Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens - HTML preview
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.
SHOWING THAT OLD FRIENDS MAY NOT ONLY APPEAR WITH NEW FACES, BUT IN FALSE COLOURS. THAT PEOPLE ARE PRONE TO BITE, AND THAT BITERS MAY SOMETIMES BE BITTEN.
Mr Bailey, Junior--for the sporting character, whilom of general utility at Todgers's, had now regularly set up in life under that name, without troubling himself to obtain from the legislature a direct licence in the form of a Private Bill, which of all kinds and classes of bills is without exception the most unreasonable in its charges--Mr Bailey, Junior, just tall enough to be seen by an inquiring eye, gazing indolently at society from beneath the apron of his master's cab, drove slowly up and down Pall Mall, about the hour of noon, in waiting for his 'Governor.' The horse of distinguished family, who had Capricorn for his nephew, and Cauliflower for his brother, showed himself worthy of his high relations by champing at the bit until his chest was white with foam, and rearing like a horse in heraldry; the plated harness and the patent leather glittered in the sun; pedestrians admired; Mr Bailey was complacent, but unmoved. He seemed to say, 'A barrow, good people, a mere barrow; nothing to what we could do, if we chose!' and on he went, squaring his short green arms outside the apron, as if he were hooked on to it by his armpits.
Mr Bailey had a great opinion of Brother to Cauliflower, and estimated his powers highly. But he never told him so. On the contrary, it was his practice, in driving that animal, to assail him with disrespectful, if not injurious, expressions, as, 'Ah! would you!' 'Did you think it, then?' 'Where are you going to now?' 'No, you won't, my lad!' and similar fragmentary remarks. These being usually accompanied by a jerk of the rein, or a crack of the whip, led to many trials of strength between them, and to many contentions for the upper-hand, terminating, now and then, in china-shops, and other unusual goals, as Mr Bailey had already hinted to his friend Poll Sweedlepipe.
On the present occasion Mr Bailey, being in spirits, was more than commonly hard upon his charge; in consequence of which that fiery animal confined himself almost entirely to his hind legs in displaying his paces, and constantly got himself into positions with reference to the cabriolet that very much amazed the passengers in the street. But Mr Bailey, not at all disturbed, had still a shower of pleasantries to bestow on any one who crossed his path; as, calling to a fullgrown coal-heaver in a wagon, who for a moment blocked the way, 'Now, young 'un, who trusted YOU with a cart?' inquiring of elderly ladies who wanted to cross, and ran back again, 'Why they didn't go to the workhouse and get an order to be buried?' tempting boys, with friendly words, to get up behind, and immediately afterwards cutting them down; and the like flashes of a cheerful humour, which he would occasionally relieve by going round St. James's Square at a hand gallop, and coming slowly into Pall Mall by another entry, as if, in the interval, his pace had been a perfect crawl.
It was not until these amusements had been very often repeated, and the applestall at the corner had sustained so many miraculous escapes as to appear impregnable, that Mr Bailey was summoned to the door of a certain house in Pall Mall, and turning short, obeyed the call and jumped out. It was not until he had held the bridle for some minutes longer, every jerk of Cauliflower's brother's head, and every twitch of Cauliflower's brother's nostril, taking him off his legs in the meanwhile, that two persons entered the vehicle, one of whom took the reins and drove rapidly off. Nor was it until Mr Bailey had run after it some hundreds of yards in vain, that he managed to lift his short leg into the iron step, and finally to get his boots upon the little footboard behind. Then, indeed, he became a sight to see; and--standing now on one foot and now upon the other, now trying to look round the cab on this side, now on that, and now endeavouring to peep over the top of it, as it went dashing in among the carts and coaches--was from head to heel Newmarket.
The appearance of Mr Bailey's governor as he drove along fully justified that enthusiastic youth's description of him to the wondering Poll. He had a world of jet-black shining hair upon his head, upon his cheeks, upon his chin, upon his upper lip. His clothes, symmetrically made, were of the newest fashion and the costliest kind. Flowers of gold and blue, and green and blushing red, were on his waistcoat; precious chains and jewels sparkled on his breast; his fingers, clogged with brilliant rings, were as unwieldly as summer flies but newly rescued from a honey-pot. The daylight mantled in his gleaming hat and boots as in a polished glass. And yet, though changed his name, and changed his outward surface, it was Tigg. Though turned and twisted upside down, and inside out, as great men have been sometimes known to be; though no longer Montague Tigg, but Tigg Montague; still it was Tigg; the same Satanic, gallant, military Tigg. The brass was burnished, lacquered, newly stamped; yet it was the true Tigg metal notwithstanding.
Beside him sat a smiling gentleman, of less pretensions and of business looks, whom he addressed as David. Surely not the David of the--how shall it be phrased?--the triumvirate of golden balls? Not David, tapster at the Lombards' Arms? Yes. The very man.
'The secretary's salary, David,' said Mr Montague, 'the office being now established, is eight hundred pounds per annum, with his house- rent, coals, and candles free. His five-and-twenty shares he holds, of course. Is that enough?' David smiled and nodded, and coughed behind a little locked portfolio which he carried; with an air that proclaimed him to be the secretary in question. 'If that's enough,' said Montague, 'I will propose it at the Board to-day, in my capacity as chairman.'
The secretary smiled again; laughed, indeed, this time; and said, rubbing his nose slily with one end of the portfolio:
'It was a capital thought, wasn't it?'
'What was a capital thought, David?' Mr Montague inquired.
'The Anglo-Bengalee,' tittered the secretary.
'The Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company is rather a capital concern, I hope, David,' said Montague.
'Capital indeed!' cried the secretary, with another laugh--' in one sense.' 'In the only important one,' observed the chairman; 'which is number one, David.' 'What,' asked the secretary, bursting into another laugh, 'what will be the paid up capital, according to the next prospectus?'
'A figure of two, and as many oughts after it as the printer can get into the same line,' replied his friend. 'Ha, ha!'
At this they both laughed; the secretary so vehemently, that in kicking up his feet, he kicked the apron open, and nearly started Cauliflower's brother into an oyster shop; not to mention Mr Bailey's receiving such a sudden swing, that he held on for a moment quite a young Fame, by one strap and no legs.
'What a chap you are!' exclaimed David admiringly, when this little alarm had subsided.
'Say, genius, David, genius.'
'"Well, upon my soul, you ARE a genius then,' said David. 'I always knew you had the gift of the gab, of course; but I never believed you were half the man you are. How could I?'
'I rise with circumstances, David. That's a point of genius in itself,' said Tigg. 'If you were to lose a hundred pound wager to me at this minute David, and were to pay it (which is most confoundedly improbable), I should rise, in a mental point of view, directly.'
It is due to Mr Tigg to say that he had really risen with his opportunities; and, peculating on a grander scale, he had become a grander man altogether. 'Ha, ha,' cried the secretary, laying his hand, with growing familiarity, upon the chairman's arm. 'When I look at you, and think of your property in Bengal being-ha, ha, ha!--'
The half-expressed idea seemed no less ludicrous to Mr Tigg than to his friend, for he laughed too, heartily.
'--Being,' resumed David, 'being amenable--your property in Bengal being amenable--to all claims upon the company; when I look at you and think of that, you might tickle me into fits by waving the feather of a pen at me. Upon my soul you might!'
'It a devilish fine property,' said Tigg Montague, 'to be amenable to any claims. The preserve of tigers alone is worth a mint of money, David.'
David could only reply in the intervals of his laughter, 'Oh, what a chap you are!' and so continued to laugh, and hold his sides, and wipe his eyes, for some time, without offering any other observation.
'A capital idea?' said Tigg, returning after a time to his companion's first remark; 'no doubt it was a capital idea. It was my idea.'
'No, no. It was my idea,' said David. 'Hang it, let a man have some credit. Didn't I say to you that I'd saved a few pounds?--'
'You said! Didn't I say to you,' interposed Tigg, 'that I had come into a few pounds?'
'Certainly you did,' returned David, warmly, 'but that's not the idea. Who said, that if we put the money together we could furnish an office, and make a show?' 'And who said,' retorted Mr Tigg, 'that, provided we did it on a sufficiently large scale, we could furnish an office and make a show, without any money at all? Be rational, and just, and calm, and tell me whose idea was that.'
'Why, there,' David was obliged to confess, 'you had the advantage of me, I admit. But I don't put myself on a level with you. I only want a little credit in the business.'
'All the credit you deserve to have,' said Tigg.
'The plain work of the company, David--figures, books, circulars, advertisements, pen, ink, and paper, sealing-wax and wafers--is admirably done by you. You are a first-rate groveller. I don't dispute it. But the ornamental department, David; the inventive and poetical department--'
'Is entirely yours,' said his friend. 'No question of it. But with such a swell turnout as this, and all the handsome things you've got about you, and the life you lead, I mean to say it's a precious comfortable department too.'
'Does it gain the purpose? Is it Anglo-Bengalee?' asked Tigg.
'Yes,' said David.
'Could you undertake it yourself?' demanded Tigg.
'No,' said David.
'Ha, ha!' laughed Tigg. 'Then be contented with your station and your profits, David, my fine fellow, and bless the day that made us acquainted across the counter of our common uncle, for it was a golden day to you.'
It will have been already gathered from the conversation of these worthies, that they were embarked in an enterprise of some magnitude, in which they addressed the public in general from the strong position of having everything to gain and nothing at all to lose; and which, based upon this great principle, was thriving pretty comfortably.
The Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company started into existence one morning, not an Infant Institution, but a Grown-up Company running alone at a great pace, and doing business right and left: with a 'branch' in a first floor over a tailor's at the west-end of the town, and main offices in a new street in the City, comprising the upper part of a spacious house resplendent in stucco and plate-glass, with wire-blinds in all the windows, and 'Anglo-Bengalee' worked into the pattern of every one of them. On the doorpost was painted again in large letters, 'offices of the Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company,' and on the door was a large brass plate with the same inscription; always kept very bright, as courting inquiry; staring the City out of countenance after office hours on working days, and all day long on Sundays; and looking bolder than the Bank. Within, the offices were newly plastered, newly painted, newly papered, newly countered, newly floor-clothed, newly tabled, newly chaired, newly fitted up in every way, with goods that were substantial and expensive, and designed (like the company) to last. Business! Look at the green ledgers with red backs, like strong cricket-balls beaten flat; the court-guides directories, day-books, almanacks, letter-boxes, weighing-machines for letters, rows of fire-buckets for dashing out a conflagration in its first spark, and saving the immense wealth in notes and bonds belonging to the company; look at the iron safes, the clock, the office seal--in its capacious self, security for anything. Solidity! Look at the massive blocks of marble in the chimney-pieces, and the gorgeous parapet on the top of the house! Publicity! Why, Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance company is painted on the very coalscuttles. It is repeated at every turn until the eyes are dazzled with it, and the head is giddy. It is engraved upon the top of all the letter paper, and it makes a scroll-work round the seal, and it shines out of the porter's buttons, and it is repeated twenty times in every circular and public notice wherein one David Crimple, Esquire, Secretary and resident Director, takes the liberty of inviting your attention to the accompanying statement of the advantages offered by the Anglo- Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company; and fully proves to you that any connection on your part with that establishment must result in a perpetual Christmas Box and constantly increasing Bonus to yourself, and that nobody can run any risk by the transaction except the office, which, in its great liberality is pretty sure to lose. And this, David Crimple, Esquire, submits to you (and the odds are heavy you believe him), is the best guarantee that can reasonably be suggested by the Board of Management for its permanence and stability.
This gentleman's name, by the way, had been originally Crimp; but as the word was susceptible of an awkward construction and might be misrepresented, he had altered it to Crimple.
Lest with all these proofs and confirmations, any man should be suspicious of the Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance company; should doubt in tiger, cab, or person, Tigg Montague, Esquire, (of Pall Mall and Bengal), or any other name in the imaginative List of Directors; there was a porter on the premises--a wonderful creature, in a vast red waistcoat and a short- tailed pepper-and-salt coat--who carried more conviction to the minds of sceptics than the whole establishment without him. No confidences existed between him and the Directorship; nobody knew where he had served last; no character or explanation had been given or required. No questions had been asked on either side. This mysterious being, relying solely on his figure, had applied for the situation, and had been instantly engaged on his own terms. They were high; but he knew, doubtless, that no man could carry such an extent of waistcoat as himself, and felt the full value of his capacity to such an institution. When he sat upon a seat erected for him in a corner of the office, with his glazed hat hanging on a peg over his head, it was impossible to doubt the respectability of the concern. It went on doubling itself with every square inch of his red waistcoat until, like the problem of the nails in the horse's shoes, the total became enormous. People had been known to apply to effect an insurance on their lives for a thousand pounds, and looking at him, to beg, before the form of proposal was filled up, that it might be made two. And yet he was not a giant. His coat was rather small than otherwise. The whole charm was in his waistcoat. Respectability, competence, property in Bengal or anywhere else, responsibility to any amount on the part of the company that employed him, were all expressed in that one garment.
Rival offices had endeavoured to lure him away; Lombard Street itself had beckoned to him; rich companies had whispered 'Be a Beadle!' but he still continued faithful to the Anglo-Bengalee. Whether he was a deep rogue, or a stately simpleton, it was impossible to make out, but he appeared to believe in the Anglo- Bengalee. He was grave with imaginary cares of office; and having nothing whatever to do, and something less to take care of, would look as if the pressure of his numerous duties, and a sense of the treasure in the company's strong-room, made him a solemn and a thoughtful man.
As the cabriolet drove up to the door, this officer appeared bare-headed on the pavement, crying aloud 'Room for the chairman, room for the chairman, if you please!' much to the admiration of the bystanders, who, it is needless to say, had their attention directed to the Anglo-Bengalee Company thenceforth, by that means. Mr Tigg leaped gracefully out, followed by the Managing Director (who was by this time very distant and respectful), and ascended the stairs, still preceded by the porter, who cried as he went, 'By your leave there! by your leave! The Chairman of the Board, Gentle--MEN! In like manner, but in a still more stentorian voice, he ushered the chairman through the public office, where some humble clients were transacting business, into an awful chamber, labelled Board-room; the door of which sanctuary immediately closed, and screened the great capitalist from vulgar eyes.
The board-room had a Turkey carpet in it, a sideboard, a portrait of Tigg Montague, Esquire, as chairman; a very imposing chair of office, garnished with an ivory hammer and a little hand-bell; and a long table, set out at intervals with sheets of blotting-paper, foolscap, clean pens, and inkstands. The chairman having taken his seat with great solemnity, the secretary supported him on his right hand, and the porter stood bolt upright behind them, forming a warm background of waistcoat. This was the board: everything else being a lighthearted little fiction.
'Bullamy!' said Mr Tigg.
'Sir!' replied the porter.
'Let the Medical Officer know, with my compliments, that I wish to see him.' Bullamy cleared his throat, and bustled out into the office, crying 'The Chairman of the Board wishes to see the Medical Officer. By your leave there! By your leave!' He soon returned with the gentleman in question; and at both openings of the board-room door-- at his coming in and at his going out--simple clients were seen to stretch their necks and stand upon their toes, thirsting to catch the slightest glimpse of that mysterious chamber.
'Jobling, my dear friend!' said Mr Tigg, 'how are you? Bullamy, wait outside. Crimple, don't leave us. Jobling, my good fellow, I am glad to see you.' 'And how are you, Mr Montague, eh?' said the Medical Officer, throwing himself luxuriously into an easy-chair (they were all easy- chairs in the board-room), and taking a handsome gold snuff-box from the pocket of his black satin waistcoat. 'How are you? A little worn with business, eh? If so, rest. A little feverish from wine, humph? If so, water. Nothing at all the matter, and quite comfortable? Then take some lunch. A very wholesome thing at this time of day to strengthen the gastric juices with lunch, Mr Montague.'
The Medical Officer (he was the same medical officer who had followed poor old Anthony Chuzzlewit to the grave, and who had attended Mrs Gamp's patient at the Bull) smiled in saying these words; and casually added, as he brushed some grains of snuff from his shirt-frill, 'I always take it myself about this time of day, do you know!'
'Bullamy!' said the Chairman, ringing the little bell.
'Not on my account, I hope?' said the doctor. 'You are very good. Thank you. I'm quite ashamed. Ha, ha! if I had been a sharp practitioner, Mr Montague, I shouldn't have mentioned it without a fee; for you may depend upon it, my dear sir, that if you don't make a point of taking lunch, you'll very soon come under my hands. Allow me to illustrate this. In Mr Crimple's leg--'
The resident Director gave an involuntary start, for the doctor, in the heat of his demonstration, caught it up and laid it across his own, as if he were going to take it off, then and there.
'In Mr Crimple's leg, you'll observe,' pursued the doctor, turning back his cuffs and spanning the limb with both hands, 'where Mr Crimple's knee fits into the socket, here, there is--that is to say, between the bone and the socket--a certain quantity of animal oil.'
'What do you pick MY leg out for?' said Mr Crimple, looking with something of an anxious expression at his limb. 'It's the same with other legs, ain't it?' 'Never you mind, my good sir,' returned the doctor, shaking his head, 'whether it is the same with other legs, or not the same.'
'But I do mind,' said David.
'I take a particular case, Mr Montague,' returned the doctor, 'as illustrating my remark, you observe. In this portion of Mr Crimple's leg, sir, there is a certain amount of animal oil. In every one of Mr Crimple's joints, sir, there is more or less of the same deposit. Very good. If Mr Crimple neglects his meals, or fails to take his proper quantity of rest, that oil wanes, and becomes exhausted. What is the consequence? Mr Crimple's bones sink down into their sockets, sir, and Mr Crimple becomes a weazen, puny, stunted, miserable man!'
The doctor let Mr Crimple's leg fall suddenly, as if he were already in that agreeable condition; turned down his wristbands again, and looked triumphantly at the chairman.
'We know a few secrets of nature in our profession, sir,' said the doctor. 'Of course we do. We study for that; we pass the Hall and the College for that; and we take our station in society BY that. It's extraordinary how little is known on these subjects generally. Where do you suppose, now'--the doctor closed one eye, as he leaned back smilingly in his chair, and formed a triangle with his hands, of which his two thumbs composed the base--'where do you suppose Mr Crimple's stomach is?'
Mr Crimple, more agitated than before, clapped his hand immediately below his waistcoat.
'Not at all,' cried the doctor; 'not at all. Quite a popular mistake! My good sir, you're altogether deceived.'
'I feel it there, when it's out of order; that's all I know,' said Crimple. 'You think you do,' replied the doctor; 'but science knows better. There was a patient of mine once,' touching one of the many mourning rings upon his fingers, and slightly bowing his head, 'a gentleman who did me the honour to make a very handsome mention of me in his will--"in testimony," as he was pleased to say, "of the unremitting zeal, talent, and attention of my friend and medical attendant, John Jobling, Esquire, M.R.C.S.,"--who was so overcome by the idea of having all his life laboured under an erroneous view of the locality of this important organ, that when I assured him on my professional reputation, he was mistaken, he burst into tears, put out his hand, and said, "Jobling, God bless you!" Immediately afterwards he became speechless, and was ultimately buried at Brixton.'
'By your leave there!' cried Bullamy, without. 'By your leave! Refreshment for the Board-room!'
'Ha!' said the doctor, jocularly, as he rubbed his hands, and drew his chair nearer to the table. 'The true Life Assurance, Mr Montague. The best Policy in the world, my dear sir. We should be provident, and eat and drink whenever we can. Eh, Mr Crimple?'
The resident Director acquiesced rather sulkily, as if the gratification of replenishing his stomach had been impaired by the unsettlement of his preconceived opinions in reference to its situation. But the appearance of the porter and under-porter with a tray covered with a snow-white cloth, which, being thrown back, displayed a pair of cold roast fowls, flanked by some potted meats and a cool salad, quickly restored his good humour. It was enhanced still further by the arrival of a bottle of excellent madeira, and another of champagne; and he soon attacked the repast with an appetite scarcely inferior to that of the medical officer.
The lunch was handsomely served, with a profusion of rich glass plate, and china; which seemed to denote that eating and drinking on a showy scale formed no unimportant item in the business of the Anglo-Bengalee Directorship. As it proceeded, the Medical Officer grew more and more joyous and red-faced, insomuch that every mouthful he ate, and every drop of wine he swallowed, seemed to impart new lustre to his eyes, and to light up new sparks in his nose and forehead.
In certain quarters of the City and its neighbourhood, Mr Jobling was, as we have already seen in some measure, a very popular character. He had a portentously sagacious chin, and a pompous voice, with a rich huskiness in some of its tones that went directly to the heart, like a ray of light shining through the ruddy medium of choice old burgundy. His neckerchief and shirt-frill were ever of the whitest, his clothes of the blackest and sleekest, his gold watch-chain of the heaviest, and his seals of the largest. His boots, which were always of the brightest, creaked as he walked. Perhaps he could shake his head, rub his hands, or warm himself before a fire, better than any man alive; and he had a peculiar way of smacking his lips and saying, 'Ah!' at intervals while patients detailed their symptoms, which inspired great confidence. It seemed to express, 'I know what you're going to say better than you do; but go on, go on.' As he talked on all occasions whether he had anything to say or not, it was unanimously observed of him that he was 'full of anecdote;' and his experience and profit from it were considered, for the same reason, to be something much too extensive for description. His female patients could never praise him too highly; and the coldest of his male admirers would always say this for him to their friends, 'that whatever Jobling's professional skill might be (and it could not be denied that he had a very high reputation), he was one of the most comfortable fellows you ever saw in your life!'
Jobling was for many reasons, and not last in the list because his connection lay principally among tradesmen and their families, exactly the sort of person whom the Anglo-Bengalee Company wanted for a medical officer. But Jobling was far too knowing to connect himself with the company in any closer ties than as a paid (and well paid) functionary, or to allow his connection to be misunderstood abroad, if he could help it. Hence he always stated the case to an inquiring patient, after this manner:
'Why, my dear sir, with regard to the Anglo-Bengalee, my information, you see, is limited; very limited. I am the medical officer, in consideration of a certain monthly payment. The labourer is worthy of his hire; BIS DAT QUI CITO DAT'--('classical scholar, Jobling!' thinks the patient, 'well-read man!')--'and I receive it regularly. Therefore I am bound, so far as my own knowledge goes, to speak well of the establishment.' ('Nothing can be fairer than Jobling's conduct,' thinks the patient, who has just paid Jobling's bill himself.) 'If you put any question to me, my dear friend,' says the doctor, 'touching the responsibility or capital of the company, there I am at fault; for I have no head for figures, and not being a shareholder, am delicate of showing any curiosity whatever on the subject. Delicacy--your amiable lady will agree with me I am sure--should be one of the first characteristics of a medical man.' ('Nothing can be finer or more gentlemanly than Jobling's feeling,' thinks the patient.) 'Very good, my dear sir, so the matter stands. You don't know Mr Montague? I'm sorry for it. A remarkably handsome man, and quite the gentleman in every respect. Property, I am told, in India. House and everything belonging to him, beautiful. Costly furniture on the most elegant and lavish scale. And pictures, which, even in an anatomical point of view, are per-fection. In case you should ever think of doing anything with the company, I'll pass you, you may depend upon it. I can conscientiously report you a healthy subject. If I understand any man's constitution, it is yours; and this little indisposition has done him more good, ma'am,' says the doctor, turning to the patient's wife, 'than if he had swallowed the contents of half the nonsensical bottles in my surgery. For they ARE nonsense--to tell the honest truth, one half of them are nonsense--compared with such a constitution as his!' ('Jobling is the most friendly creature I ever met with in my life,' thinks the patient; 'and upon my word and honour, I'll consider of it!')
