Martin Chuzzlewit HTML version

Chapter 3
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