Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens - HTML preview
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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!
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 Jones, 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 agoing 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.
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 windowcurtains 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 neighter 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.