'Commission to you, doctor, on four new policies, and a loan this morning, eh?' said Crimple, looking, when they had finished lunch, over some papers brought in by the porter. 'Well done!'
'Jobling, my dear friend,' said Tigg, 'long life to you.'
'No, no. Nonsense. Upon my word I've no right to draw the commission,' said the doctor, 'I haven't really. It's picking your pocket. I don't recommend anybody here. I only say what I know. My patients ask me what I know, and I tell 'em what I know. Nothing else. Caution is my weak side, that's the truth; and always was from a boy. That is,' said the doctor, filling his glass, 'caution in behalf of other people. Whether I would repose confidence in this company myself, if I had not been paying money elsewhere for many years--that's quite another question.' He tried to look as if there were no doubt about it; but feeling that he did it but indifferently, changed the theme and praised the wine.
'Talking of wine,' said the doctor, 'reminds me of one of the finest glasses of light old port I ever drank in my life; and that was at a funeral. You have not seen anything of--of THAT party, Mr Montague, have you?' handing him a card. 'He is not buried, I hope?' said Tigg, as he took it. 'The honour of his company is not requested if he is.'
'Ha, ha!' laughed the doctor. 'No; not quite. He was honourably connected with that very occasion though.'
'Oh!' said Tigg, smoothing his moustache, as he cast his eyes upon the name. 'I recollect. No. He has not been here.'
The words were on his lips, when Bullamy entered, and presented a card to the Medical Officer.
'Talk of the what's his name--' observed the doctor rising.
'And he's sure to appear, eh?' said Tigg.
'Why, no, Mr Montague, no,' returned the doctor. 'We will not say that in the present case, for this gentleman is very far from it.'
'So much the better,' retorted Tigg. 'So much the more adaptable to the AngloBengalee. Bullamy, clear the table and take the things out by the other door. Mr Crimple, business.'
'Shall I introduce him?' asked Jobling.
'I shall be eternally delighted,' answered Tigg, kissing his hand and smiling sweetly.
The doctor disappeared into the outer office, and immediately returned with Jonas Chuzzlewit.
'Mr Montague,' said Jobling. 'Allow me. My friend Mr Chuzzlewit. My dear friend-our chairman. Now do you know,' he added checking himself with infinite policy, and looking round with a smile; 'that's a very singular instance of the force of example. It really is a very remarkable instance of the force of example. I say OUR chairman. Why do I say our chairman? Because he is not MY chairman, you know. I have no connection with the company, farther than giving them, for a certain fee and reward, my poor opinion as a medical man, precisely as I may give it any day to Jack Noakes or Tom Styles. Then why do I say our chairman? Simply because I hear the phrase constantly repeated about me. Such is the involuntary operation of the mental faculty in the imitative biped man. Mr Crimple, I believe you never take snuff? Injudicious. You should.'
Pending these remarks on the part of the doctor, and the lengthened and sonorous pinch with which he followed them up, Jonas took a seat at the board; as ungainly a man as ever he has been within the reader's knowledge. It is too common with all of us, but it is especially in the nature of a mean mind, to be overawed by fine clothes and fine furniture. They had a very decided influence on Jonas.
'Now you two gentlemen have business to discuss, I know,' said the doctor, 'and your time is precious. So is mine; for several lives are waiting for me in the next room, and I have a round of visits to make after--after I have taken 'em. Having had the happiness to introduce you to each other, I may go about my business. Good-bye. But allow me, Mr Montague, before I go, to say this of my friend who sits beside you: That gentleman has done more, sir,' rapping his snuff-box solemnly, 'to reconcile me to human nature, than any man alive or dead. Goodbye!'
With these words Jobling bolted abruptly out of the room, and proceeded in his own official department, to impress the lives in waiting with a sense of his keen conscientiousness in the discharge of his duty, and the great difficulty of getting into the Anglo- Bengalee; by feeling their pulses, looking at their tongues, listening at their ribs, poking them in the chest, and so forth; though, if he didn't well know beforehand that whatever kind of lives they were, the Anglo-Bengalee would accept them readily, he was far from being the Jobling that his friend considered him; and was not the original Jobling, but a spurious imitation. Mr Crimple also departed on the business of the morning; and Jonas Chuzzlewit and Tigg were left alone.
'I learn from our friend,' said Tigg, drawing his chair towards Jonas with a winning ease of manner, 'that you have been thinking--'
'Oh! Ecod then he'd no right to say so,' cried Jonas, interrupting. 'I didn't tell HIM my thoughts. If he took it into his head that I was coming here for such or such a purpose, why, that's his lookout. I don't stand committed by that.'
Jonas said this offensively enough; for over and above the habitual distrust of his character, it was in his nature to seek to revenge himself on the fine clothes and the fine furniture, in exact proportion as he had been unable to withstand their influence.
'If I come here to ask a question or two, and get a document or two to consider of, I don't bind myself to anything. Let's understand that, you know,' said Jonas. 'My dear fellow!' cried Tigg, clapping him on the shoulder, 'I applaud your frankness. If men like you and I speak openly at first, all possible misunderstanding is avoided. Why should I disguise what you know so well, but what the crowd never dream of? We companies are all birds of prey; mere birds of prey. The only question is, whether in serving our own turn, we can serve yours too; whether in double-lining our own nest, we can put a single living into yours. Oh, you're in our secret. You're behind the scenes. We'll make a merit of dealing plainly with you, when we know we can't help it.'
It was remarked, on the first introduction of Mr Jonas into these pages, that there is a simplicity of cunning no less than a simplicity of innocence, and that in all matters involving a faith in knavery, he was the most credulous of men. If Mr Tigg had preferred any claim to high and honourable dealing, Jonas would have suspected him though he had been a very model of probity; but when he gave utterance to Jonas's own thoughts of everything and everybody, Jonas began to feel that he was a pleasant fellow, and one to be talked to freely.
He changed his position in the chair, not for a less awkward, but for a more boastful attitude; and smiling in his miserable conceit rejoined:
'You an't a bad man of business, Mr Montague. You know how to set about it, I WILL say.'
'Tut, tut,' said Tigg, nodding confidentially, and showing his white teeth; 'we are not children, Mr Chuzzlewit; we are grown men, I hope.'
Jonas assented, and said after a short silence, first spreading out his legs, and sticking one arm akimbo to show how perfectly at home he was,
'The truth is--'
'Don't say, the truth,' interposed Tigg, with another grin. 'It's so like humbug.' Greatly charmed by this, Jonas began again.
'The long and the short of it is--'
'Better,' muttered Tigg. 'Much better!'
'--That I didn't consider myself very well used by one or two of the old companies in some negotiations I have had with 'em--once had, I mean. They started objections they had no right to start, and put questions they had no right to put, and carried things much too high for my taste.'
As he made these observations he cast down his eyes, and looked curiously at the carpet. Mr Tigg looked curiously at him.
He made so long a pause, that Tigg came to the rescue, and said, in his pleasantest manner:
'Take a glass of wine.'
'No, no,' returned Jonas, with a cunning shake of the head; 'none of that, thankee. No wine over business. All very well for you, but it wouldn't do for me.' 'What an old hand you are, Mr Chuzzlewit!' said Tigg, leaning back in his chair, and leering at him through his half-shut eyes.
Jonas shook his head again, as much as to say, 'You're right there;' And then resumed, jocosely:
'Not such an old hand, either, but that I've been and got married. That's rather green, you'll say. Perhaps it is, especially as she's young. But one never knows what may happen to these women, so I'm thinking of insuring her life. It is but fair, you know, that a man should secure some consolation in case of meeting with such a loss.'
'If anything can console him under such heart-breaking circumstances,' murmured Tigg, with his eyes shut up as before.
'Exactly,' returned Jonas; 'if anything can. Now, supposing I did it here, I should do it cheap, I know, and easy, without bothering her about it; which I'd much rather not do, for it's just in a woman's way to take it into her head, if you talk to her about such things, that she's going to die directly.'
'So it is,' cried Tigg, kissing his hand in honour of the sex. 'You're quite right. Sweet, silly, fluttering little simpletons!'
'Well,' said Jonas, 'on that account, you know, and because offence has been given me in other quarters, I wouldn't mind patronizing this Company. But I want to know what sort of security there is for the Company's going on. That's the--' 'Not the truth?' cried Tigg, holding up his jewelled hand. 'Don't use that Sunday School expression, please!'
'The long and the short of it,' said Jonas. 'The long and the short of it is, what's the security?'
'The paid-up capital, my dear sir,' said Tigg, referring to some papers on the table, 'is, at this present moment--'
'Oh! I understand all about paid-up capitals, you know,' said Jonas. 'You do?' cried Tigg, stopping short.
'I should hope so.'
He turned the papers down again, and moving nearer to him, said in his ear: 'I know you do. I know you do. Look at me!'
It was not much in Jonas's way to look straight at anybody; but thus requested, he made shift to take a tolerable survey of the chairman's features. The chairman fell back a little, to give him the better opportunity.
'You know me?' he inquired, elevating his eyebrows. 'You recollect? You've seen me before?'
'Why, I thought I remembered your face when I first came in,' said Jonas, gazing at it; 'but I couldn't call to mind where I had seen it. No. I don't remember, even now. Was it in the street?'
'Was it in Pecksniff's parlour?' said Tigg
'In Pecksniff's parlour!' echoed Jonas, fetching a long breath. 'You don't mean when--'
'Yes,' cried Tigg, 'when there was a very charming and delightful little family party, at which yourself and your respected father assisted.'
'Well, never mind HIM,' said Jonas. 'He's dead, and there's no help for it.' 'Dead, is he!' cried Tigg, 'Venerable old gentleman, is he dead! You're very like him.'
Jonas received this compliment with anything but a good grace, perhaps because of his own private sentiments in reference to the personal appearance of his deceased parent; perhaps because he was not best pleased to find that Montague and Tigg were one. That gentleman perceived it, and tapping him familiarly on the sleeve, beckoned him to the window. From this moment, Mr Montague's jocularity and flow of spirits were remarkable.
'Do you find me at all changed since that time?' he asked. 'Speak plainly.' Jonas looked hard at his waistcoat and jewels; and said 'Rather, ecod!' 'Was I at all seedy in those days?' asked Montague.
'Precious seedy,' said Jonas.
Mr Montague pointed down into the street, where Bailey and the cab were in attendance.
'Neat; perhaps dashing. Do you know whose it is?'
'Mine. Do you like this room?'
'It must have cost a lot of money,' said Jonas.
'You're right. Mine too. Why don't you'--he whispered this, and nudged him in the side with his elbow--'why don't you take premiums, instead of paying 'em? That's what a man like you should do. Join us!'
Jonas stared at him in amazement.
'Is that a crowded street?' asked Montague, calling his attention to the multitude without.
'Very,' said Jonas, only glancing at it, and immediately afterwards looking at him again.
'There are printed calculations,' said his companion, 'which will tell you pretty nearly how many people will pass up and down that thoroughfare in the course of a day. I can tell you how many of 'em will come in here, merely because they find this office here; knowing no more about it than they do of the Pyramids. Ha, ha! Join us. You shall come in cheap.'
Jonas looked at him harder and harder.
'I can tell you,' said Tigg in his ear, 'how many of 'em will buy annuities, effect insurances, bring us their money in a hundred shapes and ways, force it upon us, trust us as if we were the Mint; yet know no more about us than you do of that crossing-sweeper at the corner. Not so much. Ha, ha!'
Jonas gradually broke into a smile.
'Yah!' said Montague, giving him a pleasant thrust in the breast; 'you're too deep for us, you dog, or I wouldn't have told you. Dine with me to-morrow, in Pall Mall!' 'I will' said Jonas.
'Done!' cried Montague. 'Wait a bit. Take these papers with you and look 'em over. See,' he said, snatching some printed forms from the table. 'B is a little tradesman, clerk, parson, artist, author, any common thing you like.' 'Yes,' said Jonas, looking greedily over his shoulder. 'Well!'
'B wants a loan. Say fifty or a hundred pound; perhaps more; no matter. B proposes self and two securities. B is accepted. Two securities give a bond. B assures his own life for double the amount, and brings two friends' lives also--just to patronize the office. Ha ha, ha! Is that a good notion?'
'Ecod, that's a capital notion!' cried Jonas. 'But does he really do it?' 'Do it!' repeated the chairman. 'B's hard up, my good fellow, and will do anything. Don't you see? It's my idea.'
'It does you honour. I'm blest if it don't,' said Jonas.
'I think it does,' replied the chairman, 'and I'm proud to hear you say so. B pays the highest lawful interest--'
'That an't much,' interrupted Jonas.
'Right! quite right!' retorted Tigg. 'And hard it is upon the part of the law that it should be so confoundedly down upon us unfortunate victims; when it takes such amazing good interest for itself from all its clients. But charity begins at home, and justice begins next door. Well! The law being hard upon us, we're not exactly soft upon B; for besides charging B the regular interest, we get B's premium, and B's friends' premiums, and we charge B for the bond, and, whether we accept him or not, we charge B for "inquiries" (we keep a man, at a pound a week, to make 'em), and we charge B a trifle for the secretary; and in short, my good fellow, we stick it into B, up hill and down dale, and make a devilish comfortable little property out of him. Ha, ha, ha! I drive B, in point of fact,' said Tigg, pointing to the cabriolet, 'and a thoroughbred horse he is. Ha, ha, ha!'
Jonas enjoyed this joke very much indeed. It was quite in his peculiar vein of humour.
'Then,' said Tigg Montague, 'we grant annuities on the very lowest and most advantageous terms known in the money market; and the old ladies and gentlemen down in the country buy 'em. Ha, ha, ha! And we pay 'em too-perhaps. Ha, ha, ha!'
'But there's responsibility in that,' said Jonas, looking doubtful.
'I take it all myself,' said Tigg Montague. 'Here I am responsible for everything. The only responsible person in the establishment! Ha, ha, ha! Then there are the Life Assurances without loans; the common policies. Very profitable, very comfortable. Money down, you know; repeated every year; capital fun!' 'But when they begin to fall in,' observed Jonas. 'It's all very well, while the office is young, but when the policies begin to die--that's what I am thinking of.' 'At the first start, my dear fellow,' said Montague, 'to show you how correct your judgment is, we had a couple of unlucky deaths that brought us down to a grand piano.'
'Brought you down where?' cried Jonas.
'I give you my sacred word of honour,' said Tigg Montague, 'that I raised money on every other individual piece of property, and was left alone in the world with a grand piano. And it was an upright- grand too, so that I couldn't even sit upon it. But, my dear fellow, we got over it. We granted a great many new policies that week (liberal allowance to solicitors, by the bye), and got over it in no time. Whenever they should chance to fall in heavily, as you very justly observe they may, one of these days; then--' he finished the sentence in so low a whisper, that only one disconnected word was audible, and that imperfectly. But it sounded like 'Bolt.'
'Why, you're as bold as brass!' said Jonas, in the utmost admiration. 'A man can well afford to be as bold as brass, my good fellow, when he gets gold in exchange!' cried the chairman, with a laugh that shook him from head to foot. 'You'll dine with me to-morrow?'
'At what time?' asked Jonas.
'Seven. Here's my card. Take the documents. I see you'll join us!' 'I don't know about that,' said Jonas. 'There's a good deal to be looked into first.' 'You shall look,' said Montague, slapping him on the back, 'into anything and everything you please. But you'll join us, I am convinced. You were made for it. Bullamy!'
Obedient to the summons and the little bell, the waistcoat appeared. Being charged to show Jonas out, it went before; and the voice within it cried, as usual, 'By your leave there, by your leave! Gentleman from the board-room, by your leave!'
Mr Montague being left alone, pondered for some moments, and then said, raising his voice:
'Is Nadgett in the office there?'
'Here he is, sir.' And he promptly entered; shutting the board-room door after him, as carefully as if he were about to plot a murder.
He was the man at a pound a week who made the inquiries. It was no virtue or merit in Nadgett that he transacted all his Anglo-Bengalee business secretly and in the closest confidence; for he was born to be a secret. He was a short, driedup, withered old man, who seemed to have secreted his very blood; for nobody would have given him credit for the possession of six ounces of it in his whole body. How he lived was a secret; where he lived was a secret; and even what he was, was a secret. In his musty old pocket-book he carried contradictory cards, in some of which he called himself a coal- merchant, in others a wine-merchant, in others a commission-agent, in others a collector, in others an accountant; as if he really didn't know the secret himself. He was always keeping appointments in the City, and the other man never seemed to come. He would sit on 'Change for hours, looking at everybody who walked in and out, and would do the like at Garraway's, and in other business coffee- rooms, in some of which he would be occasionally seen drying a very damp pocket-handkerchief before the fire, and still looking over his shoulder for the man who never appeared. He was mildewed, threadbare, shabby; always had flue upon his legs and back; and kept his linen so secretly buttoning up and wrapping over, that he might have had none--perhaps he hadn't. He carried one stained beaver glove, which he dangled before him by the forefinger as he walked or sat; but even its fellow was a secret. Some people said he had been a bankrupt, others that he had gone an infant into an ancient Chancery suit which was still depending, but it was all a secret. He carried bits of sealing-wax and a hieroglyphical old copper seal in his pocket, and often secretly indited letters in corner boxes of the trysting-places before mentioned; but they never appeared to go to anybody, for he would put them into a secret place in his coat, and deliver them to himself weeks afterwards, very much to his own surprise, quite yellow. He was that sort of man that if he had died worth a million of money, or had died worth twopence halfpenny, everybody would have been perfectly satisfied, and would have said it was just as they expected. And yet he belonged to a class; a race peculiar to the City; who are secrets as profound to one another, as they are to the rest of mankind. 'Mr Nadgett,' said Montague, copying Jonas Chuzzlewit's address upon a piece of paper, from the card which was still lying on the table, 'any information about this name, I shall be glad to have myself. Don't you mind what it is. Any you can scrape together, bring me. Bring it to me, Mr Nadgett.'
Nadgett put on his spectacles, and read the name attentively; then looked at the chairman over his glasses, and bowed; then took them off, and put them in their case; and then put the case in his pocket. When he had done so, he looked, without his spectacles, at the paper as it lay before him, and at the same time produced his pocket-book from somewhere about the middle of his spine. Large as it was, it was very full of documents, but he found a place for this one; and having clasped it carefully, passed it by a kind of solemn legerdemain into the same region as before.
He withdrew with another bow and without a word; opening the door no wider than was sufficient for his passage out; and shutting it as carefully as before. The chairman of the board employed the rest of the morning in affixing his signmanual of gracious acceptance to various new proposals of annuity-purchase and assurance. The Company was looking up, for they flowed in gayly.
MR MONTAGUE AT HOME. AND MR JONAS CHUZZLEWIT AT HOME There were many powerful reasons for Jonas Chuzzlewit being strongly prepossessed in favour of the scheme which its great originator had so boldly laid open to him; but three among them stood prominently forward. Firstly, there was money to be made by it. Secondly, the money had the peculiar charm of being sagaciously obtained at other people's cost. Thirdly, it involved much outward show of homage and distinction: a board being an awful institution in its own sphere, and a director a mighty man. 'To make a swingeing profit, have a lot of chaps to order about, and get into regular good society by one and the same means, and them so easy to one's hand, ain't such a bad look-out,' thought Jonas. The latter considerations were only second to his avarice; for, conscious that there was nothing in his person, conduct, character, or accomplishments, to command respect, he was greedy of power, and was, in his heart, as much a tyrant as any laureled conqueror on record.
But he determined to proceed with cunning and caution, and to be very keen on his observation of the gentility of Mr Montague's private establishment. For it no more occurred to this shallow knave that Montague wanted him to be so, or he wouldn't have invited him while his decision was yet in abeyance, than the possibility of that genius being able to overreach him in any way, pierced through his self-deceit by the inlet of a needle's point. He had said, in the outset, that Jonas was too sharp for him; and Jonas, who would have been sharp enough to believe him in nothing else, though he had solemnly sworn it, believed him in that, instantly.
It was with a faltering hand, and yet with an imbecile attempt at a swagger, that he knocked at his new friend's door in Pall Mall when the appointed hour arrived. Mr Bailey quickly answered to the summons. He was not proud and was kindly disposed to take notice of Jonas; but Jonas had forgotten him.
'Mr Montague at home?'
'I should hope he wos at home, and waiting dinner, too,' said Bailey, with the ease of an old acquaintance. 'Will you take your hat up along with you, or leave it here?'
Mr Jonas preferred leaving it there.
'The hold name, I suppose?' said Bailey, with a grin.
Mr Jonas stared at him in mute indignation.
'What, don't you remember hold mother Todgers's?' said Mr Bailey, with his favourite action of the knees and boots. 'Don't you remember my taking your name up to the young ladies, when you came a-courting there? A reg'lar scaly old shop, warn't it? Times is changed ain't they. I say how you've growed!' Without pausing for any acknowledgement of this compliment, he ushered the visitor upstairs, and having announced him, retired with a private wink. The lower story of the house was occupied by a wealthy tradesman, but Mr Montague had all the upper portion, and splendid lodging it was. The room in which he received Jonas was a spacious and elegant apartment, furnished with extreme magnificence; decorated with pictures, copies from the antique in alabaster and marble, china vases, lofty mirrors, crimson hangings of the richest silk, gilded carvings, luxurious couches, glistening cabinets inlaid with precious woods; costly toys of every sort in negligent abundance. The only guests besides Jonas were the doctor, the resident Director, and two other gentlemen, whom Montague presented in due form.
'My dear friend, I am delighted to see you. Jobling you know, I believe?' 'I think so,' said the doctor pleasantly, as he stepped out of the circle to shake hands. 'I trust I have the honour. I hope so. My dear sir, I see you well. Quite well? THAT'S well!'
'Mr Wolf,' said Montague, as soon as the doctor would allow him to introduce the two others, 'Mr Chuzzlewit. Mr Pip, Mr Chuzzlewit.'
Both gentlemen were exceedingly happy to have the honour of making Mr Chuzzlewit's acquaintance. The doctor drew Jonas a little apart, and whispered behind his hand:
'Men of the world, my dear sir--men of the world. Hem! Mr Wolf --literary character--you needn't mention it--remarkably clever weekly paper--oh, remarkably clever! Mr Pip--theatrical man-- capital man to know--oh, capital man!' 'Well!' said Wolf, folding his arms and resuming a conversation which the arrival of Jonas had interrupted. 'And what did Lord Nobley say to that?'
'Why,' returned Pip, with an oath. 'He didn't know what to say. Same, sir, if he wasn't as mute as a poker. But you know what a good fellow Nobley is!' 'The best fellow in the world!' cried Wolf. 'It as only last week that Nobley said to me, "By Gad, Wolf, I've got a living to bestow, and if you had but been brought up at the University, strike me blind if I wouldn't have made a parson of you!"' 'Just like him,' said Pip with another oath. 'And he'd have done it!'
