Martin Chuzzlewit HTML version

Chapter 38
In walking from the city with his sentimental friend, Tom Pinch had looked into
the face, and brushed against the threadbare sleeve, of Mr Nadgett, man of
mystery to the Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company.
Mr Nadgett naturally passed away from Tom's remembrance as he passed out of
his view; for he didn't know him, and had never heard his name.
As there are a vast number of people in the huge metropolis of England who rise
up every morning not knowing where their heads will rest at night, so there are a
multitude who shooting arrows over houses as their daily business, never know
on whom they fall. Mr Nadgett might have passed Tom Pinch ten thousand
times; might even have been quite familiar with his face, his name, pursuits, and
character; yet never once have dreamed that Tom had any interest in any act or
mystery of his. Tom might have done the like by him of course. But the same
private man out of all the men alive, was in the mind of each at the same
moment; was prominently connected though in a different manner, with the day's
adventures of both; and formed, when they passed each other in the street, the
one absorbing topic of their thoughts.
Why Tom had Jonas Chuzzlewit in his mind requires no explanation. Why Mr
Nadgett should have had Jonas Chuzzlewit in his, is quite another thing.
But, somehow or other, that amiable and worthy orphan had become a part of
the mystery of Mr Nadgett's existence. Mr Nadgett took an interest in his lightest
proceedings; and it never flagged or wavered. He watched him in and out of the
Assurance Office, where he was now formally installed as a Director; he dogged
his footsteps in the streets; he stood listening when he talked; he sat in coffee-
rooms entering his name in the great pocket-book, over and over again; he wrote
letters to himself about him constantly; and, when he found them in his pocket,
put them in the fire, with such distrust and caution that he would bend down to
watch the crumpled tinder while it floated upwards, as if his mind misgave him,
that the mystery it had contained might come out at the chimney-pot.
And yet all this was quite a secret. Mr Nadgett kept it to himself, and kept it close.
Jonas had no more idea that Mr Nadgett's eyes were fixed on him, than he had
that he was living under the daily inspection and report of a whole order of
Jesuits. Indeed Mr Nadgett's eyes were seldom fixed on any other objects than
the ground, the clock, or the fire; but every button on his coat might have been an
eye, he saw so much.
The secret manner of the man disarmed suspicion in this wise; suggesting, not
that he was watching any one, but that he thought some other man was watching
him. He went about so stealthily, and kept himself so wrapped up in himself, that
the whole object of his life appeared to be, to avoid notice and preserve his own
mystery. Jonas sometimes saw him in the street, hovering in the outer office,
waiting at the door for the man who never came, or slinking off with his
immovable face and drooping head, and the one beaver glove dangling before
him; but he would as soon have thought of the cross upon the top of St. Paul's