ‘very happy to think that you will
be able to tell him how more than comfortably I am situated here, and
how unnecessary it is that he should ever waste a regret on my being
cast upon my own resources. Dear me! So long as I heard that he was
happy, and he heard that I was,’ said Tom’s sister, ‘we could both bear,
without one impatient or complaining thought, a great deal more than
ever we have had to endure, I am very certain.’ And if ever the plain
truth were spoken on this occasionally false earth, Tom’s sister spoke
it when she said that.

‘Ah!’ cried Mr Pecksniff whose eyes had in the meantime wandered to the
pupil; ‘certainly. And how do YOU do, my very interesting child?’

‘Quite well, I thank you, sir,’ replied that frosty innocent.

‘A sweet face this, my dears,’ said Mr Pecksniff, turning to his
daughters. ‘A charming manner!’

Both young ladies had been in ecstasies with the scion of a wealthy
house (through whom the nearest road and shortest cut to her parents
might be supposed to lie) from the first. Mrs Todgers vowed that
anything one quarter so angelic she had never seen. ‘She wanted but
a pair of wings, a dear,’ said that good woman, ‘to be a young
syrup’--meaning, possibly, young sylph, or seraph.

‘If you will give that to your distinguished parents, my amiable little
friend,’ said Mr Pecksniff, producing one of his professional cards,
‘and will say that I and my daughters--’

‘And Mrs Todgers, pa,’ said Merry.

‘And Mrs Todgers, of London,’ added Mr Pecksniff; ‘that I, and my
daughters, and Mrs Todgers, of London, did not intrude upon them, as our
object simply was to take some notice of Miss Pinch, whose brother is a
young man in my employment; but that I could not leave this very chaste
mansion, without adding my humble tribute, as an Architect, to
the correctness and elegance of the owner’s taste, and to his just
appreciation of that beautiful art to the cultivation of which I have
devoted a life, and to the promotion of whose glory and advancement I
have sacrified a--a fortune--I shall be very much obliged to you.’

‘Missis’s compliments to Miss Pinch,’ said the footman, suddenly
appearing, and speaking in exactly the same key as before, ‘and begs to
know wot my young lady is a-learning of just now.’

‘Oh!’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘Here is the young man. HE will take the
card. With my compliments, if you please, young man. My dears, we are
interrupting the studies. Let us go.’

Some confusion was occasioned for an instant by Mrs Todgers’s
unstrapping her little flat hand-basket, and hurriedly entrusting the
‘young man’ with one of her own cards, which, in addition to
certain detailed information relative to the terms of the commercial
establishment, bore a foot-note to the effect that M. T. took that
opportunity of thanking those gentlemen who had honoured her with their
favours, and begged they would have the goodness, if satisfied with
the table, to recommend her to their friends. But Mr Pecksniff, with
admirable presence of mind, recovered this document, and buttoned it up
in his own pocket.

Then he said to Miss Pinch--with more condescension and kindness than
ever, for it was desirable the footman should expressly understand that
they were not friends of hers, but patrons:

‘Good morning. Good-bye. God bless you! You may depend upon my continued
protection of your brother Thomas. Keep your mind quite at ease, Miss
Pinch!’

‘Thank you,’ said Tom’s sister heartily; ‘a thousand times.’

‘Not at all,’ he retorted, patting her gently on the head. ‘Don’t
mention it. You will make me angry if you do. My sweet child’--to the
pupil--‘farewell! That fairy creature,’ said Mr Pecksniff, looking in
his pensive mood hard at the footman, as if he meant him, ‘has shed
a vision on my path, refulgent in its nature, and not easily to be
obliterated. My dears, are you ready?’

They were not quite ready yet, for they were still caressing the pupil.
But they tore themselves away at length; and sweeping past Miss Pinch
with each a haughty inclination of the head and a curtsey strangled in
its birth, flounced into the passage.

The young man had rather a long job in showing them out; for Mr
Pecksniff’s delight in the tastefulness of the house was such that he
could not help often stopping (particularly when they were near the
parlour door) and giving it expression, in a loud voice and very learned
terms. Indeed, he delivered, between the study and the hall, a
familiar exposition of the whole science of architecture as applied to
dwelling-houses, and was yet in the freshness of his eloquence when they
reached the garden.

‘If you look,’ said Mr Pecksniff, backing from the steps, with his head
on one side and his eyes half-shut that he might the better take in
the proportions of the exterior: ‘If you look, my dears, at the cornice
which supports the roof, and observe the airiness of its construction,
especially where it sweeps the southern angle of the building, you will
feel with me--How do you do, sir? I hope you’re well?’

Interrupting himself with these words, he very politely bowed to a
middle-aged gentleman at an upper window, to whom he spoke--not because
the gentleman could hear him (for he certainly could not), but as an
appropriate accompaniment to his salutation.

‘I have no doubt, my dears,’ said Mr Pecksniff, feigning to point out
other beauties with his hand, ‘that this is the proprietor. I should be
glad to know him. It might lead to something. Is he looking this way,
Charity?’

‘He is opening the window pa!’

‘Ha, ha!’ cried Mr Pecksniff softly. ‘All right! He has found I’m
professional. He heard me inside just now, I have no doubt. Don’t look!
With regard to the fluted pillars in the portico, my dears--’

‘Hallo!’ cried the gentleman.

‘Sir, your servant!’ said Mr Pecksniff, taking off his hat. ‘I am proud
to make your acquaintance.’

‘Come off the grass, will you!’ roared the gentleman.

‘I beg your pardon, sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff, doubtful of his having
heard aright. ‘Did you--?’

‘Come off the grass!’ repeated the gentleman, warmly.

‘We are unwilling to intrude, sir,’ Mr Pecksniff smilingly began.

‘But you ARE intruding,’ returned the other, ‘unwarrantably intruding.
Trespassing. You see a gravel walk, don’t you? What do you think it’s
meant for? Open the gate there! Show that party out!’

With that he clapped down the window again, and disappeared.

Mr Pecksniff put on his hat, and walked with great deliberation and in
profound silence to the fly, gazing at the clouds as he went, with
great interest. After helping his daughters and Mrs Todgers into that
conveyance, he stood looking at it for some moments, as if he were not
quite certain whether it was a carriage or a temple; but having settled
this point in his mind, he got into his place, spread his hands out on
his knees, and smiled upon the three beholders.

But his daughters, less tranquil-minded, burst into a torrent of
indignation. This came, they said, of cherishing such creatures as the
Pinches. This came of lowering themselves to their level. This came of
putting themselves in the humiliating position of seeming to know such
bold, audacious, cunning, dreadful girls as that. They had expected
this. They had predicted it to Mrs Todgers, as she (Todgers) could
depone, that very morning. To this, they added, that the owner of the
house, supposing them to be Miss Pinch’s friends, had acted, in
their opinion, quite correctly, and had done no more than, under such
circumstances, might reasonably have been expected. To that they added
(with a trifling inconsistency), that he was a brute and a bear; and
then they merged into a flood of tears, which swept away all wandering
epithets before it.

Perhaps Miss Pinch was scarcely so much to blame in the matter as the
Seraph, who, immediately on the withdrawal of the visitors, had hastened
to report them at head-quarters, with a full account of their having
presumptuously charged her with the delivery of a message afterwards
consigned to the footman; which outrage, taken in conjunction with Mr
Pecksniff’s unobtrusive remarks on the establishment, might possibly
have had some share in their dismissal. Poor Miss Pinch, however, had to
bear the brunt of it with both parties; being so severely taken to task
by the Seraph’s mother for having such vulgar acquaintances, that
she was fain to retire to her own room in tears, which her natural
cheerfulness and submission, and the delight of having seen Mr
Pecksniff, and having received a letter from her brother, were at first
insufficient to repress.

As to Mr Pecksniff, he told them in the fly, that a good action was its
own reward; and rather gave them to understand, that if he could have
been kicked in such a cause, he would have liked it all the better. But
this was no comfort to the young ladies, who scolded violently the whole
way back, and even exhibited, more than once, a keen desire to attack
the devoted Mrs Todgers; on whose personal appearance, but particularly
on whose offending card and hand-basket, they were secretly inclined to
lay the blame of half their failure.

Todgers’s was in a great bustle that evening, partly owing to some
additional domestic preparations for the morrow, and partly to the
excitement always inseparable in that house from Saturday night, when
every gentleman’s linen arrived at a different hour in its own little
bundle, with his private account pinned on the outside. There was always
a great clinking of pattens downstairs, too, until midnight or so, on
Saturdays; together with a frequent gleaming of mysterious lights in
the area; much working at the pump; and a constant jangling of the iron
handle of the pail. Shrill altercations from time to time arose between
Mrs Todgers and unknown females in remote back kitchens; and sounds were
occasionally heard, indicative of small articles of iron mongery and
hardware being thrown at the boy. It was the custom of that youth on
Saturdays, to roll up his shirt sleeves to his shoulders, and pervade
all parts of the house in an apron of coarse green baize; moreover, he
was more strongly tempted on Saturdays than on other days (it being a
busy time), to make excursive bolts into the neighbouring alleys when he
answered the door, and there to play at leap-frog and other sports with
vagrant lads, until pursued and brought back by the hair of his head or
the lobe of his ear; thus he was quite a conspicuous feature among the
peculiar incidents of the last day in the week at Todgers’s.

He was especially so on this particular Saturday evening, and honoured
the Miss Pecksniffs with a deal of notice; seldom passing the door
of Mrs Todgers’s private room, where they sat alone before the fire,
working by the light of a solitary candle, without putting in his head
and greeting them with some such compliments as, ‘There you are agin!’
‘An’t it nice?’--and similar humorous attentions.

‘I say,’ he whispered, stopping in one of his journeys to and fro,
‘young ladies, there’s soup to-morrow. She’s a-making it now. An’t she
a-putting in the water? Oh! not at all neither!’

In the course of answering another knock, he thrust in his head again.

‘I say! There’s fowls to-morrow. Not skinny ones. Oh no!’

Presently he called through the key-hole:

‘There’s a fish to-morrow. Just come. Don’t eat none of him!’ And, with
this special warning, vanished again.

By-and-bye, he returned to lay the cloth for supper; it having been
arranged between Mrs Todgers and the young ladies, that they should
partake of an exclusive veal-cutlet together in the privacy of that
apartment. He entertained them on this occasion by thrusting the
lighted candle into his mouth, and exhibiting his face in a state of
transparency; after the performance of which feat, he went on with his
professional duties; brightening every knife as he laid it on the table,
by breathing on the blade and afterwards polishing the same on the apron
already mentioned. When he had completed his preparations, he grinned
at the sisters, and expressed his belief that the approaching collation
would be of ‘rather a spicy sort.’

‘Will it be long, before it’s ready, Bailey?’ asked Mercy.

‘No,’ said Bailey, ‘it IS cooked. When I come up, she was dodging among
the tender pieces with a fork, and eating of ‘em.’

But he had scarcely achieved the utterance of these words, when he
received a manual compliment on the head, which sent him staggering
against the wall; and Mrs Todgers, dish in hand, stood indignantly
before him.

‘Oh you little villain!’ said that lady. ‘Oh you bad, false boy!’

‘No worse than yerself,’ retorted Bailey, guarding his head, on a
principle invented by Mr Thomas Cribb. ‘Ah! Come now! Do that again,
will yer?’

‘He’s the most dreadful child,’ said Mrs Todgers, setting down the dish,
‘I ever had to deal with. The gentlemen spoil him to that extent, and
teach him such things, that I’m afraid nothing but hanging will ever do
him any good.’

‘Won’t it!’ cried Bailey. ‘Oh! Yes! Wot do you go a-lowerin the
table-beer for then, and destroying my constitooshun?’

‘Go downstairs, you vicious boy,’ said Mrs Todgers, holding the door
open. ‘Do you hear me? Go along!’

After two or three dexterous feints, he went, and was seen no more that
night, save once, when he brought up some tumblers and hot water, and
much disturbed the two Miss Pecksniffs by squinting hideously behind
the back of the unconscious Mrs Todgers. Having done this justice to his
wounded feelings, he retired underground; where, in company with a swarm
of black beetles and a kitchen candle, he employed his faculties in
cleaning boots and brushing clothes until the night was far advanced.

Benjamin was supposed to be the real name of this young retainer but he
was known by a great variety of names. Benjamin, for instance, had been
converted into Uncle Ben, and that again had been corrupted into Uncle;
which, by an easy transition, had again passed into Barnwell, in memory
of the celebrated relative in that degree who was shot by his nephew
George, while meditating in his garden at Camberwell. The gentlemen at
Todgers’s had a merry habit, too, of bestowing upon him, for the time
being, the name of any notorious malefactor or minister; and sometimes
when current events were flat they even sought the pages of history for
these distinctions; as Mr Pitt, Young Brownrigg, and the like. At the
period of which we write, he was generally known among the gentlemen as
Bailey junior; a name bestowed upon him in contradistinction, perhaps,
to Old Bailey; and possibly as involving the recollection of an
unfortunate lady of the same name, who perished by her own hand early in
life, and has been immortalised in a ballad.

The usual Sunday dinner-hour at Todgers’s was two o’clock--a suitable
time, it was considered for all parties; convenient to Mrs Todgers, on
account of the bakers; and convenient to the gentlemen with reference
to their afternoon engagements. But on the Sunday which was to introduce
the two Miss Pecksniffs to a full knowledge of Todgers’s and its
society, the dinner was postponed until five, in order that everything
might be as genteel as the occasion demanded.

When the hour drew nigh, Bailey junior, testifying great excitement,
appeared in a complete suit of cast-off clothes several sizes too large
for him, and in particular, mounted a clean shirt of such extraordinary
magnitude, that one of the gentlemen (remarkable for his ready wit)
called him ‘collars’ on the spot. At about a quarter before five, a
deputation, consisting of Mr Jinkins, and another gentleman, whose
name was Gander, knocked at the door of Mrs Todgers’s room, and, being
formally introduced to the two Miss Pecksniffs by their parent who was
in waiting, besought the honour of conducting them upstairs.

The drawing-room at Todgers’s was out of the common style; so much so
indeed, that you would hardly have taken it to be a drawingroom, unless
you were told so by somebody who was in the secret. It was floor-clothed
all over; and the ceiling, including a great beam in the middle,
was papered. Besides the three little windows, with seats in them,
commanding the opposite archway, there was another window looking point
blank, without any compromise at all about it into Jinkins’s bedroom;
and high up, all along one side of the wall was a strip of panes of
glass, two-deep, giving light to the staircase. There were the oddest
closets possible, with little casements in them like eight-day clocks,
lurking in the wainscot and taking the shape of the stairs; and the very
door itself (which was painted black) had two great glass eyes in its
forehead, with an inquisitive green pupil in the middle of each.

Here the gentlemen were all assembled. There was a general cry of ‘Hear,
hear!’ and ‘Bravo Jink!’ when Mr Jinkins appeared with Charity on his
arm; which became quite rapturous as Mr Gander followed, escorting
Mercy, and Mr Pecksniff brought up the rear with Mrs Todgers.

Then the presentations took place. They included a gentleman of a
sporting turn, who propounded questions on jockey subjects to the
editors of Sunday papers, which were regarded by his friends as rather
stiff things to answer; and they included a gentleman of a theatrical
turn, who had once entertained serious thoughts of ‘coming out,’ but
had been kept in by the wickedness of human nature; and they included
a gentleman of a debating turn, who was strong at speech-making; and a
gentleman of a literary turn, who wrote squibs upon the rest, and
knew the weak side of everybody’s character but his own. There was a
gentleman of a vocal turn, and a gentleman of a smoking turn, and a
gentleman of a convivial turn; some of the gentlemen had a turn for
whist, and a large proportion of the gentlemen had a strong turn for
billiards and betting. They had all, it may be presumed, a turn for
business; being all commercially employed in one way or other; and
had, every one in his own way, a decided turn for pleasure to boot. Mr
Jinkins was of a fashionable turn; being a regular frequenter of the
Parks on Sundays, and knowing a great many carriages by sight. He spoke
mysteriously, too, of splendid women, and was suspected of having once
committed himself with a Countess. Mr Gander was of a witty turn being
indeed the gentleman who had originated the sally about ‘collars;’ which
sparkling pleasantry was now retailed from mouth to mouth, under the
title of Gander’s Last, and was received in all parts of the room with
great applause. Mr Jinkins it may be added, was much the oldest of
the party; being a fish-salesman’s book-keeper, aged forty. He was the
oldest boarder also; and in right of his double seniority, took the lead
in the house, as Mrs Todgers had already said.

There was considerable delay in the production of dinner, and poor Mrs
Todgers, being reproached in confidence by Jinkins, slipped in and out,
at least twenty times to see about it; always coming back as though she
had no such thing upon her mind, and hadn’t been out at all. But there
was no hitch in the conversation nevertheless; for one gentleman, who
travelled in the perfumery line, exhibited an interesting nick-nack,
in the way of a remarkable cake of shaving soap which he had lately
met with in Germany; and the gentleman of a literary turn repeated (by
desire) some sarcastic stanzas he had recently produced on the freezing
of the tank at the back of the house. These amusements, with the
miscellaneous conversation arising out of them, passed the time
splendidly, until dinner was announced by Bailey junior in these terms:

‘The wittles is up!’

On which notice they immediately descended to the banquet-hall; some of
the more facetious spirits in the rear taking down gentlemen as if they
were ladies, in imitation of the fortunate possessors of the two Miss
Pecksniffs.

Mr Pecksniff said grace--a short and pious grace, involving a blessing
on the appetites of those present, and committing all persons who had
nothing to eat, to the care of Providence; whose business (so said the
grace, in effect) it clearly was, to look after them. This done, they
fell to with less ceremony than appetite; the table groaning beneath the
weight, not only of the delicacies whereof the Miss Pecksniffs had been
previously forewarned, but of boiled beef, roast veal, bacon, pies
and abundance of such heavy vegetables as are favourably known to
housekeepers for their satisfying qualities. Besides which, there were
bottles of stout, bottles of wine, bottles of ale, and divers other
strong drinks, native and foreign.

All this was highly agreeable to the two Miss Pecksniffs, who were in
immense request; sitting one on either hand of Mr Jinkins at the bottom
of the table; and who were called upon to take wine with some new
admirer every minute. They had hardly ever felt so pleasant, and so full
of conversation, in their lives; Mercy, in particular, was uncommonly
brilliant, and said so many good things in the way of lively repartee
that she was looked upon as a prodigy. ‘In short,’ as that young lady
observed, ‘they felt now, indeed, that they were in London, and for the
first time too.’

Their young friend Bailey sympathized in these feelings to the
fullest extent, and, abating nothing of his patronage, gave them every
encouragement in his power; favouring them, when the general attention
was diverted from his proceedings, with many nods and winks and other
tokens of recognition, and occasionally touching his nose with a
corkscrew, as if to express the Bacchanalian character of the meeting.
In truth, perhaps even the spirits of the two Miss Pecksniffs, and the
hungry watchfulness of Mrs Todgers, were less worthy of note than the
proceedings of this remarkable boy, whom nothing disconcerted or put out
of his way. If any piece of crockery, a dish or otherwise, chanced to
slip through his hands (which happened once or twice), he let it go with
perfect good breeding, and never added to the painful emotions of the
company by exhibiting the least regret. Nor did he, by hurrying to and
fro, disturb the repose of the assembly, as many well-trained servants
do; on the contrary, feeling the hopelessness of waiting upon so large a
party, he left the gentlemen to help themselves to what they wanted, and
seldom stirred from behind Mr Jinkins’s chair, where, with his hands
in his pockets, and his legs planted pretty wide apart, he led the
laughter, and enjoyed the conversation.

The dessert was splendid. No waiting either. The pudding-plates had been
washed in a little tub outside the door while cheese was on, and though
they were moist and warm with friction, still there they were again,
up to the mark, and true to time. Quarts of almonds; dozens of oranges;
pounds of raisins; stacks of biffins; soup-plates full of nuts.--Oh,
Todgers’s could do it when it chose! mind that.

Then more wine came on; red wines and white wines; and a large china
bowl of punch, brewed by the gentleman of a convivial turn, who adjured
the Miss Pecksniffs not to be despondent on account of its dimensions,
as there were materials in the house for the decoction of half a dozen
more of the same size. Good gracious, how they laughed! How they coughed
when they sipped it, because it was so strong; and how they laughed
again when somebody vowed that but for its colour it might have been
mistaken, in regard of its innocuous qualities, for new milk! What a
shout of ‘No!’ burst from the gentlemen when they pathetically implored
Mr Jinkins to suffer them to qualify it with hot water; and how
blushingly, by little and little, did each of them drink her whole
glassful, down to its very dregs!

Now comes the trying time. The sun, as Mr Jinkins says (gentlemanly
creature, Jinkins--never at a loss!), is about to leave the firmament.
‘Miss Pecksniff!’ says Mrs Todgers, softly, ‘will you--?’ ‘Oh dear, no
more, Mrs Todgers.’ Mrs Todgers rises; the two Miss Pecksniffs rise; all
rise. Miss Mercy Pecksniff looks downward for her scarf. Where is it?
Dear me, where CAN it be? Sweet girl, she has it on; not on her fair
neck, but loose upon her flowing figure. A dozen hands assist her. She
is all confusion. The youngest gentleman in company thirsts to murder
Jinkins. She skips and joins her sister at the door. Her sister has her
arm about the waist of Mrs Todgers. She winds her arm around her sister.
Diana, what a picture! The last things visible are a shape and a skip.
‘Gentlemen, let us drink the ladies!’

The enthusiasm is tremendous. The gentleman of a debating turn rises in
the midst, and suddenly lets loose a tide of eloquence which bears down
everything before it. He is reminded of a toast--a toast to which they
will respond. There is an individual present; he has him in his eye; to
whom they owe a debt of gratitude. He repeats it--a debt of gratitude.
Their rugged natures have been softened and ameliorated that day, by
the society of lovely woman. There is a gentleman in company whom two
accomplished and delightful females regard with veneration, as the
fountain of their existence. Yes, when yet the two Miss Pecksniffs
lisped in language scarce intelligible, they called that individual
‘Father!’ There is great applause. He gives them ‘Mr Pecksniff, and God
bless him!’ They all shake hands with Mr Pecksniff, as they drink the
toast. The youngest gentleman in company does so with a thrill; for he
feels that a mysterious influence pervades the man who claims that being
in the pink scarf for his daughter.

What saith Mr Pecksniff in reply? Or rather let the question be, What
leaves he unsaid? Nothing. More punch is called for, and produced, and
drunk. Enthusiasm mounts still higher. Every man comes out freely in
his own character. The gentleman of a theatrical turn recites. The vocal
gentleman regales them with a song. Gander leaves the Gander of all
former feasts whole leagues behind. HE rises to propose a toast. It is,
The Father of Todgers’s. It is their common friend Jink--it is old
Jink, if he may call him by that familiar and endearing appellation. The
youngest gentleman in company utters a frantic negative. He won’t
have it--he can’t bear it--it mustn’t be. But his depth of feeling is
misunderstood. He is supposed to be a little elevated; and nobody heeds
him.

Mr Jinkins thanks them from his heart. It is, by many degrees, the
proudest day in his humble career. When he looks around him on the
present occasion, he feels that he wants words in which to express
his gratitude. One thing he will say. He hopes it has been shown that
Todgers’s can be true to itself; and that, an opportunity arising, it
can come out quite as strong as its neighbours--perhaps stronger. He
reminds them, amidst thunders of encouragement, that they have heard of
a somewhat similar establishment in Cannon Street; and that they have
heard it praised. He wishes to draw no invidious comparisons; he would
be the last man to do it; but when that Cannon Street establishment
shall be able to produce such a combination of wit and beauty as has
graced that board that day, and shall be able to serve up (all things
considered) such a dinner as that of which they have just partaken, he
will be happy to talk to it. Until then, gentlemen, he will stick to
Todgers’s.

More punch, more enthusiasm, more speeches. Everybody’s health is drunk,
saving the youngest gentleman’s in company. He sits apart, with his
elbow on the back of a vacant chair, and glares disdainfully at Jinkins.
Gander, in a convulsing speech, gives them the health of Bailey junior;
hiccups are heard; and a glass is broken. Mr Jinkins feels that it is
time to join the ladies. He proposes, as a final sentiment, Mrs Todgers.
She is worthy to be remembered separately. Hear, hear. So she is; no
doubt of it. They all find fault with her at other times; but every man
feels now, that he could die in her defence.

They go upstairs, where they are not expected so soon; for Mrs Todgers
is asleep, Miss Charity is adjusting her hair, and Mercy, who has made
a sofa of one of the window-seats is in a gracefully recumbent attitude.
She is rising hastily, when Mr Jinkins implores her, for all their
sakes, not to stir; she looks too graceful and too lovely, he remarks,
to be disturbed. She laughs, and yields, and fans herself, and drops
her fan, and there is a rush to pick it up. Being now installed, by one
consent, as the beauty of the party, she is cruel and capricious, and
sends gentlemen on messages to other gentlemen, and forgets all about
them before they can return with the answer, and invents a thousand
tortures, rending their hearts to pieces. Bailey brings up the tea and
coffee. There is a small cluster of admirers round Charity; but they
are only those who cannot get near her sister. The youngest gentleman
in company is pale, but collected, and still sits apart; for his spirit
loves to hold communion with itself, and his soul recoils from noisy
revellers. She has a consciousness of his presence and adoration.
He sees it flashing sometimes in the corner of her eye. Have a care,
Jinkins, ere you provoke a desperate man to frenzy!

Mr Pecksniff had followed his younger friends upstairs, and taken a
chair at the side of Mrs Todgers. He had also spilt a cup of coffee over
his legs without appearing to be aware of the circumstance; nor did he
seem to know that there was muffin on his knee.

‘And how have they used you downstairs, sir?’ asked the hostess.

‘Their conduct has been such, my dear madam,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘as I
can never think of without emotion, or remember without a tear. Oh, Mrs
Todgers!’

‘My goodness!’ exclaimed that lady. ‘How low you are in your spirits,
sir!’

‘I am a man, my dear madam,’ said Mr Pecksniff, shedding tears and
speaking with an imperfect articulation, ‘but I am also a father. I
am also a widower. My feelings, Mrs Todgers, will not consent to be
entirely smothered, like the young children in the Tower. They are grown
up, and the more I press the bolster on them, the more they look round
the corner of it.’

He suddenly became conscious of the bit of muffin, and stared at it
intently; shaking his head the while, in a forlorn and imbecile manner,
as if he regarded it as his evil genius, and mildly reproached it.

‘She was beautiful, Mrs Todgers,’ he said, turning his glazed eye
again upon her, without the least preliminary notice. ‘She had a small
property.’

‘So I have heard,’ cried Mrs Todgers with great sympathy.

‘Those are her daughters,’ said Mr Pecksniff, pointing out the young
ladies, with increased emotion.

Mrs Todgers had no doubt about it.

‘Mercy and Charity,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘Charity and Mercy. Not unholy
names, I hope?’

‘Mr Pecksniff!’ cried Mrs Todgers. ‘What a ghastly smile! Are you ill,
sir?’

He pressed his hand upon her arm, and answered in a solemn manner, and a
faint voice, ‘Chronic.’

‘Cholic?’ cried the frightened Mrs Todgers.

‘Chron-ic,’ he repeated with some difficulty. ‘Chron-ic. A chronic
disorder. I have been its victim from childhood. It is carrying me to my
grave.’

‘Heaven forbid!’ cried Mrs Todgers.

‘Yes, it is,’ said Mr Pecksniff, reckless with despair. ‘I am rather
glad of it, upon the whole. You are like her, Mrs Todgers.’

‘Don’t squeeze me so tight, pray, Mr Pecksniff. If any of the gentlemen
should notice us.’

‘For her sake,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Permit me--in honour of her memory.
For the sake of a voice from the tomb. You are VERY like her Mrs
Todgers! What a world this is!’

‘Ah! Indeed you may say that!’ cried Mrs Todgers.

‘I’m afraid it is a vain and thoughtless world,’ said Mr Pecksniff,
overflowing with despondency. ‘These young people about us. Oh! what
sense have they of their responsibilities? None. Give me your other
hand, Mrs Todgers.’

The lady hesitated, and said ‘she didn’t like.’

‘Has a voice from the grave no influence?’ said Mr Pecksniff, with,
dismal tenderness. ‘This is irreligious! My dear creature.’

‘Hush!’ urged Mrs Todgers. ‘Really you mustn’t.’

‘It’s not me,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Don’t suppose it’s me; it’s the
voice; it’s her voice.’

Mrs Pecksniff deceased, must have had an unusually thick and husky voice
for a lady, and rather a stuttering voice, and to say the truth somewhat
of a drunken voice, if it had ever borne much resemblance to that in
which Mr Pecksniff spoke just then. But perhaps this was delusion on his
part.

‘It has been a day of enjoyment, Mrs Todgers, but still it has been a
day of torture. It has reminded me of my loneliness. What am I in the
world?’

‘An excellent gentleman, Mr Pecksniff,’ said Mrs Todgers.

‘There is consolation in that too,’ cried Mr Pecksniff. ‘Am I?’

‘There is no better man living,’ said Mrs Todgers, ‘I am sure.’

Mr Pecksniff smiled through his tears, and slightly shook his head. ‘You
are very good,’ he said, ‘thank you. It is a great happiness to me, Mrs
Todgers, to make young people happy. The happiness of my pupils is my
chief object. I dote upon ‘em. They dote upon me too--sometimes.’

‘Always,’ said Mrs Todgers.

‘When they say they haven’t improved, ma’am,’ whispered Mr Pecksniff,
looking at her with profound mystery, and motioning to her to advance
her ear a little closer to his mouth. ‘When they say they haven’t
improved, ma’am, and the premium was too high, they lie! I shouldn’t
wish it to be mentioned; you will understand me; but I say to you as to
an old friend, they lie.’

‘Base wretches they must be!’ said Mrs Todgers.

‘Madam,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘you are right. I respect you for that
observation. A word in your ear. To Parents and Guardians. This is in
confidence, Mrs Todgers?’

‘The strictest, of course!’ cried that lady.

‘To Parents and Guardians,’ repeated Mr Pecksniff. ‘An eligible
opportunity now offers, which unites the advantages of the best
practical architectural education with the comforts of a home, and the
constant association with some, who, however humble their sphere and
limited their capacity--observe!--are not unmindful of their moral
responsibilities.’

Mrs Todgers looked a little puzzled to know what this might mean, as
well she might; for it was, as the reader may perchance remember, Mr
Pecksniff’s usual form of advertisement when he wanted a pupil; and
seemed to have no particular reference, at present, to anything. But Mr
Pecksniff held up his finger as a caution to her not to interrupt him.

‘Do you know any parent or guardian, Mrs Todgers,’ said Mr Pecksniff,
‘who desires to avail himself of such an opportunity for a young
gentleman? An orphan would be preferred. Do you know of any orphan with
three or four hundred pound?’

Mrs Todgers reflected, and shook her head.

‘When you hear of an orphan with three or four hundred pound,’ said Mr
Pecksniff, ‘let that dear orphan’s friends apply, by letter post-paid,
to S. P., Post Office, Salisbury. I don’t know who he is exactly. Don’t
be alarmed, Mrs Todgers,’ said Mr Pecksniff, falling heavily against
her; ‘Chronic--chronic! Let’s have a little drop of something to drink.’

‘Bless my life, Miss Pecksniffs!’ cried Mrs Todgers, aloud, ‘your dear
pa’s took very poorly!’

Mr Pecksniff straightened himself by a surprising effort, as every
one turned hastily towards him; and standing on his feet, regarded the
assembly with a look of ineffable wisdom. Gradually it gave place to
a smile; a feeble, helpless, melancholy smile; bland, almost to
sickliness. ‘Do not repine, my friends,’ said Mr Pecksniff, tenderly.
‘Do not weep for me. It is chronic.’ And with these words, after making
a futile attempt to pull off his shoes, he fell into the fireplace.

The youngest gentleman in company had him out in a second. Yes, before a
hair upon his head was singed, he had him on the hearth-rug--her father!

She was almost beside herself. So was her sister. Jinkins consoled them
both. They all consoled them. Everybody had something to say, except the
youngest gentleman in company, who with a noble self-devotion did the
heavy work, and held up Mr Pecksniff’s head without being taken notice
of by anybody. At last they gathered round, and agreed to carry him
upstairs to bed. The youngest gentleman in company was rebuked by
Jinkins for tearing Mr Pecksniff’s coat! Ha, ha! But no matter.

They carried him upstairs, and crushed the youngest gentleman at every
step. His bedroom was at the top of the house, and it was a long way;
but they got him there in course of time. He asked them frequently
on the road for a little drop of something to drink. It seemed an
idiosyncrasy. The youngest gentleman in company proposed a draught of
water. Mr Pecksniff called him opprobious names for the suggestion.

Jinkins and Gander took the rest upon themselves, and made him as
comfortable as they could, on the outside of his bed; and when he seemed
disposed to sleep, they left him. But before they had all gained the
bottom of the staircase, a vision of Mr Pecksniff, strangely attired,
was seen to flutter on the top landing. He desired to collect their
sentiments, it seemed, upon the nature of human life.

‘My friends,’ cried Mr Pecksniff, looking over the banisters, ‘let us
improve our minds by mutual inquiry and discussion. Let us be moral. Let
us contemplate existence. Where is Jinkins?’

‘Here,’ cried that gentleman. ‘Go to bed again’

‘To bed!’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Bed! ‘Tis the voice of the sluggard, I
hear him complain, you have woke me too soon, I must slumber again. If
any young orphan will repeat the remainder of that simple piece from
Doctor Watts’s collection, an eligible opportunity now offers.’

Nobody volunteered.

‘This is very soothing,’ said Mr Pecksniff, after a pause. ‘Extremely
so. Cool and refreshing; particularly to the legs! The legs of the
human subject, my friends, are a beautiful production. Compare them with
wooden legs, and observe the difference between the anatomy of nature
and the anatomy of art. Do you know,’ said Mr Pecksniff, leaning over
the banisters, with an odd recollection of his familiar manner among
new pupils at home, ‘that I should very much like to see Mrs Todgers’s
notion of a wooden leg, if perfectly agreeable to herself!’

As it appeared impossible to entertain any reasonable hopes of him after
this speech, Mr Jinkins and Mr Gander went upstairs again, and once more
got him into bed. But they had not descended to the second floor before
he was out again; nor, when they had repeated the process, had they
descended the first flight, before he was out again. In a word, as often
as he was shut up in his own room, he darted out afresh, charged
with some new moral sentiment, which he continually repeated over the
banisters, with extraordinary relish, and an irrepressible desire for
the improvement of his fellow creatures that nothing could subdue.

Under these circumstances, when they had got him into bed for the
thirtieth time or so, Mr Jinkins held him, while his companion went
downstairs in search of Bailey junior, with whom he presently returned.
That youth having been apprised of the service required of him, was in
great spirits, and brought up a stool, a candle, and his supper; to the
end that he might keep watch outside the bedroom door with tolerable
comfort.

When he had completed his arrangements, they locked Mr Pecksniff in,
and left the key on the outside; charging the young page to listen
attentively for symptoms of an apoplectic nature, with which the patient
might be troubled, and, in case of any such presenting themselves, to
summon them without delay. To which Mr Bailey modestly replied that
‘he hoped he knowed wot o’clock it wos in gineral, and didn’t date his
letters to his friends from Todgers’s for nothing.’



CHAPTER TEN

CONTAINING STRANGE MATTER, ON WHICH MANY EVENTS IN THIS HISTORY MAY, FOR
THEIR GOOD OR EVIL INFLUENCE, CHIEFLY DEPEND


But Mr Pecksniff came to town on business. Had he forgotten that? Was he
always taking his pleasure with Todgers’s jovial brood, unmindful of the
serious demands, whatever they might be, upon his calm consideration?
No.

Time and tide will wait for no man, saith the adage. But all men have to
wait for time and tide. That tide which, taken at the flood, would lead
Seth Pecksniff on to fortune, was marked down in the table, and about to
flow. No idle Pecksniff lingered far inland, unmindful of the changes
of the stream; but there, upon the water’s edge, over his shoes already,
stood the worthy creature, prepared to wallow in the very mud, so that
it slid towards the quarter of his hope.

The trustfulness of his two fair daughters was beautiful indeed. They
had that firm reliance on their parent’s nature, which taught them to
feel certain that in all he did he had his purpose straight and full
before him. And that its noble end and object was himself, which almost
of necessity included them, they knew. The devotion of these maids was
perfect.

Their filial confidence was rendered the more touching, by their having
no knowledge of their parent’s real designs, in the present instance.
All that they knew of his proceedings was, that every morning, after
the early breakfast, he repaired to the post office and inquired for
letters. That task performed, his business for the day was over; and he
again relaxed, until the rising of another sun proclaimed the advent of
another post.

This went on for four or five days. At length, one morning, Mr Pecksniff
returned with a breathless rapidity, strange to observe in him, at other
times so calm; and, seeking immediate speech with his daughters, shut
himself up with them in private conference for two whole hours. Of all
that passed in this period, only the following words of Mr Pecksniff’s
utterance are known:

‘How he has come to change so very much (if it should turn out as I
expect, that he has), we needn’t stop to inquire. My dears, I have my
thoughts upon the subject, but I will not impart them. It is enough
that we will not be proud, resentful, or unforgiving. If he wants our
friendship he shall have it. We know our duty, I hope!’

That same day at noon, an old gentleman alighted from a hackney-coach at
the post-office, and, giving his name, inquired for a letter addressed
to himself, and directed to be left till called for. It had been lying
there some days. The superscription was in Mr Pecksniff’s hand, and it
was sealed with Mr Pecksniff’s seal.

It was very short, containing indeed nothing more than an address
‘with Mr Pecksniff’s respectful, and (not withstanding what has
passed) sincerely affectionate regards.’ The old gentleman tore off the
direction--scattering the rest in fragments to the winds--and giving
it to the coachman, bade him drive as near that place as he could. In
pursuance of these instructions he was driven to the Monument; where he
again alighted, and dismissed the vehicle, and walked towards Todgers’s.

Though the face, and form, and gait of this old man, and even his
grip of the stout stick on which he leaned, were all expressive of a
resolution not easily shaken, and a purpose (it matters little whether
right or wrong, just now) such as in other days might have survived
the rack, and had its strongest life in weakest death; still there were
grains of hesitation in his mind, which made him now avoid the house he
sought, and loiter to and fro in a gleam of sunlight, that brightened
the little churchyard hard by. There may have been, in the presence of
those idle heaps of dust among the busiest stir of life, something to
increase his wavering; but there he walked, awakening the echoes as he
paced up and down, until the church clock, striking the quarters for
the second time since he had been there, roused him from his meditation.
Shaking off his incertitude as the air parted with the sound of the
bells, he walked rapidly to the house, and knocked at the door.

Mr Pecksniff was seated in the landlady’s little room, and his visitor
found him reading--by an accident; he apologised for it--an excellent
theological work. There were cake and wine upon a little table--by
another accident, for which he also apologised. Indeed he said, he
had given his visitor up, and was about to partake of that simple
refreshment with his children, when he knocked at the door.

‘Your daughters are well?’ said old Martin, laying down his hat and
stick.

Mr Pecksniff endeavoured to conceal his agitation as a father when he
answered Yes, they were. They were good girls, he said, very good. He
would not venture to recommend Mr Chuzzlewit to take the easy-chair,
or to keep out of the draught from the door. If he made any such
suggestion, he would expose himself, he feared, to most unjust
suspicion. He would, therefore, content himself with remarking that
there was an easy-chair in the room, and that the door was far from
being air-tight. This latter imperfection, he might perhaps venture to
add, was not uncommonly to be met with in old houses.

The old man sat down in the easy-chair, and after a few moments’
silence, said:

‘In the first place, let me thank you for coming to London so promptly,
at my almost unexplained request; I need scarcely add, at my cost.’

‘At YOUR cost, my good sir!’ cried Mr Pecksniff, in a tone of great
surprise.

‘It is not,’ said Martin, waving his hand impatiently, ‘my habit to put
my--well! my relatives--to any personal expense to gratify my caprices.’

‘Caprices, my good sir!’ cried Mr Pecksniff

‘That is scarcely the proper word either, in this instance,’ said the
old man. ‘No. You are right.’

Mr Pecksniff was inwardly very much relieved to hear it, though he
didn’t at all know why.

‘You are right,’ repeated Martin. ‘It is not a caprice. It is built up
on reason, proof, and cool comparison. Caprices never are. Moreover, I
am not a capricious man. I never was.’

‘Most assuredly not,’ said Mr Pecksniff.

‘How do you know?’ returned the other quickly. ‘You are to begin to know
it now. You are to test and prove it, in time to come. You and yours are
to find that I can be constant, and am not to be diverted from my end.
Do you hear?’

‘Perfectly,’ said Mr Pecksniff.

‘I very much regret,’ Martin resumed, looking steadily at him, and
speaking in a slow and measured tone; ‘I very much regret that you and
I held such a conversation together, as that which passed between us at
our last meeting. I very much regret that I laid open to you what were
then my thoughts of you, so freely as I did. The intentions that I bear
towards you now are of another kind; deserted by all in whom I have ever
trusted; hoodwinked and beset by all who should help and sustain me;
I fly to you for refuge. I confide in you to be my ally; to attach
yourself to me by ties of Interest and Expectation’--he laid great
stress upon these words, though Mr Pecksniff particularly begged him
not to mention it; ‘and to help me to visit the consequences of the very
worst species of meanness, dissimulation, and subtlety, on the right
heads.’

‘My noble sir!’ cried Mr Pecksniff, catching at his outstretched hand.
‘And YOU regret the having harboured unjust thoughts of me! YOU with
those grey hairs!’

‘Regrets,’ said Martin, ‘are the natural property of grey hairs; and
I enjoy, in common with all other men, at least my share of such
inheritance. And so enough of that. I regret having been severed from
you so long. If I had known you sooner, and sooner used you as you well
deserve, I might have been a happier man.’

Mr Pecksniff looked up to the ceiling, and clasped his hands in rapture.

‘Your daughters,’ said Martin, after a short silence. ‘I don’t know
them. Are they like you?’

‘In the nose of my eldest and the chin of my youngest, Mr Chuzzlewit,’
returned the widower, ‘their sainted parent (not myself, their mother)
lives again.’

‘I don’t mean in person,’ said the old man. ‘Morally, morally.’

‘’Tis not for me to say,’ retorted Mr Pecksniff with a gentle smile. ‘I
have done my best, sir.’

‘I could wish to see them,’ said Martin; ‘are they near at hand?’

They were, very near; for they had in fact been listening at the
door from the beginning of this conversation until now, when they
precipitately retired. Having wiped the signs of weakness from his eyes,
and so given them time to get upstairs, Mr Pecksniff opened the door,
and mildly cried in the passage,

‘My own darlings, where are you?’

‘Here, my dear pa!’ replied the distant voice of Charity.

‘Come down into the back parlour, if you please, my love,’ said Mr
Pecksniff, ‘and bring your sister with you.’

‘Yes, my dear pa,’ cried Merry; and down they came directly (being all
obedience), singing as they came.

Nothing could exceed the astonishment of the two Miss Pecksniffs when
they found a stranger with their dear papa. Nothing could surpass their
mute amazement when he said, ‘My children, Mr Chuzzlewit!’ But when he
told them that Mr Chuzzlewit and he were friends, and that Mr Chuzzlewit
had said such kind and tender words as pierced his very heart, the two
Miss Pecksniffs cried with one accord, ‘Thank Heaven for this!’ and
fell upon the old man’s neck. And when they had embraced him with
such fervour of affection that no words can describe it, they grouped
themselves about his chair, and hung over him, as figuring to themselves
no earthly joy like that of ministering to his wants, and crowding into
the remainder of his life, the love they would have diffused over their
whole existence, from infancy, if he--dear obdurate!--had but consented
to receive the precious offering.

The old man looked attentively from one to the other, and then at Mr
Pecksniff, several times.

‘What,’ he asked of Mr Pecksniff, happening to catch his eye in its
descent; for until now it had been piously upraised, with something of
that expression which the poetry of ages has attributed to a domestic
bird, when breathing its last amid the ravages of an electric storm:
‘What are their names?’

Mr Pecksniff told him, and added, rather hastily; his caluminators
would have said, with a view to any testamentary thoughts that might be
flitting through old Martin’s mind; ‘Perhaps, my dears, you had better
write them down. Your humble autographs are of no value in themselves,
but affection may prize them.’

‘Affection,’ said the old man, ‘will expend itself on the living
originals. Do not trouble yourselves, my girls, I shall not so easily
forget you, Charity and Mercy, as to need such tokens of remembrance.
Cousin!’

‘Sir!’ said Mr Pecksniff, with alacrity.

‘Do you never sit down?’

‘Why--yes--occasionally, sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff, who had been standing
all this time.

‘Will you do so now?’

‘Can you ask me,’ returned Mr Pecksniff, slipping into a chair
immediately, ‘whether I will do anything that you desire?’

‘You talk confidently,’ said Martin, ‘and you mean well; but I fear you
don’t know what an old man’s humours are. You don’t know what it is to
be required to court his likings and dislikings; to adapt yourself to
his prejudices; to do his bidding, be it what it may; to bear with his
distrusts and jealousies; and always still be zealous in his service.
When I remember how numerous these failings are in me, and judge of
their occasional enormity by the injurious thoughts I lately entertained
of you, I hardly dare to claim you for my friend.’

‘My worthy sir,’ returned his relative, ‘how CAN you talk in such a
painful strain! What was more natural than that you should make one
slight mistake, when in all other respects you were so very correct, and
have had such reason--such very sad and undeniable reason--to judge of
every one about you in the worst light!’

‘True,’ replied the other. ‘You are very lenient with me.’

‘We always said, my girls and I,’ cried Mr Pecksniff with increasing
obsequiousness, ‘that while we mourned the heaviness of our misfortune
in being confounded with the base and mercenary, still we could not
wonder at it. My dears, you remember?’

Oh vividly! A thousand times!

‘We uttered no complaint,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Occasionally we had the
presumption to console ourselves with the remark that Truth would in
the end prevail, and Virtue be triumphant; but not often. My loves, you
recollect?’

Recollect! Could he doubt it! Dearest pa, what strange unnecessary
questions!

‘And when I saw you,’ resumed Mr Pecksniff, with still greater
deference, ‘in the little, unassuming village where we take the liberty
of dwelling, I said you were mistaken in me, my dear sir; that was all,
I think?’

‘No--not all,’ said Martin, who had been sitting with his hand upon his
brow for some time past, and now looked up again; ‘you said much more,
which, added to other circumstances that have come to my knowledge,
opened my eyes. You spoke to me, disinterestedly, on behalf of--I
needn’t name him. You know whom I mean.’

Trouble was expressed in Mr Pecksniff’s visage, as he pressed his hot
hands together, and replied, with humility, ‘Quite disinterestedly, sir,
I assure you.’

‘I know it,’ said old Martin, in his quiet way. ‘I am sure of it. I said
so. It was disinterested too, in you, to draw that herd of harpies
off from me, and be their victim yourself; most other men would have
suffered them to display themselves in all their rapacity, and would
have striven to rise, by contrast, in my estimation. You felt for me,
and drew them off, for which I owe you many thanks. Although I left the
place, I know what passed behind my back, you see!’

‘You amaze me, sir!’ cried Mr Pecksniff; which was true enough.

‘My knowledge of your proceedings,’ said the old man, does not stop at
this. You have a new inmate in your house.’

‘Yes, sir,’ rejoined the architect, ‘I have.’

‘He must quit it’ said Martin.

‘For--for yours?’ asked Mr Pecksniff, with a quavering mildness.

‘For any shelter he can find,’ the old man answered. ‘He has deceived
you.’

‘I hope not’ said Mr Pecksniff, eagerly. ‘I trust not. I have been
extremely well disposed towards that young man. I hope it cannot be
shown that he has forfeited all claim to my protection. Deceit--deceit,
my dear Mr Chuzzlewit, would be final. I should hold myself bound, on
proof of deceit, to renounce him instantly.’

The old man glanced at both his fair supporters, but especially at
Miss Mercy, whom, indeed, he looked full in the face, with a greater
demonstration of interest than had yet appeared in his features. His
gaze again encountered Mr Pecksniff, as he said, composedly:

‘Of course you know that he has made his matrimonial choice?’

‘Oh dear!’ cried Mr Pecksniff, rubbing his hair up very stiff upon
his head, and staring wildly at his daughters. ‘This is becoming
tremendous!’

‘You know the fact?’ repeated Martin

‘Surely not without his grandfather’s consent and approbation my dear
sir!’ cried Mr Pecksniff. ‘Don’t tell me that. For the honour of human
nature, say you’re not about to tell me that!’

‘I thought he had suppressed it,’ said the old man.

The indignation felt by Mr Pecksniff at this terrible disclosure, was
only to be equalled by the kindling anger of his daughters. What! Had
they taken to their hearth and home a secretly contracted serpent; a
crocodile, who had made a furtive offer of his hand; an imposition on
society; a bankrupt bachelor with no effects, trading with the spinster
world on false pretences! And oh, to think that he should have disobeyed
and practised on that sweet, that venerable gentleman, whose name
he bore; that kind and tender guardian; his more than father--to say
nothing at all of mother--horrible, horrible! To turn him out with
ignominy would be treatment much too good. Was there nothing else that
could be done to him? Had he incurred no legal pains and penalties?
Could it be that the statutes of the land were so remiss as to have
affixed no punishment to such delinquency? Monster; how basely had they
been deceived!

‘I am glad to find you second me so warmly,’ said the old man holding up
his hand to stay the torrent of their wrath. ‘I will not deny that it
is a pleasure to me to find you so full of zeal. We will consider that
topic as disposed of.’

‘No, my dear sir,’ cried Mr Pecksniff, ‘not as disposed of, until I have
purged my house of this pollution.’

‘That will follow,’ said the old man, ‘in its own time. I look upon that
as done.’

‘You are very good, sir,’ answered Mr Pecksniff, shaking his hand. ‘You
do me honour. You MAY look upon it as done, I assure you.’

‘There is another topic,’ said Martin, ‘on which I hope you will assist
me. You remember Mary, cousin?’

‘The young lady that I mentioned to you, my dears, as having interested
me so very much,’ remarked Mr Pecksniff. ‘Excuse my interrupting you,
sir.’

‘I told you her history?’ said the old man.

‘Which I also mentioned, you will recollect, my dears,’ cried Mr
Pecksniff. ‘Silly girls, Mr Chuzzlewit--quite moved by it, they were!’

‘Why, look now!’ said Martin, evidently pleased; ‘I feared I should have
had to urge her case upon you, and ask you to regard her favourably for
my sake. But I find you have no jealousies! Well! You have no cause
for any, to be sure. She has nothing to gain from me, my dears, and she
knows it.’

The two Miss Pecksniffs murmured their approval of this wise
arrangement, and their cordial sympathy with its interesting object.

‘If I could have anticipated what has come to pass between us four,’
said the old man thoughfully; ‘but it is too late to think of that. You
would receive her courteously, young ladies, and be kind to her, if need
were?’

Where was the orphan whom the two Miss Pecksniffs would not have
cherished in their sisterly bosom! But when that orphan was commended to
their care by one on whom the dammed-up love of years was gushing forth,
what exhaustless stores of pure affection yearned to expend themselves
upon her!

An interval ensued, during which Mr Chuzzlewit, in an absent frame of
mind, sat gazing at the ground, without uttering a word; and as it was
plain that he had no desire to be interrupted in his meditations, Mr
Pecksniff and his daughters were profoundly silent also. During the
whole of the foregoing dialogue, he had borne his part with a cold,
passionless promptitude, as though he had learned and painfully
rehearsed it all a hundred times. Even when his expressions were warmest
and his language most encouraging, he had retained the same manner,
without the least abatement. But now there was a keener brightness in
his eye, and more expression in his voice, as he said, awakening from
his thoughtful mood:

‘You know what will be said of this? Have you reflected?’

‘Said of what, my dear sir?’ Mr Pecksniff asked.

‘Of this new understanding between us.’

Mr Pecksniff looked benevolently sagacious, and at the same time far
above all earthly misconstruction, as he shook his head, and observed
that a great many things would be said of it, no doubt.

‘A great many,’ rejoined the old man. ‘Some will say that I dote in my
old age; that illness has shaken me; that I have lost all strength of
mind, and have grown childish. You can bear that?’

Mr Pecksniff answered that it would be dreadfully hard to bear, but he
thought he could, if he made a great effort.

‘Others will say--I speak of disappointed, angry people only--that you
have lied and fawned, and wormed yourself through dirty ways into my
favour; by such concessions and such crooked deeds, such meannesses and
vile endurances, as nothing could repay; no, not the legacy of half the
world we live in. You can bear that?’

Mr Pecksniff made reply that this would be also very hard to bear, as
reflecting, in some degree, on the discernment of Mr Chuzzlewit. Still
he had a modest confidence that he could sustain the calumny, with the
help of a good conscience, and that gentleman’s friendship.

‘With the great mass of slanderers,’ said old Martin, leaning back in
his chair, ‘the tale, as I clearly foresee, will run thus: That to mark
my contempt for the rabble whom I despised, I chose from among them the
very worst, and made him do my will, and pampered and enriched him at
the cost of all the rest. That, after casting about for the means of a
punishment which should rankle in the bosoms of these kites the most,
and strike into their gall, I devised this scheme at a time when the
last link in the chain of grateful love and duty, that held me to
my race, was roughly snapped asunder; roughly, for I loved him well;
roughly, for I had ever put my trust in his affection; roughly, for that
he broke it when I loved him most--God help me!--and he without a pang
could throw me off, while I clung about his heart! Now,’ said the old
man, dismissing this passionate outburst as suddenly as he had yielded
to it, ‘is your mind made up to bear this likewise? Lay your account
with having it to bear, and put no trust in being set right by me.’

‘My dear Mr Chuzzlewit,’ cried Pecksniff in an ecstasy, ‘for such a man
as you have shown yourself to be this day; for a man so injured, yet so
very humane; for a man so--I am at a loss what precise term to use--yet
at the same time so remarkably--I don’t know how to express my meaning;
for such a man as I have described, I hope it is no presumption to say
that I, and I am sure I may add my children also (my dears, we perfectly
agree in this, I think?), would bear anything whatever!’

‘Enough,’ said Martin. ‘You can charge no consequences on me. When do
you retire home?’

‘Whenever you please, my dear sir. To-night if you desire it.’

‘I desire nothing,’ returned the old man, ‘that is unreasonable. Such a
request would be. Will you be ready to return at the end of this week?’

The very time of all others that Mr Pecksniff would have suggested if
it had been left to him to make his own choice. As to his daughters--the
words, ‘Let us be at home on Saturday, dear pa,’ were actually upon
their lips.

‘Your expenses, cousin,’ said Martin, taking a folded slip of paper from
his pocketbook, ‘may possibly exceed that amount. If so, let me know the
balance that I owe you, when we next meet. It would be useless if I told
you where I live just now; indeed, I have no fixed abode. When I have,
you shall know it. You and your daughters may expect to see me
before long; in the meantime I need not tell you that we keep our own
confidence. What you will do when you get home is understood between us.
Give me no account of it at any time; and never refer to it in any way.
I ask that as a favour. I am commonly a man of few words, cousin; and
all that need be said just now is said, I think.’

‘One glass of wine--one morsel of this homely cake?’ cried Mr Pecksniff,
venturing to detain him. ‘My dears--!’

The sisters flew to wait upon him.

‘Poor girls!’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘You will excuse their agitation, my
dear sir. They are made up of feeling. A bad commodity to go through the
world with, Mr Chuzzlewit! My youngest daughter is almost as much of a
woman as my eldest, is she not, sir?’

‘Which IS the youngest?’ asked the old man.

‘Mercy, by five years,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘We sometimes venture to
consider her rather a fine figure, sir. Speaking as an artist, I
may perhaps be permitted to suggest that its outline is graceful and
correct. I am naturally,’ said Mr Pecksniff, drying his hands upon his
handkerchief, and looking anxiously in his cousin’s face at almost every
word, ‘proud, if I may use the expression, to have a daughter who is
constructed on the best models.’

‘She seems to have a lively disposition,’ observed Martin.

‘Dear me!’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘That is quite remarkable. You have
defined her character, my dear sir, as correctly as if you had known her
from her birth. She HAS a lively disposition. I assure you, my dear sir,
that in our unpretending home her gaiety is delightful.’

‘No doubt,’ returned the old man.

‘Charity, upon the other hand,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘is remarkable for
strong sense, and for rather a deep tone of sentiment, if the partiality
of a father may be excused in saying so. A wonderful affection between
them, my dear sir! Allow me to drink your health. Bless you!’

‘I little thought,’ retorted Martin, ‘but a month ago, that I should be
breaking bread and pouring wine with you. I drink to you.’

Not at all abashed by the extraordinary abruptness with which these
latter words were spoken, Mr Pecksniff thanked him devoutly.

‘Now let me go,’ said Martin, putting down the wine when he had merely
touched it with his lips. ‘My dears, good morning!’

But this distant form of farewell was by no means tender enough for the
yearnings of the young ladies, who again embraced him with all their
hearts--with all their arms at any rate--to which parting caresses their
new-found friend submitted with a better grace than might have been
expected from one who, not a moment before, had pledged their parent in
such a very uncomfortable manner. These endearments terminated, he took
a hasty leave of Mr Pecksniff and withdrew, followed to the door by both
father and daughters, who stood there kissing their hands and beaming
with affection until he disappeared; though, by the way, he never once
looked back, after he had crossed the threshold.

When they returned into the house, and were again alone in Mrs Todgers’s
room, the two young ladies exhibited an unusual amount of gaiety;
insomuch that they clapped their hands, and laughed, and looked with
roguish aspects and a bantering air upon their dear papa. This conduct
was so very unaccountable, that Mr Pecksniff (being singularly grave
himself) could scarcely choose but ask them what it meant; and took them
to task, in his gentle manner, for yielding to such light emotions.

‘If it was possible to divine any cause for this merriment, even the
most remote,’ he said, ‘I should not reprove you. But when you can have
none whatever--oh, really, really!’

This admonition had so little effect on Mercy, that she was obliged to
hold her handkerchief before her rosy lips, and to throw herself back in
her chair, with every demonstration of extreme amusement; which want
of duty so offended Mr Pecksniff that he reproved her in set terms,
and gave her his parental advice to correct herself in solitude and
contemplation. But at that juncture they were disturbed by the sound of
voices in dispute; and as it proceeded from the next room, the subject
matter of the altercation quickly reached their ears.

‘I don’t care that! Mrs Todgers,’ said the young gentleman who had been
the youngest gentleman in company on the day of the festival; ‘I don’t
care THAT, ma’am,’ said he, snapping his fingers, ‘for Jinkins. Don’t
suppose I do.’

‘I am quite certain you don’t, sir,’ replied Mrs Todgers. ‘You have
too independent a spirit, I know, to yield to anybody. And quite right.
There is no reason why you should give way to any gentleman. Everybody
must be well aware of that.’

‘I should think no more of admitting daylight into the fellow,’ said the
youngest gentleman, in a desperate voice, ‘than if he was a bulldog.’

Mrs Todgers did not stop to inquire whether, as a matter of principle,
there was any particular reason for admitting daylight even into a
bulldog, otherwise than by the natural channel of his eyes, but she
seemed to wring her hands, and she moaned.

‘Let him be careful,’ said the youngest gentleman. ‘I give him warning.
No man shall step between me and the current of my vengeance. I know
a Cove--’ he used that familiar epithet in his agitation but corrected
himself by adding, ‘a gentleman of property, I mean--who practices with
a pair of pistols (fellows too) of his own. If I am driven to borrow
‘em, and to send at friend to Jinkins, a tragedy will get into the
papers. That’s all.’

Again Mrs Todgers moaned.

‘I have borne this long enough,’ said the youngest gentleman but now
my soul rebels against it, and I won’t stand it any longer. I left home
originally, because I had that within me which wouldn’t be domineered
over by a sister; and do you think I’m going to be put down by HIM? No.’

‘It is very wrong in Mr Jinkins; I know it is perfectly inexcusable in
Mr Jinkins, if he intends it,’ observed Mrs Todgers

‘If he intends it!’ cried the youngest gentleman. ‘Don’t he interrupt
and contradict me on every occasion? Does he ever fail to interpose
himself between me and anything or anybody that he sees I have set my
mind upon? Does he make a point of always pretending to forget me,
when he’s pouring out the beer? Does he make bragging remarks about his
razors, and insulting allusions to people who have no necessity to shave
more than once a week? But let him look out! He’ll find himself shaved,
pretty close, before long, and so I tell him.’

The young gentleman was mistaken in this closing sentence, inasmuch as
he never told it to Jinkins, but always to Mrs Todgers.

‘However,’ he said, ‘these are not proper subjects for ladies’ ears.
All I’ve got to say to you, Mrs Todgers, is, a week’s notice from next
Saturday. The same house can’t contain that miscreant and me any longer.
If we get over the intermediate time without bloodshed, you may think
yourself pretty fortunate. I don’t myself expect we shall.’

‘Dear, dear!’ cried Mrs Todgers, ‘what would I have given to have
prevented this? To lose you, sir, would be like losing the house’s
right-hand. So popular as you are among the gentlemen; so generally
looked up to; and so much liked! I do hope you’ll think better of it; if
on nobody else’s account, on mine.’

‘There’s Jinkins,’ said the youngest gentleman, moodily. ‘Your
favourite. He’ll console you, and the gentlemen too, for the loss of
twenty such as me. I’m not understood in this house. I never have been.’

‘Don’t run away with that opinion, sir!’ cried Mrs Todgers, with a show
of honest indignation. ‘Don’t make such a charge as that against the
establishment, I must beg of you. It is not so bad as that comes to,
sir. Make any remark you please against the gentlemen, or against me;
but don’t say you’re not understood in this house.’

‘I’m not treated as if I was,’ said the youngest gentleman.

‘There you make a great mistake, sir,’ returned Mrs Todgers, in the same
strain. ‘As many of the gentlemen and I have often said, you are too
sensitive. That’s where it is. You are of too susceptible a nature; it’s
in your spirit.’

The young gentleman coughed.

‘And as,’ said Mrs Todgers, ‘as to Mr Jinkins, I must beg of you, if we
ARE to part, to understand that I don’t abet Mr Jinkins by any means.
Far from it. I could wish that Mr Jinkins would take a lower tone in
this establishment, and would not be the means of raising differences
between me and gentlemen that I can much less bear to part with than I
could with Mr Jinkins. Mr Jinkins is not such a boarder, sir,’ added Mrs
Todgers, ‘that all considerations of private feeling and respect give
way before him. Quite the contrary, I assure you.’

The young gentleman was so much mollified by these and similar speeches
on the part of Mrs Todgers, that he and that lady gradually changed
positions; so that she became the injured party, and he was understood
to be the injurer; but in a complimentary, not in an offensive sense;
his cruel conduct being attributable to his exalted nature, and to that
alone. So, in the end, the young gentleman withdrew his notice, and
assured Mrs Todgers of his unalterable regard; and having done so, went
back to business.

‘Goodness me, Miss Pecksniffs!’ cried that lady, as she came into the
back room, and sat wearily down, with her basket on her knees, and her
hands folded upon it, ‘what a trial of temper it is to keep a house like
this! You must have heard most of what has just passed. Now did you ever
hear the like?’

‘Never!’ said the two Miss Pecksniffs.

‘Of all the ridiculous young fellows that ever I had to deal with,’
resumed Mrs Todgers, ‘that is the most ridiculous and unreasonable. Mr
Jinkins is hard upon him sometimes, but not half as hard as he deserves.
To mention such a gentleman as Mr Jinkins in the same breath with
HIM--you know it’s too much! And yet he’s as jealous of him, bless you,
as if he was his equal.’

The young ladies were greatly entertained by Mrs Todgers’s account,
no less than with certain anecdotes illustrative of the youngest
gentleman’s character, which she went on to tell them. But Mr Pecksniff
looked quite stern and angry; and when she had concluded, said in a
solemn voice:

‘Pray, Mrs Todgers, if I may inquire, what does that young gentleman
contribute towards the support of these premises?’

‘Why, sir, for what HE has, he pays about eighteen shillings a week!’
said Mrs Todgers.

‘Eighteen shillings a week!’ repeated Mr Pecksniff.

‘Taking one week with another; as near that as possible,’ said Mrs
Todgers.

Mr Pecksniff rose from his chair, folded his arms, looked at her, and
shook his head.

‘And do you mean to say, ma’am--is it possible, Mrs Todgers--that for
such a miserable consideration as eighteen shillings a week, a female of
your understanding can so far demean herself as to wear a double face,
even for an instant?’

‘I am forced to keep things on the square if I can, sir,’ faltered
Mrs Todgers. ‘I must preserve peace among them, and keep my connection
together, if possible, Mr Pecksniff. The profit is very small.’

‘The profit!’ cried that gentleman, laying great stress upon the word.
‘The profit, Mrs Todgers! You amaze me!’

He was so severe, that Mrs Todgers shed tears.

‘The profit!’ repeated Mr pecksniff. ‘The profit of dissimulation! To
worship the golden calf of Baal, for eighteen shillings a week!’

‘Don’t in your own goodness be too hard upon me, Mr Pecksniff,’ cried
Mrs Todgers, taking out her handkerchief.

‘Oh Calf, Calf!’ cried Mr Pecksniff mournfully. ‘Oh, Baal, Baal! oh my
friend, Mrs Todgers! To barter away that precious jewel, self-esteem,
and cringe to any mortal creature--for eighteen shillings a week!’

He was so subdued and overcome by the reflection, that he immediately
took down his hat from its peg in the passage, and went out for a walk,
to compose his feelings. Anybody passing him in the street might have
known him for a good man at first sight; for his whole figure teemed
with a consciousness of the moral homily he had read to Mrs Todgers.

Eighteen shillings a week! Just, most just, thy censure, upright
Pecksniff! Had it been for the sake of a ribbon, star, or garter;
sleeves of lawn, a great man’s smile, a seat in parliament, a tap upon
the shoulder from a courtly sword; a place, a party, or a thriving lie,
or eighteen thousand pounds, or even eighteen hundred;--but to worship
the golden calf for eighteen shillings a week! oh pitiful, pitiful!



CHAPTER ELEVEN

WHEREIN A CERTAIN GENTLEMAN BECOMES PARTICULAR IN HIS ATTENTIONS TO A
CERTAIN LADY; AND MORE COMING EVENTS THAN ONE, CAST THEIR SHADOWS BEFORE


The family were within two or three days of their departure from Mrs
Todgers’s, and the commercial gentlemen were to a man despondent and
not to be comforted, because of the approaching separation, when Bailey
junior, at the jocund time of noon, presented himself before Miss
Charity Pecksniff, then sitting with her sister in the banquet chamber,
hemming six new pocket-handkerchiefs for Mr Jinkins; and having
expressed a hope, preliminary and pious, that he might be blest, gave
her in his pleasant way to understand that a visitor attended to pay
his respects to her, and was at that moment waiting in the drawing-room.
Perhaps this last announcement showed in a more striking point of view
than many lengthened speeches could have done, the trustfulness and
faith of Bailey’s nature; since he had, in fact, last seen the visitor
on the door-mat, where, after signifying to him that he would do well to
go upstairs, he had left him to the guidance of his own sagacity. Hence
it was at least an even chance that the visitor was then wandering on
the roof of the house, or vainly seeking to extricate himself from the
maze of bedrooms; Todgers’s being precisely that kind of establishment
in which an unpiloted stranger is pretty sure to find himself in some
place where he least expects and least desires to be.

‘A gentleman for me!’ cried Charity, pausing in her work; ‘my gracious,
Bailey!’

‘Ah!’ said Bailey. ‘It IS my gracious, an’t it? Wouldn’t I be gracious
neither, not if I wos him!’

The remark was rendered somewhat obscure in itself, by reason (as the
reader may have observed) of a redundancy of negatives; but accompanied
by action expressive of a faithful couple walking arm-in-arm towards
a parochial church, mutually exchanging looks of love, it clearly
signified this youth’s conviction that the caller’s purpose was of an
amorous tendency. Miss Charity affected to reprove so great a liberty;
but she could not help smiling. He was a strange boy, to be sure. There
was always some ground of probability and likelihood mingled with his
absurd behaviour. That was the best of it!

‘But I don’t know any gentlemen, Bailey,’ said Miss Pecksniff. ‘I think
you must have made a mistake.’

Mr Bailey smiled at the extreme wildness of such a supposition, and
regarded the young ladies with unimpaired affability.

‘My dear Merry,’ said Charity, ‘who CAN it be? Isn’t it odd? I have a
great mind not to go to him really. So very strange, you know!’

The younger sister plainly considered that this appeal had its origin in
the pride of being called upon and asked for; and that it was intended
as an assertion of superiority, and a retaliation upon her for having
captured the commercial gentlemen. Therefore, she replied, with great
affection and politeness, that it was, no doubt, very strange indeed;
and that she was totally at a loss to conceive what the ridiculous
person unknown could mean by it.

‘Quite impossible to divine!’ said Charity, with some sharpness, ‘though
still, at the same time, you needn’t be angry, my dear.’

‘Thank you,’ retorted Merry, singing at her needle. ‘I am quite aware of
that, my love.’

‘I am afraid your head is turned, you silly thing,’ said Cherry.

‘Do you know, my dear,’ said Merry, with engaging candour, ‘that I have
been afraid of that, myself, all along! So much incense and nonsense,
and all the rest of it, is enough to turn a stronger head than mine.
What a relief it must be to you, my dear, to be so very comfortable in
that respect, and not to be worried by those odious men! How do you do
it, Cherry?’

This artless inquiry might have led to turbulent results, but for the
strong emotions of delight evinced by Bailey junior, whose relish in the
turn the conversation had lately taken was so acute, that it impelled
and forced him to the instantaneous performance of a dancing step,
extremely difficult in its nature, and only to be achieved in a
moment of ecstasy, which is commonly called The Frog’s Hornpipe. A
manifestation so lively, brought to their immediate recollection the
great virtuous precept, ‘Keep up appearances whatever you do,’ in which
they had been educated. They forbore at once, and jointly signified to
Mr Bailey that if he should presume to practice that figure any more in
their presence, they would instantly acquaint Mrs Todgers with the fact,
and would demand his condign punishment, at the hands of that lady. The
young gentleman having expressed the bitterness of his contrition by
affecting to wipe away scalding tears with his apron, and afterwards
feigning to wring a vast amount of water from that garment, held the
door open while Miss Charity passed out; and so that damsel went in
state upstairs to receive her mysterious adorer.

By some strange occurrence of favourable circumstances he had found out
the drawing-room, and was sitting there alone.

‘Ah, cousin!’ he said. ‘Here I am, you see. You thought I was lost, I’ll
be bound. Well! how do you find yourself by this time?’

Miss Charity replied that she was quite well, and gave Mr Jonas
Chuzzlewit her hand.

‘That’s right,’ said Mr Jonas, ‘and you’ve got over the fatigues of the
journey have you? I say. How’s the other one?’

‘My sister is very well, I believe,’ returned the young lady. ‘I have
not heard her complain of any indisposition, sir. Perhaps you would like
to see her, and ask her yourself?’

‘No, no cousin!’ said Mr Jonas, sitting down beside her on the
window-seat. ‘Don’t be in a hurry. There’s no occasion for that, you
know. What a cruel girl you are!’

‘It’s impossible for YOU to know,’ said Cherry, ‘whether I am or not.’

‘Well, perhaps it is,’ said Mr Jonas. ‘I say--Did you think I was lost?
You haven’t told me that.’

‘I didn’t think at all about it,’ answered Cherry.

‘Didn’t you though?’ said Jonas, pondering upon this strange reply. ‘Did
the other one?’

‘I am sure it’s impossible for me to say what my sister may, or may not
have thought on such a subject,’ cried Cherry. ‘She never said anything
to me about it, one way or other.’

‘Didn’t she laugh about it?’ inquired Jonas.

‘No. She didn’t even laugh about it,’ answered Charity.

‘She’s a terrible one to laugh, an’t she?’ said Jonas, lowering his
voice.

‘She is very lively,’ said Cherry.

‘Liveliness is a pleasant thing--when it don’t lead to spending money.
An’t it?’ asked Mr Jonas.

‘Very much so, indeed,’ said Cherry, with a demureness of manner that
gave a very disinterested character to her assent.

‘Such liveliness as yours I mean, you know,’ observed Mr Jonas, as he
nudged her with his elbow. ‘I should have come to see you before, but I
didn’t know where you was. How quick you hurried off, that morning!’

‘I was amenable to my papa’s directions,’ said Miss Charity.

‘I wish he had given me his direction,’ returned her cousin, ‘and then
I should have found you out before. Why, I shouldn’t have found you even
now, if I hadn’t met him in the street this morning. What a sleek, sly
chap he is! Just like a tomcat, an’t he?’

‘I must trouble you to have the goodness to speak more respectfully of
my papa, Mr Jonas,’ said Charity. ‘I can’t allow such a tone as that,
even in jest.’

‘Ecod, you may say what you like of MY father, then, and so I give you
leave,’ said Jonas. ‘I think it’s liquid aggravation that circulates
through his veins, and not regular blood. How old should you think my
father was, cousin?’

‘Old, no doubt,’ replied Miss Charity; ‘but a fine old gentleman.’

‘A fine old gentleman!’ repeated Jonas, giving the crown of his hat an
angry knock. ‘Ah! It’s time he was thinking of being drawn out a little
finer too. Why, he’s eighty!’

‘Is he, indeed?’ said the young lady.

‘And ecod,’ cried Jonas, ‘now he’s gone so far without giving in, I
don’t see much to prevent his being ninety; no, nor even a hundred. Why,
a man with any feeling ought to be ashamed of being eighty, let alone
more. Where’s his religion, I should like to know, when he goes flying
in the face of the Bible like that? Threescore-and-ten’s the mark, and
no man with a conscience, and a proper sense of what’s expected of him,
has any business to live longer.’

Is any one surprised at Mr Jonas making such a reference to such a
book for such a purpose? Does any one doubt the old saw, that the Devil
(being a layman) quotes Scripture for his own ends? If he will take the
trouble to look about him, he may find a greater number of confirmations
of the fact in the occurrences of any single day, than the steam-gun can
discharge balls in a minute.