'Not a doubt of it,' said Wolf. 'But you were going to tell us--'
'Oh, yes!' cried Pip. 'To be sure. So I was. At first he was dumb--sewn up, dead, sir--but after a minute he said to the Duke, "Here's Pip. Ask Pip. Pip's our mutual friend. Ask Pip. He knows." "Damme!" said the Duke, "I appeal to Pip then. Come, Pip. Bandy or not bandy? Speak out!" "Bandy, your Grace, by the Lord Harry!" said I. "Ha, ha!" laughed the Duke. "To be sure she is. Bravo, Pip. Well said Pip. I wish I may die if you're not a trump, Pip. Pop me down among your fashionable visitors whenever I'm in town, Pip." And so I do, to this day.' The conclusion of this story gave immense satisfaction, which was in no degree lessened by the announcement of dinner. Jonas repaired to the dining room, along with his distinguished host, and took his seat at the board between that individual and his friend the doctor. The rest fell into their places like men who were well accustomed to the house; and dinner was done full justice to, by all parties.
It was a good a one as money (or credit, no matter which) could produce. The dishes, wines, and fruits were of the choicest kind. Everything was elegantly served. The plate was gorgeous. Mr Jonas was in the midst of a calculation of the value of this item alone, when his host disturbed him.
'A glass of wine?'
'Oh!' said Jonas, who had had several glasses already. 'As much of that as you like! It's too good to refuse.'
'Well said, Mr Chuzzlewit!' cried Wolf.
'Tom Gag, upon my soul!' said Pip.
'Positively, you know, that's--ha, ha, ha!' observed the doctor, laying down his knife and fork for one instant, and then going to work again, pell-mell--'that's epigrammatic; quite!'
'You're tolerably comfortable, I hope?' said Tigg, apart to Jonas.
'Oh! You needn't trouble your head about ME,' he replied, 'Famous!' 'I thought it best not to have a party,' said Tigg. 'You feel that?'
'Why, what do you call this?' retorted Jonas. 'You don't mean to say you do this every day, do you?'
'My dear fellow,' said Montague, shrugging his shoulders, 'every day of my life, when I dine at home. This is my common style. It was of no use having anything uncommon for you. You'd have seen through it. "You'll have a party?" said Crimple. "No, I won't," I said. "he shall take us in the rough!"
'And pretty smooth, too, ecod!' said Jonas, glancing round the table. 'This don't cost a trifle.'
'Why, to be candid with you, it does not,' returned the other. 'But I like this sort of thing. It's the way I spend my money.'
Jonas thrust his tongue into his cheek, and said, 'Was it?'
'When you join us, you won't get rid of your share of the profits in the same way?' said Tigg.
'Quite different,' retorted Jonas.
'Well, and you're right,' said Tigg, with friendly candour. 'You needn't. It's not necessary. One of a Company must do it to hold the connection together; but, as I take a pleasure in it, that's my department. You don't mind dining expensively at another man's expense, I hope?'
'Not a bit,' said Jonas.
'Then I hope you'll often dine with me?'
'Ah!' said Jonas, 'I don't mind. On the contrary.'
'And I'll never attempt to talk business to you over wine, I take my oath,' said Tigg. 'Oh deep, deep, deep of you this morning! I must tell 'em that. They're the very men to enjoy it. Pip, my good fellow, I've a splendid little trait to tell you of my friend Chuzzlewit who is the deepest dog I know; I give you my sacred word of honour he is the deepest dog I know, Pip!'
Pip swore a frightful oath that he was sure of it already; and the anecdote, being told, was received with loud applause, as an incontestable proof of Mr Jonas's greatness. Pip, in a natural spirit of emulation, then related some instances of his own depth; and Wolf not to be left behind-hand, recited the leading points of one or two vastly humorous articles he was then preparing. These lucubrations being of what he called 'a warm complexion,' were highly approved; and all the company agreed that they were full of point.
'Men of the world, my dear sir,' Jobling whispered to Jonas; 'thorough men of the world! To a professional person like myself it's quite refreshing to come into this kind of society. It's not only agreeable--and nothing CAN be more agreeable--but it's philosophically improving. It's character, my dear sir; character!' It is so pleasant to find real merit appreciated, whatever its particular walk in life may be, that the general harmony of the company was doubtless much promoted by their knowing that the two men of the world were held in great esteem by the upper classes of society, and by the gallant defenders of their country in the army and navy, but particularly the former. The least of their stories had a colonel in it; lords were as plentiful as oaths; and even the Blood Royal ran in the muddy channel of their personal recollections.
'Mr Chuzzlewit didn't know him, I'm afraid,' said Wolf, in reference to a certain personage of illustrious descent, who had previously figured in a reminiscence. 'No,' said Tigg. 'But we must bring him into contact with this sort of fellows.' 'He was very fond of literature,' observed Wolf.
'Was he?' said Tigg.
'Oh, yes; he took my paper regularly for many years. Do you know he said some good things now and then? He asked a certain Viscount, who's a friend of mine-Pip knows him--"What's the editor's name, what's the editor's name?" "Wolf." "Wolf, eh? Sharp biter, Wolf. We must keep the Wolf from the door, as the proverb says. It was very well. And being complimentary, I printed it.' 'But the Viscount's the boy!' cried Pip, who invented a new oath for the introduction of everything he said. 'The Viscount's the boy! He came into our place one night to take Her home; rather slued, but not much; and said, "Where's Pip? I want to see Pip. Produce Pip!"--"What's the row, my lord?"--"Shakspeare's an infernal humbug, Pip! What's the good of Shakspeare, Pip? I never read him. What the devil is it all about, Pip? There's a lot of feet in Shakspeare's verse, but there an't any legs worth mentioning in Shakspeare's plays, are there, Pip? Juliet, Desdemona, Lady Macbeth, and all the rest of 'em, whatever their names are, might as well have no legs at all, for anything the audience know about it, Pip. Why, in that respect they're all Miss Biffins to the audience, Pip. I'll tell you what it is. What the people call dramatic poetry is a collection of sermons. Do I go to the theatre to be lectured? No, Pip. If I wanted that, I'd go to church. What's the legitimate object of the drama, Pip? Human nature. What are legs? Human nature. Then let us have plenty of leg pieces, Pip, and I'll stand by you, my buck!" and I am proud to say,' added Pip, 'that he DID stand by me, handsomely.' The conversation now becoming general, Mr Jonas's opinion was requested on this subject; and as it was in full accordance with the sentiments of Mr Pip, that gentleman was extremely gratified. Indeed, both himself and Wolf had so much in common with Jonas, that they became very amicable; and between their increasing friendship and the fumes of wine, Jonas grew talkative. It does not follow in the case of such a person that the more talkative he becomes, the more agreeable he is; on the contrary, his merits show to most advantage, perhaps, in silence. Having no means, as he thought, of putting himself on an equality with the rest, but by the assertion of that depth and sharpness on which he had been complimented, Jonas exhibited that faculty to the utmost; and was so deep and sharp that he lost himself in his own profundity, and cut his fingers with his own edge-tools.
It was especially in his way and character to exhibit his quality at his entertainer's expense; and while he drank of his sparkling wines, and partook of his monstrous profusion, to ridicule the extravagance which had set such costly fare before him. Even at such a wanton board, and in such more than doubtful company, this might have proved a disagreeable experiment, but that Tigg and Crimple, studying to understand their man thoroughly, gave him what license he chose: knowing that the more he took, the better for their purpose. And thus while the blundering cheat--gull that he was, for all his cunning--thought himself rolled up hedgehog fashion, with his sharpest points towards them, he was, in fact, betraying all his vulnerable parts to their unwinking watchfulness.
Whether the two gentlemen who contributed so much to the doctor's philosophical knowledge (by the way, the doctor slipped off quietly, after swallowing his usual amount of wine) had had their cue distinctly from the host, or took it from what they saw and heard, they acted their parts very well. They solicited the honour of Jonas's better acquaintance; trusted that they would have the pleasure of introducing him into that elevated society in which he was so well qualified to shine; and informed him, in the most friendly manner that the advantages of their respective establishments were entirely at his control. In a word, they said 'Be one of us!' And Jonas said he was infinitely obliged to them, and he would be; adding within himself, that so long as they 'stood treat,' there was nothing he would like better.
After coffee, which was served in the drawing-room, there was a short interval (mainly sustained by Pip and Wolf) of conversation; rather highly spiced and strongly seasoned. When it flagged, Jonas took it up and showed considerable humour in appraising the furniture; inquiring whether such an article was paid for; what it had originally cost, and the like. In all of this, he was, as he considered, desperately hard on Montague, and very demonstrative of his own brilliant parts. Some Champagne Punch gave a new though temporary fillip to the entertainments of the evening. For after leading to some noisy proceedings, which were not intelligible, it ended in the unsteady departure of the two gentlemen of the world, and the slumber of Mr Jonas upon one of the sofas. As he could not be made to understand where he was, Mr Bailey received orders to call a hackney-coach, and take him home; which that young gentleman roused himself from an uneasy sleep in the hall to do. It being now almost three o'clock in the morning.
'Is he hooked, do you think?' whispered Crimple, as himself and partner stood in a distant part of the room observing him as he lay.
'Aye!' said Tigg, in the same tone. 'With a strong iron, perhaps. Has Nadgett been here to-night?'
'Yes. I went out to him. Hearing you had company, he went away.' 'Why did he do that?'
'He said he would come back early in the morning, before you were out of bed.' 'Tell them to be sure and send him up to my bedside. Hush! Here's the boy! Now Mr Bailey, take this gentleman home, and see him safely in. Hallo, here! Why Chuzzlewit, halloa!'
They got him upright with some difficulty, and assisted him downstairs, where they put his hat upon his head, and tumbled him into the coach. Mr Bailey, having shut him in, mounted the box beside the coachman, and smoked his cigar with an air of particular satisfaction; the undertaking in which he was engaged having a free and sporting character about it, which was quite congenial to his taste.
Arriving in due time at the house in the City, Mr Bailey jumped down, and expressed the lively nature of his feelings in a knock the like of which had probably not been heard in that quarter since the great fire of London. Going out into the road to observe the effect of this feat, he saw that a dim light, previously visible at an upper window, had been already removed and was travelling downstairs. To obtain a foreknowledge of the bearer of this taper, Mr Bailey skipped back to the door again, and put his eye to the keyhole.
It was the merry one herself. But sadly, strangely altered! So careworn and dejected, so faltering and full of fear; so fallen, humbled, broken; that to have seen her quiet in her coffin would have been a less surprise.
She set the light upon a bracket in the hall, and laid her hand upon her heart; upon her eyes; upon her burning head. Then she came on towards the door with such a wild and hurried step that Mr Bailey lost his self-possession, and still had his eye where the keyhole had been, when she opened it.
'Aha!' said Mr Bailey, with an effort. 'There you are, are you? What's the matter? Ain't you well, though?'
In the midst of her astonishment as she recognized him in his altered dress, so much of her old smile came back to her face that Bailey was glad. But next moment he was sorry again, for he saw tears standing in her poor dim eyes. 'Don't be frightened,' said Bailey. 'There ain't nothing the matter. I've brought home Mr Chuzzlewit. He ain't ill. He's only a little swipey, you know.' Mr Bailey reeled in his boots, to express intoxication.
'Have you come from Mrs Todgers's?' asked Merry, trembling.
'Todgers's, bless you! No!' cried Mr Bailey. 'I haven't got nothin, to do with Todgers's. I cut that connection long ago. He's been a- dining with my governor at the west-end. Didn't you know he was a- coming to see us?'
'No,' she said, faintly.
'Oh yes! We're heavy swells too, and so I tell you. Don't you come out, a-catching cold in your head. I'll wake him!' Mr Bailey expressing in his demeanour a perfect confidence that he could carry him in with ease, if necessary, opened the coach door, let down the steps, and giving Jonas a shake, cried 'We've got home, my flower! Tumble up, then!'
He was so far recovered as to be able to respond to this appeal, and to come stumbling out of the coach in a heap, to the great hazard of Mr Bailey's person. When he got upon the pavement, Mr Bailey first butted at him in front, and then dexterously propped him up behind; and having steadied him by these means, he assisted him into the house.
'You go up first with the light,' said Bailey to Mr Jonas, 'and we'll foller. Don't tremble so. He won't hurt you. When I've had a drop too much, I'm full of good natur myself.'
She went on before; and her husband and Bailey, by dint of tumbling over each other, and knocking themselves about, got at last into the sitting-room above stairs, where Jonas staggered into a seat.
'There!' said Mr Bailey. 'He's all right now. You ain't got nothing to cry for, bless you! He's righter than a trivet!'
The ill-favoured brute, with dress awry, and sodden face, and rumpled hair, sat blinking and drooping, and rolling his idiotic eyes about, until, becoming conscious by degrees, he recognized his wife, and shook his fist at her. 'Ah!' cried Mr Bailey, squaring his arms with a sudden emotion. 'What, you're wicious, are you? Would you though! You'd better not!'
'Pray, go away!' said Merry. 'Bailey, my good boy, go home. Jonas!' she said; timidly laying her hand upon his shoulder, and bending her head down over him. 'Jonas!'
'Look at her!' cried Jonas, pushing her off with his extended arm. 'Look here! Look at her! Here's a bargain for a man!'
'Dear Devil!' he replied, with a fierce gesture. 'You're a pretty clog to be tied to a man for life, you mewling, white-faced cat! Get out of my sight!'
'I know you don't mean it, Jonas. You wouldn't say it if you were sober.' With affected gayety she gave Bailey a piece of money, and again implored him to be gone. Her entreaty was so earnest, that the boy had not the heart to stay there. But he stopped at the bottom of the stairs, and listened.
'I wouldn't say it if I was sober!' retorted Jonas. 'You know better. Have I never said it when I was sober?'
'Often, indeed!' she answered through her tears.
'Hark ye!' cried Jonas, stamping his foot upon the ground. 'You made me bear your pretty humours once, and ecod I'll make you bear mine now. I always promised myself I would. I married you that I might. I'll know who's master, and who's slave!'
'Heaven knows I am obedient!' said the sobbing girl. 'Much more so than I ever thought to be!'
Jonas laughed in his drunken exultation. 'What! you're finding it out, are you! Patience, and you will in time! Griffins have claws, my girl. There's not a pretty slight you ever put upon me, nor a pretty trick you ever played me, nor a pretty insolence you ever showed me, that I won't pay back a hundred-fold. What else did I marry you for? YOU, too!' he said, with coarse contempt.
It might have softened him--indeed it might--to hear her turn a little fragment of a song he used to say he liked; trying, with a heart so full, to win him back. 'Oho!' he said, 'you're deaf, are you? You don't hear me, eh? So much the better for you. I hate you. I hate myself, for having, been fool enough to strap a pack upon my back for the pleasure of treading on it whenever I choose. Why, things have opened to me, now, so that I might marry almost where I liked. But I wouldn't; I'd keep single. I ought to be single, among the friends I know. Instead of that, here I am, tied like a log to you. Pah! Why do you show your pale face when I come home? Am I never to forget you?'
'How late it is!' she said cheerfully, opening the shutter after an interval of silence. 'Broad day, Jonas!'
'Broad day or black night, what do I care!' was the kind rejoinder. 'The night passed quickly, too. I don't mind sitting up, at all.'
'Sit up for me again, if you dare!' growled Jonas.
'I was reading,' she proceeded, 'all night long. I began when you went out, and read till you came home again. The strangest story, Jonas! And true, the book says. I'll tell it you to-morrow.'
'True, was it?' said Jonas, doggedly.
'So the book says.'
'Was there anything in it, about a man's being determined to conquer his wife, break her spirit, bend her temper, crush all her humours like so many nut-shells-kill her, for aught I know?' said Jonas.
'No. Not a word,' she answered quickly.
'Oh!' he returned. 'That'll be a true story though, before long; for all the book says nothing about it. It's a lying book, I see. A fit book for a lying reader. But you're deaf. I forgot that.'
There was another interval of silence; and the boy was stealing away, when he heard her footstep on the floor, and stopped. She went up to him, as it seemed, and spoke lovingly; saying that she would defer to him in everything and would consult his wishes and obey them, and they might be very happy if he would be gentle with her. He answered with an imprecation, and--
Not with a blow? Yes. Stern truth against the base-souled villain; with a blow. No angry cries; no loud reproaches. Even her weeping and her sobs were stifled by her clinging round him. She only said, repeating it in agony of heart, how could he, could he, could he--and lost utterance in tears.
Oh woman, God beloved in old Jerusalem! The best among us need deal lightly with thy faults, if only for the punishment thy nature will endure, in bearing heavy evidence against us, on the Day of Judgment!
IN WHICH SOME PEOPLE ARE PRECOCIOUS, OTHERS PROFESSIONAL, AND OTHERS MYSTERIOUS; ALL IN THEIR SEVERAL WAYS
It may have been the restless remembrance of what he had seen and heard overnight, or it may have been no deeper mental operation than the discovery that he had nothing to do, which caused Mr Bailey, on the following afternoon, to feel particularly disposed for agreeable society, and prompted him to pay a visit to his friend Poll Sweedlepipe.
On the little bell giving clamorous notice of a visitor's approach (for Mr Bailey came in at the door with a lunge, to get as much sound out of the bell as possible), Poll Sweedlepipe desisted from the contemplation of a favourite owl, and gave his young friend hearty welcome.
'Why, you look smarter by day,' said Poll, 'than you do by candle- light. I never see such a tight young dasher.'
'Reether so, Polly. How's our fair friend, Sairah?'
'Oh, she's pretty well,' said Poll. 'She's at home.'
'There's the remains of a fine woman about Sairah, Poll,' observed Mr Bailey, with genteel indifference.
'Oh!' thought Poll, 'he's old. He must be very old!'
'Too much crumb, you know,' said Mr Bailey; 'too fat, Poll. But there's many worse at her time of life'
'The very owl's a-opening his eyes!' thought Poll. 'I don't wonder at it in a bird of his opinions.'
He happened to have been sharpening his razors, which were lying open in a row, while a huge strop dangled from the wall. Glancing at these preparations, Mr Bailey stroked his chin, and a thought appeared to occur to him.
'Poll,' he said, 'I ain't as neat as I could wish about the gills. Being here, I may as well have a shave, and get trimmed close.'
The barber stood aghast; but Mr Bailey divested himself of his neck- cloth, and sat down in the easy shaving chair with all the dignity and confidence in life. There was no resisting his manner. The evidence of sight and touch became as nothing. His chin was as smooth as a new-laid egg or a scraped Dutch cheese; but Poll Sweedlepipe wouldn't have ventured to deny, on affidavit, that he had the beard of a Jewish rabbi.
'Go WITH the grain, Poll, all round, please,' said Mr Bailey, screwing up his face for the reception of the lather. 'You may do wot you like with the bits of whisker. I don't care for 'em.'
The meek little barber stood gazing at him with the brush and soap- dish in his hand, stirring them round and round in a ludicrous uncertainty, as if he were disabled by some fascination from beginning. At last he made a dash at Mr Bailey's cheek. Then he stopped again, as if the ghost of a beard had suddenly receded from his touch; but receiving mild encouragement from Mr Bailey, in the form of an adjuration to 'Go in and win,' he lathered him bountifully. Mr Bailey smiled through the suds in his satisfaction. 'Gently over the stones, Poll. Go a tiptoe over the pimples!'
Poll Sweedlepipe obeyed, and scraped the lather off again with particular care. Mr Bailey squinted at every successive dab, as it was deposited on a cloth on his left shoulder, and seemed, with a microscopic eye, to detect some bristles in it; for he murmured more than once 'Reether redder than I could wish, Poll.' The operation being concluded, Poll fell back and stared at him again, while Mr Bailey, wiping his face on the jack-towel, remarked, 'that arter late hours nothing freshened up a man so much as a easy shave.'
He was in the act of tying his cravat at the glass, without his coat, and Poll had wiped his razor, ready for the next customer, when Mrs Gamp, coming downstairs, looked in at the shop-door to give the barber neighbourly good day. Feeling for her unfortunate situation, in having conceived a regard for himself which it was not in the nature of things that he could return, Mr Bailey hastened to soothe her with words of kindness.
'Hallo!' he said, 'Sairah! I needn't ask you how you've been this long time, for you're in full bloom. All a-blowin and a-growin; ain't she, Polly?'
'Why, drat the Bragian boldness of that boy!' cried Mrs Gamp, though not displeased. 'What a imperent young sparrow it is! I wouldn't be that creetur's mother not for fifty pound!'
Mr Bailey regarded this as a delicate confession of her attachment, and a hint that no pecuniary gain could recompense her for its being rendered hopeless. He felt flattered. Disinterested affection is always flattering.
'Ah, dear!' moaned Mrs Gamp, sinking into the shaving chair, 'that there blessed Bull, Mr Sweedlepipe, has done his wery best to conker me. Of all the trying inwalieges in this walley of the shadder, that one beats 'em black and blue.' It was the practice of Mrs Gamp and her friends in the profession, to say this of all the easy customers; as having at once the effect of discouraging competitors for office, and accounting for the necessity of high living on the part of the nurses. 'Talk of constitooshun!' Mrs Gamp observed. 'A person's constitooshun need be made of bricks to stand it. Mrs Harris jestly says to me, but t'other day, "Oh! Sairey Gamp," she says, "how is it done?" "Mrs Harris, ma'am," I says to her, "we gives no trust ourselves, and puts a deal o'trust elsevere; these is our religious feelins, and we finds 'em answer." "Sairey," says Mrs Harris, "sech is life. Vich likeways is the hend of all things!"'
The barber gave a soft murmur, as much as to say that Mrs Harris's remark, though perhaps not quite so intelligible as could be desired from such an authority, did equal honour to her head and to her heart.
'And here,' continued Mrs Gamp, 'and here am I a-goin twenty mile in distant, on as wentersome a chance as ever any one as monthlied ever run, I do believe. Says Mrs Harris, with a woman's and a mother's art a-beatin in her human breast, she says to me, "You're not a- goin, Sairey, Lord forgive you!" "Why am I not a-goin, Mrs Harris?" I replies. "Mrs Gill," I says, "wos never wrong with six; and is it likely, ma'am--I ast you as a mother--that she will begin to be unreg'lar now? Often and often have I heerd him say," I says to Mrs Harris, meaning Mr Gill, "that he would back his wife agen Moore's almanack, to name the very day and hour, for ninepence farden. IS it likely, ma'am," I says, "as she will fail this once?" Says Mrs Harris "No, ma'am, not in the course of natur. But," she says, the tears a-fillin in her eyes, "you knows much betterer than me, with your experienge, how little puts us out. A Punch's show," she says, "a chimbley sweep, a newfundlan dog, or a drunkin man a-comin round the corner sharp may do it." So it may, Mr Sweedlepipes,' said Mrs Gamp, 'there's no deniging of it; and though my books is clear for a full week, I takes a anxious art along with me, I do assure you, sir.'
'You're so full of zeal, you see!' said Poll. 'You worrit yourself so.'
