Martin Chuzzlewit HTML version

Chapter 40
There was a ghostly air about these uninhabited chambers in the Temple, and
attending every circumstance of Tom's employment there, which had a strange
charm in it. Every morning when he shut his door at Islington, he turned his face
towards an atmosphere of unaccountable fascination, as surely as he turned it to
the London smoke; and from that moment it thickened round and round him all
day long, until the time arrived for going home again, and leaving it, like a
motionless cloud, behind.
It seemed to Tom, every morning, that he approached this ghostly mist, and
became enveloped in it, by the easiest succession of degrees imaginable.
Passing from the roar and rattle of the streets into the quiet court-yards of the
Temple, was the first preparation. Every echo of his footsteps sounded to him
like a sound from the old walls and pavements, wanting language to relate the
histories of the dim, dismal rooms; to tell him what lost documents were decaying
in forgotten corners of the shut-up cellars, from whose lattices such mouldy sighs
came breathing forth as he went past; to whisper of dark bins of rare old wine,
bricked up in vaults among the old foundations of the Halls; or mutter in a lower
tone yet darker legends of the cross-legged knights, whose marble effigies were
in the church. With the first planting of his foot upon the staircase of his dusty
office, all these mysteries increased; until, ascending step by step, as Tom
ascended, they attained their full growth in the solitary labours of the day.
Every day brought one recurring, never-failing source of speculation. This
employer; would he come to-day, and what would he be like? For Tom could not
stop short at Mr Fips; he quite believed that Mr Fips had spoken truly, when he
said he acted for another; and what manner of man that other was, became a
full-blown flower of wonder in the garden of Tom's fancy, which never faded or
got trodden down.
At one time, he conceived that Mr Pecksniff, repenting of his falsehood, might, by
exertion of his influence with some third person have devised these means of
giving him employment. He found this idea so insupportable after what had taken
place between that good man and himself, that he confided it to John Westlock
on the very same day; informing John that he would rather ply for hire as a
porter, than fall so low in his own esteem as to accept the smallest obligation
from the hands of Mr Pecksniff. But John assured him that he (Tom Pinch) was
far from doing justice to the character of Mr Pecksniff yet, if he supposed that
gentleman capable of performing a generous action; and that he might make his
mind quite easy on that head until he saw the sun turn green and the moon
black, and at the same time distinctly perceived with the naked eye, twelve first-
rate comets careering round those planets. In which unusual state of things, he
said (and not before), it might become not absolutely lunatic to suspect Mr
Pecksniff of anything so monstrous. In short he laughed the idea down