‘But there’s enough of my father,’ said Jonas; ‘it’s of no use to go
putting one’s self out of the way by talking about HIM. I called to ask
you to come and take a walk, cousin, and see some of the sights; and
to come to our house afterwards, and have a bit of something. Pecksniff
will most likely look in in the evening, he says, and bring you home.
See, here’s his writing; I made him put it down this morning when he
told me he shouldn’t be back before I came here; in case you wouldn’t
believe me. There’s nothing like proof, is there? Ha, ha! I say--you’ll
bring the other one, you know!’

Miss Charity cast her eyes upon her father’s autograph, which merely
said--‘Go, my children, with your cousin. Let there be union among us
when it is possible;’ and after enough of hesitation to impart a proper
value to her consent, withdrew to prepare her sister and herself for the
excursion. She soon returned, accompanied by Miss Mercy, who was by
no means pleased to leave the brilliant triumphs of Todgers’s for the
society of Mr Jonas and his respected father.

‘Aha!’ cried Jonas. ‘There you are, are you?’

‘Yes, fright,’ said Mercy, ‘here I am; and I would much rather be
anywhere else, I assure you.’

‘You don’t mean that,’ cried Mr Jonas. ‘You can’t, you know. It isn’t
possible.’

‘You can have what opinion you like, fright,’ retorted Mercy. ‘I am
content to keep mine; and mine is that you are a very unpleasant,
odious, disagreeable person.’ Here she laughed heartily, and seemed to
enjoy herself very much.

‘Oh, you’re a sharp gal!’ said Mr Jonas. ‘She’s a regular teaser, an’t
she, cousin?’

Miss Charity replied in effect, that she was unable to say what the
habits and propensities of a regular teaser might be; and that even if
she possessed such information, it would ill become her to admit the
existence of any creature with such an unceremonious name in her family;
far less in the person of a beloved sister; ‘whatever,’ added Cherry
with an angry glance, ‘whatever her real nature may be.’

‘Well, my dear,’ said Merry, ‘the only observation I have to make is,
that if we don’t go out at once, I shall certainly take my bonnet off
again, and stay at home.’

This threat had the desired effect of preventing any farther
altercation, for Mr Jonas immediately proposed an adjournment, and
the same being carried unanimously, they departed from the house
straightway. On the doorstep, Mr Jonas gave an arm to each cousin;
which act of gallantry being observed by Bailey junior, from the garret
window, was by him saluted with a loud and violent fit of coughing, to
which paroxysm he was still the victim when they turned the corner.

Mr Jonas inquired in the first instance if they were good walkers and
being answered, ‘Yes,’ submitted their pedestrian powers to a pretty
severe test; for he showed them as many sights, in the way of bridges,
churches, streets, outsides of theatres, and other free spectacles,
in that one forenoon, as most people see in a twelvemonth. It was
observable in this gentleman, that he had an insurmountable distaste to
the insides of buildings, and that he was perfectly acquainted with
the merits of all shows, in respect of which there was any charge for
admission, which it seemed were every one detestable, and of the very
lowest grade of merit. He was so thoroughly possessed with this opinion,
that when Miss Charity happened to mention the circumstance of their
having been twice or thrice to the theatre with Mr Jinkins and party, he
inquired, as a matter of course, ‘where the orders came from?’ and being
told that Mr Jinkins and party paid, was beyond description entertained,
observing that ‘they must be nice flats, certainly;’ and often in the
course of the walk, bursting out again into a perfect convulsion of
laughter at the surpassing silliness of those gentlemen, and (doubtless)
at his own superior wisdom.

When they had been out for some hours and were thoroughly fatigued, it
being by that time twilight, Mr Jonas intimated that he would show them
one of the best pieces of fun with which he was acquainted. This joke
was of a practical kind, and its humour lay in taking a hackney-coach
to the extreme limits of possibility for a shilling. Happily it brought
them to the place where Mr Jonas dwelt, or the young ladies might have
rather missed the point and cream of the jest.

The old-established firm of Anthony Chuzzlewit and Son, Manchester
Warehousemen, and so forth, had its place of business in a very narrow
street somewhere behind the Post Office; where every house was in the
brightest summer morning very gloomy; and where light porters watered
the pavement, each before his own employer’s premises, in fantastic
patterns, in the dog-days; and where spruce gentlemen with their hands
in the pockets of symmetrical trousers, were always to be seen in
warm weather, contemplating their undeniable boots in dusty warehouse
doorways; which appeared to be the hardest work they did, except now and
then carrying pens behind their ears. A dim, dirty, smoky, tumble-down,
rotten old house it was, as anybody would desire to see; but there the
firm of Anthony Chuzzlewit and Son transacted all their business and
their pleasure too, such as it was; for neither the young man nor the
old had any other residence, or any care or thought beyond its narrow
limits.

Business, as may be readily supposed, was the main thing in this
establishment; insomuch indeed that it shouldered comfort out of
doors, and jostled the domestic arrangements at every turn. Thus in the
miserable bedrooms there were files of moth-eaten letters hanging up
against the walls; and linen rollers, and fragments of old patterns,
and odds and ends of spoiled goods, strewed upon the ground; while the
meagre bedsteads, washing-stands, and scraps of carpet, were huddled
away into corners as objects of secondary consideration, not to be
thought of but as disagreeable necessities, furnishing no profit, and
intruding on the one affair of life. The single sitting-room was on
the same principle, a chaos of boxes and old papers, and had more
counting-house stools in it than chairs; not to mention a great monster
of a desk straddling over the middle of the floor, and an iron safe
sunk into the wall above the fireplace. The solitary little table for
purposes of refection and social enjoyment, bore as fair a proportion
to the desk and other business furniture, as the graces and harmless
relaxations of life had ever done, in the persons of the old man and his
son, to their pursuit of wealth. It was meanly laid out now for dinner;
and in a chair before the fire sat Anthony himself, who rose to greet
his son and his fair cousins as they entered.

An ancient proverb warns us that we should not expect to find old heads
upon young shoulders; to which it may be added that we seldom meet with
that unnatural combination, but we feel a strong desire to knock them
off; merely from an inherent love we have of seeing things in their
right places. It is not improbable that many men, in no wise choleric
by nature, felt this impulse rising up within them, when they first made
the acquaintance of Mr Jonas; but if they had known him more intimately
in his own house, and had sat with him at his own board, it would
assuredly have been paramount to all other considerations.

‘Well, ghost!’ said Mr Jonas, dutifully addressing his parent by that
title. ‘Is dinner nearly ready?’

‘I should think it was,’ rejoined the old man.

‘What’s the good of that?’ rejoined the son. ‘I should think it was. I
want to know.’

‘Ah! I don’t know for certain,’ said Anthony.

‘You don’t know for certain,’ rejoined his son in a lower tone. ‘No. You
don’t know anything for certain, YOU don’t. Give me your candle here. I
want it for the gals.’

Anthony handed him a battered old office candlestick, with which Mr
Jonas preceded the young ladies to the nearest bedroom, where he left
them to take off their shawls and bonnets; and returning, occupied
himself in opening a bottle of wine, sharpening the carving-knife, and
muttering compliments to his father, until they and the dinner appeared
together. The repast consisted of a hot leg of mutton with greens and
potatoes; and the dishes having been set upon the table by a slipshod
old woman, they were left to enjoy it after their own manner.

‘Bachelor’s Hall, you know, cousin,’ said Mr Jonas to Charity. ‘I
say--the other one will be having a laugh at this when she gets home,
won’t she? Here; you sit on the right side of me, and I’ll have her upon
the left. Other one, will you come here?’

‘You’re such a fright,’ replied Mercy, ‘that I know I shall have no
appetite if I sit so near you; but I suppose I must.’

‘An’t she lively?’ whispered Mr Jonas to the elder sister, with his
favourite elbow emphasis.

‘Oh I really don’t know!’ replied Miss Pecksniff, tartly. ‘I am tired of
being asked such ridiculous questions.’

‘What’s that precious old father of mine about now?’ said Mr Jonas,
seeing that his parent was travelling up and down the room instead of
taking his seat at table. ‘What are you looking for?’

‘I’ve lost my glasses, Jonas,’ said old Anthony.

‘Sit down without your glasses, can’t you?’ returned his son. ‘You don’t
eat or drink out of ‘em, I think; and where’s that sleepy-headed old
Chuffey got to! Now, stupid. Oh! you know your name, do you?’

It would seem that he didn’t, for he didn’t come until the father
called. As he spoke, the door of a small glass office, which was
partitioned off from the rest of the room, was slowly opened, and a
little blear-eyed, weazen-faced, ancient man came creeping out. He was
of a remote fashion, and dusty, like the rest of the furniture; he was
dressed in a decayed suit of black; with breeches garnished at the knees
with rusty wisps of ribbon, the very paupers of shoestrings; on the
lower portion of his spindle legs were dingy worsted stockings of the
same colour. He looked as if he had been put away and forgotten half a
century before, and somebody had just found him in a lumber-closet.

Such as he was, he came slowly creeping on towards the table, until at
last he crept into the vacant chair, from which, as his dim faculties
became conscious of the presence of strangers, and those strangers
ladies, he rose again, apparently intending to make a bow. But he sat
down once more without having made it, and breathing on his shrivelled
hands to warm them, remained with his poor blue nose immovable above his
plate, looking at nothing, with eyes that saw nothing, and a face that
meant nothing. Take him in that state, and he was an embodiment of
nothing. Nothing else.

‘Our clerk,’ said Mr Jonas, as host and master of the ceremonies: ‘Old
Chuffey.’

‘Is he deaf?’ inquired one of the young ladies.

‘No, I don’t know that he is. He an’t deaf, is he, father?’

‘I never heard him say he was,’ replied the old man.

‘Blind?’ inquired the young ladies.

‘N--no. I never understood that he was at all blind,’ said Jonas,
carelessly. ‘You don’t consider him so, do you, father?’

‘Certainly not,’ replied Anthony.

‘What is he, then?’

‘Why, I’ll tell you what he is,’ said Mr Jonas, apart to the young
ladies, ‘he’s precious old, for one thing; and I an’t best pleased with
him for that, for I think my father must have caught it of him. He’s a
strange old chap, for another,’ he added in a louder voice, ‘and don’t
understand any one hardly, but HIM!’ He pointed to his honoured parent
with the carving-fork, in order that they might know whom he meant.

‘How very strange!’ cried the sisters.

‘Why, you see,’ said Mr Jonas, ‘he’s been addling his old brains with
figures and book-keeping all his life; and twenty years ago or so he
went and took a fever. All the time he was out of his head (which was
three weeks) he never left off casting up; and he got to so many million
at last that I don’t believe he’s ever been quite right since. We don’t
do much business now though, and he an’t a bad clerk.’

‘A very good one,’ said Anthony.

‘Well! He an’t a dear one at all events,’ observed Jonas; ‘and he earns
his salt, which is enough for our look-out. I was telling you that he
hardly understands any one except my father; he always understands him,
though, and wakes up quite wonderful. He’s been used to his ways so
long, you see! Why, I’ve seen him play whist, with my father for a
partner; and a good rubber too; when he had no more notion what sort of
people he was playing against, than you have.’

‘Has he no appetite?’ asked Merry.

‘Oh, yes,’ said Jonas, plying his own knife and fork very fast. ‘He
eats--when he’s helped. But he don’t care whether he waits a minute or
an hour, as long as father’s here; so when I’m at all sharp set, as I am
to-day, I come to him after I’ve taken the edge off my own hunger, you
know. Now, Chuffey, stupid, are you ready?’

Chuffey remained immovable.

‘Always a perverse old file, he was,’ said Mr Jonas, coolly helping
himself to another slice. ‘Ask him, father.’

‘Are you ready for your dinner, Chuffey?’ asked the old man

‘Yes, yes,’ said Chuffey, lighting up into a sentient human creature at
the first sound of the voice, so that it was at once a curious and quite
a moving sight to see him. ‘Yes, yes. Quite ready, Mr Chuzzlewit. Quite
ready, sir. All ready, all ready, all ready.’ With that he stopped,
smilingly, and listened for some further address; but being spoken to
no more, the light forsook his face by little and little, until he was
nothing again.

‘He’ll be very disagreeable, mind,’ said Jonas, addressing his cousins
as he handed the old man’s portion to his father. ‘He always chokes
himself when it an’t broth. Look at him, now! Did you ever see a horse
with such a wall-eyed expression as he’s got? If it hadn’t been for the
joke of it I wouldn’t have let him come in to-day; but I thought he’d
amuse you.’

The poor old subject of this humane speech was, happily for himself, as
unconscious of its purport as of most other remarks that were made in
his presence. But the mutton being tough, and his gums weak, he quickly
verified the statement relative to his choking propensities, and
underwent so much in his attempts to dine, that Mr Jonas was infinitely
amused; protesting that he had seldom seen him better company in all
his life, and that he was enough to make a man split his sides with
laughing. Indeed, he went so far as to assure the sisters, that in this
point of view he considered Chuffey superior to his own father; which,
as he significantly added, was saying a great deal.

It was strange enough that Anthony Chuzzlewit, himself so old a man,
should take a pleasure in these gibings of his estimable son at the
expense of the poor shadow at their table. But he did, unquestionably;
though not so much--to do him justice--with reference to their ancient
clerk, as in exultation at the sharpness of Jonas. For the same reason
that young man’s coarse allusions, even to himself, filled him with a
stealthy glee; causing him to rub his hands and chuckle covertly, as if
he said in his sleeve, ‘I taught him. I trained him. This is the heir of
my bringing-up. Sly, cunning, and covetous, he’ll not squander my money.
I worked for this; I hoped for this; it has been the great end and aim
of my life.’

What a noble end and aim it was to contemplate in the attainment truly!
But there be some who manufacture idols after the fashion of themselves,
and fail to worship them when they are made; charging their deformity on
outraged nature. Anthony was better than these at any rate.

Chuffey boggled over his plate so long, that Mr Jonas, losing patience,
took it from him at last with his own hands, and requested his father
to signify to that venerable person that he had better ‘peg away at his
bread;’ which Anthony did.

‘Aye, aye!’ cried the old man, brightening up as before, when this was
communicated to him in the same voice, ‘quite right, quite right. He’s
your own son, Mr Chuzzlewit! Bless him for a sharp lad! Bless him, bless
him!’

Mr Jonas considered this so particularly childish (perhaps with some
reason), that he only laughed the more, and told his cousins that he was
afraid one of these fine days, Chuffey would be the death of him. The
cloth was then removed, and the bottle of wine set upon the table, from
which Mr Jonas filled the young ladies’ glasses, calling on them not to
spare it, as they might be certain there was plenty more where that came
from. But he added with some haste after this sally that it was only his
joke, and they wouldn’t suppose him to be in earnest, he was sure.

‘I shall drink,’ said Anthony, ‘to Pecksniff. Your father, my dears. A
clever man, Pecksniff. A wary man! A hypocrite, though, eh? A hypocrite,
girls, eh? Ha, ha, ha! Well, so he is. Now, among friends, he is. I
don’t think the worse of him for that, unless it is that he overdoes it.
You may overdo anything, my darlings. You may overdo even hypocrisy. Ask
Jonas!’

‘You can’t overdo taking care of yourself,’ observed that hopeful
gentleman with his mouth full.

‘Do you hear that, my dears?’ cried Anthony, quite enraptured. ‘Wisdom,
wisdom! A good exception, Jonas. No. It’s not easy to overdo that.’

‘Except,’ whispered Mr Jonas to his favourite cousin, ‘except when one
lives too long. Ha, ha! Tell the other one that--I say!’

‘Good gracious me!’ said Cherry, in a petulant manner. ‘You can tell her
yourself, if you wish, can’t you?’

‘She seems to make such game of one,’ replied Mr Jonas.

‘Then why need you trouble yourself about her?’ said Charity. ‘I am sure
she doesn’t trouble herself much about you.’

‘Don’t she though?’ asked Jonas.

‘Good gracious me, need I tell you that she don’t?’ returned the young
lady.

Mr Jonas made no verbal rejoinder, but he glanced at Mercy with an odd
expression in his face; and said THAT wouldn’t break his heart, she
might depend upon it. Then he looked on Charity with even greater favour
than before, and besought her, as his polite manner was, to ‘come a
little closer.’

‘There’s another thing that’s not easily overdone, father,’ remarked
Jonas, after a short silence.

‘What’s that?’ asked the father; grinning already in anticipation.

‘A bargain,’ said the son. ‘Here’s the rule for bargains--“Do other men,
for they would do you.” That’s the true business precept. All others are
counterfeits.’

The delighted father applauded this sentiment to the echo; and was so
much tickled by it, that he was at the pains of imparting the same to
his ancient clerk, who rubbed his hands, nodded his palsied head, winked
his watery eyes, and cried in his whistling tones, ‘Good! good! Your own
son, Mr Chuzzlewit’ with every feeble demonstration of delight that he
was capable of making. But this old man’s enthusiasm had the redeeming
quality of being felt in sympathy with the only creature to whom he was
linked by ties of long association, and by his present helplessness. And
if there had been anybody there, who cared to think about it, some dregs
of a better nature unawakened, might perhaps have been descried through
that very medium, melancholy though it was, yet lingering at the bottom
of the worn-out cask called Chuffey.

As matters stood, nobody thought or said anything upon the subject; so
Chuffey fell back into a dark corner on one side of the fireplace, where
he always spent his evenings, and was neither seen nor heard again that
night; save once, when a cup of tea was given him, in which he was seen
to soak his bread mechanically. There was no reason to suppose that he
went to sleep at these seasons, or that he heard, or saw, or felt, or
thought. He remained, as it were, frozen up--if any term expressive of
such a vigorous process can be applied to him--until he was again thawed
for the moment by a word or touch from Anthony.

Miss Charity made tea by desire of Mr Jonas, and felt and looked so
like the lady of the house that she was in the prettiest confusion
imaginable; the more so from Mr Jonas sitting close beside her, and
whispering a variety of admiring expressions in her ear. Miss Mercy, for
her part, felt the entertainment of the evening to be so distinctly
and exclusively theirs, that she silently deplored the commercial
gentlemen--at that moment, no doubt, wearying for her return--and yawned
over yesterday’s newspaper. As to Anthony, he went to sleep outright, so
Jonas and Cherry had a clear stage to themselves as long as they chose
to keep possession of it.

When the tea-tray was taken away, as it was at last, Mr Jonas produced a
dirty pack of cards, and entertained the sisters with divers small feats
of dexterity: whereof the main purpose of every one was, that you were
to decoy somebody into laying a wager with you that you couldn’t do it;
and were then immediately to win and pocket his money. Mr Jonas
informed them that these accomplishments were in high vogue in the most
intellectual circles, and that large amounts were constantly changing
hands on such hazards. And it may be remarked that he fully believed
this; for there is a simplicity of cunning no less than a simplicity
of innocence; and in all matters where a lively faith in knavery and
meanness was required as the ground-work of belief, Mr Jonas was one of
the most credulous of men. His ignorance, which was stupendous, may be
taken into account, if the reader pleases, separately.

This fine young man had all the inclination to be a profligate of the
first water, and only lacked the one good trait in the common catalogue
of debauched vices--open-handedness--to be a notable vagabond. But there
his griping and penurious habits stepped in; and as one poison will
sometimes neutralise another, when wholesome remedies would not avail,
so he was restrained by a bad passion from quaffing his full measure of
evil, when virtue might have sought to hold him back in vain.

By the time he had unfolded all the peddling schemes he knew upon the
cards, it was growing late in the evening; and Mr Pecksniff not making
his appearance, the young ladies expressed a wish to return home. But
this, Mr Jonas, in his gallantry, would by no means allow, until they
had partaken of some bread and cheese and porter; and even then he was
excessively unwilling to allow them to depart; often beseeching Miss
Charity to come a little closer, or to stop a little longer, and
preferring many other complimentary petitions of that nature in his own
hospitable and earnest way. When all his efforts to detain them were
fruitless, he put on his hat and greatcoat preparatory to escorting them
to Todgers’s; remarking that he knew they would rather walk thither than
ride; and that for his part he was quite of their opinion.

‘Good night,’ said Anthony. ‘Good night; remember me to--ha, ha, ha!--to
Pecksniff. Take care of your cousin, my dears; beware of Jonas; he’s a
dangerous fellow. Don’t quarrel for him, in any case!’

‘Oh, the creature!’ cried Mercy. ‘The idea of quarrelling for HIM! You
may take him, Cherry, my love, all to yourself. I make you a present of
my share.’

‘What! I’m a sour grape, am I, cousin?’ said Jonas.

Miss Charity was more entertained by this repartee than one would have
supposed likely, considering its advanced age and simple character. But
in her sisterly affection she took Mr Jonas to task for leaning so very
hard upon a broken reed, and said that he must not be so cruel to poor
Merry any more, or she (Charity) would positively be obliged to hate
him. Mercy, who really had her share of good humour, only retorted with
a laugh; and they walked home in consequence without any angry passages
of words upon the way. Mr Jonas being in the middle, and having a cousin
on each arm, sometimes squeezed the wrong one; so tightly too, as to
cause her not a little inconvenience; but as he talked to Charity in
whispers the whole time, and paid her great attention, no doubt this was
an accidental circumstance. When they arrived at Todgers’s, and the door
was opened, Mercy broke hastily from them, and ran upstairs; but Charity
and Jonas lingered on the steps talking together for more than five
minutes; so, as Mrs Todgers observed next morning, to a third party, ‘It
was pretty clear what was going on THERE, and she was glad of it, for it
really was high time that Miss Pecksniff thought of settling.’

And now the day was coming on, when that bright vision which had burst
on Todgers’s so suddenly, and made a sunshine in the shady breast of
Jinkins, was to be seen no more; when it was to be packed, like a brown
paper parcel, or a fish-basket, or an oyster barrel or a fat gentleman,
or any other dull reality of life, in a stagecoach and carried down into
the country.

‘Never, my dear Miss Pecksniffs,’ said Mrs Todgers, when they retired
to rest on the last night of their stay, ‘never have I seen an
establishment so perfectly broken-hearted as mine is at this present
moment of time. I don’t believe the gentlemen will be the gentlemen they
were, or anything like it--no, not for weeks to come. You have a great
deal to answer for, both of you.’

They modestly disclaimed any wilful agency in this disastrous state of
things, and regretted it very much.

‘Your pious pa, too,’ said Mrs Todgers. ‘There’s a loss! My dear Miss
Pecksniffs, your pa is a perfect missionary of peace and love.’

Entertaining an uncertainty as to the particular kind of love supposed
to be comprised in Mr Pecksniff’s mission, the young ladies received the
compliment rather coldly.

‘If I dared,’ said Mrs Todgers, perceiving this, ‘to violate a
confidence which has been reposed in me, and to tell you why I must beg
of you to leave the little door between your room and mine open tonight,
I think you would be interested. But I mustn’t do it, for I promised Mr
Jinkins faithfully, that I would be as silent as the tomb.’

‘Dear Mrs Todgers! What can you mean?’

‘Why, then, my sweet Miss Pecksniffs,’ said the lady of the house; ‘my
own loves, if you will allow me the privilege of taking that freedom on
the eve of our separation, Mr Jinkins and the gentlemen have made up
a little musical party among themselves, and DO intend, in the dead of
this night, to perform a serenade upon the stairs outside the door. I
could have wished, I own,’ said Mrs Todgers, with her usual foresight,
‘that it had been fixed to take place an hour or two earlier; because
when gentlemen sit up late they drink, and when they drink they’re not
so musical, perhaps, as when they don’t. But this is the arrangement;
and I know you will be gratified, my dear Miss Pecksniffs, by such a
mark of their attention.’

The young ladies were at first so much excited by the news, that they
vowed they couldn’t think of going to bed until the serenade was over.
But half an hour of cool waiting so altered their opinion that they not
only went to bed, but fell asleep; and were, moreover, not ecstatically
charmed to be awakened some time afterwards by certain dulcet strains
breaking in upon the silent watches of the night.

It was very affecting--very. Nothing more dismal could have been desired
by the most fastidious taste. The gentleman of a vocal turn was head
mute, or chief mourner; Jinkins took the bass; and the rest took
anything they could get. The youngest gentleman blew his melancholy into
a flute. He didn’t blow much out of it, but that was all the better.
If the two Miss Pecksniffs and Mrs Todgers had perished by spontaneous
combustion, and the serenade had been in honour of their ashes, it would
have been impossible to surpass the unutterable despair expressed in
that one chorus, ‘Go where glory waits thee!’ It was a requiem, a dirge,
a moan, a howl, a wail, a lament, an abstract of everything that is
sorrowful and hideous in sound. The flute of the youngest gentleman was
wild and fitful. It came and went in gusts, like the wind. For a long
time together he seemed to have left off, and when it was quite settled
by Mrs Todgers and the young ladies that, overcome by his feelings, he
had retired in tears, he unexpectedly turned up again at the very top of
the tune, gasping for breath. He was a tremendous performer. There was
no knowing where to have him; and exactly when you thought he was doing
nothing at all, then was he doing the very thing that ought to astonish
you most.

There were several of these concerted pieces; perhaps two or three too
many, though that, as Mrs Todgers said, was a fault on the right side.
But even then, even at that solemn moment, when the thrilling sounds may
be presumed to have penetrated into the very depths of his nature, if he
had any depths, Jinkins couldn’t leave the youngest gentleman alone. He
asked him distinctly, before the second song began--as a personal favour
too, mark the villain in that--not to play. Yes; he said so; not to
play. The breathing of the youngest gentleman was heard through the
key-hole of the door. He DIDN’T play. What vent was a flute for the
passions swelling up within his breast? A trombone would have been a
world too mild.

The serenade approached its close. Its crowning interest was at hand.
The gentleman of a literary turn had written a song on the departure of
the ladies, and adapted it to an old tune. They all joined, except
the youngest gentleman in company, who, for the reasons aforesaid,
maintained a fearful silence. The song (which was of a classical nature)
invoked the oracle of Apollo, and demanded to know what would become
of Todgers’s when CHARITY and MERCY were banished from its walls. The
oracle delivered no opinion particularly worth remembering, according
to the not infrequent practice of oracles from the earliest ages down to
the present time. In the absence of enlightenment on that subject, the
strain deserted it, and went on to show that the Miss Pecksniffs were
nearly related to Rule Britannia, and that if Great Britain hadn’t been
an island, there could have been no Miss Pecksniffs. And being now on a
nautical tack, it closed with this verse:

     ‘All hail to the vessel of Pecksniff the sire!
            And favouring breezes to fan;
     While Tritons flock round it, and proudly admire
            The architect, artist, and man!’

As they presented this beautiful picture to the imagination, the
gentlemen gradually withdrew to bed to give the music the effect of
distance; and so it died away, and Todgers’s was left to its repose.

Mr Bailey reserved his vocal offering until the morning, when he put
his head into the room as the young ladies were kneeling before their
trunks, packing up, and treated them to an imitation of the voice of
a young dog in trying circumstances; when that animal is supposed by
persons of a lively fancy, to relieve his feelings by calling for pen
and ink.

‘Well, young ladies,’ said the youth, ‘so you’re a-going home, are you,
worse luck?’

‘Yes, Bailey, we’re going home,’ returned Mercy.

‘An’t you a-going to leave none of ‘em a lock of your hair?’ inquired
the youth. ‘It’s real, an’t it?’

They laughed at this, and told him of course it was.

‘Oh, is it of course, though?’ said Bailey. ‘I know better than that.
Hers an’t. Why, I see it hanging up once, on that nail by the winder.
Besides, I have gone behind her at dinner-time and pulled it; and she
never know’d. I say, young ladies, I’m a-going to leave. I an’t a-going
to stand being called names by her, no longer.’

Miss Mercy inquired what his plans for the future might be; in reply to
whom Mr Bailey intimated that he thought of going either into top-boots,
or into the army.

‘Into the army!’ cried the young ladies, with a laugh.

‘Ah!’ said Bailey, ‘why not? There’s a many drummers in the Tower. I’m
acquainted with ‘em. Don’t their country set a valley on ‘em, mind you!
Not at all!’

‘You’ll be shot, I see,’ observed Mercy.

‘Well!’ cried Mr Bailey, ‘wot if I am? There’s something gamey in it,
young ladies, an’t there? I’d sooner be hit with a cannon-ball than a
rolling-pin, and she’s always a-catching up something of that sort, and
throwing it at me, when the gentlemans’ appetites is good. Wot,’ said
Mr Bailey, stung by the recollection of his wrongs, ‘wot, if they DO
consume the per-vishuns. It an’t MY fault, is it?’

‘Surely no one says it is,’ said Mercy.

‘Don’t they though?’ retorted the youth. ‘No. Yes. Ah! oh! No one mayn’t
say it is! but some one knows it is. But I an’t a-going to have every
rise in prices wisited on me. I an’t a-going to be killed because
the markets is dear. I won’t stop. And therefore,’ added Mr Bailey,
relenting into a smile, ‘wotever you mean to give me, you’d better give
me all at once, becos if ever you come back agin, I shan’t be here; and
as to the other boy, HE won’t deserve nothing, I know.’

The young ladies, on behalf of Mr Pecksniff and themselves, acted
on this thoughtful advice; and in consideration of their private
friendship, presented Mr Bailey with a gratuity so liberal that he could
hardly do enough to show his gratitude; which found but an imperfect
vent, during the remainder of the day, in divers secret slaps upon his
pocket, and other such facetious pantomime. Nor was it confined to these
ebullitions; for besides crushing a bandbox, with a bonnet in it, he
seriously damaged Mr Pecksniff’s luggage, by ardently hauling it down
from the top of the house; and in short evinced, by every means in his
power, a lively sense of the favours he had received from that gentleman
and his family.

Mr Pecksniff and Mr Jinkins came home to dinner arm-in-arm; for the
latter gentleman had made half-holiday on purpose; thus gaining an
immense advantage over the youngest gentleman and the rest, whose time,
as it perversely chanced, was all bespoke, until the evening. The bottle
of wine was Mr Pecksniff’s treat, and they were very sociable indeed;
though full of lamentations on the necessity of parting. While they were
in the midst of their enjoyment, old Anthony and his son were announced;
much to the surprise of Mr Pecksniff, and greatly to the discomfiture of
Jinkins.

‘Come to say good-bye, you see,’ said Anthony, in a low voice, to Mr
Pecksniff, as they took their seats apart at the table, while the rest
conversed among themselves. ‘Where’s the use of a division between
you and me? We are the two halves of a pair of scissors, when apart,
Pecksniff; but together we are something. Eh?’

‘Unanimity, my good sir,’ rejoined Mr Pecksniff, ‘is always delightful.’

‘I don’t know about that,’ said the old man, ‘for there are some people
I would rather differ from than agree with. But you know my opinion of
you.’

Mr Pecksniff, still having ‘hypocrite’ in his mind, only replied by a
motion of his head, which was something between an affirmative bow, and
a negative shake.

‘Complimentary,’ said Anthony. ‘Complimentary, upon my word. It was an
involuntary tribute to your abilities, even at the time; and it was not
a time to suggest compliments either. But we agreed in the coach, you
know, that we quite understood each other.’

‘Oh, quite!’ assented Mr Pecksniff, in a manner which implied that he
himself was misunderstood most cruelly, but would not complain.

Anthony glanced at his son as he sat beside Miss Charity, and then at Mr
Pecksniff, and then at his son again, very many times. It happened that
Mr Pecksniff’s glances took a similar direction; but when he became
aware of it, he first cast down his eyes, and then closed them; as if he
were determined that the old man should read nothing there.

‘Jonas is a shrewd lad,’ said the old man.

‘He appears,’ rejoined Mr Pecksniff in his most candid manner, ‘to be
very shrewd.’

‘And careful,’ said the old man.

‘And careful, I have no doubt,’ returned Mr Pecksniff.

‘Look ye!’ said Anthony in his ear. ‘I think he is sweet upon you
daughter.’

‘Tut, my good sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff, with his eyes still closed;
‘young people--young people--a kind of cousins, too--no more sweetness
than is in that, sir.’

‘Why, there is very little sweetness in that, according to our
experience,’ returned Anthony. ‘Isn’t there a trifle more here?’

‘Impossible to say,’ rejoined Mr Pecksniff. ‘Quite impossible! You
surprise me.’

‘Yes, I know that,’ said the old man, drily. ‘It may last; I mean the
sweetness, not the surprise; and it may die off. Supposing it should
last, perhaps (you having feathered your nest pretty well, and I having
done the same), we might have a mutual interest in the matter.’

Mr Pecksniff, smiling gently, was about to speak, but Anthony stopped
him.

‘I know what you are going to say. It’s quite unnecessary. You have
never thought of this for a moment; and in a point so nearly affecting
the happiness of your dear child, you couldn’t, as a tender father,
express an opinion; and so forth. Yes, quite right. And like you! But it
seems to me, my dear Pecksniff,’ added Anthony, laying his hand upon
his sleeve, ‘that if you and I kept up the joke of pretending not to see
this, one of us might possibly be placed in a position of disadvantage;
and as I am very unwilling to be that party myself, you will excuse my
taking the liberty of putting the matter beyond a doubt thus early; and
having it distinctly understood, as it is now, that we do see it, and do
know it. Thank you for your attention. We are now upon an equal footing;
which is agreeable to us both, I am sure.’

He rose as he spoke; and giving Mr Pecksniff a nod of intelligence,
moved away from him to where the young people were sitting; leaving that
good man somewhat puzzled and discomfited by such very plain dealing,
and not quite free from a sense of having been foiled in the exercise of
his familiar weapons.

But the night-coach had a punctual character, and it was time to join
it at the office; which was so near at hand that they had already sent
their luggage and arranged to walk. Thither the whole party repaired,
therefore, after no more delay than sufficed for the equipment of the
Miss Pecksniffs and Mrs Todgers. They found the coach already at its
starting-place, and the horses in; there, too, were a large majority
of the commercial gentlemen, including the youngest, who was visibly
agitated, and in a state of deep mental dejection.

Nothing could equal the distress of Mrs Todgers in parting from the
young ladies, except the strong emotions with which she bade adieu to Mr
Pecksniff. Never surely was a pocket-handkerchief taken in and out of
a flat reticule so often as Mrs Todgers’s was, as she stood upon the
pavement by the coach-door supported on either side by a commercial
gentleman; and by the sight of the coach-lamps caught such brief
snatches and glimpses of the good man’s face, as the constant
interposition of Mr Jinkins allowed. For Jinkins, to the last the
youngest gentleman’s rock a-head in life, stood upon the coachstep
talking to the ladies. Upon the other step was Mr Jonas, who maintained
that position in right of his cousinship; whereas the youngest
gentleman, who had been first upon the ground, was deep in the
booking-office among the black and red placards, and the portraits of
fast coaches, where he was ignominiously harassed by porters, and had to
contend and strive perpetually with heavy baggage. This false
position, combined with his nervous excitement, brought about the very
consummation and catastrophe of his miseries; for when in the moment of
parting he aimed a flower, a hothouse flower that had cost money, at the
fair hand of Mercy, it reached, instead, the coachman on the box, who
thanked him kindly, and stuck it in his buttonhole.

They were off now; and Todgers’s was alone again. The two young ladies,
leaning back in their separate corners, resigned themselves to their
own regretful thoughts. But Mr Pecksniff, dismissing all ephemeral
considerations of social pleasure and enjoyment, concentrated his
meditations on the one great virtuous purpose before him, of casting
out that ingrate and deceiver, whose presence yet troubled his domestic
hearth, and was a sacrilege upon the altars of his household gods.



CHAPTER TWELVE

WILL BE SEEN IN THE LONG RUN, IF NOT IN THE SHORT ONE, TO CONCERN MR
PINCH AND OTHERS, NEARLY. MR PECKSNIFF ASSERTS THE DIGNITY OF OUTRAGED
VIRTUE. YOUNG MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT FORMS A DESPERATE RESOLUTION


Mr Pinch and Martin, little dreaming of the stormy weather that
impended, made themselves very comfortable in the Pecksniffian halls,
and improved their friendship daily. Martin’s facility, both of
invention and execution, being remarkable, the grammar-school proceeded
with great vigour; and Tom repeatedly declared, that if there were
anything like certainty in human affairs, or impartiality in human
judges, a design so new and full of merit could not fail to carry off
the first prize when the time of competition arrived. Without being
quite so sanguine himself, Martin had his hopeful anticipations too; and
they served to make him brisk and eager at his task.

‘If I should turn out a great architect, Tom,’ said the new pupil one
day, as he stood at a little distance from his drawing, and eyed it with
much complacency, ‘I’ll tell you what should be one of the things I’d
build.’

‘Aye!’ cried Tom. ‘What?’

‘Why, your fortune.’

‘No!’ said Tom Pinch, quite as much delighted as if the thing were done.
‘Would you though? How kind of you to say so.’

‘I’d build it up, Tom,’ returned Martin, ‘on such a strong foundation,
that it should last your life--aye, and your children’s lives too, and
their children’s after them. I’d be your patron, Tom. I’d take you under
my protection. Let me see the man who should give the cold shoulder to
anybody I chose to protect and patronise, if I were at the top of the
tree, Tom!’

‘Now, I don’t think,’ said Mr Pinch, ‘upon my word, that I was ever more
gratified than by this. I really don’t.’

‘Oh! I mean what I say,’ retorted Martin, with a manner as free and easy
in its condescension to, not to say in its compassion for, the other, as
if he were already First Architect in ordinary to all the Crowned Heads
in Europe. ‘I’d do it. I’d provide for you.’

‘I am afraid,’ said Tom, shaking his head, ‘that I should be a mighty
awkward person to provide for.’

‘Pooh, pooh!’ rejoined Martin. ‘Never mind that. If I took it in my head
to say, “Pinch is a clever fellow; I approve of Pinch;” I should like
to know the man who would venture to put himself in opposition to me.
Besides, confound it, Tom, you could be useful to me in a hundred ways.’

‘If I were not useful in one or two, it shouldn’t be for want of
trying,’ said Tom.

‘For instance,’ pursued Martin, after a short reflection, ‘you’d be a
capital fellow, now, to see that my ideas were properly carried out; and
to overlook the works in their progress before they were sufficiently
advanced to be very interesting to ME; and to take all that sort of
plain sailing. Then you’d be a splendid fellow to show people over my
studio, and to talk about Art to ‘em, when I couldn’t be bored myself,
and all that kind of thing. For it would be devilish creditable, Tom
(I’m quite in earnest, I give you my word), to have a man of your
information about one, instead of some ordinary blockhead. Oh, I’d take
care of you. You’d be useful, rely upon it!’

To say that Tom had no idea of playing first fiddle in any social
orchestra, but was always quite satisfied to be set down for the hundred
and fiftieth violin in the band, or thereabouts, is to express his
modesty in very inadequate terms. He was much delighted, therefore, by
these observations.

‘I should be married to her then, Tom, of course,’ said Martin.

What was that which checked Tom Pinch so suddenly, in the high flow
of his gladness; bringing the blood into his honest cheeks, and a
remorseful feeling to his honest heart, as if he were unworthy of his
friend’s regard?

‘I should be married to her then,’ said Martin, looking with a smile
towards the light; ‘and we should have, I hope, children about us.
They’d be very fond of you, Tom.’

But not a word said Mr Pinch. The words he would have uttered died upon
his lips, and found a life more spiritual in self-denying thoughts.

‘All the children hereabouts are fond of you, Tom, and mine would be,
of course,’ pursued Martin. ‘Perhaps I might name one of ‘em after
you. Tom, eh? Well, I don’t know. Tom’s not a bad name. Thomas Pinch
Chuzzlewit. T. P. C. on his pinafores--no objection to that, I should
say?’

Tom cleared his throat, and smiled.

‘SHE would like you, Tom, I know,’ said Martin.

‘Aye!’ cried Tom Pinch, faintly.

‘I can tell exactly what she would think of you,’ said Martin leaning
his chin upon his hand, and looking through the window-glass as if he
read there what he said; ‘I know her so well. She would smile, Tom,
often at first when you spoke to her, or when she looked at you--merrily
too--but you wouldn’t mind that. A brighter smile you never saw.’

‘No, no,’ said Tom. ‘I wouldn’t mind that.’

‘She would be as tender with you, Tom,’ said Martin, ‘as if you were a
child yourself. So you are almost, in some things, an’t you, Tom?’

Mr Pinch nodded his entire assent.

‘She would always be kind and good-humoured, and glad to see you,’ said
Martin; ‘and when she found out exactly what sort of fellow you were
(which she’d do very soon), she would pretend to give you little
commissions to execute, and to ask little services of you, which she
knew you were burning to render; so that when she really pleased you
most, she would try to make you think you most pleased her. She
would take to you uncommonly, Tom; and would understand you far more
delicately than I ever shall; and would often say, I know, that you were
a harmless, gentle, well-intentioned, good fellow.’

How silent Tom Pinch was!

‘In honour of old time,’ said Martin, ‘and of her having heard you play
the organ in this damp little church down here--for nothing too--we will
have one in the house. I shall build an architectural music-room on a
plan of my own, and it’ll look rather knowing in a recess at one end.
There you shall play away, Tom, till you tire yourself; and, as you like
to do so in the dark, it shall BE dark; and many’s the summer evening
she and I will sit and listen to you, Tom; be sure of that!’

It may have required a stronger effort on Tom Pinch’s part to leave the
seat on which he sat, and shake his friend by both hands, with nothing
but serenity and grateful feeling painted on his face; it may have
required a stronger effort to perform this simple act with a pure heart,
than to achieve many and many a deed to which the doubtful trumpet blown
by Fame has lustily resounded. Doubtful, because from its long hovering
over scenes of violence, the smoke and steam of death have clogged the
keys of that brave instrument; and it is not always that its notes are
either true or tuneful.

‘It’s a proof of the kindness of human nature,’ said Tom,
characteristically putting himself quite out of sight in the matter,
‘that everybody who comes here, as you have done, is more considerate
and affectionate to me than I should have any right to hope, if I were
the most sanguine creature in the world; or should have any power to
express, if I were the most eloquent. It really overpowers me. But trust
me,’ said Tom, ‘that I am not ungrateful--that I never forget--and that
if I can ever prove the truth of my words to you, I will.’

‘That’s all right,’ observed Martin, leaning back in his chair with a
hand in each pocket, and yawning drearily. ‘Very fine talking, Tom;
but I’m at Pecksniff’s, I remember, and perhaps a mile or so out of the
high-road to fortune just at this minute. So you’ve heard again this
morning from what’s his name, eh?’

‘Who may that be?’ asked Tom, seeming to enter a mild protest on behalf
of the dignity of an absent person.

‘YOU know. What is it? Northkey.’

‘Westlock,’ rejoined Tom, in rather a louder tone than usual.

‘Ah! to be sure,’ said Martin, ‘Westlock. I knew it was something
connected with a point of the compass and a door. Well! and what says
Westlock?’

‘Oh! he has come into his property,’ answered Tom, nodding his head, and
smiling.

‘He’s a lucky dog,’ said Martin. ‘I wish it were mine instead. Is that
all the mystery you were to tell me?’

‘No,’ said Tom; ‘not all.’

‘What’s the rest?’ asked Martin.

‘For the matter of that,’ said Tom, ‘it’s no mystery, and you won’t
think much of it; but it’s very pleasant to me. John always used to say
when he was here, “Mark my words, Pinch. When my father’s executors cash
up”--he used strange expressions now and then, but that was his way.’

‘Cash-up’s a very good expression,’ observed Martin, ‘when other people
don’t apply it to you. Well!--What a slow fellow you are, Pinch!’

‘Yes, I am I know,’ said Tom; ‘but you’ll make me nervous if you tell me
so. I’m afraid you have put me out a little now, for I forget what I was
going to say.’

‘When John’s father’s executors cashed up,’ said Martin impatiently.

‘Oh yes, to be sure,’ cried Tom; ‘yes. “Then,” says John, “I’ll give you
a dinner, Pinch, and come down to Salisbury on purpose.” Now, when John
wrote the other day--the morning Pecksniff left, you know--he said his
business was on the point of being immediately settled, and as he was to
receive his money directly, when could I meet him at Salisbury? I wrote
and said, any day this week; and I told him besides, that there was a
new pupil here, and what a fine fellow you were, and what friends we
had become. Upon which John writes back this letter’--Tom produced
it--‘fixes to-morrow; sends his compliments to you; and begs that we
three may have the pleasure of dining together; not at the house where
you and I were, either; but at the very first hotel in the town. Read
what he says.’

‘Very well,’ said Martin, glancing over it with his customary coolness;
‘much obliged to him. I’m agreeable.’

Tom could have wished him to be a little more astonished, a little more
pleased, or in some form or other a little more interested in such a
great event. But he was perfectly self-possessed; and falling into his
favourite solace of whistling, took another turn at the grammar-school,
as if nothing at all had happened.

Mr Pecksniff’s horse being regarded in the light of a sacred animal,
only to be driven by him, the chief priest of that temple, or by some
person distinctly nominated for the time being to that high office by
himself, the two young men agreed to walk to Salisbury; and so, when the
time came, they set off on foot; which was, after all, a better mode of
travelling than in the gig, as the weather was very cold and very dry.

Better! A rare strong, hearty, healthy walk--four statute miles an
hour--preferable to that rumbling, tumbling, jolting, shaking, scraping,
creaking, villanous old gig? Why, the two things will not admit of
comparison. It is an insult to the walk, to set them side by side. Where
is an instance of a gig having ever circulated a man’s blood, unless
when, putting him in danger of his neck, it awakened in his veins and in
his ears, and all along his spine, a tingling heat, much more peculiar
than agreeable? When did a gig ever sharpen anybody’s wits and energies,
unless it was when the horse bolted, and, crashing madly down a steep
hill with a stone wall at the bottom, his desperate circumstances
suggested to the only gentleman left inside, some novel and unheard-of
mode of dropping out behind? Better than the gig!

The air was cold, Tom; so it was, there was no denying it; but would
it have been more genial in the gig? The blacksmith’s fire burned very
bright, and leaped up high, as though it wanted men to warm; but would
it have been less tempting, looked at from the clammy cushions of a gig?
The wind blew keenly, nipping the features of the hardy wight who fought
his way along; blinding him with his own hair if he had enough to it,
and wintry dust if he hadn’t; stopping his breath as though he had been
soused in a cold bath; tearing aside his wrappings-up, and whistling in
the very marrow of his bones; but it would have done all this a hundred
times more fiercely to a man in a gig, wouldn’t it? A fig for gigs!

Better than the gig! When were travellers by wheels and hoofs seen with
such red-hot cheeks as those? when were they so good-humouredly and
merrily bloused? when did their laughter ring upon the air, as they
turned them round, what time the stronger gusts came sweeping up; and,
facing round again as they passed by, dashed on, in such a glow of
ruddy health as nothing could keep pace with, but the high spirits it
engendered? Better than the gig! Why, here is a man in a gig coming
the same way now. Look at him as he passes his whip into his left hand,
chafes his numbed right fingers on his granite leg, and beats those
marble toes of his upon the foot-board. Ha, ha, ha! Who would exchange
this rapid hurry of the blood for yonder stagnant misery, though its
pace were twenty miles for one?

Better than the gig! No man in a gig could have such interest in the
milestones. No man in a gig could see, or feel, or think, like merry
users of their legs. How, as the wind sweeps on, upon these breezy
downs, it tracks its flight in darkening ripples on the grass, and
smoothest shadows on the hills! Look round and round upon this bare
bleak plain, and see even here, upon a winter’s day, how beautiful
the shadows are! Alas! it is the nature of their kind to be so. The
loveliest things in life, Tom, are but shadows; and they come and go,
and change and fade away, as rapidly as these!

Another mile, and then begins a fall of snow, making the crow, who skims
away so close above the ground to shirk the wind, a blot of ink upon the
landscape. But though it drives and drifts against them as they walk,
stiffening on their skirts, and freezing in the lashes of their eyes,
they wouldn’t have it fall more sparingly, no, not so much as by a
single flake, although they had to go a score of miles. And, lo! the
towers of the Old Cathedral rise before them, even now! and by-and-bye
they come into the sheltered streets, made strangely silent by their
white carpet; and so to the Inn for which they are bound; where they
present such flushed and burning faces to the cold waiter, and are so
brimful of vigour, that he almost feels assaulted by their presence;
and, having nothing to oppose to the attack (being fresh, or rather
stale, from the blazing fire in the coffee-room), is quite put out of
his pale countenance.

A famous Inn! the hall a very grove of dead game, and dangling joints
of mutton; and in one corner an illustrious larder, with glass doors,
developing cold fowls and noble joints, and tarts wherein the raspberry
jam coyly withdrew itself, as such a precious creature should, behind a
lattice work of pastry. And behold, on the first floor, at the court-end
of the house, in a room with all the window-curtains drawn, a fire piled
half-way up the chimney, plates warming before it, wax candles gleaming
everywhere, and a table spread for three, with silver and glass enough
for thirty--John Westlock; not the old John of Pecksniff’s, but a proper
gentleman; looking another and a grander person, with the consciousness
of being his own master and having money in the bank; and yet in some
respects the old John too, for he seized Tom Pinch by both his hands the
instant he appeared, and fairly hugged him, in his cordial welcome.

‘And this,’ said John, ‘is Mr Chuzzlewit. I am very glad to see
him!’--John had an off-hand manner of his own; so they shook hands
warmly, and were friends in no time.

‘Stand off a moment, Tom,’ cried the old pupil, laying one hand on each
of Mr Pinch’s shoulders, and holding him out at arm’s length. ‘Let me
look at you! Just the same! Not a bit changed!’

‘Why, it’s not so very long ago, you know,’ said Tom Pinch, ‘after all.’

‘It seems an age to me,’ cried John, ‘and so it ought to seem to you,
you dog.’ And then he pushed Tom down into the easiest chair, and
clapped him on the back so heartily, and so like his old self in their
old bedroom at old Pecksniff’s that it was a toss-up with Tom Pinch
whether he should laugh or cry. Laughter won it; and they all three
laughed together.

‘I have ordered everything for dinner, that we used to say we’d have,
Tom,’ observed John Westlock.

‘No!’ said Tom Pinch. ‘Have you?’

‘Everything. Don’t laugh, if you can help it, before the waiters. I
couldn’t when I was ordering it. It’s like a dream.’

John was wrong there, because nobody ever dreamed such soup as was put
upon the table directly afterwards; or such fish; or such side-dishes;
or such a top and bottom; or such a course of birds and sweets; or
in short anything approaching the reality of that entertainment at
ten-and-sixpence a head, exclusive of wines. As to THEM, the man who can
dream such iced champagne, such claret, port, or sherry, had better go
to bed and stop there.

But perhaps the finest feature of the banquet was, that nobody was half
so much amazed by everything as John himself, who in his high delight
was constantly bursting into fits of laughter, and then endeavouring
to appear preternaturally solemn, lest the waiters should conceive he
wasn’t used to it. Some of the things they brought him to carve, were
such outrageous practical jokes, though, that it was impossible to stand
it; and when Tom Pinch insisted, in spite of the deferential advice of
an attendant, not only on breaking down the outer wall of a raised pie
with a tablespoon, but on trying to eat it afterwards, John lost all
dignity, and sat behind the gorgeous dish-cover at the head of the
table, roaring to that extent that he was audible in the kitchen. Nor
had he the least objection to laugh at himself, as he demonstrated when
they had all three gathered round the fire and the dessert was on
the table; at which period the head waiter inquired with respectful
solicitude whether that port, being a light and tawny wine, was suited
to his taste, or whether he would wish to try a fruity port with greater
body. To this John gravely answered that he was well satisfied with what
he had, which he esteemed, as one might say, a pretty tidy vintage;
for which the waiter thanked him and withdrew. And then John told his
friends, with a broad grin, that he supposed it was all right, but he
didn’t know; and went off into a perfect shout.

They were very merry and full of enjoyment the whole time, but not the
least pleasant part of the festival was when they all three sat about
the fire, cracking nuts, drinking wine and talking cheerfully. It
happened that Tom Pinch had a word to say to his friend the organist’s
assistant, and so deserted his warm corner for a few minutes at this
season, lest it should grow too late; leaving the other two young men
together.

They drank his health in his absence, of course; and John Westlock took
that opportunity of saying, that he had never had even a peevish word
with Tom during the whole term of their residence in Mr Pecksniff’s
house. This naturally led him to dwell upon Tom’s character, and to hint
that Mr Pecksniff understood it pretty well. He only hinted this, and
very distantly; knowing that it pained Tom Pinch to have that gentleman
disparaged, and thinking it would be as well to leave the new pupil to
his own discoveries.

‘Yes,’ said Martin. ‘It’s impossible to like Pinch better than I do,
or to do greater justice to his good qualities. He is the most willing
fellow I ever saw.’

‘He’s rather too willing,’ observed John, who was quick in observation.
‘It’s quite a fault in him.’

‘So it is,’ said Martin. ‘Very true. There was a fellow only a week or
so ago--a Mr Tigg--who borrowed all the money he had, on a promise to
repay it in a few days. It was but half a sovereign, to be sure; but
it’s well it was no more, for he’ll never see it again.’

‘Poor fellow!’ said John, who had been very attentive to these few
words. ‘Perhaps you have not had an opportunity of observing that, in
his own pecuniary transactions, Tom’s proud.’

‘You don’t say so! No, I haven’t. What do you mean? Won’t he borrow?’

John Westlock shook his head.

‘That’s very odd,’ said Martin, setting down his empty glass. ‘He’s a
strange compound, to be sure.’

‘As to receiving money as a gift,’ resumed John Westlock; ‘I think he’d
die first.’

‘He’s made up of simplicity,’ said Martin. ‘Help yourself.’

‘You, however,’ pursued John, filling his own glass, and looking at his
companion with some curiosity, ‘who are older than the majority of Mr
Pecksniff’s assistants, and have evidently had much more experience,
understand him, I have no doubt, and see how liable he is to be imposed
upon.’

‘Certainly,’ said Martin, stretching out his legs, and holding his wine
between his eye and the light. ‘Mr Pecksniff knows that too. So do his
daughters. Eh?’

John Westlock smiled, but made no answer.

‘By the bye,’ said Martin, ‘that reminds me. What’s your opinion of
Pecksniff? How did he use you? What do you think of him now?--Coolly,
you know, when it’s all over?’

‘Ask Pinch,’ returned the old pupil. ‘He knows what my sentiments used
to be upon the subject. They are not changed, I assure you.’

‘No, no,’ said Martin, ‘I’d rather have them from you.’

‘But Pinch says they are unjust,’ urged John with a smile.

‘Oh! well! Then I know what course they take beforehand,’ said Martin;
‘and, therefore, you can have no delicacy in speaking plainly. Don’t
mind me, I beg. I don’t like him I tell you frankly. I am with him
because it happens from particular circumstances to suit my convenience.
I have some ability, I believe, in that way; and the obligation, if any,
will most likely be on his side and not mine. At the lowest mark, the
balance will be even, and there’ll be no obligation at all. So you may
talk to me, as if I had no connection with him.’

‘If you press me to give my opinion--’ returned John Westlock.

‘Yes, I do,’ said Martin. ‘You’ll oblige me.’

‘--I should say,’ resumed the other, ‘that he is the most consummate
scoundrel on the face of the earth.’

‘Oh!’ said Martin, as coolly as ever. ‘That’s rather strong.’

‘Not stronger than he deserves,’ said John; ‘and if he called upon me
to express my opinion of him to his face, I would do so in the very same
terms, without the least qualification. His treatment of Pinch is in
itself enough to justify them; but when I look back upon the five years
I passed in that house, and remember the hyprocrisy, the knavery, the
meannesses, the false pretences, the lip service of that fellow, and
his trading in saintly semblances for the very worst realities; when
I remember how often I was the witness of all this and how often I was
made a kind of party to it, by the fact of being there, with him for my
teacher; I swear to you that I almost despise myself.’

Martin drained his glass, and looked at the fire.

‘I don’t mean to say that is a right feeling,’ pursued John Westlock
‘because it was no fault of mine; and I can quite understand--you for
instance, fully appreciating him, and yet being forced by circumstances
to remain there. I tell you simply what my feeling is; and even now,
when, as you say, it’s all over; and when I have the satisfaction of
knowing that he always hated me, and we always quarrelled, and I always
told him my mind; even now, I feel sorry that I didn’t yield to an
impulse I often had, as a boy, of running away from him and going
abroad.’

‘Why abroad?’ asked Martin, turning his eyes upon the speaker.

‘In search,’ replied John Westlock, shrugging his shoulders, ‘of
the livelihood I couldn’t have earned at home. There would have been
something spirited in that. But, come! Fill your glass, and let us
forget him.’

‘As soon as you please,’ said Martin. ‘In reference to myself and my
connection with him, I have only to repeat what I said before. I have
taken my own way with him so far, and shall continue to do so, even more
than ever; for the fact is, to tell you the truth, that I believe he
looks to me to supply his defects, and couldn’t afford to lose me. I had
a notion of that in first going there. Your health!’

‘Thank you,’ returned young Westlock. ‘Yours. And may the new pupil turn
out as well as you can desire!’

‘What new pupil?’

‘The fortunate youth, born under an auspicious star,’ returned John
Westlock, laughing; ‘whose parents, or guardians, are destined to be
hooked by the advertisement. What! Don’t you know that he has advertised
again?’

‘No.’

‘Oh, yes. I read it just before dinner in the old newspaper. I know it
to be his; having some reason to remember the style. Hush! Here’s Pinch.
Strange, is it not, that the more he likes Pecksniff (if he can like him
better than he does), the greater reason one has to like HIM? Not a word
more, or we shall spoil his whole enjoyment.’

Tom entered as the words were spoken, with a radiant smile upon his
face; and rubbing his hands, more from a sense of delight than because
he was cold (for he had been running fast), sat down in his warm corner
again, and was as happy as only Tom Pinch could be. There is no other
simile that will express his state of mind.

‘And so,’ he said, when he had gazed at his friend for some time in
silent pleasure, ‘so you really are a gentleman at last, John. Well, to
be sure!’

‘Trying to be, Tom; trying to be,’ he rejoined good-humouredly. ‘There
is no saying what I may turn out, in time.’

‘I suppose you wouldn’t carry your own box to the mail now?’ said Tom
Pinch, smiling; ‘although you lost it altogether by not taking it.’

‘Wouldn’t I?’ retorted John. ‘That’s all you know about it, Pinch.
It must be a very heavy box that I wouldn’t carry to get away from
Pecksniff’s, Tom.’

‘There!’ cried Pinch, turning to Martin, ‘I told you so. The great fault
in his character is his injustice to Pecksniff. You mustn’t mind a word
he says on that subject. His prejudice is most extraordinary.’

‘The absence of anything like prejudice on Tom’s part, you know,’ said
John Westlock, laughing heartily, as he laid his hand on Mr Pinch’s
shoulder, ‘is perfectly wonderful. If one man ever had a profound
knowledge of another, and saw him in a true light, and in his own proper
colours, Tom has that knowledge of Mr Pecksniff.’

‘Why, of course I have,’ cried Tom. ‘That’s exactly what I have so often
said to you. If you knew him as well as I do--John, I’d give almost any
money to bring that about--you’d admire, respect, and reverence him. You
couldn’t help it. Oh, how you wounded his feelings when you went away!’

‘If I had known whereabout his feelings lay,’ retorted young Westlock,
‘I’d have done my best, Tom, with that end in view, you may depend upon
it. But as I couldn’t wound him in what he has not, and in what he knows
nothing of, except in his ability to probe them to the quick in other
people, I am afraid I can lay no claim to your compliment.’

Mr Pinch, being unwilling to protract a discussion which might possibly
corrupt Martin, forbore to say anything in reply to this speech; but
John Westlock, whom nothing short of an iron gag would have
silenced when Mr Pecksniff’s merits were once in question, continued
notwithstanding.

‘HIS feelings! Oh, he’s a tender-hearted man. HIS feelings! Oh, he’s a
considerate, conscientious, self-examining, moral vagabond, he is! HIS
feelings! Oh!--what’s the matter, Tom?’

Mr Pinch was by this time erect upon the hearth-rug, buttoning his coat
with great energy.

‘I can’t bear it,’ said Tom, shaking his head. ‘No. I really cannot. You
must excuse me, John. I have a great esteem and friendship for you;
I love you very much; and have been perfectly charmed and overjoyed
to-day, to find you just the same as ever; but I cannot listen to this.’

‘Why, it’s my old way, Tom; and you say yourself that you are glad to
find me unchanged.’

‘Not in this respect,’ said Tom Pinch. ‘You must excuse me, John. I
cannot, really; I will not. It’s very wrong; you should be more guarded
in your expressions. It was bad enough when you and I used to be alone
together, but under existing circumstances, I can’t endure it, really.
No. I cannot, indeed.’

‘You are quite right!’ exclaimed the other, exchanging looks with
Martin. ‘and I am quite wrong, Tom, I don’t know how the deuce we fell
on this unlucky theme. I beg your pardon with all my heart.’

‘You have a free and manly temper, I know,’ said Pinch; ‘and therefore,
your being so ungenerous in this one solitary instance, only grieves
me the more. It’s not my pardon you have to ask, John. You have done ME
nothing but kindnesses.’

‘Well! Pecksniff’s pardon then,’ said young Westlock. ‘Anything Tom,
or anybody. Pecksniff’s pardon--will that do? Here! let us drink
Pecksniff’s health!’

‘Thank you,’ cried Tom, shaking hands with him eagerly, and filling
a bumper. ‘Thank you; I’ll drink it with all my heart, John. Mr
Pecksniff’s health, and prosperity to him!’

John Westlock echoed the sentiment, or nearly so; for he drank Mr
Pecksniff’s health, and Something to him--but what, was not quite
audible. The general unanimity being then completely restored, they drew
their chairs closer round the fire, and conversed in perfect harmony and
enjoyment until bed-time.

No slight circumstance, perhaps, could have better illustrated the
difference of character between John Westlock and Martin Chuzzlewit,
than the manner in which each of the young men contemplated Tom Pinch,
after the little rupture just described. There was a certain amount of
jocularity in the looks of both, no doubt, but there all resemblance
ceased. The old pupil could not do enough to show Tom how cordially he
felt towards him, and his friendly regard seemed of a graver and more
thoughtful kind than before. The new one, on the other hand, had no
impulse but to laugh at the recollection of Tom’s extreme absurdity;
and mingled with his amusement there was something slighting and
contemptuous, indicative, as it appeared, of his opinion that Mr Pinch
was much too far gone in simplicity to be admitted as the friend, on
serious and equal terms, of any rational man.

John Westlock, who did nothing by halves, if he could help it, had
provided beds for his two guests in the hotel; and after a very happy
evening, they retired. Mr Pinch was sitting on the side of his bed with
his cravat and shoes off, ruminating on the manifold good qualities of
his old friend, when he was interrupted by a knock at his chamber door,
and the voice of John himself.

‘You’re not asleep yet, are you, Tom?’

‘Bless you, no! not I. I was thinking of you,’ replied Tom, opening the
door. ‘Come in.’

‘I am not going to detail you,’ said John; ‘but I have forgotten all the
evening a little commission I took upon myself; and I am afraid I may
forget it again, if I fail to discharge it at once. You know a Mr Tigg,
Tom, I believe?’

‘Tigg!’ cried Tom. ‘Tigg! The gentleman who borrowed some money of me?’

‘Exactly,’ said John Westlock. ‘He begged me to present his compliments,
and to return it with many thanks. Here it is. I suppose it’s a good
one, but he is rather a doubtful kind of customer, Tom.’

Mr Pinch received the little piece of gold with a face whose brightness
might have shamed the metal; and said he had no fear about that. He
was glad, he added, to find Mr Tigg so prompt and honourable in his
dealings; very glad.

‘Why, to tell you the truth, Tom,’ replied his friend, ‘he is not always
so. If you’ll take my advice, you’ll avoid him as much as you can, in
the event of your encountering him again. And by no means, Tom--pray
bear this in mind, for I am very serious--by no means lend him money any
more.’

‘Aye, aye!’ said Tom, with his eyes wide open.

‘He is very far from being a reputable acquaintance,’ returned young
Westlock; ‘and the more you let him know you think so, the better for
you, Tom.’

‘I say, John,’ quoth Mr Pinch, as his countenance fell, and he shook
his head in a dejected manner. ‘I hope you are not getting into bad
company.’

‘No, no,’ he replied laughing. ‘Don’t be uneasy on that score.’

‘Oh, but I AM uneasy,’ said Tom Pinch; ‘I can’t help it, when I hear you
talking in that way. If Mr Tigg is what you describe him to be, you have
no business to know him, John. You may laugh, but I don’t consider it by
any means a laughing matter, I assure you.’

‘No, no,’ returned his friend, composing his features. ‘Quite right. It
is not, certainly.’

‘You know, John,’ said Mr Pinch, ‘your very good nature and kindness of
heart make you thoughtless, and you can’t be too careful on such a
point as this. Upon my word, if I thought you were falling among bad
companions, I should be quite wretched, for I know how difficult you
would find it to shake them off. I would much rather have lost this
money, John, than I would have had it back again on such terms.’

‘I tell you, my dear good old fellow,’ cried his friend, shaking him
to and fro with both hands, and smiling at him with a cheerful, open
countenance, that would have carried conviction to a mind much more
suspicious than Tom’s; ‘I tell you there is no danger.’

‘Well!’ cried Tom, ‘I am glad to hear it; I am overjoyed to hear it. I
am sure there is not, when you say so in that manner. You won’t take it
ill, John, that I said what I did just now!’

‘Ill!’ said the other, giving his hand a hearty squeeze; ‘why what
do you think I am made of? Mr Tigg and I are not on such an intimate
footing that you need be at all uneasy, I give you my solemn assurance
of that, Tom. You are quite comfortable now?’

‘Quite,’ said Tom.

‘Then once more, good night!’

‘Good night!’ cried Tom; ‘and such pleasant dreams to you as should
attend the sleep of the best fellow in the world!’

‘--Except Pecksniff,’ said his friend, stopping at the door for a
moment, and looking gayly back.

‘Except Pecksniff,’ answered Tom, with great gravity; ‘of course.’

And thus they parted for the night; John Westlock full of
light-heartedness and good humour, and poor Tom Pinch quite satisfied;
though still, as he turned over on his side in bed, he muttered to
himself, ‘I really do wish, for all that, though, that he wasn’t
acquainted with Mr Tigg.’

They breakfasted together very early next morning, for the two young
men desired to get back again in good season; and John Westlock was to
return to London by the coach that day. As he had some hours to spare,
he bore them company for three or four miles on their walk, and
only parted from them at last in sheer necessity. The parting was an
unusually hearty one, not only as between him and Tom Pinch, but on the
side of Martin also, who had found in the old pupil a very different
sort of person from the milksop he had prepared himself to expect.

Young Westlock stopped upon a rising ground, when he had gone a little
distance, and looked back. They were walking at a brisk pace, and Tom
appeared to be talking earnestly. Martin had taken off his greatcoat,
the wind being now behind them, and carried it upon his arm. As he
looked, he saw Tom relieve him of it, after a faint resistance, and,
throwing it upon his own, encumber himself with the weight of both. This
trivial incident impressed the old pupil mightily, for he stood there,
gazing after them, until they were hidden from his view; when he
shook his head, as if he were troubled by some uneasy reflection, and
thoughtfully retraced his steps to Salisbury.

In the meantime, Martin and Tom pursued their way, until they halted,
safe and sound, at Mr Pecksniff’s house, where a brief epistle from that
good gentleman to Mr Pinch announced the family’s return by that night’s
coach. As it would pass the corner of the lane at about six o’clock in
the morning, Mr Pecksniff requested that the gig might be in waiting at
the finger-post about that time, together with a cart for the luggage.
And to the end that he might be received with the greater honour, the
young men agreed to rise early, and be upon the spot themselves.

It was the least cheerful day they had yet passed together. Martin
was out of spirits and out of humour, and took every opportunity of
comparing his condition and prospects with those of young Westlock;
much to his own disadvantage always. This mood of his depressed Tom; and
neither that morning’s parting, nor yesterday’s dinner, helped to mend
the matter. So the hours dragged on heavily enough; and they were glad
to go to bed early.

They were not quite so glad to get up again at half-past four o’clock,
in all the shivering discomfort of a dark winter’s morning; but they
turned out punctually, and were at the finger-post full half-an-hour
before the appointed time. It was not by any means a lively morning, for
the sky was black and cloudy, and it rained hard; but Martin said there
was some satisfaction in seeing that brute of a horse (by this, he meant
Mr Pecksniff’s Arab steed) getting very wet; and that he rejoiced, on
his account, that it rained so fast. From this it may be inferred that
Martin’s spirits had not improved, as indeed they had not; for while he
and Mr Pinch stood waiting under a hedge, looking at the rain, the gig,
the cart, and its reeking driver, he did nothing but grumble; and, but
that it is indispensable to any dispute that there should be two parties
to it, he would certainly have picked a quarrel with Tom.

At length the noise of wheels was faintly audible in the distance and
presently the coach came splashing through the mud and mire with one
miserable outside passenger crouching down among wet straw, under a
saturated umbrella; and the coachman, guard, and horses, in a fellowship
of dripping wretchedness. Immediately on its stopping, Mr Pecksniff let
down the window-glass and hailed Tom Pinch.

‘Dear me, Mr Pinch! Is it possible that you are out upon this very
inclement morning?’

‘Yes, sir,’ cried Tom, advancing eagerly, ‘Mr Chuzzlewit and I, sir.’

‘Oh!’ said Mr Pecksniff, looking not so much at Martin as at the spot on
which he stood. ‘Oh! Indeed. Do me the favour to see to the trunks, if
you please, Mr Pinch.’

Then Mr Pecksniff descended, and helped his daughters to alight; but
neither he nor the young ladies took the slightest notice of Martin,
who had advanced to offer his assistance, but was repulsed by Mr
Pecksniff’s standing immediately before his person, with his back
towards him. In the same manner, and in profound silence, Mr Pecksniff
handed his daughters into the gig; and following himself and taking the
reins, drove off home.

Lost in astonishment, Martin stood staring at the coach, and when the
coach had driven away, at Mr Pinch, and the luggage, until the cart
moved off too; when he said to Tom:

‘Now will you have the goodness to tell me what THIS portends?’

‘What?’ asked Tom.

‘This fellow’s behaviour. Mr Pecksniff’s, I mean. You saw it?’

‘No. Indeed I did not,’ cried Tom. ‘I was busy with the trunks.’

‘It is no matter,’ said Martin. ‘Come! Let us make haste back!’ And
without another word started off at such a pace, that Tom had some
difficulty in keeping up with him.

He had no care where he went, but walked through little heaps of mud
and little pools of water with the utmost indifference; looking straight
before him, and sometimes laughing in a strange manner within himself.
Tom felt that anything he could say would only render him the more
obstinate, and therefore trusted to Mr Pecksniff’s manner when they
reached the house, to remove the mistaken impression under which he felt
convinced so great a favourite as the new pupil must unquestionably be
labouring. But he was not a little amazed himself, when they did reach
it, and entered the parlour where Mr Pecksniff was sitting alone
before the fire, drinking some hot tea, to find that instead of taking
favourable notice of his relative and keeping him, Mr Pinch, in the
background, he did exactly the reverse, and was so lavish in his
attentions to Tom, that Tom was thoroughly confounded.

‘Take some tea, Mr Pinch--take some tea,’ said Pecksniff, stirring the
fire. ‘You must be very cold and damp. Pray take some tea, and come into
a warm place, Mr Pinch.’

Tom saw that Martin looked at Mr Pecksniff as though he could have
easily found it in his heart to give HIM an invitation to a very warm
place; but he was quite silent, and standing opposite that gentleman at
the table, regarded him attentively.

‘Take a chair, Pinch,’ said Pecksniff. ‘Take a chair, if you please. How
have things gone on in our absence, Mr Pinch?’

‘You--you will be very much pleased with the grammar-school, sir,’ said
Tom. ‘It’s nearly finished.’

‘If you will have the goodness, Mr Pinch,’ said Pecksniff, waving his
hand and smiling, ‘we will not discuss anything connected with that
question at present. What have YOU been doing, Thomas, humph?’

Mr Pinch looked from master to pupil, and from pupil to master, and was
so perplexed and dismayed that he wanted presence of mind to answer
the question. In this awkward interval, Mr Pecksniff (who was perfectly
conscious of Martin’s gaze, though he had never once glanced towards
him) poked the fire very much, and when he couldn’t do that any more,
drank tea assiduously.

‘Now, Mr Pecksniff,’ said Martin at last, in a very quiet voice, ‘if you
have sufficiently refreshed and recovered yourself, I shall be glad to
hear what you mean by this treatment of me.’

‘And what,’ said Mr Pecksniff, turning his eyes on Tom Pinch, even more
placidly and gently than before, ‘what have YOU been doing, Thomas,
humph?’

When he had repeated this inquiry, he looked round the walls of the room
as if he were curious to see whether any nails had been left there by
accident in former times.

Tom was almost at his wit’s end what to say between the two, and had
already made a gesture as if he would call Mr Pecksniff’s attention to
the gentleman who had last addressed him, when Martin saved him further
trouble, by doing so himself.

‘Mr Pecksniff,’ he said, softly rapping the table twice or thrice, and
moving a step or two nearer, so that he could have touched him with his
hand; ‘you heard what I said just now. Do me the favour to reply, if you
please. I ask you’--he raised his voice a little here--‘what you mean by
this?’

‘I will talk to you, sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff in a severe voice, as he
looked at him for the first time, ‘presently.’

‘You are very obliging,’ returned Martin; ‘presently will not do. I must
trouble you to talk to me at once.’

Mr Pecksniff made a feint of being deeply interested in his pocketbook,
but it shook in his hands; he trembled so.

‘Now,’ retorted Martin, rapping the table again. ‘Now. Presently will
not do. Now!’

‘Do you threaten me, sir?’ cried Mr Pecksniff.

Martin looked at him, and made no answer; but a curious observer
might have detected an ominous twitching at his mouth, and perhaps
an involuntary attraction of his right hand in the direction of Mr
Pecksniff’s cravat.

‘I lament to be obliged to say, sir,’ resumed Mr Pecksniff, ‘that it
would be quite in keeping with your character if you did threaten me.
You have deceived me. You have imposed upon a nature which you knew to
be confiding and unsuspicious. You have obtained admission, sir,’ said
Mr Pecksniff, rising, ‘to this house, on perverted statements and on
false pretences.’

‘Go on,’ said Martin, with a scornful smile. ‘I understand you now. What
more?’