'Worrit myself!' cried Mrs Gamp, raising her hands and turning up her eyes. 'You speak truth in that, sir, if you never speaks no more 'twixt this and when two Sundays jines together. I feels the sufferins of other people more than I feels my own, though no one mayn't suppoge it. The families I've had,' said Mrs Gamp, 'if all was knowd and credit done where credit's doo, would take a week to chris'en at Saint Polge's fontin!'
'Where's the patient goin?' asked Sweedlepipe.
'Into Har'fordshire, which is his native air. But native airs nor native graces neither,' Mrs Gamp observed, 'won't bring HIM round.'
'So bad as that?' inquired the wistful barber. 'Indeed!'
Mrs Gamp shook her head mysteriously, and pursed up her lips. 'There's fevers of the mind,' she said, 'as well as body. You may take your slime drafts till you files into the air with efferwescence; but you won't cure that.'
'Ah!' said the barber, opening his eyes, and putting on his raven aspect; 'Lor!' 'No. You may make yourself as light as any gash balloon,' said Mrs Gamp. 'But talk, when you're wrong in your head and when you're in your sleep, of certain things; and you'll be heavy in your mind.'
'Of what kind of things now?' inquired Poll, greedily biting his nails in his great interest. 'Ghosts?'
Mrs Gamp, who perhaps had been already tempted further than she had intended to go, by the barber's stimulating curiosity, gave a sniff of uncommon significance, and said, it didn't signify.
'I'm a-goin down with my patient in the coach this arternoon,' she proceeded. 'I'm a-goin to stop with him a day or so, till he gets a country nuss (drat them country nusses, much the orkard hussies knows about their bis'ness); and then I'm acomin back; and that's my trouble, Mr Sweedlepipes. But I hope that everythink'll only go on right and comfortable as long as I'm away; perwisin which, as Mrs Harris says, Mrs Gill is welcome to choose her own time; all times of the day and night bein' equally the same to me.'
During the progress of the foregoing remarks, which Mrs Gamp had addressed exclusively to the barber, Mr Bailey had been tying his cravat, getting on his coat, and making hideous faces at himself in the glass. Being now personally addressed by Mrs Gamp, he turned round, and mingled in the conversation. 'You ain't been in the City, I suppose, sir, since we was all three there together,' said Mrs Gamp, 'at Mr Chuzzlewit's?'
'Yes, I have, Sairah. I was there last night.'
'Last night!' cried the barber.
'Yes, Poll, reether so. You can call it this morning, if you like to be particular. He dined with us.'
'Who does that young Limb mean by "hus?"' said Mrs Gamp, with most impatient emphasis.
'Me and my Governor, Sairah. He dined at our house. We wos very merry, Sairah. So much so, that I was obliged to see him home in a hackney coach at three o'clock in the morning.' It was on the tip of the boy's tongue to relate what had followed; but remembering how easily it might be carried to his master's ears, and the repeated cautions he had had from Mr Crimple 'not to chatter,' he checked himself; adding, only, 'She was sitting up, expecting him.' 'And all things considered,' said Mrs Gamp sharply, 'she might have know'd better than to go a-tirin herself out, by doin' anythink of the sort. Did they seem pretty pleasant together, sir?'
'Oh, yes,' answered Bailey, 'pleasant enough.'
'I'm glad on it,' said Mrs Gamp, with a second sniff of significance. 'They haven't been married so long,' observed Poll, rubbing his hands, 'that they need be anything but pleasant yet awhile.'
'No,' said Mrs Gamp, with a third significant signal.
'Especially,' pursued the barber, 'when the gentleman bears such a character as you gave him.'
'I speak; as I find, Mr Sweedlepipes,' said Mrs Gamp. 'Forbid it should be otherways! But we never knows wot's hidden in each other's hearts; and if we had glass winders there, we'd need keep the shetters up, some on us, I do assure you!'
'But you don't mean to say--' Poll Sweedlepipe began.
'No,' said Mrs Gamp, cutting him very short, 'I don't. Don't think I do. The torters of the Imposition shouldn't make me own I did. All I says is,' added the good woman, rising and folding her shawl about her, 'that the Bull's a-waitin, and the precious moments is a-flyin' fast.'
The little barber having in his eager curiosity a great desire to see Mrs Gamp's patient, proposed to Mr Bailey that they should accompany her to the Bull, and witness the departure of the coach. That young gentleman assenting, they all went out together.
Arriving at the tavern, Mrs Gamp (who was full-dressed for the journey, in her latest suit of mourning) left her friends to entertain themselves in the yard, while she ascended to the sick room, where her fellow-labourer Mrs Prig was dressing the invalid.
He was so wasted, that it seemed as if his bones would rattle when they moved him. His cheeks were sunken, and his eyes unnaturally large. He lay back in the easy-chair like one more dead than living; and rolled his languid eyes towards the door when Mrs Gamp appeared, as painfully as if their weight alone were burdensome to move.
'And how are we by this time?' Mrs Gamp observed. 'We looks charming.' 'We looks a deal charminger than we are, then,' returned Mrs Prig, a little chafed in her temper. 'We got out of bed back'ards, I think, for we're as cross as two sticks. I never see sich a man. He wouldn't have been washed, if he'd had his own way.'
'She put the soap in my mouth,' said the unfortunate patient feebly. 'Couldn't you keep it shut then?' retorted Mrs Prig. 'Who do you think's to wash one feater, and miss another, and wear one's eyes out with all manner of fine work of that description, for half-a- crown a day! If you wants to be tittivated, you must pay accordin'.'
'Oh dear me!' cried the patient, 'oh dear, dear!'
'There!' said Mrs Prig, 'that's the way he's been a-conductin of himself, Sarah, ever since I got him out of bed, if you'll believe it.'
'Instead of being grateful,' Mrs Gamp observed, 'for all our little ways. Oh, fie for shame, sir, fie for shame!'
Here Mrs Prig seized the patient by the chin, and began to rasp his unhappy head with a hair-brush.
'I suppose you don't like that, neither!' she observed, stopping to look at him. It was just possible that he didn't for the brush was a specimen of the hardest kind of instrument producible by modern art; and his very eyelids were red with the friction. Mrs Prig was gratified to observe the correctness of her supposition, and said triumphantly 'she know'd as much.'
When his hair was smoothed down comfortably into his eyes, Mrs Prig and Mrs Gamp put on his neckerchief; adjusting his shirt collar with great nicety, so that the starched points should also invade those organs, and afflict them with an artificial ophthalmia. His waistcoat and coat were next arranged; and as every button was wrenched into a wrong button-hole, and the order of his boots was reversed, he presented on the whole rather a melancholy appearance. 'I don't think it's right,' said the poor weak invalid. 'I feel as if I was in somebody else's clothes. I'm all on one side; and you've made one of my legs shorter than the other. There's a bottle in my pocket too. What do you make me sit upon a bottle for?'
'Deuce take the man!' cried Mrs Gamp, drawing it forth. 'If he ain't been and got my night-bottle here. I made a little cupboard of his coat when it hung behind the door, and quite forgot it, Betsey. You'll find a ingun or two, and a little tea and sugar in his t'other pocket, my dear, if you'll just be good enough to take 'em out.' Betsey produced the property in question, together with some other articles of general chandlery; and Mrs Gamp transferred them to her own pocket, which was a species of nankeen pannier. Refreshment then arrived in the form of chops and strong ale for the ladies, and a basin of beef-tea for the patient; which refection was barely at an end when John Westlock appeared.
'Up and dressed!' cried John, sitting down beside him. 'That's brave. How do you feel?'
'Much better. But very weak.'
'No wonder. You have had a hard bout of it. But country air, and change of scene,' said John, 'will make another man of you! Why, Mrs Gamp,' he added, laughing, as he kindly arranged the sick man's garments, 'you have odd notions of a gentleman's dress!'
'Mr Lewsome an't a easy gent to get into his clothes, sir,' Mrs Gamp replied with dignity; 'as me and Betsey Prig can certify afore the Lord Mayor and Uncommon Counsellors, if needful!'
John at that moment was standing close in front of the sick man, in the act of releasing him from the torture of the collars before mentioned, when he said in a whisper:
'Mr Westlock! I don't wish to be overheard. I have something very particular and strange to say to you; something that has been a dreadful weight on my mind, through this long illness.'
Quick in all his motions, John was turning round to desire the women to leave the room; when the sick man held him by the sleeve.
'Not now. I've not the strength. I've not the courage. May I tell it when I have? May I write it, if I find that easier and better?'
'May you!' cried John. 'Why, Lewsome, what is this!'
'Don't ask me what it is. It's unnatural and cruel. Frightful to think of. Frightful to tell. Frightful to know. Frightful to have helped in. Let me kiss your hand for all your goodness to me. Be kinder still, and don't ask me what it is!'
At first, John gazed at him in great surprise; but remembering how very much reduced he was, and how recently his brain had been on fire with fever, believed that he was labouring under some imaginary horror or despondent fancy. For farther information on this point, he took an opportunity of drawing Mrs Gamp aside, while Betsey Prig was wrapping him in cloaks and shawls, and asked her whether he was quite collected in his mind.
'Oh bless you, no!' said Mrs Gamp. 'He hates his nusses to this hour. They always does it, sir. It's a certain sign. If you could have heerd the poor dear soul a-findin fault with me and Betsey Prig, not half an hour ago, you would have wondered how it is we don't get fretted to the tomb.'
This almost confirmed John in his suspicion; so, not taking what had passed into any serious account, he resumed his former cheerful manner, and assisted by Mrs Gamp and Betsey Prig, conducted Lewsome downstairs to the coach; just then upon the point of starting. Poll Sweedlepipe was at the door with his arms tight folded and his eyes wide open, and looked on with absorbing interest, while the sick man was slowly moved into the vehicle. His bony hands and haggard face impressed Poll wonderfully; and he informed Mr Bailey in confidence, that he wouldn't have missed seeing him for a pound. Mr Bailey, who was of a different constitution, remarked that he would have stayed away for five shillings. It was a troublesome matter to adjust Mrs Gamp's luggage to her satisfaction; for every package belonging to that lady had the inconvenient property of requiring to be put in a boot by itself, and to have no other luggage near it, on pain of actions at law for heavy damages against the proprietors of the coach. The umbrella with the circular patch was particularly hard to be got rid of, and several times thrust out its battered brass nozzle from improper crevices and chinks, to the great terror of the other passengers. Indeed, in her intense anxiety to find a haven of refuge for this chattel, Mrs Gamp so often moved it, in the course of five minutes, that it seemed not one umbrella but fifty. At length it was lost, or said to be; and for the next five minutes she was face to face with the coachman, go wherever he might, protesting that it should be 'made good,' though she took the question to the House of Commons.
At last, her bundle, and her pattens, and her basket, and everything else, being disposed of, she took a friendly leave of Poll and Mr Bailey, dropped a curtsey to John Westlock, and parted as from a cherished member of the sisterhood with Betsey Prig.
'Wishin you lots of sickness, my darlin creetur,' Mrs Gamp observed, 'and good places. It won't be long, I hope, afore we works together, off and on, again, Betsey; and may our next meetin' be at a large family's, where they all takes it reg'lar, one from another, turn and turn about, and has it business-like.' 'I don't care how soon it is,' said Mrs Prig; 'nor how many weeks it lasts.' Mrs Gamp with a reply in a congenial spirit was backing to the coach, when she came in contact with a lady and gentleman who were passing along the footway. 'Take care, take care here!' cried the gentleman. 'Halloo! My dear! Why, it's Mrs Gamp!'
'What, Mr Mould!' exclaimed the nurse. 'And Mrs Mould! who would have thought as we should ever have a meetin' here, I'm sure!'
'Going out of town, Mrs Gamp?' cried Mould. 'That's unusual, isn't it?' 'It IS unusual, sir,' said Mrs Gamp. 'But only for a day or two at most. The gent,' she whispered, 'as I spoke about.'
'What, in the coach!' cried Mould. 'The one you thought of recommending? Very odd. My dear, this will interest you. The gentleman that Mrs Gamp thought likely to suit us is in the coach, my love.'
Mrs Mould was greatly interested.
'Here, my dear. You can stand upon the door-step,' said Mould, 'and take a look at him. Ha! There he is. Where's my glass? Oh! all right. I've got it. Do you see him, my dear?'
'Quite plain,' said Mrs Mould.
'Upon my life, you know, this is a very singular circumstance,' said Mould, quite delighted. 'This is the sort of thing, my dear, I wouldn't have missed on any account. It tickles one. It's interesting. It's almost a little play, you know. Ah! There he is! To be sure. Looks poorly, Mrs M., don't he?'
Mrs Mould assented.
'He's coming our way, perhaps, after all,' said Mould. 'Who knows! I feel as if I ought to show him some little attention, really. He don't seem a stranger to me. I'm very much inclined to move my hat, my dear.'
'He's looking hard this way,' said Mrs Mould.
'Then I will!' cried Mould. 'How d'ye do, sir! I wish you good day. Ha! He bows too. Very gentlemanly. Mrs Gamp has the cards in her pocket, I have no doubt. This is very singular, my dear--and very pleasant. I am not superstitious, but it really seems as if one was destined to pay him those little melancholy civilities which belong to our peculiar line of business. There can be no kind of objection to your kissing your hand to him, my dear.'
Mrs Mould did so.
'Ha!' said Mould. 'He's evidently gratified. Poor fellow! I am quite glad you did it, my love. Bye bye, Mrs Gamp!' waving his hand. 'There he goes; there he goes!' So he did; for the coach rolled off as the words were spoken. Mr and Mrs Mould, in high good humour, went their merry way. Mr Bailey retired with Poll Sweedlepipe as soon as possible; but some little time elapsed before he could remove his friend from the ground, owing to the impression wrought upon the barber's nerves by Mrs Prig, whom he pronounced, in admiration of her beard, to be a woman of transcendent charms.
When the light cloud of bustle hanging round the coach was thus dispersed, Nadgett was seen in the darkest box of the Bull coffee- room, looking wistfully up at the clock--as if the man who never appeared were a little behind his time.
PROVES THAT CHANGES MAY BE RUNG IN THE BEST-REGULATED FAMILIES, AND THAT MR PECKNIFF WAS A SPECIAL HAND AT A TRIPLEBOB-MAJOR
As the surgeon's first care after amputating a limb, is to take up the arteries the cruel knife has severed, so it is the duty of this history, which in its remorseless course has cut from the Pecksniffian trunk its right arm, Mercy, to look to the parent stem, and see how in all its various ramifications it got on without her. And first of Mr Pecksniff it may be observed, that having provided for his youngest daughter that choicest of blessings, a tender and indulgent husband; and having gratified the dearest wish of his parental heart by establishing her in life so happily; he renewed his youth, and spreading the plumage of his own bright conscience, felt himself equal to all kinds of flights. It is customary with fathers in stage-plays, after giving their daughters to the men of their hearts, to congratulate themselves on having no other business on their hands but to die immediately; though it is rarely found that they are in a hurry to do it. Mr Pecksniff, being a father of a more sage and practical class, appeared to think that his immediate business was to live; and having deprived himself of one comfort, to surround himself with others.
But however much inclined the good man was to be jocose and playful, and in the garden of his fancy to disport himself (if one may say so) like an architectural kitten, he had one impediment constantly opposed to him. The gentle Cherry, stung by a sense of slight and injury, which far from softening down or wearing out, rankled and festered in her heart--the gentle Cherry was in flat rebellion. She waged fierce war against her dear papa, she led her parent what is usually called, for want of a better figure of speech, the life of a dog. But never did that dog live, in kennel, stable-yard, or house, whose life was half as hard as Mr Pecksniff's with his gentle child.
The father and daughter were sitting at their breakfast. Tom had retired, and they were alone. Mr Pecksniff frowned at first; but having cleared his brow, looked stealthily at his child. Her nose was very red indeed, and screwed up tight, with hostile preparation.
'Cherry,' cried Mr Pecksniff, 'what is amiss between us? My child, why are we disunited?'
Miss Pecksniff's answer was scarcely a response to this gush of affection, for it was simply, 'Bother, Pa!'
'Bother!' repeated Mr Pecksniff, in a tone of anguish.
'Oh! 'tis too late, Pa,' said his daughter, calmly 'to talk to me like this. I know what it means, and what its value is.'
'This is hard!' cried Mr Pecksniff, addressing his breakfast-cup. 'This is very hard! She is my child. I carried her in my arms when she wore shapeless worsted shoes--I might say, mufflers--many years ago!'
'You needn't taunt me with that, Pa,' retorted Cherry, with a spiteful look. 'I am not so many years older than my sister, either, though she IS married to your friend!'
'Ah, human nature, human nature! Poor human nature!' said Mr Pecksniff, shaking his head at human nature, as if he didn't belong to it. 'To think that this discord should arise from such a cause! oh dear, oh dear!'
'From such a cause indeed!' cried Cherry. 'State the real cause, Pa, or I'll state it myself. Mind! I will!'
Perhaps the energy with which she said this was infectious. However that may be, Mr Pecksniff changed his tone and the expression of his face for one of anger, if not downright violence, when he said:
'You will! you have. You did yesterday. You do always. You have no decency; you make no secret of your temper; you have exposed yourself to Mr Chuzzlewit a hundred times.'
'Myself!' cried Cherry, with a bitter smile. 'Oh indeed! I don't mind that.' 'Me, too, then,' said Mr Pecksniff.
His daughter answered with a scornful laugh.
'And since we have come to an explanation, Charity,' said Mr Pecksniff, rolling his head portentously, 'let me tell you that I won't allow it. None of your nonsense, Miss! I won't permit it to be done.'
'I shall do,' said Charity, rocking her chair backwards and forwards, and raising her voice to a high pitch, 'I shall do, Pa, what I please and what I have done. I am not going to be crushed in everything, depend upon it. I've been more shamefully used than anybody ever was in this world,' here she began to cry and sob, 'and may expect the worse treatment from you, I know. But I don't care for that. No, I don't!'
Mr Pecksniff was made so desperate by the loud tone in which she spoke, that, after looking about him in frantic uncertainty for some means of softening it, he rose and shook her until the ornamental bow of hair upon her head nodded like a plume. She was so very much astonished by this assault, that it really had the desired effect.
'I'll do it again!' cried Mr Pecksniff, as he resumed his seat and fetched his breath, 'if you dare to talk in that loud manner. How do you mean about being shamefully used? If Mr Jonas chose your sister in preference to you, who could help it, I should wish to know? What have I to do with it?'
'Wasn't I made a convenience of? Weren't my feelings trifled with? Didn't he address himself to me first?' sobbed Cherry, clasping her hands; 'and oh, good gracious, that I should live to be shook!'
'You'll live to be shaken again,' returned her parent, 'if you drive me to that means of maintaining the decorum of this humble roof. You surprise me. I wonder you have not more spirit. If Mr Jonas didn't care for you, how could you wish to have him?'
'I wish to have him!' exclaimed Cherry. 'I wish to have him, Pa!'
'Then what are you making all this piece of work for,' retorted her father, 'if you didn't wish to have him?'
'Because I was treated with duplicity,' said Cherry; 'and because my own sister and my own father conspired against me. I am not angry with HER,' said Cherry; looking much more angry than ever. 'I pity her. I'm sorry for her. I know the fate that's in store for her, with that Wretch.'
'Mr Jonas will survive your calling him a wretch, my child, I dare say,' said Mr Pecksniff, with returning resignation; 'but call him what you like and make an end of it.'
'Not an end, Pa,' said Charity. 'No, not an end. That's not the only point on which we're not agreed. I won't submit to it. It's better you should know that at once. No; I won't submit to it indeed, Pa! I am not quite a fool, and I am not blind. All I have got to say is, I won't submit to it.'
Whatever she meant, she shook Mr Pecksniff now; for his lame attempt to seem composed was melancholy in the last degree. His anger changed to meekness, and his words were mild and fawning.
'My dear,' he said; 'if in the short excitement of an angry moment I resorted to an unjustifiable means of suppressing a little outbreak calculated to injure you as well as myself--it's possible I may have done so; perhaps I did--I ask your pardon. A father asking pardon of his child,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'is, I believe, a spectacle to soften the most rugged nature.'
But it didn't at all soften Miss Pecksniff; perhaps because her nature was not rugged enough. On the contrary, she persisted in saying, over and over again, that she wasn't quite a fool, and wasn't blind, and wouldn't submit to it. 'You labour under some mistake, my child!' said Mr Pecksniff. 'but I will not ask you what it is; I don't desire to know. No, pray!' he added, holding out his hand and colouring again, 'let us avoid the subject, my dear, whatever it is!' 'It's quite right that the subject should be avoided between us, sir,' said Cherry. 'But I wish to be able to avoid it altogether, and consequently must beg you to provide me with a home.'
Mr Pecksniff looked about the room, and said, 'A home, my child!' 'Another home, papa,' said Cherry, with increasing stateliness 'Place me at Mrs Todgers's or somewhere, on an independent footing; but I will not live here, if such is to be the case.'
It is possible that Miss Pecksniff saw in Mrs Todgers's a vision of enthusiastic men, pining to fall in adoration at her feet. It is possible that Mr Pecksniff, in his new-born juvenility, saw, in the suggestion of that same establishment, an easy means of relieving himself from an irksome charge in the way of temper and watchfulness. It is undoubtedly a fact that in the attentive ears of Mr Pecksniff, the proposition did not sound quite like the dismal knell of all his hopes. But he was a man of great feeling and acute sensibility; and he squeezed his pocket-handkerchief against his eyes with both hands-- as such men always do, especially when they are observed. 'One of my birds,' Mr Pecksniff said, 'has left me for the stranger's breast; the other would take wing to Todgers's! Well, well, what am I? I don't know what I am, exactly. Never mind!'
Even this remark, made more pathetic perhaps by his breaking down in the middle of it, had no effect upon Charity. She was grim, rigid, and inflexible. 'But I have ever,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'sacrificed my children's happiness to my own--I mean my own happiness to my children's--and I will not begin to regulate my life by other rules of conduct now. If you can be happier at Mrs Todgers's than in your father's house, my dear, go to Mrs Todgers's! Do not think of me, my girl!' said Mr Pecksniff with emotion; 'I shall get on pretty well, no doubt.' Miss Charity, who knew he had a secret pleasure in the contemplation of the proposed change, suppressed her own, and went on to negotiate the terms. His views upon this subject were at first so very limited that another difference, involving possibly another shaking, threatened to ensue; but by degrees they came to something like an understanding, and the storm blew over. Indeed, Miss Charity's idea was so agreeable to both, that it would have been strange if they had not come to an amicable agreement. It was soon arranged between them that the project should be tried, and that immediately; and that Cherry's not being well, and needing change of scene, and wishing to be near her sister, should form the excuse for her departure to Mr Chuzzlewit and Mary, to both of whom she had pleaded indisposition for some time past. These premises agreed on, Mr Pecksniff gave her his blessing, with all the dignity of a self- denying man who had made a hard sacrifice, but comforted himself with the reflection that virtue is its own reward. Thus they were reconciled for the first time since that not easily forgiven night, when Mr Jonas, repudiating the elder, had confessed his passion for the younger sister, and Mr Pecksniff had abetted him on moral grounds. But how happened it--in the name of an unexpected addition to that small family, the Seven Wonders of the World, whatever and wherever they may be, how happened it--that Mr Pecksniff and his daughter were about to part? How happened it that their mutual relations were so greatly altered? Why was Miss Pecksniff so clamorous to have it understood that she was neither blind nor foolish, and she wouldn't bear it? It is not possible that Mr Pecksniff had any thoughts of marrying again; or that his daughter, with the sharp eye of a single woman, fathomed his design!
