Martin Chuzzlewit HTML version

Chapter 39
Pleasant little Ruth! Cheerful, tidy, bustling, quiet little Ruth! No doll's house ever
yielded greater delight to its young mistress, than little Ruth derived from her
glorious dominion over the triangular parlour and the two small bedrooms.
To be Tom's housekeeper. What dignity! Housekeeping, upon the commonest
terms, associated itself with elevated responsibilities of all sorts and kinds; but
housekeeping for Tom implied the utmost complication of grave trusts and mighty
charges. Well might she take the keys out of the little chiffonier which held the
tea and sugar; and out of the two little damp cupboards down by the fireplace,
where the very black beetles got mouldy, and had the shine taken out of their
backs by envious mildew; and jingle them upon a ring before Tom's eyes when
he came down to breakfast! Well might she, laughing musically, put them up in
that blessed little pocket of hers with a merry pride! For it was such a grand
novelty to be mistress of anything, that if she had been the most relentless and
despotic of all little housekeepers, she might have pleaded just that much for her
excuse, and have been honourably acquitted.
So far from being despotic, however, there was a coyness about her very way of
pouring out the tea, which Tom quite revelled in. And when she asked him what
he would like to have for dinner, and faltered out 'chops' as a reasonably good
suggestion after their last night's successful supper, Tom grew quite facetious,
and rallied her desperately.
'I don't know, Tom,' said his sister, blushing, 'I am not quite confident, but I think I
could make a beef-steak pudding, if I tried, Tom.'
'In the whole catalogue of cookery, there is nothing I should like so much as a
beef-steak pudding!' cried Tom, slapping his leg to give the greater force to this
'Yes, dear, that's excellent! But if it should happen not to come quite right the first
time,' his sister faltered; 'if it should happen not to be a pudding exactly, but
should turn out a stew, or a soup, or something of that sort, you'll not be vexed,
Tom, will you?'
The serious way in which she looked at Tom; the way in which Tom looked at
her; and the way in which she gradually broke into a merry laugh at her own
expense, would have enchanted you.
'Why,' said Tom 'this is capital. It gives us a new, and quite an uncommon
interest in the dinner. We put into a lottery for a beefsteak pudding, and it is
impossible to say what we may get. We may make some wonderful discovery,
perhaps, and produce such a dish as never was known before.'
'I shall not be at all surprised if we do, Tom,' returned his sister, still laughing
merrily, 'or if it should prove to be such a dish as we shall not feel very anxious to
produce again; but the meat must come out of the saucepan at last, somehow or