‘Thus much more, sir,’ cried Mr Pecksniff, trembling from head to foot,
and trying to rub his hands, as though he were only cold. ‘Thus much
more, if you force me to publish your shame before a third party, which
I was unwilling and indisposed to do. This lowly roof, sir, must not
be contaminated by the presence of one who has deceived, and cruelly
deceived, an honourable, beloved, venerated, and venerable gentleman;
and who wisely suppressed that deceit from me when he sought my
protection and favour, knowing that, humble as I am, I am an honest
man, seeking to do my duty in this carnal universe, and setting my face
against all vice and treachery. I weep for your depravity, sir,’ said
Mr Pecksniff; ‘I mourn over your corruption, I pity your voluntary
withdrawal of yourself from the flowery paths of purity and peace;’ here
he struck himself upon his breast, or moral garden; ‘but I cannot have
a leper and a serpent for an inmate. Go forth,’ said Mr Pecksniff,
stretching out his hand: ‘go forth, young man! Like all who know you, I
renounce you!’

With what intention Martin made a stride forward at these words, it is
impossible to say. It is enough to know that Tom Pinch caught him in
his arms, and that, at the same moment, Mr Pecksniff stepped back so
hastily, that he missed his footing, tumbled over a chair, and fell in
a sitting posture on the ground; where he remained without an effort
to get up again, with his head in a corner, perhaps considering it the
safest place.

‘Let me go, Pinch!’ cried Martin, shaking him away. ‘Why do you hold me?
Do you think a blow could make him a more abject creature than he is? Do
you think that if I spat upon him, I could degrade him to a lower level
than his own? Look at him. Look at him, Pinch!’

Mr Pinch involuntarily did so. Mr Pecksniff sitting, as has been
already mentioned, on the carpet, with his head in an acute angle of the
wainscot, and all the damage and detriment of an uncomfortable journey
about him, was not exactly a model of all that is prepossessing and
dignified in man, certainly. Still he WAS Pecksniff; it was impossible
to deprive him of that unique and paramount appeal to Tom. And he
returned Tom’s glance, as if he would have said, ‘Aye, Mr Pinch, look at
me! Here I am! You know what the Poet says about an honest man; and an
honest man is one of the few great works that can be seen for nothing!
Look at me!’

‘I tell you,’ said Martin, ‘that as he lies there, disgraced, bought,
used; a cloth for dirty hands, a mat for dirty feet, a lying, fawning,
servile hound, he is the very last and worst among the vermin of the
world. And mark me, Pinch! The day will come--he knows it; see it
written on his face, while I speak!--when even you will find him out,
and will know him as I do, and as he knows I do. HE renounce ME!
Cast your eyes on the Renouncer, Pinch, and be the wiser for the
recollection!’

He pointed at him as he spoke, with unutterable contempt, and flinging
his hat upon his head, walked from the room and from the house. He went
so rapidly that he was already clear of the village, when he heard Tom
Pinch calling breathlessly after him in the distance.

‘Well! what now?’ he said, when Tom came up.

‘Dear, dear!’ cried Tom, ‘are you going?’

‘Going!’ he echoed. ‘Going!’

‘I didn’t so much mean that, as were you going now at once--in this bad
weather--on foot--without your clothes--with no money?’ cried Tom.

‘Yes,’ he answered sternly, ‘I am.’

‘And where?’ cried Tom. ‘Oh where will you go?’

‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘Yes, I do. I’ll go to America!’

‘No, no,’ cried Tom, in a kind of agony. ‘Don’t go there. Pray don’t.
Think better of it. Don’t be so dreadfully regardless of yourself. Don’t
go to America!’

‘My mind is made up,’ he said. ‘Your friend was right. I’ll go to
America. God bless you, Pinch!’

‘Take this!’ cried Tom, pressing a book upon him in great agitation.
‘I must make haste back, and can’t say anything I would. Heaven be with
you. Look at the leaf I have turned down. Good-bye, good-bye!’

The simple fellow wrung him by the hand, with tears stealing down his
cheeks; and they parted hurriedly upon their separate ways.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN

SHOWING WHAT BECAME OF MARTIN AND HIS DESPARATE RESOLVE, AFTER HE LEFT
MR PECKSNIFF’S HOUSE; WHAT PERSONS HE ENCOUNTERED; WHAT ANXIETIES HE
SUFFERED; AND WHAT NEWS HE HEARD


Carrying Tom Pinch’s book quite unconsciously under his arm, and not
even buttoning his coat as a protection against the heavy rain, Martin
went doggedly forward at the same quick pace, until he had passed the
finger-post, and was on the high road to London. He slackened very
little in his speed even then, but he began to think, and look about
him, and to disengage his senses from the coil of angry passions which
hitherto had held them prisoner.

It must be confessed that, at that moment, he had no very agreeable
employment either for his moral or his physical perceptions. The day was
dawning from a patch of watery light in the east, and sullen clouds
came driving up before it, from which the rain descended in a thick, wet
mist. It streamed from every twig and bramble in the hedge; made little
gullies in the path; ran down a hundred channels in the road; and
punched innumerable holes into the face of every pond and gutter. It
fell with an oozy, slushy sound among the grass; and made a muddy kennel
of every furrow in the ploughed fields. No living creature was anywhere
to be seen. The prospect could hardly have been more desolate if
animated nature had been dissolved in water, and poured down upon the
earth again in that form.

The range of view within the solitary traveller was quite as cheerless
as the scene without. Friendless and penniless; incensed to the last
degree; deeply wounded in his pride and self-love; full of independent
schemes, and perfectly destitute of any means of realizing them; his
most vindictive enemy might have been satisfied with the extent of his
troubles. To add to his other miseries, he was by this time sensible of
being wet to the skin, and cold at his very heart.

In this deplorable condition he remembered Mr Pinch’s book; more
because it was rather troublesome to carry, than from any hope of being
comforted by that parting gift. He looked at the dingy lettering on the
back, and finding it to be an odd volume of the ‘Bachelor of Salamanca,’
in the French tongue, cursed Tom Pinch’s folly twenty times. He was on
the point of throwing it away, in his ill-humour and vexation, when he
bethought himself that Tom had referred him to a leaf, turned down;
and opening it at that place, that he might have additional cause
of complaint against him for supposing that any cold scrap of the
Bachelor’s wisdom could cheer him in such circumstances, found!--

Well, well! not much, but Tom’s all. The half-sovereign. He had wrapped
it hastily in a piece of paper, and pinned it to the leaf. These words
were scrawled in pencil on the inside: ‘I don’t want it indeed. I should
not know what to do with it if I had it.’

There are some falsehoods, Tom, on which men mount, as on bright wings,
towards Heaven. There are some truths, cold bitter taunting truths,
wherein your worldly scholars are very apt and punctual, which bind men
down to earth with leaden chains. Who would not rather have to fan him,
in his dying hour, the lightest feather of a falsehood such as thine,
than all the quills that have been plucked from the sharp porcupine,
reproachful truth, since time began!

Martin felt keenly for himself, and he felt this good deed of Tom’s
keenly. After a few minutes it had the effect of raising his spirits,
and reminding him that he was not altogether destitute, as he had left
a fair stock of clothes behind him, and wore a gold hunting-watch in
his pocket. He found a curious gratification, too, in thinking what a
winning fellow he must be to have made such an impression on Tom; and in
reflecting how superior he was to Tom; and how much more likely to make
his way in the world. Animated by these thoughts, and strengthened in
his design of endeavouring to push his fortune in another country, he
resolved to get to London as a rallying-point, in the best way he could;
and to lose no time about it.

He was ten good miles from the village made illustrious by being the
abiding-place of Mr Pecksniff, when he stopped to breakfast at a little
roadside alehouse; and resting upon a high-backed settle before the
fire, pulled off his coat, and hung it before the cheerful blaze to
dry. It was a very different place from the last tavern in which he
had regaled; boasting no greater extent of accommodation than the
brick-floored kitchen yielded; but the mind so soon accommodates itself
to the necessities of the body, that this poor waggoner’s house-of-call,
which he would have despised yesterday, became now quite a choice hotel;
while his dish of eggs and bacon, and his mug of beer, were not by
any means the coarse fare he had supposed, but fully bore out the
inscription on the window-shutter, which proclaimed those viands to be
‘Good entertainment for Travellers.’

He pushed away his empty plate; and with a second mug upon the hearth
before him, looked thoughtfully at the fire until his eyes ached. Then
he looked at the highly-coloured scripture pieces on the walls, in
little black frames like common shaving-glasses, and saw how the Wise
Men (with a strong family likeness among them) worshipped in a pink
manger; and how the Prodigal Son came home in red rags to a purple
father, and already feasted his imagination on a sea-green calf. Then he
glanced through the window at the falling rain, coming down aslant upon
the sign-post over against the house, and overflowing the horse-trough;
and then he looked at the fire again, and seemed to descry a double
distant London, retreating among the fragments of the burning wood.

He had repeated this process in just the same order, many times, as
if it were a matter of necessity, when the sound of wheels called his
attention to the window out of its regular turn; and there he beheld a
kind of light van drawn by four horses, and laden, as well as he could
see (for it was covered in), with corn and straw. The driver, who
was alone, stopped at the door to water his team, and presently came
stamping and shaking the wet off his hat and coat, into the room where
Martin sat.

He was a red-faced burly young fellow; smart in his way, and with a
good-humoured countenance. As he advanced towards the fire he touched
his shining forehead with the forefinger of his stiff leather glove,
by way of salutation; and said (rather unnecessarily) that it was an
uncommon wet day.

‘Very wet,’ said Martin.

‘I don’t know as ever I see a wetter.’

‘I never felt one,’ said Martin.

The driver glanced at Martin’s soiled dress, and his damp shirt-sleeves,
and his coat hung up to dry; and said, after a pause, as he warmed his
hands:

‘You have been caught in it, sir?’

‘Yes,’ was the short reply.

‘Out riding, maybe?’ said the driver

‘I should have been, if I owned a horse; but I don’t,’ returned Martin.

‘That’s bad,’ said the driver.

‘And may be worse,’ said Martin.

Now the driver said ‘That’s bad,’ not so much because Martin didn’t own
a horse, as because he said he didn’t with all the reckless desperation
of his mood and circumstances, and so left a great deal to be inferred.
Martin put his hands in his pockets and whistled when he had retorted on
the driver; thus giving him to understand that he didn’t care a pin for
Fortune; that he was above pretending to be her favourite when he was
not; and that he snapped his fingers at her, the driver, and everybody
else.

The driver looked at him stealthily for a minute or so; and in the
pauses of his warming whistled too. At length he asked, as he pointed
his thumb towards the road.

‘Up or down?’

‘Which IS up?’ said Martin.

‘London, of course,’ said the driver.

‘Up then,’ said Martin. He tossed his head in a careless manner
afterwards, as if he would have added, ‘Now you know all about it.’
put his hands deeper into his pockets; changed his tune, and whistled a
little louder.

‘I’m going up,’ observed the driver; ‘Hounslow, ten miles this side
London.’

‘Are you?’ cried Martin, stopping short and looking at him.

The driver sprinkled the fire with his wet hat until it hissed again and
answered, ‘Aye, to be sure he was.’

‘Why, then,’ said Martin, ‘I’ll be plain with you. You may suppose from
my dress that I have money to spare. I have not. All I can afford for
coach-hire is a crown, for I have but two. If you can take me for that,
and my waistcoat, or this silk handkerchief, do. If you can’t, leave it
alone.’

‘Short and sweet,’ remarked the driver.

‘You want more?’ said Martin. ‘Then I haven’t got more, and I can’t get
it, so there’s an end of that.’ Whereupon he began to whistle again.

‘I didn’t say I wanted more, did I?’ asked the driver, with something
like indignation.

‘You didn’t say my offer was enough,’ rejoined Martin.

‘Why, how could I, when you wouldn’t let me? In regard to the waistcoat,
I wouldn’t have a man’s waistcoat, much less a gentleman’s waistcoat,
on my mind, for no consideration; but the silk handkerchief’s another
thing; and if you was satisfied when we got to Hounslow, I shouldn’t
object to that as a gift.’

‘Is it a bargain, then?’ said Martin.

‘Yes, it is,’ returned the other.

‘Then finish this beer,’ said Martin, handing him the mug, and pulling
on his coat with great alacrity; ‘and let us be off as soon as you
like.’

In two minutes more he had paid his bill, which amounted to a shilling;
was lying at full length on a truss of straw, high and dry at the top
of the van, with the tilt a little open in front for the convenience of
talking to his new friend; and was moving along in the right direction
with a most satisfactory and encouraging briskness.

The driver’s name, as he soon informed Martin, was William Simmons,
better known as Bill; and his spruce appearance was sufficiently
explained by his connection with a large stage-coaching establishment at
Hounslow, whither he was conveying his load from a farm belonging to
the concern in Wiltshire. He was frequently up and down the road on such
errands, he said, and to look after the sick and rest horses, of which
animals he had much to relate that occupied a long time in the
telling. He aspired to the dignity of the regular box, and expected
an appointment on the first vacancy. He was musical besides, and had
a little key-bugle in his pocket, on which, whenever the conversation
flagged, he played the first part of a great many tunes, and regularly
broke down in the second.

‘Ah!’ said Bill, with a sigh, as he drew the back of his hand across
his lips, and put this instrument in his pocket, after screwing off the
mouth-piece to drain it; ‘Lummy Ned of the Light Salisbury, HE was the
one for musical talents. He WAS a guard. What you may call a Guard’an
Angel, was Ned.’

‘Is he dead?’ asked Martin.

‘Dead!’ replied the other, with a contemptuous emphasis. ‘Not he. You
won’t catch Ned a-dying easy. No, no. He knows better than that.’

‘You spoke of him in the past tense,’ observed Martin, ‘so I supposed he
was no more.

‘He’s no more in England,’ said Bill, ‘if that’s what you mean. He went
to the U-nited States.’

‘Did he?’ asked Martin, with sudden interest. ‘When?’

‘Five year ago, or then about,’ said Bill. ‘He had set up in the public
line here, and couldn’t meet his engagements, so he cut off to Liverpool
one day, without saying anything about it, and went and shipped himself
for the U-nited States.’

‘Well?’ said Martin.

‘Well! as he landed there without a penny to bless himself with, of
course they wos very glad to see him in the U-nited States.’

‘What do you mean?’ asked Martin, with some scorn.

‘What do I mean?’ said Bill. ‘Why, THAT. All men are alike in the
U-nited States, an’t they? It makes no odds whether a man has a thousand
pound, or nothing, there. Particular in New York, I’m told, where Ned
landed.’

‘New York, was it?’ asked Martin, thoughtfully.

‘Yes,’ said Bill. ‘New York. I know that, because he sent word home that
it brought Old York to his mind, quite vivid, in consequence of being so
exactly unlike it in every respect. I don’t understand what particular
business Ned turned his mind to, when he got there; but he wrote home
that him and his friends was always a-singing, Ale Columbia, and blowing
up the President, so I suppose it was something in the public line; or
free-and-easy way again. Anyhow, he made his fortune.’

‘No!’ cried Martin.

‘Yes, he did,’ said Bill. ‘I know that, because he lost it all the day
after, in six-and-twenty banks as broke. He settled a lot of the notes
on his father, when it was ascertained that they was really stopped and
sent ‘em over with a dutiful letter. I know that, because they was
shown down our yard for the old gentleman’s benefit, that he might treat
himself with tobacco in the workus.’

‘He was a foolish fellow not to take care of his money when he had it,’
said Martin, indignantly.

‘There you’re right,’ said Bill, ‘especially as it was all in paper, and
he might have took care of it so very easy, by folding it up in a small
parcel.’

Martin said nothing in reply, but soon afterwards fell asleep, and
remained so for an hour or more. When he awoke, finding it had ceased
to rain, he took his seat beside the driver, and asked him several
questions; as how long had the fortunate guard of the Light Salisbury
been in crossing the Atlantic; at what time of the year had he sailed;
what was the name of the ship in which he made the voyage; how much had
he paid for passage-money; did he suffer greatly from sea-sickness?
and so forth. But on these points of detail his friend was possessed
of little or no information; either answering obviously at random or
acknowledging that he had never heard, or had forgotten; nor, although
he returned to the charge very often, could he obtain any useful
intelligence on these essential particulars.

They jogged on all day, and stopped so often--now to refresh, now to
change their team of horses, now to exchange or bring away a set of
harness, now on one point of business, and now upon another, connected
with the coaching on that line of road--that it was midnight when they
reached Hounslow. A little short of the stables for which the van was
bound, Martin got down, paid his crown, and forced his silk handkerchief
upon his honest friend, notwithstanding the many protestations that he
didn’t wish to deprive him of it, with which he tried to give the lie to
his longing looks. That done, they parted company; and when the van had
driven into its own yard and the gates were closed, Martin stood in the
dark street, with a pretty strong sense of being shut out, alone, upon
the dreary world, without the key of it.

But in this moment of despondency, and often afterwards, the
recollection of Mr Pecksniff operated as a cordial to him; awakening
in his breast an indignation that was very wholesome in nerving him to
obstinate endurance. Under the influence of this fiery dram he started
off for London without more ado. Arriving there in the middle of the
night, and not knowing where to find a tavern open, he was fain to
stroll about the streets and market-places until morning.

He found himself, about an hour before dawn, in the humbler regions
of the Adelphi; and addressing himself to a man in a fur-cap, who was
taking down the shutters of an obscure public-house, informed him
that he was a stranger, and inquired if he could have a bed there. It
happened by good luck that he could. Though none of the gaudiest, it was
tolerably clean, and Martin felt very glad and grateful when he crept
into it, for warmth, rest, and forgetfulness.

It was quite late in the afternoon when he awoke; and by the time he had
washed and dressed, and broken his fast, it was growing dusk again. This
was all the better, for it was now a matter of absolute necessity that
he should part with his watch to some obliging pawn-broker. He would
have waited until after dark for this purpose, though it had been the
longest day in the year, and he had begun it without a breakfast.

He passed more Golden Balls than all the jugglers in Europe have juggled
with, in the course of their united performances, before he could
determine in favour of any particular shop where those symbols were
displayed. In the end he came back to one of the first he had seen,
and entering by a side-door in a court, where the three balls, with the
legend ‘Money Lent,’ were repeated in a ghastly transparency, passed
into one of a series of little closets, or private boxes, erected for
the accommodation of the more bashful and uninitiated customers. He
bolted himself in; pulled out his watch; and laid it on the counter.

‘Upon my life and soul!’ said a low voice in the next box to the shopman
who was in treaty with him, ‘you must make it more; you must make it a
trifle more, you must indeed! You must dispense with one half-quarter
of an ounce in weighing out your pound of flesh, my best of friends, and
make it two-and-six.’

Martin drew back involuntarily, for he knew the voice at once.

‘You’re always full of your chaff,’ said the shopman, rolling up the
article (which looked like a shirt) quite as a matter of course, and
nibbing his pen upon the counter.

‘I shall never be full of my wheat,’ said Mr Tigg, ‘as long as I come
here. Ha, ha! Not bad! Make it two-and-six, my dear friend, positively
for this occasion only. Half-a-crown is a delightful coin. Two-and-six.
Going at two-and-six! For the last time at two-and-six!’

‘It’ll never be the last time till it’s quite worn out,’ rejoined the
shopman. ‘It’s grown yellow in the service as it is.’

‘Its master has grown yellow in the service, if you mean that, my
friend,’ said Mr Tigg; ‘in the patriotic service of an ungrateful
country. You are making it two-and-six, I think?’

‘I’m making it,’ returned the shopman, ‘what it always has been--two
shillings. Same name as usual, I suppose?’

‘Still the same name,’ said Mr Tigg; ‘my claim to the dormant peerage
not being yet established by the House of Lords.’

‘The old address?’

‘Not at all,’ said Mr Tigg; ‘I have removed my town establishment from
thirty-eight, Mayfair, to number fifteen-hundred-and-forty-two, Park
Lane.’

‘Come, I’m not going to put down that, you know,’ said the shopman with
a grin.

‘You may put down what you please, my friend,’ quoth Mr Tigg. ‘The fact
is still the same. The apartments for the under-butler and the fifth
footman being of a most confounded low and vulgar kind at thirty-eight,
Mayfair, I have been compelled, in my regard for the feelings which do
them so much honour, to take on lease for seven, fourteen, or twenty-one
years, renewable at the option of the tenant, the elegant and commodious
family mansion, number fifteen-hundred-and-forty-two Park Lane. Make it
two-and-six, and come and see me!’

The shopman was so highly entertained by this piece of humour that Mr
Tigg himself could not repress some little show of exultation. It vented
itself, in part, in a desire to see how the occupant of the next
box received his pleasantry; to ascertain which he glanced round the
partition, and immediately, by the gaslight, recognized Martin.

‘I wish I may die,’ said Mr Tigg, stretching out his body so far that
his head was as much in Martin’s little cell as Martin’s own head was,
‘but this is one of the most tremendous meetings in Ancient or Modern
History! How are you? What is the news from the agricultural districts?
How are our friends the P.’s? Ha, ha! David, pay particular attention to
this gentleman immediately, as a friend of mine, I beg.’

‘Here! Please to give me the most you can for this,’ said Martin,
handing the watch to the shopman. ‘I want money sorely.’

‘He wants money, sorely!’ cried Mr Tigg with excessive sympathy. ‘David,
will you have the goodness to do your very utmost for my friend, who
wants money sorely. You will deal with my friend as if he were myself.
A gold hunting-watch, David, engine-turned, capped and jewelled in
four holes, escape movement, horizontal lever, and warranted to perform
correctly, upon my personal reputation, who have observed it narrowly
for many years, under the most trying circumstances’--here he winked
at Martin, that he might understand this recommendation would have an
immense effect upon the shopman; ‘what do you say, David, to my friend?
Be very particular to deserve my custom and recommendation, David.’

‘I can lend you three pounds on this, if you like’ said the shopman to
Martin, confidentially. ‘It is very old-fashioned. I couldn’t say more.’

‘And devilish handsome, too,’ cried Mr Tigg. ‘Two-twelve-six for the
watch, and seven-and-six for personal regard. I am gratified; it may
be weakness, but I am. Three pounds will do. We take it. The name of my
friend is Smivey: Chicken Smivey, of Holborn, twenty-six-and-a-half B:
lodger.’ Here he winked at Martin again, to apprise him that all the
forms and ceremonies prescribed by law were now complied with, and
nothing remained but the receipt for the money.

In point of fact, this proved to be the case, for Martin, who had no
resource but to take what was offered him, signified his acquiescence by
a nod of his head, and presently came out with the cash in his pocket.
He was joined in the entry by Mr Tigg, who warmly congratulated him, as
he took his arm and accompanied him into the street, on the successful
issue of the negotiation.

‘As for my part in the same,’ said Mr Tigg, ‘don’t mention it. Don’t
compliment me, for I can’t bear it!’

‘I have no such intention, I assure you,’ retorted Martin, releasing his
arm and stopping.

‘You oblige me very much’ said Mr Tigg. ‘Thank you.’

‘Now, sir,’ observed Martin, biting his lip, ‘this is a large town, and
we can easily find different ways in it. If you will show me which is
your way, I will take another.’

Mr Tigg was about to speak, but Martin interposed:

‘I need scarcely tell you, after what you have just seen, that I
have nothing to bestow upon your friend Mr Slyme. And it is quite as
unnecessary for me to tell you that I don’t desire the honour of your
company.’

‘Stop’ cried Mr Tigg, holding out his hand. ‘Hold! There is a most
remarkably long-headed, flowing-bearded, and patriarchal proverb, which
observes that it is the duty of a man to be just before he is generous.
Be just now, and you can be generous presently. Do not confuse me with
the man Slyme. Do not distinguish the man Slyme as a friend of mine, for
he is no such thing. I have been compelled, sir, to abandon the party
whom you call Slyme. I have no knowledge of the party whom you call
Slyme. I am, sir,’ said Mr Tigg, striking himself upon the breast,
‘a premium tulip, of a very different growth and cultivation from the
cabbage Slyme, sir.’

‘It matters very little to me,’ said Martin coolly, ‘whether you have
set up as a vagabond on your own account, or are still trading on behalf
of Mr Slyme. I wish to hold no correspondence with you. In the devil’s
name, man’ said Martin, scarcely able, despite his vexation, to repress
a smile as Mr Tigg stood leaning his back against the shutters of a shop
window, adjusting his hair with great composure, ‘will you go one way or
other?’

‘You will allow me to remind you, sir,’ said Mr Tigg, with sudden
dignity, ‘that you--not I--that you--I say emphatically, YOU--have
reduced the proceedings of this evening to a cold and distant matter of
business, when I was disposed to place them on a friendly footing.
It being made a matter of business, sir, I beg to say that I expect
a trifle (which I shall bestow in charity) as commission upon the
pecuniary advance, in which I have rendered you my humble services.
After the terms in which you have addressed me, sir,’ concluded Mr
Tigg, ‘you will not insult me, if you please, by offering more than
half-a-crown.’

Martin drew that piece of money from his pocket, and tossed it towards
him. Mr Tigg caught it, looked at it to assure himself of its goodness,
spun it in the air after the manner of a pieman, and buttoned it up.
Finally, he raised his hat an inch or two from his head with a military
air, and, after pausing a moment with deep gravity, as to decide in
which direction he should go, and to what Earl or Marquis among his
friends he should give the preference in his next call, stuck his hands
in his skirt-pockets and swaggered round the corner. Martin took the
directly opposite course; and so, to his great content, they parted
company.

It was with a bitter sense of humiliation that he cursed, again and
again, the mischance of having encountered this man in the pawnbroker’s
shop. The only comfort he had in the recollection was, Mr Tigg’s
voluntary avowal of a separation between himself and Slyme, that would
at least prevent his circumstances (so Martin argued) from being known
to any member of his family, the bare possibility of which filled him
with shame and wounded pride. Abstractedly there was greater reason,
perhaps, for supposing any declaration of Mr Tigg’s to be false, than
for attaching the least credence to it; but remembering the terms on
which the intimacy between that gentleman and his bosom friend had
subsisted, and the strong probability of Mr Tigg’s having established
an independent business of his own on Mr Slyme’s connection, it had a
reasonable appearance of probability; at all events, Martin hoped so;
and that went a long way.

His first step, now that he had a supply of ready money for his present
necessities, was, to retain his bed at the public-house until further
notice, and to write a formal note to Tom Pinch (for he knew Pecksniff
would see it) requesting to have his clothes forwarded to London by
coach, with a direction to be left at the office until called for. These
measures taken, he passed the interval before the box arrived--three
days--in making inquiries relative to American vessels, at the offices
of various shipping-agents in the city; and in lingering about the docks
and wharves, with the faint hope of stumbling upon some engagement
for the voyage, as clerk or supercargo, or custodian of something or
somebody, which would enable him to procure a free passage. But
finding, soon, that no such means of employment were likely to present
themselves, and dreading the consequences of delay, he drew up a short
advertisement, stating what he wanted, and inserted it in the leading
newspapers. Pending the receipt of the twenty or thirty answers which
he vaguely expected, he reduced his wardrobe to the narrowest limits
consistent with decent respectability, and carried the overplus at
different times to the pawnbroker’s shop, for conversion into money.

And it was strange, very strange, even to himself, to find how, by
quick though almost imperceptible degrees, he lost his delicacy and
self-respect, and gradually came to do that as a matter of course,
without the least compunction, which but a few short days before had
galled him to the quick. The first time he visited the pawnbroker’s,
he felt on his way there as if every person whom he passed suspected
whither he was going; and on his way back again, as if the whole human
tide he stemmed, knew well where he had come from. When did he care to
think of their discernment now! In his first wanderings up and down the
weary streets, he counterfeited the walk of one who had an object in
his view; but soon there came upon him the sauntering, slipshod gait of
listless idleness, and the lounging at street-corners, and plucking and
biting of stray bits of straw, and strolling up and down the same place,
and looking into the same shop-windows, with a miserable indifference,
fifty times a day. At first, he came out from his lodging with an uneasy
sense of being observed--even by those chance passers-by, on whom he had
never looked before, and hundreds to one would never see again--issuing
in the morning from a public-house; but now, in his comings-out and
goings-in he did not mind to lounge about the door, or to stand sunning
himself in careless thought beside the wooden stem, studded from head to
heel with pegs, on which the beer-pots dangled like so many boughs upon
a pewter-tree. And yet it took but five weeks to reach the lowest round
of this tall ladder!

Oh, moralists, who treat of happiness and self-respect, innate in every
sphere of life, and shedding light on every grain of dust in God’s
highway, so smooth below your carriage-wheels, so rough beneath the
tread of naked feet, bethink yourselves in looking on the swift descent
of men who HAVE lived in their own esteem, that there are scores of
thousands breathing now, and breathing thick with painful toil, who in
that high respect have never lived at all, nor had a chance of life! Go
ye, who rest so placidly upon the sacred Bard who had been young,
and when he strung his harp was old, and had never seen the righteous
forsaken, or his seed begging their bread; go, Teachers of content and
honest pride, into the mine, the mill, the forge, the squalid depths of
deepest ignorance, and uttermost abyss of man’s neglect, and say can any
hopeful plant spring up in air so foul that it extinguishes the soul’s
bright torch as fast as it is kindled! And, oh! ye Pharisees of the
nineteen hundredth year of Christian Knowledge, who soundingly appeal
to human nature, see that it be human first. Take heed it has not been
transformed, during your slumber and the sleep of generations, into the
nature of the Beasts!

Five weeks! Of all the twenty or thirty answers, not one had come. His
money--even the additional stock he had raised from the disposal of his
spare clothes (and that was not much, for clothes, though dear to buy,
are cheap to pawn)--was fast diminishing. Yet what could he do? At times
an agony came over him in which he darted forth again, though he was
but newly home, and, returning to some place where he had been already
twenty times, made some new attempt to gain his end, but always
unsuccessfully. He was years and years too old for a cabin-boy, and
years upon years too inexperienced to be accepted as a common seaman.
His dress and manner, too, militated fatally against any such proposal
as the latter; and yet he was reduced to making it; for even if he could
have contemplated the being set down in America totally without money,
he had not enough left now for a steerage passage and the poorest
provisions upon the voyage.

It is an illustration of a very common tendency in the mind of man, that
all this time he never once doubted, one may almost say the certainty
of doing great things in the New World, if he could only get there.
In proportion as he became more and more dejected by his present
circumstances, and the means of gaining America receded from his grasp,
the more he fretted himself with the conviction that that was the only
place in which he could hope to achieve any high end, and worried his
brain with the thought that men going there in the meanwhile might
anticipate him in the attainment of those objects which were dearest to
his heart. He often thought of John Westlock, and besides looking out
for him on all occasions, actually walked about London for three days
together for the express purpose of meeting with him. But although he
failed in this; and although he would not have scrupled to borrow money
of him; and although he believed that John would have lent it; yet still
he could not bring his mind to write to Pinch and inquire where he was
to be found. For although, as we have seen, he was fond of Tom after
his own fashion, he could not endure the thought (feeling so superior to
Tom) of making him the stepping-stone to his fortune, or being anything
to him but a patron; and his pride so revolted from the idea that it
restrained him even now.

It might have yielded, however; and no doubt must have yielded soon, but
for a very strange and unlooked-for occurrence.

The five weeks had quite run out, and he was in a truly desperate
plight, when one evening, having just returned to his lodging, and
being in the act of lighting his candle at the gas jet in the bar before
stalking moodily upstairs to his own room, his landlord called him by
his name. Now as he had never told it to the man, but had scrupulously
kept it to himself, he was not a little startled by this; and so plainly
showed his agitation that the landlord, to reassure him, said ‘it was
only a letter.’

‘A letter!’ cried Martin.

‘For Mr Martin Chuzzlewit,’ said the landlord, reading the
superscription of one he held in his hand. ‘Noon. Chief office. Paid.’

Martin took it from him, thanked him, and walked upstairs. It was not
sealed, but pasted close; the handwriting was quite unknown to him.
He opened it and found enclosed, without any name, address, or other
inscription or explanation of any kind whatever, a Bank of England note
for Twenty Pounds.

To say that he was perfectly stunned with astonishment and delight; that
he looked again and again at the note and the wrapper; that he hurried
below stairs to make quite certain that the note was a good note; and
then hurried up again to satisfy himself for the fiftieth time that
he had not overlooked some scrap of writing on the wrapper; that he
exhausted and bewildered himself with conjectures; and could make
nothing of it but that there the note was, and he was suddenly enriched;
would be only to relate so many matters of course to no purpose. The
final upshot of the business at that time was, that he resolved to treat
himself to a comfortable but frugal meal in his own chamber; and having
ordered a fire to be kindled, went out to purchase it forthwith.

He bought some cold beef, and ham, and French bread, and butter, and
came back with his pockets pretty heavily laden. It was somewhat of
a damping circumstance to find the room full of smoke, which was
attributable to two causes; firstly, to the flue being naturally vicious
and a smoker; and secondly, to their having forgotten, in lighting the
fire, an odd sack or two and some trifles, which had been put up the
chimney to keep the rain out. They had already remedied this oversight,
however; and propped up the window-sash with a bundle of firewood to
keep it open; so that except in being rather inflammatory to the eyes
and choking to the lungs, the apartment was quite comfortable.

Martin was in no vein to quarrel with it, if it had been in less
tolerable order, especially when a gleaming pint of porter was set upon
the table, and the servant-girl withdrew, bearing with her particular
instructions relative to the production of something hot when he should
ring the bell. The cold meat being wrapped in a playbill, Martin laid
the cloth by spreading that document on the little round table with the
print downwards, and arranging the collation upon it. The foot of the
bed, which was very close to the fire, answered for a sideboard; and
when he had completed these preparations, he squeezed an old arm-chair
into the warmest corner, and sat down to enjoy himself.

He had begun to eat with great appetite, glancing round the room
meanwhile with a triumphant anticipation of quitting it for ever on the
morrow, when his attention was arrested by a stealthy footstep on the
stairs, and presently by a knock at his chamber door, which, although
it was a gentle knock enough, communicated such a start to the bundle of
firewood, that it instantly leaped out of window, and plunged into the
street.

‘More coals, I suppose,’ said Martin. ‘Come in!’

‘It an’t a liberty, sir, though it seems so,’ rejoined a man’s voice.
‘Your servant, sir. Hope you’re pretty well, sir.’

Martin stared at the face that was bowing in the doorway, perfectly
remembering the features and expression, but quite forgetting to whom
they belonged.

‘Tapley, sir,’ said his visitor. ‘Him as formerly lived at the Dragon,
sir, and was forced to leave in consequence of a want of jollity, sir.’

‘To be sure!’ cried Martin. ‘Why, how did you come here?’

‘Right through the passage, and up the stairs, sir,’ said Mark.

‘How did you find me out, I mean?’ asked Martin.

‘Why, sir,’ said Mark, ‘I’ve passed you once or twice in the street, if
I’m not mistaken; and when I was a-looking in at the beef-and-ham shop
just now, along with a hungry sweep, as was very much calculated to make
a man jolly, sir--I see you a-buying that.’

Martin reddened as he pointed to the table, and said, somewhat hastily:

‘Well! What then?’

‘Why, then, sir,’ said Mark, ‘I made bold to foller; and as I told ‘em
downstairs that you expected me, I was let up.’

‘Are you charged with any message, that you told them you were
expected?’ inquired Martin.

‘No, sir, I an’t,’ said Mark. ‘That was what you may call a pious fraud,
sir, that was.’

Martin cast an angry look at him; but there was something in the
fellow’s merry face, and in his manner--which with all its cheerfulness
was far from being obtrusive or familiar--that quite disarmed him.
He had lived a solitary life too, for many weeks, and the voice was
pleasant in his ear.

‘Tapley,’ he said, ‘I’ll deal openly with you. From all I can judge and
from all I have heard of you through Pinch, you are not a likely kind of
fellow to have been brought here by impertinent curiosity or any other
offensive motive. Sit down. I’m glad to see you.’

‘Thankee, sir,’ said Mark. ‘I’d as lieve stand.’

‘If you don’t sit down,’ retorted Martin, ‘I’ll not talk to you.’

‘Very good, sir,’ observed Mark. ‘Your will’s a law, sir. Down it is;’
and he sat down accordingly upon the bedstead.

‘Help yourself,’ said Martin, handing him the only knife.

‘Thankee, sir,’ rejoined Mark. ‘After you’ve done.’

‘If you don’t take it now, you’ll not have any,’ said Martin.

‘Very good, sir,’ rejoined Mark. ‘That being your desire--now it is.’
With which reply he gravely helped himself and went on eating. Martin
having done the like for a short time in silence, said abruptly:

‘What are you doing in London?’

‘Nothing at all, sir,’ rejoined Mark.

‘How’s that?’ asked Martin.

‘I want a place,’ said Mark.

‘I’m sorry for you,’ said Martin.

‘--To attend upon a single gentleman,’ resumed Mark. ‘If from the
country the more desirable. Makeshifts would be preferred. Wages no
object.’

He said this so pointedly, that Martin stopped in his eating, and said:

‘If you mean me--’

‘Yes, I do, sir,’ interposed Mark.

‘Then you may judge from my style of living here, of my means of keeping
a man-servant. Besides, I am going to America immediately.’

‘Well, sir,’ returned Mark, quite unmoved by this intelligence ‘from all
that ever I heard about it, I should say America is a very likely sort
of place for me to be jolly in!’

Again Martin looked at him angrily; and again his anger melted away in
spite of himself.

‘Lord bless you, sir,’ said Mark, ‘what is the use of us a-going round
and round, and hiding behind the corner, and dodging up and down, when
we can come straight to the point in six words? I’ve had my eye upon you
any time this fortnight. I see well enough there’s a screw loose in
your affairs. I know’d well enough the first time I see you down at the
Dragon that it must be so, sooner or later. Now, sir here am I, without
a sitiwation; without any want of wages for a year to come; for I saved
up (I didn’t mean to do it, but I couldn’t help it) at the Dragon--here
am I with a liking for what’s wentersome, and a liking for you, and
a wish to come out strong under circumstances as would keep other men
down; and will you take me, or will you leave me?’

‘How can I take you?’ cried Martin.

‘When I say take,’ rejoined Mark, ‘I mean will you let me go? and when I
say will you let me go, I mean will you let me go along with you? for go
I will, somehow or another. Now that you’ve said America, I see clear at
once, that that’s the place for me to be jolly in. Therefore, if I don’t
pay my own passage in the ship you go in, sir, I’ll pay my own passage
in another. And mark my words, if I go alone it shall be, to carry out
the principle, in the rottenest, craziest, leakingest tub of a wessel
that a place can be got in for love or money. So if I’m lost upon the
way, sir, there’ll be a drowned man at your door--and always a-knocking
double knocks at it, too, or never trust me!’

‘This is mere folly,’ said Martin.

‘Very good, sir,’ returned Mark. ‘I’m glad to hear it, because if you
don’t mean to let me go, you’ll be more comfortable, perhaps, on account
of thinking so. Therefore I contradict no gentleman. But all I say is,
that if I don’t emigrate to America in that case, in the beastliest old
cockle-shell as goes out of port, I’m--’

‘You don’t mean what you say, I’m sure,’ said Martin.

‘Yes I do,’ cried Mark.

‘I tell you I know better,’ rejoined Martin.

‘Very good, sir,’ said Mark, with the same air of perfect satisfaction.
‘Let it stand that way at present, sir, and wait and see how it turns
out. Why, love my heart alive! the only doubt I have is, whether there’s
any credit in going with a gentleman like you, that’s as certain to make
his way there as a gimlet is to go through soft deal.’

This was touching Martin on his weak point, and having him at a great
advantage. He could not help thinking, either, what a brisk fellow this
Mark was, and how great a change he had wrought in the atmosphere of the
dismal little room already.

‘Why, certainly, Mark,’ he said, ‘I have hopes of doing well there, or I
shouldn’t go. I may have the qualifications for doing well, perhaps.’

‘Of course you have, sir,’ returned Mark Tapley. ‘Everybody knows that.’

‘You see,’ said Martin, leaning his chin upon his hand, and looking at
the fire, ‘ornamental architecture applied to domestic purposes,
can hardly fail to be in great request in that country; for men are
constantly changing their residences there, and moving further off; and
it’s clear they must have houses to live in.’

‘I should say, sir,’ observed Mark, ‘that that’s a state of things as
opens one of the jolliest look-outs for domestic architecture that ever
I heerd tell on.’

Martin glanced at him hastily, not feeling quite free from a suspicion
that this remark implied a doubt of the successful issue of his plans.
But Mr Tapley was eating the boiled beef and bread with such entire good
faith and singleness of purpose expressed in his visage that he could
not but be satisfied. Another doubt arose in his mind however, as this
one disappeared. He produced the blank cover in which the note had been
enclosed, and fixing his eyes on Mark as he put it in his hands, said:

‘Now tell me the truth. Do you know anything about that?’

Mark turned it over and over; held it near his eyes; held it away from
him at arm’s length; held it with the superscription upwards and with
the superscription downwards; and shook his head with such a genuine
expression of astonishment at being asked the question, that Martin
said, as he took it from him again:

‘No, I see you don’t. How should you! Though, indeed, your knowing about
it would not be more extraordinary than its being here. Come, Tapley,’
he added, after a moment’s thought, ‘I’ll trust you with my history,
such as it is, and then you’ll see more clearly what sort of fortunes
you would link yourself to, if you followed me.’

‘I beg your pardon, sir,’ said Mark; ‘but afore you enter upon it
will you take me if I choose to go? Will you turn off me--Mark
Tapley--formerly of the Blue Dragon, as can be well recommended by Mr
Pinch, and as wants a gentleman of your strength of mind to look up to;
or will you, in climbing the ladder as you’re certain to get to the
top of, take me along with you at a respectful distance? Now, sir,’
said Mark, ‘it’s of very little importance to you, I know, there’s the
difficulty; but it’s of very great importance to me, and will you be so
good as to consider of it?’

If this were meant as a second appeal to Martin’s weak side, founded on
his observation of the effect of the first, Mr Tapley was a skillful and
shrewd observer. Whether an intentional or an accidental shot, it
hit the mark fully for Martin, relenting more and more, said with a
condescension which was inexpressibly delicious to him, after his recent
humiliation:

‘We’ll see about it, Tapley. You shall tell me in what disposition you
find yourself to-morrow.’

‘Then, sir,’ said Mark, rubbing his hands, ‘the job’s done. Go on, sir,
if you please. I’m all attention.’

Throwing himself back in his arm-chair, and looking at the fire, with
now and then a glance at Mark, who at such times nodded his head sagely,
to express his profound interest and attention. Martin ran over the
chief points in his history, to the same effect as he had related them,
weeks before, to Mr Pinch. But he adapted them, according to the best of
his judgment, to Mr Tapley’s comprehension; and with that view made as
light of his love affair as he could, and referred to it in very few
words. But here he reckoned without his host; for Mark’s interest was
keenest in this part of the business, and prompted him to ask sundry
questions in relation to it; for which he apologised as one in some
measure privileged to do so, from having seen (as Martin explained to
him) the young lady at the Blue Dragon.

‘And a young lady as any gentleman ought to feel more proud of being in
love with,’ said Mark, energetically, ‘don’t draw breath.’

‘Aye! You saw her when she was not happy,’ said Martin, gazing at the
fire again. ‘If you had seen her in the old times, indeed--’

‘Why, she certainly was a little down-hearted, sir, and something paler
in her colour than I could have wished,’ said Mark, ‘but none the worse
in her looks for that. I think she seemed better, sir, after she come to
London.’

Martin withdrew his eyes from the fire; stared at Mark as if he thought
he had suddenly gone mad; and asked him what he meant.

‘No offence intended, sir,’ urged Mark. ‘I don’t mean to say she was any
the happier without you; but I thought she was a-looking better, sir.’

‘Do you mean to tell me she has been in London?’ asked Martin, rising
hurriedly, and pushing back his chair.

‘Of course I do,’ said Mark, rising too, in great amazement from the
bedstead.

‘Do you mean to tell me she is in London now?’

‘Most likely, sir. I mean to say she was a week ago.’

‘And you know where?’

‘Yes!’ cried Mark. ‘What! Don’t you?’

‘My good fellow!’ exclaimed Martin, clutching him by both arms, ‘I have
never seen her since I left my grandfather’s house.’

‘Why, then!’ cried Mark, giving the little table such a blow with his
clenched fist that the slices of beef and ham danced upon it, while all
his features seemed, with delight, to be going up into his forehead, and
never coming back again any more, ‘if I an’t your nat’ral born servant,
hired by Fate, there an’t such a thing in natur’ as a Blue Dragon. What!
when I was a-rambling up and down a old churchyard in the City, getting
myself into a jolly state, didn’t I see your grandfather a-toddling to
and fro for pretty nigh a mortal hour! Didn’t I watch him into Todgers’s
commercial boarding-house, and watch him out, and watch him home to his
hotel, and go and tell him as his was the service for my money, and I
had said so, afore I left the Dragon! Wasn’t the young lady a-sitting
with him then, and didn’t she fall a-laughing in a manner as was
beautiful to see! Didn’t your grandfather say, “Come back again next
week,” and didn’t I go next week; and didn’t he say that he couldn’t
make up his mind to trust nobody no more; and therefore wouldn’t engage
me, but at the same time stood something to drink as was handsome! Why,’
cried Mr Tapley, with a comical mixture of delight and chagrin, ‘where’s
the credit of a man’s being jolly under such circumstances! Who could
help it, when things come about like this!’

For some moments Martin stood gazing at him, as if he really doubted the
evidence of his senses, and could not believe that Mark stood there, in
the body, before him. At length he asked him whether, if the young lady
were still in London, he thought he could contrive to deliver a letter
to her secretly.

‘Do I think I can?’ cried Mark. ‘THINK I can? Here, sit down, sir. Write
it out, sir!’

With that he cleared the table by the summary process of tilting
everything upon it into the fireplace; snatched some writing materials
from the mantel-shelf; set Martin’s chair before them; forced him down
into it; dipped a pen into the ink; and put it in his hand.

‘Cut away, sir!’ cried Mark. ‘Make it strong, sir. Let it be wery
pinted, sir. Do I think so? I should think so. Go to work, sir!’

Martin required no further adjuration, but went to work at a great rate;
while Mr Tapley, installing himself without any more formalities into
the functions of his valet and general attendant, divested himself
of his coat, and went on to clear the fireplace and arrange the room;
talking to himself in a low voice the whole time.

‘Jolly sort of lodgings,’ said Mark, rubbing his nose with the knob at
the end of the fire-shovel, and looking round the poor chamber; ‘that’s
a comfort. The rain’s come through the roof too. That an’t bad. A lively
old bedstead, I’ll be bound; popilated by lots of wampires, no doubt.
Come! my spirits is a-getting up again. An uncommon ragged nightcap
this. A very good sign. We shall do yet! Here, Jane, my dear,’ calling
down the stairs, ‘bring up that there hot tumbler for my master as was
a-mixing when I come in. That’s right, sir,’ to Martin. ‘Go at it as if
you meant it, sir. Be very tender, sir, if you please. You can’t make it
too strong, sir!’



CHAPTER FOURTEEN

IN WHICH MARTIN BIDS ADIEU TO THE LADY OF HIS LOVE; AND HONOURS AN
OBSCURE INDIVIDUAL WHOSE FORTUNE HE INTENDS TO MAKE BY COMMENDING HER TO
HIS PROTECTION


The letter being duly signed, sealed, and delivered, was handed to Mark
Tapley, for immediate conveyance if possible. And he succeeded so well
in his embassy as to be enabled to return that same night, just as the
house was closing, with the welcome intelligence that he had sent it
upstairs to the young lady, enclosed in a small manuscript of his
own, purporting to contain his further petition to be engaged in Mr
Chuzzlewit’s service; and that she had herself come down and told him,
in great haste and agitation, that she would meet the gentleman at
eight o’clock to-morrow morning in St. James’s Park. It was then agreed
between the new master and the new man, that Mark should be in waiting
near the hotel in good time, to escort the young lady to the place
of appointment; and when they had parted for the night with this
understanding, Martin took up his pen again; and before he went to bed
wrote another letter, whereof more will be seen presently.

He was up before daybreak, and came upon the Park with the morning,
which was clad in the least engaging of the three hundred and sixty-five
dresses in the wardrobe of the year. It was raw, damp, dark, and dismal;
the clouds were as muddy as the ground; and the short perspective
of every street and avenue was closed up by the mist as by a filthy
curtain.

‘Fine weather indeed,’ Martin bitterly soliloquised, ‘to be wandering
up and down here in, like a thief! Fine weather indeed, for a meeting of
lovers in the open air, and in a public walk! I need be departing, with
all speed, for another country; for I have come to a pretty pass in
this!’

He might perhaps have gone on to reflect that of all mornings in the
year, it was not the best calculated for a young lady’s coming forth
on such an errand, either. But he was stopped on the road to this
reflection, if his thoughts tended that way, by her appearance at a
short distance, on which he hurried forward to meet her. Her squire,
Mr Tapley, at the same time fell discreetly back, and surveyed the fog
above him with an appearance of attentive interest.

‘My dear Martin,’ said Mary.

‘My dear Mary,’ said Martin; and lovers are such a singular kind of
people that this is all they did say just then, though Martin took her
arm, and her hand too, and they paced up and down a short walk that was
least exposed to observation, half-a-dozen times.

‘If you have changed at all, my love, since we parted,’ said Martin at
length, as he looked upon her with a proud delight, ‘it is only to be
more beautiful than ever!’

Had she been of the common metal of love-worn young ladies, she would
have denied this in her most interesting manner; and would have told him
that she knew she had become a perfect fright; or that she had wasted
away with weeping and anxiety; or that she was dwindling gently into an
early grave; or that her mental sufferings were unspeakable; or would,
either by tears or words, or a mixture of both, have furnished him with
some other information to that effect, and made him as miserable as
possible. But she had been reared up in a sterner school than the minds
of most young girls are formed in; she had had her nature strengthened
by the hands of hard endurance and necessity; had come out from her
young trials constant, self-denying, earnest, and devoted; had acquired
in her maidenhood--whether happily in the end, for herself or him, is
foreign to our present purpose to inquire--something of that nobler
quality of gentle hearts which is developed often by the sorrows and
struggles of matronly years, but often by their lessons only. Unspoiled,
unpampered in her joys or griefs; with frank and full, and deep
affection for the object of her early love; she saw in him one who for
her sake was an outcast from his home and fortune, and she had no
more idea of bestowing that love upon him in other than cheerful and
sustaining words, full of high hope and grateful trustfulness, than she
had of being unworthy of it, in her lightest thought or deed, for any
base temptation that the world could offer.

‘What change is there in YOU, Martin,’ she replied; ‘for that concerns
me nearest? You look more anxious and more thoughtful than you used.’

‘Why, as to that, my love,’ said Martin as he drew her waist within his
arm, first looking round to see that there were no observers near,
and beholding Mr Tapley more intent than ever on the fog; ‘it would be
strange if I did not; for my life--especially of late--has been a hard
one.’

‘I know it must have been,’ she answered. ‘When have I forgotten to
think of it and you?’

‘Not often, I hope,’ said Martin. ‘Not often, I am sure. Not often, I
have some right to expect, Mary; for I have undergone a great deal of
vexation and privation, and I naturally look for that return, you know.’

‘A very, very poor return,’ she answered with a fainter smile. ‘But you
have it, and will have it always. You have paid a dear price for a poor
heart, Martin; but it is at least your own, and a true one.’

‘Of course I feel quite certain of that,’ said Martin, ‘or I shouldn’t
have put myself in my present position. And don’t say a poor heart,
Mary, for I say a rich one. Now, I am about to break a design to you,
dearest, which will startle you at first, but which is undertaken for
your sake. I am going,’ he added slowly, looking far into the deep
wonder of her bright dark eyes, ‘abroad.’

‘Abroad, Martin!’

‘Only to America. See now. How you droop directly!’

‘If I do, or, I hope I may say, if I did,’ she answered, raising her
head after a short silence, and looking once more into his face, ‘it was
for grief to think of what you are resolved to undergo for me. I would
not venture to dissuade you, Martin; but it is a long, long distance;
there is a wide ocean to be crossed; illness and want are sad calamities
in any place, but in a foreign country dreadful to endure. Have you
thought of all this?’

‘Thought of it!’ cried Martin, abating, in his fondness--and he WAS very
fond of her--hardly an iota of his usual impetuosity. ‘What am I to do?
It’s very well to say, “Have I thought of it?” my love; but you should
ask me in the same breath, have I thought of starving at home; have I
thought of doing porter’s work for a living; have I thought of holding
horses in the streets to earn my roll of bread from day to day? Come,
come,’ he added, in a gentler tone, ‘do not hang down your head, my
dear, for I need the encouragement that your sweet face alone can give
me. Why, that’s well! Now you are brave again.’

‘I am endeavouring to be,’ she answered, smiling through her tears.

‘Endeavouring to be anything that’s good, and being it, is, with you,
all one. Don’t I know that of old?’ cried Martin, gayly. ‘So! That’s
famous! Now I can tell you all my plans as cheerfully as if you were my
little wife already, Mary.’

She hung more closely on his arm, and looking upwards in his face, bade
him speak on.

‘You see,’ said Martin, playing with the little hand upon his wrist,
‘that my attempts to advance myself at home have been baffled and
rendered abortive. I will not say by whom, Mary, for that would give
pain to us both. But so it is. Have you heard him speak of late of any
relative of mine or his, called Pecksniff? Only tell me what I ask you,
no more.’

‘I have heard, to my surprise, that he is a better man than was
supposed.’

‘I thought so,’ interrupted Martin.

‘And that it is likely we may come to know him, if not to visit and
reside with him and--I think--his daughters. He HAS daughters, has he,
love?’

‘A pair of them,’ Martin answered. ‘A precious pair! Gems of the first
water!’

‘Ah! You are jesting!’

‘There is a sort of jesting which is very much in earnest, and includes
some pretty serious disgust,’ said Martin. ‘I jest in reference to Mr
Pecksniff (at whose house I have been living as his assistant, and at
whose hands I have received insult and injury), in that vein. Whatever
betides, or however closely you may be brought into communication with
this family, never forget that, Mary; and never for an instant,
whatever appearances may seem to contradict me, lose sight of this
assurance--Pecksniff is a scoundrel.’

‘Indeed!’

‘In thought, and in deed, and in everything else. A scoundrel from the
topmost hair of his head, to the nethermost atom of his heel. Of his
daughters I will only say that, to the best of my knowledge and belief,
they are dutiful young ladies, and take after their father closely. This
is a digression from the main point, and yet it brings me to what I was
going to say.’

He stopped to look into her eyes again, and seeing, in a hasty glance
over his shoulder, that there was no one near, and that Mark was still
intent upon the fog, not only looked at her lips, too, but kissed them
into the bargain.

‘Now I am going to America, with great prospects of doing well, and of
returning home myself very soon; it may be to take you there for a few
years, but, at all events, to claim you for my wife; which, after such
trials, I should do with no fear of your still thinking it a duty to
cleave to him who will not suffer me to live (for this is true), if he
can help it, in my own land. How long I may be absent is, of course,
uncertain; but it shall not be very long. Trust me for that.’

‘In the meantime, dear Martin--’

‘That’s the very thing I am coming to. In the meantime you shall hear,
constantly, of all my goings-on. Thus.’

He paused to take from his pocket the letter he had written overnight,
and then resumed:

‘In this fellow’s employment, and living in this fellow’s house (by
fellow, I mean Mr Pecksniff, of course), there is a certain person of
the name of Pinch. Don’t forget; a poor, strange, simple oddity, Mary;
but thoroughly honest and sincere; full of zeal; and with a cordial
regard for me. Which I mean to return one of these days, by setting him
up in life in some way or other.’

‘Your old kind nature, Martin!’

‘Oh!’ said Martin, ‘that’s not worth speaking of, my love. He’s very
grateful and desirous to serve me; and I am more than repaid. Now one
night I told this Pinch my history, and all about myself and you; in
which he was not a little interested, I can tell you, for he knows you!
Aye, you may look surprised--and the longer the better for it becomes
you--but you have heard him play the organ in the church of that village
before now; and he has seen you listening to his music; and has caught
his inspiration from you, too!’

‘Was HE the organist?’ cried Mary. ‘I thank him from my heart!’

‘Yes, he was,’ said Martin, ‘and is, and gets nothing for it either.
There never was such a simple fellow! Quite an infant! But a very good
sort of creature, I assure you.’

‘I am sure of that,’ she said with great earnestness. ‘He must be!’

‘Oh, yes, no doubt at all about it,’ rejoined Martin, in his usual
careless way. ‘He is. Well! It has occurred to me--but stay. If I read
you what I have written and intend sending to him by post to-night
it will explain itself. “My dear Tom Pinch.” That’s rather familiar
perhaps,’ said Martin, suddenly remembering that he was proud when they
had last met, ‘but I call him my dear Tom Pinch because he likes it, and
it pleases him.’

‘Very right, and very kind,’ said Mary.

‘Exactly so!’ cried Martin. ‘It’s as well to be kind whenever one can;
and, as I said before, he really is an excellent fellow. “My dear Tom
Pinch--I address this under cover to Mrs Lupin, at the Blue Dragon,
and have begged her in a short note to deliver it to you without saying
anything about it elsewhere; and to do the same with all future letters
she may receive from me. My reason for so doing will be at once apparent
to you”--I don’t know that it will be, by the bye,’ said Martin,
breaking off, ‘for he’s slow of comprehension, poor fellow; but he’ll
find it out in time. My reason simply is, that I don’t want my letters
to be read by other people; and particularly by the scoundrel whom he
thinks an angel.’

‘Mr Pecksniff again?’ asked Mary.

‘The same,’ said Martin ‘--will be at once apparent to you. I have
completed my arrangements for going to America; and you will be
surprised to hear that I am to be accompanied by Mark Tapley, upon whom
I have stumbled strangely in London, and who insists on putting himself
under my protection’--meaning, my love,’ said Martin, breaking off
again, ‘our friend in the rear, of course.’

She was delighted to hear this, and bestowed a kind glance upon Mark,
which he brought his eyes down from the fog to encounter and received
with immense satisfaction. She said in his hearing, too, that he was a
good soul and a merry creature, and would be faithful, she was certain;
commendations which Mr Tapley inwardly resolved to deserve, from such
lips, if he died for it.

‘“Now, my dear Pinch,”’ resumed Martin, proceeding with his letter; ‘“I
am going to repose great trust in you, knowing that I may do so with
perfect reliance on your honour and secrecy, and having nobody else just
now to trust in.”’

‘I don’t think I would say that, Martin.’

‘Wouldn’t you? Well! I’ll take that out. It’s perfectly true, though.’

‘But it might seem ungracious, perhaps.’

‘Oh, I don’t mind Pinch,’ said Martin. ‘There’s no occasion to stand on
any ceremony with HIM. However, I’ll take it out, as you wish it, and
make the full stop at “secrecy.” Very well! “I shall not only”--this is
the letter again, you know.’

‘I understand.’

‘“I shall not only enclose my letters to the young lady of whom I have
told you, to your charge, to be forwarded as she may request; but I most
earnestly commit her, the young lady herself, to your care and regard,
in the event of your meeting in my absence. I have reason to think
that the probabilities of your encountering each other--perhaps very
frequently--are now neither remote nor few; and although in our position
you can do very little to lessen the uneasiness of hers, I trust to you
implicitly to do that much, and so deserve the confidence I have reposed
in you.” You see, my dear Mary,’ said Martin, ‘it will be a great
consolation to you to have anybody, no matter how simple, with whom you
can speak about ME; and the very first time you talk to Pinch, you’ll
feel at once that there is no more occasion for any embarrassment or
hesitation in talking to him, than if he were an old woman.’

‘However that may be,’ she returned, smiling, ‘he is your friend, and
that is enough.’

‘Oh, yes, he’s my friend,’ said Martin, ‘certainly. In fact, I have told
him in so many words that we’ll always take notice of him, and protect
him; and it’s a good trait in his character that he’s grateful--very
grateful indeed. You’ll like him of all things, my love, I know. You’ll
observe very much that’s comical and old-fashioned about Pinch, but you
needn’t mind laughing at him; for he’ll not care about it. He’ll rather
like it indeed!’

‘I don’t think I shall put that to the test, Martin.’

‘You won’t if you can help it, of course,’ he said, ‘but I think you’ll
find him a little too much for your gravity. However, that’s neither
here nor there, and it certainly is not the letter; which ends
thus: “Knowing that I need not impress the nature and extent of that
confidence upon you at any greater length, as it is already sufficiently
established in your mind, I will only say, in bidding you farewell and
looking forward to our next meeting, that I shall charge myself from
this time, through all changes for the better, with your advancement and
happiness, as if they were my own. You may rely upon that. And
always believe me, my dear Tom Pinch, faithfully your friend, Martin
Chuzzlewit. P.S.--I enclose the amount which you so kindly”--Oh,’ said
Martin, checking himself, and folding up the letter, ‘that’s nothing!’

At this crisis Mark Tapley interposed, with an apology for remarking
that the clock at the Horse Guards was striking.

‘Which I shouldn’t have said nothing about, sir,’ added Mark, ‘if the
young lady hadn’t begged me to be particular in mentioning it.’

‘I did,’ said Mary. ‘Thank you. You are quite right. In another minute
I shall be ready to return. We have time for a very few words more, dear
Martin, and although I had much to say, it must remain unsaid until the
happy time of our next meeting. Heaven send it may come speedily and
prosperously! But I have no fear of that.’

‘Fear!’ cried Martin. ‘Why, who has? What are a few months? What is a
whole year? When I come gayly back, with a road through life hewn out
before me, then indeed, looking back upon this parting, it may seem
a dismal one. But now! I swear I wouldn’t have it happen under more
favourable auspices, if I could; for then I should be less inclined to
go, and less impressed with the necessity.’

‘Yes, yes. I feel that too. When do you go?’

‘To-night. We leave for Liverpool to-night. A vessel sails from that
port, as I hear, in three days. In a month, or less, we shall be there.
Why, what’s a month! How many months have flown by, since our last
parting!’

‘Long to look back upon,’ said Mary, echoing his cheerful tone, ‘but
nothing in their course!’

‘Nothing at all!’ cried Martin. ‘I shall have change of scene and change
of place; change of people, change of manners, change of cares and
hopes! Time will wear wings indeed! I can bear anything, so that I have
swift action, Mary.’

Was he thinking solely of her care for him, when he took so little heed
of her share in the separation; of her quiet monotonous endurance,
and her slow anxiety from day to day? Was there nothing jarring and
discordant even in his tone of courage, with this one note ‘self’ for
ever audible, however high the strain? Not in her ears. It had been
better otherwise, perhaps, but so it was. She heard the same bold spirit
which had flung away as dross all gain and profit for her sake, making
light of peril and privation that she might be calm and happy; and she
heard no more. That heart where self has found no place and raised no
throne, is slow to recognize its ugly presence when it looks upon it.
As one possessed of an evil spirit was held in old time to be alone
conscious of the lurking demon in the breasts of other men, so kindred
vices know each other in their hiding-places every day, when Virtue is
incredulous and blind.

‘The quarter’s gone!’ cried Mr Tapley, in a voice of admonition.

‘I shall be ready to return immediately,’ she said. ‘One thing, dear
Martin, I am bound to tell you. You entreated me a few minutes since
only to answer what you asked me in reference to one theme, but you
should and must know (otherwise I could not be at ease) that since
that separation of which I was the unhappy occasion, he has never once
uttered your name; has never coupled it, or any faint allusion to it,
with passion or reproach; and has never abated in his kindness to me.’

‘I thank him for that last act,’ said Martin, ‘and for nothing else.
Though on consideration I may thank him for his other forbearance also,
inasmuch as I neither expect nor desire that he will mention my name
again. He may once, perhaps--to couple it with reproach--in his will.
Let him, if he please! By the time it reaches me, he will be in his
grave; a satire on his own anger, God help him!’

‘Martin! If you would but sometimes, in some quiet hour; beside the
winter fire; in the summer air; when you hear gentle music, or think of
Death, or Home, or Childhood; if you would at such a season resolve to
think, but once a month, or even once a year, of him, or any one who
ever wronged you, you would forgive him in your heart, I know!’

‘If I believed that to be true, Mary,’ he replied, ‘I would resolve at
no such time to bear him in my mind; wishing to spare myself the shame
of such a weakness. I was not born to be the toy and puppet of any man,
far less his; to whose pleasure and caprice, in return for any good he
did me, my whole youth was sacrificed. It became between us two a fair
exchange--a barter--and no more; and there is no such balance against
me that I need throw in a mawkish forgiveness to poise the scale. He has
forbidden all mention of me to you, I know,’ he added hastily. ‘Come!
Has he not?’

‘That was long ago,’ she returned; ‘immediately after your parting;
before you had left the house. He has never done so since.’

‘He has never done so since because he has seen no occasion,’ said
Martin; ‘but that is of little consequence, one way or other. Let all
allusion to him between you and me be interdicted from this time forth.
And therefore, love’--he drew her quickly to him, for the time of
parting had now come--‘in the first letter that you write to me through
the Post Office, addressed to New York; and in all the others that you
send through Pinch; remember he has no existence, but has become to us
as one who is dead. Now, God bless you! This is a strange place for such
a meeting and such a parting; but our next meeting shall be in a better,
and our next and last parting in a worse.’

‘One other question, Martin, I must ask. Have you provided money for
this journey?’

‘Have I?’ cried Martin; it might have been in his pride; it might have
been in his desire to set her mind at ease: ‘Have I provided money? Why,
there’s a question for an emigrant’s wife! How could I move on land or
sea without it, love?’

‘I mean, enough.’

‘Enough! More than enough. Twenty times more than enough. A pocket-full.
Mark and I, for all essential ends, are quite as rich as if we had the
purse of Fortunatus in our baggage.’

‘The half-hour’s a-going!’ cried Mr Tapley.

‘Good-bye a hundred times!’ cried Mary, in a trembling voice.

But how cold the comfort in Good-bye! Mark Tapley knew it perfectly.
Perhaps he knew it from his reading, perhaps from his experience,
perhaps from intuition. It is impossible to say; but however he knew
it, his knowledge instinctively suggested to him the wisest course of
proceeding that any man could have adopted under the circumstances. He
was taken with a violent fit of sneezing, and was obliged to turn his
head another way. In doing which, he, in a manner fenced and screened
the lovers into a corner by themselves.

There was a short pause, but Mark had an undefined sensation that it was
a satisfactory one in its way. Then Mary, with her veil lowered, passed
him with a quick step, and beckoned him to follow. She stopped once more
before they lost that corner; looked back; and waved her hand to Martin.
He made a start towards them at the moment as if he had some other
farewell words to say; but she only hurried off the faster, and Mr
Tapley followed as in duty bound.

When he rejoined Martin again in his own chamber, he found that
gentleman seated moodily before the dusty grate, with his two feet on
the fender, his two elbows on his knees, and his chin supported, in a
not very ornamental manner, on the palms of his hands.

‘Well, Mark!’

‘Well, sir,’ said Mark, taking a long breath, ‘I see the young lady safe
home, and I feel pretty comfortable after it. She sent a lot of kind
words, sir, and this,’ handing him a ring, ‘for a parting keepsake.’

‘Diamonds!’ said Martin, kissing it--let us do him justice, it was for
her sake; not for theirs--and putting it on his little finger. ‘Splendid
diamonds! My grandfather is a singular character, Mark. He must have
given her this now.’

Mark Tapley knew as well that she had bought it, to the end that that
unconscious speaker might carry some article of sterling value with him
in his necessity; as he knew that it was day, and not night. Though he
had no more acquaintance of his own knowledge with the history of the
glittering trinket on Martin’s outspread finger, than Martin himself
had, he was as certain that in its purchase she had expended her whole
stock of hoarded money, as if he had seen it paid down coin by coin. Her
lover’s strange obtuseness in relation to this little incident, promptly
suggested to Mark’s mind its real cause and root; and from that moment
he had a clear and perfect insight into the one absorbing principle of
Martin’s character.

‘She is worthy of the sacrifices I have made,’ said Martin, folding his
arms, and looking at the ashes in the stove, as if in resumption of some
former thoughts. ‘Well worthy of them. No riches’--here he stroked his
chin and mused--‘could have compensated for the loss of such a nature.
Not to mention that in gaining her affection I have followed the bent
of my own wishes, and baulked the selfish schemes of others who had
no right to form them. She is quite worthy--more than worthy--of the
sacrifices I have made. Yes, she is. No doubt of it.’

These ruminations might or might not have reached Mark Tapley; for
though they were by no means addressed to him, yet they were softly
uttered. In any case, he stood there, watching Martin with an
indescribable and most involved expression on his visage, until that
young man roused himself and looked towards him; when he turned away,
as being suddenly intent upon certain preparations for the journey,
and, without giving vent to any articulate sound, smiled with surpassing
ghastliness, and seemed by a twist of his features and a motion of his
lips, to release himself of this word:

‘Jolly!’



CHAPTER FIFTEEN

THE BURDEN WHEREOF, IS HAIL COLUMBIA!


A dark and dreary night; people nestling in their beds or circling
late about the fire; Want, colder than Charity, shivering at the street
corners; church-towers humming with the faint vibration of their own
tongues, but newly resting from the ghostly preachment ‘One!’ The earth
covered with a sable pall as for the burial of yesterday; the clumps of
dark trees, its giant plumes of funeral feathers, waving sadly to and
fro: all hushed, all noiseless, and in deep repose, save the swift
clouds that skim across the moon, and the cautious wind, as, creeping
after them upon the ground, it stops to listen, and goes rustling on,
and stops again, and follows, like a savage on the trail.

Whither go the clouds and wind so eagerly? If, like guilty spirits, they
repair to some dread conference with powers like themselves, in what
wild regions do the elements hold council, or where unbend in terrible
disport?

Here! Free from that cramped prison called the earth, and out upon the
waste of waters. Here, roaring, raging, shrieking, howling, all night
long. Hither come the sounding voices from the caverns on the coast of
that small island, sleeping, a thousand miles away, so quietly in the
midst of angry waves; and hither, to meet them, rush the blasts from
unknown desert places of the world. Here, in the fury of their unchecked
liberty, they storm and buffet with each other, until the sea, lashed
into passion like their own, leaps up, in ravings mightier than theirs,
and the whole scene is madness.

On, on, on, over the countless miles of angry space roll the long
heaving billows. Mountains and caves are here, and yet are not; for
what is now the one, is now the other; then all is but a boiling heap of
rushing water. Pursuit, and flight, and mad return of wave on wave, and
savage struggle, ending in a spouting-up of foam that whitens the
black night; incessant change of place, and form, and hue; constancy in
nothing, but eternal strife; on, on, on, they roll, and darker grows the
night, and louder howls the wind, and more clamorous and fierce become
the million voices in the sea, when the wild cry goes forth upon the
storm ‘A ship!’

Onward she comes, in gallant combat with the elements, her tall masts
trembling, and her timbers starting on the strain; onward she comes, now
high upon the curling billows, now low down in the hollows of the sea,
as hiding for the moment from its fury; and every storm-voice in the air
and water cries more loudly yet, ‘A ship!’

Still she comes striving on; and at her boldness and the spreading cry,
the angry waves rise up above each other’s hoary heads to look; and
round about the vessel, far as the mariners on the decks can pierce into
the gloom, they press upon her, forcing each other down and starting up,
and rushing forward from afar, in dreadful curiosity. High over her
they break; and round her surge and roar; and giving place to others,
moaningly depart, and dash themselves to fragments in their baffled
anger. Still she comes onward bravely. And though the eager multitude
crowd thick and fast upon her all the night, and dawn of day discovers
the untiring train yet bearing down upon the ship in an eternity of
troubled water, onward she comes, with dim lights burning in her hull,
and people there, asleep; as if no deadly element were peering in at
every seam and chink, and no drowned seaman’s grave, with but a plank to
cover it, were yawning in the unfathomable depths below.

Among these sleeping voyagers were Martin and Mark Tapley, who, rocked
into a heavy drowsiness by the unaccustomed motion, were as insensible
to the foul air in which they lay, as to the uproar without. It was
broad day when the latter awoke with a dim idea that he was dreaming
of having gone to sleep in a four-post bedstead which had turned bottom
upwards in the course of the night. There was more reason in this too,
than in the roasting of eggs; for the first objects Mr Tapley recognized
when he opened his eyes were his own heels--looking down to him, as he
afterwards observed, from a nearly perpendicular elevation.

‘Well!’ said Mark, getting himself into a sitting posture, after various
ineffectual struggles with the rolling of the ship. ‘This is the first
time as ever I stood on my head all night.’

‘You shouldn’t go to sleep upon the ground with your head to leeward
then,’ growled a man in one of the berths.

‘With my head to WHERE?’ asked Mark.

The man repeated his previous sentiment.

‘No, I won’t another time,’ said Mark, ‘when I know whereabouts on the
map that country is. In the meanwhile I can give you a better piece of
advice. Don’t you nor any other friend of mine never go to sleep with
his head in a ship any more.’

The man gave a grunt of discontented acquiescence, turned over in his
berth, and drew his blanket over his head.

‘--For,’ said Mr Tapley, pursuing the theme by way of soliloquy in a low
tone of voice; ‘the sea is as nonsensical a thing as any going. It never
knows what to do with itself. It hasn’t got no employment for its
mind, and is always in a state of vacancy. Like them Polar bears in the
wild-beast shows as is constantly a-nodding their heads from side to
side, it never CAN be quiet. Which is entirely owing to its uncommon
stupidity.’

‘Is that you, Mark?’ asked a faint voice from another berth.

‘It’s as much of me as is left, sir, after a fortnight of this work,’
Mr Tapley replied, ‘What with leading the life of a fly, ever since I’ve
been aboard--for I’ve been perpetually holding-on to something or other
in a upside-down position--what with that, sir, and putting a very
little into myself, and taking a good deal out of myself, there an’t too
much of me to swear by. How do you find yourself this morning, sir?’

‘Very miserable,’ said Martin, with a peevish groan. ‘Ugh. This is
wretched, indeed!’

‘Creditable,’ muttered Mark, pressing one hand upon his aching head and
looking round him with a rueful grin. ‘That’s the great comfort. It IS
creditable to keep up one’s spirits here. Virtue’s its own reward. So’s
jollity.’