Let us inquire into this.
Mr Pecksniff, as a man without reproach, from whom the breath of slander passed like common breath from any other polished surface, could afford to do what common men could not. He knew the purity of his own motives; and when he had a motive worked at it as only a very good man (or a very bad one) can. Did he set before himself any strong and palpable motives for taking a second wife? Yes; and not one or two of them, but a combination of very many. Old Martin Chuzzlewit had gradually undergone an important change. Even upon the night when he made such an ill-timed arrival at Mr Pecksniff's house, he was comparatively subdued and easy to deal with. This Mr Pecksniff attributed, at the time, to the effect his brother's death had had upon him. But from that hour his character seemed to have modified by regular degrees, and to have softened down into a dull indifference for almost every one but Mr Pecksniff. His looks were much the same as ever, but his mind was singularly altered. It was not that this or that passion stood out in brighter or in dimmer hues; but that the colour of the whole man was faded. As one trait disappeared, no other trait sprung up to take its place. His senses dwindled too. He was less keen of sight; was deaf sometimes; took little notice of what passed before him; and would be profoundly taciturn for days together. The process of this alteration was so easy that almost as soon as it began to be observed it was complete. But Mr Pecksniff saw it first, and having Anthony Chuzzlewit fresh in his recollection, saw in his brother Martin the same process of decay.
To a gentleman of Mr Pecksniff's tenderness, this was a very mournful sight. He could not but foresee the probability of his respected relative being made the victim of designing persons, and of his riches falling into worthless hands. It gave him so much pain that he resolved to secure the property to himself; to keep bad testamentary suitors at a distance; to wall up the old gentleman, as it were, for his own use. By little and little, therefore, he began to try whether Mr Chuzzlewit gave any promise of becoming an instrument in his hands, and finding that he did, and indeed that he was very supple in his plastic fingers, he made it the business of his life--kind soul!--to establish an ascendancy over him; and every little test he durst apply meeting with a success beyond his hopes, he began to think he heard old Martin's cash already chinking in his own unworldly pockets. But when Mr Pecksniff pondered on this subject (as, in his zealous way, he often did), and thought with an uplifted heart of the train of circumstances which had delivered the old gentleman into his hands for the confusion of evil-doers and the triumph of a righteous nature, he always felt that Mary Graham was his stumbling-block. Let the old man say what he would, Mr Pecksniff knew he had a strong affection for her. He knew that he showed it in a thousand little ways; that he liked to have her near him, and was never quite at ease when she was absent long. That he had ever really sworn to leave her nothing in his will, Mr Pecksniff greatly doubted. That even if he had, there were many ways by which he could evade the oath and satisfy his conscience, Mr Pecksniff knew. That her unprotected state was no light burden on the old man's mind, he also knew, for Mr Chuzzlewit had plainly told him so. 'Then,' said Mr Pecksniff 'what if I married her! What,' repeated Mr Pecksniff, sticking up his hair and glancing at his bust by Spoker; 'what if, making sure of his approval first--he is nearly imbecile, poor gentleman--I married her!'
Mr Pecksniff had a lively sense of the Beautiful; especially in women. His manner towards the sex was remarkable for its insinuating character. It is recorded of him in another part of these pages, that he embraced Mrs Todgers on the smallest provocation; and it was a way he had; it was a part of the gentle placidity of his disposition. Before any thought of matrimony was in his mind, he had bestowed on Mary many little tokens of his spiritual admiration. They had been indignantly received, but that was nothing. True, as the idea expanded within him, these had become too ardent to escape the piercing eye of Cherry, who read his scheme at once; but he had always felt the power of Mary's charms. So Interest and Inclination made a pair, and drew the curricle of Mr Pecksniff's plan. As to any thought of revenging himself on young Martin for his insolent expressions when they parted, and of shutting him out still more effectually from any hope of reconciliation with his grandfather, Mr Pecksniff was much too meek and forgiving to be suspected of harbouring it. As to being refused by Mary, Mr Pecksniff was quite satisfied that in her position she could never hold out if he and Mr Chuzzlewit were both against her. As to consulting the wishes of her heart in such a case, it formed no part of Mr Pecksniff's moral code; for he knew what a good man he was, and what a blessing he must be to anybody. His daughter having broken the ice, and the murder being out between them, Mr Pecksniff had now only to pursue his design as cleverly as he could, and by the craftiest approaches.
'Well, my good sir,' said Mr Pecksniff, meeting old Martin in the garden, for it was his habit to walk in and out by that way, as the fancy took him; 'and how is my dear friend this delicious morning?'
'Do you mean me?' asked the old man.
'Ah!' said Mr Pecksniff, 'one of his deaf days, I see. Could I mean any one else, my dear sir?'
'You might have meant Mary,' said the old man.
'Indeed I might. Quite true. I might speak of her as a dear, dear friend, I hope?' observed Mr Pecksniff.
'I hope so,' returned old Martin. 'I think she deserves it.'
'Think!' cried Pecksniff, 'think, Mr Chuzzlewit!'
'You are speaking, I know,' returned Martin, 'but I don't catch what you say. Speak up!'
'He's getting deafer than a flint,' said Pecksniff. 'I was saying, my dear sir, that I am afraid I must make up my mind to part with Cherry.'
'What has SHE been doing?' asked the old man.
'He puts the most ridiculous questions I ever heard!' muttered Mr Pecksniff. 'He's a child to-day.' After which he added, in a mild roar: 'She hasn't been doing anything, my dear friend.'
'What are you going to part with her for?' demanded Martin.
'She hasn't her health by any means,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'She misses her sister, my dear sir; they doted on each other from the cradle. And I think of giving her a run in London for a change. A good long run, sir, if I find she likes it.' 'Quite right,' cried Martin. 'It's judicious.'
'I am glad to hear you say so. I hope you mean to bear me company in this dull part, while she's away?' said Mr Pecksniff.
'I have no intention of removing from it,' was Martin's answer.
'Then why,' said Mr Pecksniff, taking the old man's arm in his, and walking slowly on; 'Why, my good sir, can't you come and stay with me? I am sure I could surround you with more comforts--lowly as is my Cot--than you can obtain at a village house of entertainment. And pardon me, Mr Chuzzlewit, pardon me if I say that such a place as the Dragon, however well-conducted (and, as far as I know, Mrs Lupin is one of the worthiest creatures in this county), is hardly a home for Miss Graham.'
Martin mused a moment; and then said, as he shook him by the hand: 'No. You're quite right; it is not.'
'The very sight of skittles,' Mr Pecksniff eloquently pursued, 'is far from being congenial to a delicate mind.'
'It's an amusement of the vulgar,' said old Martin, 'certainly.'
'Of the very vulgar,' Mr Pecksniff answered. 'Then why not bring Miss Graham here, sir? Here is the house. Here am I alone in it, for Thomas Pinch I do not count as any one. Our lovely friend shall occupy my daughter's chamber; you shall choose your own; we shall not quarrel, I hope!'
'We are not likely to do that,' said Martin.
Mr Pecksniff pressed his hand. 'We understand each other, my dear sir, I see!--I can wind him,' he thought, with exultation, 'round my little finger.'
'You leave the recompense to me?' said the old man, after a minute's silence. 'Oh! do not speak of recompense!' cried Pecksniff.
'I say,' repeated Martin, with a glimmer of his old obstinacy, 'you leave the recompense to me. Do you?'
'Since you desire it, my good sir.'
'I always desire it,' said the old man. 'You know I always desire it. I wish to pay as I go, even when I buy of you. Not that I do not leave a balance to be settled one day, Pecksniff.'
The architect was too much overcome to speak. He tried to drop a tear upon his patron's hand, but couldn't find one in his dry distillery.
'May that day be very distant!' was his pious exclamation. 'Ah, sir! If I could say how deep an interest I have in you and yours! I allude to our beautiful young friend.'
'True,' he answered. 'True. She need have some one interested in her. I did her wrong to train her as I did. Orphan though she was, she would have found some one to protect her whom she might have loved again. When she was a child, I pleased myself with the thought that in gratifying my whim of placing her between me and false-hearted knaves, I had done her a kindness. Now she is a woman, I have no such comfort. She has no protector but herself. I have put her at such odds with the world, that any dog may bark or fawn upon her at his pleasure. Indeed she stands in need of delicate consideration. Yes; indeed she does!' 'If her position could be altered and defined, sir?' Mr Pecksniff hinted. 'How can that be done? Should I make a seamstress of her, or a governess?' 'Heaven forbid!' said Mr Pecksniff. 'My dear sir, there are other ways. There are indeed. But I am much excited and embarrassed at present, and would rather not pursue the subject. I scarcely know what I mean. Permit me to resume it at another time.'
'You are not unwell?' asked Martin anxiously.
'No, no!' cried Pecksniff. 'No. Permit me to resume it at another time. I'll walk a little. Bless you!'
Old Martin blessed him in return, and squeezed his hand. As he turned away, and slowly walked towards the house, Mr Pecksniff stood gazing after him; being pretty well recovered from his late emotion, which, in any other man, one might have thought had been assumed as a machinery for feeling Martin's pulse. The change in the old man found such a slight expression in his figure, that Mr Pecksniff, looking after him, could not help saying to himself:
'And I can wind him round my little finger! Only think!'
Old Martin happening to turn his head, saluted him affectionately. Mr Pecksniff returned the gesture.
'Why, the time was,' said Mr Pecksniff; 'and not long ago, when he wouldn't look at me! How soothing is this change. Such is the delicate texture of the human heart; so complicated is the process of its being softened! Externally he looks the same, and I can wind him round my little finger. Only think!'
In sober truth, there did appear to be nothing on which Mr Pecksniff might not have ventured with Martin Chuzzlewit; for whatever Mr Pecksniff said or did was right, and whatever he advised was done. Martin had escaped so many snares from needy fortune-hunters, and had withered in the shell of his suspicion and distrust for so many years, but to become the good man's tool and plaything. With the happiness of this conviction painted on his face, the architect went forth upon his morning walk.
The summer weather in his bosom was reflected in the breast of Nature. Through deep green vistas where the boughs arched overhead, and showed the sunlight flashing in the beautiful perspective; through dewy fern from which the startled hares leaped up, and fled at his approach; by mantled pools, and fallen trees, and down in hollow places, rustling among last year's leaves whose scent woke memory of the past; the placid Pecksniff strolled. By meadow gates and hedges fragrant with wild roses; and by thatched-roof cottages whose inmates humbly bowed before him as a man both good and wise; the worthy Pecksniff walked in tranquil meditation. The bee passed onward, humming of the work he had to do; the idle gnats for ever going round and round in one contracting and expanding ring, yet always going on as fast as he, danced merrily before him; the colour of the long grass came and went, as if the light clouds made it timid as they floated through the distant air. The birds, so many Pecksniff consciences, sang gayly upon every branch; and Mr Pecksniff paid HIS homage to the day by ruminating on his projects as he walked along.
Chancing to trip, in his abstraction, over the spreading root of an old tree, he raised his pious eyes to take a survey of the ground before him. It startled him to see the embodied image of his thoughts not far ahead. Mary herself. And alone. At first Mr Pecksniff stopped as if with the intention of avoiding her; but his next impulse was to advance, which he did at a brisk pace; caroling as he went so sweetly and with so much innocence that he only wanted feathers and wings to be a bird.
Hearing notes behind her, not belonging to the songsters of the grove, she looked round. Mr Pecksniff kissed his hand, and was at her side immediately. 'Communing with nature?' said Mr Pecksniff. 'So am I.'
She said the morning was so beautiful that she had walked further than she intended, and would return. Mr Pecksniff said it was exactly his case, and he would return with her.
'Take my arm, sweet girl,' said Mr Pecksniff.
Mary declined it, and walked so very fast that he remonstrated. 'You were loitering when I came upon you,' Mr Pecksniff said. 'Why be so cruel as to hurry now? You would not shun me, would you?'
'Yes, I would,' she answered, turning her glowing cheek indignantly upon him, 'you know I would. Release me, Mr Pecksniff. Your touch is disagreeable to me.' His touch! What? That chaste patriarchal touch which Mrs Todgers-- surely a discreet lady--had endured, not only without complaint, but with apparent satisfaction! This was positively wrong. Mr Pecksniff was sorry to hear her say it. 'If you have not observed,' said Mary, 'that it is so, pray take assurance from my lips, and do not, as you are a gentleman, continue to offend me.'
'Well, well!' said Mr Pecksniff, mildly, 'I feel that I might consider this becoming in a daughter of my own, and why should I object to it in one so beautiful! It's harsh. It cuts me to the soul,' said Mr Pecksniff; 'but I cannot quarrel with you, Mary.' She tried to say she was sorry to hear it, but burst into tears. Mr Pecksniff now repeated the Todgers performance on a comfortable scale, as if he intended it to last some time; and in his disengaged hand, catching hers, employed himself in separating the fingers with his own, and sometimes kissing them, as he pursued the conversation thus:
'I am glad we met. I am very glad we met. I am able now to ease my bosom of a heavy load, and speak to you in confidence. Mary,' said Mr Pecksniff in his tenderest tones, indeed they were so very tender that he almost squeaked: 'My soul! I love you!'
A fantastic thing, that maiden affectation! She made believe to shudder. 'I love you,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'my gentle life, with a devotion which is quite surprising, even to myself. I did suppose that the sensation was buried in the silent tomb of a lady, only second to you in qualities of the mind and form; but I find I am mistaken.'
She tried to disengage her hand, but might as well have tried to free herself from the embrace of an affectionate boa-constrictor; if anything so wily may be brought into comparison with Pecksniff.
'Although I am a widower,' said Mr Pecksniff, examining the rings upon her fingers, and tracing the course of one delicate blue vein with his fat thumb, 'a widower with two daughters, still I am not encumbered, my love. One of them, as you know, is married. The other, by her own desire, but with a view, I will confess--why not? --to my altering my condition, is about to leave her father's house. I have a character, I hope. People are pleased to speak well of me, I think. My person and manner are not absolutely those of a monster, I trust. Ah! naughty Hand!' said Mr Pecksniff, apostrophizing the reluctant prize, 'why did you take me prisoner? Go, go!'
He slapped the hand to punish it; but relenting, folded it in his waistcoat to comfort it again.
'Blessed in each other, and in the society of our venerable friend, my darling,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'we shall be happy. When he is wafted to a haven of rest, we will console each other. My pretty primrose, what do you say?'
'It is possible,' Mary answered, in a hurried manner, 'that I ought to feel grateful for this mark of your confidence. I cannot say that I do, but I am willing to suppose you may deserve my thanks. Take them; and pray leave me, Mr Pecksniff.'
The good man smiled a greasy smile; and drew her closer to him. 'Pray, pray release me, Mr Pecksniff. I cannot listen to your proposal. I cannot receive it. There are many to whom it may be acceptable, but it is not so to me. As an act of kindness and an act of pity, leave me!'
Mr Pecksniff walked on with his arm round her waist, and her hand in his, as contentedly as if they had been all in all to each other, and were joined in the bonds of truest love.
'If you force me by your superior strength,' said Mary, who finding that good words had not the least effect upon him, made no further effort to suppress her indignation; 'if you force me by your superior strength to accompany you back, and to be the subject of your insolence upon the way, you cannot constrain the expression of my thoughts. I hold you in the deepest abhorrence. I know your real nature and despise it.'
'No, no,' said Mr Pecksniff, sweetly. 'No, no, no!'
'By what arts or unhappy chances you have gained your influence over Mr Chuzzlewit, I do not know,' said Mary; 'it may be strong enough to soften even this, but he shall know of this, trust me, sir.'
Mr Pecksniff raised his heavy eyelids languidly, and let them fall again. It was saying with perfect coolness, 'Aye, aye! Indeed!'
'Is it not enough,' said Mary, 'that you warp and change his nature, adapt his every prejudice to your bad ends, and harden a heart naturally kind by shutting out the truth and allowing none but false and distorted views to reach it; is it not enough that you have the power of doing this, and that you exercise it, but must you also be so coarse, so cruel, and so cowardly to me?'
Still Mr Pecksniff led her calmly on, and looked as mild as any lamb that ever pastured in the fields.
'Will nothing move you, sir?' cried Mary.
'My dear,' observed Mr Pecksniff, with a placid leer, 'a habit of self-examination, and the practice of--shall I say of virtue?'
'Of hypocrisy,' said Mary.
'No, no,' resumed Mr Pecksniff, chafing the captive hand reproachfully, 'of virtue-have enabled me to set such guards upon myself, that it is really difficult to ruffle me. It is a curious fact, but it is difficult, do you know, for any one to ruffle me. And did she think,' said Mr Pecksniff, with a playful tightening of his grasp 'that SHE could! How little did she know his heart!'
Little, indeed! Her mind was so strangely constituted that she would have preferred the caresses of a toad, an adder, or a serpent--nay, the hug of a bear-to the endearments of Mr Pecksniff.
'Come, come,' said that good gentleman, 'a word or two will set this matter right, and establish a pleasant understanding between us. I am not angry, my love.' 'YOU angry!'
'No,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'I am not. I say so. Neither are you.'
There was a beating heart beneath his hand that told another story though. 'I am sure you are not,' said Mr Pecksniff: 'and I will tell you why. There are two Martin Chuzzlewits, my dear; and your carrying your anger to one might have a serious effect--who knows!--upon the other. You wouldn't wish to hurt him, would you?'
She trembled violently, and looked at him with such a proud disdain that he turned his eyes away. No doubt lest he should be offended with her in spite of his better self.
'A passive quarrel, my love,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'may be changed into an active one, remember. It would be sad to blight even a disinherited young man in his already blighted prospects; but how easy to do it. Ah, how easy! HAVE I influence with our venerable friend, do you think? Well, perhaps I have. Perhaps I have.'
He raised his eyes to hers; and nodded with an air of banter that was charming. 'No,' he continued, thoughtfully. 'Upon the whole, my sweet, if I were you I'd keep my secret to myself. I am not at all sure--very far from it--that it would surprise our friend in any way, for he and I have had some conversation together only this morning, and he is anxious, very anxious, to establish you in some more settled manner. But whether he was surprised or not surprised, the consequence of your imparting it might be the same. Martin junior might suffer severely. I'd have compassion on Martin junior, do you know?' said Mr Pecksniff, with a persuasive smile. 'Yes. He don't deserve it, but I would.'
She wept so bitterly now, and was so much distressed, that he thought it prudent to unclasp her waist, and hold her only by the hand.
'As to our own share in the precious little mystery,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'we will keep it to ourselves, and talk of it between ourselves, and you shall think it over. You will consent, my love; you will consent, I know. Whatever you may think; you will. I seem to remember to have heard--I really don't know where, or how'--he added, with bewitching frankness, 'that you and Martin junior, when you were children, had a sort of childish fondness for each other. When we are married, you shall have the satisfaction of thinking that it didn't last to ruin him, but passed away to do him good; for we'll see then what we can do to put some trifling help in Martin junior's way. HAVE I any influence with our venerable friend? Well! Perhaps I have. Perhaps I have.'
The outlet from the wood in which these tender passages occurred, was close to Mr Pecksniff's house. They were now so near it that he stopped, and holding up her little finger, said in playful accents, as a parting fancy:
'Shall I bite it?'
Receiving no reply he kissed it instead; and then stooping down, inclined his flabby face to hers--he had a flabby face, although he WAS a good man--and with a blessing, which from such a source was quite enough to set her up in life, and prosper her from that time forth permitted her to leave him.
Gallantry in its true sense is supposed to ennoble and dignify a man; and love has shed refinements on innumerable Cymons. But Mr Pecksniff--perhaps because to one of his exalted nature these were mere grossnesses--certainly did not appear to any unusual advantage, now that he was left alone. On the contrary, he seemed to be shrunk and reduced; to be trying to hide himself within himself; and to be wretched at not having the power to do it. His shoes looked too large; his sleeve looked too long; his hair looked too limp; his features looked too mean; his exposed throat looked as if a halter would have done it good. For a minute or two, in fact, he was hot, and pale, and mean, and shy, and slinking, and consequently not at all Pecksniffian. But after that, he recovered himself, and went home with as beneficent an air as if he had been the High Priest of the summer weather.
'I have arranged to go, Papa,' said Charity, 'to-morrow.'
'So soon, my child!'
'I can't go too soon,' said Charity, 'under the circumstances. I have written to Mrs Todgers to propose an arrangement, and have requested her to meet me at the coach, at all events. You'll be quite your own master now, Mr Pinch!' Mr Pecksniff had just gone out of the room, and Tom had just come into it. 'My own master!' repeated Tom.
'Yes, you'll have nobody to interfere with you,' said Charity. 'At least I hope you won't. Hem! It's a changing world.'
'What! are YOU going to be married, Miss Pecksniff?' asked Tom in great surprise.
'Not exactly,' faltered Cherry. 'I haven't made up my mind to be. I believe I could be, if I chose, Mr Pinch.'
'Of course you could!' said Tom. And he said it in perfect good faith. He believed it from the bottom of his heart.
'No,' said Cherry, 'I am not going to be married. Nobody is, that I know of. Hem! But I am not going to live with Papa. I have my reasons, but it's all a secret. I shall always feel very kindly towards you, I assure you, for the boldness you showed that night. As to you and me, Mr Pinch, WE part the best friends possible!'
Tom thanked her for her confidence, and for her friendship, but there was a mystery in the former which perfectly bewildered him. In his extravagant devotion to the family, he had felt the loss of Merry more than any one but those who knew that for all the slights he underwent he thought his own demerits were to blame, could possibly have understood. He had scarcely reconciled himself to that when here was Charity about to leave them. She had grown up, as it were, under Tom's eye. The sisters were a part of Pecksniff, and a part of Tom; items in Pecksniff's goodness, and in Tom's service. He couldn't bear it; not two hours' sleep had Tom that night, through dwelling in his bed upon these dreadful changes.
When morning dawned he thought he must have dreamed this piece of ambiguity; but no, on going downstairs he found them packing trunks and cording boxes, and making other preparations for Miss Charity's departure, which lasted all day long. In good time for the evening coach, Miss Charity deposited her housekeeping keys with much ceremony upon the parlour table; took a gracious leave of all the house; and quitted her paternal roof--a blessing for which the Pecksniffian servant was observed by some profane persons to be particularly active in the thanksgiving at church next Sunday.
MR PINCH IS DISCHARGED OF A DUTY WHICH HE NEVER OWED TO ANYBODY, AND MR PECKSNIFF DISCHARGES A DUTY WHICH HE OWES TO SOCIETY
The closing words of the last chapter lead naturally to the commencement of this, its successor; for it has to do with a church. With the church, so often mentioned heretofore, in which Tom Pinch played the organ for nothing.
