Martin Chuzzlewit HTML version

Chapter 9
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