Mark was so far right that unquestionably any man who retained his
cheerfulness among the steerage accommodations of that noble and
fast-sailing line-of-packet ship, ‘THE SCREW,’ was solely indebted to
his own resources, and shipped his good humour, like his provisions,
without any contribution or assistance from the owners. A dark, low,
stifling cabin, surrounded by berths all filled to overflowing with men,
women, and children, in various stages of sickness and misery, is not
the liveliest place of assembly at any time; but when it is so crowded
(as the steerage cabin of the Screw was, every passage out), that
mattresses and beds are heaped upon the floor, to the extinction of
everything like comfort, cleanliness, and decency, it is liable to
operate not only as a pretty strong banner against amiability of temper,
but as a positive encourager of selfish and rough humours. Mark felt
this, as he sat looking about him; and his spirits rose proportionately.

There were English people, Irish people, Welsh people, and Scotch people
there; all with their little store of coarse food and shabby clothes;
and nearly all with their families of children. There were children of
all ages; from the baby at the breast, to the slattern-girl who was as
much a grown woman as her mother. Every kind of domestic suffering that
is bred in poverty, illness, banishment, sorrow, and long travel in bad
weather, was crammed into the little space; and yet was there infinitely
less of complaint and querulousness, and infinitely more of mutual
assistance and general kindness to be found in that unwholesome ark,
than in many brilliant ballrooms.

Mark looked about him wistfully, and his face brightened as he looked.
Here an old grandmother was crooning over a sick child, and rocking it
to and fro, in arms hardly more wasted than its own young limbs; here a
poor woman with an infant in her lap, mended another little creature’s
clothes, and quieted another who was creeping up about her from their
scanty bed upon the floor. Here were old men awkwardly engaged in little
household offices, wherein they would have been ridiculous but for their
good-will and kind purpose; and here were swarthy fellows--giants in
their way--doing such little acts of tenderness for those about them,
as might have belonged to gentlest-hearted dwarfs. The very idiot in
the corner who sat mowing there, all day, had his faculty of imitation
roused by what he saw about him; and snapped his fingers to amuse a
crying child.

‘Now, then,’ said Mark, nodding to a woman who was dressing her three
children at no great distance from him--and the grin upon his face had
by this time spread from ear to ear--‘Hand over one of them young ‘uns
according to custom.’

‘I wish you’d get breakfast, Mark, instead of worrying with people who
don’t belong to you,’ observed Martin, petulantly.

‘All right,’ said Mark. ‘SHE’ll do that. It’s a fair division of labour,
sir. I wash her boys, and she makes our tea. I never COULD make tea, but
any one can wash a boy.’

The woman, who was delicate and ill, felt and understood his kindness,
as well she might, for she had been covered every night with his
greatcoat, while he had for his own bed the bare boards and a rug. But
Martin, who seldom got up or looked about him, was quite incensed by the
folly of this speech, and expressed his dissatisfaction by an impatient
groan.

‘So it is, certainly,’ said Mark, brushing the child’s hair as coolly as
if he had been born and bred a barber.

‘What are you talking about, now?’ asked Martin.

‘What you said,’ replied Mark; ‘or what you meant, when you gave that
there dismal vent to your feelings. I quite go along with it, sir. It IS
very hard upon her.’

‘What is?’

‘Making the voyage by herself along with these young impediments here,
and going such a way at such a time of the year to join her husband.
If you don’t want to be driven mad with yellow soap in your eye, young
man,’ said Mr Tapley to the second urchin, who was by this time under
his hands at the basin, ‘you’d better shut it.’

‘Where does she join her husband?’ asked Martin, yawning.

‘Why, I’m very much afraid,’ said Mr Tapley, in a low voice, ‘that she
don’t know. I hope she mayn’t miss him. But she sent her last letter by
hand, and it don’t seem to have been very clearly understood between ‘em
without it, and if she don’t see him a-waving his pocket-handkerchief on
the shore, like a pictur out of a song-book, my opinion is, she’ll break
her heart.’

‘Why, how, in Folly’s name, does the woman come to be on board ship on
such a wild-goose venture!’ cried Martin.

Mr Tapley glanced at him for a moment as he lay prostrate in his berth,
and then said, very quietly:

‘Ah! How indeed! I can’t think! He’s been away from her for two year;
she’s been very poor and lonely in her own country; and has always been
a-looking forward to meeting him. It’s very strange she should be here.
Quite amazing! A little mad perhaps! There can’t be no other way of
accounting for it.’

Martin was too far gone in the lassitude of sea-sickness to make any
reply to these words, or even to attend to them as they were spoken. And
the subject of their discourse returning at this crisis with some hot
tea, effectually put a stop to any resumption of the theme by Mr Tapley;
who, when the meal was over and he had adjusted Martin’s bed, went up on
deck to wash the breakfast service, which consisted of two half-pint tin
mugs, and a shaving-pot of the same metal.

It is due to Mark Tapley to state that he suffered at least as much from
sea-sickness as any man, woman, or child, on board; and that he had a
peculiar faculty of knocking himself about on the smallest provocation,
and losing his legs at every lurch of the ship. But resolved, in his
usual phrase, to ‘come out strong’ under disadvantageous circumstances,
he was the life and soul of the steerage, and made no more of stopping
in the middle of a facetious conversation to go away and be excessively
ill by himself, and afterwards come back in the very best and gayest of
tempers to resume it, than if such a course of proceeding had been the
commonest in the world.

It cannot be said that as his illness wore off, his cheerfulness and
good nature increased, because they would hardly admit of augmentation;
but his usefulness among the weaker members of the party was much
enlarged; and at all times and seasons there he was exerting it. If
a gleam of sun shone out of the dark sky, down Mark tumbled into the
cabin, and presently up he came again with a woman in his arms, or
half-a-dozen children, or a man, or a bed, or a saucepan, or a basket,
or something animate or inanimate, that he thought would be the better
for the air. If an hour or two of fine weather in the middle of the day
tempted those who seldom or never came on deck at other times to crawl
into the long-boat, or lie down upon the spare spars, and try to eat,
there, in the centre of the group, was Mr Tapley, handing about salt
beef and biscuit, or dispensing tastes of grog, or cutting up the
children’s provisions with his pocketknife, for their greater ease and
comfort, or reading aloud from a venerable newspaper, or singing some
roaring old song to a select party, or writing the beginnings of letters
to their friends at home for people who couldn’t write, or cracking
jokes with the crew, or nearly getting blown over the side, or emerging,
half-drowned, from a shower of spray, or lending a hand somewhere or
other; but always doing something for the general entertainment. At
night, when the cooking-fire was lighted on the deck, and the driving
sparks that flew among the rigging, and the clouds of sails, seemed to
menace the ship with certain annihilation by fire, in case the elements
of air and water failed to compass her destruction; there, again, was Mr
Tapley, with his coat off and his shirt-sleeves turned up to his elbows,
doing all kinds of culinary offices; compounding the strangest dishes;
recognized by every one as an established authority; and helping all
parties to achieve something which, left to themselves, they never could
have done, and never would have dreamed of. In short, there never was a
more popular character than Mark Tapley became, on board that noble and
fast-sailing line-of-packet ship, the Screw; and he attained at last to
such a pitch of universal admiration, that he began to have grave doubts
within himself whether a man might reasonably claim any credit for being
jolly under such exciting circumstances.

‘If this was going to last,’ said Tapley, ‘there’d be no great
difference as I can perceive, between the Screw and the Dragon. I
never am to get credit, I think. I begin to be afraid that the Fates is
determined to make the world easy to me.’

‘Well, Mark,’ said Martin, near whose berth he had ruminated to this
effect. ‘When will this be over?’

‘Another week, they say, sir,’ returned Mark, ‘will most likely bring
us into port. The ship’s a-going along at present, as sensible as a ship
can, sir; though I don’t mean to say as that’s any very high praise.’

‘I don’t think it is, indeed,’ groaned Martin.

‘You’d feel all the better for it, sir, if you was to turn out,’
observed Mark.

‘And be seen by the ladies and gentlemen on the after-deck,’ returned
Martin, with a scronful emphasis upon the words, ‘mingling with the
beggarly crowd that are stowed away in this vile hole. I should be
greatly the better for that, no doubt.’

‘I’m thankful that I can’t say from my own experience what the feelings
of a gentleman may be,’ said Mark, ‘but I should have thought, sir, as a
gentleman would feel a deal more uncomfortable down here than up in the
fresh air, especially when the ladies and gentlemen in the after-cabin
know just as much about him as he does about them, and are likely to
trouble their heads about him in the same proportion. I should have
thought that, certainly.’

‘I tell you, then,’ rejoined Martin, ‘you would have thought wrong, and
do think wrong.’

‘Very likely, sir,’ said Mark, with imperturbable good temper. ‘I often
do.’

‘As to lying here,’ cried Martin, raising himself on his elbow, and
looking angrily at his follower. ‘Do you suppose it’s a pleasure to lie
here?’

‘All the madhouses in the world,’ said Mr Tapley, ‘couldn’t produce such
a maniac as the man must be who could think that.’

‘Then why are you forever goading and urging me to get up?’ asked
Martin, ‘I lie here because I don’t wish to be recognized, in the better
days to which I aspire, by any purse-proud citizen, as the man who came
over with him among the steerage passengers. I lie here because I wish
to conceal my circumstances and myself, and not to arrive in a new world
badged and ticketed as an utterly poverty-stricken man. If I could have
afforded a passage in the after-cabin I should have held up my head with
the rest. As I couldn’t I hide it. Do you understand that?’

‘I am very sorry, sir,’ said Mark. ‘I didn’t know you took it so much to
heart as this comes to.’

‘Of course you didn’t know,’ returned his master. ‘How should you
know, unless I told you? It’s no trial to you, Mark, to make yourself
comfortable and to bustle about. It’s as natural for you to do so under
the circumstances as it is for me not to do so. Why, you don’t suppose
there is a living creature in this ship who can by possibility have half
so much to undergo on board of her as I have? Do you?’ he asked, sitting
upright in his berth and looking at Mark, with an expression of great
earnestness not unmixed with wonder.

Mark twisted his face into a tight knot, and with his head very much
on one side, pondered upon this question as if he felt it an extremely
difficult one to answer. He was relieved from his embarrassment by
Martin himself, who said, as he stretched himself upon his back again
and resumed the book he had been reading:

‘But what is the use of my putting such a case to you, when the very
essence of what I have been saying is, that you cannot by possibility
understand it! Make me a little brandy-and-water--cold and very
weak--and give me a biscuit, and tell your friend, who is a nearer
neighbour of ours than I could wish, to try and keep her children a
little quieter to-night than she did last night; that’s a good fellow.’

Mr Tapley set himself to obey these orders with great alacrity, and
pending their execution, it may be presumed his flagging spirits
revived; inasmuch as he several times observed, below his breath, that
in respect of its power of imparting a credit to jollity, the Screw
unquestionably had some decided advantages over the Dragon. He also
remarked that it was a high gratification to him to reflect that he
would carry its main excellence ashore with him, and have it constantly
beside him wherever he went; but what he meant by these consolatory
thoughts he did not explain.

And now a general excitement began to prevail on board; and various
predictions relative to the precise day, and even the precise hour
at which they would reach New York, were freely broached. There was
infinitely more crowding on deck and looking over the ship’s side than
there had been before; and an epidemic broke out for packing up things
every morning, which required unpacking again every night. Those who had
any letters to deliver, or any friends to meet, or any settled plans of
going anywhere or doing anything, discussed their prospects a hundred
times a day; and as this class of passengers was very small, and the
number of those who had no prospects whatever was very large, there were
plenty of listeners and few talkers. Those who had been ill all along,
got well now, and those who had been well, got better. An American
gentleman in the after-cabin, who had been wrapped up in fur and oilskin
the whole passage, unexpectedly appeared in a very shiny, tall, black
hat, and constantly overhauled a very little valise of pale leather,
which contained his clothes, linen, brushes, shaving apparatus, books,
trinkets, and other baggage. He likewise stuck his hands deep into
his pockets, and walked the deck with his nostrils dilated, as already
inhaling the air of Freedom which carries death to all tyrants, and can
never (under any circumstances worth mentioning) be breathed by slaves.
An English gentleman who was strongly suspected of having run away from
a bank, with something in his possession belonging to its strong box
besides the key, grew eloquent upon the subject of the rights of man,
and hummed the Marseillaise Hymn constantly. In a word, one great
sensation pervaded the whole ship, and the soil of America lay close
before them; so close at last, that, upon a certain starlight night they
took a pilot on board, and within a few hours afterwards lay to until
the morning, awaiting the arrival of a steamboat in which the passengers
were to be conveyed ashore.

Off she came, soon after it was light next morning, and lying alongside
an hour or more--during which period her very firemen were objects of
hardly less interest and curiosity than if they had been so many angels,
good or bad--took all her living freight aboard. Among them Mark, who
still had his friend and her three children under his close protection;
and Martin, who had once more dressed himself in his usual attire, but
wore a soiled, old cloak above his ordinary clothes, until such time as
he should separate for ever from his late companions.

The steamer--which, with its machinery on deck, looked, as it worked its
long slim legs, like some enormously magnified insect or antediluvian
monster--dashed at great speed up a beautiful bay; and presently they
saw some heights, and islands, and a long, flat, straggling city.

‘And this,’ said Mr Tapley, looking far ahead, ‘is the Land of Liberty,
is it? Very well. I’m agreeable. Any land will do for me, after so much
water!’



CHAPTER SIXTEEN

MARTIN DISEMBARKS FROM THAT NOBLE AND FAST-SAILING LINE-OF-PACKET SHIP,
‘THE SCREW’, AT THE PORT OF NEW YORK, IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
HE MAKES SOME ACQUAINTANCES, AND DINES AT A BOARDING-HOUSE. THE
PARTICULARS OF THOSE TRANSACTIONS


Some trifling excitement prevailed upon the very brink and margin of the
land of liberty; for an alderman had been elected the day before;
and Party Feeling naturally running rather high on such an exciting
occasion, the friends of the disappointed candidate had found it
necessary to assert the great principles of Purity of Election and
Freedom of opinion by breaking a few legs and arms, and furthermore
pursuing one obnoxious gentleman through the streets with the design of
hitting his nose. These good-humoured little outbursts of the popular
fancy were not in themselves sufficiently remarkable to create any great
stir, after the lapse of a whole night; but they found fresh life and
notoriety in the breath of the newsboys, who not only proclaimed them
with shrill yells in all the highways and byways of the town, upon the
wharves and among the shipping, but on the deck and down in the cabins
of the steamboat; which, before she touched the shore, was boarded and
overrun by a legion of those young citizens.

‘Here’s this morning’s New York Sewer!’ cried one. ‘Here’s this
morning’s New York Stabber! Here’s the New York Family Spy! Here’s the
New York Private Listener! Here’s the New York Peeper! Here’s the New
York Plunderer! Here’s the New York Keyhole Reporter! Here’s the
New York Rowdy Journal! Here’s all the New York papers! Here’s full
particulars of the patriotic locofoco movement yesterday, in which
the whigs was so chawed up; and the last Alabama gouging case; and the
interesting Arkansas dooel with Bowie knives; and all the Political,
Commercial, and Fashionable News. Here they are! Here they are! Here’s
the papers, here’s the papers!’

‘Here’s the Sewer!’ cried another. ‘Here’s the New York Sewer! Here’s
some of the twelfth thousand of to-day’s Sewer, with the best accounts
of the markets, and all the shipping news, and four whole columns of
country correspondence, and a full account of the Ball at Mrs White’s
last night, where all the beauty and fashion of New York was assembled;
with the Sewer’s own particulars of the private lives of all the ladies
that was there! Here’s the Sewer! Here’s some of the twelfth thousand of
the New York Sewer! Here’s the Sewer’s exposure of the Wall Street
Gang, and the Sewer’s exposure of the Washington Gang, and the Sewer’s
exclusive account of a flagrant act of dishonesty committed by the
Secretary of State when he was eight years old; now communicated, at a
great expense, by his own nurse. Here’s the Sewer! Here’s the New York
Sewer, in its twelfth thousand, with a whole column of New Yorkers to be
shown up, and all their names printed! Here’s the Sewer’s article
upon the Judge that tried him, day afore yesterday, for libel, and the
Sewer’s tribute to the independent Jury that didn’t convict him, and the
Sewer’s account of what they might have expected if they had! Here’s
the Sewer, here’s the Sewer! Here’s the wide-awake Sewer; always on the
lookout; the leading Journal of the United States, now in its twelfth
thousand, and still a-printing off:--Here’s the New York Sewer!’

‘It is in such enlightened means,’ said a voice almost in Martin’s ear,
‘that the bubbling passions of my country find a vent.’

Martin turned involuntarily, and saw, standing close at his side, a
sallow gentleman, with sunken cheeks, black hair, small twinkling eyes,
and a singular expression hovering about that region of his face, which
was not a frown, nor a leer, and yet might have been mistaken at the
first glance for either. Indeed it would have been difficult, on a much
closer acquaintance, to describe it in any more satisfactory terms than
as a mixed expression of vulgar cunning and conceit. This gentleman wore
a rather broad-brimmed hat for the greater wisdom of his appearance; and
had his arms folded for the greater impressiveness of his attitude. He
was somewhat shabbily dressed in a blue surtout reaching nearly to
his ankles, short loose trousers of the same colour, and a faded buff
waistcoat, through which a discoloured shirt-frill struggled to force
itself into notice, as asserting an equality of civil rights with
the other portions of his dress, and maintaining a declaration of
Independence on its own account. His feet, which were of unusually
large proportions, were leisurely crossed before him as he half leaned
against, half sat upon, the steamboat’s bulwark; and his thick cane,
shod with a mighty ferule at one end and armed with a great metal
knob at the other, depended from a line-and-tassel on his wrist. Thus
attired, and thus composed into an aspect of great profundity, the
gentleman twitched up the right-hand corner of his mouth and his right
eye simultaneously, and said, once more:

‘It is in such enlightened means that the bubbling passions of my
country find a vent.’

As he looked at Martin, and nobody else was by, Martin inclined his
head, and said:

‘You allude to--?’

‘To the Palladium of rational Liberty at home, sir, and the dread of
Foreign oppression abroad,’ returned the gentleman, as he pointed with
his cane to an uncommonly dirty newsboy with one eye. ‘To the Envy of
the world, sir, and the leaders of Human Civilization. Let me ask you
sir,’ he added, bringing the ferule of his stick heavily upon the deck
with the air of a man who must not be equivocated with, ‘how do you like
my Country?’

‘I am hardly prepared to answer that question yet,’ said Martin ‘seeing
that I have not been ashore.’

‘Well, I should expect you were not prepared, sir,’ said the gentleman,
‘to behold such signs of National Prosperity as those?’

He pointed to the vessels lying at the wharves; and then gave a vague
flourish with his stick, as if he would include the air and water,
generally, in this remark.

‘Really,’ said Martin, ‘I don’t know. Yes. I think I was.’

The gentleman glanced at him with a knowing look, and said he liked his
policy. It was natural, he said, and it pleased him as a philosopher to
observe the prejudices of human nature.

‘You have brought, I see, sir,’ he said, turning round towards Martin,
and resting his chin on the top of his stick, ‘the usual amount of
misery and poverty and ignorance and crime, to be located in the bosom
of the great Republic. Well, sir! let ‘em come on in shiploads from the
old country. When vessels are about to founder, the rats are said to
leave ‘em. There is considerable of truth, I find, in that remark.’

‘The old ship will keep afloat a year or two longer yet, perhaps,’ said
Martin with a smile, partly occasioned by what the gentleman said,
and partly by his manner of saying it, which was odd enough for he
emphasised all the small words and syllables in his discourse, and left
the others to take care of themselves; as if he thought the larger parts
of speech could be trusted alone, but the little ones required to be
constantly looked after.

‘Hope is said by the poet, sir,’ observed the gentleman, ‘to be the
nurse of young Desire.’

Martin signified that he had heard of the cardinal virtue in question
serving occasionally in that domestic capacity.

‘She will not rear her infant in the present instance, sir, you’ll
find,’ observed the gentleman.

‘Time will show,’ said Martin.

The gentleman nodded his head gravely; and said, ‘What is your name,
sir?’

Martin told him.

‘How old are you, sir?’

Martin told him.

‘What is your profession, sir?’

Martin told him that also.

‘What is your destination, sir?’ inquired the gentleman.

‘Really,’ said Martin laughing, ‘I can’t satisfy you in that particular,
for I don’t know it myself.’

‘Yes?’ said the gentleman.

‘No,’ said Martin.

The gentleman adjusted his cane under his left arm, and took a more
deliberate and complete survey of Martin than he had yet had leisure to
make. When he had completed his inspection, he put out his right hand,
shook Martin’s hand, and said:

‘My name is Colonel Diver, sir. I am the Editor of the New York Rowdy
Journal.’

Martin received the communication with that degree of respect which an
announcement so distinguished appeared to demand.

‘The New York Rowdy Journal, sir,’ resumed the colonel, ‘is, as I expect
you know, the organ of our aristocracy in this city.’

‘Oh! there IS an aristocracy here, then?’ said Martin. ‘Of what is it
composed?’

‘Of intelligence, sir,’ replied the colonel; ‘of intelligence and
virtue. And of their necessary consequence in this republic--dollars,
sir.’

Martin was very glad to hear this, feeling well assured that if
intelligence and virtue led, as a matter of course, to the acquisition
of dollars, he would speedily become a great capitalist. He was about
to express the gratification such news afforded him, when he was
interrupted by the captain of the ship, who came up at the moment to
shake hands with the colonel; and who, seeing a well-dressed stranger on
the deck (for Martin had thrown aside his cloak), shook hands with him
also. This was an unspeakable relief to Martin, who, in spite of the
acknowledged supremacy of Intelligence and virtue in that happy country,
would have been deeply mortified to appear before Colonel Diver in the
poor character of a steerage passenger.

‘Well cap’en!’ said the colonel.

‘Well colonel,’ cried the captain. ‘You’re looking most uncommon bright,
sir. I can hardly realise its being you, and that’s a fact.’

‘A good passage, cap’en?’ inquired the colonel, taking him aside,

‘Well now! It was a pretty spanking run, sir,’ said, or rather sung, the
captain, who was a genuine New Englander; ‘considerin’ the weather.’

‘Yes?’ said the colonel.

‘Well! It was, sir,’ said the captain. ‘I’ve just now sent a boy up to
your office with the passenger-list, colonel.’

‘You haven’t got another boy to spare, p’raps, cap’en?’ said the
colonel, in a tone almost amounting to severity.

‘I guess there air a dozen if you want ‘em, colonel,’ said the captain.

‘One moderate big ‘un could convey a dozen champagne, perhaps,’ observed
the colonel, musing, ‘to my office. You said a spanking run, I think?’

‘Well, so I did,’ was the reply.

‘It’s very nigh, you know,’ observed the colonel. ‘I’m glad it was a
spanking run, cap’en. Don’t mind about quarts if you’re short of ‘em.
The boy can as well bring four-and-twenty pints, and travel twice as
once.--A first-rate spanker, cap’en, was it? Yes?’

‘A most e--tarnal spanker,’ said the skipper.

‘I admire at your good fortun, cap’en. You might loan me a corkscrew at
the same time, and half-a-dozen glasses if you liked. However bad the
elements combine against my country’s noble packet-ship, the Screw,
sir,’ said the colonel, turning to Martin, and drawing a flourish on
the surface of the deck with his cane, ‘her passage either way is almost
certain to eventuate a spanker!’

The captain, who had the Sewer below at that moment, lunching
expensively in one cabin, while the amiable Stabber was drinking himself
into a state of blind madness in another, took a cordial leave of his
friend the colonel, and hurried away to dispatch the champagne; well
knowing (as it afterwards appeared) that if he failed to conciliate the
editor of the Rowdy Journal, that potentate would denounce him and his
ship in large capitals before he was a day older; and would probably
assault the memory of his mother also, who had not been dead more than
twenty years. The colonel being again left alone with Martin, checked
him as he was moving away, and offered in consideration of his being an
Englishman, to show him the town and to introduce him, if such were his
desire, to a genteel boarding-house. But before they entered on these
proceedings (he said), he would beseech the honour of his company at the
office of the Rowdy Journal, to partake of a bottle of champagne of his
own importation.

All this was so extremely kind and hospitable, that Martin, though it
was quite early in the morning, readily acquiesced. So, instructing
Mark, who was deeply engaged with his friend and her three children,
that when he had done assisting them, and had cleared the baggage,
he was to wait for further orders at the Rowdy Journal Office, Martin
accompanied his new friend on shore.

They made their way as they best could through the melancholy crowd of
emigrants upon the wharf, who, grouped about their beds and boxes, with
the bare ground below them and the bare sky above, might have fallen
from another planet, for anything they knew of the country; and walked
for some short distance along a busy street, bounded on one side by the
quays and shipping; and on the other by a long row of staring red-brick
storehouses and offices, ornamented with more black boards and white
letters, and more white boards and black letters, than Martin had ever
seen before, in fifty times the space. Presently they turned up a narrow
street, and presently into other narrow streets, until at last they
stopped before a house whereon was painted in great characters, ‘ROWDY
JOURNAL.’

The colonel, who had walked the whole way with one hand in his breast,
his head occasionally wagging from side to side, and his hat thrown back
upon his ears, like a man who was oppressed to inconvenience by a sense
of his own greatness, led the way up a dark and dirty flight of stairs
into a room of similar character, all littered and bestrewn with odds
and ends of newspapers and other crumpled fragments, both in proof and
manuscript. Behind a mangy old writing-table in this apartment sat a
figure with a stump of a pen in its mouth and a great pair of scissors
in its right hand, clipping and slicing at a file of Rowdy Journals;
and it was such a laughable figure that Martin had some difficulty in
preserving his gravity, though conscious of the close observation of
Colonel Diver.

The individual who sat clipping and slicing as aforesaid at the Rowdy
Journals, was a small young gentleman of very juvenile appearance, and
unwholesomely pale in the face; partly, perhaps, from intense thought,
but partly, there is no doubt, from the excessive use of tobacco, which
he was at that moment chewing vigorously. He wore his shirt-collar
turned down over a black ribbon; and his lank hair, a fragile crop, was
not only smoothed and parted back from his brow, that none of the Poetry
of his aspect might be lost, but had, here and there, been grubbed up by
the roots; which accounted for his loftiest developments being somewhat
pimply. He had that order of nose on which the envy of mankind has
bestowed the appellation ‘snub,’ and it was very much turned up at the
end, as with a lofty scorn. Upon the upper lip of this young gentleman
were tokens of a sandy down; so very, very smooth and scant, that,
though encouraged to the utmost, it looked more like a recent trace of
gingerbread than the fair promise of a moustache; and this conjecture,
his apparently tender age went far to strengthen. He was intent upon
his work. Every time he snapped the great pair of scissors, he made
a corresponding motion with his jaws, which gave him a very terrible
appearance.

Martin was not long in determining within himself that this must be
Colonel Diver’s son; the hope of the family, and future mainspring of
the Rowdy Journal. Indeed he had begun to say that he presumed this
was the colonel’s little boy, and that it was very pleasant to see
him playing at Editor in all the guilelessness of childhood, when the
colonel proudly interposed and said:

‘My War Correspondent, sir--Mr Jefferson Brick!’

Martin could not help starting at this unexpected announcement, and the
consciousness of the irretrievable mistake he had nearly made.

Mr Brick seemed pleased with the sensation he produced upon the
stranger, and shook hands with him, with an air of patronage designed
to reassure him, and to let him blow that there was no occasion to be
frightened, for he (Brick) wouldn’t hurt him.

‘You have heard of Jefferson Brick, I see, sir,’ quoth the colonel,
with a smile. ‘England has heard of Jefferson Brick. Europe has heard of
Jefferson Brick. Let me see. When did you leave England, sir?’

‘Five weeks ago,’ said Martin.

‘Five weeks ago,’ repeated the colonel, thoughtfully; as he took his
seat upon the table, and swung his legs. ‘Now let me ask you, sir which
of Mr Brick’s articles had become at that time the most obnoxious to the
British Parliament and the Court of Saint James’s?’

‘Upon my word,’ said Martin, ‘I--’

‘I have reason to know, sir,’ interrupted the colonel, ‘that the
aristocratic circles of your country quail before the name of Jefferson
Brick. I should like to be informed, sir, from your lips, which of his
sentiments has struck the deadliest blow--’

‘At the hundred heads of the Hydra of Corruption now grovelling in the
dust beneath the lance of Reason, and spouting up to the universal arch
above us, its sanguinary gore,’ said Mr Brick, putting on a little blue
cloth cap with a glazed front, and quoting his last article.

‘The libation of freedom, Brick’--hinted the colonel.

‘--Must sometimes be quaffed in blood, colonel,’ cried Brick. And when
he said ‘blood,’ he gave the great pair of scissors a sharp snap, as if
THEY said blood too, and were quite of his opinion.

This done, they both looked at Martin, pausing for a reply.

‘Upon my life,’ said Martin, who had by this time quite recovered his
usual coolness, ‘I can’t give you any satisfactory information about it;
for the truth is that I--’

‘Stop!’ cried the colonel, glancing sternly at his war correspondent and
giving his head one shake after every sentence. ‘That you never heard of
Jefferson Brick, sir. That you never read Jefferson Brick, sir. That
you never saw the Rowdy Journal, sir. That you never knew, sir, of its
mighty influence upon the cabinets of Europe. Yes?’

‘That’s what I was about to observe, certainly,’ said Martin.

‘Keep cool, Jefferson,’ said the colonel gravely. ‘Don’t bust! oh you
Europeans! After that, let’s have a glass of wine!’ So saying, he got
down from the table, and produced, from a basket outside the door, a
bottle of champagne, and three glasses.

‘Mr Jefferson Brick, sir,’ said the colonel, filling Martin’s glass
and his own, and pushing the bottle to that gentleman, ‘will give us a
sentiment.’

‘Well, sir!’ cried the war correspondent, ‘Since you have concluded to
call upon me, I will respond. I will give you, sir, The Rowdy Journal
and its brethren; the well of Truth, whose waters are black from being
composed of printers’ ink, but are quite clear enough for my country to
behold the shadow of her Destiny reflected in.’

‘Hear, hear!’ cried the colonel, with great complacency. ‘There are
flowery components, sir, in the language of my friend?’

‘Very much so, indeed,’ said Martin.

‘There is to-day’s Rowdy, sir,’ observed the colonel, handing him a
paper. ‘You’ll find Jefferson Brick at his usual post in the van of
human civilization and moral purity.’

The colonel was by this time seated on the table again. Mr Brick also
took up a position on that same piece of furniture; and they fell to
drinking pretty hard. They often looked at Martin as he read the paper,
and then at each other. When he laid it down, which was not until they
had finished a second bottle, the colonel asked him what he thought of
it.

‘Why, it’s horribly personal,’ said Martin.

The colonel seemed much flattered by this remark; and said he hoped it
was.

‘We are independent here, sir,’ said Mr Jefferson Brick. ‘We do as we
like.’

‘If I may judge from this specimen,’ returned Martin, ‘there must be a
few thousands here, rather the reverse of independent, who do as they
don’t like.’

‘Well! They yield to the popular mind of the Popular Instructor, sir,’
said the colonel. ‘They rile up, sometimes; but in general we have a
hold upon our citizens, both in public and in private life, which is as
much one of the ennobling institutions of our happy country as--’

‘As nigger slavery itself,’ suggested Mr Brick.

‘En--tirely so,’ remarked the colonel.

‘Pray,’ said Martin, after some hesitation, ‘may I venture to ask,
with reference to a case I observe in this paper of yours, whether the
Popular Instructor often deals in--I am at a loss to express it without
giving you offence--in forgery? In forged letters, for instance,’ he
pursued, for the colonel was perfectly calm and quite at his ease,
‘solemnly purporting to have been written at recent periods by living
men?’

‘Well, sir!’ replied the colonel. ‘It does, now and then.’

‘And the popular instructed--what do they do?’ asked Martin.

‘Buy ‘em:’ said the colonel.

Mr Jefferson Brick expectorated and laughed; the former copiously, the
latter approvingly.

‘Buy ‘em by hundreds of thousands,’ resumed the colonel. ‘We are a smart
people here, and can appreciate smartness.’

‘Is smartness American for forgery?’ asked Martin.

‘Well!’ said the colonel, ‘I expect it’s American for a good many things
that you call by other names. But you can’t help yourself in Europe. We
can.’

‘And do, sometimes,’ thought Martin. ‘You help yourselves with very
little ceremony, too!’

‘At all events, whatever name we choose to employ,’ said the colonel,
stooping down to roll the third empty bottle into a corner after the
other two, ‘I suppose the art of forgery was not invented here sir?’

‘I suppose not,’ replied Martin.

‘Nor any other kind of smartness I reckon?’

‘Invented! No, I presume not.’

‘Well!’ said the colonel; ‘then we got it all from the old country, and
the old country’s to blame for it, and not the new ‘un. There’s an end
of THAT. Now, if Mr Jefferson Brick and you will be so good as to clear,
I’ll come out last, and lock the door.’

Rightly interpreting this as the signal for their departure, Martin
walked downstairs after the war correspondent, who preceded him with
great majesty. The colonel following, they left the Rowdy Journal Office
and walked forth into the streets; Martin feeling doubtful whether
he ought to kick the colonel for having presumed to speak to him,
or whether it came within the bounds of possibility that he and his
establishment could be among the boasted usages of that regenerated
land.

It was clear that Colonel Diver, in the security of his strong position,
and in his perfect understanding of the public sentiment, cared very
little what Martin or anybody else thought about him. His high-spiced
wares were made to sell, and they sold; and his thousands of readers
could as rationally charge their delight in filth upon him, as a glutton
can shift upon his cook the responsibility of his beastly excess.
Nothing would have delighted the colonel more than to be told that
no such man as he could walk in high success the streets of any other
country in the world; for that would only have been a logical assurance
to him of the correct adaptation of his labours to the prevailing taste,
and of his being strictly and peculiarly a national feature of America.

They walked a mile or more along a handsome street which the colonel
said was called Broadway, and which Mr Jefferson Brick said ‘whipped the
universe.’ Turning, at length, into one of the numerous streets which
branched from this main thoroughfare, they stopped before a rather
mean-looking house with jalousie blinds to every window; a flight of
steps before the green street-door; a shining white ornament on the
rails on either side like a petrified pineapple, polished; a little
oblong plate of the same material over the knocker whereon the name of
‘Pawkins’ was engraved; and four accidental pigs looking down the area.

The colonel knocked at this house with the air of a man who lived there;
and an Irish girl popped her head out of one of the top windows to see
who it was. Pending her journey downstairs, the pigs were joined by two
or three friends from the next street, in company with whom they lay
down sociably in the gutter.

‘Is the major indoors?’ inquired the colonel, as he entered.

‘Is it the master, sir?’ returned the girl, with a hesitation
which seemed to imply that they were rather flush of majors in that
establishment.

‘The master!’ said Colonel Diver, stopping short and looking round at
his war correspondent.

‘Oh! The depressing institutions of that British empire, colonel!’ said
Jefferson Brick. ‘Master!’

‘What’s the matter with the word?’ asked Martin.

‘I should hope it was never heard in our country, sir; that’s all,’ said
Jefferson Brick; ‘except when it is used by some degraded Help, as new
to the blessings of our form of government, as this Help is. There are
no masters here.’

‘All “owners,” are they?’ said Martin.

Mr Jefferson Brick followed in the Rowdy Journal’s footsteps without
returning any answer. Martin took the same course, thinking as he went,
that perhaps the free and independent citizens, who in their moral
elevation, owned the colonel for their master, might render better
homage to the goddess, Liberty, in nightly dreams upon the oven of a
Russian Serf.

The colonel led the way into a room at the back of the house upon
the ground-floor, light, and of fair dimensions, but exquisitely
uncomfortable; having nothing in it but the four cold white walls and
ceiling, a mean carpet, a dreary waste of dining-table reaching from
end to end, and a bewildering collection of cane-bottomed chairs. In the
further region of this banqueting-hall was a stove, garnished on either
side with a great brass spittoon, and shaped in itself like three little
iron barrels set up on end in a fender, and joined together on the
principle of the Siamese Twins. Before it, swinging himself in a
rocking-chair, lounged a large gentleman with his hat on, who amused
himself by spitting alternately into the spittoon on the right hand of
the stove, and the spittoon on the left, and then working his way back
again in the same order. A negro lad in a soiled white jacket was busily
engaged in placing on the table two long rows of knives and forks,
relieved at intervals by jugs of water; and as he travelled down one
side of this festive board, he straightened with his dirty hands the
dirtier cloth, which was all askew, and had not been removed since
breakfast. The atmosphere of this room was rendered intensely hot and
stifling by the stove; but being further flavoured by a sickly gush
of soup from the kitchen, and by such remote suggestions of tobacco as
lingered within the brazen receptacles already mentioned, it became, to
a stranger’s senses, almost insupportable.

The gentleman in the rocking-chair having his back towards them, and
being much engaged in his intellectual pastime, was not aware of their
approach until the colonel, walking up to the stove, contributed
his mite towards the support of the left-hand spittoon, just as the
major--for it was the major--bore down upon it. Major Pawkins then
reserved his fire, and looking upward, said, with a peculiar air of
quiet weariness, like a man who had been up all night--an air which
Martin had already observed both in the colonel and Mr Jefferson Brick--

‘Well, colonel!’

‘Here is a gentleman from England, major,’ the colonel replied, ‘who
has concluded to locate himself here if the amount of compensation suits
him.’

‘I am glad to see you, sir,’ observed the major, shaking hands with
Martin, and not moving a muscle of his face. ‘You are pretty bright, I
hope?’

‘Never better,’ said Martin.

‘You are never likely to be,’ returned the major. ‘You will see the sun
shine HERE.’

‘I think I remember to have seen it shine at home sometimes,’ said
Martin, smiling.

‘I think not,’ replied the major. He said so with a stoical indifference
certainly, but still in a tone of firmness which admitted of no further
dispute on that point. When he had thus settled the question, he put his
hat a little on one side for the greater convenience of scratching his
head, and saluted Mr Jefferson Brick with a lazy nod.

Major Pawkins (a gentleman of Pennsylvanian origin) was distinguished by
a very large skull, and a great mass of yellow forehead; in deference
to which commodities it was currently held in bar-rooms and other such
places of resort that the major was a man of huge sagacity. He was
further to be known by a heavy eye and a dull slow manner; and for being
a man of that kind who--mentally speaking--requires a deal of room to
turn himself in. But, in trading on his stock of wisdom, he invariably
proceeded on the principle of putting all the goods he had (and more)
into his window; and that went a great way with his constituency of
admirers. It went a great way, perhaps, with Mr Jefferson Brick, who
took occasion to whisper in Martin’s ear:

‘One of the most remarkable men in our country, sir!’

It must not be supposed, however, that the perpetual exhibition in the
market-place of all his stock-in-trade for sale or hire, was the major’s
sole claim to a very large share of sympathy and support. He was a great
politician; and the one article of his creed, in reference to all public
obligations involving the good faith and integrity of his country, was,
‘run a moist pen slick through everything, and start fresh.’ This
made him a patriot. In commercial affairs he was a bold speculator.
In plainer words he had a most distinguished genius for swindling, and
could start a bank, or negotiate a loan, or form a land-jobbing company
(entailing ruin, pestilence, and death, on hundreds of families), with
any gifted creature in the Union. This made him an admirable man of
business. He could hang about a bar-room, discussing the affairs of the
nation, for twelve hours together; and in that time could hold forth
with more intolerable dulness, chew more tobacco, smoke more tobacco,
drink more rum-toddy, mint-julep, gin-sling, and cocktail, than any
private gentleman of his acquaintance. This made him an orator and a
man of the people. In a word, the major was a rising character, and a
popular character, and was in a fair way to be sent by the popular party
to the State House of New York, if not in the end to Washington itself.
But as a man’s private prosperity does not always keep pace with his
patriotic devotion to public affairs; and as fraudulent transactions
have their downs as well as ups, the major was occasionally under a
cloud. Hence, just now Mrs Pawkins kept a boarding-house, and Major
Pawkins rather ‘loafed’ his time away than otherwise.

‘You have come to visit our country, sir, at a season of great
commercial depression,’ said the major.

‘At an alarming crisis,’ said the colonel.

‘At a period of unprecedented stagnation,’ said Mr Jefferson Brick.

‘I am sorry to hear that,’ returned Martin. ‘It’s not likely to last, I
hope?’

Martin knew nothing about America, or he would have known perfectly well
that if its individual citizens, to a man, are to be believed, it always
IS depressed, and always IS stagnated, and always IS at an alarming
crisis, and never was otherwise; though as a body they are ready to make
oath upon the Evangelists at any hour of the day or night, that it
is the most thriving and prosperous of all countries on the habitable
globe.

‘It’s not likely to last, I hope?’ said Martin.

‘Well!’ returned the major, ‘I expect we shall get along somehow, and
come right in the end.’

‘We are an elastic country,’ said the Rowdy Journal.

‘We are a young lion,’ said Mr Jefferson Brick.

‘We have revivifying and vigorous principles within ourselves,’ observed
the major. ‘Shall we drink a bitter afore dinner, colonel?’

The colonel assenting to this proposal with great alacrity, Major
Pawkins proposed an adjournment to a neighbouring bar-room, which, as he
observed, was ‘only in the next block.’ He then referred Martin to
Mrs Pawkins for all particulars connected with the rate of board and
lodging, and informed him that he would have the pleasure of seeing that
lady at dinner, which would soon be ready, as the dinner hour was two
o’clock, and it only wanted a quarter now. This reminded him that if the
bitter were to be taken at all, there was no time to lose; so he walked
off without more ado, and left them to follow if they thought proper.

When the major rose from his rocking-chair before the stove, and so
disturbed the hot air and balmy whiff of soup which fanned their brows,
the odour of stale tobacco became so decidedly prevalent as to leave no
doubt of its proceeding mainly from that gentleman’s attire. Indeed,
as Martin walked behind him to the bar-room, he could not help thinking
that the great square major, in his listlessness and langour, looked
very much like a stale weed himself; such as might be hoed out of
the public garden, with great advantage to the decent growth of that
preserve, and tossed on some congenial dunghill.

They encountered more weeds in the bar-room, some of whom (being thirsty
souls as well as dirty) were pretty stale in one sense, and pretty fresh
in another. Among them was a gentleman who, as Martin gathered from the
conversation that took place over the bitter, started that afternoon for
the Far West on a six months’ business tour, and who, as his outfit and
equipment for this journey, had just such another shiny hat and just
such another little pale valise as had composed the luggage of the
gentleman who came from England in the Screw.

They were walking back very leisurely; Martin arm-in-arm with Mr
Jefferson Brick, and the major and the colonel side-by-side before them;
when, as they came within a house or two of the major’s residence, they
heard a bell ringing violently. The instant this sound struck upon their
ears, the colonel and the major darted off, dashed up the steps and in
at the street-door (which stood ajar) like lunatics; while Mr Jefferson
Brick, detaching his arm from Martin’s, made a precipitate dive in the
same direction, and vanished also.

‘Good Heaven!’ thought Martin. ‘The premises are on fire! It was an
alarm bell!’

But there was no smoke to be seen, nor any flame, nor was there any
smell of fire. As Martin faltered on the pavement, three more gentlemen,
with horror and agitation depicted in their faces, came plunging wildly
round the street corner; jostled each other on the steps; struggled for
an instant; and rushed into the house, a confused heap of arms and
legs. Unable to bear it any longer, Martin followed. Even in his
rapid progress he was run down, thrust aside, and passed, by two more
gentlemen, stark mad, as it appeared, with fierce excitement.

‘Where is it?’ cried Martin, breathlessly, to a negro whom he
encountered in the passage.

‘In a eatin room, sa. Kernell, sa, him kep a seat ‘side himself, sa.’

‘A seat!’ cried Martin.

‘For a dinnar, sa.’

Martin started at him for a moment, and burst into a hearty laugh; to
which the negro, out of his natural good humour and desire to please, so
heartily responded, that his teeth shone like a gleam of light. ‘You’re
the pleasantest fellow I have seen yet,’ said Martin clapping him on the
back, ‘and give me a better appetite than bitters.’

With this sentiment he walked into the dining-room and slipped into
a chair next the colonel, which that gentleman (by this time nearly
through his dinner) had turned down in reserve for him, with its back
against the table.

It was a numerous company--eighteen or twenty perhaps. Of these some
five or six were ladies, who sat wedged together in a little phalanx by
themselves. All the knives and forks were working away at a rate that
was quite alarming; very few words were spoken; and everybody seemed to
eat his utmost in self-defence, as if a famine were expected to set in
before breakfast time to-morrow morning, and it had become high time
to assert the first law of nature. The poultry, which may perhaps be
considered to have formed the staple of the entertainment--for there was
a turkey at the top, a pair of ducks at the bottom, and two fowls in the
middle--disappeared as rapidly as if every bird had had the use of its
wings, and had flown in desperation down a human throat. The oysters,
stewed and pickled, leaped from their capacious reservoirs, and slid by
scores into the mouths of the assembly. The sharpest pickles vanished,
whole cucumbers at once, like sugar-plums, and no man winked his eye.
Great heaps of indigestible matter melted away as ice before the sun.
It was a solemn and an awful thing to see. Dyspeptic individuals bolted
their food in wedges; feeding, not themselves, but broods of nightmares,
who were continually standing at livery within them. Spare men, with
lank and rigid cheeks, came out unsatisfied from the destruction of
heavy dishes, and glared with watchful eyes upon the pastry. What Mrs
Pawkins felt each day at dinner-time is hidden from all human knowledge.
But she had one comfort. It was very soon over.

When the colonel had finished his dinner, which event took place while
Martin, who had sent his plate for some turkey, was waiting to begin,
he asked him what he thought of the boarders, who were from all parts of
the Union, and whether he would like to know any particulars concerning
them.

‘Pray,’ said Martin, ‘who is that sickly little girl opposite, with the
tight round eyes? I don’t see anybody here, who looks like her mother,
or who seems to have charge of her.’

‘Do you mean the matron in blue, sir?’ asked the colonel, with emphasis.
‘That is Mrs Jefferson Brick, sir.’

‘No, no,’ said Martin, ‘I mean the little girl, like a doll; directly
opposite.’

‘Well, sir!’ cried the colonel. ‘THAT is Mrs Jefferson Brick.’

Martin glanced at the colonel’s face, but he was quite serious.

‘Bless my soul! I suppose there will be a young Brick then, one of these
days?’ said Martin.

‘There are two young Bricks already, sir,’ returned the colonel.

The matron looked so uncommonly like a child herself, that Martin could
not help saying as much. ‘Yes, sir,’ returned the colonel, ‘but some
institutions develop human natur; others re--tard it.’

‘Jefferson Brick,’ he observed after a short silence, in commendation
of his correspondent, ‘is one of the most remarkable men in our country,
sir!’

This had passed almost in a whisper, for the distinguished gentleman
alluded to sat on Martin’s other hand.

‘Pray, Mr Brick,’ said Martin, turning to him, and asking a question
more for conversation’s sake than from any feeling of interest in its
subject, ‘who is that;’ he was going to say ‘young’ but thought it
prudent to eschew the word--‘that very short gentleman yonder, with the
red nose?’

‘That is Pro--fessor Mullit, sir,’ replied Jefferson.

‘May I ask what he is professor of?’ asked Martin.

‘Of education, sir,’ said Jefferson Brick.

‘A sort of schoolmaster, possibly?’ Martin ventured to observe.

‘He is a man of fine moral elements, sir, and not commonly endowed,’
said the war correspondent. ‘He felt it necessary, at the last election
for President, to repudiate and denounce his father, who voted on the
wrong interest. He has since written some powerful pamphlets, under
the signature of “Suturb,” or Brutus reversed. He is one of the most
remarkable men in our country, sir.’

‘There seem to be plenty of ‘em,’ thought Martin, ‘at any rate.’

Pursuing his inquiries Martin found that there were no fewer than four
majors present, two colonels, one general, and a captain, so that he
could not help thinking how strongly officered the American militia must
be; and wondering very much whether the officers commanded each other;
or if they did not, where on earth the privates came from. There seemed
to be no man there without a title; for those who had not attained to
military honours were either doctors, professors, or reverends. Three
very hard and disagreeable gentlemen were on missions from neighbouring
States; one on monetary affairs, one on political, one on sectarian.
Among the ladies, there were Mrs Pawkins, who was very straight, bony,
and silent; and a wiry-faced old damsel, who held strong sentiments
touching the rights of women, and had diffused the same in lectures;
but the rest were strangely devoid of individual traits of character,
insomuch that any one of them might have changed minds with the other,
and nobody would have found it out. These, by the way, were the only
members of the party who did not appear to be among the most remarkable
people in the country.

Several of the gentlemen got up, one by one, and walked off as they
swallowed their last morsel; pausing generally by the stove for a minute
or so to refresh themselves at the brass spittoons. A few sedentary
characters, however, remained at table full a quarter of an hour, and
did not rise until the ladies rose, when all stood up.

‘Where are they going?’ asked Martin, in the ear of Mr Jefferson Brick.

‘To their bedrooms, sir.’

‘Is there no dessert, or other interval of conversation?’ asked Martin,
who was disposed to enjoy himself after his long voyage.

‘We are a busy people here, sir, and have no time for that,’ was the
reply.

So the ladies passed out in single file; Mr Jefferson Brick and such
other married gentlemen as were left, acknowledging the departure
of their other halves by a nod; and there was an end of THEM. Martin
thought this an uncomfortable custom, but he kept his opinion to himself
for the present, being anxious to hear, and inform himself by, the
conversation of the busy gentlemen, who now lounged about the stove as
if a great weight had been taken off their minds by the withdrawal of
the other sex; and who made a plentiful use of the spittoons and their
toothpicks.

It was rather barren of interest, to say the truth; and the greater part
of it may be summed up in one word. Dollars. All their cares, hopes,
joys, affections, virtues, and associations, seemed to be melted down
into dollars. Whatever the chance contributions that fell into the slow
cauldron of their talk, they made the gruel thick and slab with dollars.
Men were weighed by their dollars, measures gauged by their dollars;
life was auctioneered, appraised, put up, and knocked down for its
dollars. The next respectable thing to dollars was any venture having
their attainment for its end. The more of that worthless ballast, honour
and fair-dealing, which any man cast overboard from the ship of his Good
Name and Good Intent, the more ample stowage-room he had for dollars.
Make commerce one huge lie and mighty theft. Deface the banner of the
nation for an idle rag; pollute it star by star; and cut out stripe by
stripe as from the arm of a degraded soldier. Do anything for dollars!
What is a flag to THEM!

One who rides at all hazards of limb and life in the chase of a fox,
will prefer to ride recklessly at most times. So it was with these
gentlemen. He was the greatest patriot, in their eyes, who brawled the
loudest, and who cared the least for decency. He was their champion who,
in the brutal fury of his own pursuit, could cast no stigma upon them
for the hot knavery of theirs. Thus, Martin learned in the five minutes’
straggling talk about the stove, that to carry pistols into legislative
assemblies, and swords in sticks, and other such peaceful toys; to seize
opponents by the throat, as dogs or rats might do; to bluster, bully,
and overbear by personal assailment; were glowing deeds. Not thrusts and
stabs at Freedom, striking far deeper into her House of Life than any
sultan’s scimitar could reach; but rare incense on her altars, having a
grateful scent in patriotic nostrils, and curling upward to the seventh
heaven of Fame.

Once or twice, when there was a pause, Martin asked such questions as
naturally occurred to him, being a stranger, about the national poets,
the theatre, literature, and the arts. But the information which these
gentlemen were in a condition to give him on such topics, did not extend
beyond the effusions of such master-spirits of the time as Colonel
Diver, Mr Jefferson Brick, and others; renowned, as it appeared, for
excellence in the achievement of a peculiar style of broadside essay
called ‘a screamer.’

‘We are a busy people, sir,’ said one of the captains, who was from the
West, ‘and have no time for reading mere notions. We don’t mind ‘em
if they come to us in newspapers along with almighty strong stuff of
another sort, but darn your books.’

Here the general, who appeared to grow quite faint at the bare thought
of reading anything which was neither mercantile nor political, and was
not in a newspaper, inquired ‘if any gentleman would drink some?’ Most
of the company, considering this a very choice and seasonable idea,
lounged out, one by one, to the bar-room in the next block. Thence
they probably went to their stores and counting-houses; thence to the
bar-room again, to talk once more of dollars, and enlarge their minds
with the perusal and discussion of screamers; and thence each man to
snore in the bosom of his own family.

‘Which would seem,’ said Martin, pursuing the current of his own
thoughts, ‘to be the principal recreation they enjoy in common.’ With
that, he fell a-musing again on dollars, demagogues, and bar-rooms;
debating within himself whether busy people of this class were really
as busy as they claimed to be, or only had an inaptitude for social and
domestic pleasure.

It was a difficult question to solve; and the mere fact of its being
strongly presented to his mind by all that he had seen and heard, was
not encouraging. He sat down at the deserted board, and becoming
more and more despondent, as he thought of all the uncertainties and
difficulties of his precarious situation, sighed heavily.

Now, there had been at the dinner-table a middle-aged man with a dark
eye and a sunburnt face, who had attracted Martin’s attention by having
something very engaging and honest in the expression of his features;
but of whom he could learn nothing from either of his neighbours, who
seemed to consider him quite beneath their notice. He had taken no part
in the conversation round the stove, nor had he gone forth with the
rest; and now, when he heard Martin sigh for the third or fourth
time, he interposed with some casual remark, as if he desired, without
obtruding himself upon a stranger’s notice, to engage him in cheerful
conversation if he could. His motive was so obvious, and yet so
delicately expressed, that Martin felt really grateful to him, and
showed him so in the manner of his reply.

‘I will not ask you,’ said this gentleman with a smile, as he rose and
moved towards him, ‘how you like my country, for I can quite anticipate
your feeling on that point. But, as I am an American, and consequently
bound to begin with a question, I’ll ask you how you like the colonel?’

‘You are so very frank,’ returned Martin, ‘that I have no hesitation in
saying I don’t like him at all. Though I must add that I am beholden to
him for his civility in bringing me here--and arranging for my stay,
on pretty reasonable terms, by the way,’ he added, remembering that the
colonel had whispered him to that effect, before going out.

‘Not much beholden,’ said the stranger drily. ‘The colonel occasionally
boards packet-ships, I have heard, to glean the latest information
for his journal; and he occasionally brings strangers to board here, I
believe, with a view to the little percentage which attaches to those
good offices; and which the hostess deducts from his weekly bill. I
don’t offend you, I hope?’ he added, seeing that Martin reddened.

‘My dear sir,’ returned Martin, as they shook hands, ‘how is that
possible! to tell you the truth, I--am--’

‘Yes?’ said the gentleman, sitting down beside him.

‘I am rather at a loss, since I must speak plainly,’ said Martin,
getting the better of his hesitation, ‘to know how this colonel escapes
being beaten.’

‘Well! He has been beaten once or twice,’ remarked the gentleman
quietly. ‘He is one of a class of men, in whom our own Franklin, so
long ago as ten years before the close of the last century, foresaw
our danger and disgrace. Perhaps you don’t know that Franklin, in very
severe terms, published his opinion that those who were slandered
by such fellows as this colonel, having no sufficient remedy in the
administration of this country’s laws or in the decent and right-minded
feeling of its people, were justified in retorting on such public
nuisances by means of a stout cudgel?’

‘I was not aware of that,’ said Martin, ‘but I am very glad to know
it, and I think it worthy of his memory; especially’--here he hesitated
again.

‘Go on,’ said the other, smiling as if he knew what stuck in Martin’s
throat.

‘Especially,’ pursued Martin, ‘as I can already understand that it may
have required great courage, even in his time, to write freely on any
question which was not a party one in this very free country.’

‘Some courage, no doubt,’ returned his new friend. ‘Do you think it
would require any to do so, now?’

‘Indeed I think it would; and not a little,’ said Martin.

‘You are right. So very right, that I believe no satirist could breathe
this air. If another Juvenal or Swift could rise up among us to-morrow,
he would be hunted down. If you have any knowledge of our literature,
and can give me the name of any man, American born and bred, who has
anatomized our follies as a people, and not as this or that party; and
who has escaped the foulest and most brutal slander, the most inveterate
hatred and intolerant pursuit; it will be a strange name in my ears,
believe me. In some cases I could name to you, where a native writer
has ventured on the most harmless and good-humoured illustrations of
our vices or defects, it has been found necessary to announce, that in
a second edition the passage has been expunged, or altered, or explained
away, or patched into praise.’

‘And how has this been brought about?’ asked Martin, in dismay.

‘Think of what you have seen and heard to-day, beginning with the
colonel,’ said his friend, ‘and ask yourself. How THEY came about,
is another question. Heaven forbid that they should be samples of the
intelligence and virtue of America, but they come uppermost, and in
great numbers, and too often represent it. Will you walk?’

There was a cordial candour in his manner, and an engaging confidence
that it would not be abused; a manly bearing on his own part, and a
simple reliance on the manly faith of a stranger; which Martin had
never seen before. He linked his arm readily in that of the American
gentleman, and they walked out together.

It was perhaps to men like this, his new companion, that a traveller
of honoured name, who trod those shores now nearly forty years ago, and
woke upon that soil, as many have done since, to blots and stains upon
its high pretensions, which in the brightness of his distant dreams were
lost to view, appealed in these words--

     ‘Oh, but for such, Columbia’s days were done;
     Rank without ripeness, quickened without sun,
     Crude at the surface, rotten at the core,
     Her fruits would fall before her spring were o’er!’



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

MARTIN ENLARGES HIS CIRCLE OF AQUAINTANCE; INCREASES HIS STOCK
OF WISDOM; AND HAS AN EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY OF COMPARING HIS OWN
EXPERIENCES WITH THOSE OF LUMMY NED OF THE LIGHT SALISBURY, AS RELATED
BY HIS FRIEND MR WILLIAM SIMMONS


It was characteristic of Martin, that all this while he had either
forgotten Mark Tapley as completely as if there had been no such person
in existence, or, if for a moment the figure of that gentleman rose
before his mental vision, had dismissed it as something by no means of
a pressing nature, which might be attended to by-and-bye, and could wait
his perfect leisure. But, being now in the streets again, it occurred to
him as just coming within the bare limits of possibility that Mr Tapley
might, in course of time, grow tired of waiting on the threshold of the
Rowdy Journal Office, so he intimated to his new friend, that if they
could conveniently walk in that direction, he would be glad to get this
piece of business off his mind.

‘And speaking of business,’ said Martin, ‘may I ask, in order that I may
not be behind-hand with questions either, whether your occupation holds
you to this city, or like myself, you are a visitor here?’

‘A visitor,’ replied his friend. ‘I was “raised” in the State of
Massachusetts, and reside there still. My home is in a quiet country
town. I am not often in these busy places; and my inclination to visit
them does not increase with our better acquaintance, I assure you.’

‘You have been abroad?’ asked Martin.

‘Oh yes.’

‘And, like most people who travel, have become more than ever attached
to your home and native country,’ said Martin, eyeing him curiously.

‘To my home--yes,’ rejoined his friend. ‘To my native country AS my
home--yes, also.’

‘You imply some reservation,’ said Martin.

‘Well,’ returned his new friend, ‘if you ask me whether I came back here
with a greater relish for my country’s faults; with a greater fondness
for those who claim (at the rate of so many dollars a day) to be her
friends; with a cooler indifference to the growth of principles among
us in respect of public matters and of private dealings between man and
man, the advocacy of which, beyond the foul atmosphere of a criminal
trial, would disgrace your own old Bailey lawyers; why, then I answer
plainly, No.’

‘Oh!’ said Martin; in so exactly the same key as his friend’s No, that
it sounded like an echo.

‘If you ask me,’ his companion pursued, ‘whether I came back here better
satisfied with a state of things which broadly divides society into two
classes--whereof one, the great mass, asserts a spurious independence,
most miserably dependent for its mean existence on the disregard of
humanizing conventionalities of manner and social custom, so that the
coarser a man is, the more distinctly it shall appeal to his taste;
while the other, disgusted with the low standard thus set up and made
adaptable to everything, takes refuge among the graces and refinements
it can bring to bear on private life, and leaves the public weal to
such fortune as may betide it in the press and uproar of a general
scramble--then again I answer, No.’

And again Martin said ‘Oh!’ in the same odd way as before, being anxious
and disconcerted; not so much, to say the truth, on public grounds, as
with reference to the fading prospects of domestic architecture.

‘In a word,’ resumed the other, ‘I do not find and cannot believe and
therefore will not allow, that we are a model of wisdom, and an example
to the world, and the perfection of human reason, and a great deal more
to the same purpose, which you may hear any hour in the day; simply
because we began our political life with two inestimable advantages.’

‘What were they?’ asked Martin.

‘One, that our history commenced at so late a period as to escape the
ages of bloodshed and cruelty through which other nations have passed;
and so had all the light of their probation, and none of its darkness.
The other, that we have a vast territory, and not--as yet--too many
people on it. These facts considered, we have done little enough, I
think.’

‘Education?’ suggested Martin, faintly.

‘Pretty well on that head,’ said the other, shrugging his shoulders,
‘still no mighty matter to boast of; for old countries, and despotic
countries too, have done as much, if not more, and made less noise about
it. We shine out brightly in comparison with England, certainly; but
hers is a very extreme case. You complimented me on my frankness, you
know,’ he added, laughing.

‘Oh! I am not at all astonished at your speaking thus openly when my
country is in question,’ returned Martin. ‘It is your plain-speaking in
reference to your own that surprises me.’

‘You will not find it a scarce quality here, I assure you, saving among
the Colonel Divers, and Jefferson Bricks, and Major Pawkinses; though
the best of us are something like the man in Goldsmith’s comedy, who
wouldn’t suffer anybody but himself to abuse his master. Come!’ he
added. ‘Let us talk of something else. You have come here on some design
of improving your fortune, I dare say; and I should grieve to put you
out of heart. I am some years older than you, besides; and may, on a few
trivial points, advise you, perhaps.’

There was not the least curiosity or impertinence in the manner of this
offer, which was open-hearted, unaffected, and good-natured. As it was
next to impossible that he should not have his confidence awakened by
a deportment so prepossessing and kind, Martin plainly stated what had
brought him into those parts, and even made the very difficult avowal
that he was poor. He did not say how poor, it must be admitted, rather
throwing off the declaration with an air which might have implied that
he had money enough for six months, instead of as many weeks; but poor
he said he was, and grateful he said he would be, for any counsel that
his friend would give him.

It would not have been very difficult for any one to see; but it was
particularly easy for Martin, whose perceptions were sharpened by his
circumstances, to discern; that the stranger’s face grew infinitely
longer as the domestic-architecture project was developed. Nor, although
he made a great effort to be as encouraging as possible, could he
prevent his head from shaking once involuntarily, as if it said in the
vulgar tongue, upon its own account, ‘No go!’ But he spoke in a cheerful
tone, and said, that although there was no such opening as Martin
wished, in that city, he would make it matter of immediate consideration
and inquiry where one was most likely to exist; and then he made Martin
acquainted with his name, which was Bevan; and with his profession,
which was physic, though he seldom or never practiced; and with other
circumstances connected with himself and family, which fully occupied
the time, until they reached the Rowdy Journal Office.

Mr Tapley appeared to be taking his ease on the landing of the first
floor; for sounds as of some gentleman established in that region
whistling ‘Rule Britannia’ with all his might and main, greeted their
ears before they reached the house. On ascending to the spot from
whence this music proceeded, they found him recumbent in the midst of a
fortification of luggage, apparently performing his national anthem
for the gratification of a grey-haired black man, who sat on one of the
outworks (a portmanteau), staring intently at Mark, while Mark, with
his head reclining on his hand, returned the compliment in a thoughtful
manner, and whistled all the time. He seemed to have recently dined, for
his knife, a casebottle, and certain broken meats in a handkerchief, lay
near at hand. He had employed a portion of his leisure in the decoration
of the Rowdy Journal door, whereon his own initials now appeared in
letters nearly half a foot long, together with the day of the month in
smaller type; the whole surrounded by an ornamental border, and looking
very fresh and bold.

‘I was a’most afraid you was lost, sir!’ cried Mark, rising, and
stopping the tune at that point where Britons generally are supposed to
declare (when it is whistled) that they never, never, never--

‘Nothing gone wrong, I hope, sir?’

‘No, Mark. Where’s your friend?’

‘The mad woman, sir?’ said Mr Tapley. ‘Oh! she’s all right, sir.’

‘Did she find her husband?’

‘Yes, sir. Leastways she’s found his remains,’ said Mark, correcting
himself.

‘The man’s not dead, I hope?’

‘Not altogether dead, sir,’ returned Mark; ‘but he’s had more fevers and
agues than is quite reconcilable with being alive. When she didn’t see
him a-waiting for her, I thought she’d have died herself, I did!’

‘Was he not here, then?’

‘HE wasn’t here. There was a feeble old shadow come a-creeping down at
last, as much like his substance when she know’d him, as your shadow
when it’s drawn out to its very finest and longest by the sun, is like
you. But it was his remains, there’s no doubt about that. She took on
with joy, poor thing, as much as if it had been all of him!’

‘Had he bought land?’ asked Mr Bevan.

‘Ah! He’d bought land,’ said Mark, shaking his head, ‘and paid for it
too. Every sort of nateral advantage was connected with it, the agents
said; and there certainly was ONE, quite unlimited. No end to the
water!’

‘It’s a thing he couldn’t have done without, I suppose,’ observed
Martin, peevishly.

‘Certainly not, sir. There it was, any way; always turned on, and no
water-rate. Independent of three or four slimy old rivers close by,
it varied on the farm from four to six foot deep in the dry season.
He couldn’t say how deep it was in the rainy time, for he never had
anything long enough to sound it with.’

‘Is this true?’ asked Martin of his companion.

‘Extremely probable,’ he answered. ‘Some Mississippi or Missouri lot, I
dare say.’

‘However,’ pursued Mark, ‘he came from I-don’t-know-where-and-all, down
to New York here, to meet his wife and children; and they started off
again in a steamboat this blessed afternoon, as happy to be along with
each other as if they were going to Heaven. I should think they was,
pretty straight, if I may judge from the poor man’s looks.’

‘And may I ask,’ said Martin, glancing, but not with any displeasure,
from Mark to the negro, ‘who this gentleman is? Another friend of
yours?’

‘Why sir,’ returned Mark, taking him aside, and speaking confidentially
in his ear, ‘he’s a man of colour, sir!’

‘Do you take me for a blind man,’ asked Martin, somewhat impatiently,
‘that you think it necessary to tell me that, when his face is the
blackest that ever was seen?’

‘No, no; when I say a man of colour,’ returned Mark, ‘I mean that
he’s been one of them as there’s picters of in the shops. A man and a
brother, you know, sir,’ said Mr Tapley, favouring his master with a
significant indication of the figure so often represented in tracts and
cheap prints.

‘A slave!’ cried Martin, in a whisper.

‘Ah!’ said Mark in the same tone. ‘Nothing else. A slave. Why, when that
there man was young--don’t look at him while I’m a-telling it--he was
shot in the leg; gashed in the arm; scored in his live limbs, like
crimped fish; beaten out of shape; had his neck galled with an iron
collar, and wore iron rings upon his wrists and ankles. The marks are on
him to this day. When I was having my dinner just now, he stripped off
his coat, and took away my appetite.’

‘Is THIS true?’ asked Martin of his friend, who stood beside them.

‘I have no reason to doubt it,’ he answered, shaking his head ‘It very
often is.’

‘Bless you,’ said Mark, ‘I know it is, from hearing his whole story.
That master died; so did his second master from having his head cut
open with a hatchet by another slave, who, when he’d done it, went and
drowned himself; then he got a better one; in years and years he saved
up a little money, and bought his freedom, which he got pretty cheap at
last, on account of his strength being nearly gone, and he being ill.
Then he come here. And now he’s a-saving up to treat himself, afore
he dies, to one small purchase--it’s nothing to speak of. Only his own
daughter; that’s all!’ cried Mr Tapley, becoming excited. ‘Liberty for
ever! Hurrah! Hail, Columbia!’

‘Hush!’ cried Martin, clapping his hand upon his mouth; ‘and don’t be an
idiot. What is he doing here?’

‘Waiting to take our luggage off upon a truck,’ said Mark. ‘He’d have
come for it by-and-bye, but I engaged him for a very reasonable charge
(out of my own pocket) to sit along with me and make me jolly; and I
am jolly; and if I was rich enough to contract with him to wait upon me
once a day, to be looked at, I’d never be anything else.’

The fact may cause a solemn impeachment of Mark’s veracity, but it must
be admitted nevertheless, that there was that in his face and manner at
the moment, which militated strongly against this emphatic declaration
of his state of mind.

‘Lord love you, sir,’ he added, ‘they’re so fond of Liberty in this part
of the globe, that they buy her and sell her and carry her to market
with ‘em. They’ve such a passion for Liberty, that they can’t help
taking liberties with her. That’s what it’s owing to.’

‘Very well,’ said Martin, wishing to change the theme. ‘Having come to
that conclusion, Mark, perhaps you’ll attend to me. The place to which
the luggage is to go is printed on this card. Mrs Pawkins’s Boarding
House.’

‘Mrs Pawkins’s boarding-house,’ repeated Mark. ‘Now, Cicero.’

‘Is that his name?’ asked Martin

‘That’s his name, sir,’ rejoined Mark. And the negro grinning assent
from under a leathern portmanteau, than which his own face was many
shades deeper, hobbled downstairs with his portion of their worldly
goods; Mark Tapley having already gone before with his share.

Martin and his friend followed them to the door below, and were about
to pursue their walk, when the latter stopped, and asked, with some
hesitation, whether that young man was to be trusted?

‘Mark! oh certainly! with anything.’

‘You don’t understand me--I think he had better go with us. He is an
honest fellow, and speaks his mind so very plainly.’

‘Why, the fact is,’ said Martin, smiling, ‘that being unaccustomed to a
free republic, he is used to do so.’

‘I think he had better go with us,’ returned the other. ‘He may get into
some trouble otherwise. This is not a slave State; but I am ashamed
to say that a spirit of Tolerance is not so common anywhere in
these latitudes as the form. We are not remarkable for behaving very
temperately to each other when we differ; but to strangers! no, I really
think he had better go with us.’

Martin called to him immediately to be of their party; so Cicero and the
truck went one way, and they three went another.

They walked about the city for two or three hours; seeing it from the
best points of view, and pausing in the principal streets, and before
such public buildings as Mr Bevan pointed out. Night then coming
on apace, Martin proposed that they should adjourn to Mrs Pawkins’s
establishment for coffee; but in this he was overruled by his new
acquaintance, who seemed to have set his heart on carrying him, though
it were only for an hour, to the house of a friend of his who lived hard
by. Feeling (however disinclined he was, being weary) that it would be
in bad taste, and not very gracious, to object that he was unintroduced,
when this open-hearted gentleman was so ready to be his sponsor,
Martin--for once in his life, at all events--sacrificed his own will and
pleasure to the wishes of another, and consented with a fair grace. So
travelling had done him that much good, already.

Mr Bevan knocked at the door of a very neat house of moderate size, from
the parlour windows of which, lights were shining brightly into the now
dark street. It was quickly opened by a man with such a thoroughly Irish
face, that it seemed as if he ought, as a matter of right and principle,
to be in rags, and could have no sort of business to be looking
cheerfully at anybody out of a whole suit of clothes.

Commending Mark to the care of this phenomenon--for such he may be said
to have been in Martin’s eyes--Mr Bevan led the way into the room
which had shed its cheerfulness upon the street, to whose occupants he
introduced Mr Chuzzlewit as a gentleman from England, whose acquaintance
he had recently had the pleasure to make. They gave him welcome in all
courtesy and politeness; and in less than five minutes’ time he found
himself sitting very much at his ease by the fireside, and becoming
vastly well acquainted with the whole family.

There were two young ladies--one eighteen; the other twenty--both very
slender, but very pretty; their mother, who looked, as Martin thought
much older and more faded than she ought to have looked; and their
grandmother, a little sharp-eyed, quick old woman, who seemed to have
got past that stage, and to have come all right again. Besides these,
there were the young ladies’ father, and the young ladies’ brother; the
first engaged in mercantile affairs; the second, a student at college;
both, in a certain cordiality of manner, like his own friend, and not
unlike him in face. Which was no great wonder, for it soon appeared that
he was their near relation. Martin could not help tracing the family
pedigree from the two young ladies, because they were foremost in his
thoughts; not only from being, as aforesaid, very pretty, but by reason
of their wearing miraculously small shoes, and the thinnest possible
silk stockings; the which their rocking-chairs developed to a
distracting extent.

There is no doubt that it was a monstrous comfortable circumstance to be
sitting in a snug, well-furnished room, warmed by a cheerful fire, and
full of various pleasant decorations, including four small shoes, and
the like amount of silk stockings, and--yes, why not?--the feet and
legs therein enshrined. And there is no doubt that Martin was monstrous
well-disposed to regard his position in that light, after his recent
experience of the Screw, and of Mrs Pawkins’s boarding-house. The
consequence was that he made himself very agreeable indeed; and by
the time the tea and coffee arrived (with sweet preserves, and cunning
tea-cakes in its train), was in a highly genial state, and much esteemed
by the whole family.

Another delightful circumstance turned up before the first cup of tea
was drunk. The whole family had been in England. There was a pleasant
thing! But Martin was not quite so glad of this, when he found that
they knew all the great dukes, lords, viscounts, marquesses, duchesses,
knights, and baronets, quite affectionately, and were beyond everything
interested in the least particular concerning them. However, when they
asked, after the wearer of this or that coronet, and said, ‘Was he quite
well?’ Martin answered, ‘Yes, oh yes. Never better;’ and when they said,
‘his lordship’s mother, the duchess, was she much changed?’ Martin said,
‘Oh dear no, they would know her anywhere, if they saw her to-morrow;’
and so got on pretty well. In like manner when the young ladies
questioned him touching the Gold Fish in that Grecian fountain in such
and such a nobleman’s conservatory, and whether there were as many as
there used to be, he gravely reported, after mature consideration, that
there must be at least twice as many; and as to the exotics, ‘Oh! well!
it was of no use talking about THEM; they must be seen to be believed;’
which improved state of circumstances reminded the family of the
splendour of that brilliant festival (comprehending the whole British
Peerage and Court Calendar) to which they were specially invited, and
which indeed had been partly given in their honour; and recollections
of what Mr Norris the father had said to the marquess, and of what Mrs
Norris the mother had said to the marchioness, and of what the marquess
and marchioness had both said, when they said that upon their words and
honours they wished Mr Norris the father and Mrs Norris the mother, and
the Misses Norris the daughters, and Mr Norris Junior, the son, would
only take up their permanent residence in England, and give them the
pleasure of their everlasting friendship, occupied a very considerable
time.