One sultry afternoon, about a week after Miss Charity's departure for London, Mr Pecksniff being out walking by himself, took it into his head to stray into the churchyard. As he was lingering among the tombstones, endeavouring to extract an available sentiment or two from the epitaphs--for he never lost an opportunity of making up a few moral crackers, to be let off as occasion served--Tom Pinch began to practice. Tom could run down to the church and do so whenever he had time to spare; for it was a simple little organ, provided with wind by the action of the musician's feet; and he was independent, even of a bellows-blower. Though if Tom had wanted one at any time, there was not a man or boy in all the village, and away to the turnpike (tollman included), but would have blown away for him till he was black in the face.
Mr Pecksniff had no objection to music; not the least. He was tolerant of everything; he often said so. He considered it a vagabond kind of trifling, in general, just suited to Tom's capacity. But in regard to Tom's performance upon this same organ, he was remarkably lenient, singularly amiable; for when Tom played it on Sundays, Mr Pecksniff in his unbounded sympathy felt as if he played it himself, and were a benefactor to the congregation. So whenever it was impossible to devise any other means of taking the value of Tom's wages out of him, Mr Pecksniff gave him leave to cultivate this instrument. For which mark of his consideration Tom was very grateful.
The afternoon was remarkably warm, and Mr Pecksniff had been strolling a long way. He had not what may be called a fine ear for music, but he knew when it had a tranquilizing influence on his soul; and that was the case now, for it sounded to him like a melodious snore. He approached the church, and looking through the diamond lattice of a window near the porch, saw Tom, with the curtains in the loft drawn back, playing away with great expression and tenderness.
The church had an inviting air of coolness. The old oak roof supported by crossbeams, the hoary walls, the marble tablets, and the cracked stone pavement, were refreshing to look at. There were leaves of ivy tapping gently at the opposite windows; and the sun poured in through only one; leaving the body of the church in tempting shade. But the most tempting spot of all, was one red- curtained and soft-cushioned pew, wherein the official dignitaries of the place (of whom Mr Pecksniff was the head and chief) enshrined themselves on Sundays. Mr Pecksniff's seat was in the corner; a remarkably comfortable corner; where his very large Prayer-Book was at that minute making the most of its quarto self upon the desk. He determined to go in and rest.
He entered very softly; in part because it was a church; in part because his tread was always soft; in part because Tom played a solemn tune; in part because he thought he would surprise him when he stopped. Unbolting the door of the high pew of state, he glided in and shut it after him; then sitting in his usual place, and stretching out his legs upon the hassocks, he composed himself to listen to the music.
It is an unaccountable circumstance that he should have felt drowsy there, where the force of association might surely have been enough to keep him wide awake; but he did. He had not been in the snug little corner five minutes before he began to nod. He had not recovered himself one minute before he began to nod again. In the very act of opening his eyes indolently, he nodded again. In the very act of shutting them, he nodded again. So he fell out of one nod into another until at last he ceased to nod at all, and was as fast as the church itself.
He had a consciousness of the organ, long after he fell asleep, though as to its being an organ he had no more idea of that than he had of its being a bull. After a while he began to have at intervals the same dreamy impressions of voices; and awakening to an indolent curiosity upon the subject, opened his eyes. He was so indolent, that after glancing at the hassocks and the pew, he was already half-way off to sleep again, when it occurred to him that there really were voices in the church; low voices, talking earnestly hard by; while the echoes seemed to mutter responses. He roused himself, and listened.
Before he had listened half a dozen seconds, he became as broad awake as ever he had been in all his life. With eyes, and ears, and mouth, wide open, he moved himself a very little with the utmost caution, and gathering the curtain in his hand, peeped out.
Tom Pinch and Mary. Of course. He had recognized their voices, and already knew the topic they discussed. Looking like the small end of a guillotined man, with his chin on a level with the top of the pew, so that he might duck down immediately in case of either of them turning round, he listened. Listened with such concentrated eagerness, that his very hair and shirt-collar stood bristling up to help him.
'No,' cried Tom. 'No letters have ever reached me, except that one from New York. But don't be uneasy on that account, for it's very likely they have gone away to some far-off place, where the posts are neither regular nor frequent. He said in that very letter that it might be so, even in that city to which they thought of travelling--Eden, you know.'
'It is a great weight upon my mind,' said Mary.
'Oh, but you mustn't let it be,' said Tom. 'There's a true saying that nothing travels so fast as ill news; and if the slightest harm had happened to Martin, you may be sure you would have heard of it long ago. I have often wished to say this to you,' Tom continued with an embarrassment that became him very well, 'but you have never given me an opportunity.'
'I have sometimes been almost afraid,' said Mary, 'that you might suppose I hesitated to confide in you, Mr Pinch.'
'No,' Tom stammered, 'I--I am not aware that I ever supposed that. I am sure that if I have, I have checked the thought directly, as an injustice to you. I feel the delicacy of your situation in having to confide in me at all,' said Tom, 'but I would risk my life to save you from one day's uneasiness; indeed I would!' Poor Tom!
'I have dreaded sometimes,' Tom continued, 'that I might have displeased you by--by having the boldness to try and anticipate your wishes now and then. At other times I have fancied that your kindness prompted you to keep aloof from me.'
'It was very foolish; very presumptuous and ridiculous, to think so,' Tom pursued; 'but I feared you might suppose it possible that I--I--should admire you too much for my own peace; and so denied yourself the slight assistance you would otherwise have accepted from me. If such an idea has ever presented itself to you,' faltered Tom, 'pray dismiss it. I am easily made happy; and I shall live contented here long after you and Martin have forgotten me. I am a poor, shy, awkward creature; not at all a man of the world; and you should think no more of me, bless you, than if I were an old friar!'
If friars bear such hearts as thine, Tom, let friars multiply; though they have no such rule in all their stern arithmetic.
'Dear Mr Pinch!' said Mary, giving him her hand; 'I cannot tell you how your kindness moves me. I have never wronged you by the lightest doubt, and have never for an instant ceased to feel that you were all--much more than all--that Martin found you. Without the silent care and friendship I have experienced from you, my life here would have been unhappy. But you have been a good angel to me; filling me with gratitude of heart, hope, and courage.'
'I am as little like an angel, I am afraid,' replied Tom, shaking his head, 'as any stone cherubim among the grave-stones; and I don't think there are many real angels of THAT pattern. But I should like to know (if you will tell me) why you have been so very silent about Martin.'
'Because I have been afraid,' said Mary, 'of injuring you.'
'Of injuring me!' cried Tom.
'Of doing you an injury with your employer.'
The gentleman in question dived.
'With Pecksniff!' rejoined Tom, with cheerful confidence. 'Oh dear, he'd never think of us! He's the best of men. The more at ease you were, the happier he would be. Oh dear, you needn't be afraid of Pecksniff. He is not a spy.' Many a man in Mr Pecksniff's place, if he could have dived through the floor of the pew of state and come out at Calcutta or any inhabited region on the other side of the earth, would have done it instantly. Mr Pecksniff sat down upon a hassock, and listening more attentively than ever, smiled.
Mary seemed to have expressed some dissent in the meanwhile, for Tom went on to say, with honest energy:
'Well, I don't know how it is, but it always happens, whenever I express myself in this way to anybody almost, that I find they won't do justice to Pecksniff. It is one of the most extraordinary circumstances that ever came within my knowledge, but it is so. There's John Westlock, who used to be a pupil here, one of the best- hearted young men in the world, in all other matters--I really believe John would have Pecksniff flogged at the cart's tail if he could. And John is not a solitary case, for every pupil we have had in my time has gone away with the same inveterate hatred of him. There was Mark Tapley, too, quite in another station of life,' said Tom; 'the mockery he used to make of Pecksniff when he was at the Dragon was shocking. Martin too: Martin was worse than any of 'em. But I forgot. He prepared you to dislike Pecksniff, of course. So you came with a prejudice, you know, Miss Graham, and are not a fair witness.'
Tom triumphed very much in this discovery, and rubbed his hands with great satisfaction.
'Mr Pinch,' said Mary, 'you mistake him.'
'No, no!' cried Tom. 'YOU mistake him. But,' he added, with a rapid change in his tone, 'what is the matter? Miss Graham, what is the matter?'
Mr Pecksniff brought up to the top of the pew, by slow degrees, his hair, his forehead, his eyebrow, his eye. She was sitting on a bench beside the door with her hands before her face; and Tom was bending over her.
'What is the matter?' cried Tom. 'Have I said anything to hurt you? Has any one said anything to hurt you? Don't cry. Pray tell me what it is. I cannot bear to see you so distressed. Mercy on us, I never was so surprised and grieved in all my life!'
Mr Pecksniff kept his eye in the same place. He could have moved it now for nothing short of a gimlet or a red-hot wire.
'I wouldn't have told you, Mr Pinch,' said Mary, 'if I could have helped it; but your delusion is so absorbing, and it is so necessary that we should be upon our guard; that you should not be compromised; and to that end that you should know by whom I am beset; that no alternative is left me. I came here purposely to tell you, but I think I should have wanted courage if you had not chanced to lead me so directly to the object of my coming.'
Tom gazed at her steadfastly, and seemed to say, 'What else?' But he said not a word.
'That person whom you think the best of men,' said Mary, looking up, and speaking with a quivering lip and flashing eye.
'Lord bless me!' muttered Tom, staggering back. 'Wait a moment. That person whom I think the best of men! You mean Pecksniff, of course. Yes, I see you mean Pecksniff. Good gracious me, don't speak without authority. What has he done? If he is not the best of men, what is he?'
'The worst. The falsest, craftiest, meanest, cruellest, most sordid, most shameless,' said the trembling girl--trembling with her indignation. Tom sat down on a seat, and clasped his hands.
'What is he,' said Mary, 'who receiving me in his house as his guest; his unwilling guest; knowing my history, and how defenceless and alone I am, presumes before his daughters to affront me so, that if I had a brother but a child, who saw it, he would instinctively have helped me?'
'He is a scoundrel!' exclaimed Tom. 'Whoever he may be, he is a scoundrel.' Mr Pecksniff dived again.
'What is he,' said Mary, 'who, when my only friend--a dear and kind one, too--was in full health of mind, humbled himself before him, but was spurned away (for he knew him then) like a dog. Who, in his forgiving spirit, now that that friend is sunk into a failing state, can crawl about him again, and use the influence he basely gains for every base and wicked purpose, and not for one--not one--that's true or good?'
'I say he is a scoundrel!' answered Tom.
'But what is he--oh, Mr Pinch, what IS he--who, thinking he could compass these designs the better if I were his wife, assails me with the coward's argument that if I marry him, Martin, on whom I have brought so much misfortune, shall be restored to something of his former hopes; and if I do not, shall be plunged in deeper ruin? What is he who makes my very constancy to one I love with all my heart a torture to myself and wrong to him; who makes me, do what I will, the instrument to hurt a head I would heap blessings on! What is he who, winding all these cruel snares about me, explains their purpose to me, with a smooth tongue and a smiling face, in the broad light of day; dragging me on, the while, in his embrace, and holding to his lips a hand,' pursued the agitated girl, extending it, 'which I would have struck off, if with it I could lose the shame and degradation of his touch?'
'I say,' cried Tom, in great excitement, 'he is a scoundrel and a villain! I don't care who he is, I say he is a double-dyed and most intolerable villain!'
Covering her face with her hands again, as if the passion which had sustained her through these disclosures lost itself in an overwhelming sense of shame and grief, she abandoned herself to tears.
Any sight of distress was sure to move the tenderness of Tom, but this especially. Tears and sobs from her were arrows in his heart. He tried to comfort her; sat down beside her; expended all his store of homely eloquence; and spoke in words of praise and hope of Martin. Aye, though he loved her from his soul with such a self- denying love as woman seldom wins; he spoke from first to last of Martin. Not the wealth of the rich Indies would have tempted Tom to shirk one mention of her lover's name.
When she was more composed, she impressed upon Tom that this man she had described, was Pecksniff in his real colours; and word by word and phrase by phrase, as well as she remembered it, related what had passed between them in the wood: which was no doubt a source of high gratification to that gentleman himself, who in his desire to see and his dread of being seen, was constantly diving down into the state pew, and coming up again like the intelligent householder in Punch's Show, who avoids being knocked on the head with a cudgel. When she had concluded her account, and had besought Tom to be very distant and unconscious in his manner towards her after this explanation, and had thanked him very much, they parted on the alarm of footsteps in the burialground; and Tom was left alone in the church again.
And now the full agitation and misery of the disclosure came rushing upon Tom indeed. The star of his whole life from boyhood had become, in a moment, putrid vapour. It was not that Pecksniff, Tom's Pecksniff, had ceased to exist, but that he never had existed. In his death Tom would have had the comfort of remembering what he used to be, but in this discovery, he had the anguish of recollecting what he never was. For, as Tom's blindness in this matter had been total and not partial, so was his restored sight. HIS Pecksniff could never have worked the wickedness of which he had just now heard, but any other Pecksniff could; and the Pecksniff who could do that could do anything, and no doubt had been doing anything and everything except the right thing, all through his career. From the lofty height on which poor Tom had placed his idol it was tumbled down headlong, and
Not all the king's horses, nor all the king's men, Could have set Mr Pecksniff up again.
Legions of Titans couldn't have got him out of the mud; and serve him right! But it was not he who suffered; it was Tom. His compass was broken, his chart destroyed, his chronometer had stopped, his masts were gone by the board; his anchor was adrift, ten thousand leagues away.
Mr Pecksniff watched him with a lively interest, for he divined the purpose of Tom's ruminations, and was curious to see how he conducted himself. For some time, Tom wandered up and down the aisle like a man demented, stopping occasionally to lean against a pew and think it over; then he stood staring at a blank old monument bordered tastefully with skulls and cross-bones, as if it were the finest work of Art he had ever seen, although at other times he held it in unspeakable contempt; then he sat down; then walked to and fro again; then went wandering up into the organ-loft, and touched the keys. But their minstrelsy was changed, their music gone; and sounding one long melancholy chord, Tom drooped his head upon his hands and gave it up as hopeless.
'I wouldn't have cared,' said Tom Pinch, rising from his stool and looking down into the church as if he had been the Clergyman, 'I wouldn't have cared for anything he might have done to Me, for I have tried his patience often, and have lived upon his sufferance and have never been the help to him that others could have been. I wouldn't have minded, Pecksniff,' Tom continued, little thinking who heard him, 'if you had done Me any wrong; I could have found plenty of excuses for that; and though you might have hurt me, could have still gone on respecting you. But why did you ever fall so low as this in my esteem! Oh Pecksniff, Pecksniff, there is nothing I would not have given, to have had you deserve my old opinion of you; nothing!'
Mr Pecksniff sat upon the hassock pulling up his shirt-collar, while Tom, touched to the quick, delivered this apostrophe. After a pause he heard Tom coming down the stairs, jingling the church keys; and bringing his eye to the top of the pew again, saw him go slowly out and lock the door.
Mr Pecksniff durst not issue from his place of concealment; for through the windows of the church he saw Tom passing on among the graves, and sometimes stopping at a stone, and leaning there as if he were a mourner who had lost a friend. Even when he had left the churchyard, Mr Pecksniff still remained shut up; not being at all secure but that in his restless state of mind Tom might come wandering back. At length he issued forth, and walked with a pleasant countenance into the vestry; where he knew there was a window near the ground, by which he could release himself by merely stepping out. He was in a curious frame of mind, Mr Pecksniff; being in no hurry to go, but rather inclining to a dilatory trifling with the time, which prompted him to open the vestry cupboard, and look at himself in the parson's little glass that hung within the door. Seeing that his hair was rumpled, he took the liberty of borrowing the canonical brush and arranging it. He also took the liberty of opening another cupboard; but he shut it up again quickly, being rather startled by the sight of a black and a white surplice dangling against the wall; which had very much the appearance of two curates who had committed suicide by hanging themselves. Remembering that he had seen in the first cupboard a port-wine bottle and some biscuits, he peeped into it again, and helped himself with much deliberation; cogitating all the time though, in a very deep and weighty manner, as if his thoughts were otherwise employed.
He soon made up his mind, if it had ever been in doubt; and putting back the bottle and biscuits, opened the casement. He got out into the churchyard without any difficulty; shut the window after him; and walked straight home. 'Is Mr Pinch indoors?' asked Mr Pecksniff of his serving-maid.
'Just come in, sir.'
'Just come in, eh?' repeated Mr Pecksniff, cheerfully. 'And gone upstairs, I suppose?'
'Yes sir. Gone upstairs. Shall I call him, sir?'
'No,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'no. You needn't call him, Jane. Thank you, Jane. How are your relations, Jane?'
'Pretty well, I thank you, sir.'
'I am glad to hear it. Let them know I asked about them, Jane. Is Mr Chuzzlewit in the way, Jane?'
'Yes, sir. He's in the parlour, reading.'
'He's in the parlour, reading, is he, Jane?' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Very well. Then I think I'll go and see him, Jane.'
Never had Mr Pecksniff been beheld in a more pleasant humour!
But when he walked into the parlour where the old man was engaged as Jane had said; with pen and ink and paper on a table close at hand (for Mr Pecksniff was always very particular to have him well supplied with writing materials), he became less cheerful. He was not angry, he was not vindictive, he was not cross, he was not moody, but he was grieved; he was sorely grieved. As he sat down by the old man's side, two tears--not tears like those with which recording angels blot their entries out, but drops so precious that they use them for their ink--stole down his meritorious cheeks.
'What is the matter?' asked old Martin. 'Pecksniff, what ails you, man?' 'I am sorry to interrupt you, my dear sir, and I am still more sorry for the cause. My good, my worthy friend, I am deceived.'
'You are deceived!'
'Ah!' cried Mr Pecksniff, in an agony, 'deceived in the tenderest point. Cruelly deceived in that quarter, sir, in which I placed the most unbounded confidence. Deceived, Mr Chuzzlewit, by Thomas Pinch.'
'Oh! bad, bad, bad!' said Martin, laying down his book. 'Very bad! I hope not. Are you certain?'
'Certain, my good sir! My eyes and ears are witnesses. I wouldn't have believed it otherwise. I wouldn't have believed it, Mr Chuzzlewit, if a Fiery Serpent had proclaimed it from the top of Salisbury Cathedral. I would have said,' cried Mr Pecksniff, 'that the Serpent lied. Such was my faith in Thomas Pinch, that I would have cast the falsehood back into the Serpent's teeth, and would have taken Thomas to my heart. But I am not a Serpent, sir, myself, I grieve to say, and no excuse or hope is left me.'
Martin was greatly disturbed to see him so much agitated, and to hear such unexpected news. He begged him to compose himself, and asked upon what subject Mr Pinch's treachery had been developed.
'That is almost the worst of all, sir,' Mr Pecksniff answered. 'on a subject nearly concerning YOU. Oh! is it not enough,' said Mr Pecksniff, looking upward, 'that these blows must fall on me, but must they also hit my friends!'
'You alarm me,' cried the old man, changing colour. 'I am not so strong as I was. You terrify me, Pecksniff!'
'Cheer up, my noble sir,' said Mr Pecksniff, taking courage, 'and we will do what is required of us. You shall know all, sir, and shall be righted. But first excuse me, sir, excuse me. I have a duty to discharge, which I owe to society.' He rang the bell, and Jane appeared. 'Send Mr Pinch here, if you please, Jane.' Tom came. Constrained and altered in his manner, downcast and dejected, visibly confused; not liking to look Pecksniff in the face.
The honest man bestowed a glance on Mr Chuzzlewit, as who should say 'You see!' and addressed himself to Tom in these terms:
'Mr Pinch, I have left the vestry-window unfastened. Will you do me the favour to go and secure it; then bring the keys of the sacred edifice to me!'
'The vestry-window, sir?' cried Tom.
'You understand me, Mr Pinch, I think,' returned his patron. 'Yes, Mr Pinch, the vestry-window. I grieve to say that sleeping in the church after a fatiguing ramble, I overheard just now some fragments,' he emphasised that word, 'of a dialogue between two parties; and one of them locking the church when he went out, I was obliged to leave it myself by the vestry-window. Do me the favour to secure that vestry-window, Mr Pinch, and then come back to me.'
No physiognomist that ever dwelt on earth could have construed Tom's face when he heard these words. Wonder was in it, and a mild look of reproach, but certainly no fear or guilt, although a host of strong emotions struggled to display themselves. He bowed, and without saying one word, good or bad, withdrew. 'Pecksniff,' cried Martin, in a tremble, 'what does all this mean? You are not going to do anything in haste, you may regret!'
'No, my good sir,' said Mr Pecksniff, firmly, 'No. But I have a duty to discharge which I owe to society; and it shall be discharged, my friend, at any cost!' Oh, late-remembered, much-forgotten, mouthing, braggart duty, always owed, and seldom paid in any other coin than punishment and wrath, when will mankind begin to know thee! When will men acknowledge thee in thy neglected cradle, and thy stunted youth, and not begin their recognition in thy sinful manhood and thy desolate old age! Oh, ermined Judge whose duty to society is, now, to doom the ragged criminal to punishment and death, hadst thou never, Man, a duty to discharge in barring up the hundred open gates that wooed him to the felon's dock, and throwing but ajar the portals to a decent life! Oh, prelate, prelate, whose duty to society it is to mourn in melancholy phrase the sad degeneracy of these bad times in which thy lot of honours has been cast, did nothing go before thy elevation to the lofty seat, from which thou dealest out thy homilies to other tarriers for dead men's shoes, whose duty to society has not begun! Oh! magistrate, so rare a country gentleman and brave a squire, had you no duty to society, before the ricks were blazing and the mob were mad; or did it spring up, armed and booted from the earth, a corps of yeomanry full-grown! Mr Pecksniff's duty to society could not be paid till Tom came back. The interval which preceded the return of that young man, he occupied in a close conference with his friend; so that when Tom did arrive, he found the two quite ready to receive him. Mary was in her own room above, whither Mr Pecksniff, always considerate, had besought old Martin to entreat her to remain some half-hour longer, that her feelings might be spared.
When Tom came back, he found old Martin sitting by the window, and Mr Pecksniff in an imposing attitude at the table. On one side of him was his pockethandkerchief; and on the other a little heap (a very little heap) of gold and silver, and odd pence. Tom saw, at a glance, that it was his own salary for the current quarter.
'Have you fastened the vestry-window, Mr Pinch?' said Pecksniff.
'Thank you. Put down the keys if you please, Mr Pinch.'
Tom placed them on the table. He held the bunch by the key of the organ-loft (though it was one of the smallest), and looked hard at it as he laid it down. It had been an old, old friend of Tom's; a kind companion to him, many and many a day.
'Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff, shaking his head; 'oh, Mr Pinch! I wonder you can look me in the face!'
Tom did it though; and notwithstanding that he has been described as stooping generally, he stood as upright then as man could stand.
'Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff, taking up his handkerchief, as if he felt that he should want it soon, 'I will not dwell upon the past. I will spare you, and I will spare myself, that pain at least.'
Tom's was not a very bright eye, but it was a very expressive one when he looked at Mr Pecksniff, and said:
'Thank you, sir. I am very glad you will not refer to the past.'
