Martin Chuzzlewit HTML version

Chapter 18
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