Martin thought it rather stange, and in some sort inconsistent, that
during the whole of these narrations, and in the very meridian of their
enjoyment thereof, both Mr Norris the father, and Mr Norris Junior,
the son (who corresponded, every post, with four members of the English
Peerage), enlarged upon the inestimable advantage of having no such
arbitrary distinctions in that enlightened land, where there were no
noblemen but nature’s noblemen, and where all society was based on one
broad level of brotherly love and natural equality. Indeed, Mr Norris
the father gradually expanding into an oration on this swelling theme,
was becoming tedious, when Mr Bevan diverted his thoughts by happening
to make some causal inquiry relative to the occupier of the next house;
in reply to which, this same Mr Norris the father observed, that ‘that
person entertained religious opinions of which he couldn’t approve; and
therefore he hadn’t the honour of knowing the gentleman.’ Mrs Norris the
mother added another reason of her own, the same in effect, but varying
in words; to wit, that she believed the people were well enough in their
way, but they were not genteel.

Another little trait came out, which impressed itself on Martin
forcibly. Mr Bevan told them about Mark and the negro, and then it
appeared that all the Norrises were abolitionists. It was a great relief
to hear this, and Martin was so much encouraged on finding himself in
such company, that he expressed his sympathy with the oppressed and
wretched blacks. Now, one of the young ladies--the prettiest and most
delicate--was mightily amused at the earnestness with which he spoke;
and on his craving leave to ask her why, was quite unable for a time to
speak for laughing. As soon however as she could, she told him that
the negroes were such a funny people, so excessively ludicrous in their
manners and appearance, that it was wholly impossible for those who knew
them well, to associate any serious ideas with such a very absurd part
of the creation. Mr Norris the father, and Mrs Norris the mother, and
Miss Norris the sister, and Mr Norris Junior the brother, and even Mrs
Norris Senior the grandmother, were all of this opinion, and laid
it down as an absolute matter of fact--as if there were nothing in
suffering and slavery, grim enough to cast a solemn air on any human
animal; though it were as ridiculous, physically, as the most
grotesque of apes, or morally, as the mildest Nimrod among tuft-hunting
republicans!

‘In short,’ said Mr Norris the father, settling the question
comfortably, ‘there is a natural antipathy between the races.’

‘Extending,’ said Martin’s friend, in a low voice, ‘to the cruellest of
tortures, and the bargain and sale of unborn generations.’

Mr Norris the son said nothing, but he made a wry face, and dusted his
fingers as Hamlet might after getting rid of Yorick’s skull; just as
though he had that moment touched a negro, and some of the black had
come off upon his hands.

In order that their talk might fall again into its former pleasant
channel, Martin dropped the subject, with a shrewd suspicion that it
would be a dangerous theme to revive under the best of circumstances;
and again addressed himself to the young ladies, who were very
gorgeously attired in very beautiful colours, and had every article of
dress on the same extensive scale as the little shoes and the thin silk
stockings. This suggested to him that they were great proficients in the
French fashions, which soon turned out to be the case, for though their
information appeared to be none of the newest, it was very extensive;
and the eldest sister in particular, who was distinguished by a talent
for metaphysics, the laws of hydraulic pressure, and the rights of human
kind, had a novel way of combining these acquirements and bringing them
to bear on any subject from Millinery to the Millennium, both inclusive,
which was at once improving and remarkable; so much so, in short, that
it was usually observed to reduce foreigners to a state of temporary
insanity in five minutes.

Martin felt his reason going; and as a means of saving himself, besought
the other sister (seeing a piano in the room) to sing. With this request
she willingly complied; and a bravura concert, solely sustained by the
Misses Noriss, presently began. They sang in all languages--except their
own. German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swiss; but nothing
native; nothing so low as native. For, in this respect, languages are
like many other travellers--ordinary and commonplace enough at home, but
‘specially genteel abroad.

There is little doubt that in course of time the Misses Norris would
have come to Hebrew, if they had not been interrupted by an announcement
from the Irishman, who, flinging open the door, cried in a loud voice--

‘Jiniral Fladdock!’

‘My!’ cried the sisters, desisting suddenly. ‘The general come back!’

As they made the exclamation, the general, attired in full uniform for a
ball, came darting in with such precipitancy that, hitching his boot
in the carpet, and getting his sword between his legs, he came down
headlong, and presented a curious little bald place on the crown of his
head to the eyes of the astonished company. Nor was this the worst of
it; for being rather corpulent and very tight, the general being down,
could not get up again, but lay there writhing and doing such things with
his boots, as there is no other instance of in military history.

Of course there was an immediate rush to his assistance; and the general
was promptly raised. But his uniform was so fearfully and wonderfully
made, that he came up stiff and without a bend in him like a dead Clown,
and had no command whatever of himself until he was put quite flat upon
the soles of his feet, when he became animated as by a miracle, and
moving edgewise that he might go in a narrower compass and be in less
danger of fraying the gold lace on his epaulettes by brushing them
against anything, advanced with a smiling visage to salute the lady of
the house.

To be sure, it would have been impossible for the family to testify
purer delight and joy than at this unlooked-for appearance of General
Fladdock! The general was as warmly received as if New York had been in
a state of siege and no other general was to be got for love or money.
He shook hands with the Norrises three times all round, and then
reviewed them from a little distance as a brave commander might, with
his ample cloak drawn forward over the right shoulder and thrown back
upon the left side to reveal his manly breast.

‘And do I then,’ cried the general, ‘once again behold the choicest
spirits of my country!’

‘Yes,’ said Mr Norris the father. ‘Here we are, general.’

Then all the Norrises pressed round the general, inquiring how and where
he had been since the date of his letter, and how he had enjoyed himself
in foreign parts, and particularly and above all, to what extent he had
become acquainted with the great dukes, lords, viscounts, marquesses,
duchesses, knights, and baronets, in whom the people of those benighted
countries had delight.

‘Well, then, don’t ask me,’ said the general, holding up his hand. ‘I
was among ‘em all the time, and have got public journals in my trunk
with my name printed’--he lowered his voice and was very impressive
here--‘among the fashionable news. But, oh, the conventionalities of
that a-mazing Europe!’

‘Ah!’ cried Mr Norris the father, giving his head a melancholy shake,
and looking towards Martin as though he would say, ‘I can’t deny it,
sir. I would if I could.’

‘The limited diffusion of a moral sense in that country!’ exclaimed the
general. ‘The absence of a moral dignity in man!’

‘Ah!’ sighed all the Norrises, quite overwhelmed with despondency.

‘I couldn’t have realised it,’ pursued the general, ‘without being
located on the spot. Norris, your imagination is the imagination of a
strong man, but YOU couldn’t have realised it, without being located on
the spot!’

‘Never,’ said Mr Norris.

‘The ex-clusiveness, the pride, the form, the ceremony,’ exclaimed the
general, emphasizing the article more vigorously at every repetition.
‘The artificial barriers set up between man and man; the division of the
human race into court cards and plain cards, of every denomination--into
clubs, diamonds, spades--anything but heart!’

‘Ah!’ cried the whole family. ‘Too true, general!’

‘But stay!’ cried Mr Norris the father, taking him by the arm. ‘Surely
you crossed in the Screw, general?’

‘Well! so I did,’ was the reply.

‘Possible!’ cried the young ladies. ‘Only think!’

The general seemed at a loss to understand why his having come home
in the Screw should occasion such a sensation, nor did he seem at all
clearer on the subject when Mr Norris, introducing him to Martin, said:

‘A fellow-passenger of yours, I think?’

‘Of mine?’ exclaimed the general; ‘No!’

He had never seen Martin, but Martin had seen him, and recognized him,
now that they stood face to face, as the gentleman who had stuck his
hands in his pockets towards the end of the voyage, and walked the deck
with his nostrils dilated.

Everybody looked at Martin. There was no help for it. The truth must
out.

‘I came over in the same ship as the general,’ said Martin, ‘but not in
the same cabin. It being necessary for me to observe strict economy, I
took my passage in the steerage.’

If the general had been carried up bodily to a loaded cannon, and
required to let it off that moment, he could not have been in a state
of greater consternation than when he heard these words. He,
Fladdock--Fladdock in full militia uniform, Fladdock the General,
Fladdock, the caressed of foreign noblemen--expected to know a fellow
who had come over in the steerage of line-of-packet ship, at the cost
of four pound ten! And meeting that fellow in the very sanctuary of New
York fashion, and nestling in the bosom of the New York aristocracy! He
almost laid his hand upon his sword.

A death-like stillness fell upon the Norisses. If this story should get
wind, their country relation had, by his imprudence, for ever disgraced
them. They were the bright particular stars of an exalted New York
sphere. There were other fashionable spheres above them, and other
fashionable spheres below, and none of the stars in any one of these
spheres had anything to say to the stars in any other of these spheres.
But, through all the spheres it would go forth that the Norrises,
deceived by gentlemanly manners and appearances, had, falling from their
high estate, ‘received’ a dollarless and unknown man. O guardian eagle
of the pure Republic, had they lived for this!

‘You will allow me,’ said Martin, after a terrible silence, ‘to take
my leave. I feel that I am the cause of at least as much embarrassment
here, as I have brought upon myself. But I am bound, before I go, to
exonerate this gentleman, who, in introducing me to such society, was
quite ignorant of my unworthiness, I assure you.’

With that he made his bow to the Norrises, and walked out like a man of
snow; very cool externally, but pretty hot within.

‘Come, come,’ said Mr Norris the father, looking with a pale face on
the assembled circle as Martin closed the door, ‘the young man has this
night beheld a refinement of social manner, and an easy magnificence of
social decoration, to which he is a stranger in his own country. Let us
hope it may awake a moral sense within him.’

If that peculiarly transatlantic article, a moral sense--for, if native
statesmen, orators, and pamphleteers, are to be believed, America quite
monopolises the commodity--if that peculiarly transatlantic article be
supposed to include a benevolent love of all mankind, certainly Martin’s
would have borne, just then, a deal of waking. As he strode along
the street, with Mark at his heels, his immoral sense was in active
operation; prompting him to the utterance of some rather sanguinary
remarks, which it was well for his own credit that nobody overheard.
He had so far cooled down, however, that he had begun to laugh at the
recollection of these incidents, when he heard another step behind him,
and turning round encountered his friend Bevan, quite out of breath.

He drew his arm through Martin’s, and entreating him to walk slowly, was
silent for some minutes. At length he said:

‘I hope you exonerate me in another sense?’

‘How do you mean?’ asked Martin.

‘I hope you acquit me of intending or foreseeing the termination of our
visit. But I scarcely need ask you that.’

‘Scarcely indeed,’ said Martin. ‘I am the more beholden to you for your
kindness, when I find what kind of stuff the good citizens here are made
of.’

‘I reckon,’ his friend returned, ‘that they are made of pretty much the
same stuff as other folks, if they would but own it, and not set up on
false pretences.’

‘In good faith, that’s true,’ said Martin.

‘I dare say,’ resumed his friend, ‘you might have such a scene as that
in an English comedy, and not detect any gross improbability or anomaly
in the matter of it?’

‘Yes, indeed!’

‘Doubtless it is more ridiculous here than anywhere else,’ said his
companion; ‘but our professions are to blame for that. So far as I
myself am concerned, I may add that I was perfectly aware from the
first that you came over in the steerage, for I had seen the list of
passengers, and knew it did not comprise your name.’

‘I feel more obliged to you than before,’ said Martin.

‘Norris is a very good fellow in his way,’ observed Mr Bevan.

‘Is he?’ said Martin drily.

‘Oh yes! there are a hundred good points about him. If you or anybody
else addressed him as another order of being, and sued to him IN FORMA
PAUPERIS, he would be all kindness and consideration.’

‘I needn’t have travelled three thousand miles from home to find such a
character as THAT,’ said Martin. Neither he nor his friend said anything
more on the way back; each appearing to find sufficient occupation in
his own thoughts.

The tea, or the supper, or whatever else they called the evening meal,
was over when they reached the Major’s; but the cloth, ornamented with
a few additional smears and stains, was still upon the table. At one end
of the board Mrs Jefferson Brick and two other ladies were drinking
tea; out of the ordinary course, evidently, for they were bonneted
and shawled, and seemed to have just come home. By the light of three
flaring candles of different lengths, in as many candlesticks of
different patterns, the room showed to almost as little advantage as in
broad day.

These ladies were all three talking together in a very loud tone when
Martin and his friend entered; but seeing those gentlemen, they stopped
directly, and became excessively genteel, not to say frosty. As they
went on to exchange some few remarks in whispers, the very water in the
teapot might have fallen twenty degrees in temperature beneath their
chilling coldness.

‘Have you been to meeting, Mrs Brick?’ asked Martin’s friend, with
something of a roguish twinkle in his eye.

‘To lecture, sir.’

‘I beg your pardon. I forgot. You don’t go to meeting, I think?’

Here the lady on the right of Mrs Brick gave a pious cough as much as to
say ‘I do!’--as, indeed, she did nearly every night in the week.

‘A good discourse, ma’am?’ asked Mr Bevan, addressing this lady.

The lady raised her eyes in a pious manner, and answered ‘Yes.’ She
had been much comforted by some good, strong, peppery doctrine, which
satisfactorily disposed of all her friends and acquaintances, and quite
settled their business. Her bonnet, too, had far outshone every bonnet
in the congregation; so she was tranquil on all accounts.

‘What course of lectures are you attending now, ma’am?’ said Martin’s
friend, turning again to Mrs Brick.

‘The Philosophy of the Soul, on Wednesdays.’

‘On Mondays?’

‘The Philosophy of Crime.’

‘On Fridays?’

‘The Philosophy of Vegetables.’

‘You have forgotten Thursdays; the Philosophy of Government, my dear,’
observed the third lady.

‘No,’ said Mrs Brick. ‘That’s Tuesdays.’

‘So it is!’ cried the lady. ‘The Philosophy of Matter on Thursdays, of
course.’

‘You see, Mr Chuzzlewit, our ladies are fully employed,’ said Bevan.

‘Indeed you have reason to say so,’ answered Martin. ‘Between these very
grave pursuits abroad, and family duties at home, their time must be
pretty well engrossed.’

Martin stopped here, for he saw that the ladies regarded him with no
very great favour, though what he had done to deserve the disdainful
expression which appeared in their faces he was at a loss to divine. But
on their going upstairs to their bedrooms--which they very soon did--Mr
Bevan informed him that domestic drudgery was far beneath the exalted
range of these Philosophers, and that the chances were a hundred to one
that not one of the three could perform the easiest woman’s work for
herself, or make the simplest article of dress for any of her children.

‘Though whether they might not be better employed with such blunt
instruments as knitting-needles than with these edge-tools,’ he said,
‘is another question; but I can answer for one thing--they don’t often
cut themselves. Devotions and lectures are our balls and concerts. They
go to these places of resort, as an escape from monotony; look at each
other’s clothes; and come home again.’

‘When you say “home,” do you mean a house like this?’

‘Very often. But I see you are tired to death, and will wish you good
night. We will discuss your projects in the morning. You cannot but
feel already that it is useless staying here, with any hope of advancing
them. You will have to go further.’

‘And to fare worse?’ said Martin, pursuing the old adage.

‘Well, I hope not. But sufficient for the day, you know--good night’

They shook hands heartily and separated. As soon as Martin was left
alone, the excitement of novelty and change which had sustained him
through all the fatigues of the day, departed; and he felt so thoroughly
dejected and worn out, that he even lacked the energy to crawl upstairs
to bed.

In twelve or fifteen hours, how great a change had fallen on his hopes
and sanguine plans! New and strange as he was to the ground on which he
stood, and to the air he breathed, he could not--recalling all that he
had crowded into that one day--but entertain a strong misgiving that his
enterprise was doomed. Rash and ill-considered as it had often looked on
shipboard, but had never seemed on shore, it wore a dismal aspect, now,
that frightened him. Whatever thoughts he called up to his aid, they
came upon him in depressing and discouraging shapes, and gave him no
relief. Even the diamonds on his finger sparkled with the brightness of
tears, and had no ray of hope in all their brilliant lustre.

He continued to sit in gloomy rumination by the stove, unmindful of
the boarders who dropped in one by one from their stores and
counting-houses, or the neighbouring bar-rooms, and, after taking long
pulls from a great white waterjug upon the sideboard, and lingering with
a kind of hideous fascination near the brass spittoons, lounged heavily
to bed; until at length Mark Tapley came and shook him by the arm,
supposing him asleep.

‘Mark!’ he cried, starting.

‘All right, sir,’ said that cheerful follower, snuffing with his fingers
the candle he bore. ‘It ain’t a very large bed, your’n, sir; and a man
as wasn’t thirsty might drink, afore breakfast, all the water you’ve
got to wash in, and afterwards eat the towel. But you’ll sleep without
rocking to-night, sir.’

‘I feel as if the house were on the sea’ said Martin, staggering when he
rose; ‘and am utterly wretched.’

‘I’m as jolly as a sandboy, myself, sir,’ said Mark. ‘But, Lord, I have
reason to be! I ought to have been born here; that’s my opinion. Take
care how you go’--for they were now ascending the stairs. ‘You recollect
the gentleman aboard the Screw as had the very small trunk, sir?’

‘The valise? Yes.’

‘Well, sir, there’s been a delivery of clean clothes from the wash
to-night, and they’re put outside the bedroom doors here. If you take
notice as we go up, what a very few shirts there are, and what a many
fronts, you’ll penetrate the mystery of his packing.’

But Martin was too weary and despondent to take heed of anything, so
had no interest in this discovery. Mr Tapley, nothing dashed by his
indifference, conducted him to the top of the house, and into the
bed-chamber prepared for his reception; which was a very little narrow
room, with half a window in it; a bedstead like a chest without a lid;
two chairs; a piece of carpet, such as shoes are commonly tried upon
at a ready-made establishment in England; a little looking-glass nailed
against the wall; and a washing-table, with a jug and ewer, that might
have been mistaken for a milk-pot and slop-basin.

‘I suppose they polish themselves with a dry cloth in this country,’
said Mark. ‘They’ve certainly got a touch of the ‘phoby, sir.’

‘I wish you would pull off my boots for me,’ said Martin, dropping into
one of the chairs ‘I am quite knocked up--dead beat, Mark.’

‘You won’t say that to-morrow morning, sir,’ returned Mr Tapley; ‘nor
even to-night, sir, when you’ve made a trial of this.’ With which he
produced a very large tumbler, piled up to the brim with little blocks
of clear transparent ice, through which one or two thin slices of lemon,
and a golden liquid of delicious appearance, appealed from the still
depths below, to the loving eye of the spectator.

‘What do you call this?’ said Martin.

But Mr Tapley made no answer; merely plunging a reed into the
mixture--which caused a pleasant commotion among the pieces of ice--and
signifying by an expressive gesture that it was to be pumped up through
that agency by the enraptured drinker.

Martin took the glass with an astonished look; applied his lips to the
reed; and cast up his eyes once in ecstasy. He paused no more until the
goblet was drained to the last drop.

‘There, sir!’ said Mark, taking it from him with a triumphant face; ‘if
ever you should happen to be dead beat again, when I ain’t in the
way, all you’ve got to do is to ask the nearest man to go and fetch a
cobbler.’

‘To go and fetch a cobbler?’ repeated Martin.

‘This wonderful invention, sir,’ said Mark, tenderly patting the empty
glass, ‘is called a cobbler. Sherry cobbler when you name it long;
cobbler, when you name it short. Now you’re equal to having your boots
took off, and are, in every particular worth mentioning, another man.’

Having delivered himself of this solemn preface, he brought the
bootjack.

‘Mind! I am not going to relapse, Mark,’ said Martin; ‘but, good Heaven,
if we should be left in some wild part of this country without goods or
money!’

‘Well, sir!’ replied the imperturbable Tapley; ‘from what we’ve seen
already, I don’t know whether, under those circumstances, we shouldn’t
do better in the wild parts than in the tame ones.’

‘Oh, Tom Pinch, Tom Pinch!’ said Martin, in a thoughtful tone; ‘what
would I give to be again beside you, and able to hear your voice, though
it were even in the old bedroom at Pecksniff’s!’

‘Oh, Dragon, Dragon!’ echoed Mark, cheerfully, ‘if there warn’t any
water between you and me, and nothing faint-hearted-like in going back,
I don’t know that I mightn’t say the same. But here am I, Dragon, in
New York, America; and there are you in Wiltshire, Europe; and there’s a
fortune to make, Dragon, and a beautiful young lady to make it for; and
whenever you go to see the Monument, Dragon, you mustn’t give in on the
doorsteps, or you’ll never get up to the top!’

‘Wisely said, Mark,’ cried Martin. ‘We must look forward.’

‘In all the story-books as ever I read, sir, the people as looked
backward was turned into stones,’ replied Mark; ‘and my opinion always
was, that they brought it on themselves, and it served ‘em right. I wish
you good night, sir, and pleasant dreams!’

‘They must be of home, then,’ said Martin, as he lay down in bed.

‘So I say, too,’ whispered Mark Tapley, when he was out of hearing and
in his own room; ‘for if there don’t come a time afore we’re well out of
this, when there’ll be a little more credit in keeping up one’s jollity,
I’m a United Statesman!’

Leaving them to blend and mingle in their sleep the shadows of objects
afar off, as they take fantastic shapes upon the wall in the dim light
of thought without control, be it the part of this slight chronicle--a
dream within a dream--as rapidly to change the scene, and cross the
ocean to the English shore.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

DOES BUSINESS WITH THE HOUSE OF ANTHONY CHUZZLEWIT AND SON, FROM WHICH
ONE OF THE PARTNERS RETIRES UNEXPECTEDLY


Change begets change. Nothing propagates so fast. If a man habituated to
a narrow circle of cares and pleasures, out of which he seldom travels,
step beyond it, though for never so brief a space, his departure from
the monotonous scene on which he has been an actor of importance, would
seem to be the signal for instant confusion. As if, in the gap he had
left, the wedge of change were driven to the head, rending what was a
solid mass to fragments, things cemented and held together by the usages
of years, burst asunder in as many weeks. The mine which Time has slowly
dug beneath familiar objects is sprung in an instant; and what was rock
before, becomes but sand and dust.

Most men, at one time or other, have proved this in some degree. The
extent to which the natural laws of change asserted their supremacy
in that limited sphere of action which Martin had deserted, shall be
faithfully set down in these pages.

‘What a cold spring it is!’ whimpered old Anthony, drawing near the
evening fire, ‘It was a warmer season, sure, when I was young!’

‘You needn’t go scorching your clothes into holes, whether it was or
not,’ observed the amiable Jonas, raising his eyes from yesterday’s
newspaper, ‘Broadcloth ain’t so cheap as that comes to.’

‘A good lad!’ cried the father, breathing on his cold hands, and feebly
chafing them against each other. ‘A prudent lad! He never delivered
himself up to the vanities of dress. No, no!’

‘I don’t know but I would, though, mind you, if I could do it for
nothing,’ said his son, as he resumed the paper.

‘Ah!’ chuckled the old man. ‘IF, indeed!--But it’s very cold.’

‘Let the fire be!’ cried Mr Jonas, stopping his honoured parent’s hand
in the use of the poker. ‘Do you mean to come to want in your old age,
that you take to wasting now?’

‘There’s not time for that, Jonas,’ said the old man.

‘Not time for what?’ bawled his heir.

‘For me to come to want. I wish there was!’

‘You always were as selfish an old blade as need be,’ said Jonas in a
voice too low for him to hear, and looking at him with an angry frown.
‘You act up to your character. You wouldn’t mind coming to want,
wouldn’t you! I dare say you wouldn’t. And your own flesh and blood
might come to want too, might they, for anything you cared? Oh you
precious old flint!’

After this dutiful address he took his tea-cup in his hand--for that
meal was in progress, and the father and son and Chuffey were partakers
of it. Then, looking steadfastly at his father, and stopping now and
then to carry a spoonful of tea to his lips, he proceeded in the same
tone, thus:

‘Want, indeed! You’re a nice old man to be talking of want at this time
of day. Beginning to talk of want, are you? Well, I declare! There isn’t
time? No, I should hope not. But you’d live to be a couple of hundred if
you could; and after all be discontented. I know you!’

The old man sighed, and still sat cowering before the fire. Mr Jonas
shook his Britannia-metal teaspoon at him, and taking a loftier
position, went on to argue the point on high moral grounds.

‘If you’re in such a state of mind as that,’ he grumbled, but in the
same subdued key, ‘why don’t you make over your property? Buy an annuity
cheap, and make your life interesting to yourself and everybody else
that watches the speculation. But no, that wouldn’t suit YOU. That would
be natural conduct to your own son, and you like to be unnatural, and to
keep him out of his rights. Why, I should be ashamed of myself if I was
you, and glad to hide my head in the what you may call it.’

Possibly this general phrase supplied the place of grave, or tomb,
or sepulchre, or cemetery, or mausoleum, or other such word which the
filial tenderness of Mr Jonas made him delicate of pronouncing. He
pursued the theme no further; for Chuffey, somehow discovering, from
his old corner by the fireside, that Anthony was in the attitude of a
listener, and that Jonas appeared to be speaking, suddenly cried out,
like one inspired:

‘He is your own son, Mr Chuzzlewit. Your own son, sir!’

Old Chuffey little suspected what depth of application these words had,
or that, in the bitter satire which they bore, they might have sunk into
the old man’s very soul, could he have known what words here hanging on
his own son’s lips, or what was passing in his thoughts. But the voice
diverted the current of Anthony’s reflections, and roused him.

‘Yes, yes, Chuffey, Jonas is a chip of the old block. It is a very
old block, now, Chuffey,’ said the old man, with a strange look of
discomposure.

‘Precious old,’ assented Jonas

‘No, no, no,’ said Chuffey. ‘No, Mr Chuzzlewit. Not old at all, sir.’

‘Oh! He’s worse than ever, you know!’ cried Jonas, quite disgusted.
‘Upon my soul, father, he’s getting too bad. Hold your tongue, will
you?’

‘He says you’re wrong!’ cried Anthony to the old clerk.

‘Tut, tut!’ was Chuffey’s answer. ‘I know better. I say HE’S wrong.
I say HE’S wrong. He’s a boy. That’s what he is. So are you, Mr
Chuzzlewit--a kind of boy. Ha! ha! ha! You’re quite a boy to many I have
known; you’re a boy to me; you’re a boy to hundreds of us. Don’t mind
him!’

With which extraordinary speech--for in the case of Chuffey this was a
burst of eloquence without a parallel--the poor old shadow drew through
his palsied arm his master’s hand, and held it there, with his own
folded upon it, as if he would defend him.

‘I grow deafer every day, Chuff,’ said Anthony, with as much softness of
manner, or, to describe it more correctly, with as little hardness as he
was capable of expressing.

‘No, no,’ cried Chuffey. ‘No, you don’t. What if you did? I’ve been deaf
this twenty year.’

‘I grow blinder, too,’ said the old man, shaking his head.

‘That’s a good sign!’ cried Chuffey. ‘Ha! ha! The best sign in the
world! You saw too well before.’

He patted Anthony upon the hand as one might comfort a child, and
drawing the old man’s arm still further through his own, shook his
trembling fingers towards the spot where Jonas sat, as though he would
wave him off. But, Anthony remaining quite still and silent, he relaxed
his hold by slow degrees and lapsed into his usual niche in the corner;
merely putting forth his hand at intervals and touching his old employer
gently on the coat, as with the design of assuring himself that he was
yet beside him.

Mr Jonas was so very much amazed by these proceedings that he could do
nothing but stare at the two old men, until Chuffey had fallen into his
usual state, and Anthony had sunk into a doze; when he gave some vent
to his emotions by going close up to the former personage, and making as
though he would, in vulgar parlance, ‘punch his head.’

‘They’ve been carrying on this game,’ thought Jonas in a brown study,
‘for the last two or three weeks. I never saw my father take so much
notice of him as he has in that time. What! You’re legacy hunting, are
you, Mister Chuff? Eh?’

But Chuffey was as little conscious of the thought as of the bodily
advance of Mr Jonas’s clenched fist, which hovered fondly about his ear.
When he had scowled at him to his heart’s content, Jonas took the candle
from the table, and walking into the glass office, produced a bunch of
keys from his pocket. With one of these he opened a secret drawer in the
desk; peeping stealthily out, as he did so, to be certain that the two
old men were still before the fire.

‘All as right as ever,’ said Jonas, propping the lid of the desk open
with his forehead, and unfolding a paper. ‘Here’s the will, Mister
Chuff. Thirty pound a year for your maintenance, old boy, and all the
rest to his only son, Jonas. You needn’t trouble yourself to be too
affectionate. You won’t get anything by it. What’s that?’

It WAS startling, certainly. A face on the other side of the glass
partition looking curiously in; and not at him but at the paper in his
hand. For the eyes were attentively cast down upon the writing, and were
swiftly raised when he cried out. Then they met his own, and were as the
eyes of Mr Pecksniff.

Suffering the lid of the desk to fall with a loud noise, but not
forgetting even then to lock it, Jonas, pale and breathless, gazed upon
this phantom. It moved, opened the door, and walked in.

‘What’s the matter?’ cried Jonas, falling back. ‘Who is it? Where do you
come from? What do you want?’

‘Matter!’ cried the voice of Mr Pecksniff, as Pecksniff in the flesh
smiled amiably upon him. ‘The matter, Mr Jonas!’

‘What are you prying and peering about here for?’ said Jonas, angrily.
‘What do you mean by coming up to town in this way, and taking one
unawares? It’s precious odd a man can’t read the--the newspaper--in his
own office without being startled out of his wits by people coming in
without notice. Why didn’t you knock at the door?’

‘So I did, Mr Jonas,’ answered Pecksniff, ‘but no one heard me. I was
curious,’ he added in his gentle way as he laid his hand upon the young
man’s shoulder, ‘to find out what part of the newspaper interested you
so much; but the glass was too dim and dirty.’

Jonas glanced in haste at the partition. Well. It wasn’t very clean. So
far he spoke the truth.

‘Was it poetry now?’ said Mr Pecksniff, shaking the forefinger of his
right hand with an air of cheerful banter. ‘Or was it politics? Or was
it the price of stock? The main chance, Mr Jonas, the main chance, I
suspect.’

‘You ain’t far from the truth,’ answered Jonas, recovering himself and
snuffing the candle; ‘but how the deuce do you come to be in London
again? Ecod! it’s enough to make a man stare, to see a fellow looking at
him all of a sudden, who he thought was sixty or seventy mile away.’

‘So it is,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘No doubt of it, my dear Mr Jonas. For
while the human mind is constituted as it is--’

‘Oh, bother the human mind,’ interrupted Jonas with impatience ‘what
have you come up for?’

‘A little matter of business,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘which has arisen
quite unexpectedly.’

‘Oh!’ cried Jonas, ‘is that all? Well. Here’s father in the next room.
Hallo father, here’s Pecksniff! He gets more addle-pated every day
he lives, I do believe,’ muttered Jonas, shaking his honoured parent
roundly. ‘Don’t I tell you Pecksniff’s here, stupid-head?’

The combined effects of the shaking and this loving remonstrance soon
awoke the old man, who gave Mr Pecksniff a chuckling welcome which was
attributable in part to his being glad to see that gentleman, and in
part to his unfading delight in the recollection of having called him a
hypocrite. As Mr Pecksniff had not yet taken tea (indeed he had, but an
hour before, arrived in London) the remains of the late collation, with
a rasher of bacon, were served up for his entertainment; and as Mr Jonas
had a business appointment in the next street, he stepped out to keep
it; promising to return before Mr Pecksniff could finish his repast.

‘And now, my good sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff to Anthony; ‘now that we
are alone, pray tell me what I can do for you. I say alone, because I
believe that our dear friend Mr Chuffey is, metaphysically speaking,
a--shall I say a dummy?’ asked Mr Pecksniff with his sweetest smile, and
his head very much on one side.

‘He neither hears us,’ replied Anthony, ‘nor sees us.’

‘Why, then,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘I will be bold to say, with the utmost
sympathy for his afflictions, and the greatest admiration of those
excellent qualities which do equal honour to his head and to his heart,
that he is what is playfully termed a dummy. You were going to observe,
my dear sir--?’

‘I was not going to make any observation that I know of,’ replied the
old man.

‘I was,’ said Mr Pecksniff, mildly.

‘Oh! YOU were? What was it?’

‘That I never,’ said Mr Pecksniff, previously rising to see that the
door was shut, and arranging his chair when he came back, so that it
could not be opened in the least without his immediately becoming aware
of the circumstance; ‘that I never in my life was so astonished as by
the receipt of your letter yesterday. That you should do me the honour
to wish to take counsel with me on any matter, amazed me; but that you
should desire to do so, to the exclusion even of Mr Jonas, showed an
amount of confidence in one to whom you had done a verbal injury--merely
a verbal injury, you were anxious to repair--which gratified, which
moved, which overcame me.’

He was always a glib speaker, but he delivered this short address very
glibly; having been at some pains to compose it outside the coach.

Although he paused for a reply, and truly said that he was there at
Anthony’s request, the old man sat gazing at him in profound silence and
with a perfectly blank face. Nor did he seem to have the least desire or
impulse to pursue the conversation, though Mr Pecksniff looked towards
the door, and pulled out his watch, and gave him many other hints that
their time was short, and Jonas, if he kept his word, would soon return.
But the strangest incident in all this strange behaviour was, that of a
sudden, in a moment, so swiftly that it was impossible to trace how,
or to observe any process of change, his features fell into their old
expression, and he cried, striking his hand passionately upon the table
as if no interval at all had taken place:

‘Will you hold your tongue, sir, and let me speak?’

Mr Pecksniff deferred to him with a submissive bow; and said within
himself, ‘I knew his hand was changed, and that his writing staggered. I
said so yesterday. Ahem! Dear me!’

‘Jonas is sweet upon your daughter, Pecksniff,’ said the old man, in his
usual tone.

‘We spoke of that, if you remember, sir, at Mrs Todgers’s,’ replied the
courteous architect.

‘You needn’t speak so loud,’ retorted Anthony. ‘I’m not so deaf as
that.’

Mr Pecksniff had certainly raised his voice pretty high; not so much
because he thought Anthony was deaf, as because he felt convinced that
his perceptive faculties were waxing dim; but this quick resentment of
his considerate behaviour greatly disconcerted him, and, not knowing
what tack to shape his course upon, he made another inclination of the
head, yet more submissive that the last.

‘I have said,’ repeated the old man, ‘that Jonas is sweet upon your
daughter.’

‘A charming girl, sir,’ murmured Mr Pecksniff, seeing that he waited
for an answer. ‘A dear girl, Mr Chuzzlewit, though I say it, who should
not.’

‘You know better,’ cried the old man, advancing his weazen face at least
a yard, and starting forward in his chair to do it. ‘You lie! What, you
WILL be a hypocrite, will you?’

‘My good sir,’ Mr Pecksniff began.

‘Don’t call me a good sir,’ retorted Anthony, ‘and don’t claim to be
one yourself. If your daughter was what you would have me believe, she
wouldn’t do for Jonas. Being what she is, I think she will. He might be
deceived in a wife. She might run riot, contract debts, and waste his
substance. Now when I am dead--’

His face altered so horribly as he said the word, that Mr Pecksniff
really was fain to look another way.

‘--It will be worse for me to know of such doings, than if I was alive;
for to be tormented for getting that together, which even while I suffer
for its acquisition, is flung into the very kennels of the streets,
would be insupportable torture. No,’ said the old man, hoarsely, ‘let
that be saved at least; let there be something gained, and kept fast
hold of, when so much is lost.’

‘My dear Mr Chuzzlewit,’ said Pecksniff, ‘these are unwholesome fancies;
quite unnecessary, sir, quite uncalled for, I am sure. The truth is, my
dear sir, that you are not well!’

‘Not dying though!’ cried Anthony, with something like the snarl of a
wild animal. ‘Not yet! There are years of life in me. Why, look at him,’
pointing to his feeble clerk. ‘Death has no right to leave him standing,
and to mow me down!’

Mr Pecksniff was so much afraid of the old man, and so completely taken
aback by the state in which he found him, that he had not even presence
of mind enough to call up a scrap of morality from the great storehouse
within his own breast. Therefore he stammered out that no doubt it was,
in fairness and decency, Mr Chuffey’s turn to expire; and that from
all he had heard of Mr Chuffey, and the little he had the pleasure of
knowing of that gentleman, personally, he felt convinced in his own
mind that he would see the propriety of expiring with as little delay as
possible.

‘Come here!’ said the old man, beckoning him to draw nearer. ‘Jonas
will be my heir, Jonas will be rich, and a great catch for you. You know
that. Jonas is sweet upon your daughter.’

‘I know that too,’ thought Mr Pecksniff, ‘for you have said it often
enough.’

‘He might get more money than with her,’ said the old man, ‘but she
will help him to take care of what they have. She is not too young or
heedless, and comes of a good hard griping stock. But don’t you play
too fine a game. She only holds him by a thread; and if you draw it too
tight (I know his temper) it’ll snap. Bind him when he’s in the mood,
Pecksniff; bind him. You’re too deep. In your way of leading him on,
you’ll leave him miles behind. Bah, you man of oil, have I no eyes to
see how you have angled with him from the first?’

‘Now I wonder,’ thought Mr Pecksniff, looking at him with a wistful
face, ‘whether this is all he has to say?’

Old Anthony rubbed his hands and muttered to himself; complained again
that he was cold; drew his chair before the fire; and, sitting with his
back to Mr Pecksniff, and his chin sunk down upon his breast, was, in
another minute, quite regardless or forgetful of his presence.

Uncouth and unsatisfactory as this short interview had been, it had
furnished Mr Pecksniff with a hint which, supposing nothing further
were imparted to him, repaid the journey up and home again. For the good
gentleman had never (for want of an opportunity) dived into the depths
of Mr Jonas’s nature; and any recipe for catching such a son-in-law
(much more one written on a leaf out of his own father’s book) was worth
the having. In order that he might lose no chance of improving so fair
an opportunity by allowing Anthony to fall asleep before he had finished
all he had to say, Mr Pecksniff, in the disposal of the refreshments on
the table, a work to which he now applied himself in earnest, resorted
to many ingenious contrivances for attracting his attention; such as
coughing, sneezing, clattering the teacups, sharpening the knives,
dropping the loaf, and so forth. But all in vain, for Mr Jonas returned,
and Anthony had said no more.

‘What! My father asleep again?’ he cried, as he hung up his hat, and
cast a look at him. ‘Ah! and snoring. Only hear!’

‘He snores very deep,’ said Mr Pecksniff.

‘Snores deep?’ repeated Jonas. ‘Yes; let him alone for that. He’ll snore
for six, at any time.’

‘Do you know, Mr Jonas,’ said Pecksniff, ‘that I think your father
is--don’t let me alarm you--breaking?’

‘Oh, is he though?’ replied Jonas, with a shake of the head which
expressed the closeness of his dutiful observation. ‘Ecod, you don’t
know how tough he is. He ain’t upon the move yet.’

‘It struck me that he was changed, both in his appearance and manner,’
said Mr Pecksniff.

‘That’s all you know about it,’ returned Jonas, seating himself with a
melancholy air. ‘He never was better than he is now. How are they all at
home? How’s Charity?’

‘Blooming, Mr Jonas, blooming.’

‘And the other one; how’s she?’

‘Volatile trifler!’ said Mr Pecksniff, fondly musing. ‘She is well, she
is well. Roving from parlour to bedroom, Mr Jonas, like a bee, skimming
from post to pillar, like the butterfly; dipping her young beak into our
currant wine, like the humming-bird! Ah! were she a little less giddy
than she is; and had she but the sterling qualities of Cherry, my young
friend!’

‘Is she so very giddy, then?’ asked Jonas.

‘Well, well!’ said Mr Pecksniff, with great feeling; ‘let me not be hard
upon my child. Beside her sister Cherry she appears so. A strange noise
that, Mr Jonas!’

‘Something wrong in the clock, I suppose,’ said Jonas, glancing towards
it. ‘So the other one ain’t your favourite, ain’t she?’

The fond father was about to reply, and had already summoned into his
face a look of most intense sensibility, when the sound he had already
noticed was repeated.

‘Upon my word, Mr Jonas, that is a very extraordinary clock,’ said
Pecksniff.

It would have been, if it had made the noise which startled them; but
another kind of time-piece was fast running down, and from that the
sound proceeded. A scream from Chuffey, rendered a hundred times more
loud and formidable by his silent habits, made the house ring from roof
to cellar; and, looking round, they saw Anthony Chuzzlewit extended on
the floor, with the old clerk upon his knees beside him.

He had fallen from his chair in a fit, and lay there, battling for each
gasp of breath, with every shrivelled vein and sinew starting in its
place, as if it were bent on bearing witness to his age, and sternly
pleading with Nature against his recovery. It was frightful to see how
the principle of life, shut up within his withered frame, fought like a
strong devil, mad to be released, and rent its ancient prison-house.
A young man in the fullness of his vigour, struggling with so much
strength of desperation, would have been a dismal sight; but an old,
old, shrunken body, endowed with preternatural might, and giving the lie
in every motion of its every limb and joint to its enfeebled aspect, was
a hideous spectacle indeed.

They raised him up, and fetched a surgeon with all haste, who bled the
patient and applied some remedies; but the fits held him so long that
it was past midnight when they got him--quiet now, but quite unconscious
and exhausted--into bed.

‘Don’t go,’ said Jonas, putting his ashy lips to Mr Pecksniff’s ear and
whispered across the bed. ‘It was a mercy you were present when he was
taken ill. Some one might have said it was my doing.’

‘YOUR doing!’ cried Mr Pecksniff.

‘I don’t know but they might,’ he replied, wiping the moisture from his
white face. ‘People say such things. How does he look now?’

Mr Pecksniff shook his head.

‘I used to joke, you know,’ said. Jonas: ‘but I--I never wished him
dead. Do you think he’s very bad?’

‘The doctor said he was. You heard,’ was Mr Pecksniff’s answer.

‘Ah! but he might say that to charge us more, in case of his getting
well’ said Jonas. ‘You mustn’t go away, Pecksniff. Now it’s come to
this, I wouldn’t be without a witness for a thousand pound.’

Chuffey said not a word, and heard not a word. He had sat himself down
in a chair at the bedside, and there he remained, motionless; except
that he sometimes bent his head over the pillow, and seemed to listen.
He never changed in this. Though once in the dreary night Mr Pecksniff,
having dozed, awoke with a confused impression that he had heard
him praying, and strangely mingling figures--not of speech, but
arithmetic--with his broken prayers.

Jonas sat there, too, all night; not where his father could have seen
him, had his consciousness returned, but hiding, as it were, behind him,
and only reading how he looked, in Mr Pecksniff’s eyes. HE, the coarse
upstart, who had ruled the house so long--that craven cur, who was
afraid to move, and shook so, that his very shadow fluttered on the
wall!

It was broad, bright, stirring day when, leaving the old clerk to watch
him, they went down to breakfast. People hurried up and down the street;
windows and doors were opened; thieves and beggars took their usual
posts; workmen bestirred themselves; tradesmen set forth their shops;
bailiffs and constables were on the watch; all kinds of human creatures
strove, in their several ways, as hard to live, as the one sick old
man who combated for every grain of sand in his fast-emptying glass, as
eagerly as if it were an empire.

‘If anything happens Pecksniff,’ said Jonas, ‘you must promise me to
stop here till it’s all over. You shall see that I do what’s right.’

‘I know that you will do what’s right, Mr Jonas,’ said Pecksniff.

‘Yes, yes, but I won’t be doubted. No one shall have it in his power to
say a syllable against me,’ he returned. ‘I know how people will talk.
Just as if he wasn’t old, or I had the secret of keeping him alive!’

Mr Pecksniff promised that he would remain, if circumstances should
render it, in his esteemed friend’s opinion, desirable; they were
finishing their meal in silence, when suddenly an apparition stood
before them, so ghastly to the view that Jonas shrieked aloud, and both
recoiled in horror.

Old Anthony, dressed in his usual clothes, was in the room--beside the
table. He leaned upon the shoulder of his solitary friend; and on his
livid face, and on his horny hands, and in his glassy eyes, and traced
by an eternal finger in the very drops of sweat upon his brow, was one
word--Death.

He spoke to them--in something of his own voice too, but sharpened and
made hollow, like a dead man’s face. What he would have said, God knows.
He seemed to utter words, but they were such as man had never heard.
And this was the most fearful circumstance of all, to see him standing
there, gabbling in an unearthly tongue.

‘He’s better now,’ said Chuffey. ‘Better now. Let him sit in his old
chair, and he’ll be well again. I told him not to mind. I said so,
yesterday.’

They put him in his easy-chair, and wheeled it near the window; then,
swinging open the door, exposed him to the free current of morning air.
But not all the air that is, nor all the winds that ever blew ‘twixt
Heaven and Earth, could have brought new life to him.

Plunge him to the throat in golden pieces now, and his heavy fingers
shall not close on one!



CHAPTER NINETEEN

THE READER IS BROUGHT INTO COMMUNICATION WITH SOME PROFESSIONAL PERSONS,
AND SHEDS A TEAR OVER THE FILIAL PIETY OF GOOD MR JONAS


Mr Pecksniff was in a hackney cabriolet, for Jonas Chuzzlewit had said
‘Spare no expense.’ Mankind is evil in its thoughts and in its base
constructions, and Jonas was resolved it should not have an inch to
stretch into an ell against him. It never should be charged upon his
father’s son that he had grudged the money for his father’s funeral.
Hence, until the obsequies should be concluded, Jonas had taken for his
motto ‘Spend, and spare not!’

Mr Pecksniff had been to the undertaker, and was now upon his way to
another officer in the train of mourning--a female functionary, a nurse,
and watcher, and performer of nameless offices about the persons of the
dead--whom he had recommended. Her name, as Mr Pecksniff gathered from
a scrap of writing in his hand, was Gamp; her residence in Kingsgate
Street, High Holborn. So Mr Pecksniff, in a hackney cab, was rattling
over Holborn stones, in quest of Mrs Gamp.

This lady lodged at a bird-fancier’s, next door but one to the
celebrated mutton-pie shop, and directly opposite to the original
cat’s-meat warehouse; the renown of which establishments was duly
heralded on their respective fronts. It was a little house, and this was
the more convenient; for Mrs Gamp being, in her highest walk of art,
a monthly nurse, or, as her sign-board boldly had it, ‘Midwife,’ and
lodging in the first-floor front, was easily assailable at night by
pebbles, walking-sticks, and fragments of tobacco-pipe; all much more
efficacious than the street-door knocker, which was so constructed as
to wake the street with ease, and even spread alarms of fire in Holborn,
without making the smallest impression on the premises to which it was
addressed.

It chanced on this particular occasion, that Mrs Gamp had been up all
the previous night, in attendance upon a ceremony to which the usage of
gossips has given that name which expresses, in two syllables, the curse
pronounced on Adam. It chanced that Mrs Gamp had not been regularly
engaged, but had been called in at a crisis, in consequence of her great
repute, to assist another professional lady with her advice; and thus it
happened that, all points of interest in the case being over, Mrs Gamp
had come home again to the bird-fancier’s and gone to bed. So when Mr
Pecksniff drove up in the hackney cab, Mrs Gamp’s curtains were drawn
close, and Mrs Gamp was fast asleep behind them.

If the bird-fancier had been at home, as he ought to have been, there
would have been no great harm in this; but he was out, and his shop was
closed. The shutters were down certainly; and in every pane of glass
there was at least one tiny bird in a tiny bird-cage, twittering and
hopping his little ballet of despair, and knocking his head against the
roof; while one unhappy goldfinch who lived outside a red villa with
his name on the door, drew the water for his own drinking, and mutely
appealed to some good man to drop a farthing’s-worth of poison in it.
Still, the door was shut. Mr Pecksniff tried the latch, and shook it,
causing a cracked bell inside to ring most mournfully; but no one came.
The bird-fancier was an easy shaver also, and a fashionable hair-dresser
also, and perhaps he had been sent for, express, from the court end of
the town, to trim a lord, or cut and curl a lady; but however that
might be, there, upon his own ground, he was not; nor was there any more
distinct trace of him to assist the imagination of an inquirer, than
a professional print or emblem of his calling (much favoured in the
trade), representing a hair-dresser of easy manners curling a lady
of distinguished fashion, in the presence of a patent upright grand
pianoforte.

Noting these circumstances, Mr Pecksniff, in the innocence of his heart,
applied himself to the knocker; but at the first double knock every
window in the street became alive with female heads; and before he could
repeat the performance whole troops of married ladies (some about to
trouble Mrs Gamp themselves very shortly) came flocking round the steps,
all crying out with one accord, and with uncommon interest, ‘Knock at
the winder, sir, knock at the winder. Lord bless you, don’t lose no more
time than you can help--knock at the winder!’

Acting upon this suggestion, and borrowing the driver’s whip for the
purpose, Mr Pecksniff soon made a commotion among the first floor
flower-pots, and roused Mrs Gamp, whose voice--to the great satisfaction
of the matrons--was heard to say, ‘I’m coming.’

‘He’s as pale as a muffin,’ said one lady, in allusion to Mr Pecksniff.

‘So he ought to be, if he’s the feelings of a man,’ observed another.

A third lady (with her arms folded) said she wished he had chosen any
other time for fetching Mrs Gamp, but it always happened so with HER.

It gave Mr Pecksniff much uneasiness to find, from these remarks, that
he was supposed to have come to Mrs Gamp upon an errand touching--not
the close of life, but the other end. Mrs Gamp herself was under the
same impression, for, throwing open the window, she cried behind the
curtains, as she hastily attired herself--

‘Is it Mrs Perkins?’

‘No!’ returned Mr Pecksniff, sharply. ‘Nothing of the sort.’

‘What, Mr Whilks!’ cried Mrs Gamp. ‘Don’t say it’s you, Mr Whilks, and
that poor creetur Mrs Whilks with not even a pincushion ready. Don’t say
it’s you, Mr Whilks!’

‘It isn’t Mr Whilks,’ said Pecksniff. ‘I don’t know the man. Nothing
of the kind. A gentleman is dead; and some person being wanted in the
house, you have been recommended by Mr Mould the undertaker.’

As she was by this time in a condition to appear, Mrs Gamp, who had
a face for all occasions, looked out of the window with her mourning
countenance, and said she would be down directly. But the matrons took
it very ill that Mr Pecksniff’s mission was of so unimportant a kind;
and the lady with her arms folded rated him in good round terms,
signifying that she would be glad to know what he meant by terrifying
delicate females ‘with his corpses;’ and giving it as her opinion that
he was quite ugly enough to know better. The other ladies were not at
all behind-hand in expressing similar sentiments; and the children, of
whom some scores had now collected, hooted and defied Mr Pecksniff quite
savagely. So when Mrs Gamp appeared, the unoffending gentleman was glad
to hustle her with very little ceremony into the cabriolet, and drive
off, overwhelmed with popular execration.

Mrs Gamp had a large bundle with her, a pair of pattens, and a species
of gig umbrella; the latter article in colour like a faded leaf, except
where a circular patch of a lively blue had been dexterously let in at
the top. She was much flurried by the haste she had made, and laboured
under the most erroneous views of cabriolets, which she appeared
to confound with mail-coaches or stage-wagons, inasmuch as she was
constantly endeavouring for the first half mile to force her luggage
through the little front window, and clamouring to the driver to ‘put
it in the boot.’ When she was disabused of this idea, her whole being
resolved itself into an absorbing anxiety about her pattens, with which
she played innumerable games at quoits on Mr Pecksniff’s legs. It was
not until they were close upon the house of mourning that she had enough
composure to observe--

‘And so the gentleman’s dead, sir! Ah! The more’s the pity.’ She didn’t
even know his name. ‘But it’s what we must all come to. It’s as certain
as being born, except that we can’t make our calculations as exact. Ah!
Poor dear!’

She was a fat old woman, this Mrs Gamp, with a husky voice and a moist
eye, which she had a remarkable power of turning up, and only showing
the white of it. Having very little neck, it cost her some trouble to
look over herself, if one may say so, at those to whom she talked. She
wore a very rusty black gown, rather the worse for snuff, and a shawl
and bonnet to correspond. In these dilapidated articles of dress she
had, on principle, arrayed herself, time out of mind, on such occasions
as the present; for this at once expressed a decent amount of veneration
for the deceased, and invited the next of kin to present her with a
fresher suit of weeds; an appeal so frequently successful, that the very
fetch and ghost of Mrs Gamp, bonnet and all, might be seen hanging up,
any hour in the day, in at least a dozen of the second-hand clothes
shops about Holborn. The face of Mrs Gamp--the nose in particular--was
somewhat red and swollen, and it was difficult to enjoy her society
without becoming conscious of a smell of spirits. Like most persons who
have attained to great eminence in their profession, she took to hers
very kindly; insomuch that, setting aside her natural predilections as
a woman, she went to a lying-in or a laying-out with equal zest and
relish.

‘Ah!’ repeated Mrs Gamp; for it was always a safe sentiment in cases of
mourning. ‘Ah dear! When Gamp was summoned to his long home, and I see
him a-lying in Guy’s Hospital with a penny-piece on each eye, and his
wooden leg under his left arm, I thought I should have fainted away. But
I bore up.’

If certain whispers current in the Kingsgate Street circles had any
truth in them, she had indeed borne up surprisingly; and had exerted
such uncommon fortitude as to dispose of Mr Gamp’s remains for the
benefit of science. But it should be added, in fairness, that this had
happened twenty years before; and that Mr and Mrs Gamp had long been
separated on the ground of incompatibility of temper in their drink.

‘You have become indifferent since then, I suppose?’ said Mr Pecksniff.
‘Use is second nature, Mrs Gamp.’

‘You may well say second nater, sir,’ returned that lady. ‘One’s first
ways is to find sich things a trial to the feelings, and so is one’s
lasting custom. If it wasn’t for the nerve a little sip of liquor gives
me (I never was able to do more than taste it), I never could go through
with what I sometimes has to do. “Mrs Harris,” I says, at the very last
case as ever I acted in, which it was but a young person, “Mrs Harris,”
 I says, “leave the bottle on the chimley-piece, and don’t ask me to take
none, but let me put my lips to it when I am so dispoged, and then I
will do what I’m engaged to do, according to the best of my ability.”
 “Mrs Gamp,” she says, in answer, “if ever there was a sober creetur to
be got at eighteen pence a day for working people, and three and six for
gentlefolks--night watching,”’ said Mrs Gamp with emphasis, ‘“being a
extra charge--you are that inwallable person.” “Mrs Harris,” I says to
her, “don’t name the charge, for if I could afford to lay all my feller
creeturs out for nothink, I would gladly do it, sich is the love I bears
‘em. But what I always says to them as has the management of matters,
Mrs Harris”’--here she kept her eye on Mr Pecksniff--‘“be they gents or
be they ladies, is, don’t ask me whether I won’t take none, or whether I
will, but leave the bottle on the chimley-piece, and let me put my lips
to it when I am so dispoged.”’

The conclusion of this affecting narrative brought them to the house. In
the passage they encountered Mr Mould the undertaker; a little elderly
gentleman, bald, and in a suit of black; with a notebook in his hand,
a massive gold watch-chain dangling from his fob, and a face in which a
queer attempt at melancholy was at odds with a smirk of satisfaction; so
that he looked as a man might, who, in the very act of smacking his lips
over choice old wine, tried to make believe it was physic.

‘Well, Mrs Gamp, and how are YOU, Mrs Gamp?’ said this gentleman, in a
voice as soft as his step.

‘Pretty well, I thank you, sir,’ dropping a curtsey.

‘You’ll be very particular here, Mrs Gamp. This is not a common case,
Mrs Gamp. Let everything be very nice and comfortable, Mrs Gamp, if you
please,’ said the undertaker, shaking his head with a solemn air.

‘It shall be, sir,’ she replied, curtseying again. ‘You knows me of old,
sir, I hope.’

‘I hope so, too, Mrs Gamp,’ said the undertaker, ‘and I think so also.’
Mrs Gamp curtseyed again. ‘This is one of the most impressive cases,
sir,’ he continued, addressing Mr Pecksniff, ‘that I have seen in the
whole course of my professional experience.’

‘Indeed, Mr Mould!’ cried that gentleman.

‘Such affectionate regret, sir, I never saw. There is no limitation,
there is positively NO limitation’--opening his eyes wide, and standing
on tiptoe--‘in point of expense! I have orders, sir, to put on my whole
establishment of mutes; and mutes come very dear, Mr Pecksniff; not to
mention their drink. To provide silver-plated handles of the very best
description, ornamented with angels’ heads from the most expensive
dies. To be perfectly profuse in feathers. In short, sir, to turn out
something absolutely gorgeous.’

‘My friend Mr Jonas is an excellent man,’ said Mr Pecksniff.

‘I have seen a good deal of what is filial in my time, sir,’ retorted
Mould, ‘and what is unfilial too. It is our lot. We come into the
knowledge of those secrets. But anything so filial as this; anything so
honourable to human nature; so calculated to reconcile all of us to the
world we live in; never yet came under my observation. It only
proves, sir, what was so forcibly observed by the lamented theatrical
poet--buried at Stratford--that there is good in everything.’

‘It is very pleasant to hear you say so, Mr Mould,’ observed Pecksniff.

‘You are very kind, sir. And what a man Mr Chuzzlewit was, sir! Ah! what
a man he was. You may talk of your lord mayors,’ said Mould, waving his
hand at the public in general, ‘your sheriffs, your common councilmen,
your trumpery; but show me a man in this city who is worthy to walk
in the shoes of the departed Mr Chuzzlewit. No, no,’ cried Mould, with
bitter sarcasm. ‘Hang ‘em up, hang ‘em up; sole ‘em and heel ‘em, and
have ‘em ready for his son against he’s old enough to wear ‘em; but
don’t try ‘em on yourselves, for they won’t fit you. We knew him,’ said
Mould, in the same biting vein, as he pocketed his note-book; ‘we
knew him, and are not to be caught with chaff. Mr Pecksniff, sir, good
morning.’

Mr Pecksniff returned the compliment; and Mould, sensible of having
distinguished himself, was going away with a brisk smile, when he
fortunately remembered the occasion. Quickly becoming depressed again,
he sighed; looked into the crown of his hat, as if for comfort; put it
on without finding any; and slowly departed.

Mrs Gamp and Mr Pecksniff then ascended the staircase; and the former,
having been shown to the chamber in which all that remained of Anthony
Chuzzlewit lay covered up, with but one loving heart, and that a halting
one, to mourn it, left the latter free to enter the darkened room below,
and rejoin Mr Jonas, from whom he had now been absent nearly two hours.

He found that example to bereaved sons, and pattern in the eyes of all
performers of funerals, musing over a fragment of writing-paper on the
desk, and scratching figures on it with a pen. The old man’s chair, and
hat, and walking-stick, were removed from their accustomed places, and
put out of sight; the window-blinds as yellow as November fogs, were
drawn down close; Jonas himself was so subdued, that he could scarcely
be heard to speak, and only seen to walk across the room.

‘Pecksniff,’ he said, in a whisper, ‘you shall have the regulation of
it all, mind! You shall be able to tell anybody who talks about it that
everything was correctly and nicely done. There isn’t any one you’d like
to ask to the funeral, is there?’

‘No, Mr Jonas, I think not.’

‘Because if there is, you know,’ said Jonas, ‘ask him. We don’t want to
make a secret of it.’

‘No,’ repeated Mr Pecksniff, after a little reflection. ‘I am not
the less obliged to you on that account, Mr Jonas, for your liberal
hospitality; but there really is no one.’

‘Very well,’ said Jonas; ‘then you, and I, and Chuffey, and the doctor,
will be just a coachful. We’ll have the doctor, Pecksniff, because he
knows what was the matter with him, and that it couldn’t be helped.’

‘Where is our dear friend, Mr Chuffey?’ asked Pecksniff, looking round
the chamber, and winking both his eyes at once--for he was overcome by
his feelings.

But here he was interrupted by Mrs Gamp, who, divested of her bonnet and
shawl, came sidling and bridling into the room; and with some sharpness
demanded a conference outside the door with Mr Pecksniff.

‘You may say whatever you wish to say here, Mrs Gamp,’ said that
gentleman, shaking his head with a melancholy expression.

‘It is not much as I have to say when people is a-mourning for the dead
and gone,’ said Mrs Gamp; ‘but what I have to say is TO the pint and
purpose, and no offence intended, must be so considered. I have been at
a many places in my time, gentlemen, and I hope I knows what my duties
is, and how the same should be performed; in course, if I did not, it
would be very strange, and very wrong in sich a gentleman as Mr Mould,
which has undertook the highest families in this land, and given every
satisfaction, so to recommend me as he does. I have seen a deal of
trouble my own self,’ said Mrs Gamp, laying greater and greater stress
upon her words, ‘and I can feel for them as has their feelings tried,
but I am not a Rooshan or a Prooshan, and consequently cannot suffer
Spies to be set over me.’

Before it was possible that an answer could be returned, Mrs Gamp,
growing redder in the face, went on to say:

‘It is not a easy matter, gentlemen, to live when you are left a widder
woman; particular when your feelings works upon you to that extent that
you often find yourself a-going out on terms which is a certain loss,
and never can repay. But in whatever way you earns your bread, you may
have rules and regulations of your own which cannot be broke through.
Some people,’ said Mrs Gamp, again entrenching herself behind her
strong point, as if it were not assailable by human ingenuity, ‘may be
Rooshans, and others may be Prooshans; they are born so, and will please
themselves. Them which is of other naturs thinks different.’

‘If I understand this good lady,’ said Mr Pecksniff, turning to Jonas,
‘Mr Chuffey is troublesome to her. Shall I fetch him down?’

‘Do,’ said Jonas. ‘I was going to tell you he was up there, when she
came in. I’d go myself and bring him down, only--only I’d rather you
went, if you don’t mind.’

Mr Pecksniff promptly departed, followed by Mrs Gamp, who, seeing that
he took a bottle and glass from the cupboard, and carried it in his
hand, was much softened.

‘I am sure,’ she said, ‘that if it wasn’t for his own happiness, I
should no more mind him being there, poor dear, than if he was a
fly. But them as isn’t used to these things, thinks so much of ‘em
afterwards, that it’s a kindness to ‘em not to let ‘em have their wish.
And even,’ said Mrs Gamp, probably in reference to some flowers of
speech she had already strewn on Mr Chuffey, ‘even if one calls ‘em
names, it’s only done to rouse ‘em.’

Whatever epithets she had bestowed on the old clerk, they had not
roused HIM. He sat beside the bed, in the chair he had occupied all the
previous night, with his hands folded before him, and his head bowed
down; and neither looked up, on their entrance, nor gave any sign of
consciousness, until Mr Pecksniff took him by the arm, when he meekly
rose.

‘Three score and ten,’ said Chuffey, ‘ought and carry seven. Some men
are so strong that they live to four score--four times ought’s an ought,
four times two’s an eight--eighty. Oh! why--why--why didn’t he live to
four times ought’s an ought, and four times two’s an eight, eighty?’

‘Ah! what a wale of grief!’ cried Mrs Gamp, possessing herself of the
bottle and glass.

‘Why did he die before his poor old crazy servant?’ said Chuffey,
clasping his hands and looking up in anguish. ‘Take him from me, and
what remains?’

‘Mr Jonas,’ returned Pecksniff, ‘Mr Jonas, my good friend.’

‘I loved him,’ cried the old man, weeping. ‘He was good to me. We learnt
Tare and Tret together at school. I took him down once, six boys in the
arithmetic class. God forgive me! Had I the heart to take him down!’

‘Come, Mr Chuffey,’ said Pecksniff. ‘Come with me. Summon up your
fortitude, Mr Chuffey.’

‘Yes, I will,’ returned the old clerk. ‘Yes. I’ll sum up my forty--How
many times forty--Oh, Chuzzlewit and Son--Your own son Mr Chuzzlewit;
your own son, sir!’

He yielded to the hand that guided him, as he lapsed into this familiar
expression, and submitted to be led away. Mrs Gamp, with the bottle on
one knee, and the glass on the other, sat upon a stool, shaking her head
for a long time, until, in a moment of abstraction, she poured out
a dram of spirits, and raised it to her lips. It was succeeded by a
second, and by a third, and then her eyes--either in the sadness of
her reflections upon life and death, or in her admiration of the
liquor--were so turned up, as to be quite invisible. But she shook her
head still.

Poor Chuffey was conducted to his accustomed corner, and there he
remained, silent and quiet, save at long intervals, when he would rise,
and walk about the room, and wring his hands, or raise some strange and
sudden cry. For a whole week they all three sat about the hearth and
never stirred abroad. Mr Pecksniff would have walked out in the evening
time, but Mr Jonas was so averse to his being absent for a minute, that
he abandoned the idea, and so, from morning until night, they brooded
together in the dark room, without relief or occupation.

The weight of that which was stretched out, stiff and stark, in the
awful chamber above-stairs, so crushed and bore down Jonas, that he bent
beneath the load. During the whole long seven days and nights, he was
always oppressed and haunted by a dreadful sense of its presence in the
house. Did the door move, he looked towards it with a livid face and
starting eye, as if he fully believed that ghostly fingers clutched the
handle. Did the fire flicker in a draught of air, he glanced over his
shoulder, as almost dreading to behold some shrouded figure fanning and
flapping at it with its fearful dress. The lightest noise disturbed him;
and once, in the night, at the sound of a footstep overhead, he cried
out that the dead man was walking--tramp, tramp, tramp--about his
coffin.

He lay at night upon a mattress on the floor of the sitting-room; his
own chamber having been assigned to Mrs Gamp; and Mr Pecksniff was
similarly accommodated. The howling of a dog before the house, filled
him with a terror he could not disguise. He avoided the reflection in
the opposite windows of the light that burned above, as though it had
been an angry eye. He often, in every night, rose up from his fitful
sleep, and looked and longed for dawn; all directions and arrangements,
even to the ordering of their daily meals, he abandoned to Mr Pecksniff.
That excellent gentleman, deeming that the mourner wanted comfort, and
that high feeding was likely to do him infinite service, availed himself
of these opportunities to such good purpose, that they kept quite a
dainty table during this melancholy season; with sweetbreads, stewed
kidneys, oysters, and other such light viands for supper every night;
over which, and sundry jorums of hot punch, Mr Pecksniff delivered such
moral reflections and spiritual consolation as might have converted a
Heathen--especially if he had had but an imperfect acquaintance with the
English tongue.

Nor did Mr Pecksniff alone indulge in the creature comforts during
this sad time. Mrs Gamp proved to be very choice in her eating, and
repudiated hashed mutton with scorn. In her drinking too, she was very
punctual and particular, requiring a pint of mild porter at lunch, a
pint at dinner, half-a-pint as a species of stay or holdfast between
dinner and tea, and a pint of the celebrated staggering ale, or Real Old
Brighton Tipper, at supper; besides the bottle on the chimney-piece,
and such casual invitations to refresh herself with wine as the good
breeding of her employers might prompt them to offer. In like manner, Mr
Mould’s men found it necessary to drown their grief, like a young kitten
in the morning of its existence, for which reason they generally fuddled
themselves before they began to do anything, lest it should make head
and get the better of them. In short, the whole of that strange week was
a round of dismal joviality and grim enjoyment; and every one, except
poor Chuffey, who came within the shadow of Anthony Chuzzlewit’s grave,
feasted like a Ghoul.

At length the day of the funeral, pious and truthful ceremony that it
was, arrived. Mr Mould, with a glass of generous port between his eye
and the light, leaned against the desk in the little glass office with
his gold watch in his unoccupied hand, and conversed with Mrs Gamp; two
mutes were at the house-door, looking as mournful as could be reasonably
expected of men with such a thriving job in hand; the whole of Mr
Mould’s establishment were on duty within the house or without; feathers
waved, horses snorted, silk and velvets fluttered; in a word, as Mr
Mould emphatically said, ‘Everything that money could do was done.’

‘And what can do more, Mrs Gamp?’ exclaimed the undertaker as he emptied
his glass and smacked his lips.

‘Nothing in the world, sir.’

‘Nothing in the world,’ repeated Mr Mould. ‘You are right, Mrs Gamp.
Why do people spend more money’--here he filled his glass again--‘upon a
death, Mrs Gamp, than upon a birth? Come, that’s in your way; you ought
to know. How do you account for that now?’

‘Perhaps it is because an undertaker’s charges comes dearer than a
nurse’s charges, sir,’ said Mrs Gamp, tittering, and smoothing down her
new black dress with her hands.

‘Ha, ha!’ laughed Mr Mould. ‘You have been breakfasting at somebody’s
expense this morning, Mrs Gamp.’ But seeing, by the aid of a little
shaving-glass which hung opposite, that he looked merry, he composed his
features and became sorrowful.

‘Many’s the time that I’ve not breakfasted at my own expense along of
your recommending, sir; and many’s the time I hope to do the same in
time to come,’ said Mrs Gamp, with an apologetic curtsey.

‘So be it,’ replied Mr Mould, ‘please Providence. No, Mrs Gamp;
I’ll tell you why it is. It’s because the laying out of money with a
well-conducted establishment, where the thing is performed upon the
very best scale, binds the broken heart, and sheds balm upon the wounded
spirit. Hearts want binding, and spirits want balming when people die;
not when people are born. Look at this gentleman to-day; look at him.’

‘An open-handed gentleman?’ cried Mrs Gamp, with enthusiasm.

‘No, no,’ said the undertaker; ‘not an open-handed gentleman in general,
by any means. There you mistake him; but an afflicted gentleman, an
affectionate gentleman, who knows what it is in the power of money to
do, in giving him relief, and in testifying his love and veneration for
the departed. It can give him,’ said Mr Mould, waving his watch-chain
slowly round and round, so that he described one circle after every
item; ‘it can give him four horses to each vehicle; it can give him
velvet trappings; it can give him drivers in cloth cloaks and top-boots;
it can give him the plumage of the ostrich, dyed black; it can give him
any number of walking attendants, dressed in the first style of funeral
fashion, and carrying batons tipped with brass; it can give him a
handsome tomb; it can give him a place in Westminster Abbey itself, if
he choose to invest it in such a purchase. Oh! do not let us say that
gold is dross, when it can buy such things as these, Mrs Gamp.’

‘But what a blessing, sir,’ said Mrs Gamp, ‘that there are such as you,
to sell or let ‘em out on hire!’

‘Aye, Mrs Gamp, you are right,’ rejoined the undertaker. ‘We should
be an honoured calling. We do good by stealth, and blush to have it
mentioned in our little bills. How much consolation may I--even I,’
cried Mr Mould, ‘have diffused among my fellow-creatures by means of my
four long-tailed prancers, never harnessed under ten pund ten!’

Mrs Gamp had begun to make a suitable reply, when she was interrupted
by the appearance of one of Mr Mould’s assistants--his chief mourner in
fact--an obese person, with his waistcoat in closer connection with his
legs than is quite reconcilable with the established ideas of grace;
with that cast of feature which is figuratively called a bottle nose;
and with a face covered all over with pimples. He had been a tender
plant once upon a time, but from constant blowing in the fat atmosphere
of funerals, had run to seed.

‘Well, Tacker,’ said Mr Mould, ‘is all ready below?’

‘A beautiful show, sir,’ rejoined Tacker. ‘The horses are prouder and
fresher than ever I see ‘em; and toss their heads, they do, as if they
knowed how much their plumes cost. One, two, three, four,’ said Mr
Tacker, heaping that number of black cloaks upon his left arm.

‘Is Tom there, with the cake and wine?’ asked Mr Mould.

‘Ready to come in at a moment’s notice, sir,’ said Tacker.

‘Then,’ rejoined Mr Mould, putting up his watch, and glancing at himself
in the little shaving-glass, that he might be sure his face had the
right expression on it; ‘then I think we may proceed to business. Give
me the paper of gloves, Tacker. Ah, what a man he was! Ah, Tacker,
Tacker, what a man he was!’

Mr Tacker, who from his great experience in the performance of funerals,
would have made an excellent pantomime actor, winked at Mrs Gamp without
at all disturbing the gravity of his countenance, and followed his
master into the next room.

It was a great point with Mr Mould, and a part of his professional
tact, not to seem to know the doctor; though in reality they were near
neighbours, and very often, as in the present instance, worked together.
So he advanced to fit on his black kid gloves as if he had never seen
him in all his life; while the doctor, on his part, looked as distant
and unconscious as if he had heard and read of undertakers, and had
passed their shops, but had never before been brought into communication
with one.

‘Gloves, eh?’ said the doctor. ‘Mr Pecksniff after you.’

‘I couldn’t think of it,’ returned Mr Pecksniff.

‘You are very good,’ said the doctor, taking a pair. ‘Well, sir, as I
was saying--I was called up to attend that case at about half-past one
o’clock. Cake and wine, eh? Which is port? Thank you.’

Mr Pecksniff took some also.

‘At about half-past one o’clock in the morning, sir,’ resumed the
doctor, ‘I was called up to attend that case. At the first pull of
the night-bell I turned out, threw up the window, and put out my head.
Cloak, eh? Don’t tie it too tight. That’ll do.’

Mr Pecksniff having been likewise inducted into a similar garment, the
doctor resumed.

‘And put out my head--hat, eh? My good friend, that is not mine. Mr
Pecksniff, I beg your pardon, but I think we have unintentionally made
an exchange. Thank you. Well, sir, I was going to tell you--’

‘We are quite ready,’ interrupted Mould in a low voice.

‘Ready, eh?’ said the doctor. ‘Very good, Mr Pecksniff, I’ll take an
opportunity of relating the rest in the coach. It’s rather curious.
Ready, eh? No rain, I hope?’

‘Quite fair, sir,’ returned Mould.

‘I was afraid the ground would have been wet,’ said the doctor, ‘for
my glass fell yesterday. We may congratulate ourselves upon our good
fortune.’ But seeing by this time that Mr Jonas and Chuffey were going
out at the door, he put a white pocket-handkerchief to his face as if a
violent burst of grief had suddenly come upon him, and walked down side
by side with Mr Pecksniff.

Mr Mould and his men had not exaggerated the grandeur of the
arrangements. They were splendid. The four hearse-horses, especially,
reared and pranced, and showed their highest action, as if they knew a
man was dead, and triumphed in it. ‘They break us, drive us, ride us;
ill-treat, abuse, and maim us for their pleasure--But they die; Hurrah,
they die!’