'The present is enough,' said Mr Pecksniff, dropping a penny, 'and the sooner THAT is past, the better. Mr Pinch, I will not dismiss you without a word of explanation. Even such a course would be quite justifiable under the circumstances; but it might wear an appearance of hurry, and I will not do it; for I am,' said Mr Pecksniff, knocking down another penny, 'perfectly self-possessed. Therefore I will say to you, what I have already said to Mr Chuzzlewit.' Tom glanced at the old gentleman, who nodded now and then as approving of Mr Pecksniff's sentences and sentiments, but interposed between them in no other way.
'From fragments of a conversation which I overheard in the church, just now, Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff, 'between yourself and Miss Graham--I say fragments, because I was slumbering at a considerable distance from you, when I was roused by your voices--and from what I saw, I ascertained (I would have given a great deal not to have ascertained, Mr Pinch) that you, forgetful of all ties of duty and of honour, sir; regardless of the sacred laws of hospitality, to which you were pledged as an inmate of this house; have presumed to address Miss Graham with unreturned professions of attachment and proposals of love.' Tom looked at him steadily.
'Do you deny it, sir?' asked Mr Pecksniff, dropping one pound two and fourpence, and making a great business of picking it up again.
'No, sir,' replied Tom. 'I do not.'
'You do not,' said Mr Pecksniff, glancing at the old gentleman. 'Oblige me by counting this money, Mr Pinch, and putting your name to this receipt. You do not?'
No, Tom did not. He scorned to deny it. He saw that Mr Pecksniff having overheard his own disgrace, cared not a jot for sinking lower yet in his contempt. He saw that he had devised this fiction as the readiest means of getting rid of him at once, but that it must end in that any way. He saw that Mr Pecksniff reckoned on his not denying it, because his doing so and explaining would incense the old man more than ever against Martin and against Mary; while Pecksniff himself would only have been mistaken in his 'fragments.' Deny it! No.
'You find the amount correct, do you, Mr Pinch?' said Pecksniff.
'Quite correct, sir,' answered Tom.
'A person is waiting in the kitchen,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'to carry your luggage wherever you please. We part, Mr Pinch, at once, and are strangers from this time.'
Something without a name; compassion, sorrow, old tenderness, mistaken gratitude, habit; none of these, and yet all of them; smote upon Tom's gentle heart at parting. There was no such soul as Pecksniff's in that carcase; and yet, though his speaking out had not involved the compromise of one he loved, he couldn't have denounced the very shape and figure of the man. Not even then. 'I will not say,' cried Mr Pecksniff, shedding tears, 'what a blow this is. I will not say how much it tries me; how it works upon my nature; how it grates upon my feelings. I do not care for that. I can endure as well as another man. But what I have to hope, and what you have to hope, Mr Pinch (otherwise a great responsibility rests upon you), is, that this deception may not alter my ideas of humanity; that it may not impair my freshness, or contract, if I may use the expression, my Pinions. I hope it will not; I don't think it will. It may be a comfort to you, if not now, at some future time, to know that I shall endeavour not to think the worse of my fellow-creatures in general, for what has passed between us. Farewell!'
Tom had meant to spare him one little puncturation with a lancet, which he had it in his power to administer, but he changed his mind on hearing this, and said: 'I think you left something in the church, sir.'
'Thank you, Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff. 'I am not aware that I did.'
'This is your double eye-glass, I believe?' said Tom.
'Oh!' cried Pecksniff, with some degree of confusion. 'I am obliged to you. Put it down, if you please.'
'I found it,' said Tom, slowly--'when I went to bolt the vestry- window--in the pew.' So he had. Mr Pecksniff had taken it off when he was bobbing up and down, lest it should strike against the panelling; and had forgotten it. Going back to the church with his mind full of having been watched, and wondering very much from what part, Tom's attention was caught by the door of the state pew standing open. Looking into it he found the glass. And thus he knew, and by returning it gave Mr Pecksniff the information that he knew, where the listener had been; and that instead of overhearing fragments of the conversation, he must have rejoiced in every word of it.
'I am glad he's gone,' said Martin, drawing a long breath when Tom had left the room.
'It IS a relief,' assented Mr Pecksniff. 'It is a great relief. But having discharged--I hope with tolerable firmness--the duty which I owed to society, I will now, my dear sir, if you will give me leave, retire to shed a few tears in the back garden, as an humble individual.'
Tom went upstairs; cleared his shelf of books; packed them up with his music and an old fiddle in his trunk; got out his clothes (they were not so many that they made his head ache); put them on the top of his books; and went into the workroom for his case of instruments. There was a ragged stool there, with the horsehair all sticking out of the top like a wig: a very Beast of a stool in itself; on which he had taken up his daily seat, year after year, during the whole period of his service. They had grown older and shabbier in company. Pupils had served their time; seasons had come and gone. Tom and the worn-out stool had held together through it all. That part of the room was traditionally called 'Tom's Corner.' It had been assigned to him at first because of its being situated in a strong draught, and a great way from the fire; and he had occupied it ever since. There were portraits of him on the walls, with all his weak points monstrously portrayed. Diabolical sentiments, foreign to his character, were represented as issuing from his mouth in fat balloons. Every pupil had added something, even unto fancy portraits of his father with one eye, and of his mother with a disproportionate nose, and especially of his sister; who always being presented as extremely beautiful, made full amends to Tom for any other jokes. Under less uncommon circumstances, it would have cut Tom to the heart to leave these things and think that he saw them for the last time; but it didn't now. There was no Pecksniff; there never had been a Pecksniff; and all his other griefs were swallowed up in that.
So, when he returned into the bedroom, and, having fastened his box and a carpet-bag, put on his walking gaiters, and his great-coat, and his hat, and taken his stick in his hand, looked round it for the last time. Early on summer mornings, and by the light of private candle-ends on winter nights, he had read himself half blind in this same room. He had tried in this same room to learn the fiddle under the bedclothes, but yielding to objections from the other pupils, had reluctantly abandoned the design. At any other time he would have parted from it with a pang, thinking of all he had learned there, of the many hours he had passed there; for the love of his very dreams. But there was no Pecksniff; there never had been a Pecksniff, and the unreality of Pecksniff extended itself to the chamber, in which, sitting on one particular bed, the thing supposed to be that Great Abstraction had often preached morality with such effect that Tom had felt a moisture in his eyes, while hanging breathless on the words.
The man engaged to bear his box--Tom knew him well: a Dragon man-- came stamping up the stairs, and made a roughish bow to Tom (to whom in common times he would have nodded with a grin) as though he were aware of what had happened, and wished him to perceive it made no difference to HIM. It was clumsily done; he was a mere waterer of horses; but Tom liked the man for it, and felt it more than going away.
Tom would have helped him with the box, but he made no more of it, though it was a heavy one, than an elephant would have made of a castle; just swinging it on his back and bowling downstairs as if, being naturally a heavy sort of fellow, he could carry a box infinitely better than he could go alone. Tom took the carpetbag, and went downstairs along with him. At the outer door stood Jane, crying with all her might; and on the steps was Mrs Lupin, sobbing bitterly, and putting out her hand for Tom to shake.
'You're coming to the Dragon, Mr Pinch?'
'No,' said Tom, 'no. I shall walk to Salisbury to-night. I couldn't stay here. For goodness' sake, don't make me so unhappy, Mrs Lupin.'
'But you'll come to the Dragon, Mr Pinch. If it's only for tonight. To see me, you know; not as a traveller.'
'God bless my soul!' said Tom, wiping his eyes. 'The kindness of people is enough to break one's heart! I mean to go to Salisbury to-night, my dear good creature. If you'll take care of my box for me till I write for it, I shall consider it the greatest kindness you can do me.'
'I wish,' cried Mrs Lupin, 'there were twenty boxes, Mr Pinch, that I might have 'em all.'
'Thank'ee,' said Tom. 'It's like you. Good-bye. Good-bye.'
There were several people, young and old, standing about the door, some of whom cried with Mrs Lupin; while others tried to keep up a stout heart, as Tom did; and others were absorbed in admiration of Mr Pecksniff--a man who could build a church, as one may say, by squinting at a sheet of paper; and others were divided between that feeling and sympathy with Tom. Mr Pecksniff had appeared on the top of the steps, simultaneously with his old pupil, and while Tom was talking with Mrs Lupin kept his hand stretched out, as though he said 'Go forth!' When Tom went forth, and had turned the corner Mr Pecksniff shook his head, shut his eyes, and heaving a deep sigh, shut the door. On which, the best of Tom's supporters said he must have done some dreadful deed, or such a man as Mr Pecksniff never could have felt like that. If it had been a common quarrel (they observed), he would have said something, but when he didn't, Mr Pinch must have shocked him dreadfully.
Tom was out of hearing of their shrewd opinions, and plodded on as steadily as he could go, until he came within sight of the turnpike where the tollman's family had cried out 'Mr Pinch!' that frosty morning, when he went to meet young Martin. He had got through the village, and this toll-bar was his last trial; but when the infant toll-takers came screeching out, he had half a mind to run for it, and make a bolt across the country.
'Why, deary Mr Pinch! oh, deary sir!' cried the tollman's wife. 'What an unlikely time for you to be a-going this way with a bag!'
'I am going to Salisbury,' said Tom.
'Why, goodness, where's the gig, then?' cried the tollman's wife, looking down the road, as if she thought Tom might have been upset without observing it. 'I haven't got it,' said Tom. 'I--' he couldn't evade it; he felt she would have him in the next question, if he got over this one. 'I have left Mr Pecksniff.' The tollman--a crusty customer, always smoking solitary pipes in a Windsor chair, inside, set artfully between two little windows that looked up and down the road, so that when he saw anything coming up he might hug himself on having toll to take, and when he saw it going down, might hug himself on having taken it
-the tollman was out in an instant.
'Left Mr Pecksniff!' cried the tollman.
'Yes,' said Tom, 'left him.'
The tollman looked at his wife, uncertain whether to ask her if she had anything to suggest, or to order her to mind the children. Astonishment making him surly, he preferred the latter, and sent her into the toll-house with a flea in her ear. 'You left Mr Pecksniff!' cried the tollman, folding his arms, and spreading his legs. 'I should as soon have thought of his head leaving him.'
'Aye!' said Tom, 'so should I, yesterday. Good night!'
If a heavy drove of oxen hadn't come by immediately, the tollman would have gone down to the village straight, to inquire into it. As things turned out, he smoked another pipe, and took his wife into his confidence. But their united sagacity could make nothing of it, and they went to bed--metaphorically--in the dark. But several times that night, when a waggon or other vehicle came through, and the driver asked the tollkeeper 'What news?' he looked at the man by the light of his lantern, to assure himself that he had an interest in the subject, and then said, wrapping his watch-coat round his legs:
'You've heerd of Mr Pecksniff down yonder?'
'And of his young man Mr Pinch, p'raps?'
After every one of these disclosures, the tollman plunged into his house again, and was seen no more, while the other side went on in great amazement. But this was long after Tom was abed, and Tom was now with his face towards Salisbury, doing his best to get there. The evening was beautiful at first, but it became cloudy and dull at sunset, and the rain fell heavily soon afterwards. For ten long miles he plodded on, wet through, until at last the lights appeared, and he came into the welcome precincts of the city.
He went to the inn where he had waited for Martin, and briefly answering their inquiries after Mr Pecksniff, ordered a bed. He had no heart for tea or supper, meat or drink of any kind, but sat by himself before an empty table in the public room while the bed was getting ready, revolving in his mind all that had happened that eventful day, and wondering what he could or should do for the future. It was a great relief when the chambermaid came in, and said the bed was ready.
It was a low four-poster, shelving downward in the centre like a trough, and the room was crowded with impracticable tables and exploded chests of drawers, full of damp linen. A graphic representation in oil of a remarkably fat ox hung over the fireplace, and the portrait of some former landlord (who might have been the ox's brother, he was so like him) stared roundly in, at the foot of the bed. A variety of queer smells were partially quenched in the prevailing scent of very old lavender; and the window had not been opened for such a long space of time that it pleaded immemorial usage, and wouldn't come open now.
These were trifles in themselves, but they added to the strangeness of the place, and did not induce Tom to forget his new position. Pecksniff had gone out of the world--had never been in it--and it was as much as Tom could do to say his prayers without him. But he felt happier afterwards, and went to sleep, and dreamed about him as he Never Was.
TREATS OF TODGER'S AGAIN; AND OF ANOTHER BLIGHTED PLANT BESIDES THE PLANTS UPON THE LEADS
Early on the day next after that on which she bade adieu to the halls of her youth and the scenes of her childhood, Miss Pecksniff, arriving safely at the coachoffice in London, was there received, and conducted to her peaceful home beneath the shadow of the Monument, by Mrs Todgers. M. Todgers looked a little worn by cares of gravy and other such solicitudes arising out of her establishment, but displayed her usual earnestness and warmth of manner. 'And how, my sweet Miss Pecksniff,' said she, 'how is your princely pa?' Miss Pecksniff signified (in confidence) that he contemplated the introduction of a princely ma; and repeated the sentiment that she wasn't blind, and wasn't quite a fool, and wouldn't bear it.
Mrs Todgers was more shocked by the intelligence than any one could have expected. She was quite bitter. She said there was no truth in man and that the warmer he expressed himself, as a general principle, the falser and more treacherous he was. She foresaw with astonishing clearness that the object of Mr Pecksniff's attachment was designing, worthless, and wicked; and receiving from Charity the fullest confirmation of these views, protested with tears in her eyes that she loved Miss Pecksniff like a sister, and felt her injuries as if they were her own.
'Your real darling sister, I have not seen her more than once since her marriage,' said Mrs Todgers, 'and then I thought her looking poorly. My sweet Miss Pecksniff, I always thought that you was to be the lady?'
'Oh dear no!' cried Cherry, shaking her head. 'Oh no, Mrs Todgers. Thank you. No! not for any consideration he could offer.'
'I dare say you are right,' said Mrs Todgers with a sigh. 'I feared it all along. But the misery we have had from that match, here among ourselves, in this house, my dear Miss Pecksniff, nobody would believe.'
'Lor, Mrs Todgers!'
'Awful, awful!' repeated Mrs Todgers, with strong emphasis. 'You recollect our youngest gentleman, my dear?'
'Of course I do,' said Cherry.
'You might have observed,' said Mrs Todgers, 'how he used to watch your sister; and that a kind of stony dumbness came over him whenever she was in company?'
'I am sure I never saw anything of the sort,' said Cherry, in a peevish manner. 'What nonsense, Mrs Todgers!'
'My dear,' returned that lady in a hollow voice, 'I have seen him again and again, sitting over his pie at dinner, with his spoon a perfect fixture in his mouth, looking at your sister. I have seen him standing in a corner of our drawing-room, gazing at her, in such a lonely, melancholy state, that he was more like a Pump than a man, and might have drawed tears.'
'I never saw it!' cried Cherry; 'that's all I can say.'
'But when the marriage took place,' said Mrs Todgers, proceeding with her subject, 'when it was in the paper, and was read out here at breakfast, I thought he had taken leave of his senses, I did indeed. The violence of that young man, my dear Miss Pecksniff; the frightful opinions he expressed upon the subject of self- destruction; the extraordinary actions he performed with his tea; the clenching way in which he bit his bread and butter; the manner in which he taunted Mr Jinkins; all combined to form a picture never to be forgotten.' 'It's a pity he didn't destroy himself, I think,' observed Miss Pecksniff. 'Himself!' said Mrs Todgers, 'it took another turn at night. He was for destroying other people then. There was a little chaffing going on--I hope you don't consider that a low expression, Miss Pecksniff; it is always in our gentlemen's mouths--a little chaffing going on, my dear, among 'em, all in good nature, when suddenly he rose up, foaming with his fury, and but for being held by three would have had Mr Jinkins's life with a bootjack.'
Miss Pecksniff's face expressed supreme indifference.
'And now,' said Mrs Todgers, 'now he is the meekest of men. You can almost bring the tears into his eyes by looking at him. He sits with me the whole day long on Sundays, talking in such a dismal way that I find it next to impossible to keep my spirits up equal to the accommodation of the boarders. His only comfort is in female society. He takes me half-price to the play, to an extent which I sometimes fear is beyond his means; and I see the tears a-standing in his eyes during the whole performance--particularly if it is anything of a comic nature. The turn I experienced only yesterday,' said Mrs Todgers putting her hand to her side, 'when the house-maid threw his bedside carpet out of the window of his room, while I was sitting here, no one can imagine. I thought it was him, and that he had done it at last!'
The contempt with which Miss Charity received this pathetic account of the state to which the youngest gentleman in company was reduced, did not say much for her power of sympathising with that unfortunate character. She treated it with great levity, and went on to inform herself, then and afterwards, whether any other changes had occurred in the commercial boarding-house.
Mr Bailey was gone, and had been succeeded (such is the decay of human greatness!) by an old woman whose name was reported to be Tamaroo--which seemed an impossibility. Indeed it appeared in the fullness of time that the jocular boarders had appropriated the word from an English ballad, in which it is supposed to express the bold and fiery nature of a certain hackney coachman; and that it was bestowed upon Mr Bailey's successor by reason of her having nothing fiery about her, except an occasional attack of that fire which is called St. Anthony's. This ancient female had been engaged, in fulfillment of a vow, registered by Mrs Todgers, that no more boys should darken the commercial doors; and she was chiefly remarkable for a total absence of all comprehension upon every subject whatever. She was a perfect Tomb for messages and small parcels; and when dispatched to the Post Office with letters, had been frequently seen endeavouring to insinuate them into casual chinks in private doors, under the delusion that any door with a hole in it would answer the purpose. She was a very little old woman, and always wore a very coarse apron with a bib before and a loop behind, together with bandages on her wrists, which appeared to be afflicted with an everlasting sprain. She was on all occasions chary of opening the street door, and ardent to shut it again; and she waited at table in a bonnet. This was the only great change over and above the change which had fallen on the youngest gentleman. As for him, he more than corroborated the account of Mrs Todgers; possessing greater sensibility than even she had given him credit for. He entertained some terrible notions of Destiny, among other matters, and talked much about people's 'Missions'; upon which he seemed to have some private information not generally attainable, as he knew it had been poor Merry's mission to crush him in the bud. He was very frail and tearful; for being aware that a shepherd's mission was to pipe to his flocks, and that a boatswain's mission was to pipe all hands, and that one man's mission was to be a paid piper, and another man's mission was to pay the piper, so he had got it into his head that his own peculiar mission was to pipe his eye. Which he did perpetually. He often informed Mrs Todgers that the sun had set upon him; that the billows had rolled over him; that the car of Juggernaut had crushed him, and also that the deadly Upas tree of Java had blighted him. His name was Moddle. Towards this most unhappy Moddle, Miss Pecksniff conducted herself at first with distant haughtiness, being in no humour to be entertained with dirges in honour of her married sister. The poor young gentleman was additionally crushed by this, and remonstrated with Mrs Todgers on the subject.
'Even she turns from me, Mrs Todgers,' said Moddle.
'Then why don't you try and be a little bit more cheerful, sir?' retorted Mrs Todgers.
'Cheerful, Mrs Todgers! cheerful!' cried the youngest gentleman; 'when she reminds me of days for ever fled, Mrs Todgers!'
'Then you had better avoid her for a short time, if she does,' said Mrs Todgers, 'and come to know her again, by degrees. That's my advice.'
'But I can't avoid her,' replied Moddle, 'I haven't strength of mind to do it. Oh, Mrs Todgers, if you knew what a comfort her nose is to me!'
'Her nose, sir!' Mrs Todgers cried.
'Her profile, in general,' said the youngest gentleman, 'but particularly her nose. It's so like;' here he yielded to a burst of grief. 'it's so like hers who is Another's, Mrs Todgers!'
The observant matron did not fail to report this conversation to Charity, who laughed at the time, but treated Mr Moddle that very evening with increased consideration, and presented her side face to him as much as possible. Mr Moddle was not less sentimental than usual; was rather more so, if anything; but he sat and stared at her with glistening eyes, and seemed grateful. 'Well, sir!' said the lady of the Boarding-House next day. 'You held up your head last night. You're coming round, I think.'
'Only because she's so like her who is Another's, Mrs Todgers,' rejoined the youth. 'When she talks, and when she smiles, I think I'm looking on HER brow again, Mrs Todgers.'
This was likewise carried to Charity, who talked and smiled next evening in her most engaging manner, and rallying Mr Moddle on the lowness of his spirits, challenged him to play a rubber at cribbage. Mr Moddle taking up the gauntlet, they played several rubbers for sixpences, and Charity won them all. This may have been partially attributable to the gallantry of the youngest gentleman, but it was certainly referable to the state of his feelings also; for his eyes being frequently dimmed by tears, he thought that aces were tens, and knaves queens, which at times occasioned some confusion in his play.
On the seventh night of cribbage, when Mrs Todgers, sitting by, proposed that instead of gambling they should play for 'love,' Mr Moddle was seen to change colour. On the fourteenth night, he kissed Miss Pecksniff's snuffers, in the passage, when she went upstairs to bed; meaning to have kissed her hand, but missing it.
In short, Mr Moddle began to be impressed with the idea that Miss Pecksniff's mission was to comfort him; and Miss Pecksniff began to speculate on the probability of its being her mission to become ultimately Mrs Moddle. He was a young gentleman (Miss Pecksniff was not a very young lady) with rising prospects, and 'almost' enough to live on. Really it looked very well. Besides--besides--he had been regarded as devoted to Merry. Merry had joked about him, and had once spoken of it to her sister as a conquest. He was better looking, better shaped, better spoken, better tempered, better mannered than Jonas. He was easy to manage, could be made to consult the humours of his Betrothed, and could be shown off like a lamb when Jonas was a bear. There was the rub!
In the meantime the cribbage went on, and Mrs Todgers went off; for the youngest gentleman, dropping her society, began to take Miss Pecksniff to the play. He also began, as Mrs Todgers said, to slip home 'in his dinner-times,' and to get away from 'the office' at unholy seasons; and twice, as he informed Mrs Todgers himself, he received anonymous letters, enclosing cards from Furniture Warehouses--clearly the act of that ungentlemanly ruffian Jinkins; only he hadn't evidence enough to call him out upon. All of which, so Mrs Todgers told Miss Pecksniff, spoke as plain English as the shining sun.
'My dear Miss Pecksniff, you may depend upon it,' said Mrs Todgers, 'that he is burning to propose.'
'My goodness me, why don't he then?' cried Cherry.
'Men are so much more timid than we think 'em, my dear,' returned Mrs Todgers. 'They baulk themselves continually. I saw the words on Todgers's lips for months and months and months, before he said 'em.'
Miss Pecksniff submitted that Todgers might not have been a fair specimen. 'Oh yes, he was. Oh bless you, yes, my dear. I was very particular in those days, I assure you,' said Mrs Todgers, bridling. 'No, no. You give Mr Moddle a little encouragement, Miss Pecksniff, if you wish him to speak; and he'll speak fast enough, depend upon it.'
'I am sure I don't know what encouragement he would have, Mrs Todgers,' returned Charity. 'He walks with me, and plays cards with me, and he comes and sits alone with me.'
'Quite right,' said Mrs Todgers. 'That's indispensable, my dear.'
'And he sits very close to me.'
'Also quite correct,' said Mrs Todgers.
'And he looks at me.'