So through the narrow streets and winding city ways, went Anthony
Chuzzlewit’s funeral; Mr Jonas glancing stealthily out of the
coach-window now and then, to observe its effect upon the crowd;
Mr Mould as he walked along, listening with a sober pride to the
exclamations of the bystanders; the doctor whispering his story to Mr
Pecksniff, without appearing to come any nearer the end of it; and
poor old Chuffey sobbing unregarded in a corner. But he had greatly
scandalized Mr Mould at an early stage of the ceremony by carrying his
handkerchief in his hat in a perfectly informal manner, and wiping his
eyes with his knuckles. And as Mr Mould himself had said already, his
behaviour was indecent, and quite unworthy of such an occasion; and he
never ought to have been there.

There he was, however; and in the churchyard there he was, also,
conducting himself in a no less unbecoming manner, and leaning for
support on Tacker, who plainly told him that he was fit for nothing
better than a walking funeral. But Chuffey, Heaven help him! heard no
sound but the echoes, lingering in his own heart, of a voice for ever
silent.

‘I loved him,’ cried the old man, sinking down upon the grave when all
was done. ‘He was very good to me. Oh, my dear old friend and master!’

‘Come, come, Mr Chuffey,’ said the doctor, ‘this won’t do; it’s a clayey
soil, Mr Chuffey. You mustn’t, really.’

‘If it had been the commonest thing we do, and Mr Chuffey had been a
Bearer, gentlemen,’ said Mould, casting an imploring glance upon them,
as he helped to raise him, ‘he couldn’t have gone on worse than this.’

‘Be a man, Mr Chuffey,’ said Pecksniff.

‘Be a gentleman, Mr Chuffey,’ said Mould.

‘Upon my word, my good friend,’ murmured the doctor, in a tone of
stately reproof, as he stepped up to the old man’s side, ‘this is worse
than weakness. This is bad, selfish, very wrong, Mr Chuffey. You should
take example from others, my good sir. You forget that you were not
connected by ties of blood with our deceased friend; and that he had a
very near and very dear relation, Mr Chuffey.’

‘Aye, his own son!’ cried the old man, clasping his hands with
remarkable passion. ‘His own, own, only son!’

‘He’s not right in his head, you know,’ said Jonas, turning pale.
‘You’re not to mind anything he says. I shouldn’t wonder if he was
to talk some precious nonsense. But don’t you mind him, any of you. I
don’t. My father left him to my charge; and whatever he says or does,
that’s enough. I’ll take care of him.’

A hum of admiration rose from the mourners (including Mr Mould and his
merry men) at this new instance of magnanimity and kind feeling on the
part of Jonas. But Chuffey put it to the test no farther. He said not
a word more, and being left to himself for a little while, crept back
again to the coach.

It has been said that Mr Jonas turned pale when the behaviour of the old
clerk attracted general attention; his discomposure, however, was but
momentary, and he soon recovered. But these were not the only changes
he had exhibited that day. The curious eyes of Mr Pecksniff had observed
that as soon as they left the house upon their mournful errand, he began
to mend; that as the ceremonies proceeded he gradually, by little and
little, recovered his old condition, his old looks, his old bearing, his
old agreeable characteristics of speech and manner, and became, in all
respects, his old pleasant self. And now that they were seated in the
coach on their return home; and more when they got there, and found the
windows open, the light and air admitted, and all traces of the late
event removed; he felt so well convinced that Jonas was again the Jonas
he had known a week ago, and not the Jonas of the intervening time, that
he voluntarily gave up his recently-acquired power without one faint
attempt to exercise it, and at once fell back into his former position
of mild and deferential guest.

Mrs Gamp went home to the bird-fancier’s, and was knocked up again that
very night for a birth of twins; Mr Mould dined gayly in the bosom of
his family, and passed the evening facetiously at his club; the hearse,
after standing for a long time at the door of a roistering public-house,
repaired to its stables with the feathers inside and twelve red-nosed
undertakers on the roof, each holding on by a dingy peg, to which, in
times of state, a waving plume was fitted; the various trappings of
sorrow were carefully laid by in presses for the next hirer; the fiery
steeds were quenched and quiet in their stalls; the doctor got merry
with wine at a wedding-dinner, and forgot the middle of the story which
had no end to it; the pageant of a few short hours ago was written
nowhere half so legibly as in the undertaker’s books.

Not in the churchyard? Not even there. The gates were closed; the night
was dark and wet; the rain fell silently, among the stagnant weeds and
nettles. One new mound was there which had not been there last night.
Time, burrowing like a mole below the ground, had marked his track by
throwing up another heap of earth. And that was all.



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.’

‘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?’

Mr Pecksniff regarded him at first with inexpressible surprise; then
gradually breaking into a sort of dejected vivacity, said:

‘Then well I know whose husband he would be!’

‘Whose?’ asked Jonas, drily.

‘My eldest girl’s, Mr Jonas,’ replied Pecksniff, with moistening eyes.
‘My dear Cherry’s; my staff, my scrip, my treasure, Mr Jonas. A hard
struggle, but it is in the nature of things! I must one day part with
her to a husband. I know it, my dear friend. I am prepared for it.’

‘Ecod! you’ve been prepared for that a pretty long time, I should
think,’ said Jonas.

‘Many have sought to bear her from me,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘All have
failed. “I never will give my hand, papa”--those were her words--“unless
my heart is won.” She has not been quite so happy as she used to be, of
late. I don’t know why.’

Again Mr Jonas looked at the landscape; then at the coachman; then at
the luggage on the roof; finally at Mr Pecksniff.

‘I suppose you’ll have to part with the other one, some of these days?’
he observed, as he caught that gentleman’s eye.

‘Probably,’ said the parent. ‘Years will tame down the wildness of my
foolish bird, and then it will be caged. But Cherry, Mr Jonas, Cherry--’

‘Oh, ah!’ interrupted Jonas. ‘Years have made her all right enough.
Nobody doubts that. But you haven’t answered what I asked you. Of
course, you’re not obliged to do it, you know, if you don’t like. You’re
the best judge.’

There was a warning sulkiness in the manner of this speech, which
admonished Mr Pecksniff that his dear friend was not to be trifled with
or fenced off, and that he must either return a straight-forward reply
to his question, or plainly give him to understand that he declined to
enlighten him upon the subject to which it referred. Mindful in this
dilemma of the caution old Anthony had given him almost with his
latest breath, he resolved to speak to the point, and so told Mr Jonas
(enlarging upon the communication as a proof of his great attachment and
confidence), that in the case he had put; to wit, in the event of such
a man as he proposing for his daughter’s hand, he would endow her with a
fortune of four thousand pounds.

‘I should sadly pinch and cramp myself to do so,’ was his fatherly
remark; ‘but that would be my duty, and my conscience would reward me.
For myself, my conscience is my bank. I have a trifle invested there--a
mere trifle, Mr Jonas--but I prize it as a store of value, I assure
you.’

The good man’s enemies would have divided upon this question into two
parties. One would have asserted without scruple that if Mr Pecksniff’s
conscience were his bank, and he kept a running account there, he must
have overdrawn it beyond all mortal means of computation. The other
would have contended that it was a mere fictitious form; a perfectly
blank book; or one in which entries were only made with a peculiar kind
of invisible ink to become legible at some indefinite time; and that he
never troubled it at all.

‘It would sadly pinch and cramp me, my dear friend,’ repeated Mr
Pecksniff, ‘but Providence--perhaps I may be permitted to say a special
Providence--has blessed my endeavours, and I could guarantee to make the
sacrifice.’

A question of philosophy arises here, whether Mr Pecksniff had or had
not good reason to say that he was specially patronized and encouraged
in his undertakings. All his life long he had been walking up and down
the narrow ways and by-places, with a hook in one hand and a crook in
the other, scraping all sorts of valuable odds and ends into his pouch.
Now, there being a special Providence in the fall of a sparrow, it
follows (so Mr Pecksniff, and only such admirable men, would have
reasoned), that there must also be a special Providence in the alighting
of the stone or stick, or other substance which is aimed at the sparrow.
And Mr Pecksniff’s hook, or crook, having invariably knocked the sparrow
on the head and brought him down, that gentleman may have been led to
consider himself as specially licensed to bag sparrows, and as being
specially seized and possessed of all the birds he had got together.
That many undertakings, national as well as individual--but especially
the former--are held to be specially brought to a glorious and
successful issue, which never could be so regarded on any other process
of reasoning, must be clear to all men. Therefore the precedents would
seem to show that Mr Pecksniff had (as things go) good argument for
what he said and might be permitted to say it, and did not say it
presumptuously, vainly, or arrogantly, but in a spirit of high faith and
great wisdom.

Mr Jonas, not being much accustomed to perplex his mind with theories of
this nature, expressed no opinion on the subject. Nor did he receive
his companion’s announcement with one solitary syllable, good, bad, or
indifferent. He preserved this taciturnity for a quarter of an hour at
least, and during the whole of that time appeared to be steadily engaged
in subjecting some given amount to the operation of every known rule in
figures; adding to it, taking from it, multiplying it, reducing it by
long and short division; working it by the rule-of-three direct and
inversed; exchange or barter; practice; simple interest; compound
interest; and other means of arithmetical calculation. The result
of these labours appeared to be satisfactory, for when he did break
silence, it was as one who had arrived at some specific result, and
freed himself from a state of distressing uncertainty.

‘Come, old Pecksniff!’--Such was his jocose address, as he slapped that
gentleman on the back, at the end of the stage--‘let’s have something!’

‘With all my heart,’ said Mr Pecksniff.

‘Let’s treat the driver,’ cried Jonas.

‘If you think it won’t hurt the man, or render him discontented with his
station--certainly,’ faltered Mr Pecksniff.

Jonas only laughed at this, and getting down from the coach-top with
great alacrity, cut a cumbersome kind of caper in the road. After which,
he went into the public-house, and there ordered spirituous drink to
such an extent, that Mr Pecksniff had some doubts of his perfect sanity,
until Jonas set them quite at rest by saying, when the coach could wait
no longer:

‘I’ve been standing treat for a whole week and more, and letting
you have all the delicacies of the season. YOU shall pay for this
Pecksniff.’ It was not a joke either, as Mr Pecksniff at first supposed;
for he went off to the coach without further ceremony, and left his
respected victim to settle the bill.

But Mr Pecksniff was a man of meek endurance, and Mr Jonas was his
friend. Moreover, his regard for that gentleman was founded, as we know,
on pure esteem, and a knowledge of the excellence of his character. He
came out from the tavern with a smiling face, and even went so far as
to repeat the performance, on a less expensive scale, at the next
ale-house. There was a certain wildness in the spirits of Mr Jonas (not
usually a part of his character) which was far from being subdued
by these means, and, for the rest of the journey, he was so very
buoyant--it may be said, boisterous--that Mr Pecksniff had some
difficulty in keeping pace with him.

They were not expected--oh dear, no! Mr Pecksniff had proposed in London
to give the girls a surprise, and had said he wouldn’t write a word to
prepare them on any account, in order that he and Mr Jonas might take
them unawares, and just see what they were doing, when they thought
their dear papa was miles and miles away. As a consequence of this
playful device, there was nobody to meet them at the finger-post, but
that was of small consequence, for they had come down by the day
coach, and Mr Pecksniff had only a carpetbag, while Mr Jonas had only
a portmanteau. They took the portmanteau between them, put the bag upon
it, and walked off up the lane without delay; Mr Pecksniff already going
on tiptoe as if, without this precaution, his fond children, being then
at a distance of a couple of miles or so, would have some filial sense
of his approach.

It was a lovely evening in the spring-time of the year; and in the soft
stillness of the twilight, all nature was very calm and beautiful. The
day had been fine and warm; but at the coming on of night, the air grew
cool, and in the mellowing distance smoke was rising gently from the
cottage chimneys. There were a thousand pleasant scents diffused around,
from young leaves and fresh buds; the cuckoo had been singing all day
long, and was but just now hushed; the smell of earth newly-upturned,
first breath of hope to the first labourer after his garden withered,
was fragrant in the evening breeze. It was a time when most men cherish
good resolves, and sorrow for the wasted past; when most men, looking
on the shadows as they gather, think of that evening which must close on
all, and that to-morrow which has none beyond.

‘Precious dull,’ said Mr Jonas, looking about. ‘It’s enough to make a
man go melancholy mad.’

‘We shall have lights and a fire soon,’ observed Mr Pecksniff.

‘We shall need ‘em by the time we get there,’ said Jonas. ‘Why the devil
don’t you talk? What are you thinking of?’

‘To tell you the truth, Mr Jonas,’ said Pecksniff with great solemnity,
‘my mind was running at that moment on our late dear friend, your
departed father.’

Mr Jonas immediately let his burden fall, and said, threatening him with
his hand:

‘Drop that, Pecksniff!’

Mr Pecksniff not exactly knowing whether allusion was made to the
subject or the portmanteau, stared at his friend in unaffected surprise.

‘Drop it, I say!’ cried Jonas, fiercely. ‘Do you hear? Drop it, now and
for ever. You had better, I give you notice!’

‘It was quite a mistake,’ urged Mr Pecksniff, very much dismayed;
‘though I admit it was foolish. I might have known it was a tender
string.’

‘Don’t talk to me about tender strings,’ said Jonas, wiping his forehead
with the cuff of his coat. ‘I’m not going to be crowed over by you,
because I don’t like dead company.’

Mr Pecksniff had got out the words ‘Crowed over, Mr Jonas!’ when that
young man, with a dark expression in his countenance, cut him short once
more:

‘Mind!’ he said. ‘I won’t have it. I advise you not to revive the
subject, neither to me nor anybody else. You can take a hint, if you
choose as well as another man. There’s enough said about it. Come
along!’

Taking up his part of the load again, when he had said these words,
he hurried on so fast that Mr Pecksniff, at the other end of the
portmanteau, found himself dragged forward, in a very inconvenient and
ungraceful manner, to the great detriment of what is called by fancy
gentlemen ‘the bark’ upon his shins, which were most unmercifully bumped
against the hard leather and the iron buckles. In the course of a few
minutes, however, Mr Jonas relaxed his speed, and suffered his companion
to come up with him, and to bring the portmanteau into a tolerably
straight position.

It was pretty clear that he regretted his late outbreak, and that he
mistrusted its effect on Mr Pecksniff; for as often as that gentleman
glanced towards Mr Jonas, he found Mr Jonas glancing at him, which was
a new source of embarrassment. It was but a short-lived one, though, for
Mr Jonas soon began to whistle, whereupon Mr Pecksniff, taking his cue
from his friend, began to hum a tune melodiously.

‘Pretty nearly there, ain’t we?’ said Jonas, when this had lasted some
time.

‘Close, my dear friend,’ said Mr Pecksniff.

‘What’ll they be doing, do you suppose?’ asked Jonas.

‘Impossible to say,’ cried Mr Pecksniff. ‘Giddy truants! They may be
away from home, perhaps. I was going to--he! he! he!--I was going to
propose,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘that we should enter by the back way, and
come upon them like a clap of thunder, Mr Jonas.’

It might not have been easy to decide in respect of which of their
manifold properties, Jonas, Mr Pecksniff, the carpet-bag, and the
portmanteau, could be likened to a clap of thunder. But Mr Jonas giving
his assent to this proposal, they stole round into the back yard, and
softly advanced towards the kitchen window, through which the mingled
light of fire and candle shone upon the darkening night.

Truly Mr Pecksniff is blessed in his children--in one of them, at any
rate. The prudent Cherry--staff and scrip, and treasure of her doting
father--there she sits, at a little table white as driven snow, before
the kitchen fire, making up accounts! See the neat maiden, as with pen
in hand, and calculating look addressed towards the ceiling and bunch
of keys within a little basket at her side, she checks the housekeeping
expenditure! From flat-iron, dish-cover, and warming-pan; from pot and
kettle, face of brass footman, and black-leaded stove; bright glances
of approbation wink and glow upon her. The very onions dangling from the
beam, mantle and shine like cherubs’ cheeks. Something of the influence
of those vegetables sinks into Mr Pecksniff’s nature. He weeps.

It is but for a moment, and he hides it from the observation of
his friend--very carefully--by a somewhat elaborate use of his
pocket-handkerchief, in fact; for he would not have his weakness known.

‘Pleasant,’ he murmured, ‘pleasant to a father’s feelings! My dear girl!
Shall we let her know we are here, Mr Jonas?’

‘Why, I suppose you don’t mean to spend the evening in the stable, or
the coach-house,’ he returned.

‘That, indeed, is not such hospitality as I would show to YOU, my
friend,’ cried Mr Pecksniff, pressing his hand. And then he took a long
breath, and tapping at the window, shouted with stentorian blandness:

‘Boh!’

Cherry dropped her pen and screamed. But innocence is ever bold, or
should be. As they opened the door, the valiant girl exclaimed in a firm
voice, and with a presence of mind which even in that trying moment did
not desert her, ‘Who are you? What do you want? Speak! or I will call my
Pa.’

Mr Pecksniff held out his arms. She knew him instantly, and rushed into
his fond embrace.

‘It was thoughtless of us, Mr Jonas, it was very thoughtless,’ said
Pecksniff, smoothing his daugther’s hair. ‘My darling, do you see that I
am not alone!’

Not she. She had seen nothing but her father until now. She saw Mr
Jonas now, though; and blushed, and hung her head down, as she gave him
welcome.

But where was Merry? Mr Pecksniff didn’t ask the question in reproach,
but in a vein of mildness touched with a gentle sorrow. She was
upstairs, reading on the parlour couch. Ah! Domestic details had no
charms for HER. ‘But call her down,’ said Mr Pecksniff, with a placid
resignation. ‘Call her down, my love.’

She was called and came, all flushed and tumbled from reposing on the
sofa; but none the worse for that. No, not at all. Rather the better, if
anything.

‘Oh my goodness me!’ cried the arch girl, turning to her cousin when she
had kissed her father on both cheeks, and in her frolicsome nature had
bestowed a supernumerary salute upon the tip of his nose, ‘YOU here,
fright! Well, I’m very thankful that you won’t trouble ME much!’

‘What! you’re as lively as ever, are you?’ said Jonas. ‘Oh! You’re a
wicked one!’

‘There, go along!’ retorted Merry, pushing him away. ‘I’m sure I don’t
know what I shall ever do, if I have to see much of you. Go along, for
gracious’ sake!’

Mr Pecksniff striking in here, with a request that Mr Jonas would
immediately walk upstairs, he so far complied with the young lady’s
adjuration as to go at once. But though he had the fair Cherry on his
arm, he could not help looking back at her sister, and exchanging some
further dialogue of the same bantering description, as they all four
ascended to the parlour; where--for the young ladies happened, by good
fortune, to be a little later than usual that night--the tea-board was
at that moment being set out.

Mr Pinch was not at home, so they had it all to themselves, and were
very snug and talkative, Jonas sitting between the two sisters, and
displaying his gallantry in that engaging manner which was peculiar
to him. It was a hard thing, Mr Pecksniff said, when tea was done,
and cleared away, to leave so pleasant a little party, but having some
important papers to examine in his own apartment, he must beg them to
excuse him for half an hour. With this apology he withdrew, singing
a careless strain as he went. He had not been gone five minutes, when
Merry, who had been sitting in the window, apart from Jonas and her
sister, burst into a half-smothered laugh, and skipped towards the door.

‘Hallo!’ cried Jonas. ‘Don’t go.’

‘Oh, I dare say!’ rejoined Merry, looking back. ‘You’re very anxious I
should stay, fright, ain’t you?’

‘Yes, I am,’ said Jonas. ‘Upon my word I am. I want to speak to you.’
But as she left the room notwithstanding, he ran out after her,
and brought her back, after a short struggle in the passage which
scandalized Miss Cherry very much.

‘Upon my word, Merry,’ urged that young lady, ‘I wonder at you! There
are bounds even to absurdity, my dear.’

‘Thank you, my sweet,’ said Merry, pursing up her rosy Lips. ‘Much
obliged to it for its advice. Oh! do leave me alone, you monster, do!’
This entreaty was wrung from her by a new proceeding on the part of
Mr Jonas, who pulled her down, all breathless as she was, into a seat
beside him on the sofa, having at the same time Miss Cherry upon the
other side.

‘Now,’ said Jonas, clasping the waist of each; ‘I have got both arms
full, haven’t I?’

‘One of them will be black and blue to-morrow, if you don’t let me go,’
cried the playful Merry.

‘Ah! I don’t mind YOUR pinching,’ grinned Jonas, ‘a bit.’

‘Pinch him for me, Cherry, pray,’ said Mercy. ‘I never did hate anybody
so much as I hate this creature, I declare!’

‘No, no, don’t say that,’ urged Jonas, ‘and don’t pinch either, because
I want to be serious. I say--Cousin Charity--’

‘Well! what?’ she answered sharply.

‘I want to have some sober talk,’ said Jonas; ‘I want to prevent any
mistakes, you know, and to put everything upon a pleasant understanding.
That’s desirable and proper, ain’t it?’

Neither of the sisters spoke a word. Mr Jonas paused and cleared his
throat, which was very dry.

‘She’ll not believe what I am going to say, will she, cousin?’ said
Jonas, timidly squeezing Miss Charity.

‘Really, Mr Jonas, I don’t know, until I hear what it is. It’s quite
impossible!’

‘Why, you see,’ said Jonas, ‘her way always being to make game of
people, I know she’ll laugh, or pretend to--I know that, beforehand. But
you can tell her I’m in earnest, cousin; can’t you? You’ll confess you
know, won’t you? You’ll be honourable, I’m sure,’ he added persuasively.

No answer. His throat seemed to grow hotter and hotter, and to be more
and more difficult of control.

‘You see, Cousin Charity,’ said Jonas, ‘nobody but you can tell her
what pains I took to get into her company when you were both at the
boarding-house in the city, because nobody’s so well aware of it, you
know. Nobody else can tell her how hard I tried to get to know you
better, in order that I might get to know her without seeming to wish
it; can they? I always asked you about her, and said where had she gone,
and when would she come, and how lively she was, and all that; didn’t I,
cousin? I know you’ll tell her so, if you haven’t told her so already,
and--and--I dare say you have, because I’m sure you’re honourable, ain’t
you?’

Still not a word. The right arm of Mr Jonas--the elder sister sat upon
his right--may have been sensible of some tumultuous throbbing which was
not within itself; but nothing else apprised him that his words had had
the least effect.

‘Even if you kept it to yourself, and haven’t told her,’ resumed Jonas,
‘it don’t much matter, because you’ll bear honest witness now; won’t
you? We’ve been very good friends from the first; haven’t we? and of
course we shall be quite friends in future, and so I don’t mind speaking
before you a bit. Cousin Mercy, you’ve heard what I’ve been saying.
She’ll confirm it, every word; she must. Will you have me for your
husband? Eh?’

As he released his hold of Charity, to put this question with better
effect, she started up and hurried away to her own room, marking her
progress as she went by such a train of passionate and incoherent sound,
as nothing but a slighted woman in her anger could produce.

‘Let me go away. Let me go after her,’ said Merry, pushing him off,
and giving him--to tell the truth--more than one sounding slap upon his
outstretched face.

‘Not till you say yes. You haven’t told me. Will you have me for your
husband?’

‘No, I won’t. I can’t bear the sight of you. I have told you so a
hundred times. You are a fright. Besides, I always thought you liked my
sister best. We all thought so.’

‘But that wasn’t my fault,’ said Jonas.

‘Yes it was; you know it was.’

‘Any trick is fair in love,’ said Jonas. ‘She may have thought I liked
her best, but you didn’t.’

‘I did!’

‘No, you didn’t. You never could have thought I liked her best, when you
were by.’

‘There’s no accounting for tastes,’ said Merry; ‘at least I didn’t mean
to say that. I don’t know what I mean. Let me go to her.’

‘Say “Yes,” and then I will.’

‘If I ever brought myself to say so, it should only be that I might hate
and tease you all my life.’

‘That’s as good,’ cried Jonas, ‘as saying it right out. It’s a bargain,
cousin. We’re a pair, if ever there was one.’

This gallant speech was succeeded by a confused noise of kissing and
slapping; and then the fair but much dishevelled Merry broke away, and
followed in the footsteps of her sister.

Now whether Mr Pecksniff had been listening--which in one of his
character appears impossible; or divined almost by inspiration what the
matter was--which, in a man of his sagacity is far more probable; or
happened by sheer good fortune to find himself in exactly the
right place, at precisely the right time--which, under the special
guardianship in which he lived might very reasonably happen; it is quite
certain that at the moment when the sisters came together in their own
room, he appeared at the chamber door. And a marvellous contrast it
was--they so heated, noisy, and vehement; he so calm, so self-possessed,
so cool and full of peace, that not a hair upon his head was stirred.

‘Children!’ said Mr Pecksniff, spreading out his hands in wonder, but
not before he had shut the door, and set his back against it. ‘Girls!
Daughters! What is this?’

‘The wretch; the apostate; the false, mean, odious villain; has before
my very face proposed to Mercy!’ was his eldest daughter’s answer.

‘Who has proposed to Mercy!’ asked Mr Pecksniff.

‘HE has. That thing, Jonas, downstairs.’

‘Jonas proposed to Mercy?’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Aye, aye! Indeed!’

‘Have you nothing else to say?’ cried Charity. ‘Am I to be driven mad,
papa? He has proposed to Mercy, not to me.’

‘Oh, fie! For shame!’ said Mr Pecksniff, gravely. ‘Oh, for shame! Can
the triumph of a sister move you to this terrible display, my child? Oh,
really this is very sad! I am sorry; I am surprised and hurt to see
you so. Mercy, my girl, bless you! See to her. Ah, envy, envy, what a
passion you are!’

Uttering this apostrophe in a tone full of grief and lamentation, Mr
Pecksniff left the room (taking care to shut the door behind him),
and walked downstairs into the parlour. There he found his intended
son-in-law, whom he seized by both hands.

‘Jonas!’ cried Mr Pecksniff. ‘Jonas! the dearest wish of my heart is now
fulfilled!’

‘Very well; I’m glad to hear it,’ said Jonas. ‘That’ll do. I say! As
it ain’t the one you’re so fond of, you must come down with another
thousand, Pecksniff. You must make it up five. It’s worth that, to keep
your treasure to yourself, you know. You get off very cheap that way,
and haven’t a sacrifice to make.’

The grin with which he accompanied this, set off his other attractions
to such unspeakable advantage, that even Mr Pecksniff lost his presence
of mind for a moment, and looked at the young man as if he were quite
stupefied with wonder and admiration. But he quickly regained his
composure, and was in the very act of changing the subject, when a hasty
step was heard without, and Tom Pinch, in a state of great excitement,
came darting into the room.

On seeing a stranger there, apparently engaged with Mr Pecksniff in
private conversation, Tom was very much abashed, though he still looked
as if he had something of great importance to communicate, which would
be a sufficient apology for his intrusion.

‘Mr Pinch,’ said Pecksniff, ‘this is hardly decent. You will excuse my
saying that I think your conduct scarcely decent, Mr Pinch.’

‘I beg your pardon, sir,’ replied Tom, ‘for not knocking at the door.’

‘Rather beg this gentleman’s pardon, Mr Pinch,’ said Pecksniff. ‘I know
you; he does not.--My young man, Mr Jonas.’

The son-in-law that was to be gave him a slight nod--not actively
disdainful or contemptuous, only passively; for he was in a good humour.

‘Could I speak a word with you, sir, if you please?’ said Tom. ‘It’s
rather pressing.’

‘It should be very pressing to justify this strange behaviour, Mr
Pinch,’ returned his master. ‘Excuse me for one moment, my dear friend.
Now, sir, what is the reason of this rough intrusion?’

‘I am very sorry, sir, I am sure,’ said Tom, standing, cap in hand,
before his patron in the passage; ‘and I know it must have a very rude
appearance--’

‘It HAS a very rude appearance, Mr Pinch.’

‘Yes, I feel that, sir; but the truth is, I was so surprised to see
them, and knew you would be too, that I ran home very fast indeed, and
really hadn’t enough command over myself to know what I was doing very
well. I was in the church just now, sir, touching the organ for my own
amusement, when I happened to look round, and saw a gentleman and lady
standing in the aisle listening. They seemed to be strangers, sir, as
well as I could make out in the dusk; and I thought I didn’t know
them; so presently I left off, and said, would they walk up into the
organ-loft, or take a seat? No, they said, they wouldn’t do that; but
they thanked me for the music they had heard. In fact,’ observed Tom,
blushing, ‘they said, “Delicious music!” at least, SHE did; and I am
sure that was a greater pleasure and honour to me than any compliment I
could have had. I--I--beg your pardon sir;’ he was all in a tremble, and
dropped his hat for the second time ‘but I--I’m rather flurried, and I
fear I’ve wandered from the point.’

‘If you will come back to it, Thomas,’ said Mr Pecksniff, with an icy
look, ‘I shall feel obliged.’

‘Yes, sir,’ returned Tom, ‘certainly. They had a posting carriage at the
porch, sir, and had stopped to hear the organ, they said. And then they
said--SHE said, I mean, “I believe you live with Mr Pecksniff, sir?” I
said I had that honour, and I took the liberty, sir,’ added Tom, raising
his eyes to his benefactor’s face, ‘of saying, as I always will and
must, with your permission, that I was under great obligations to you,
and never could express my sense of them sufficiently.’

‘That,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘was very, very wrong. Take your time, Mr
Pinch.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ cried Tom. ‘On that they asked me--she asked, I
mean--“Wasn’t there a bridle road to Mr Pecksniff’s house?”’

Mr Pecksniff suddenly became full of interest.

‘“Without going by the Dragon?” When I said there was, and said how
happy I should be to show it ‘em, they sent the carriage on by the road,
and came with me across the meadows. I left ‘em at the turnstile to run
forward and tell you they were coming, and they’ll be here, sir, in--in
less than a minute’s time, I should say,’ added Tom, fetching his breath
with difficulty.

‘Now, who,’ said Mr Pecksniff, pondering, ‘who may these people be?’

‘Bless my soul, sir!’ cried Tom, ‘I meant to mention that at first, I
thought I had. I knew them--her, I mean--directly. The gentleman who
was ill at the Dragon, sir, last winter; and the young lady who attended
him.’

Tom’s teeth chattered in his head, and he positively staggered with
amazement, at witnessing the extraordinary effect produced on Mr
Pecksniff by these simple words. The dread of losing the old man’s
favour almost as soon as they were reconciled, through the mere fact
of having Jonas in the house; the impossibility of dismissing Jonas,
or shutting him up, or tying him hand and foot and putting him in
the coal-cellar, without offending him beyond recall; the horrible
discordance prevailing in the establishment, and the impossibility of
reducing it to decent harmony with Charity in loud hysterics, Mercy in
the utmost disorder, Jonas in the parlour, and Martin Chuzzlewit and his
young charge upon the very doorsteps; the total hopelessness of being
able to disguise or feasibly explain this state of rampant confusion;
the sudden accumulation over his devoted head of every complicated
perplexity and entanglement for his extrication from which he had
trusted to time, good fortune, chance, and his own plotting, so filled
the entrapped architect with dismay, that if Tom could have been a
Gorgon staring at Mr Pecksniff, and Mr Pecksniff could have been a
Gorgon staring at Tom, they could not have horrified each other half so
much as in their own bewildered persons.

‘Dear, dear!’ cried Tom, ‘what have I done? I hoped it would be a
pleasant surprise, sir. I thought you would like to know.’

But at that moment a loud knocking was heard at the hall door.



CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

MORE AMERICAN EXPERIENCES, MARTIN TAKES A PARTNER, AND MAKES A PURCHASE.
SOME ACCOUNT OF EDEN, AS IT APPEARED ON PAPER. ALSO OF THE BRITISH LION.
ALSO OF THE KIND OF SYMPATHY PROFESSED AND ENTERTAINED BY THE WATERTOAST
ASSOCIATION OF UNITED SYMPATHISERS


The knocking at Mr Pecksniff’s door, though loud enough, bore no
resemblance whatever to the noise of an American railway train at full
speed. It may be well to begin the present chapter with this frank
admission, lest the reader should imagine that the sounds now deafening
this history’s ears have any connection with the knocker on Mr
Pecksniff’s door, or with the great amount of agitation pretty equally
divided between that worthy man and Mr Pinch, of which its strong
performance was the cause.

Mr Pecksniff’s house is more than a thousand leagues away; and again
this happy chronicle has Liberty and Moral Sensibility for its high
companions. Again it breathes the blessed air of Independence; again it
contemplates with pious awe that moral sense which renders unto Ceasar
nothing that is his; again inhales that sacred atmosphere which was
the life of him--oh noble patriot, with many followers!--who dreamed of
Freedom in a slave’s embrace, and waking sold her offspring and his own
in public markets.

How the wheels clank and rattle, and the tram-road shakes, as the train
rushes on! And now the engine yells, as it were lashed and tortured like
a living labourer, and writhed in agony. A poor fancy; for steel and
iron are of infinitely greater account, in this commonwealth, than
flesh and blood. If the cunning work of man be urged beyond its power of
endurance, it has within it the elements of its own revenge; whereas
the wretched mechanism of the Divine Hand is dangerous with no such
property, but may be tampered with, and crushed, and broken, at the
driver’s pleasure. Look at that engine! It shall cost a man more dollars
in the way of penalty and fine, and satisfaction of the outraged law,
to deface in wantonness that senseless mass of metal, than to take the
lives of twenty human creatures! Thus the stars wink upon the bloody
stripes; and Liberty pulls down her cap upon her eyes, and owns
Oppression in its vilest aspect, for her sister.

The engine-driver of the train whose noise awoke us to the present
chapter was certainly troubled with no such reflections as these; nor is
it very probable that his mind was disturbed by any reflections at all.
He leaned with folded arms and crossed legs against the side of the
carriage, smoking; and, except when he expressed, by a grunt as short as
his pipe, his approval of some particularly dexterous aim on the part of
his colleague, the fireman, who beguiled his leisure by throwing logs
of wood from the tender at the numerous stray cattle on the line, he
preserved a composure so immovable, and an indifference so complete,
that if the locomotive had been a sucking-pig, he could not have been
more perfectly indifferent to its doings. Notwithstanding the tranquil
state of this officer, and his unbroken peace of mind, the train was
proceeding with tolerable rapidity; and the rails being but poorly laid,
the jolts and bumps it met with in its progress were neither slight nor
few.

There were three great caravans or cars attached. The ladies’ car, the
gentlemen’s car, and the car for negroes; the latter painted black, as
an appropriate compliment to its company. Martin and Mark Tapley were
in the first, as it was the most comfortable; and, being far from full,
received other gentlemen who, like them, were unblessed by the society
of ladies of their own. They were seated side by side, and were engaged
in earnest conversation.

‘And so, Mark,’ said Martin, looking at him with an anxious expression,
‘and so you are glad we have left New York far behind us, are you?’

‘Yes, sir,’ said Mark. ‘I am. Precious glad.’

‘Were you not “jolly” there?’ asked Martin.

‘On the contrairy, sir,’ returned Mark. ‘The jolliest week as ever I
spent in my life, was that there week at Pawkins’s.’

‘What do you think of our prospects?’ inquired Martin, with an air that
plainly said he had avoided the question for some time.

‘Uncommon bright, sir,’ returned Mark. ‘Impossible for a place to have
a better name, sir, than the Walley of Eden. No man couldn’t think of
settling in a better place than the Walley of Eden. And I’m told,’ added
Mark, after a pause, ‘as there’s lots of serpents there, so we shall
come out, quite complete and reg’lar.’

So far from dwelling upon this agreeable piece of information with the
least dismay, Mark’s face grew radiant as he called it to mind; so very
radiant, that a stranger might have supposed he had all his life been
yearning for the society of serpents, and now hailed with delight the
approaching consummation of his fondest wishes.

‘Who told you that?’ asked Martin, sternly.

‘A military officer,’ said Mark.

‘Confound you for a ridiculous fellow!’ cried Martin, laughing heartily
in spite of himself. ‘What military officer? You know they spring up in
every field.’

‘As thick as scarecrows in England, sir,’ interposed Mark, ‘which is a
sort of milita themselves, being entirely coat and wescoat, with a stick
inside. Ha, ha!--Don’t mind me, sir; it’s my way sometimes. I can’t help
being jolly. Why it was one of them inwading conquerors at Pawkins’s, as
told me. “Am I rightly informed,” he says--not exactly through his nose,
but as if he’d got a stoppage in it, very high up--“that you’re a-going
to the Walley of Eden?” “I heard some talk on it,” I told him. “Oh!”
 says he, “if you should ever happen to go to bed there--you MAY, you
know,” he says, “in course of time as civilisation progresses--don’t
forget to take a axe with you.” I looks at him tolerable hard. “Fleas?”
 says I. “And more,” says he. “Wampires?” says I. “And more,” says he.
“Musquitoes, perhaps?” says I. “And more,” says he. “What more?” says
I. “Snakes more,” says he; “rattle-snakes. You’re right to a certain
extent, stranger. There air some catawampous chawers in the small way
too, as graze upon a human pretty strong; but don’t mind THEM--they’re
company. It’s snakes,” he says, “as you’ll object to; and whenever you
wake and see one in a upright poster on your bed,” he says, “like a
corkscrew with the handle off a-sittin’ on its bottom ring, cut him
down, for he means wenom.”’

‘Why didn’t you tell me this before!’ cried Martin, with an expression
of face which set off the cheerfulness of Mark’s visage to great
advantage.

‘I never thought on it, sir,’ said Mark. ‘It come in at one ear, and
went out at the other. But Lord love us, he was one of another Company,
I dare say, and only made up the story that we might go to his Eden, and
not the opposition one.’

‘There’s some probability in that,’ observed Martin. ‘I can honestly say
that I hope so, with all my heart.’

‘I’ve not a doubt about it, sir,’ returned Mark, who, full of the
inspiriting influence of the anecodote upon himself, had for the moment
forgotten its probable effect upon his master; ‘anyhow, we must live,
you know, sir.’

‘Live!’ cried Martin. ‘Yes, it’s easy to say live; but if we should
happen not to wake when rattlesnakes are making corkscrews of themselves
upon our beds, it may be not so easy to do it.’

‘And that’s a fact,’ said a voice so close in his ear that it tickled
him. ‘That’s dreadful true.’

Martin looked round, and found that a gentleman, on the seat behind, had
thrust his head between himself and Mark, and sat with his chin resting
on the back rail of their little bench, entertaining himself with their
conversation. He was as languid and listless in his looks as most of the
gentlemen they had seen; his cheeks were so hollow that he seemed to be
always sucking them in; and the sun had burnt him, not a wholesome red
or brown, but dirty yellow. He had bright dark eyes, which he kept half
closed; only peeping out of the corners, and even then with a glance
that seemed to say, ‘Now you won’t overreach me; you want to, but you
won’t.’ His arms rested carelessly on his knees as he leant forward;
in the palm of his left hand, as English rustics have their slice of
cheese, he had a cake of tobacco; in his right a penknife. He struck
into the dialogue with as little reserve as if he had been specially
called in, days before, to hear the arguments on both sides, and favour
them with his opinion; and he no more contemplated or cared for the
possibility of their not desiring the honour of his acquaintance or
interference in their private affairs than if he had been a bear or a
buffalo.

‘That,’ he repeated, nodding condescendingly to Martin, as to an outer
barbarian and foreigner, ‘is dreadful true. Darn all manner of vermin.’

Martin could not help frowning for a moment, as if he were disposed to
insinuate that the gentleman had unconsciously ‘darned’ himself. But
remembering the wisdom of doing at Rome as Romans do, he smiled with the
pleasantest expression he could assume upon so short a notice.

Their new friend said no more just then, being busily employed in
cutting a quid or plug from his cake of tobacco, and whistling softly to
himself the while. When he had shaped it to his liking, he took out his
old plug, and deposited the same on the back of the seat between Mark
and Martin, while he thrust the new one into the hollow of his cheek,
where it looked like a large walnut, or tolerable pippin. Finding it
quite satisfactory, he stuck the point of his knife into the old plug,
and holding it out for their inspection, remarked with the air of a man
who had not lived in vain, that it was ‘used up considerable.’ Then
he tossed it away; put his knife into one pocket and his tobacco into
another; rested his chin upon the rail as before; and approving of the
pattern on Martin’s waistcoat, reached out his hand to feel the texture
of that garment.

‘What do you call this now?’ he asked.

‘Upon my word’ said Martin, ‘I don’t know what it’s called.’

‘It’ll cost a dollar or more a yard, I reckon?’

‘I really don’t know.’

‘In my country,’ said the gentleman, ‘we know the cost of our own
pro-duce.’

Martin not discussing the question, there was a pause.

‘Well!’ resumed their new friend, after staring at them intently during
the whole interval of silence; ‘how’s the unnat’ral old parent by this
time?’

Mr Tapley regarding this inquiry as only another version of the
impertinent English question, ‘How’s your mother?’ would have resented
it instantly, but for Martin’s prompt interposition.

‘You mean the old country?’ he said.

‘Ah!’ was the reply. ‘How’s she? Progressing back’ards, I expect, as
usual? Well! How’s Queen Victoria?’

‘In good health, I believe,’ said Martin.

‘Queen Victoria won’t shake in her royal shoes at all, when she hears
to-morrow named,’ observed the stranger, ‘No.’

‘Not that I am aware of. Why should she?’

‘She won’t be taken with a cold chill, when she realises what is being
done in these diggings,’ said the stranger. ‘No.’

‘No,’ said Martin. ‘I think I could take my oath of that.’

The strange gentleman looked at him as if in pity for his ignorance or
prejudice, and said:

‘Well, sir, I tell you this--there ain’t a engine with its biler
bust, in God A’mighty’s free U-nited States, so fixed, and nipped,
and frizzled to a most e-tarnal smash, as that young critter, in her
luxurious location in the Tower of London will be, when she reads the
next double-extra Watertoast Gazette.’

Several other gentlemen had left their seats and gathered round during
the foregoing dialogue. They were highly delighted with this speech. One
very lank gentleman, in a loose limp white cravat, long white waistcoat,
and a black great-coat, who seemed to be in authority among them, felt
called upon to acknowledge it.

‘Hem! Mr La Fayette Kettle,’ he said, taking off his hat.

There was a grave murmur of ‘Hush!’

‘Mr La Fayette Kettle! Sir!’

Mr Kettle bowed.

‘In the name of this company, sir, and in the name of our common
country, and in the name of that righteous cause of holy sympathy in
which we are engaged, I thank you. I thank you, sir, in the name of
the Watertoast Sympathisers; and I thank you, sir, in the name of
the Watertoast Gazette; and I thank you, sir, in the name of the
star-spangled banner of the Great United States, for your eloquent and
categorical exposition. And if, sir,’ said the speaker, poking Martin
with the handle of his umbrella to bespeak his attention, for he was
listening to a whisper from Mark; ‘if, sir, in such a place, and at such
a time, I might venture to con-clude with a sentiment, glancing--however
slantin’dicularly--at the subject in hand, I would say, sir, may
the British Lion have his talons eradicated by the noble bill of the
American Eagle, and be taught to play upon the Irish Harp and the Scotch
Fiddle that music which is breathed in every empty shell that lies upon
the shores of green Co-lumbia!’

Here the lank gentleman sat down again, amidst a great sensation; and
every one looked very grave.

‘General Choke,’ said Mr La Fayette Kettle, ‘you warm my heart; sir, you
warm my heart. But the British Lion is not unrepresented here, sir; and
I should be glad to hear his answer to those remarks.’

‘Upon my word,’ cried Martin, laughing, ‘since you do me the honour to
consider me his representative, I have only to say that I never heard
of Queen Victoria reading the What’s-his-name Gazette and that I should
scarcely think it probable.’

General Choke smiled upon the rest, and said, in patient and benignant
explanation:

‘It is sent to her, sir. It is sent to her. Her mail.’

‘But if it is addressed to the Tower of London, it would hardly come to
hand, I fear,’ returned Martin; ‘for she don’t live there.’

‘The Queen of England, gentlemen,’ observed Mr Tapley, affecting the
greatest politeness, and regarding them with an immovable face, ‘usually
lives in the Mint to take care of the money. She HAS lodgings, in virtue
of her office, with the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House; but don’t often
occupy them, in consequence of the parlour chimney smoking.’

‘Mark,’ said Martin, ‘I shall be very much obliged to you if you’ll
have the goodness not to interfere with preposterous statements, however
jocose they may appear to you. I was merely remarking gentlemen--though
it’s a point of very little import--that the Queen of England does not
happen to live in the Tower of London.’

‘General!’ cried Mr La Fayette Kettle. ‘You hear?’

‘General!’ echoed several others. ‘General!’

‘Hush! Pray, silence!’ said General Choke, holding up his hand, and
speaking with a patient and complacent benevolence that was quite
touching. ‘I have always remarked it as a very extraordinary
circumstance, which I impute to the natur’ of British Institutions and
their tendency to suppress that popular inquiry and information which
air so widely diffused even in the trackless forests of this vast
Continent of the Western Ocean; that the knowledge of Britishers
themselves on such points is not to be compared with that possessed
by our intelligent and locomotive citizens. This is interesting, and
confirms my observation. When you say, sir,’ he continued, addressing
Martin, ‘that your Queen does not reside in the Tower of London, you
fall into an error, not uncommon to your countrymen, even when their
abilities and moral elements air such as to command respect. But, sir,
you air wrong. She DOES live there--’

‘When she is at the Court of Saint James’s,’ interposed Kettle.

‘When she is at the Court of Saint James’s, of course,’ returned the
General, in the same benignant way; ‘for if her location was in Windsor
Pavilion it couldn’t be in London at the same time. Your Tower of
London, sir,’ pursued the General, smiling with a mild consciousness of
his knowledge, ‘is nat’rally your royal residence. Being located in
the immediate neighbourhood of your Parks, your Drives, your Triumphant
Arches, your Opera, and your Royal Almacks, it nat’rally suggests
itself as the place for holding a luxurious and thoughtless court.
And, consequently,’ said the General, ‘consequently, the court is held
there.’

‘Have you been in England?’ asked Martin.

‘In print I have, sir,’ said the General, ‘not otherwise. We air a
reading people here, sir. You will meet with much information among us
that will surprise you, sir.’

‘I have not the least doubt of it,’ returned Martin. But here he was
interrupted by Mr La Fayette Kettle, who whispered in his ear:

‘You know General Choke?’

‘No,’ returned Martin, in the same tone.

‘You know what he is considered?’

‘One of the most remarkable men in the country?’ said Martin, at a
venture.

‘That’s a fact,’ rejoined Kettle. ‘I was sure you must have heard of
him!’

‘I think,’ said Martin, addressing himself to the General again, ‘that
I have the pleasure of being the bearer of a letter of introduction to
you, sir. From Mr Bevan, of Massachusetts,’ he added, giving it to him.

The General took it and read it attentively; now and then stopping to
glance at the two strangers. When he had finished the note, he came over
to Martin, sat down by him, and shook hands.

‘Well!’ he said, ‘and you think of settling in Eden?’

‘Subject to your opinion, and the agent’s advice,’ replied Martin. ‘I am
told there is nothing to be done in the old towns.’

‘I can introduce you to the agent, sir,’ said the General. ‘I know him.
In fact, I am a member of the Eden Land Corporation myself.’

This was serious news to Martin, for his friend had laid great stress
upon the General’s having no connection, as he thought, with any land
company, and therefore being likely to give him disinterested advice.
The General explained that he had joined the Corporation only a few
weeks ago, and that no communication had passed between himself and Mr
Bevan since.

‘We have very little to venture,’ said Martin anxiously--‘only a
few pounds--but it is our all. Now, do you think that for one of my
profession, this would be a speculation with any hope or chance in it?’

‘Well,’ observed the General, gravely, ‘if there wasn’t any hope or
chance in the speculation, it wouldn’t have engaged my dollars, I
opinionate.’

‘I don’t mean for the sellers,’ said Martin. ‘For the buyers--for the
buyers!’

‘For the buyers, sir?’ observed the General, in a most impressive
manner. ‘Well! you come from an old country; from a country, sir, that
has piled up golden calves as high as Babel, and worshipped ‘em for
ages. We are a new country, sir; man is in a more primeval state here,
sir; we have not the excuse of having lapsed in the slow course of time
into degenerate practices; we have no false gods; man, sir, here, is man
in all his dignity. We fought for that or nothing. Here am I, sir,’
said the General, setting up his umbrella to represent himself, and a
villanous-looking umbrella it was; a very bad counter to stand for the
sterling coin of his benevolence, ‘here am I with grey hairs sir, and
a moral sense. Would I, with my principles, invest capital in this
speculation if I didn’t think it full of hopes and chances for my
brother man?’

Martin tried to look convinced, but he thought of New York, and found it
difficult.

‘What are the Great United States for, sir,’ pursued the General ‘if not
for the regeneration of man? But it is nat’ral in you to make such an
enquerry, for you come from England, and you do not know my country.’

‘Then you think,’ said Martin, ‘that allowing for the hardships we are
prepared to undergo, there is a reasonable--Heaven knows we don’t expect
much--a reasonable opening in this place?’

‘A reasonable opening in Eden, sir! But see the agent, see the agent;
see the maps and plans, sir; and conclude to go or stay, according to
the natur’ of the settlement. Eden hadn’t need to go a-begging yet,
sir,’ remarked the General.

‘It is an awful lovely place, sure-ly. And frightful wholesome,
likewise!’ said Mr Kettle, who had made himself a party to this
conversation as a matter of course.

Martin felt that to dispute such testimony, for no better reason
than because he had his secret misgivings on the subject, would be
ungentlemanly and indecent. So he thanked the General for his promise to
put him in personal communication with the agent; and ‘concluded’ to see
that officer next morning. He then begged the General to inform him who
the Watertoast Sympathisers were, of whom he had spoken in addressing Mr
La Fayette Kettle, and on what grievances they bestowed their Sympathy.
To which the General, looking very serious, made answer, that he might
fully enlighten himself on those points to-morrow by attending a Great
Meeting of the Body, which would then be held at the town to which
they were travelling; ‘over which, sir,’ said the General, ‘my
fellow-citizens have called on me to preside.’

They came to their journey’s end late in the evening. Close to the
railway was an immense white edifice, like an ugly hospital, on which
was painted ‘NATIONAL HOTEL.’ There was a wooden gallery or verandah
in front, in which it was rather startling, when the train stopped, to
behold a great many pairs of boots and shoes, and the smoke of a
great many cigars, but no other evidences of human habitation. By slow
degrees, however, some heads and shoulders appeared, and connecting
themselves with the boots and shoes, led to the discovery that certain
gentlemen boarders, who had a fancy for putting their heels where the
gentlemen boarders in other countries usually put their heads, were
enjoying themselves after their own manner in the cool of the evening.

There was a great bar-room in this hotel, and a great public room
in which the general table was being set out for supper. There were
interminable whitewashed staircases, long whitewashed galleries upstairs
and downstairs, scores of little whitewashed bedrooms, and a four-sided
verandah to every story in the house, which formed a large brick square
with an uncomfortable courtyard in the centre, where some clothes were
drying. Here and there, some yawning gentlemen lounged up and down with
their hands in their pockets; but within the house and without, wherever
half a dozen people were collected together, there, in their looks,
dress, morals, manners, habits, intellect, and conversation, were Mr
Jefferson Brick, Colonel Diver, Major Pawkins, General Choke, and Mr
La Fayette Kettle, over, and over, and over again. They did the same
things; said the same things; judged all subjects by, and reduced all
subjects to, the same standard. Observing how they lived, and how they
were always in the enchanting company of each other, Martin even began
to comprehend their being the social, cheerful, winning, airy men they
were.

At the sounding of a dismal gong, this pleasant company went trooping
down from all parts of the house to the public room; while from the
neighbouring stores other guests came flocking in, in shoals; for half
the town, married folks as well as single, resided at the National
Hotel. Tea, coffee, dried meats, tongue, ham, pickles, cake, toast,
preserves, and bread and butter, were swallowed with the usual ravaging
speed; and then, as before, the company dropped off by degrees, and
lounged away to the desk, the counter, or the bar-room. The ladies had a
smaller ordinary of their own, to which their husbands and brothers
were admitted if they chose; and in all other respects they enjoyed
themselves as at Pawkins’s.

‘Now, Mark, my good fellow, said Martin, closing the door of his
little chamber, ‘we must hold a solemn council, for our fate is decided
to-morrow morning. You are determined to invest these savings of yours
in the common stock, are you?’

‘If I hadn’t been determined to make that wentur, sir,’ answered Mr
Tapley, ‘I shouldn’t have come.’

‘How much is there here, did you say’ asked Martin, holding up a little
bag.

‘Thirty-seven pound ten and sixpence. The Savings’ Bank said so at
least. I never counted it. But THEY know, bless you!’ said Mark, with a
shake of the head expressive of his unbounded confidence in the wisdom
and arithmetic of those Institutions.

‘The money we brought with us,’ said Martin, ‘is reduced to a few
shillings less than eight pounds.’

Mr Tapley smiled, and looked all manner of ways, that he might not be
supposed to attach any importance to this fact.

‘Upon the ring--HER ring, Mark,’ said Martin, looking ruefully at his
empty finger--

‘Ah!’ sighed Mr Tapley. ‘Beg your pardon, sir.’

‘--We raised, in English money, fourteen pounds. So, even with that,
your share of the stock is still very much the larger of the two you
see. Now, Mark,’ said Martin, in his old way, just as he might have
spoken to Tom Pinch, ‘I have thought of a means of making this up
to you--more than making it up to you, I hope--and very materially
elevating your prospects in life.’

‘Oh! don’t talk of that, you know, sir,’ returned Mark. ‘I don’t want no
elevating, sir. I’m all right enough, sir, I am.’

‘No, but hear me,’ said Martin, ‘because this is very important to you,
and a great satisfaction to me. Mark, you shall be a partner in the
business; an equal partner with myself. I will put in, as my additional
capital, my professional knowledge and ability; and half the annual
profits, as long as it is carried on, shall be yours.’

Poor Martin! For ever building castles in the air. For ever, in his very
selfishness, forgetful of all but his own teeming hopes and sanguine
plans. Swelling, at that instant, with the consciousness of patronizing
and most munificently rewarding Mark!

‘I don’t know, sir,’ Mark rejoined, much more sadly than his custom was,
though from a very different cause than Martin supposed, ‘what I can say
to this, in the way of thanking you. I’ll stand by you, sir, to the best
of my ability, and to the last. That’s all.’

‘We quite understand each other, my good fellow,’ said Martin rising in
self-approval and condescension. ‘We are no longer master and servant,
but friends and partners; and are mutually gratified. If we determine on
Eden, the business shall be commenced as soon as we get there. Under the
name,’ said Martin, who never hammered upon an idea that wasn’t red hot,
‘under the name of Chuzzlewit and Tapley.’

‘Lord love you, sir,’ cried Mark, ‘don’t have my name in it. I ain’t
acquainted with the business, sir. I must be Co., I must. I’ve often
thought,’ he added, in a low voice, ‘as I should like to know a Co.; but
I little thought as ever I should live to be one.’

‘You shall have your own way, Mark.’

‘Thank’ee, sir. If any country gentleman thereabouts, in the public way,
or otherwise, wanted such a thing as a skittle-ground made, I could take
that part of the bis’ness, sir.’

‘Against any architect in the States,’ said Martin. ‘Get a couple of
sherry-cobblers, Mark, and we’ll drink success to the firm.’

Either he forgot already (and often afterwards), that they were no
longer master and servant, or considered this kind of duty to be among
the legitimate functions of the Co. But Mark obeyed with his usual
alacrity; and before they parted for the night, it was agreed between
them that they should go together to the agent’s in the morning, but
that Martin should decide the Eden question, on his own sound judgment.
And Mark made no merit, even to himself in his jollity, of this
concession; perfectly well knowing that the matter would come to that in
the end, any way.

The General was one of the party at the public table next day, and after
breakfast suggested that they should wait upon the agent without loss of
time. They, desiring nothing more, agreed; so off they all four
started for the office of the Eden Settlement, which was almost within
rifle-shot of the National Hotel.

It was a small place--something like a turnpike. But a great deal of
land may be got into a dice-box, and why may not a whole territory be
bargained for in a shed? It was but a temporary office too; for the
Edeners were ‘going’ to build a superb establishment for the transaction
of their business, and had already got so far as to mark out the site.
Which is a great way in America. The office-door was wide open, and in
the doorway was the agent; no doubt a tremendous fellow to get through
his work, for he seemed to have no arrears, but was swinging backwards
and forwards in a rocking-chair, with one of his legs planted high up
against the door-post, and the other doubled up under him, as if he were
hatching his foot.

He was a gaunt man in a huge straw hat, and a coat of green stuff. The
weather being hot, he had no cravat, and wore his shirt collar wide
open; so that every time he spoke something was seen to twitch and jerk
up in his throat, like the little hammers in a harpsichord when the
notes are struck. Perhaps it was the Truth feebly endeavouring to leap
to his lips. If so, it never reached them.

Two grey eyes lurked deep within this agent’s head, but one of them had
no sight in it, and stood stock still. With that side of his face he
seemed to listen to what the other side was doing. Thus each profile had
a distinct expression; and when the movable side was most in action, the
rigid one was in its coldest state of watchfulness. It was like
turning the man inside out, to pass to that view of his features in his
liveliest mood, and see how calculating and intent they were.

Each long black hair upon his head hung down as straight as any plummet
line; but rumpled tufts were on the arches of his eyes, as if the crow
whose foot was deeply printed in the corners had pecked and torn them in
a savage recognition of his kindred nature as a bird of prey.

Such was the man whom they now approached, and whom the General saluted
by the name of Scadder.

‘Well, Gen’ral,’ he returned, ‘and how are you?’

‘Ac-tive and spry, sir, in my country’s service and the sympathetic
cause. Two gentlemen on business, Mr Scadder.’

He shook hands with each of them--nothing is done in America without
shaking hands--then went on rocking.

‘I think I know what bis’ness you have brought these strangers here
upon, then, Gen’ral?’

‘Well, sir. I expect you may.’

‘You air a tongue-y person, Gen’ral. For you talk too much, and that’s
fact,’ said Scadder. ‘You speak a-larming well in public, but you didn’t
ought to go ahead so fast in private. Now!’

‘If I can realise your meaning, ride me on a rail!’ returned the
General, after pausing for consideration.

‘You know we didn’t wish to sell the lots off right away to any loafer
as might bid,’ said Scadder; ‘but had con-cluded to reserve ‘em for
Aristocrats of Natur’. Yes!’

‘And they are here, sir!’ cried the General with warmth. ‘They are here,
sir!’

‘If they air here,’ returned the agent, in reproachful accents, ‘that’s
enough. But you didn’t ought to have your dander ris with ME, Gen’ral.’

The General whispered Martin that Scadder was the honestest fellow in
the world, and that he wouldn’t have given him offence designedly, for
ten thousand dollars.

‘I do my duty; and I raise the dander of my feller critters, as I
wish to serve,’ said Scadder in a low voice, looking down the road
and rocking still. ‘They rile up rough, along of my objecting to their
selling Eden off too cheap. That’s human natur’! Well!’

‘Mr Scadder,’ said the General, assuming his oratorical deportment.
‘Sir! Here is my hand, and here my heart. I esteem you, sir, and ask
your pardon. These gentlemen air friends of mine, or I would not have
brought ‘em here, sir, being well aware, sir, that the lots at present
go entirely too cheap. But these air friends, sir; these air partick’ler
friends.’

Mr Scadder was so satisfied by this explanation, that he shook the
General warmly by the hand, and got out of the rocking-chair to do it.
He then invited the General’s particular friends to accompany him into
the office. As to the General, he observed, with his usual benevolence,
that being one of the company, he wouldn’t interfere in the transaction
on any account; so he appropriated the rocking-chair to himself, and
looked at the prospect, like a good Samaritan waiting for a traveller.

‘Heyday!’ cried Martin, as his eye rested on a great plan which occupied
one whole side of the office. Indeed, the office had little else in it,
but some geological and botanical specimens, one or two rusty ledgers, a
homely desk, and a stool. ‘Heyday! what’s that?’

‘That’s Eden,’ said Scadder, picking his teeth with a sort of young
bayonet that flew out of his knife when he touched a spring.

‘Why, I had no idea it was a city.’

‘Hadn’t you? Oh, it’s a city.’

A flourishing city, too! An architectural city! There were banks,
churches, cathedrals, market-places, factories, hotels, stores,
mansions, wharves; an exchange, a theatre; public buildings of all
kinds, down to the office of the Eden Stinger, a daily journal; all
faithfully depicted in the view before them.

‘Dear me! It’s really a most important place!’ cried Martin turning
round.

‘Oh! it’s very important,’ observed the agent.

‘But, I am afraid,’ said Martin, glancing again at the Public Buildings,
‘that there’s nothing left for me to do.’

‘Well! it ain’t all built,’ replied the agent. ‘Not quite.’

This was a great relief.

‘The market-place, now,’ said Martin. ‘Is that built?’

‘That?’ said the agent, sticking his toothpick into the weathercock on
the top. ‘Let me see. No; that ain’t built.’

‘Rather a good job to begin with--eh, Mark?’ whispered Martin nudging
him with his elbow.

Mark, who, with a very stolid countenance had been eyeing the plan and
the agent by turns, merely rejoined ‘Uncommon!’

A dead silence ensued, Mr Scadder in some short recesses or vacations of
his toothpick, whistled a few bars of Yankee Doodle, and blew the dust
off the roof of the Theatre.

‘I suppose,’ said Martin, feigning to look more narrowly at the plan,
but showing by his tremulous voice how much depended, in his mind, upon
the answer; ‘I suppose there are--several architects there?’

‘There ain’t a single one,’ said Scadder.

‘Mark,’ whispered Martin, pulling him by the sleeve, ‘do you hear that?
But whose work is all this before us, then?’ he asked aloud.

‘The soil being very fruitful, public buildings grows spontaneous,
perhaps,’ said Mark.

He was on the agent’s dark side as he said it; but Scadder instantly
changed his place, and brought his active eye to bear upon him.

‘Feel of my hands, young man,’ he said.

‘What for?’ asked Mark, declining.

‘Air they dirty, or air they clean, sir?’ said Scadder, holding them
out.

In a physical point of view they were decidedly dirty. But it being
obvious that Mr Scadder offered them for examination in a figurative
sense, as emblems of his moral character, Martin hastened to pronounce
them pure as the driven snow.

‘I entreat, Mark,’ he said, with some irritation, ‘that you will
not obtrude remarks of that nature, which, however harmless and
well-intentioned, are quite out of place, and cannot be expected to be
very agreeable to strangers. I am quite surprised.’

‘The Co.’s a-putting his foot in it already,’ thought Mark. ‘He must be
a sleeping partner--fast asleep and snoring--Co. must; I see.’

Mr Scadder said nothing, but he set his back against the plan, and
thrust his toothpick into the desk some twenty times; looking at Mark
all the while as if he were stabbing him in effigy.

‘You haven’t said whose work it is,’ Martin ventured to observe at
length, in a tone of mild propitiation.

‘Well, never mind whose work it is, or isn’t,’ said the agent sulkily.
‘No matter how it did eventuate. P’raps he cleared off, handsome, with a
heap of dollars; p’raps he wasn’t worth a cent. P’raps he was a loafin’
rowdy; p’raps a ring-tailed roarer. Now!’

‘All your doing, Mark!’ said Martin.

‘P’raps,’ pursued the agent, ‘them ain’t plants of Eden’s raising. No!
P’raps that desk and stool ain’t made from Eden lumber. No! P’raps no
end of squatters ain’t gone out there. No! P’raps there ain’t no such
location in the territoary of the Great U-nited States. Oh, no!’

‘I hope you’re satisfied with the success of your joke, Mark,’ said
Martin.

But here, at a most opportune and happy time, the General interposed,
and called out to Scadder from the doorway to give his friends the
particulars of that little lot of fifty acres with the house upon it;
which, having belonged to the company formerly, had lately lapsed again
into their hands.

‘You air a deal too open-handed, Gen’ral,’ was the answer. ‘It is a lot
as should be rose in price. It is.’

He grumblingly opened his books notwithstanding, and always keeping his
bright side towards Mark, no matter at what amount of inconvenience
to himself, displayed a certain leaf for their perusal. Martin read it
greedily, and then inquired:

‘Now where upon the plan may this place be?’

‘Upon the plan?’ said Scadder.

‘Yes.’

He turned towards it, and reflected for a short time, as if, having
been put upon his mettle, he was resolved to be particular to the
very minutest hair’s breadth of a shade. At length, after wheeling his
toothpick slowly round and round in the air, as if it were a carrier
pigeon just thrown up, he suddenly made a dart at the drawing, and
pierced the very centre of the main wharf, through and through.

‘There!’ he said, leaving his knife quivering in the wall; ‘that’s where
it is!’

Martin glanced with sparkling eyes upon his Co., and his Co. saw that
the thing was done.

The bargain was not concluded as easily as might have been expected
though, for Scadder was caustic and ill-humoured, and cast much
unnecessary opposition in the way; at one time requesting them to think
of it, and call again in a week or a fortnight; at another, predicting
that they wouldn’t like it; at another, offering to retract and let them
off, and muttering strong imprecations upon the folly of the General.
But the whole of the astoundingly small sum total of purchase-money--it
was only one hundred and fifty dollars, or something more than thirty
pounds of the capital brought by Co. into the architectural concern--was
ultimately paid down; and Martin’s head was two inches nearer the roof
of the little wooden office, with the consciousness of being a landed
proprietor in the thriving city of Eden.

‘If it shouldn’t happen to fit,’ said Scadder, as he gave Martin the
necessary credentials on recepit of his money, ‘don’t blame me.’

‘No, no,’ he replied merrily. ‘We’ll not blame you. General, are you
going?’

‘I am at your service, sir; and I wish you,’ said the General, giving
him his hand with grave cordiality, ‘joy of your po-ssession. You air
now, sir, a denizen of the most powerful and highly-civilised dominion
that has ever graced the world; a do-minion, sir, where man is bound to
man in one vast bond of equal love and truth. May you, sir, be worthy of
your a-dopted country!’

Martin thanked him, and took leave of Mr Scadder; who had resumed his
post in the rocking-chair, immediately on the General’s rising from it,
and was once more swinging away as if he had never been disturbed.
Mark looked back several times as they went down the road towards the
National Hotel, but now his blighted profile was towards them, and
nothing but attentive thoughtfulness was written on it. Strangely
different to the other side! He was not a man much given to laughing,
and never laughed outright; but every line in the print of the crow’s
foot, and every little wiry vein in that division of his head, was
wrinkled up into a grin! The compound figure of Death and the Lady at
the top of the old ballad was not divided with a greater nicety, and
hadn’t halves more monstrously unlike each other, than the two profiles
of Zephaniah Scadder.

The General posted along at a great rate, for the clock was on the
stroke of twelve; and at that hour precisely, the Great Meeting of
the Watertoast Sympathisers was to be holden in the public room of the
National Hotel. Being very curious to witness the demonstration, and
know what it was all about, Martin kept close to the General; and,
keeping closer than ever when they entered the Hall, got by that means
upon a little platform of tables at the upper end; where an armchair was
set for the General, and Mr La Fayette Kettle, as secretary, was making
a great display of some foolscap documents. Screamers, no doubt.

‘Well, sir!’ he said, as he shook hands with Martin, ‘here is a
spectacle calc’lated to make the British Lion put his tail between his
legs, and howl with anguish, I expect!’

Martin certainly thought it possible that the British Lion might have
been rather out of his element in that Ark; but he kept the idea to
himself. The General was then voted to the chair, on the motion of a
pallid lad of the Jefferson Brick school; who forthwith set in for a
high-spiced speech, with a good deal about hearths and homes in it, and
unriveting the chains of Tyranny.

Oh but it was a clincher for the British Lion, it was! The indignation
of the glowing young Columbian knew no bounds. If he could only have
been one of his own forefathers, he said, wouldn’t he have peppered
that same Lion, and been to him as another Brute Tamer with a wire whip,
teaching him lessons not easily forgotten. ‘Lion! (cried that young
Columbian) where is he? Who is he? What is he? Show him to me. Let me
have him here. Here!’ said the young Columbian, in a wrestling attitude,
‘upon this sacred altar. Here!’ cried the young Columbian, idealising
the dining-table, ‘upon ancestral ashes, cemented with the glorious
blood poured out like water on our native plains of Chickabiddy Lick!
Bring forth that Lion!’ said the young Columbian. ‘Alone, I dare him! I
taunt that Lion. I tell that Lion, that Freedom’s hand once twisted
in his mane, he rolls a corse before me, and the Eagles of the Great
Republic laugh ha, ha!’

When it was found that the Lion didn’t come, but kept out of the way;
that the young Columbian stood there, with folded arms, alone in his
glory; and consequently that the Eagles were no doubt laughing wildly on
the mountain tops; such cheers arose as might have shaken the hands upon
the Horse-Guards’ clock, and changed the very mean time of the day in
England’s capital.

‘Who is this?’ Martin telegraphed to La Fayette.

The Secretary wrote something, very gravely, on a piece of paper,
twisted it up, and had it passed to him from hand to hand. It was an
improvement on the old sentiment: ‘Perhaps as remarkable a man as any in
our country.’

This young Columbian was succeeded by another, to the full as eloquent
as he, who drew down storms of cheers. But both remarkable youths,
in their great excitement (for your true poetry can never stoop to
details), forgot to say with whom or what the Watertoasters sympathized,
and likewise why or wherefore they were sympathetic. Thus Martin
remained for a long time as completely in the dark as ever; until
at length a ray of light broke in upon him through the medium of the
Secretary, who, by reading the minutes of their past proceedings,
made the matter somewhat clearer. He then learned that the Watertoast
Association sympathized with a certain Public Man in Ireland, who held a
contest upon certain points with England; and that they did so, because
they didn’t love England at all--not by any means because they loved
Ireland much; being indeed horribly jealous and distrustful of its
people always, and only tolerating them because of their working hard,
which made them very useful; labour being held in greater indignity in
the simple republic than in any other country upon earth. This
rendered Martin curious to see what grounds of sympathy the Watertoast
Association put forth; nor was he long in suspense, for the General
rose to read a letter to the Public Man, which with his own hands he had
written.

‘Thus,’ said the General, ‘thus, my friends and fellow-citizens, it
runs:


‘“SIR--I address you on behalf of the Watertoast Association of United
Sympathisers. It is founded, sir, in the great republic of America! and
now holds its breath, and swells the blue veins in its forehead nigh to
bursting, as it watches, sir, with feverish intensity and sympathetic
ardour, your noble efforts in the cause of Freedom.”’


At the name of Freedom, and at every repetition of that name, all the
Sympathisers roared aloud; cheering with nine times nine, and nine times
over.


‘“In Freedom’s name, sir--holy Freedom--I address you. In Freedom’s
name, I send herewith a contribution to the funds of your society.
In Freedom’s name, sir, I advert with indignation and disgust to that
accursed animal, with gore-stained whiskers, whose rampant cruelty and
fiery lust have ever been a scourge, a torment to the world. The naked
visitors to Crusoe’s Island, sir; the flying wives of Peter Wilkins; the
fruit-smeared children of the tangled bush; nay, even the men of large
stature, anciently bred in the mining districts of Cornwall; alike
bear witness to its savage nature. Where, sir, are the Cormorans,
the Blunderbores, the Great Feefofums, named in History? All, all,
exterminated by its destroying hand.

‘“I allude, sir, to the British Lion.

‘“Devoted, mind and body, heart and soul, to Freedom, sir--to Freedom,
blessed solace to the snail upon the cellar-door, the oyster in his
pearly bed, the still mite in his home of cheese, the very winkle of
your country in his shelly lair--in her unsullied name, we offer you our
sympathy. Oh, sir, in this our cherished and our happy land, her fires
burn bright and clear and smokeless; once lighted up in yours, the lion
shall be roasted whole.

‘“I am, sir, in Freedom’s name,

‘“Your affectionate friend and faithful Sympathiser,

‘“CYRUS CHOKE,

‘“General, U.S.M.”’


It happened that just as the General began to read this letter, the
railroad train arrived, bringing a new mail from England; and a packet
had been handed in to the Secretary, which during its perusal and
the frequent cheerings in homage to freedom, he had opened. Now, its
contents disturbed him very much, and the moment the General sat down,
he hurried to his side, and placed in his hand a letter and several
printed extracts from English newspapers; to which, in a state of
infinite excitement, he called his immediate attention.

The General, being greatly heated by his own composition, was in a
fit state to receive any inflammable influence; but he had no sooner
possessed himself of the contents of these documents, than a change came
over his face, involving such a huge amount of choler and passion, that
the noisy concourse were silent in a moment, in very wonder at the sight
of him.

‘My friends!’ cried the General, rising; ‘my friends and fellow
citizens, we have been mistaken in this man.’

‘In what man?’ was the cry.

‘In this,’ panted the General, holding up the letter he had read aloud
a few minutes before. ‘I find that he has been, and is, the
advocate--consistent in it always too--of Nigger emancipation!’

If anything beneath the sky be real, those Sons of Freedom would have
pistolled, stabbed--in some way slain--that man by coward hands and
murderous violence, if he had stood among them at that time. The most
confiding of their own countrymen would not have wagered then--no, nor
would they ever peril--one dunghill straw, upon the life of any man in
such a strait. They tore the letter, cast the fragments in the air, trod
down the pieces as they fell; and yelled, and groaned, and hissed, till
they could cry no longer.

‘I shall move,’ said the General, when he could make himself heard,
‘that the Watertoast Association of United Sympathisers be immediately
dissolved!’

Down with it! Away with it! Don’t hear of it! Burn its records! Pull the
room down! Blot it out of human memory!

‘But, my fellow-countrymen!’ said the General, ‘the contributions. We
have funds. What is to be done with the funds?’

It was hastily resolved that a piece of plate should be presented to a
certain constitutional Judge, who had laid down from the Bench the noble
principle that it was lawful for any white mob to murder any black man;
and that another piece of plate, of similar value should be presented
to a certain Patriot, who had declared from his high place in the
Legislature, that he and his friends would hang without trial, any
Abolitionist who might pay them a visit. For the surplus, it was agreed
that it should be devoted to aiding the enforcement of those free and
equal laws, which render it incalculably more criminal and dangerous
to teach a negro to read and write than to roast him alive in a public
city. These points adjusted, the meeting broke up in great disorder, and
there was an end of the Watertoast Sympathy.

As Martin ascended to his bedroom, his eye was attracted by the
Republican banner, which had been hoisted from the house-top in honour
of the occasion, and was fluttering before a window which he passed.

‘Tut!’ said Martin. ‘You’re a gay flag in the distance. But let a man
be near enough to get the light upon the other side and see through you;
and you are but sorry fustian!’



CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

FROM WHICH IT WILL BE SEEN THAT MARTIN BECAME A LION OF HIS OWN ACCOUNT.
TOGETHER WITH THE REASON WHY


As soon as it was generally known in the National Hotel, that the young
Englishman, Mr Chuzzlewit, had purchased a ‘lo-cation’ in the Valley
of Eden, and intended to betake himself to that earthly Paradise by the
next steamboat, he became a popular character. Why this should be, or
how it had come to pass, Martin no more knew than Mrs Gamp, of Kingsgate
Street, High Holborn, did; but that he was for the time being the lion,
by popular election, of the Watertoast community, and that his society
was in rather inconvenient request there could be no kind of doubt.

The first notification he received of this change in his position, was
the following epistle, written in a thin running hand--with here and
there a fat letter or two, to make the general effect more striking--on
a sheet of paper, ruled with blue lines.


‘NATIONAL HOTEL,

‘MONDAY MORNING.

‘Dear Sir--‘When I had the privillidge of being your fellow-traveller
in the cars, the day before yesterday, you offered some remarks upon the
subject of the tower of London, which (in common with my fellow-citizens
generally) I could wish to hear repeated to a public audience.

‘As secretary to the Young Men’s Watertoast Association of this town,
I am requested to inform you that the Society will be proud to hear
you deliver a lecture upon the Tower of London, at their Hall to-morrow
evening, at seven o’clock; and as a large issue of quarter-dollar
tickets may be expected, your answer and consent by bearer will be
considered obliging.

‘Dear Sir,

‘Yours truly,

‘LA FAYETTE KETTLE.

‘The Honourable M. Chuzzlewit.

‘P.S.--The Society would not be particular in limiting you to the Tower
of London. Permit me to suggest that any remarks upon the Elements of
Geology, or (if more convenient) upon the Writings of your talented and
witty countryman, the honourable Mr Miller, would be well received.’


Very much aghast at this invitation, Martin wrote back, civilly
declining it; and had scarcely done so, when he received another letter.


‘No. 47, Bunker Hill Street,

‘Monday Morning.

‘(Private).

‘Sir--I was raised in those interminable solitudes where our mighty
Mississippi (or Father of Waters) rolls his turbid flood.

‘I am young, and ardent. For there is a poetry in wildness, and every
alligator basking in the slime is in himself an Epic, self-contained. I
aspirate for fame. It is my yearning and my thirst.

‘Are you, sir, aware of any member of Congress in England, who would
undertake to pay my expenses to that country, and for six months after
my arrival?

‘There is something within me which gives me the assurance that this
enlightened patronage would not be thrown away. In literature or art;
the bar, the pulpit, or the stage; in one or other, if not all, I feel
that I am certain to succeed.

‘If too much engaged to write to any such yourself, please let me have
a list of three or four of those most likely to respond, and I will
address them through the Post Office. May I also ask you to favour me
with any critical observations that have ever presented themselves to
your reflective faculties, on “Cain, a Mystery,” by the Right Honourable
Lord Byron?

‘I am, Sir,

‘Yours (forgive me if I add, soaringly),

‘PUTNAM SMIF

‘P.S.--Address your answer to America Junior, Messrs. Hancock & Floby,
Dry Goods Store, as above.’


Both of which letters, together with Martin’s reply to each, were,
according to a laudable custom, much tending to the promotion of
gentlemanly feeling and social confidence, published in the next number
of the Watertoast Gazette.

He had scarcely got through this correspondence when Captain Kedgick,
the landlord, kindly came upstairs to see how he was getting on. The
Captain sat down upon the bed before he spoke; and finding it rather
hard, moved to the pillow.

‘Well, sir!’ said the Captain, putting his hat a little more on one
side, for it was rather tight in the crown: ‘You’re quite a public man I
calc’late.’

‘So it seems,’ retorted Martin, who was very tired.

‘Our citizens, sir,’ pursued the Captain, ‘intend to pay their respects
to you. You will have to hold a sort of le-vee, sir, while you’re here.’

‘Powers above!’ cried Martin, ‘I couldn’t do that, my good fellow!’

‘I reckon you MUST then,’ said the Captain.

‘Must is not a pleasant word, Captain,’ urged Martin.

‘Well! I didn’t fix the mother language, and I can’t unfix it,’ said the
Captain coolly; ‘else I’d make it pleasant. You must re-ceive. That’s
all.’

‘But why should I receive people who care as much for me as I care for
them?’ asked Martin.

‘Well! because I have had a muniment put up in the bar,’ returned the
Captain.

‘A what?’ cried Martin.

‘A muniment,’ rejoined the Captain.

Martin looked despairingly at Mark, who informed him that the
Captain meant a written notice that Mr Chuzzlewit would receive the
Watertoasters that day, at and after two o’clock which was in effect
then hanging in the bar, as Mark, from ocular inspection of the same,
could testify.

‘You wouldn’t be unpop’lar, I know,’ said the Captain, paring his nails.
‘Our citizens an’t long of riling up, I tell you; and our Gazette could
flay you like a wild cat.’

Martin was going to be very wroth, but he thought better of it, and
said:

‘In Heaven’s name let them come, then.’

‘Oh, THEY’ll come,’ returned the Captain. ‘I have seen the big room
fixed a’purpose, with my eyes.’

‘But will you,’ said Martin, seeing that the Captain was about to go;
‘will you at least tell me this? What do they want to see me for? what
have I done? and how do they happen to have such a sudden interest in
me?’

Captain Kedgick put a thumb and three fingers to each side of the
brim of his hat; lifted it a little way off his head; put it on again
carefully; passed one hand all down his face, beginning at the forehead
and ending at the chin; looked at Martin; then at Mark; then at Martin
again; winked, and walked out.

‘Upon my life, now!’ said Martin, bringing his hand heavily upon the
table; ‘such a perfectly unaccountable fellow as that, I never saw.
Mark, what do you say to this?’

‘Why, sir,’ returned his partner, ‘my opinion is that we must have got
to the MOST remarkable man in the country at last. So I hope there’s an
end to the breed, sir.’

Although this made Martin laugh, it couldn’t keep off two o’clock.
Punctually, as the hour struck, Captain Kedgick returned to hand him
to the room of state; and he had no sooner got him safe there, than
he bawled down the staircase to his fellow-citizens below, that Mr
Chuzzlewit was ‘receiving.’

Up they came with a rush. Up they came until the room was full, and,
through the open door, a dismal perspective of more to come, was shown
upon the stairs. One after another, one after another, dozen after
dozen, score after score, more, more, more, up they came; all shaking
hands with Martin. Such varieties of hands, the thick, the thin,
the short, the long, the fat, the lean, the coarse, the fine; such
differences of temperature, the hot, the cold, the dry, the moist,
the flabby; such diversities of grasp, the tight, the loose, the
short-lived, and the lingering! Still up, up, up, more, more, more; and
ever and anon the Captain’s voice was heard above the crowd--‘There’s
more below! there’s more below. Now, gentlemen you that have been
introduced to Mr Chuzzlewit, will you clear gentlemen? Will you clear?
Will you be so good as clear, gentlemen, and make a little room for
more?’

Regardless of the Captain’s cries, they didn’t clear at all, but stood
there, bolt upright and staring. Two gentlemen connected with the
Watertoast Gazette had come express to get the matter for an article on
Martin. They had agreed to divide the labour. One of them took him below
the waistcoat. One above. Each stood directly in front of his subject
with his head a little on one side, intent on his department. If Martin
put one boot before the other, the lower gentleman was down upon him;
he rubbed a pimple on his nose, and the upper gentleman booked it. He
opened his mouth to speak, and the same gentleman was on one knee before
him, looking in at his teeth, with the nice scrutiny of a dentist.
Amateurs in the physiognomical and phrenological sciences roved about
him with watchful eyes and itching fingers, and sometimes one, more
daring than the rest, made a mad grasp at the back of his head, and
vanished in the crowd. They had him in all points of view: in front, in
profile, three-quarter face, and behind. Those who were not professional
or scientific, audibly exchanged opinions on his looks. New lights shone
in upon him, in respect of his nose. Contradictory rumours were abroad
on the subject of his hair. And still the Captain’s voice was heard--so
stifled by the concourse, that he seemed to speak from underneath a
feather-bed--exclaiming--‘Gentlemen, you that have been introduced to Mr
Chuzzlewit, WILL you clear?’

Even when they began to clear it was no better; for then a stream of
gentlemen, every one with a lady on each arm (exactly like the chorus
to the National Anthem when Royalty goes in state to the play), came
gliding in--every new group fresher than the last, and bent on staying
to the latest moment. If they spoke to him, which was not often, they
invariably asked the same questions, in the same tone; with no more
remorse, or delicacy, or consideration, than if he had been a figure of
stone, purchased, and paid for, and set up there for their delight. Even
when, in the slow course of time, these died off, it was as bad as ever,
if not worse; for then the boys grew bold, and came in as a class
of themselves, and did everything that the grown-up people had done.
Uncouth stragglers, too, appeared; men of a ghostly kind, who being in,
didn’t know how to get out again; insomuch that one silent gentleman
with glazed and fishy eyes and only one button on his waistcoat (which
was a very large metal one, and shone prodigiously), got behind the
door, and stood there, like a clock, long after everybody else was gone.

Martin felt, from pure fatigue, and heat, and worry, as if he could have
fallen on the ground and willingly remained there, if they would but
have had the mercy to leave him alone. But as letters and messages,
threatening his public denouncement if he didn’t see the senders, poured
in like hail; and as more visitors came while he took his coffee by
himself; and as Mark, with all his vigilance, was unable to keep them
from the door; he resolved to go to bed--not that he felt at all sure
of bed being any protection, but that he might not leave a forlorn hope
untried.

He had communicated this design to Mark, and was on the eve of escaping,
when the door was thrown open in a great hurry, and an elderly gentleman
entered; bringing with him a lady who certainly could not be considered
young--that was matter of fact; and probably could not be considered
handsome--but that was matter of opinion. She was very straight, very
tall, and not at all flexible in face or figure. On her head she wore a
great straw bonnet, with trimmings of the same, in which she looked as
if she had been thatched by an unskillful labourer; and in her hand she
held a most enormous fan.

‘Mr Chuzzlewit, I believe?’ said the gentleman.

‘That is my name.’

‘Sir,’ said the gentleman, ‘I am pressed for time.’

‘Thank God!’ thought Martin.

‘I go back Toe my home, sir,’ pursued the gentleman, ‘by the return
train, which starts immediate. Start is not a word you use in your
country, sir.’

‘Oh yes, it is,’ said Martin.

‘You air mistaken, sir,’ returned the gentleman, with great decision:
‘but we will not pursue the subject, lest it should awake your
preju--dice. Sir, Mrs Hominy.’

Martin bowed.

‘Mrs Hominy, sir, is the lady of Major Hominy, one of our chicest
spirits; and belongs Toe one of our most aristocratic families. You air,
p’raps, acquainted, sir, with Mrs Hominy’s writings.’

Martin couldn’t say he was.

‘You have much Toe learn, and Toe enjoy, sir,’ said the gentleman.
‘Mrs Hominy is going Toe stay until the end of the Fall, sir, with her
married daughter at the settlement of New Thermopylae, three days this
side of Eden. Any attention, sir, that you can show Toe Mrs Hominy
upon the journey, will be very grateful Toe the Major and our
fellow-citizens. Mrs Hominy, I wish you good night, ma’am, and a
pleasant pro-gress on your route!’

Martin could scarcely believe it; but he had gone, and Mrs Hominy was
drinking the milk.

‘A’most used-up I am, I do declare!’ she observed. ‘The jolting in
the cars is pretty nigh as bad as if the rail was full of snags and
sawyers.’

‘Snags and sawyers, ma’am?’ said Martin.

‘Well, then, I do suppose you’ll hardly realise my meaning, sir,’ said
Mrs Hominy. ‘My! Only think! DO tell!’

It did not appear that these expressions, although they seemed to
conclude with an urgent entreaty, stood in need of any answer; for Mrs
Hominy, untying her bonnet-strings, observed that she would withdraw to
lay that article of dress aside, and would return immediately.

‘Mark!’ said Martin. ‘Touch me, will you. Am I awake?’

‘Hominy is, sir,’ returned his partner--‘Broad awake! Just the sort of
woman, sir, as would be discovered with her eyes wide open, and her mind
a-working for her country’s good, at any hour of the day or night.’

They had no opportunity of saying more, for Mrs Hominy stalked in
again--very erect, in proof of her aristocratic blood; and holding in
her clasped hands a red cotton pocket-handkerchief, perhaps a parting
gift from that choice spirit, the Major. She had laid aside her bonnet,
and now appeared in a highly aristocratic and classical cap, meeting
beneath her chin: a style of headdress so admirably adapted to her
countenance, that if the late Mr Grimaldi had appeared in the lappets of
Mrs Siddons, a more complete effect could not have been produced.

Martin handed her to a chair. Her first words arrested him before he
could get back to his own seat.

‘Pray, sir!’ said Mrs Hominy, ‘where do you hail from?’

‘I am afraid I am dull of comprehension,’ answered Martin, ‘being
extremely tired; but upon my word I don’t understand you.’

Mrs Hominy shook her head with a melancholy smile that said, not
inexpressively, ‘They corrupt even the language in that old country!’
and added then, as coming down a step or two to meet his low capacity,
‘Where was you rose?’

‘Oh!’ said Martin ‘I was born in Kent.’

‘And how do you like our country, sir?’ asked Mrs Hominy.

‘Very much indeed,’ said Martin, half asleep. ‘At least--that is--pretty
well, ma’am.’

‘Most strangers--and partick’larly Britishers--are much surprised by
what they see in the U-nited States,’ remarked Mrs Hominy.

‘They have excellent reason to be so, ma’am,’ said Martin. ‘I never was
so much surprised in all my life.’

‘Our institutions make our people smart much, sir,’ Mrs Hominy remarked.

‘The most short-sighted man could see that at a glance, with his naked
eye,’ said Martin.

Mrs Hominy was a philosopher and an authoress, and consequently had a
pretty strong digestion; but this coarse, this indecorous phrase,
was almost too much for her. For a gentleman sitting alone with a
lady--although the door WAS open--to talk about a naked eye!

A long interval elapsed before even she--woman of masculine and towering
intellect though she was--could call up fortitude enough to resume the
conversation. But Mrs Hominy was a traveller. Mrs Hominy was a writer
of reviews and analytical disquisitions. Mrs Hominy had had her letters
from abroad, beginning ‘My ever dearest blank,’ and signed ‘The Mother
of the Modern Gracchi’ (meaning the married Miss Hominy), regularly
printed in a public journal, with all the indignation in capitals, and
all the sarcasm in italics. Mrs Hominy had looked on foreign countries
with the eye of a perfect republican hot from the model oven; and Mrs
Hominy could talk (or write) about them by the hour together. So Mrs
Hominy at last came down on Martin heavily, and as he was fast asleep,
she had it all her own way, and bruised him to her heart’s content.

It is no great matter what Mrs Hominy said, save that she had learnt it
from the cant of a class, and a large class, of her fellow countrymen,
who in their every word, avow themselves to be as senseless to the high
principles on which America sprang, a nation, into life, as any Orson in
her legislative halls. Who are no more capable of feeling, or of caring
if they did feel, that by reducing their own country to the ebb of
honest men’s contempt, they put in hazard the rights of nations yet
unborn, and very progress of the human race, than are the swine who
wallow in their streets. Who think that crying out to other nations,
old in their iniquity, ‘We are no worse than you!’ (No worse!) is high
defence and ‘vantage-ground enough for that Republic, but yesterday let
loose upon her noble course, and but to-day so maimed and lame, so full
of sores and ulcers, foul to the eye and almost hopeless to the sense,
that her best friends turn from the loathsome creature with disgust.
Who, having by their ancestors declared and won their Independence,
because they would not bend the knee to certain Public vices and
corruptions, and would not abrogate the truth, run riot in the Bad,
and turn their backs upon the Good; and lying down contented with the
wretched boast that other Temples also are of glass, and stones which
batter theirs may be flung back; show themselves, in that alone, as
immeasurably behind the import of the trust they hold, and as unworthy
to possess it as if the sordid hucksterings of all their little
governments--each one a kingdom in its small depravity--were brought
into a heap for evidence against them.

Martin by degrees became so far awake, that he had a sense of a terrible
oppression on his mind; an imperfect dream that he had murdered a
particular friend, and couldn’t get rid of the body. When his eyes
opened it was staring him full in the face. There was the horrible
Hominy talking deep truths in a melodious snuffle, and pouring forth her
mental endowments to such an extent that the Major’s bitterest enemy,
hearing her, would have forgiven him from the bottom of his heart.
Martin might have done something desperate if the gong had not sounded
for supper; but sound it did most opportunely; and having stationed Mrs
Hominy at the upper end of the table he took refuge at the lower end
himself; whence, after a hasty meal he stole away, while the lady was
yet busied with dried beef and a saucer-full of pickled fixings.

It would be difficult to give an adequate idea of Mrs Hominy’s freshness
next day, or of the avidity with which she went headlong into moral
philosophy at breakfast. Some little additional degree of asperity,
perhaps, was visible in her features, but not more than the pickles
would have naturally produced. All that day she clung to Martin. She
sat beside him while he received his friends (for there was another
Reception, yet more numerous than the former), propounded theories, and
answered imaginary objections, so that Martin really began to think he
must be dreaming, and speaking for two; she quoted interminable passages
from certain essays on government, written by herself; used the Major’s
pocket-handkerchief as if the snuffle were a temporary malady, of which
she was determined to rid herself by some means or other; and, in short,
was such a remarkable companion, that Martin quite settled it between
himself and his conscience, that in any new settlement it would be
absolutely necessary to have such a person knocked on the head for the
general peace of society.

In the meantime Mark was busy, from early in the morning until late
at night, in getting on board the steamboat such provisions, tools and
other necessaries, as they had been forewarned it would be wise to take.
The purchase of these things, and the settlement of their bill at the
National, reduced their finances to so low an ebb, that if the captain
had delayed his departure any longer, they would have been in almost as
bad a plight as the unfortunate poorer emigrants, who (seduced on board
by solemn advertisement) had been living on the lower deck a whole week,
and exhausting their miserable stock of provisions before the voyage
commenced. There they were, all huddled together with the engine and the
fires. Farmers who had never seen a plough; woodmen who had never used
an axe; builders who couldn’t make a box; cast out of their own land,
with not a hand to aid them: newly come into an unknown world, children
in helplessness, but men in wants--with younger children at their backs,
to live or die as it might happen!

The morning came, and they would start at noon. Noon came, and they
would start at night. But nothing is eternal in this world; not even the
procrastination of an American skipper; and at night all was ready.

Dispirited and weary to the last degree, but a greater lion than
ever (he had done nothing all the afternoon but answer letters from
strangers; half of them about nothing; half about borrowing money, and
all requiring an instantaneous reply), Martin walked down to the wharf,
through a concourse of people, with Mrs Hominy upon his arm; and went on
board. But Mark was bent on solving the riddle of this lionship, if he
could; and so, not without the risk of being left behind, ran back to
the hotel.

Captain Kedgick was sitting in the colonnade, with a julep on his knee,
and a cigar in his mouth. He caught Mark’s eye, and said:

‘Why, what the ‘Tarnal brings you here?’

‘I’ll tell you plainly what it is, Captain,’ said Mark. ‘I want to ask
you a question.’

‘A man may ASK a question, so he may,’ returned Kedgick; strongly
implying that another man might not answer a question, so he mightn’t.

‘What have they been making so much of him for, now?’ said Mark, slyly.
‘Come!’

‘Our people like ex-citement,’ answered Kedgick, sucking his cigar.

‘But how has he excited ‘em?’ asked Mark.

The Captain looked at him as if he were half inclined to unburden his
mind of a capital joke.

‘You air a-going?’ he said.

‘Going!’ cried Mark. ‘Ain’t every moment precious?’

‘Our people like ex-citement,’ said the Captain, whispering. ‘He ain’t
like emigrants in gin’ral; and he excited ‘em along of this;’ he winked
and burst into a smothered laugh; ‘along of this. Scadder is a smart
man, and--and--nobody as goes to Eden ever comes back alive!’

The wharf was close at hand, and at that instant Mark could hear them
shouting out his name; could even hear Martin calling to him to make
haste, or they would be separated. It was too late to mend the matter,
or put any face upon it but the best. He gave the Captain a parting
benediction, and ran off like a race-horse.

‘Mark! Mark!’ cried Martin.

‘Here am I, sir!’ shouted Mark, suddenly replying from the edge of the
quay, and leaping at a bound on board. ‘Never was half so jolly, sir.
All right. Haul in! Go ahead!’

The sparks from the wood fire streamed upward from the two chimneys, as
if the vessel were a great firework just lighted; and they roared away
upon the dark water.



CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

MARTIN AND HIS PARTNER TAKE POSSESSION OF THEIR ESTATE. THE JOYFUL
OCCASION INVOLVES SOME FURTHER ACCOUNT OF EDEN


There happened to be on board the steamboat several gentlemen
passengers, of the same stamp as Martin’s New York friend Mr Bevan; and
in their society he was cheerful and happy. They released him as well
as they could from the intellectual entanglements of Mrs Hominy;
and exhibited, in all they said and did, so much good sense and high
feeling, that he could not like them too well. ‘If this were a republic
of Intellect and Worth,’ he said, ‘instead of vapouring and jobbing,
they would not want the levers to keep it in motion.’

‘Having good tools, and using bad ones,’ returned Mr Tapley, ‘would look
as if they was rather a poor sort of carpenters, sir, wouldn’t it?’

Martin nodded. ‘As if their work were infinitely above their powers and
purpose, Mark; and they botched it in consequence.’

‘The best on it is,’ said Mark, ‘that when they do happen to make a
decent stroke; such as better workmen, with no such opportunities, make
every day of their lives and think nothing of--they begin to sing out
so surprising loud. Take notice of my words, sir. If ever the defaulting
part of this here country pays its debts--along of finding that not
paying ‘em won’t do in a commercial point of view, you see, and is
inconvenient in its consequences--they’ll take such a shine out of it,
and make such bragging speeches, that a man might suppose no borrowed
money had ever been paid afore, since the world was first begun. That’s
the way they gammon each other, sir. Bless you, I know ‘em. Take notice
of my words, now!’

‘You seem to be growing profoundly sagacious!’ cried Martin, laughing.

‘Whether that is,’ thought Mark, ‘because I’m a day’s journey nearer
Eden, and am brightening up afore I die, I can’t say. P’rhaps by the
time I get there I shall have growed into a prophet.’

He gave no utterance to these sentiments; but the excessive joviality
they inspired within him, and the merriment they brought upon his
shining face, were quite enough for Martin. Although he might sometimes
profess to make light of his partner’s inexhaustible cheerfulness,
and might sometimes, as in the case of Zephaniah Scadder, find him
too jocose a commentator, he was always sensible of the effect of his
example in rousing him to hopefulness and courage. Whether he were in
the humour to profit by it, mattered not a jot. It was contagious, and
he could not choose but be affected.

At first they parted with some of their passengers once or twice a day,
and took in others to replace them. But by degrees, the towns upon their
route became more thinly scattered; and for many hours together they
would see no other habitations than the huts of the wood-cutters, where
the vessel stopped for fuel. Sky, wood, and water all the livelong day;
and heat that blistered everything it touched.

On they toiled through great solitudes, where the trees upon the banks
grew thick and close; and floated in the stream; and held up shrivelled
arms from out the river’s depths; and slid down from the margin of the
land, half growing, half decaying, in the miry water. On through the
weary day and melancholy night; beneath the burning sun, and in the mist
and vapour of the evening; on, until return appeared impossible, and
restoration to their home a miserable dream.

They had now but few people on board, and these few were as flat, as
dull, and stagnant, as the vegetation that oppressed their eyes. No
sound of cheerfulness or hope was heard; no pleasant talk beguiled
the tardy time; no little group made common cause against the full
depression of the scene. But that, at certain periods, they swallowed
food together from a common trough, it might have been old Charon’s
boat, conveying melancholy shades to judgment.

At length they drew near New Thermopylae; where, that same evening, Mrs
Hominy would disembark. A gleam of comfort sunk into Martin’s bosom when
she told him this. Mark needed none; but he was not displeased.

It was almost night when they came alongside the landing-place. A steep
bank with an hotel like a barn on the top of it; a wooden store or two;
and a few scattered sheds.

‘You sleep here to-night, and go on in the morning, I suppose, ma’am?’
said Martin.

‘Where should I go on to?’ cried the mother of the modern Gracchi.

‘To New Thermopylae.’

‘My! ain’t I there?’ said Mrs Hominy.

Martin looked for it all round the darkening panorama; but he couldn’t
see it, and was obliged to say so.

‘Why that’s it!’ cried Mrs Hominy, pointing to the sheds just mentioned.

‘THAT!’ exclaimed Martin.

‘Ah! that; and work it which way you will, it whips Eden,’ said Mrs
Hominy, nodding her head with great expression.

The married Miss Hominy, who had come on board with her husband, gave to
this statement her most unqualified support, as did that gentleman also.
Martin gratefully declined their invitation to regale himself at their
house during the half hour of the vessel’s stay; and having escorted
Mrs Hominy and the red pocket-handkerchief (which was still on active
service) safely across the gangway, returned in a thoughtful mood to
watch the emigrants as they removed their goods ashore.

Mark, as he stood beside him, glanced in his face from time to time;
anxious to discover what effect this dialogue had had upon him, and
not unwilling that his hopes should be dashed before they reached their
destination, so that the blow he feared might be broken in its fall. But
saving that he sometimes looked up quickly at the poor erections on the
hill, he gave him no clue to what was passing in his mind, until they
were again upon their way.

‘Mark,’ he said then, ‘are there really none but ourselves on board this
boat who are bound for Eden?’

‘None at all, sir. Most of ‘em, as you know, have stopped short; and
the few that are left are going further on. What matters that! More room
there for us, sir.’

‘Oh, to be sure!’ said Martin. ‘But I was thinking--’ and there he
paused.

‘Yes, sir?’ observed Mark.

‘How odd it was that the people should have arranged to try their
fortune at a wretched hole like that, for instance, when there is such
a much better, and such a very different kind of place, near at hand, as
one may say.’

He spoke in a tone so very different from his usual confidence, and with
such an obvious dread of Mark’s reply, that the good-natured fellow was
full of pity.

‘Why, you know, sir,’ said Mark, as gently as he could by any means
insinuate the observation, ‘we must guard against being too sanguine.
There’s no occasion for it, either, because we’re determined to make the
best of everything, after we know the worst of it. Ain’t we, sir?’

Martin looked at him, but answered not a word.

‘Even Eden, you know, ain’t all built,’ said Mark.

‘In the name of Heaven, man,’ cried Martin angrily, ‘don’t talk of Eden
in the same breath with that place. Are you mad? There--God forgive
me!--don’t think harshly of me for my temper!’

After that, he turned away, and walked to and fro upon the deck full two
hours. Nor did he speak again, except to say ‘Good night,’ until next
day; nor even then upon this subject, but on other topics quite foreign
to the purpose.

As they proceeded further on their track, and came more and more towards
their journey’s end, the monotonous desolation of the scene increased to
that degree, that for any redeeming feature it presented to their eyes,
they might have entered, in the body, on the grim domains of Giant
Despair. A flat morass, bestrewn with fallen timber; a marsh on which
the good growth of the earth seemed to have been wrecked and cast away,
that from its decomposing ashes vile and ugly things might rise; where
the very trees took the aspect of huge weeds, begotten of the slime
from which they sprung, by the hot sun that burnt them up; where fatal
maladies, seeking whom they might infect, came forth at night in misty
shapes, and creeping out upon the water, hunted them like spectres until
day; where even the blessed sun, shining down on festering elements
of corruption and disease, became a horror; this was the realm of Hope
through which they moved.

At last they stopped. At Eden too. The waters of the Deluge might have
left it but a week before; so choked with slime and matted growth was
the hideous swamp which bore that name.

There being no depth of water close in shore, they landed from the
vessel’s boat, with all their goods beside them. There were a few
log-houses visible among the dark trees; the best, a cow-shed or a rude
stable; but for the wharves, the market-place, the public buildings--

‘Here comes an Edener,’ said Mark. ‘He’ll get us help to carry these
things up. Keep a good heart, sir. Hallo there!’

The man advanced toward them through the thickening gloom, very slowly;
leaning on a stick. As he drew nearer, they observed that he was pale
and worn, and that his anxious eyes were deeply sunken in his head. His
dress of homespun blue hung about him in rags; his feet and head were
bare. He sat down on a stump half-way, and beckoned them to come to him.
When they complied, he put his hand upon his side as if in pain, and
while he fetched his breath stared at them, wondering.

‘Strangers!’ he exclaimed, as soon as he could speak.

‘The very same,’ said Mark. ‘How are you, sir?’

‘I’ve had the fever very bad,’ he answered faintly. ‘I haven’t stood
upright these many weeks. Those are your notions I see,’ pointing to
their property.

‘Yes, sir,’ said Mark, ‘they are. You couldn’t recommend us some one as
would lend a hand to help carry ‘em up to the--to the town, could you,
sir?’

‘My eldest son would do it if he could,’ replied the man; ‘but today
he has his chill upon him, and is lying wrapped up in the blankets. My
youngest died last week.’

‘I’m sorry for it, governor, with all my heart,’ said Mark, shaking him
by the hand. ‘Don’t mind us. Come along with me, and I’ll give you an
arm back. The goods is safe enough, sir’--to Martin--‘there ain’t many
people about, to make away with ‘em. What a comfort that is!’

‘No,’ cried the man. ‘You must look for such folk here,’ knocking his
stick upon the ground, ‘or yonder in the bush, towards the north. We’ve
buried most of ‘em. The rest have gone away. Them that we have here,
don’t come out at night.’

‘The night air ain’t quite wholesome, I suppose?’ said Mark.

‘It’s deadly poison,’ was the settler’s answer.

Mark showed no more uneasiness than if it had been commended to him as
ambrosia; but he gave the man his arm, and as they went along explained
to him the nature of their purchase, and inquired where it lay. Close to
his own log-house, he said; so close that he had used their dwelling
as a store-house for some corn; they must excuse it that night, but he
would endeavour to get it taken out upon the morrow. He then gave them
to understand, as an additional scrap of local chit-chat, that he had
buried the last proprietor with his own hands; a piece of information
which Mark also received without the least abatement of his equanimity.

In a word, he conducted them to a miserable cabin, rudely constructed
of the trunks of trees; the door of which had either fallen down or
been carried away long ago; and which was consequently open to the
wild landscape and the dark night. Saving for the little store he had
mentioned, it was perfectly bare of all furniture; but they had left a
chest upon the landing-place, and he gave them a rude torch in lieu
of candle. This latter acquisition Mark planted in the earth, and then
declaring that the mansion ‘looked quite comfortable,’ hurried
Martin off again to help bring up the chest. And all the way to the
landing-place and back, Mark talked incessantly; as if he would infuse
into his partner’s breast some faint belief that they had arrived under
the most auspicious and cheerful of all imaginable circumstances.

But many a man who would have stood within a home dismantled, strong in
his passion and design of vengeance, has had the firmness of his
nature conquered by the razing of an air-built castle. When the log-hut
received them for the second time, Martin laid down upon the ground, and
wept aloud.

‘Lord love you, sir!’ cried Mr Tapley, in great terror; ‘Don’t do that!
Don’t do that, sir! Anything but that! It never helped man, woman, or
child, over the lowest fence yet, sir, and it never will. Besides its
being of no use to you, it’s worse than of no use to me, for the least
sound of it will knock me flat down. I can’t stand up agin it, sir.
Anything but that!’

There is no doubt he spoke the truth, for the extraordinary alarm with
which he looked at Martin as he paused upon his knees before the chest,
in the act of unlocking it, to say these words, sufficiently confirmed
him.

‘I ask your forgiveness a thousand times, my dear fellow,’ said Martin.
‘I couldn’t have helped it, if death had been the penalty.’

‘Ask my forgiveness!’ said Mark, with his accustomed cheerfulness, as he
proceeded to unpack the chest. ‘The head partner a-asking forgiveness of
Co., eh? There must be something wrong in the firm when that happens. I
must have the books inspected and the accounts gone over immediate. Here
we are. Everything in its proper place. Here’s the salt pork. Here’s the
biscuit. Here’s the whiskey. Uncommon good it smells too. Here’s the
tin pot. This tin pot’s a small fortun’ in itself! Here’s the blankets.
Here’s the axe. Who says we ain’t got a first-rate fit out? I feel as if
I was a cadet gone out to Indy, and my noble father was chairman of the
Board of Directors. Now, when I’ve got some water from the stream afore
the door and mixed the grog,’ cried Mark, running out to suit the action
to the word, ‘there’s a supper ready, comprising every delicacy of
the season. Here we are, sir, all complete. For what we are going to
receive, et cetrer. Lord bless you, sir, it’s very like a gipsy party!’

It was impossible not to take heart, in the company of such a man as
this. Martin sat upon the ground beside the box; took out his knife; and
ate and drank sturdily.

‘Now you see,’ said Mark, when they had made a hearty meal; ‘with your
knife and mine, I sticks this blanket right afore the door. Or where, in
a state of high civilization, the door would be. And very neat it looks.
Then I stops the aperture below, by putting the chest agin it. And very
neat THAT looks. Then there’s your blanket, sir. Then here’s mine. And
what’s to hinder our passing a good night?’

For all his light-hearted speaking, it was long before he slept himself.
He wrapped his blanket round him, put the axe ready to his hand, and lay
across the threshold of the door; too anxious and too watchful to close
his eyes. The novelty of their dreary situation, the dread of some
rapacious animal or human enemy, the terrible uncertainty of their means
of subsistence, the apprehension of death, the immense distance and the
hosts of obstacles between themselves and England, were fruitful sources
of disquiet in the deep silence of the night. Though Martin would have
had him think otherwise, Mark felt that he was waking also, and a prey
to the same reflections. This was almost worse than all, for if he began
to brood over their miseries instead of trying to make head against them
there could be little doubt that such a state of mind would powerfully
assist the influence of the pestilent climate. Never had the light of
day been half so welcome to his eyes, as when awaking from a fitful
doze, Mark saw it shining through the blanket in the doorway.

He stole out gently, for his companion was sleeping now; and having
refreshed himself by washing in the river, where it snowed before the
door, took a rough survey of the settlement. There were not above a
score of cabins in the whole; half of these appeared untenanted; all
were rotten and decayed. The most tottering, abject, and forlorn among
them was called, with great propriety, the Bank, and National Credit
Office. It had some feeble props about it, but was settling deep down in
the mud, past all recovery.

Here and there an effort had been made to clear the land, and something
like a field had been marked out, where, among the stumps and ashes of
burnt trees, a scanty crop of Indian corn was growing. In some quarters,
a snake or zigzag fence had been begun, but in no instance had it been
completed; and the felled logs, half hidden in the soil, lay mouldering
away. Three or four meagre dogs, wasted and vexed with hunger; some
long-legged pigs, wandering away into the woods in search of food; some
children, nearly naked, gazing at him from the huts; were all the living
things he saw. A fetid vapour, hot and sickening as the breath of an
oven, rose up from the earth, and hung on everything around; and as his
foot-prints sunk into the marshy ground, a black ooze started forth to
blot them out.

Their own land was mere forest. The trees had grown so think and close
that they shouldered one another out of their places, and the weakest,
forced into shapes of strange distortion, languished like cripples.
The best were stunted, from the pressure and the want of room; and high
about the stems of all grew long rank grass, dank weeds, and frowsy
underwood; not divisible into their separate kinds, but tangled all
together in a heap; a jungle deep and dark, with neither earth nor water
at its roots, but putrid matter, formed of the pulpy offal of the two,
and of their own corruption.

He went down to the landing-place where they had left their goods last
night; and there he found some half-dozen men--wan and forlorn to look
at, but ready enough to assist--who helped him to carry them to the
log-house. They shook their heads in speaking of the settlement, and had
no comfort to give him. Those who had the means of going away had all
deserted it. They who were left had lost their wives, their children,
friends, or brothers there, and suffered much themselves. Most of
them were ill then; none were the men they had been once. They frankly
offered their assistance and advice, and, leaving him for that time,
went sadly off upon their several tasks.

Martin was by this time stirring; but he had greatly changed, even in
one night. He was very pale and languid; he spoke of pains and weakness
in his limbs, and complained that his sight was dim, and his voice
feeble. Increasing in his own briskness as the prospect grew more and
more dismal, Mark brought away a door from one of the deserted houses,
and fitted it to their own habitation; then went back again for a rude
bench he had observed, with which he presently returned in triumph;
and having put this piece of furniture outside the house, arranged the
notable tin pot and other such movables upon it, that it might represent
a dresser or a sideboard. Greatly satisfied with this arrangement, he
next rolled their cask of flour into the house and set it up on end in
one corner, where it served for a side-table. No better dining-table
could be required than the chest, which he solemnly devoted to that
useful service thenceforth. Their blankets, clothes, and the like, he
hung on pegs and nails. And lastly, he brought forth a great placard
(which Martin in the exultation of his heart had prepared with his own
hands at the National Hotel) bearing the inscription, CHUZZLEWIT & CO.,
ARCHITECTS AND SURVEYORS, which he displayed upon the most conspicuous
part of the premises, with as much gravity as if the thriving city of
Eden had a real existence, and they expected to be overwhelmed with
business.

‘These here tools,’ said Mark, bringing forward Martin’s case of
instruments and sticking the compasses upright in a stump before the
door, ‘shall be set out in the open air to show that we come provided.
And now, if any gentleman wants a house built, he’d better give his
orders, afore we’re other ways bespoke.’

Considering the intense heat of the weather, this was not a bad
morning’s work; but without pausing for a moment, though he was
streaming at every pore, Mark vanished into the house again, and
presently reappeared with a hatchet; intent on performing some
impossibilities with that implement.

‘Here’s ugly old tree in the way, sir,’ he observed, ‘which’ll be all
the better down. We can build the oven in the afternoon. There never was
such a handy spot for clay as Eden is. That’s convenient, anyhow.’

But Martin gave him no answer. He had sat the whole time with his head
upon his hands, gazing at the current as it rolled swiftly by; thinking,
perhaps, how fast it moved towards the open sea, the high road to the
home he never would behold again.

Not even the vigorous strokes which Mark dealt at the tree awoke him
from his mournful meditation. Finding all his endeavours to rouse him of
no use, Mark stopped in his work and came towards him.

‘Don’t give in, sir,’ said Mr Tapley.

‘Oh, Mark,’ returned his friend, ‘what have I done in all my life that
has deserved this heavy fate?’

‘Why, sir,’ returned Mark, ‘for the matter of that, everybody as is here
might say the same thing; many of ‘em with better reason p’raps than
you or me. Hold up, sir. Do something. Couldn’t you ease your mind, now,
don’t you think, by making some personal obserwations in a letter to
Scadder?’

‘No,’ said Martin, shaking his head sorrowfully: ‘I am past that.’

‘But if you’re past that already,’ returned Mark, ‘you must be ill, and
ought to be attended to.’

‘Don’t mind me,’ said Martin. ‘Do the best you can for yourself. You’ll
soon have only yourself to consider. And then God speed you home, and
forgive me for bringing you here! I am destined to die in this place. I
felt it the instant I set foot upon the shore. Sleeping or waking, Mark,
I dreamed it all last night.’

‘I said you must be ill,’ returned Mark, tenderly, ‘and now I’m sure of
it. A touch of fever and ague caught on these rivers, I dare say; but
bless you, THAT’S nothing. It’s only a seasoning, and we must all be
seasoned, one way or another. That’s religion that is, you know,’ said
Mark.

He only sighed and shook his head.

‘Wait half a minute,’ said Mark cheerily, ‘till I run up to one of our
neighbours and ask what’s best to be took, and borrow a little of it to
give you; and to-morrow you’ll find yourself as strong as ever again. I
won’t be gone a minute. Don’t give in while I’m away, whatever you do!’

Throwing down his hatchet, he sped away immediately, but stopped when he
had got a little distance, and looked back; then hurried on again.

‘Now, Mr Tapley,’ said Mark, giving himself a tremendous blow in the
chest by way of reviver, ‘just you attend to what I’ve got to say.
Things is looking about as bad as they CAN look, young man. You’ll not
have such another opportunity for showing your jolly disposition, my
fine fellow, as long as you live. And therefore, Tapley, Now’s your time
to come out strong; or Never!’



CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

REPORTS PROGRESS IN CERTAIN HOMELY MATTERS OF LOVE, HATRED, JEALOUSY,
AND REVENGE


‘Hallo, Pecksniff!’ cried Mr Jonas from the parlour. ‘Isn’t somebody
a-going to open that precious old door of yours?’

‘Immediately, Mr Jonas. Immediately.’

‘Ecod,’ muttered the orphan, ‘not before it’s time neither. Whoever it
is, has knocked three times, and each one loud enough to wake the--’ he
had such a repugnance to the idea of waking the Dead, that he stopped
even then with the words upon his tongue, and said, instead, ‘the Seven
Sleepers.’

‘Immediately, Mr Jonas; immediately,’ repeated Pecksniff. ‘Thomas
Pinch’--he couldn’t make up his mind, in his great agitation, whether to
call Tom his dear friend or a villain, so he shook his fist at him
PRO TEM--‘go up to my daughters’ room, and tell them who is here. Say,
Silence. Silence! Do you hear me, sir?

‘Directly, sir!’ cried Tom, departing, in a state of much amazement, on
his errand.

‘You’ll--ha, ha, ha!--you’ll excuse me, Mr Jonas, if I close this door
a moment, will you?’ said Pecksniff. ‘This may be a professional call.
Indeed I am pretty sure it is. Thank you.’ Then Mr Pecksniff, gently
warbling a rustic stave, put on his garden hat, seized a spade, and
opened the street door; calmly appearing on the threshold, as if he
thought he had, from his vineyard, heard a modest rap, but was not quite
certain.

Seeing a gentleman and lady before him, he started back in as much
confusion as a good man with a crystal conscience might betray in mere
surprise. Recognition came upon him the next moment, and he cried:

‘Mr Chuzzlewit! Can I believe my eyes! My dear sir; my good sir! A
joyful hour, a happy hour indeed. Pray, my dear sir, walk in. You find
me in my garden-dress. You will excuse it, I know. It is an ancient
pursuit, gardening. Primitive, my dear sir. Or, if I am not mistaken,
Adam was the first of our calling. MY Eve, I grieve to say is no more,
sir; but’--here he pointed to his spade, and shook his head as if he
were not cheerful without an effort--‘but I do a little bit of Adam
still.’

He had by this time got them into the best parlour, where the portrait
by Spiller, and the bust by Spoker, were.

‘My daughters,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘will be overjoyed. If I could feel
weary upon such a theme, I should have been worn out long ago, my dear
sir, by their constant anticipation of this happiness and their repeated
allusions to our meeting at Mrs Todgers’s. Their fair young friend,
too,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘whom they so desire to know and love--indeed
to know her, is to love--I hope I see her well. I hope in saying,
“Welcome to my humble roof!” I find some echo in her own sentiments.
If features are an index to the heart, I have no fears of that. An
extremely engaging expression of countenance, Mr Chuzzlewit, my dear
sir--very much so!’

‘Mary,’ said the old man, ‘Mr Pecksniff flatters you. But flattery from
him is worth the having. He is not a dealer in it, and it comes from his
heart. We thought Mr--’

‘Pinch,’ said Mary.

‘Mr Pinch would have arrived before us, Pecksniff.’

‘He did arrive before you, my dear sir,’ retorted Pecksniff, raising his
voice for the edification of Tom upon the stairs, ‘and was about, I dare
say, to tell me of your coming, when I begged him first to knock at my
daughters’ chamber, and inquire after Charity, my dear child, who is not
so well as I could wish. No,’ said Mr Pecksniff, answering their looks,
‘I am sorry to say, she is not. It is merely an hysterical affection;
nothing more, I am not uneasy. Mr Pinch! Thomas!’ exclaimed Pecksniff,
in his kindest accents. ‘Pray come in. I shall make no stranger of you.
Thomas is a friend of mine, of rather long-standing, Mr Chuzzlewit, you
must know.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ said Tom. ‘You introduce me very kindly, and speak of
me in terms of which I am very proud.’

‘Old Thomas!’ cried his master, pleasantly ‘God bless you!’

Tom reported that the young ladies would appear directly, and that
the best refreshments which the house afforded were even then in
preparation, under their joint superintendence. While he was speaking,
the old man looked at him intently, though with less harshness than was
common to him; nor did the mutual embarrassment of Tom and the
young lady, to whatever cause he attributed it, seem to escape his
observation.

‘Pecksniff,’ he said after a pause, rising and taking him aside towards
the window, ‘I was much shocked on hearing of my brother’s death. We
had been strangers for many years. My only comfort is that he must
have lived the happier and better man for having associated no hopes or
schemes with me. Peace to his memory! We were play-fellows once; and it
would have been better for us both if we had died then.’

Finding him in this gentle mood, Mr Pecksniff began to see another way
out of his difficulties, besides the casting overboard of Jonas.

‘That any man, my dear sir, could possibly be the happier for not
knowing you,’ he returned, ‘you will excuse my doubting. But that Mr
Anthony, in the evening of his life, was happier in the affection of his
excellent son--a pattern, my dear sir, a pattern to all sons--and in the
care of a distant relation who, however lowly in his means of serving
him, had no bounds to his inclination; I can inform you.’

‘How’s this?’ said the old man. ‘You are not a legatee?’

‘You don’t,’ said Mr Pecksniff, with a melancholy pressure of his hand,
‘quite understand my nature yet, I find. No, sir, I am not a legatee. I
am proud to say I am not a legatee. I am proud to say that neither of my
children is a legatee. And yet, sir, I was with him at his own request.
HE understood me somewhat better, sir. He wrote and said, “I am sick. I
am sinking. Come to me!” I went to him. I sat beside his bed, sir, and
I stood beside his grave. Yes, at the risk of offending even you, I did
it, sir. Though the avowal should lead to our instant separation, and
to the severing of those tender ties between us which have recently been
formed, I make it. But I am not a legatee,’ said Mr Pecksniff, smiling
dispassionately; ‘and I never expected to be a legatee. I knew better!’

‘His son a pattern!’ cried old Martin. ‘How can you tell me that? My
brother had in his wealth the usual doom of wealth, and root of misery.
He carried his corrupting influence with him, go where he would; and
shed it round him, even on his hearth. It made of his own child a
greedy expectant, who measured every day and hour the lessening distance
between his father and the grave, and cursed his tardy progress on that
dismal road.’

‘No!’ cried Mr Pecksniff, boldly. ‘Not at all, sir!’

‘But I saw that shadow in his house,’ said Martin Chuzzlewit, ‘the last
time we met, and warned him of its presence. I know it when I see it, do
I not? I, who have lived within it all these years!’

‘I deny it,’ Mr Pecksniff answered, warmly. ‘I deny it altogether. That
bereaved young man is now in this house, sir, seeking in change of scene
the peace of mind he has lost. Shall I be backward in doing justice to
that young man, when even undertakers and coffin-makers have been moved
by the conduct he has exhibited; when even mutes have spoken in his
praise, and the medical man hasn’t known what to do with himself in
the excitement of his feelings! There is a person of the name of Gamp,
sir--Mrs Gamp--ask her. She saw Mr Jonas in a trying time. Ask HER, sir.
She is respectable, but not sentimental, and will state the fact. A line
addressed to Mrs Gamp, at the Bird Shop, Kingsgate Street, High Holborn,
London, will meet with every attention, I have no doubt. Let her be
examined, my good sir. Strike, but hear! Leap, Mr Chuzzlewit, but look!
Forgive me, my dear sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff, taking both his hands, ‘if
I am warm; but I am honest, and must state the truth.’

In proof of the character he gave himself, Mr Pecksniff suffered tears
of honesty to ooze out of his eyes.

The old man gazed at him for a moment with a look of wonder, repeating
to himself, ‘Here now! In this house!’ But he mastered his surprise, and
said, after a pause:

‘Let me see him.’

‘In a friendly spirit, I hope?’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Forgive me, sir but
he is in the receipt of my humble hospitality.’

‘I said,’ replied the old man, ‘let me see him. If I were disposed to
regard him in any other than a friendly spirit, I should have said keep
us apart.’

‘Certainly, my dear sir. So you would. You are frankness itself, I know.
I will break this happiness to him,’ said Mr Pecksniff, as he left the
room, ‘if you will excuse me for a minute--gently.’

He paved the way to the disclosure so very gently, that a quarter of an
hour elapsed before he returned with Mr Jonas. In the meantime the young
ladies had made their appearance, and the table had been set out for the
refreshment of the travellers.

Now, however well Mr Pecksniff, in his morality, had taught Jonas the
lesson of dutiful behaviour to his uncle, and however perfectly Jonas,
in the cunning of his nature, had learnt it, that young man’s bearing,
when presented to his father’s brother, was anything but manly or
engaging. Perhaps, indeed, so singular a mixture of defiance and
obsequiousness, of fear and hardihood, of dogged sullenness and an
attempt at enraging and propitiation, never was expressed in any one
human figure as in that of Jonas, when, having raised his downcast
eyes to Martin’s face, he let them fall again, and uneasily closing
and unclosing his hands without a moment’s intermission, stood swinging
himself from side to side, waiting to be addressed.

‘Nephew,’ said the old man. ‘You have been a dutiful son, I hear.’

‘As dutiful as sons in general, I suppose,’ returned Jonas, looking up
and down once more. ‘I don’t brag to have been any better than other
sons; but I haven’t been any worse, I dare say.’

‘A pattern to all sons, I am told,’ said the old man, glancing towards
Mr Pecksniff.

‘Ecod!’ said Jonas, looking up again for a moment, and shaking his head,
‘I’ve been as good a son as ever you were a brother. It’s the pot and
the kettle, if you come to that.’

‘You speak bitterly, in the violence of your regret,’ said Martin, after
a pause. ‘Give me your hand.’

Jonas did so, and was almost at his ease. ‘Pecksniff,’ he whispered,
as they drew their chairs about the table; ‘I gave him as good as he
brought, eh? He had better look at home, before he looks out of window,
I think?’

Mr Pecksniff only answered by a nudge of the elbow, which might either
be construed into an indignant remonstrance or a cordial assent; but
which, in any case, was an emphatic admonition to his chosen son-in-law
to be silent. He then proceeded to do the honours of the house with his
accustomed ease and amiability.

But not even Mr Pecksniff’s guileless merriment could set such a
party at their ease, or reconcile materials so utterly discordant
and conflicting as those with which he had to deal. The unspeakable
jealously and hatred which that night’s explanation had sown in
Charity’s breast, was not to be so easily kept down; and more than
once it showed itself in such intensity, as seemed to render a full
disclosure of all the circumstances then and there, impossible to be
avoided. The beauteous Merry, too, with all the glory of her conquest
fresh upon her, so probed and lanced the rankling disappointment of her
sister by her capricious airs and thousand little trials of Mr Jonas’s
obedience, that she almost goaded her into a fit of madness, and obliged
her to retire from table in a burst of passion, hardly less vehement
than that to which she had abandoned herself in the first tumult of her
wrath. The constraint imposed upon the family by the presence among
them for the first time of Mary Graham (for by that name old Martin
Chuzzlewit had introduced her) did not at all improve this state of
things; gentle and quiet though her manner was. Mr Pecksniff’s situation
was peculiarly trying; for, what with having constantly to keep the
peace between his daughters; to maintain a reasonable show of affection
and unity in his household; to curb the growing ease and gaiety of
Jonas, which vented itself in sundry insolences towards Mr Pinch, and
an indefinable coarseness of manner in reference to Mary (they being the
two dependants); to make no mention at all of his having perpetually to
conciliate his rich old relative, and to smooth down, or explain
away, some of the ten thousand bad appearances and combinations of bad
appearances, by which they were surrounded on that unlucky evening--what
with having to do this, and it would be difficult to sum up how much
more, without the least relief or assistance from anybody, it may be
easily imagined that Mr Pecksniff had in his enjoyment something more
than that usual portion of alloy which is mixed up with the best of
men’s delights. Perhaps he had never in his life felt such relief as
when old Martin, looking at his watch, announced that it was time to go.

‘We have rooms,’ he said, ‘at the Dragon, for the present. I have a
fancy for the evening walk. The nights are dark just now; perhaps Mr
Pinch would not object to light us home?’

‘My dear sir!’ cried Pecksniff, ‘I shall be delighted. Merry, my child,
the lantern.’

‘The lantern, if you please, my dear,’ said Martin; ‘but I couldn’t
think of taking your father out of doors to-night; and, to be brief, I
won’t.’

Mr Pecksniff already had his hat in his hand, but it was so emphatically
said that he paused.

‘I take Mr Pinch, or go alone,’ said Martin. ‘Which shall it be?’

‘It shall be Thomas, sir,’ cried Pecksniff, ‘since you are so resolute
upon it. Thomas, my friend, be very careful, if you please.’

Tom was in some need of this injunction, for he felt so nervous, and
trembled to such a degree, that he found it difficult to hold the
lantern. How much more difficult when, at the old man’s bidding she drew
her hand through his--Tom Pinch’s--arm!

‘And so, Mr Pinch,’ said Martin, on the way, ‘you are very comfortably
situated here; are you?’

Tom answered, with even more than his usual enthusiasm, that he was
under obligations to Mr Pecksniff which the devotion of a lifetime would
but imperfectly repay.

‘How long have you known my nephew?’ asked Martin.

‘Your nephew, sir?’ faltered Tom.

‘Mr Jonas Chuzzlewit,’ said Mary.

‘Oh dear, yes,’ cried Tom, greatly relieved, for his mind was running
upon Martin. ‘Certainly. I never spoke to him before to-night, sir!’

‘Perhaps half a lifetime will suffice for the acknowledgment of HIS
kindness,’ observed the old man.

Tom felt that this was a rebuff for him, and could not but understand it
as a left-handed hit at his employer. So he was silent. Mary felt that
Mr Pinch was not remarkable for presence of mind, and that he could not
say too little under existing circumstances. So SHE was silent. The
old man, disgusted by what in his suspicious nature he considered a
shameless and fulsome puff of Mr Pecksniff, which was a part of Tom’s
hired service and in which he was determined to persevere, set him down
at once for a deceitful, servile, miserable fawner. So HE was silent.
And though they were all sufficiently uncomfortable, it is fair to say
that Martin was perhaps the most so; for he had felt kindly towards Tom
at first, and had been interested by his seeming simplicity.

‘You’re like the rest,’ he thought, glancing at the face of the
unconscious Tom. ‘You had nearly imposed upon me, but you have lost
your labour. You are too zealous a toad-eater, and betray yourself, Mr
Pinch.’

During the whole remainder of the walk, not another word was spoken.
First among the meetings to which Tom had long looked forward with
a beating heart, it was memorable for nothing but embarrassment
and confusion. They parted at the Dragon door; and sighing as he
extinguished the candle in the lantern, Tom turned back again over the
gloomy fields.

As he approached the first stile, which was in a lonely part, made very
dark by a plantation of young firs, a man slipped past him and went on
before. Coming to the stile he stopped, and took his seat upon it.
Tom was rather startled, and for a moment stood still, but he stepped
forward again immediately, and went close up to him.

It was Jonas; swinging his legs to and fro, sucking the head of a stick,
and looking with a sneer at Tom.

‘Good gracious me!’ cried Tom, ‘who would have thought of its being you!
You followed us, then?’

‘What’s that to you?’ said Jonas. ‘Go to the devil!’

‘You are not very civil, I think,’ remarked Tom.

‘Civil enough for YOU,’ retorted Jonas. ‘Who are you?’

‘One who has as good a right to common consideration as another,’ said
Tom mildly.

‘You’re a liar,’ said Jonas. ‘You haven’t a right to any consideration.
You haven’t a right to anything. You’re a pretty sort of fellow to talk
about your rights, upon my soul! Ha, ha!--Rights, too!’

‘If you proceed in this way,’ returned Tom, reddening, ‘you will oblige
me to talk about my wrongs. But I hope your joke is over.’

‘It’s the way with you curs,’ said Mr Jonas, ‘that when you know a man’s
in real earnest, you pretend to think he’s joking, so that you may turn
it off. But that won’t do with me. It’s too stale. Now just attend to me
for a bit, Mr Pitch, or Witch, or Stitch, or whatever your name is.’

‘My name is Pinch,’ observed Tom. ‘Have the goodness to call me by it.’

‘What! You mustn’t even be called out of your name, mustn’t you!’ cried
Jonas. ‘Pauper’ prentices are looking up, I think. Ecod, we manage ‘em a
little better in the city!’

‘Never mind what you do in the city,’ said Tom. ‘What have you got to
say to me?’

‘Just this, Mister Pinch,’ retorted Jonas, thrusting his face so close
to Tom’s that Tom was obliged to retreat a step. ‘I advise you to keep
your own counsel, and to avoid title-tattle, and not to cut in where
you’re not wanted. I’ve heard something of you, my friend, and your
meek ways; and I recommend you to forget ‘em till I am married to one
of Pecksniff’s gals, and not to curry favour among my relations, but
to leave the course clear. You know, when curs won’t leave the course
clear, they’re whipped off; so this is kind advice. Do you understand?
Eh? Damme, who are you,’ cried Jonas, with increased contempt, ‘that
you should walk home with THEM, unless it was behind ‘em, like any other
servant out of livery?’

‘Come!’ cried Tom, ‘I see that you had better get off the stile, and let
me pursue my way home. Make room for me, if you please.’

‘Don’t think it!’ said Jonas, spreading out his legs. ‘Not till I
choose. And I don’t choose now. What! You’re afraid of my making you
split upon some of your babbling just now, are you, Sneak?’

‘I am not afraid of many things, I hope,’ said Tom; ‘and certainly not
of anything that you will do. I am not a tale-bearer, and I despise all
meanness. You quite mistake me. Ah!’ cried Tom, indignantly. ‘Is this
manly from one in your position to one in mine? Please to make room for
me to pass. The less I say, the better.’

‘The less you say!’ retorted Jonas, dangling his legs the more, and
taking no heed of this request. ‘You say very little, don’t you? Ecod, I
should like to know what goes on between you and a vagabond member of my
family. There’s very little in that too, I dare say!’

‘I know no vagabond member of your family,’ cried Tom, stoutly.

‘You do!’ said Jonas.

‘I don’t,’ said Tom. ‘Your uncle’s namesake, if you mean him, is no
vagabond. Any comparison between you and him’--Tom snapped his fingers
at him, for he was rising fast in wrath--‘is immeasurably to your
disadvantage.’

‘Oh indeed!’ sneered Jonas. ‘And what do you think of his deary--his
beggarly leavings, eh, Mister Pinch?’

‘I don’t mean to say another word, or stay here another instant,’
replied Tom.

‘As I told you before, you’re a liar,’ said Jonas, coolly. ‘You’ll stay
here till I give you leave to go. Now, keep where you are, will you?’

He flourished his stick over Tom’s head; but in a moment it was spinning
harmlessly in the air, and Jonas himself lay sprawling in the ditch. In
the momentary struggle for the stick, Tom had brought it into violent
contact with his opponent’s forehead; and the blood welled out profusely
from a deep cut on the temple. Tom was first apprised of this by seeing
that he pressed his handkerchief to the wounded part, and staggered as
he rose, being stunned.

‘Are you hurt?’ said Tom. ‘I am very sorry. Lean on me for a moment.
You can do that without forgiving me, if you still bear me malice. But I
don’t know why; for I never offended you before we met on this spot.’

He made him no answer; not appearing at first to understand him, or even
to know that he was hurt, though he several times took his handkerchief
from the cut to look vacantly at the blood upon it. After one of these
examinations, he looked at Tom, and then there was an expression in
his features, which showed that he understood what had taken place, and
would remember it.

Nothing more passed between them as they went home. Jonas kept a little
in advance, and Tom Pinch sadly followed, thinking of the grief which
the knowledge of this quarrel must occasion his excellent benefactor.
When Jonas knocked at the door, Tom’s heart beat high; higher when Miss
Mercy answered it, and seeing her wounded lover, shireked aloud; higher,
when he followed them into the family parlour; higher than at any other
time, when Jonas spoke.

‘Don’t make a noise about it,’ he said. ‘It’s nothing worth mentioning.
I didn’t know the road; the night’s very dark; and just as I came up
with Mr Pinch’--he turned his face towards Tom, but not his eyes--‘I ran
against a tree. It’s only skin deep.’

‘Cold water, Merry, my child!’ cried Mr Pecksniff. ‘Brown paper!
Scissors! A piece of old linen! Charity, my dear, make a bandage. Bless
me, Mr Jonas!’

‘Oh, bother YOUR nonsense,’ returned the gracious son-in-law elect. ‘Be
of some use if you can. If you can’t, get out!’

Miss Charity, though called upon to lend her aid, sat upright in one
corner, with a smile upon her face, and didn’t move a finger. Though
Mercy laved the wound herself; and Mr Pecksniff held the patient’s head
between his two hands, as if without that assistance it must inevitably
come in half; and Tom Pinch, in his guilty agitation, shook a bottle of
Dutch Drops until they were nothing but English Froth, and in his other
hand sustained a formidable carving-knife, really intended to reduce the
swelling, but apparently designed for the ruthless infliction of another
wound as soon as that was dressed; Charity rendered not the least
assistance, nor uttered a word. But when Mr Jonas’s head was bound up,
and he had gone to bed, and everybody else had retired, and the house
was quiet, Mr Pinch, as he sat mournfully on his bedstead, ruminating,
heard a gentle tap at his door; and opening it, saw her, to his great
astonishment, standing before him with her finger on her lip.

‘Mr Pinch,’ she whispered. ‘Dear Mr Pinch! Tell me the truth! You did
that? There was some quarrel between you, and you struck him? I am sure
of it!’

It was the first time she had ever spoken kindly to Tom, in all the many
years they had passed together. He was stupefied with amazement.

‘Was it so, or not?’ she eagerly demanded.

‘I was very much provoked,’ said Tom.

‘Then it was?’ cried Charity, with sparkling eyes.

‘Ye-yes. We had a struggle for the path,’ said Tom. ‘But I didn’t mean
to hurt him so much.’

‘Not so much!’ she repeated, clenching her hand and stamping her foot,
to Tom’s great wonder. ‘Don’t say that. It was brave of you. I honour
you for it. If you should ever quarrel again, don’t spare him for the
world, but beat him down and set your shoe upon him. Not a word of this
to anybody. Dear Mr Pinch, I am your friend from tonight. I am always
your friend from this time.’

She turned her flushed face upon Tom to confirm her words by its
kindling expression; and seizing his right hand, pressed it to her
breast, and kissed it. And there was nothing personal in this to render
it at all embarrassing, for even Tom, whose power of observation was by
no means remarkable, knew from the energy with which she did it that she
would have fondled any hand, no matter how bedaubed or dyed, that had
broken the head of Jonas Chuzzlewit.

Tom went into his room, and went to bed, full of uncomfortable thoughts.
That there should be any such tremendous division in the family as he
knew must have taken place to convert Charity Pecksniff into his friend,
for any reason, but, above all, for that which was clearly the real one;
that Jonas, who had assailed him with such exceeding coarseness, should
have been sufficiently magnanimous to keep the secret of their quarrel;
and that any train of circumstances should have led to the commission of
an assault and battery by Thomas Pinch upon any man calling himself
the friend of Seth Pecksniff; were matters of such deep and painful
cogitation that he could not close his eyes. His own violence, in
particular, so preyed upon the generous mind of Tom, that coupling it
with the many former occasions on which he had given Mr Pecksniff pain
and anxiety (occasions of which that gentleman often reminded him), he
really began to regard himself as destined by a mysterious fate to be
the evil genius and bad angel of his patron. But he fell asleep at last,
and dreamed--new source of waking uneasiness--that he had betrayed his
trust, and run away with Mary Graham.

It must be acknowledged that, asleep or awake, Tom’s position in
reference to this young lady was full of uneasiness. The more he saw
of her, the more he admired her beauty, her intelligence, the amiable
qualities that even won on the divided house of Pecksniff, and in a
few days restored, at all events, the semblance of harmony and kindness
between the angry sisters. When she spoke, Tom held his breath, so
eagerly he listened; when she sang, he sat like one entranced. She
touched his organ, and from that bright epoch even it, the old companion
of his happiest hours, incapable as he had thought of elevation, began a
new and deified existence.

God’s love upon thy patience, Tom! Who, that had beheld thee, for three
summer weeks, poring through half the deadlong night over the jingling
anatomy of that inscrutable old harpsichord in the back parlour, could
have missed the entrance to thy secret heart: albeit it was dimly known
to thee? Who that had seen the glow upon thy cheek when leaning down to
listen, after hours of labour, for the sound of one incorrigible note,
thou foundest that it had a voice at last, and wheezed out a flat
something, distantly akin to what it ought to be, would not have known
that it was destined for no common touch, but one that smote, though
gently as an angel’s hand, upon the deepest chord within thee! And if
a friendly glance--aye, even though it were as guileless as thine own,
Dear Tom--could have but pierced the twilight of that evening, when, in
a voice well tempered to the time, sad, sweet, and low, yet hopeful, she
first sang to the altered instrument, and wondered at the change;
and thou, sitting apart at the open window, kept a glad silence and a
swelling heart--must not that glance have read perforce the dawning of a
story, Tom, that it were well for thee had never been begun!

Tom Pinch’s situation was not made the less dangerous or difficult by
the fact of no one word passing between them in reference to Martin.
Honourably mindful of his promise, Tom gave her opportunities of all
kinds. Early and late he was in the church; in her favourite walks; in
the village, in the garden, in the meadows; and in any or all of these
places he might have spoken freely. But no; at all such times she
carefully avoided him, or never came in his way unaccompanied. It could
not be that she disliked or distrusted him, for by a thousand little
delicate means, too slight for any notice but his own, she singled
him out when others were present, and showed herself the very soul of
kindness. Could it be that she had broken with Martin, or had never
returned his affection, save in his own bold and heightened fancy? Tom’s
cheek grew red with self-reproach as he dismissed the thought.

All this time old Martin came and went in his own strange manner, or sat
among the rest absorbed within himself, and holding little intercourse
with any one. Although he was unsocial, he was not willful in other
things, or troublesome, or morose; being never better pleased than
when they left him quite unnoticed at his book, and pursued their own
amusements in his presence, unreserved. It was impossible to discern in
whom he took an interest, or whether he had an interest in any of them.
Unless they spoke to him directly, he never showed that he had ears or
eyes for anything that passed.

One day the lively Merry, sitting with downcast eyes under a shady tree
in the churchyard, whither she had retired after fatiguing herself by
the imposition of sundry trials on the temper of Mr Jonas, felt that
a new shadow came between her and the sun. Raising her eyes in the
expectation of seeing her betrothed, she was not a little surprised to
see old Martin instead. Her surprise was not diminished when he took his
seat upon the turf beside her, and opened a conversation thus:

‘When are you to be married?’

‘Oh! dear Mr Chuzzlewit, my goodness me! I’m sure I don’t know. Not yet
awhile, I hope.’

‘You hope?’ said the old man.

It was very gravely said, but she took it for banter, and giggled
excessively.

‘Come!’ said the old man, with unusual kindness, ‘you are young,
good-looking, and I think good-natured! Frivolous you are, and love to
be, undoubtedly; but you must have some heart.’

‘I have not given it all away, I can tell you,’ said Merry, nodding her
head shrewdly, and plucking up the grass.

‘Have you parted with any of it?’

She threw the grass about, and looked another way, but said nothing.

Martin repeated his question.

‘Lor, my dear Mr Chuzzlewit! really you must excuse me! How very odd you
are.’

‘If it be odd in me to desire to know whether you love the young man
whom I understand you are to marry, I AM very odd,’ said Martin. ‘For
that is certainly my wish.’

‘He’s such a monster, you know,’ said Merry, pouting.

‘Then you don’t love him?’ returned the old man. ‘Is that your meaning?’

‘Why, my dear Mr Chuzzlewit, I’m sure I tell him a hundred times a day
that I hate him. You must have heard me tell him that.’

‘Often,’ said Martin.

‘And so I do,’ cried Merry. ‘I do positively.’

‘Being at the same time engaged to marry him,’ observed the old man.

‘Oh yes,’ said Merry. ‘But I told the wretch--my dear Mr Chuzzlewit, I
told him when he asked me--that if I ever did marry him, it should only
be that I might hate and tease him all my life.’

She had a suspicion that the old man regarded Jonas with anything but
favour, and intended these remarks to be extremely captivating. He did
not appear, however, to regard them in that light by any means; for when
he spoke again, it was in a tone of severity.

‘Look about you,’ he said, pointing to the graves; ‘and remember that
from your bridal hour to the day which sees you brought as low as these,
and laid in such a bed, there will be no appeal against him. Think, and
speak, and act, for once, like an accountable creature. Is any control
put upon your inclinations? Are you forced into this match? Are you
insidiously advised or tempted to contract it, by any one? I will not
ask by whom; by any one?’

‘No,’ said Merry, shrugging her shoulders. ‘I don’t know that I am.’

‘Don’t know that you are! Are you?’

‘No,’ replied Merry. ‘Nobody ever said anything to me about it. If any
one had tried to make me have him, I wouldn’t have had him at all.’

‘I am told that he was at first supposed to be your sister’s admirer,’
said Martin.

‘Oh, good gracious! My dear Mr Chuzzlewit, it would be very hard to make
him, though he IS a monster, accountable for other people’s vanity,’
said Merry. ‘And poor dear Cherry is the vainest darling!’

‘It was her mistake, then?’

‘I hope it was,’ cried Merry; ‘but, all along, the dear child has been
so dreadfully jealous, and SO cross, that, upon my word and honour, it’s
impossible to please her, and it’s of no use trying.’

‘Not forced, persuaded, or controlled,’ said Martin, thoughtfully. ‘And
that’s true, I see. There is one chance yet. You may have lapsed into
this engagement in very giddiness. It may have been the wanton act of a
light head. Is that so?’

‘My dear Mr Chuzzlewit,’ simpered Merry, ‘as to light-headedness, there
never was such a feather of a head as mine. It’s perfect balloon, I
declare! You never DID, you know!’

He waited quietly till she had finished, and then said, steadily
and slowly, and in a softened voice, as if he would still invite her
confidence:

‘Have you any wish--or is there anything within your breast that
whispers you may form the wish, if you have time to think--to be
released from this engagement?’

Again Miss Merry pouted, and looked down, and plucked the grass, and
shrugged her shoulders. No. She didn’t know that she had. She was pretty
sure she hadn’t. Quite sure, she might say. She ‘didn’t mind it.’

‘Has it ever occurred to you,’ said Martin, ‘that your married life may
perhaps be miserable, full of bitterness, and most unhappy?’

Merry looked down again; and now she tore the grass up by the roots.

‘My dear Mr Chuzzlewit, what shocking words! Of course, I shall quarrel
with him. I should quarrel with any husband. Married people always
quarrel, I believe. But as to being miserable, and bitter, and all those
dreadful things, you know, why I couldn’t be absolutely that, unless he
always had the best of it; and I mean to have the best of it myself. I
always do now,’ cried Merry, nodding her head and giggling very much;
‘for I make a perfect slave of the creature.’

‘Let it go on,’ said Martin, rising. ‘Let it go on! I sought to know
your mind, my dear, and you have shown it me. I wish you joy. Joy!’ he
repeated, looking full upon her, and pointing to the wicket-gate where
Jonas entered at the moment. And then, without waiting for his nephew,
he passed out at another gate, and went away.

‘Oh, you terrible old man!’ cried the facetious Merry to herself. ‘What
a perfectly hideous monster to be wandering about churchyards in the
broad daylight, frightening people out of their wits! Don’t come here,
Griffin, or I’ll go away directly.’

Mr Jonas was the Griffin. He sat down upon the grass at her side, in
spite of this warning, and sulkily inquired:

‘What’s my uncle been a-talking about?’

‘About you,’ rejoined Merry. ‘He says you’re not half good enough for
me.’

‘Oh, yes, I dare say! We all know that. He means to give you some
present worth having, I hope. Did he say anything that looked like it?’

‘THAT he didn’t!’ cried Merry, most decisively.

‘A stingy old dog he is,’ said Jonas. ‘Well?’

‘Griffin!’ cried Miss Mercy, in counterfeit amazement; ‘what are you
doing, Griffin?’

‘Only giving you a squeeze,’ said the discomfited Jonas. ‘There’s no
harm in that, I suppose?’

‘But there is great deal of harm in it, if I don’t consider it
agreeable,’ returned his cousin. ‘Do go along, will you? You make me so
hot!’

Mr Jonas withdrew his arm, and for a moment looked at her more like a
murderer than a lover. But he cleared his brow by degrees, and broke
silence with:

‘I say, Mel!’

‘What do you say, you vulgar thing--you low savage?’ cried his fair
betrothed.

‘When is it to be? I can’t afford to go on dawdling about here half
my life, I needn’t tell you, and Pecksniff says that father’s being so
lately dead makes very little odds; for we can be married as quiet as we
please down here, and my being lonely is a good reason to the neighbours
for taking a wife home so soon, especially one that he knew. As to
crossbones (my uncle, I mean), he’s sure not to put a spoke in the
wheel, whatever we settle on, for he told Pecksniff only this morning,
that if YOU liked it he’d nothing at all to say. So, Mel,’ said Jonas,
venturing on another squeeze; ‘when shall it be?’

‘Upon my word!’ cried Merry.

‘Upon my soul, if you like,’ said Jonas. ‘What do you say to next week,
now?’

‘To next week! If you had said next quarter, I should have wondered at
your impudence.’

‘But I didn’t say next quarter,’ retorted Jonas. ‘I said next week.’

‘Then, Griffin,’ cried Miss Merry, pushing him off, and rising. ‘I say
no! not next week. It shan’t be till I choose, and I may not choose it
to be for months. There!’

He glanced up at her from the ground, almost as darkly as he had looked
at Tom Pinch; but held his peace.

‘No fright of a Griffin with a patch over his eye shall dictate to me or
have a voice in the matter,’ said Merry. ‘There!’

Still Mr Jonas held his peace.

‘If it’s next month, that shall be the very earliest; but I won’t say
when it shall be till to-morrow; and if you don’t like that, it shall
never be at all,’ said Merry; ‘and if you follow me about and won’t
leave me alone, it shall never be at all. There! And if you don’t do
everything I order you to do, it shall never be at all. So don’t follow
me. There, Griffin!’

And with that, she skipped away, among the trees.

‘Ecod, my lady!’ said Jonas, looking after her, and biting a piece
of straw, almost to powder; ‘you’ll catch it for this, when you ARE
married. It’s all very well now--it keeps one on, somehow, and you know
it--but I’ll pay you off scot and lot by-and-bye. This is a plaguey dull
sort of a place for a man to be sitting by himself in. I never could
abide a mouldy old churchyard.’

As he turned into the avenue himself, Miss Merry, who was far ahead,
happened to look back.

‘Ah!’ said Jonas, with a sullen smile, and a nod that was not addressed
to her. ‘Make the most of it while it lasts. Get in your hay while the
sun shines. Take your own way as long as it’s in your power, my lady!’



CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

IS IN PART PROFESSIONAL, AND FURNISHES THE READER WITH SOME VALUABLE
HINTS IN RELATION TO THE MANAGEMENT OF A SICK CHAMBER


Mr Mould was surrounded by his household gods. He was enjoying the
sweets of domestic repose, and gazing on them with a calm delight. The
day being sultry, and the window open, the legs of Mr Mould were on the
window-seat, and his back reclined against the shutter. Over his shining
head a handkerchief was drawn, to guard his baldness from the flies. The
room was fragrant with the smell of punch, a tumbler of which grateful
compound stood upon a small round table, convenient to the hand of
Mr Mould; so deftly mixed that as his eye looked down into the cool
transparent drink, another eye, peering brightly from behind the crisp
lemon-peel, looked up at him, and twinkled like a star.

Deep in the City, and within the ward of Cheap, stood Mr Mould’s
establishment. His Harem, or, in other words, the common sitting room
of Mrs Mould and family, was at the back, over the little counting-house
behind the shop; abutting on a churchyard small and shady. In this
domestic chamber Mr Mould now sat; gazing, a placid man, upon his punch
and home. If, for a moment at a time, he sought a wider prospect, whence
he might return with freshened zest to these enjoyments, his moist
glance wandered like a sunbeam through a rural screen of scarlet
runners, trained on strings before the window, and he looked down, with
an artist’s eye, upon the graves.

The partner of his life, and daughters twain, were Mr Mould’s
companions. Plump as any partridge was each Miss Mould, and Mrs M.
was plumper than the two together. So round and chubby were their fair
proportions, that they might have been the bodies once belonging to the
angels’ faces in the shop below, grown up, with other heads attached
to make them mortal. Even their peachy cheeks were puffed out and
distended, as though they ought of right to be performing on celestial
trumpets. The bodiless cherubs in the shop, who were depicted as
constantly blowing those instruments for ever and ever without any
lungs, played, it is to be presumed, entirely by ear.

Mr Mould looked lovingly at Mrs Mould, who sat hard by, and was a
helpmate to him in his punch as in all other things. Each seraph
daughter, too, enjoyed her share of his regards, and smiled upon him in
return. So bountiful were Mr Mould’s possessions, and so large his
stock in trade, that even there, within his household sanctuary, stood
a cumbrous press, whose mahogany maw was filled with shrouds, and
winding-sheets, and other furniture of funerals. But, though the Misses
Mould had been brought up, as one may say, beneath his eye, it had cast
no shadow on their timid infancy or blooming youth. Sporting behind
the scenes of death and burial from cradlehood, the Misses Mould knew
better. Hat-bands, to them, were but so many yards of silk or crape; the
final robe but such a quantity of linen. The Misses Mould could idealise
a player’s habit, or a court-lady’s petticoat, or even an act of
parliament. But they were not to be taken in by palls. They made them
sometimes.

The premises of Mr Mould were hard of hearing to the boisterous noises
in the great main streets, and nestled in a quiet corner, where the City
strife became a drowsy hum, that sometimes rose and sometimes fell and
sometimes altogether ceased; suggesting to a thoughtful mind a stoppage
in Cheapside. The light came sparkling in among the scarlet runners,
as if the churchyard winked at Mr Mould, and said, ‘We understand
each other;’ and from the distant shop a pleasant sound arose of
coffin-making with a low melodious hammer, rat, tat, tat, tat, alike
promoting slumber and digestion.

‘Quite the buzz of insects,’ said Mr Mould, closing his eyes in a
perfect luxury. ‘It puts one in mind of the sound of animated nature in
the agricultural districts. It’s exactly like the woodpecker tapping.’

‘The woodpecker tapping the hollow ELM tree,’ observed Mrs Mould,
adapting the words of the popular melody to the description of wood
commonly used in the trade.

‘Ha, ha!’ laughed Mr Mould. ‘Not at all bad, my dear. We shall be glad
to hear from you again, Mrs M. Hollow elm tree, eh! Ha, ha! Very good
indeed. I’ve seen worse than that in the Sunday papers, my love.’

Mrs Mould, thus encouraged, took a little more of the punch, and handed
it to her daughters, who dutifully followed the example of their mother.

‘Hollow ELM tree, eh?’ said Mr Mould, making a slight motion with his
legs in his enjoyment of the joke. ‘It’s beech in the song. Elm, eh?
Yes, to be sure. Ha, ha, ha! Upon my soul, that’s one of the best things
I know?’ He was so excessively tickled by the jest that he couldn’t
forget it, but repeated twenty times, ‘Elm, eh? Yes, to be sure. Elm,
of course. Ha, ha, ha! Upon my life, you know, that ought to be sent to
somebody who could make use of it. It’s one of the smartest things that
ever was said. Hollow ELM tree, eh? of course. Very hollow. Ha, ha, ha!’

Here a knock was heard at the room door.

‘That’s Tacker, I know,’ said Mrs Mould, ‘by the wheezing he makes. Who
that hears him now, would suppose he’d ever had wind enough to carry the
feathers on his head! Come in, Tacker.’

‘Beg your pardon, ma’am,’ said Tacker, looking in a little way. ‘I
thought our Governor was here.’

‘Well! so he is,’ cried Mould.

‘Oh! I didn’t see you, I’m sure,’ said Tacker, looking in a little
farther. ‘You wouldn’t be inclined to take a walking one of two, with
the plain wood and a tin plate, I suppose?’

‘Certainly not,’ replied Mr Mould, ‘much too common. Nothing to say to
it.’

‘I told ‘em it was precious low,’ observed Mr Tacker.

‘Tell ‘em to go somewhere else. We don’t do that style of business
here,’ said Mr Mould. ‘Like their impudence to propose it. Who is it?’

‘Why,’ returned Tacker, pausing, ‘that’s where it is, you see. It’s the
beadle’s son-in-law.’

‘The beadle’s son-in-law, eh?’ said Mould. ‘Well! I’ll do it if the
beadle follows in his cocked hat; not else. We carry it off that way, by
looking official, but it’ll be low enough, then. His cocked hat, mind!’

‘I’ll take care, sir,’ rejoined Tacker. ‘Oh! Mrs Gamp’s below, and wants
to speak to you.’

‘Tell Mrs Gamp to come upstairs,’ said Mould. ‘Now Mrs Gamp, what’s YOUR
news?’

The lady in question was by this time in the doorway, curtseying to
Mrs Mould. At the same moment a peculiar fragrance was borne upon the
breeze, as if a passing fairy had hiccoughed, and had previously been to
a wine-vaults.

Mrs Gamp made no response to Mr Mould, but curtseyed to Mrs Mould again,
and held up her hands and eyes, as in a devout thanksgiving that she
looked so well. She was neatly, but not gaudily attired, in the
weeds she had worn when Mr Pecksniff had the pleasure of making her
acquaintance; and was perhaps the turning of a scale more snuffy.

‘There are some happy creeturs,’ Mrs Gamp observed, ‘as time runs
back’ards with, and you are one, Mrs Mould; not that he need do nothing
except use you in his most owldacious way for years to come, I’m
sure; for young you are and will be. I says to Mrs Harris,’ Mrs Gamp
continued, ‘only t’other day; the last Monday evening fortnight as
ever dawned upon this Piljian’s Projiss of a mortal wale; I says to Mrs
Harris when she says to me, “Years and our trials, Mrs Gamp, sets marks
upon us all.”--“Say not the words, Mrs Harris, if you and me is to be
continual friends, for sech is not the case. Mrs Mould,” I says, making
so free, I will confess, as use the name,’ (she curtseyed here), ‘“is
one of them that goes agen the obserwation straight; and never, Mrs
Harris, whilst I’ve a drop of breath to draw, will I set by, and not
stand up, don’t think it.”--“I ast your pardon, ma’am,” says Mrs Harris,
“and I humbly grant your grace; for if ever a woman lived as would see
her feller creeturs into fits to serve her friends, well do I know that
woman’s name is Sairey Gamp.”’

At this point she was fain to stop for breath; and advantage may be
taken of the circumstance, to state that a fearful mystery surrounded
this lady of the name of Harris, whom no one in the circle of Mrs Gamp’s
acquaintance had ever seen; neither did any human being know her place
of residence, though Mrs Gamp appeared on her own showing to be in
constant communication with her. There were conflicting rumours on the
subject; but the prevalent opinion was that she was a phantom of Mrs
Gamp’s brain--as Messrs. Doe and Roe are fictions of the law--created
for the express purpose of holding visionary dialogues with her on all
manner of subjects, and invariably winding up with a compliment to the
excellence of her nature.

‘And likeways what a pleasure,’ said Mrs Gamp, turning with a tearful
smile towards the daughters, ‘to see them two young ladies as I know’d
afore a tooth in their pretty heads was cut, and have many a day
seen--ah, the sweet creeturs!--playing at berryins down in the shop, and
follerin’ the order-book to its long home in the iron safe! But that’s
all past and over, Mr Mould;’ as she thus got in a carefully regulated
routine to that gentleman, she shook her head waggishly; ‘That’s all
past and over now, sir, an’t it?’

‘Changes, Mrs Gamp, changes!’ returned the undertaker.

‘More changes too, to come, afore we’ve done with changes, sir,’ said
Mrs Gamp, nodding yet more waggishly than before. ‘Young ladies with
such faces thinks of something else besides berryins, don’t they, sir?’

‘I am sure I don’t know, Mrs Gamp,’ said Mould, with a chuckle--‘Not bad
in Mrs Gamp, my dear?’

‘Oh yes, you do know, sir!’ said Mrs Gamp, ‘and so does Mrs Mould,
your ‘ansome pardner too, sir; and so do I, although the blessing of a
daughter was deniged me; which, if we had had one, Gamp would certainly
have drunk its little shoes right off its feet, as with our precious boy
he did, and arterward send the child a errand to sell his wooden leg for
any money it would fetch as matches in the rough, and bring it home
in liquor; which was truly done beyond his years, for ev’ry individgle
penny that child lost at toss or buy for kidney ones; and come home
arterwards quite bold, to break the news, and offering to drown himself
if sech would be a satisfaction to his parents.--Oh yes, you do know,
sir,’ said Mrs Gamp, wiping her eye with her shawl, and resuming the
thread of her discourse. ‘There’s something besides births and berryins
in the newspapers, an’t there, Mr Mould?’

Mr Mould winked at Mrs Mould, whom he had by this time taken on his
knee, and said: ‘No doubt. A good deal more, Mrs Gamp. Upon my life, Mrs
Gamp is very far from bad, my dear!’

‘There’s marryings, an’t there, sir?’ said Mrs Gamp, while both the
daughters blushed and tittered. ‘Bless their precious hearts, and well
they knows it! Well you know’d it too, and well did Mrs Mould, when you
was at their time of life! But my opinion is, you’re all of one age now.
For as to you and Mrs Mould, sir, ever having grandchildren--’

‘Oh! Fie, fie! Nonsense, Mrs Gamp,’ replied the undertaker. ‘Devilish
smart, though. Ca-pi-tal!’--this was in a whisper. ‘My dear’--aloud
again--‘Mrs Gamp can drink a glass of rum, I dare say. Sit down, Mrs
Gamp, sit down.’

Mrs Gamp took the chair that was nearest the door, and casting up her
eyes towards the ceiling, feigned to be wholly insensible to the fact of
a glass of rum being in preparation, until it was placed in her hand by
one of the young ladies, when she exhibited the greatest surprise.

‘A thing,’ she said, ‘as hardly ever, Mrs Mould, occurs with me unless
it is when I am indispoged, and find my half a pint of porter settling
heavy on the chest. Mrs Harris often and often says to me, “Sairey
Gamp,” she says, “you raly do amaze me!” “Mrs Harris,” I says to her,
“why so? Give it a name, I beg.” “Telling the truth then, ma’am,” says
Mrs Harris, “and shaming him as shall be nameless betwixt you and me,
never did I think till I know’d you, as any woman could sick-nurse and
monthly likeways, on the little that you takes to drink.” “Mrs Harris,”
 I says to her, “none on us knows what we can do till we tries; and
wunst, when me and Gamp kept ‘ouse, I thought so too. But now,” I says,
“my half a pint of porter fully satisfies; perwisin’, Mrs Harris, that
it is brought reg’lar, and draw’d mild. Whether I sicks or monthlies,
ma’am, I hope I does my duty, but I am but a poor woman, and I earns my
living hard; therefore I DO require it, which I makes confession, to be
brought reg’lar and draw’d mild.”’

The precise connection between these observations and the glass of rum,
did not appear; for Mrs Gamp proposing as a toast ‘The best of lucks
to all!’ took off the dram in quite a scientific manner, without any
further remarks.

‘And what’s your news, Mrs Gamp?’ asked Mould again, as that lady wiped
her lips upon her shawl, and nibbled a corner off a soft biscuit, which
she appeared to carry in her pocket as a provision against contingent
drams. ‘How’s Mr Chuffey?’

‘Mr Chuffey, sir,’ she replied, ‘is jest as usual; he an’t no better and
he an’t no worse. I take it very kind in the gentleman to have wrote up
to you and said, “let Mrs Gamp take care of him till I come home;” but
ev’rythink he does is kind. There an’t a many like him. If there was, we
shouldn’t want no churches.’

‘What do you want to speak to me about, Mrs Gamp?’ said Mould, coming to
the point.

‘Jest this, sir,’ Mrs Gamp returned, ‘with thanks to you for asking.
There IS a gent, sir, at the Bull in Holborn, as has been took ill
there, and is bad abed. They have a day nurse as was recommended from
Bartholomew’s; and well I knows her, Mr Mould, her name bein’ Mrs Prig,
the best of creeturs. But she is otherways engaged at night, and they
are in wants of night-watching; consequent she says to them, having
reposed the greatest friendliness in me for twenty year, “The soberest
person going, and the best of blessings in a sick room, is Mrs Gamp.
Send a boy to Kingsgate Street,” she says, “and snap her up at any
price, for Mrs Gamp is worth her weight and more in goldian guineas.”
 My landlord brings the message down to me, and says, “bein’ in a light
place where you are, and this job promising so well, why not unite the
two?” “No, sir,” I says, “not unbeknown to Mr Mould, and therefore do
not think it. But I will go to Mr Mould,” I says, “and ast him, if you
like.”’ Here she looked sideways at the undertaker, and came to a stop.

‘Night-watching, eh?’ said Mould, rubbing his chin.

‘From eight o’clock till eight, sir. I will not deceive you,’ Mrs Gamp
rejoined.

‘And then go back, eh?’ said would.

‘Quite free, then, sir, to attend to Mr Chuffey. His ways bein’ quiet,
and his hours early, he’d be abed, sir, nearly all the time. I will not
deny,’ said Mrs Gamp with meekness, ‘that I am but a poor woman, and
that the money is a object; but do not let that act upon you, Mr Mould.
Rich folks may ride on camels, but it an’t so easy for ‘em to see out of
a needle’s eye. That is my comfort, and I hope I knows it.’

‘Well, Mrs Gamp,’ observed Mould, ‘I don’t see any particular objection
to your earning an honest penny under such circumstances. I should keep
it quiet, I think, Mrs Gamp. I wouldn’t mention it to Mr Chuzzlewit
on his return, for instance, unless it were necessary, or he asked you
pointblank.’

‘The very words was on my lips, sir,’ Mrs Gamp rejoined. ‘Suppoging
that the gent should die, I hope I might take the liberty of saying as I
know’d some one in the undertaking line, and yet give no offence to you,
sir?’

‘Certainly, Mrs Gamp,’ said Mould, with much condescension. ‘You may
casually remark, in such a case, that we do the thing pleasantly and in
a great variety of styles, and are generally considered to make it
as agreeable as possible to the feelings of the survivors. But don’t
obtrude it, don’t obtrude it. Easy, easy! My dear, you may as well give
Mrs Gamp a card or two, if you please.’

Mrs Gamp received them, and scenting no more rum in the wind (for the
bottle was locked up again) rose to take her departure.

‘Wishing ev’ry happiness to this happy family,’ said Mrs Gamp ‘with
all my heart. Good arternoon, Mrs Mould! If I was Mr would I should be
jealous of you, ma’am; and I’m sure, if I was you, I should be jealous
of Mr Mould.’

‘Tut, tut! Bah, bah! Go along, Mrs Gamp!’ cried the delighted
undertaker.

‘As to the young ladies,’ said Mrs Gamp, dropping a curtsey, ‘bless
their sweet looks--how they can ever reconsize it with their duties to
be so grown up with such young parents, it an’t for sech as me to give a
guess at.’

‘Nonsense, nonsense. Be off, Mrs Gamp!’ cried Mould. But in the height
of his gratification he actually pinched Mrs Mould as he said it.

‘I’ll tell you what, my dear,’ he observed, when Mrs Gamp had at last
withdrawn and shut the door, ‘that’s a ve-ry shrewd woman. That’s a
woman whose intellect is immensely superior to her station in life.
That’s a woman who observes and reflects in an uncommon manner. She’s
the sort of woman now,’ said Mould, drawing his silk handkerchief over
his head again, and composing himself for a nap ‘one would almost feel
disposed to bury for nothing; and do it neatly, too!’

Mrs Mould and her daughters fully concurred in these remarks; the
subject of which had by this time reached the street, where she
experienced so much inconvenience from the air, that she was obliged to
stand under an archway for a short time, to recover herself. Even
after this precaution, she walked so unsteadily as to attract the
compassionate regards of divers kind-hearted boys, who took the
liveliest interest in her disorder; and in their simple language bade
her be of good cheer, for she was ‘only a little screwed.’

Whatever she was, or whatever name the vocabulary of medical science
would have bestowed upon her malady, Mrs Gamp was perfectly acquainted
with the way home again; and arriving at the house of Anthony Chuzzlewit
& Son, lay down to rest. Remaining there until seven o’clock in the
evening, and then persuading poor old Chuffey to betake himself to
bed, she sallied forth upon her new engagement. First, she went to
her private lodgings in Kingsgate Street, for a bundle of robes and
wrappings comfortable in the night season; and then repaired to the Bull
in Holborn, which she reached as the clocks were striking eight.

As she turned into the yard, she stopped; for the landlord, landlady,
and head chambermaid, were all on the threshold together talking
earnestly with a young gentleman who seemed to have just come or to
be just going away. The first words that struck upon Mrs Gamp’s ear
obviously bore reference to the patient; and it being expedient that all
good attendants should know as much as possible about the case on which
their skill is brought to bear, Mrs Gamp listened as a matter of duty.

‘No better, then?’ observed the gentleman.

‘Worse!’ said the landlord.

‘Much worse,’ added the landlady.

‘Oh! a deal badder,’ cried the chambermaid from the background, opening
her eyes very wide, and shaking her head.

‘Poor fellow!’ said the gentleman, ‘I am sorry to hear it. The worst of
it is, that I have no idea what friends or relations he has, or where
they live, except that it certainly is not in London.’

The landlord looked at the landlady; the landlady looked at the
landlord; and the chambermaid remarked, hysterically, ‘that of all the
many wague directions she had ever seen or heerd of (and they wasn’t few
in an hotel), THAT was the waguest.’

‘The fact is, you see,’ pursued the gentleman, ‘as I told you yesterday
when you sent to me, I really know very little about him. We were
school-fellows together; but since that time I have only met him twice.
On both occasions I was in London for a boy’s holiday (having come up
for a week or so from Wiltshire), and lost sight of him again directly.
The letter bearing my name and address which you found upon his table,
and which led to your applying to me, is in answer, you will observe,
to one he wrote from this house the very day he was taken ill, making an
appointment with him at his own request. Here is his letter, if you wish
to see it.’

The landlord read it; the landlady looked over him. The chambermaid, in
the background, made out as much of it as she could, and invented the
rest; believing it all from that time forth as a positive piece of
evidence.

‘He has very little luggage, you say?’ observed the gentleman, who was
no other than our old friend, John Westlock.

‘Nothing but a portmanteau,’ said the landlord; ‘and very little in it.’

‘A few pounds in his purse, though?’

‘Yes. It’s sealed up, and in the cash-box. I made a memorandum of the
amount, which you’re welcome to see.’

‘Well!’ said John, ‘as the medical gentleman says the fever must take
its course, and nothing can be done just now beyond giving him his
drinks regularly and having him carefully attended to, nothing more
can be said that I know of, until he is in a condition to give us some
information. Can you suggest anything else?’

‘N-no,’ replied the landlord, ‘except--’

‘Except, who’s to pay, I suppose?’ said John.

‘Why,’ hesitated the landlord, ‘it would be as well.’

‘Quite as well,’ said the landlady.

‘Not forgetting to remember the servants,’ said the chambermaid in a
bland whisper.

‘It is but reasonable, I fully admit,’ said John Westlock. ‘At all
events, you have the stock in hand to go upon for the present; and I
will readily undertake to pay the doctor and the nurses.’

‘Ah!’ cried Mrs Gamp. ‘A rayal gentleman!’

She groaned her admiration so audibly, that they all turned round. Mrs
Gamp felt the necessity of advancing, bundle in hand, and introducing
herself.

‘The night-nurse,’ she observed, ‘from Kingsgate Street, well beknown to
Mrs Prig the day-nurse, and the best of creeturs. How is the poor dear
gentleman to-night? If he an’t no better yet, still that is what must
be expected and prepared for. It an’t the fust time by a many score,
ma’am,’ dropping a curtsey to the landlady, ‘that Mrs Prig and me has
nussed together, turn and turn about, one off, one on. We knows each
other’s ways, and often gives relief when others fail. Our charges
is but low, sir’--Mrs Gamp addressed herself to John on this
head--‘considerin’ the nater of our painful dooty. If they wos made
accordin’ to our wishes, they would be easy paid.’

Regarding herself as having now delivered her inauguration address, Mrs
Gamp curtseyed all round, and signified her wish to be conducted to the
scene of her official duties. The chambermaid led her, through a variety
of intricate passages, to the top of the house; and pointing at length
to a solitary door at the end of a gallery, informed her that yonder was
the chamber where the patient lay. That done, she hurried off with all
the speed she could make.

Mrs Gamp traversed the gallery in a great heat from having carried
her large bundle up so many stairs, and tapped at the door which was
immediately opened by Mrs Prig, bonneted and shawled and all impatience
to be gone. Mrs Prig was of the Gamp build, but not so fat; and her
voice was deeper and more like a man’s. She had also a beard.

‘I began to think you warn’t a-coming!’ Mrs Prig observed, in some
displeasure.

‘It shall be made good to-morrow night,’ said Mrs Gamp ‘Honorable. I had
to go and fetch my things.’ She had begun to make signs of inquiry in
reference to the position of the patient and his overhearing them--for
there was a screen before the door--when Mrs Prig settled that point
easily.

‘Oh!’ she said aloud, ‘he’s quiet, but his wits is gone. It an’t no
matter wot you say.’

‘Anythin’ to tell afore you goes, my dear?’ asked Mrs Gamp, setting her
bundle down inside the door, and looking affectionately at her partner.

‘The pickled salmon,’ Mrs Prig replied, ‘is quite delicious. I can
partlck’ler recommend it. Don’t have nothink to say to the cold meat,
for it tastes of the stable. The drinks is all good.’

Mrs Gamp expressed herself much gratified.

‘The physic and them things is on the drawers and mankleshelf,’ said
Mrs Prig, cursorily. ‘He took his last slime draught at seven. The
easy-chair an’t soft enough. You’ll want his piller.’

Mrs Gamp thanked her for these hints, and giving her a friendly good
night, held the door open until she had disappeared at the other end
of the gallery. Having thus performed the hospitable duty of seeing her
safely off, she shut it, locked it on the inside, took up her bundle,
walked round the screen, and entered on her occupation of the sick
chamber.

‘A little dull, but not so bad as might be,’ Mrs Gamp remarked.
‘I’m glad to see a parapidge, in case of fire, and lots of roofs and
chimley-pots to walk upon.’

It will be seen from these remarks that Mrs Gamp was looking out of
window. When she had exhausted the prospect, she tried the easy-chair,
which she indignantly declared was ‘harder than a brickbadge.’ Next
she pursued her researches among the physic-bottles, glasses, jugs, and
tea-cups; and when she had entirely satisfied her curiosity on all these
subjects of investigation, she untied her bonnet-strings and strolled up
to the bedside to take a look at the patient.

A young man--dark and not ill-looking--with long black hair, that seemed
the blacker for the whiteness of the bed-clothes. His eyes were partly
open, and he never ceased to roll his head from side to side upon the
pillow, keeping his body almost quiet. He did not utter words; but
every now and then gave vent to an expression of impatience or fatigue,
sometimes of surprise; and still his restless head--oh, weary, weary
hour!--went to and fro without a moment’s intermission.

Mrs Gamp solaced herself with a pinch of snuff, and stood looking at him
with her head inclined a little sideways, as a connoisseur might gaze
upon a doubtful work of art. By degrees, a horrible remembrance of one
branch of her calling took possession of the woman; and stooping down,
she pinned his wandering arms against his sides, to see how he would
look if laid out as a dead man. Her fingers itched to compose his limbs
in that last marble attitude.

‘Ah!’ said Mrs Gamp, walking away from the bed, ‘he’d make a lovely
corpse.’

She now proceeded to unpack her bundle; lighted a candle with the aid
of a fire-box on the drawers; filled a small kettle, as a preliminary
to refreshing herself with a cup of tea in the course of the night;
laid what she called ‘a little bit of fire,’ for the same philanthropic
purpose; and also set forth a small tea-board, that nothing might be
wanting for her comfortable enjoyment. These preparations occupied so
long, that when they were brought to a conclusion it was high time to
think about supper; so she rang the bell and ordered it.

‘I think, young woman,’ said Mrs Gamp to the assistant chambermaid, in a
tone expressive of weakness, ‘that I could pick a little bit of pickled
salmon, with a nice little sprig of fennel, and a sprinkling of white
pepper. I takes new bread, my dear, with just a little pat of fresh
butter, and a mossel of cheese. In case there should be such a thing
as a cowcumber in the ‘ouse, will you be so kind as bring it, for I’m
rather partial to ‘em, and they does a world of good in a sick room. If
they draws the Brighton Old Tipper here, I takes THAT ale at night, my
love, it bein’ considered wakeful by the doctors. And whatever you
do, young woman, don’t bring more than a shilling’s-worth of gin and
water-warm when I rings the bell a second time; for that is always my
allowance, and I never takes a drop beyond!’

Having preferred these moderate requests, Mrs Gamp observed that she
would stand at the door until the order was executed, to the end that
the patient might not be disturbed by her opening it a second time; and
therefore she would thank the young woman to ‘look sharp.’

A tray was brought with everything upon it, even to the cucumber and
Mrs Gamp accordingly sat down to eat and drink in high good humour. The
extent to which she availed herself of the vinegar, and supped up that
refreshing fluid with the blade of her knife, can scarcely be expressed
in narrative.

‘Ah!’ sighed Mrs Gamp, as she meditated over the warm shilling’s-worth,
‘what a blessed thing it is--living in a wale--to be contented! What a
blessed thing it is to make sick people happy in their beds, and never
mind one’s self as long as one can do a service! I don’t believe a finer
cowcumber was ever grow’d. I’m sure I never see one!’

She moralised in the same vein until her glass was empty, and then
administered the patient’s medicine, by the simple process of clutching
his windpipe to make him gasp, and immediately pouring it down his
throat.

‘I a’most forgot the piller, I declare!’ said Mrs Gamp, drawing it away.
‘There! Now he’s comfortable as he can be, I’m sure! I must try to make
myself as much so as I can.’

With this view, she went about the construction of an extemporaneous bed
in the easy-chair, with the addition of the next easy one for her feet.
Having formed the best couch that the circumstances admitted of, she
took out of her bundle a yellow night-cap, of prodigious size, in shape
resembling a cabbage; which article of dress she fixed and tied on with
the utmost care, previously divesting herself of a row of bald old
curls that could scarcely be called false, they were so very innocent of
anything approaching to deception. From the same repository she brought
forth a night-jacket, in which she also attired herself. Finally, she
produced a watchman’s coat which she tied round her neck by the sleeves,
so that she become two people; and looked, behind, as if she were in the
act of being embraced by one of the old patrol.

All these arrangements made, she lighted the rush-light, coiled herself
up on her couch, and went to sleep. Ghostly and dark the room became,
and full of lowering shadows. The distant noises in the streets were
gradually hushed; the house was quiet as a sepulchre; the dead of night
was coffined in the silent city.

Oh, weary, weary hour! Oh, haggard mind, groping darkly through the
past; incapable of detaching itself from the miserable present; dragging
its heavy chain of care through imaginary feasts and revels, and scenes
of awful pomp; seeking but a moment’s rest among the long-forgotten
haunts of childhood, and the resorts of yesterday; and dimly finding
fear and horror everywhere! Oh, weary, weary hour! What were the
wanderings of Cain, to these!

Still, without a moment’s interval, the burning head tossed to and fro.
Still, from time to time, fatigue, impatience, suffering, and surprise,
found utterance upon that rack, and plainly too, though never once in
words. At length, in the solemn hour of midnight, he began to talk;
waiting awfully for answers sometimes; as though invisible companions
were about his bed; and so replying to their speech and questioning
again.

Mrs Gamp awoke, and sat up in her bed; presenting on the wall the shadow
of a gigantic night constable, struggling with a prisoner.

‘Come! Hold your tongue!’ she cried, in sharp reproof. ‘Don’t make none
of that noise here.’

There was no alteration in the face, or in the incessant motion of the
head, but he talked on wildly.

‘Ah!’ said Mrs Gamp, coming out of the chair with an impatient shiver;
‘I thought I was a-sleepin’ too pleasant to last! The devil’s in the
night, I think, it’s turned so chilly!’

‘Don’t drink so much!’ cried the sick man. ‘You’ll ruin us all. Don’t
you see how the fountain sinks? Look at the mark where the sparkling
water was just now!’

‘Sparkling water, indeed!’ said Mrs Gamp. ‘I’ll have a sparkling cup o’
tea, I think. I wish you’d hold your noise!’

He burst into a laugh, which, being prolonged, fell off into a dismal
wail. Checking himself, with fierce inconstancy he began to count--fast.

‘One--two--three--four--five--six.’

“One, two, buckle my shoe,”’ said Mrs Gamp, who was now on her knees,
lighting the fire, “three, four, shut the door,”--I wish you’d shut
your mouth, young man--“five, six, picking up sticks.” If I’d got a few
handy, I should have the kettle boiling all the sooner.’

Awaiting this desirable consummation, she sat down so close to the
fender (which was a high one) that her nose rested upon it; and for some
time she drowsily amused herself by sliding that feature backwards and
forwards along the brass top, as far as she could, without changing her
position to do it. She maintained, all the while, a running commentary
upon the wanderings of the man in bed.

‘That makes five hundred and twenty-one men, all dressed alike, and with
the same distortion on their faces, that have passed in at the window,
and out at the door,’ he cried, anxiously. ‘Look there! Five hundred and
twenty-two--twenty-three--twenty-four. Do you see them?’

‘Ah! I see ‘em,’ said Mrs Gamp; ‘all the whole kit of ‘em numbered like
hackney-coaches, an’t they?’

‘Touch me! Let me be sure of this. Touch me!’

‘You’ll take your next draught when I’ve made the kettle bile,’ retorted
Mrs Gamp, composedly, ‘and you’ll be touched then. You’ll be touched up,
too, if you don’t take it quiet.’

‘Five hundred and twenty-eight, five hundred and twenty-nine, five
hundred and thirty.--Look here!’

‘What’s the matter now?’ said Mrs Gamp.

‘They’re coming four abreast, each man with his arm entwined in the next
man’s, and his hand upon his shoulder. What’s that upon the arm of every
man, and on the flag?’

‘Spiders, p’raps,’ said Mrs Gamp.

‘Crape! Black crape! Good God! why do they wear it outside?’

‘Would you have ‘em carry black crape in their insides?’ Mrs Gamp
retorted. ‘Hold your noise, hold your noise.’

The fire beginning by this time to impart a grateful warmth, Mrs Gamp
became silent; gradually rubbed her nose more and more slowly along the
top of the fender; and fell into a heavy doze. She was awakened by the
room ringing (as she fancied) with a name she knew:

‘Chuzzlewit!’

The sound was so distinct and real, and so full of agonised entreaty,
that Mrs Gamp jumped up in terror, and ran to the door. She expected to
find the passage filled with people, come to tell her that the house in
the city had taken fire. But the place was empty; not a soul was there.
She opened the window, and looked out. Dark, dull, dingy, and desolate
house-tops. As she passed to her seat again, she glanced at the patient.
Just the same; but silent. Mrs Gamp was so warm now, that she threw off
the watchman’s coat, and fanned herself.

‘It seemed to make the wery bottles ring,’ she said. ‘What could I have
been a-dreaming of? That dratted Chuffey, I’ll be bound.’

The supposition was probable enough. At any rate, a pinch of snuff, and
the song of the steaming kettle, quite restored the tone of Mrs Gamp’s
nerves, which were none of the weakest. She brewed her tea; made some
buttered toast; and sat down at the tea-board, with her face to the
fire.

When once again, in a tone more terrible than that which had vibrated in
her slumbering ear, these words were shrieked out:

‘Chuzzlewit! Jonas! No!’

Mrs Gamp dropped the cup she was in the act of raising to her lips, and
turned round with a start that made the little tea-board leap. The cry
had come from the bed.


It was bright morning the next time Mrs Gamp looked out of the window,
and the sun was rising cheerfully. Lighter and lighter grew the sky, and
noisier the streets; and high into the summer air uprose the smoke of
newly kindled fires, until the busy day was broad awake.

Mrs Prig relieved punctually, having passed a good night at her other
patient’s. Mr Westlock came at the same time, but he was not admitted,
the disorder being infectious. The doctor came too. The doctor shook
his head. It was all he could do, under the circumstances, and he did it
well.

‘What sort of a night, nurse?’

‘Restless, sir,’ said Mrs Gamp.

‘Talk much?’

‘Middling, sir,’ said Mrs Gamp.

‘Nothing to the purpose, I suppose?’

‘Oh bless you, no, sir. Only jargon.’

‘Well!’ said the doctor, ‘we must keep him quiet; keep the room cool;
give him his draughts regularly; and see that he’s carefully looked to.
That’s all!’

‘And as long as Mrs Prig and me waits upon him, sir, no fear of that,’
said Mrs Gamp.

‘I suppose,’ observed Mrs Prig, when they had curtseyed the doctor out;
‘there’s nothin’ new?’

‘Nothin’ at all, my dear,’ said Mrs Gamp. ‘He’s rather wearin’ in his
talk from making up a lot of names; elseways you needn’t mind him.’

‘Oh, I shan’t mind him,’ Mrs Prig returned. ‘I have somethin’ else to
think of.’

‘I pays my debts to-night, you know, my dear, and comes afore my time,’
said Mrs Gamp. ‘But, Betsy Prig’--speaking with great feeling, and
laying her hand upon her arm--‘try the cowcumbers, God bless you!’



CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

AN UNEXPECTED MEETING, AND A PROMISING PROSPECT


The laws of sympathy between beards and birds, and the secret source
of that attraction which frequently impels a shaver of the one to be
a dealer in the other, are questions for the subtle reasoning of
scientific bodies; not the less so, because their investigation would
seem calculated to lead to no particular result. It is enough to know
that the artist who had the honour of entertaining Mrs Gamp as
his first-floor lodger, united the two pursuits of barbering and
bird-fancying; and that it was not an original idea of his, but one in
which he had, dispersed about the by-streets and suburbs of the town, a
host of rivals.

The name of the householder was Paul Sweedlepipe. But he was commonly
called Poll Sweedlepipe; and was not uncommonly believed to have been so
christened, among his friends and neighbours.

With the exception of the staircase, and his lodger’s private apartment,
Poll Sweedlepipe’s house was one great bird’s nest. Gamecocks resided in
the kitchen; pheasants wasted the brightness of their golden plumage on
the garret; bantams roosted in the cellar; owls had possession of the
bedroom; and specimens of all the smaller fry of birds chirrupped and
twittered in the shop. The staircase was sacred to rabbits. There in
hutches of all shapes and kinds, made from old packing-cases, boxes,
drawers, and tea-chests, they increased in a prodigious degree, and
contributed their share towards that complicated whiff which, quite
impartially, and without distinction of persons, saluted every nose that
was put into Sweedlepipe’s easy shaving-shop.

Many noses found their way there, for all that, especially on Sunday
morning, before church-time. Even archbishops shave, or must be shaved,
on a Sunday, and beards WILL grow after twelve o’clock on Saturday
night, though it be upon the chins of base mechanics; who, not being
able to engage their valets by the quarter, hire them by the job, and
pay them--oh, the wickedness of copper coin!--in dirty pence. Poll
Sweedlepipe, the sinner, shaved all comers at a penny each, and cut the
hair of any customer for twopence; and being a lone unmarried man, and
having some connection in the bird line, Poll got on tolerably well.

He was a little elderly man, with a clammy cold right hand, from which
even rabbits and birds could not remove the smell of shaving-soap. Poll
had something of the bird in his nature; not of the hawk or eagle, but
of the sparrow, that builds in chimney-stacks and inclines to human
company. He was not quarrelsome, though, like the sparrow; but peaceful,
like the dove. In his walk he strutted; and, in this respect, he bore
a faint resemblance to the pigeon, as well as in a certain prosiness of
speech, which might, in its monotony, be likened to the cooing of that
bird. He was very inquisitive; and when he stood at his shop-door in the
evening-tide, watching the neighbours, with his head on one side, and
his eye cocked knowingly, there was a dash of the raven in him. Yet
there was no more wickedness in Poll than in a robin. Happily, too, when
any of his ornithological properties were on the verge of going too
far, they were quenched, dissolved, melted down, and neutralised in
the barber; just as his bald head--otherwise, as the head of a shaved
magpie--lost itself in a wig of curly black ringlets, parted on one
side, and cut away almost to the crown, to indicate immense capacity of
intellect.

Poll had a very small, shrill treble voice, which might have led
the wags of Kingsgate Street to insist the more upon his feminine
designation. He had a tender heart, too; for, when he had a good
commission to provide three or four score sparrows for a shooting-match,
he would observe, in a compassionate tone, how singular it was that
sparrows should have been made expressly for such purposes. The
question, whether men were made to shoot them, never entered into Poll’s
philosophy.

Poll wore, in his sporting character, a velveteen coat, a great deal of
blue stocking, ankle boots, a neckerchief of some bright colour, and
a very tall hat. Pursuing his more quiet occupation of barber, he
generally subsided into an apron not over-clean, a flannel jacket, and
corduroy knee-shorts. It was in this latter costume, but with his apron
girded round his waist, as a token of his having shut up shop for
the night, that he closed the door one evening, some weeks after the
occurrences detailed in the last chapter, and stood upon the steps in
Kingsgate Street, listening until the little cracked bell within
should leave off ringing. For until it did--this was Mr Sweedlepipe’s
reflection--the place never seemed quiet enough to be left to itself.

‘It’s the greediest little bell to ring,’ said Poll, ‘that ever was. But
it’s quiet at last.’

He rolled his apron up a little tighter as he said these words, and
hastened down the street. Just as he was turning into Holborn, he ran
against a young gentleman in a livery. This youth was bold, though
small, and with several lively expressions of displeasure, turned upon
him instantly.

‘Now, STOO-PID!’ cried the young gentleman. ‘Can’t you look where you’re
a-going to--eh? Can’t you mind where you’re a-coming to--eh? What do you
think your eyes was made for--eh? Ah! Yes. Oh! Now then!’

The young gentleman pronounced the two last words in a very loud tone
and with frightful emphasis, as though they contained within themselves
the essence of the direst aggravation. But he had scarcely done so, when
his anger yielded to surprise, and he cried, in a milder tone:

‘What! Polly!’

‘Why, it an’t you, sure!’ cried Poll. ‘It can’t be you!’

‘No. It an’t me,’ returned the youth. ‘It’s my son, my oldest one. He’s
a credit to his father, an’t he, Polly?’ With this delicate little
piece of banter, he halted on the pavement, and went round and round
in circles, for the better exhibition of his figure; rather to the
inconvenience of the passengers generally, who were not in an equal
state of spirits with himself.

‘I wouldn’t have believed it,’ said Poll. ‘What! You’ve left your old
place, then? Have you?’

‘Have I!’ returned his young friend, who had by this time stuck his
hands into the pockets of his white cord breeches, and was swaggering
along at the barber’s side. ‘D’ye know a pair of top-boots when you see
‘em, Polly?--look here!’

‘Beau-ti-ful’ cried Mr Sweedlepipe.

‘D’ye know a slap-up sort of button, when you see it?’ said the youth.
‘Don’t look at mine, if you ain’t a judge, because these lions’ heads
was made for men of taste; not snobs.’

‘Beau-ti-ful!’ cried the barber again. ‘A grass-green frock-coat, too,
bound with gold; and a cockade in your hat!’

‘I should hope so,’ replied the youth. ‘Blow the cockade, though; for,
except that it don’t turn round, it’s like the wentilator that used to
be in the kitchen winder at Todgers’s. You ain’t seen the old lady’s
name in the Gazette, have you?’

‘No,’ returned the barber. ‘Is she a bankrupt?’

‘If she ain’t, she will be,’ retorted Bailey. ‘That bis’ness never can
be carried on without ME. Well! How are you?’

‘Oh! I’m pretty well,’ said Poll. ‘Are you living at this end of the
town, or were you coming to see me? Was that the bis’ness that brought
you to Holborn?’

‘I haven’t got no bis’ness in Holborn,’ returned Bailey, with some
displeasure. ‘All my bis’ness lays at the West End. I’ve got the right
sort of governor now. You can’t see his face for his whiskers, and can’t
see his whiskers for the dye upon ‘em. That’s a gentleman ain’t it? You
wouldn’t like a ride in a cab, would you? Why, it wouldn’t be safe to
offer it. You’d faint away, only to see me a-comin’ at a mild trot round
the corner.’

To convey a slight idea of the effect of this approach, Mr Bailey
counterfeited in his own person the action of a high-trotting horse and
threw up his head so high, in backing against a pump, that he shook his
hat off.

‘Why, he’s own uncle to Capricorn,’ said Bailey, ‘and brother to
Cauliflower. He’s been through the winders of two chaney shops since
we’ve had him, and was sold for killin’ his missis. That’s a horse, I
hope?’

‘Ah! you’ll never want to buy any more red polls, now,’ observed Poll,
looking on his young friend with an air of melancholy. ‘You’ll never
want to buy any more red polls now, to hang up over the sink, will you?’

‘I should think not,’ replied Bailey. ‘Reether so. I wouldn’t have
nothin’ to say to any bird below a Peacock; and HE’d be wulgar. Well,
how are you?’

‘Oh! I’m pretty well,’ said Poll. He answered the question again because
Mr Bailey asked it again; Mr Bailey asked it again, because--accompanied
with a straddling action of the white cords, a bend of the knees, and a
striking forth of the top-boots--it was an easy horse-fleshy, turfy sort
of thing to do.

‘Wot are you up to, old feller?’ added Mr Bailey, with the same graceful
rakishness. He was quite the man-about-town of the conversation, while
the easy-shaver was the child.

‘Why, I am going to fetch my lodger home,’ said Paul.

‘A woman!’ cried Mr Bailey, ‘for a twenty-pun’ note!’

The little barber hastened to explain that she was neither a young
woman, nor a handsome woman, but a nurse, who had been acting as a kind
of house-keeper to a gentleman for some weeks past, and left her place
that night, in consequence of being superseded by another and a more
legitimate house-keeper--to wit, the gentleman’s bride.

‘He’s newly married, and he brings his young wife home to-night,’ said
the barber. ‘So I’m going to fetch my lodger away--Mr Chuzzlewit’s,
close behind the Post Office--and carry her box for her.’

‘Jonas Chuzzlewit’s?’ said Bailey.

‘Ah!’ returned Paul: ‘that’s the name sure enough. Do you know him?’

‘Oh, no!’ cried Mr Bailey; ‘not at all. And I don’t know her! Not
neither! Why, they first kept company through me, a’most.’

‘Ah?’ said Paul.

‘Ah!’ said Mr Bailey, with a wink; ‘and she ain’t bad looking mind you.
But her sister was the best. SHE was the merry one. I often used to have
a bit of fun with her, in the hold times!’

Mr Bailey spoke as if he already had a leg and three-quarters in
the grave, and this had happened twenty or thirty years ago. Paul
Sweedlepipe, the meek, was so perfectly confounded by his precocious
self-possession, and his patronizing manner, as well as by his boots,
cockade, and livery, that a mist swam before his eyes, and he saw--not
the Bailey of acknowledged juvenility from Todgers’s Commercial
Boarding House, who had made his acquaintance within a twelvemonth,
by purchasing, at sundry times, small birds at twopence each--but a
highly-condensed embodiment of all the sporting grooms in London; an
abstract of all the stable-knowledge of the time; a something at a
high-pressure that must have had existence many years, and was fraught
with terrible experiences. And truly, though in the cloudy atmosphere
of Todgers’s, Mr Bailey’s genius had ever shone out brightly in this
particular respect, it now eclipsed both time and space, cheated
beholders of their senses, and worked on their belief in defiance of all
natural laws. He walked along the tangible and real stones of Holborn
Hill, an undersized boy; and yet he winked the winks, and thought the
thoughts, and did the deeds, and said the sayings of an ancient man.
There was an old principle within him, and a young surface without. He
became an inexplicable creature; a breeched and booted Sphinx. There was
no course open to the barber, but to go distracted himself, or to take
Bailey for granted; and he wisely chose the latter.

Mr Bailey was good enough to continue to bear him company, and to
entertain him, as they went, with easy conversation on various sporting
topics; especially on the comparative merits, as a general principle, of
horses with white stockings, and horses without. In regard to the style
of tail to be preferred, Mr Bailey had opinions of his own, which he
explained, but begged they might by no means influence his friend’s,
as here he knew he had the misfortune to differ from some excellent
authorities. He treated Mr Sweedlepipe to a dram, compounded agreeably
to his own directions, which he informed him had been invented by a
member of the Jockey Club; and, as they were by this time near the
barber’s destination, he observed that, as he had an hour to spare, and
knew the parties, he would, if quite agreeable, be introduced to Mrs
Gamp.

Paul knocked at Jonas Chuzzlewit’s; and, on the door being opened by
that lady, made the two distinguished persons known to one another. It
was a happy feature in Mrs Gamp’s twofold profession, that it gave her
an interest in everything that was young as well as in everything that
was old. She received Mr Bailey with much kindness.

‘It’s very good, I’m sure, of you to come,’ she said to her landlord,
‘as well as bring so nice a friend. But I’m afraid that I must trouble
you so far as to step in, for the young couple has not yet made
appearance.’

‘They’re late, ain’t they?’ inquired her landlord, when she had
conducted them downstairs into the kitchen.

‘Well, sir, considern’ the Wings of Love, they are,’ said Mrs Gamp.

Mr Bailey inquired whether the Wings of Love had ever won a plate, or
could be backed to do anything remarkable; and being informed that it
was not a horse, but merely a poetical or figurative expression, evinced
considerable disgust. Mrs Gamp was so very much astonished by his
affable manners and great ease, that she was about to propound to her
landlord in a whisper the staggering inquiry, whether he was a man or
a boy, when Mr Sweedlepipe, anticipating her design, made a timely
diversion.

‘He knows Mrs Chuzzlewit,’ said Paul aloud.

‘There’s nothin’ he don’t know; that’s my opinion,’ observed Mrs Gamp.
‘All the wickedness of the world is Print to him.’

Mr Bailey received this as a compliment, and said, adjusting his cravat,
‘reether so.’

‘As you knows Mrs Chuzzlewit, you knows, p’raps, what her chris’en name
is?’ Mrs Gamp observed.

‘Charity,’ said Bailey.

‘That it ain’t!’ cried Mrs Gamp.

‘Cherry, then,’ said Bailey. ‘Cherry’s short for it. It’s all the same.’

‘It don’t begin with a C at all,’ retorted Mrs Gamp, shaking her head.
‘It begins with a M.’

‘Whew!’ cried Mr Bailey, slapping a little cloud of pipe-clay out of his
left leg, ‘then he’s been and married the merry one!’

As these words were mysterious, Mrs Gamp called upon him to explain,
which Mr Bailey proceeded to do; that lady listening greedily to
everything he said. He was yet in the fullness of his narrative when the
sound of wheels, and a double knock at the street door, announced the
arrival of the newly married couple. Begging him to reserve what more he
had to say for her hearing on the way home, Mrs Gamp took up the candle,
and hurried away to receive and welcome the young mistress of the house.

‘Wishing you appiness and joy with all my art,’ said Mrs Gamp, dropping
a curtsey as they entered the hall; ‘and you, too, sir. Your lady looks
a little tired with the journey, Mr Chuzzlewit, a pretty dear!’

‘She has bothered enough about it,’ grumbled Mr Jonas. ‘Now, show a
light, will you?’

‘This way, ma’am, if you please,’ said Mrs Gamp, going upstairs before
them. ‘Things has been made as comfortable as they could be, but there’s
many things you’ll have to alter your own self when you gets time
to look about you! Ah! sweet thing! But you don’t,’ added Mrs Gamp,
internally, ‘you don’t look much like a merry one, I must say!’

It was true; she did not. The death that had gone before the bridal
seemed to have left its shade upon the house. The air was heavy and
oppressive; the rooms were dark; a deep gloom filled up every chink and
corner. Upon the hearthstone, like a creature of ill omen, sat the aged
clerk, with his eyes fixed on some withered branches in the stove. He
rose and looked at her.

‘So there you are, Mr Chuff,’ said Jonas carelessly, as he dusted his
boots; ‘still in the land of the living, eh?’

‘Still in the land of the living, sir,’ retorted Mrs Gamp. ‘And Mr
Chuffey may thank you for it, as many and many a time I’ve told him.’

Mr Jonas was not in the best of humours, for he merely said, as he
looked round, ‘We don’t want you any more, you know, Mrs Gamp.’

‘I’m a-going immediate, sir,’ returned the nurse; ‘unless there’s
nothink I can do for you, ma’am. Ain’t there,’ said Mrs Gamp, with
a look of great sweetness, and rummaging all the time in her pocket;
‘ain’t there nothink I can do for you, my little bird?’

‘No,’ said Merry, almost crying. ‘You had better go away, please!’

With a leer of mingled sweetness and slyness; with one eye on the
future, one on the bride, and an arch expression in her face, partly
spiritual, partly spirituous, and wholly professional and peculiar
to her art; Mrs Gamp rummaged in her pocket again, and took from it a
printed card, whereon was an inscription copied from her signboard.

‘Would you be so good, my darling dovey of a dear young married lady,’
Mrs Gamp observed, in a low voice, ‘as put that somewheres where you can
keep it in your mind? I’m well beknown to many ladies, and it’s my card.
Gamp is my name, and Gamp my nater. Livin’ quite handy, I will make
so bold as call in now and then, and make inquiry how your health and
spirits is, my precious chick!’

And with innumerable leers, winks, coughs, nods, smiles, and curtseys,
all leading to the establishment of a mysterious and confidential
understanding between herself and the bride, Mrs Gamp, invoking a
blessing upon the house, leered, winked, coughed, nodded, smiled, and
curtseyed herself out of the room.

‘But I will say, and I would if I was led a Martha to the Stakes for
it,’ Mrs Gamp remarked below stairs, in a whisper, ‘that she don’t look
much like a merry one at this present moment of time.’

‘Ah! wait till you hear her laugh!’ said Bailey.

‘Hem!’ cried Mrs Gamp, in a kind of groan. ‘I will, child.’

They said no more in the house, for Mrs Gamp put on her bonnet, Mr
Sweedlepipe took up her box; and Mr Bailey accompanied them towards
Kingsgate Street; recounting to Mrs Gamp as they went along, the origin
and progress of his acquaintance with Mrs Chuzzlewit and her sister. It
was a pleasant instance of this youth’s precocity, that he fancied Mrs
Gamp had conceived a tenderness for him, and was much tickled by her
misplaced attachment.

As the door closed heavily behind them, Mrs Jonas sat down in a chair,
and felt a strange chill creep upon her, whilst she looked about the
room. It was pretty much as she had known it, but appeared more dreary.
She had thought to see it brightened to receive her.

‘It ain’t good enough for you, I suppose?’ said Jonas, watching her
looks.

‘Why, it IS dull,’ said Merry, trying to be more herself.

‘It’ll be duller before you’re done with it,’ retorted Jonas, ‘if you
give me any of your airs. You’re a nice article, to turn sulky on first
coming home! Ecod, you used to have life enough, when you could plague
me with it. The gal’s downstairs. Ring the bell for supper, while I take
my boots off!’

She roused herself from looking after him as he left the room, to do
what he had desired; when the old man Chuffey laid his hand softly on
her arm.

‘You are not married?’ he said eagerly. ‘Not married?’

‘Yes. A month ago. Good Heaven, what is the matter?’

He answered nothing was the matter; and turned from her. But in her fear
and wonder, turning also, she saw him raise his trembling hands above
his head, and heard him say:

‘Oh! woe, woe, woe, upon this wicked house!’

It was her welcome--HOME.



CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

SHOWING THAT OLD FRIENDS MAY NOT ONLY APPEAR WITH NEW FACES, BUT IN
FALSE COLOURS. THAT PEOPLE ARE PRONE TO BITE, AND THAT BITERS MAY
SOMETIMES BE BITTEN.


Mr Bailey, Junior--for the sporting character, whilom of general utility
at Todgers’s, had now regularly set up in life under that name, without
troubling himself to obtain from the legislature a direct licence in
the form of a Private Bill, which of all kinds and classes of bills
is without exception the most unreasonable in its charges--Mr Bailey,
Junior, just tall enough to be seen by an inquiring eye, gazing
indolently at society from beneath the apron of his master’s cab, drove
slowly up and down Pall Mall, about the hour of noon, in waiting for his
‘Governor.’ The horse of distinguished family, who had Capricorn for his
nephew, and Cauliflower for his brother, showed himself worthy of his
high relations by champing at the bit until his chest was white with
foam, and rearing like a horse in heraldry; the plated harness and the
patent leather glittered in the sun; pedestrians admired; Mr Bailey was
complacent, but unmoved. He seemed to say, ‘A barrow, good people, a
mere barrow; nothing to what we could do, if we chose!’ and on he went,
squaring his short green arms outside the apron, as if he were hooked on
to it by his armpits.

Mr Bailey had a great opinion of Brother to Cauliflower, and estimated
his powers highly. But he never told him so. On the contrary, it was his
practice, in driving that animal, to assail him with disrespectful,
if not injurious, expressions, as, ‘Ah! would you!’ ‘Did you think
it, then?’ ‘Where are you going to now?’ ‘No, you won’t, my lad!’ and
similar fragmentary remarks. These being usually accompanied by a jerk
of the rein, or a crack of the whip, led to many trials of strength
between them, and to many contentions for the upper-hand, terminating,
now and then, in china-shops, and other unusual goals, as Mr Bailey had
already hinted to his friend Poll Sweedlepipe.

On the present occasion Mr Bailey, being in spirits, was more than
commonly hard upon his charge; in consequence of which that fiery animal
confined himself almost entirely to his hind legs in displaying his
paces, and constantly got himself into positions with reference to the
cabriolet that very much amazed the passengers in the street. But Mr
Bailey, not at all disturbed, had still a shower of pleasantries to
bestow on any one who crossed his path; as, calling to a full-grown
coal-heaver in a wagon, who for a moment blocked the way, ‘Now, young
‘un, who trusted YOU with a cart?’ inquiring of elderly ladies who
wanted to cross, and ran back again, ‘Why they didn’t go to the
workhouse and get an order to be buried?’ tempting boys, with friendly
words, to get up behind, and immediately afterwards cutting them down;
and the like flashes of a cheerful humour, which he would occasionally
relieve by going round St. James’s Square at a hand gallop, and coming
slowly into Pall Mall by another entry, as if, in the interval, his pace
had been a perfect crawl.

It was not until these amusements had been very often repeated, and the
apple-stall at the corner had sustained so many miraculous escapes as to
appear impregnable, that Mr Bailey was summoned to the door of a certain
house in Pall Mall, and turning short, obeyed the call and jumped out.
It was not until he had held the bridle for some minutes longer, every
jerk of Cauliflower’s brother’s head, and every twitch of Cauliflower’s
brother’s nostril, taking him off his legs in the meanwhile, that
two persons entered the vehicle, one of whom took the reins and drove
rapidly off. Nor was it until Mr Bailey had run after it some hundreds
of yards in vain, that he managed to lift his short leg into the iron
step, and finally to get his boots upon the little footboard behind.
Then, indeed, he became a sight to see; and--standing now on one foot
and now upon the other, now trying to look round the cab on this side,
now on that, and now endeavouring to peep over the top of it, as it went
dashing in among the carts and coaches--was from head to heel Newmarket.

The appearance of Mr Bailey’s governor as he drove along fully justified
that enthusiastic youth’s description of him to the wondering Poll. He
had a world of jet-black shining hair upon his head, upon his cheeks,
upon his chin, upon his upper lip. His clothes, symmetrically made, were
of the newest fashion and the costliest kind. Flowers of gold and blue,
and green and blushing red, were on his waistcoat; precious chains
and jewels sparkled on his breast; his fingers, clogged with brilliant
rings, were as unwieldly as summer flies but newly rescued from a
honey-pot. The daylight mantled in his gleaming hat and boots as in
a polished glass. And yet, though changed his name, and changed his
outward surface, it was Tigg. Though turned and twisted upside down,
and inside out, as great men have been sometimes known to be; though
no longer Montague Tigg, but Tigg Montague; still it was Tigg; the same
Satanic, gallant, military Tigg. The brass was burnished, lacquered,
newly stamped; yet it was the true Tigg metal notwithstanding.

Beside him sat a smiling gentleman, of less pretensions and of business
looks, whom he addressed as David. Surely not the David of the--how
shall it be phrased?--the triumvirate of golden balls? Not David,
tapster at the Lombards’ Arms? Yes. The very man.

‘The secretary’s salary, David,’ said Mr Montague, ‘the office being
now established, is eight hundred pounds per annum, with his house-rent,
coals, and candles free. His five-and-twenty shares he holds, of course.
Is that enough?’

David smiled and nodded, and coughed behind a little locked portfolio
which he carried; with an air that proclaimed him to be the secretary in
question.

‘If that’s enough,’ said Montague, ‘I will propose it at the Board
to-day, in my capacity as chairman.’

The secretary smiled again; laughed, indeed, this time; and said,
rubbing his nose slily with one end of the portfolio:

‘It was a capital thought, wasn’t it?’

‘What was a capital thought, David?’ Mr Montague inquired.

‘The Anglo-Bengalee,’ tittered the secretary.

‘The Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company is
rather a capital concern, I hope, David,’ said Montague.

‘Capital indeed!’ cried the secretary, with another laugh--’ in one
sense.’

‘In the only important one,’ observed the chairman; ‘which is number
one, David.’

‘What,’ asked the secretary, bursting into another laugh, ‘what will be
the paid up capital, according to the next prospectus?’

‘A figure of two, and as many oughts after it as the printer can get
into the same line,’ replied his friend. ‘Ha, ha!’

At this they both laughed; the secretary so vehemently, that in kicking
up his feet, he kicked the apron open, and nearly started Cauliflower’s
brother into an oyster shop; not to mention Mr Bailey’s receiving such
a sudden swing, that he held on for a moment quite a young Fame, by one
strap and no legs.

‘What a chap you are!’ exclaimed David admiringly, when this little
alarm had subsided.

‘Say, genius, David, genius.’

‘Well, upon my soul, you ARE a genius then,’ said David. ‘I always knew
you had the gift of the gab, of course; but I never believed you were
half the man you are. How could I?’

‘I rise with circumstances, David. That’s a point of genius in itself,’
said Tigg. ‘If you were to lose a hundred pound wager to me at
this minute David, and were to pay it (which is most confoundedly
improbable), I should rise, in a mental point of view, directly.’

It is due to Mr Tigg to say that he had really risen with his
opportunities; and, peculating on a grander scale, he had become a
grander man altogether.

‘Ha, ha,’ cried the secretary, laying his hand, with growing
familiarity, upon the chairman’s arm. ‘When I look at you, and think of
your property in Bengal being--ha, ha, ha!--’

The half-expressed idea seemed no less ludicrous to Mr Tigg than to his
friend, for he laughed too, heartily.

‘--Being,’ resumed David, ‘being amenable--your property in Bengal being
amenable--to all claims upon the company; when I look at you and think
of that, you might tickle me into fits by waving the feather of a pen at
me. Upon my soul you might!’

‘It a devilish fine property,’ said Tigg Montague, ‘to be amenable
to any claims. The preserve of tigers alone is worth a mint of money,
David.’

David could only reply in the intervals of his laughter, ‘Oh, what a
chap you are!’ and so continued to laugh, and hold his sides, and wipe
his eyes, for some time, without offering any other observation.

‘A capital idea?’ said Tigg, returning after a time to his companion’s
first remark; ‘no doubt it was a capital idea. It was my idea.’

‘No, no. It was my idea,’ said David. ‘Hang it, let a man have some
credit. Didn’t I say to you that I’d saved a few pounds?--’

‘You said! Didn’t I say to you,’ interposed Tigg, ‘that I had come into
a few pounds?’

‘Certainly you did,’ returned David, warmly, ‘but that’s not the idea.
Who said, that if we put the money together we could furnish an office,
and make a show?’

‘And who said,’ retorted Mr Tigg, ‘that, provided we did it on a
sufficiently large scale, we could furnish an office and make a show,
without any money at all? Be rational, and just, and calm, and tell me
whose idea was that.’

‘Why, there,’ David was obliged to confess, ‘you had the advantage of
me, I admit. But I don’t put myself on a level with you. I only want a
little credit in the business.’

‘All the credit you deserve to have,’ said Tigg.

‘The plain work of the company, David--figures, books, circulars,
advertisements, pen, ink, and paper, sealing-wax and wafers--is
admirably done by you. You are a first-rate groveller. I don’t dispute
it. But the ornamental department, David; the inventive and poetical
department--’

‘Is entirely yours,’ said his friend. ‘No question of it. But with such
a swell turnout as this, and all the handsome things you’ve got about
you, and the life you lead, I mean to say it’s a precious comfortable
department too.’

‘Does it gain the purpose? Is it Anglo-Bengalee?’ asked Tigg.

‘Yes,’ said David.

‘Could you undertake it yourself?’ demanded Tigg.

‘No,’ said David.

‘Ha, ha!’ laughed Tigg. ‘Then be contented with your station and
your profits, David, my fine fellow, and bless the day that made us
acquainted across the counter of our common uncle, for it was a golden
day to you.’

It will have been already gathered from the conversation of these
worthies, that they were embarked in an enterprise of some magnitude, in
which they addressed the public in general from the strong position of
having everything to gain and nothing at all to lose; and which, based
upon this great principle, was thriving pretty comfortably.

The Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company started
into existence one morning, not an Infant Institution, but a Grown-up
Company running alone at a great pace, and doing business right and
left: with a ‘branch’ in a first floor over a tailor’s at the west-end
of the town, and main offices in a new street in the City, comprising
the upper part of a spacious house resplendent in stucco and
plate-glass, with wire-blinds in all the windows, and ‘Anglo-Bengalee’
worked into the pattern of every one of them. On the doorpost was
painted again in large letters, ‘offices of the Anglo-Bengalee
Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company,’ and on the door was a
large brass plate with the same inscription; always kept very bright, as
courting inquiry; staring the City out of countenance after office hours
on working days, and all day long on Sundays; and looking bolder than
the Bank. Within, the offices were newly plastered, newly painted,
newly papered, newly countered, newly floor-clothed, newly tabled, newly
chaired, newly fitted up in every way, with goods that were substantial
and expensive, and designed (like the company) to last. Business! Look
at the green ledgers with red backs, like strong cricket-balls beaten
flat; the court-guides directories, day-books, almanacks, letter-boxes,
weighing-machines for letters, rows of fire-buckets for dashing out a
conflagration in its first spark, and saving the immense wealth in notes
and bonds belonging to the company; look at the iron safes, the clock,
the office seal--in its capacious self, security for anything. Solidity!
Look at the massive blocks of marble in the chimney-pieces, and the
gorgeous parapet on the top of the house! Publicity! Why, Anglo-Bengalee
Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance company is painted on the very
coal-scuttles. It is repeated at every turn until the eyes are dazzled
with it, and the head is giddy. It is engraved upon the top of all the
letter paper, and it makes a scroll-work round the seal, and it shines
out of the porter’s buttons, and it is repeated twenty times in every
circular and public notice wherein one David Crimple, Esquire, Secretary
and resident Director, takes the liberty of inviting your attention
to the accompanying statement of the advantages offered by the
Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company; and fully
proves to you that any connection on your part with that establishment
must result in a perpetual Christmas Box and constantly increasing Bonus
to yourself, and that nobody can run any risk by the transaction except
the office, which, in its great liberality is pretty sure to lose. And
this, David Crimple, Esquire, submits to you (and the odds are heavy you
believe him), is the best guarantee that can reasonably be suggested by
the Board of Management for its permanence and stability.

This gentleman’s name, by the way, had been originally Crimp; but as
the word was susceptible of an awkward construction and might be
misrepresented, he had altered it to Crimple.

Lest with all these proofs and confirmations, any man should be
suspicious of the Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance
company; should doubt in tiger, cab, or person, Tigg Montague, Esquire,
(of Pall Mall and Bengal), or any other name in the imaginative List of
Directors; there was a porter on the premises--a wonderful creature,
in a vast red waistcoat and a short-tailed pepper-and-salt coat--who
carried more conviction to the minds of sceptics than the whole
establishment without him. No confidences existed between him and the
Directorship; nobody knew where he had served last; no character or
explanation had been given or required. No questions had been asked on
either side. This mysterious being, relying solely on his figure, had
applied for the situation, and had been instantly engaged on his own
terms. They were high; but he knew, doubtless, that no man could carry
such an extent of waistcoat as himself, and felt the full value of his
capacity to such an institution. When he sat upon a seat erected for him
in a corner of the office, with his glazed hat hanging on a peg over his
head, it was impossible to doubt the respectability of the concern.
It went on doubling itself with every square inch of his red waistcoat
until, like the problem of the nails in the horse’s shoes, the total
became enormous. People had been known to apply to effect an insurance
on their lives for a thousand pounds, and looking at him, to beg, before
the form of proposal was filled up, that it might be made two. And yet
he was not a giant. His coat was rather small than otherwise. The whole
charm was in his waistcoat. Respectability, competence, property in
Bengal or anywhere else, responsibility to any amount on the part of the
company that employed him, were all expressed in that one garment.

Rival offices had endeavoured to lure him away; Lombard Street itself
had beckoned to him; rich companies had whispered ‘Be a Beadle!’ but he
still continued faithful to the Anglo-Bengalee. Whether he was a deep
rogue, or a stately simpleton, it was impossible to make out, but he
appeared to believe in the Anglo-Bengalee. He was grave with imaginary
cares of office; and having nothing whatever to do, and something less
to take care of, would look as if the pressure of his numerous duties,
and a sense of the treasure in the company’s strong-room, made him a
solemn and a thoughtful man.

As the cabriolet drove up to the door, this officer appeared bare-headed
on the pavement, crying aloud ‘Room for the chairman, room for the
chairman, if you please!’ much to the admiration of the bystanders,
who, it is needless to say, had their attention directed to the
Anglo-Bengalee Company thenceforth, by that means. Mr Tigg leaped
gracefully out, followed by the Managing Director (who was by this time
very distant and respectful), and ascended the stairs, still preceded by
the porter, who cried as he went, ‘By your leave there! by your leave!
The Chairman of the Board, Gentle--MEN! In like manner, but in a still
more stentorian voice, he ushered the chairman through the public
office, where some humble clients were transacting business, into
an awful chamber, labelled Board-room; the door of which sanctuary
immediately closed, and screened the great capitalist from vulgar eyes.

The board-room had a Turkey carpet in it, a sideboard, a portrait of
Tigg Montague, Esquire, as chairman; a very imposing chair of office,
garnished with an ivory hammer and a little hand-bell; and a long table,
set out at intervals with sheets of blotting-paper, foolscap, clean
pens, and inkstands. The chairman having taken his seat with great
solemnity, the secretary supported him on his right hand, and the porter
stood bolt upright behind them, forming a warm background of waistcoat.
This was the board: everything else being a light-hearted little
fiction.

‘Bullamy!’ said Mr Tigg.

‘Sir!’ replied the porter.

‘Let the Medical Officer know, with my compliments, that I wish to see
him.’

Bullamy cleared his throat, and bustled out into the office, crying ‘The
Chairman of the Board wishes to see the Medical Officer. By your leave
there! By your leave!’ He soon returned with the gentleman in question;
and at both openings of the board-room door--at his coming in and at
his going out--simple clients were seen to stretch their necks and
stand upon their toes, thirsting to catch the slightest glimpse of that
mysterious chamber.

‘Jobling, my dear friend!’ said Mr Tigg, ‘how are you? Bullamy, wait
outside. Crimple, don’t leave us. Jobling, my good fellow, I am glad to
see you.’

‘And how are you, Mr Montague, eh?’ said the Medical Officer, throwing
himself luxuriously into an easy-chair (they were all easy-chairs in the
board-room), and taking a handsome gold snuff-box from the pocket of his
black satin waistcoat. ‘How are you? A little worn with business, eh? If
so, rest. A little feverish from wine, humph? If so, water. Nothing
at all the matter, and quite comfortable? Then take some lunch. A very
wholesome thing at this time of day to strengthen the gastric juices
with lunch, Mr Montague.’

The Medical Officer (he was the same medical officer who had followed
poor old Anthony Chuzzlewit to the grave, and who had attended Mrs
Gamp’s patient at the Bull) smiled in saying these words; and casually
added, as he brushed some grains of snuff from his shirt-frill, ‘I
always take it myself about this time of day, do you know!’

‘Bullamy!’ said the Chairman, ringing the little bell.

‘Sir!’

‘Lunch.’

‘Not on my account, I hope?’ said the doctor. ‘You are very good. Thank
you. I’m quite ashamed. Ha, ha! if I had been a sharp practitioner,
Mr Montague, I shouldn’t have mentioned it without a fee; for you may
depend upon it, my dear sir, that if you don’t make a point of taking
lunch, you’ll very soon come under my hands. Allow me to illustrate
this. In Mr Crimple’s leg--’

The resident Director gave an involuntary start, for the doctor, in the
heat of his demonstration, caught it up and laid it across his own, as
if he were going to take it off, then and there.

‘In Mr Crimple’s leg, you’ll observe,’ pursued the doctor, turning back
his cuffs and spanning the limb with both hands, ‘where Mr Crimple’s
knee fits into the socket, here, there is--that is to say, between the
bone and the socket--a certain quantity of animal oil.’

‘What do you pick MY leg out for?’ said Mr Crimple, looking with
something of an anxious expression at his limb. ‘It’s the same with
other legs, ain’t it?’

‘Never you mind, my good sir,’ returned the doctor, shaking his head,
‘whether it is the same with other legs, or not the same.’

‘But I do mind,’ said David.

‘I take a particular case, Mr Montague,’ returned the doctor, ‘as
illustrating my remark, you observe. In this portion of Mr Crimple’s
leg, sir, there is a certain amount of animal oil. In every one of Mr
Crimple’s joints, sir, there is more or less of the same deposit. Very
good. If Mr Crimple neglects his meals, or fails to take his proper
quantity of rest, that oil wanes, and becomes exhausted. What is the
consequence? Mr Crimple’s bones sink down into their sockets, sir, and
Mr Crimple becomes a weazen, puny, stunted, miserable man!’

The doctor let Mr Crimple’s leg fall suddenly, as if he were already in
that agreeable condition; turned down his wristbands again, and looked
triumphantly at the chairman.

‘We know a few secrets of nature in our profession, sir,’ said the
doctor. ‘Of course we do. We study for that; we pass the Hall and the
College for that; and we take our station in society BY that. It’s
extraordinary how little is known on these subjects generally. Where
do you suppose, now’--the doctor closed one eye, as he leaned back
smilingly in his chair, and formed a triangle with his hands, of which
his two thumbs composed the base--‘where do you suppose Mr Crimple’s
stomach is?’

Mr Crimple, more agitated than before, clapped his hand immediately
below his waistcoat.

‘Not at all,’ cried the doctor; ‘not at all. Quite a popular mistake! My
good sir, you’re altogether deceived.’

‘I feel it there, when it’s out of order; that’s all I know,’ said
Crimple.

‘You think you do,’ replied the doctor; ‘but science knows better. There
was a patient of mine once,’ touching one of the many mourning rings
upon his fingers, and slightly bowing his head, ‘a gentleman who did
me the honour to make a very handsome mention of me in his will--“in
testimony,” as he was pleased to say, “of the unremitting zeal, talent,
and attention of my friend and medical attendant, John Jobling, Esquire,
M.R.C.S.,”--who was so overcome by the idea of having all his life
laboured under an erroneous view of the locality of this important
organ, that when I assured him on my professional reputation, he was
mistaken, he burst into tears, put out his hand, and said, “Jobling,
God bless you!” Immediately afterwards he became speechless, and was
ultimately buried at Brixton.’

‘By your leave there!’ cried Bullamy, without. ‘By your leave!
Refreshment for the Board-room!