'To be sure he does,' said Mrs Todgers.
'And he has his arm upon the back of the chair or sofa, or whatever it is--behind me, you know.'
'I should think so,' said Mrs Todgers.
'And then he begins to cry!'
Mrs Todgers admitted that he might do better than that; and might undoubtedly profit by the recollection of the great Lord Nelson's signal at the battle of Trafalgar. Still, she said, he would come round, or, not to mince the matter, would be brought round, if Miss Pecksniff took up a decided position, and plainly showed him that it must be done.
Determining to regulate her conduct by this opinion, the young lady received Mr Moddle, on the earliest subsequent occasion, with an air of constraint; and gradually leading him to inquire, in a dejected manner, why she was so changed, confessed to him that she felt it necessary for their mutual peace and happiness to take a decided step. They had been much together lately, she observed, much together, and had tasted the sweets of a genuine reciprocity of sentiment. She never could forget him, nor could she ever cease to think of him with feelings of the liveliest friendship, but people had begun to talk, the thing had been observed, and it was necessary that they should be nothing more to each other, than any gentleman and lady in society usually are. She was glad she had had the resolution to say thus much before her feelings had been tried too far; they had been greatly tried, she would admit; but though she was weak and silly, she would soon get the better of it, she hoped.
Moddle, who had by this time become in the last degree maudlin, and wept abundantly, inferred from the foregoing avowal, that it was his mission to communicate to others the blight which had fallen on himself; and that, being a kind of unintentional Vampire, he had had Miss Pecksniff assigned to him by the Fates, as Victim Number One. Miss Pecksniff controverting this opinion as sinful, Moddle was goaded on to ask whether she could be contented with a blighted heart; and it appearing on further examination that she could be, plighted his dismal troth, which was accepted and returned.
He bore his good fortune with the utmost moderation. Instead of being triumphant, he shed more tears than he had ever been known to shed before; and, sobbing, said:
'Oh! what a day this has been! I can't go back to the office this afternoon. Oh, what a trying day this has been! Good Gracious!'
FURTHER PROCEEDINGS IN EDEN, AND A PROCEEDING OUT OF IT. MARTIN MAKES A DISCOVERY OF SOME IMPORTANCE
From Mr Moddle to Eden is an easy and natural transition. Mr Moddle, living in the atmosphere of Miss Pecksniff's love, dwelt (if he had but known it) in a terrestrial Paradise. The thriving city of Eden was also a terrestrial Paradise, upon the showing of its proprietors. The beautiful Miss Pecksniff might have been poetically described as a something too good for man in his fallen and degraded state. That was exactly the character of the thriving city of Eden, as poetically heightened by Zephaniah Scadder, General Choke, and other worthies; part and parcel of the talons of that great American Eagle, which is always airing itself sky-high in purest aether, and never, no never, never, tumbles down with draggled wings into the mud.
When Mark Tapley, leaving Martin in the architectural and surveying offices, had effectually strengthened and encouraged his own spirits by the contemplation of their joint misfortunes, he proceeded, with new cheerfulness, in search of help; congratulating himself, as he went along, on the enviable position to which he had at last attained.
'I used to think, sometimes,' said Mr Tapley, 'as a desolate island would suit me, but I should only have had myself to provide for there, and being naturally a easy man to manage, there wouldn't have been much credit in THAT. Now here I've got my partner to take care on, and he's something like the sort of man for the purpose. I want a man as is always a-sliding off his legs when he ought to be on 'em. I want a man as is so low down in the school of life that he's always amaking figures of one in his copy-book, and can't get no further. I want a man as is his own great coat and cloak, and is always a-wrapping himself up in himself. And I have got him too,' said Mr Tapley, after a moment's silence. 'What a happiness!'
He paused to look round, uncertain to which of the log-houses he should repair. 'I don't know which to take,' he observed; 'that's the truth. They're equally prepossessing outside, and equally commodious, no doubt, within; being fitted up with every convenience that a Alligator, in a state of natur', could possibly require. Let me see! The citizen as turned out last night, lives under water, in the right hand dog-kennel at the corner. I don't want to trouble him if I can help it, poor man, for he is a melancholy object; a reg'lar Settler in every respect. There's house with a winder, but I am afraid of their being proud. I don't know whether a door ain't too aristocratic; but here goes for the first one!'
He went up to the nearest cabin, and knocked with his hand. Being desired to enter, he complied.
'Neighbour,' said Mark; 'for I AM a neighbour, though you don't know me; I've come a-begging. Hallo! hal--lo! Am I a-bed, and dreaming!'
He made this exclamation on hearing his own name pronounced, and finding himself clasped about the skirts by two little boys, whose faces he had often washed, and whose suppers he had often cooked, on board of that noble and fast-sailing line-of-packet ship, the Screw.
'My eyes is wrong!' said Mark. 'I don't believe 'em. That ain't my fellow-passenger younder, a-nursing her little girl, who, I am sorry to see, is so delicate; and that ain't her husband as come to New York to fetch her. Nor these,' he added, looking down upon the boys, 'ain't them two young shavers as was so familiar to me; though they are uncommon like 'em. That I must confess.'
The woman shed tears, in very joy to see him; the man shook both his hands and would not let them go; the two boys hugged his legs; the sick child in the mother's arms stretched out her burning little fingers, and muttered, in her hoarse, dry throat, his well- remembered name.
It was the same family, sure enough. Altered by the salubrious air of Eden. But the same.
'This is a new sort of a morning call,' said Mark, drawing a long breath. 'It strikes one all of a heap. Wait a little bit! I'm a- coming round fast. That'll do! These gentlemen ain't my friends. Are they on the visiting list of the house?' The inquiry referred to certain gaunt pigs, who had walked in after him, and were much interested in the heels of the family. As they did not belong to the mansion, they were expelled by the two little boys.
'I ain't superstitious about toads,' said Mark, looking round the room, 'but if you could prevail upon the two or three I see in company, to step out at the same time, my young friends, I think they'd find the open air refreshing. Not that I at all object to 'em. A very handsome animal is a toad,' said Mr Tapley, sitting down upon a stool; 'very spotted; very like a partickler style of old gentleman about the throat; very bright-eyed, very cool, and very slippy. But one sees 'em to the best advantage out of doors perhaps.'
While pretending, with such talk as this, to be perfectly at his ease, and to be the most indifferent and careless of men, Mark Tapley had an eye on all around him. The wan and meagre aspect of the family, the changed looks of the poor mother, the fevered child she held in her lap, the air of great despondency and little hope on everything, were plain to him, and made a deep impression on his mind. He saw it all as clearly and as quickly, as with his bodily eyes he saw the rough shelves supported by pegs driven between the logs, of which the house was made; the flour-cask in the corner, serving also for a table; the blankets, spades, and other articles against the walls; the damp that blotched the ground; or the crop of vegetable rottenness in every crevice of the hut.
'How is it that you have come here?' asked the man, when their first expressions of surprise were over.
'Why, we come by the steamer last night,' replied Mark. 'Our intention is to make our fortuns with punctuality and dispatch; and to retire upon our property as soon as ever it's realised. But how are you all? You're looking noble!'
'We are but sickly now,' said the poor woman, bending over her child. 'But we shall do better when we are seasoned to the place.'
'There are some here,' thought Mark 'whose seasoning will last for ever.' But he said cheerfully, 'Do better! To be sure you will. We shall all do better. What we've got to do is, to keep up our spirits, and be neighbourly. We shall come all right in the end, never fear. That reminds me, by the bye, that my partner's all wrong just at present; and that I looked in to beg for him. I wish you'd come and give me your opinion of him, master.'
That must have been a very unreasonable request on the part of Mark Tapley, with which, in their gratitude for his kind offices on board the ship, they would not have complied instantly. The man rose to accompany him without a moment's delay. Before they went, Mark took the sick child in his arms, and tried to comfort the mother; but the hand of death was on it then, he saw.
They found Martin in the house, lying wrapped up in his blanket on the ground. He was, to all appearance, very ill indeed, and shook and shivered horribly; not as people do from cold, but in a frightful kind of spasm or convulsion, that racked his whole body. Mark's friend pronounced his disease an aggravated kind of fever, accompanied with ague; which was very common in those parts, and which he predicted would be worse to-morrow, and for many more to-morrows. He had had it himself off and on, he said, for a couple of years or so; but he was thankful that, while so many he had known had died about him, he had escaped with life.
'And with not too much of that,' thought Mark, surveying his emaciated form. 'Eden for ever!'
They had some medicine in their chest; and this man of sad experience showed Mark how and when to administer it, and how he could best alleviate the sufferings of Martin. His attentions did not stop there; for he was backwards and forwards constantly, and rendered Mark good service in all his brisk attempts to make their situation more endurable. Hope or comfort for the future he could not bestow. The season was a sickly one; the settlement a grave. His child died that night; and Mark, keeping the secret from Martin, helped to bury it, beneath a tree, next day.
With all his various duties of attendance upon Martin (who became the more exacting in his claims, the worse he grew), Mark worked out of doors, early and late; and with the assistance of his friend and others, laboured to do something with their land. Not that he had the least strength of heart or hope, or steady purpose in so doing, beyond the habitual cheerfulness of his disposition, and his amazing power of self-sustainment; for within himself, he looked on their condition as beyond all hope, and, in his own words, 'came out strong' in consequence.
'As to coming out as strong as I could wish, sir,' he confided to Martin in a leisure moment; that is to say, one evening, while he was washing the linen of the establishment, after a hard day's work, 'that I give up. It's a piece of good fortune as never is to happen to me, I see!'
'Would you wish for circumstances stronger than these?' Martin retorted with a groan, from underneath his blanket.
'Why, only see how easy they might have been stronger, sir,' said Mark, 'if it wasn't for the envy of that uncommon fortun of mine, which is always after me, and tripping me up. The night we landed here, I thought things did look pretty jolly. I won't deny it. I thought they did look pretty jolly.'
'How do they look now?' groaned Martin.
'Ah!' said Mark, 'Ah, to be sure. That's the question. How do they look now? On the very first morning of my going out, what do I do? Stumble on a family I know, who are constantly assisting of us in all sorts of ways, from that time to this! That won't do, you know; that ain't what I'd a right to expect. If I had stumbled on a serpent and got bit; or stumbled on a first-rate patriot, and got bowie-knifed, or stumbled on a lot of Sympathisers with inverted shirt-collars, and got made a lion of; I might have distinguished myself, and earned some credit. As it is, the great object of my voyage is knocked on the head. So it would be, wherever I went. How do you feel to-night, sir?'
'Worse than ever,' said poor Martin.
'That's something,' returned Mark, 'but not enough. Nothing but being very bad myself, and jolly to the last, will ever do me justice.'
'In Heaven's name, don't talk of that,' said Martin with a thrill of terror. 'What should I do, Mark, if you were taken ill!'
Mr Tapley's spirits appeared to be stimulated by this remark, although it was not a very flattering one. He proceeded with his washing in a brighter mood; and observed 'that his glass was arising.'
'There's one good thing in this place, sir,' said Mr Tapley, scrubbing away at the linen, 'as disposes me to be jolly; and that is that it's a reg'lar little United States in itself. There's two or three American settlers left; and they coolly comes over one, even here, sir, as if it was the wholesomest and loveliest spot in the world. But they're like the cock that went and hid himself to save his life, and was found out by the noise he made. They can't help crowing. They was born to do it, and do it they must, whatever comes of it.'
Glancing from his work out at the door as he said these words, Mark's eyes encountered a lean person in a blue frock and a straw hat, with a short black pipe in his mouth, and a great hickory stick studded all over with knots, in his hand; who smoking and chewing as he came along, and spitting frequently, recorded his progress by a train of decomposed tobacco on the ground.
'Here's one on 'em,' cried Mark, 'Hannibal Chollop.'
'Don't let him in,' said Martin, feebly.
'He won't want any letting in,' replied Mark. 'He'll come in, sir.' Which turned out to be quite true, for he did. His face was almost as hard and knobby as his stick; and so were his hands. His head was like an old black hearth-broom. He sat down on the chest with his hat on; and crossing his legs and looking up at Mark, said, without removing his pipe:
'Well, Mr Co.! and how do you git along, sir?'
It may be necessary to observe that Mr Tapley had gravely introduced himself to all strangers, by that name.
'Pretty well, sir; pretty well,' said Mark.
'If this ain't Mr Chuzzlewit, ain't it!' exclaimed the visitor 'How do YOU git along, sir?'
Martin shook his head, and drew the blanket over it involuntarily; for he felt that Hannibal was going to spit; and his eye, as the song says, was upon him. 'You need not regard me, sir,' observed Mr Chollop, complacently. 'I am feverproof, and likewise agur.'
'Mine was a more selfish motive,' said Martin, looking out again. 'I was afraid you were going to--'
'I can calc'late my distance, sir,' returned Mr Chollop, 'to an inch.'
With a proof of which happy faculty he immediately favoured him. 'I re-quire, sir,' said Hannibal, 'two foot clear in a circ'lar di- rection, and can engage my-self toe keep within it. I HAVE gone ten foot, in a circ'lar di-rection, but that was for a wager.'
'I hope you won it, sir,' said Mark.
'Well, sir, I realised the stakes,' said Chollop. 'Yes, sir.'
He was silent for a time, during which he was actively engaged in the formation of a magic circle round the chest on which he sat. When it was completed, he began to talk again.
'How do you like our country, sir?' he inquired, looking at Martin.
'Not at all,' was the invalid's reply.
Chollop continued to smoke without the least appearance of emotion, until he felt disposed to speak again. That time at length arriving, he took his pipe from his mouth, and said:
'I am not surprised to hear you say so. It re-quires An elevation, and A preparation of the intellect. The mind of man must be prepared for Freedom, Mr Co.'
He addressed himself to Mark; because he saw that Martin, who wished him to go, being already half-mad with feverish irritation, which the droning voice of this new horror rendered almost insupportable, had closed his eyes, and turned on his uneasy bed.
'A little bodily preparation wouldn't be amiss, either, would it, sir,' said Mark, 'in the case of a blessed old swamp like this?'
'Do you con-sider this a swamp, sir?' inquired Chollop gravely.
'Why yes, sir,' returned Mark. 'I haven't a doubt about it myself.'
'The sentiment is quite Europian,' said the major, 'and does not surprise me; what would your English millions say to such a swamp in England, sir?' 'They'd say it was an uncommon nasty one, I should think, said Mark; 'and that they would rather be inoculated for fever in some other way.'
'Europian!' remarked Chollop, with sardonic pity. 'Quite Europian!' And there he sat. Silent and cool, as if the house were his; smoking away like a factory chimney.
Mr Chollop was, of course, one of the most remarkable men in the country; but he really was a notorious person besides. He was usually described by his friends, in the South and West, as 'a splendid sample of our na-tive raw material, sir,' and was much esteemed for his devotion to rational Liberty; for the better propagation whereof he usually carried a brace of revolving pistols in his coat pocket, with seven barrels a-piece. He also carried, amongst other trinkets, a sword-stick, which he called his 'Tickler.' and a great knife, which (for he was a man of a pleasant turn of humour) he called 'Ripper,' in allusion to its usefulness as a means of ventilating the stomach of any adversary in a close contest. He had used these weapons with distinguished effect in several instances, all duly chronicled in the newspapers; and was greatly beloved for the gallant manner in which he had 'jobbed out' the eye of one gentleman, as he was in the act of knocking at his own street-door.
Mr Chollop was a man of a roving disposition; and, in any less advanced community, might have been mistaken for a violent vagabond. But his fine qualities being perfectly understood and appreciated in those regions where his lot was cast, and where he had many kindred spirits to consort with, he may be regarded as having been born under a fortunate star, which is not always the case with a man so much before the age in which he lives. Preferring, with a view to the gratification of his tickling and ripping fancies, to dwell upon the outskirts of society, and in the more remote towns and cities, he was in the habit of emigrating from place to place, and establishing in each some business--usually a newspaper--which he presently sold; for the most part closing the bargain by challenging, stabbing, pistolling, or gouging the new editor, before he had quite taken possession of the property.
He had come to Eden on a speculation of this kind, but had abandoned it, and was about to leave. He always introduced himself to strangers as a worshipper of Freedom; was the consistent advocate of Lynch law, and slavery; and invariably recommended, both in print and speech, the 'tarring and feathering' of any unpopular person who differed from himself. He called this 'planting the standard of civilization in the wilder gardens of My country.'
There is little doubt that Chollop would have planted this standard in Eden at Mark's expense, in return for his plainness of speech (for the genuine Freedom is dumb, save when she vaunts herself), but for the utter desolation and decay prevailing in the settlement, and his own approaching departure from it. As it was, he contented himself with showing Mark one of the revolving-pistols, and asking him what he thought of that weapon.
'It ain't long since I shot a man down with that, sir, in the State of IllinOY,' observed Chollop.
'Did you, indeed!' said Mark, without the smallest agitation. 'Very free of you. And very independent!'
'I shot him down, sir,' pursued Chollop, 'for asserting in the Spartan Portico, a triweekly journal, that the ancient Athenians went a-head of the present Locofoco Ticket.'
'And what's that?' asked Mark.
'Europian not to know,' said Chollop, smoking placidly. 'Europian quite!' After a short devotion to the interests of the magic circle, he resumed the conversation by observing:
'You won't half feel yourself at home in Eden, now?'
'No,' said Mark, 'I don't.'
'You miss the imposts of your country. You miss the house dues?' observed Chollop.
'And the houses--rather,' said Mark.
'No window dues here, sir,' observed Chollop.
'And no windows to put 'em on,' said Mark.
'No stakes, no dungeons, no blocks, no racks, no scaffolds, no thumbscrews, no pikes, no pillories,' said Chollop.
'Nothing but rewolwers and bowie-knives,' returned Mark. 'And what are they? Not worth mentioning!'
The man who had met them on the night of their arrival came crawling up at this juncture, and looked in at the door.
'Well, sir,' said Chollop. 'How do YOU git along?'
He had considerable difficulty in getting along at all, and said as much in reply. 'Mr Co. And me, sir,' observed Chollop, 'are disputating a piece. He ought to be slicked up pretty smart to disputate between the Old World and the New, I do expect?'
'Well!' returned the miserable shadow. 'So he had.'
'I was merely observing, sir,' said Mark, addressing this new visitor, 'that I looked upon the city in which we have the honour to live, as being swampy. What's your sentiments?'
'I opinionate it's moist perhaps, at certain times,' returned the man. 'But not as moist as England, sir?' cried Chollop, with a fierce expression in his face.
'Oh! Not as moist as England; let alone its Institutions,' said the man. 'I should hope there ain't a swamp in all Americay, as don't whip THAT small island into mush and molasses,' observed Chollop, decisively. 'You bought slick, straight, and right away, of Scadder, sir?' to Mark.
He answered in the affirmative. Mr Chollop winked at the other citizen. 'Scadder is a smart man, sir? He is a rising man? He is a man as will come up'ards, right side up, sir?' Mr Chollop winked again at the other citizen. 'He should have his right side very high up, if I had my way,' said Mark. 'As high up as the top of a good tall gallows, perhaps.'
Mr Chollop was so delighted at the smartness of his excellent countryman having been too much for the Britisher, and at the Britisher's resenting it, that he could contain himself no longer, and broke forth in a shout of delight. But the strangest exposition of this ruling passion was in the other--the pestilence-stricken, broken, miserable shadow of a man--who derived so much entertainment from the circumstance that he seemed to forget his own ruin in thinking of it, and laughed outright when he said 'that Scadder was a smart man, and had draw'd a lot of British capital that way, as sure as sun-up.'
After a full enjoyment of this joke, Mr Hannibal Chollop sat smoking and improving the circle, without making any attempts either to converse or to take leave; apparently labouring under the not uncommon delusion that for a free and enlightened citizen of the United States to convert another man's house into a spittoon for two or three hours together, was a delicate attention, full of interest and politeness, of which nobody could ever tire. At last he rose.
'I am a-going easy,' he observed.
Mark entreated him to take particular care of himself.
'Afore I go,' he said sternly, 'I have got a leetle word to say to you. You are darnation 'cute, you are.'
Mark thanked him for the compliment.
'But you are much too 'cute to last. I can't con-ceive of any spotted Painter in the bush, as ever was so riddled through and through as you will be, I bet.' 'What for?' asked Mark.
'We must be cracked up, sir,' retorted Chollop, in a tone of menace. 'You are not now in A despotic land. We are a model to the airth, and must be jist cracked-up, I tell you.'
'What! I speak too free, do I?' cried Mark.
'I have draw'd upon A man, and fired upon A man for less,' said Chollop, frowning. 'I have know'd strong men obleeged to make themselves uncommon skase for less. I have know'd men Lynched for less, and beaten into punkin'sarse for less, by an enlightened people. We are the intellect and virtue of the airth, the cream of human natur', and the flower Of moral force. Our backs is easy ris. We must be cracked-up, or they rises, and we snarls. We shows our teeth, I tell you, fierce. You'd better crack us up, you had!'
After the delivery of this caution, Mr Chollop departed; with Ripper, Tickler, and the revolvers, all ready for action on the shortest notice.
'Come out from under the blanket, sir,' said Mark, 'he's gone. What's this!' he added softly; kneeling down to look into his partner's face, and taking his hot hand. 'What's come of all that chattering and swaggering? He's wandering in his mind to-night, and don't know me!'
Martin indeed was dangerously ill; very near his death. He lay in that state many days, during which time Mark's poor friends, regardless of themselves, attended him. Mark, fatigued in mind and body; working all the day and sitting up at night; worn with hard living and the unaccustomed toil of his new life; surrounded by dismal and discouraging circumstances of every kind; never complained or yielded in the least degree. If ever he had thought Martin selfish or inconsiderate, or had deemed him energetic only by fits and starts, and then too passive for their desperate fortunes, he now forgot it all. He remembered nothing but the better qualities of his fellow-wanderer, and was devoted to him, heart and hand. Many weeks elapsed before Martin was strong enough to move about with the help of a stick and Mark's arm; and even then his recovery, for want of wholesome air and proper nourishment, was very slow. He was yet in a feeble and weak condition, when the misfourtune he had so much dreaded fell upon them. Mark was taken ill.
Mark fought against it; but the malady fought harder, and his efforts were in vain. 'Floored for the present, sir,' he said one morning, sinking back upon his bed; 'but jolly!'
Floored indeed, and by a heavy blow! As any one but Martin might have known beforehand.
If Mark's friends had been kind to Martin (and they had been very), they were twenty times kinder to Mark. And now it was Martin's turn to work, and sit beside the bed and watch, and listen through the long, long nights, to every sound in the gloomy wilderness; and hear poor Mr Tapley, in his wandering fancy, playing at skittles in the Dragon, making love-remonstrances to Mrs Lupin, getting his sealegs on board the Screw, travelling with old Tom Pinch on English roads, and burning stumps of trees in Eden, all at once.
But whenever Martin gave him drink or medicine, or tended him in any way, or came into the house returning from some drudgery without, the patient Mr Tapley brightened up and cried: 'I'm jolly, sir; 'I'm jolly!'
Now, when Martin began to think of this, and to look at Mark as he lay there; never reproaching him by so much as an expression of regret; never murmuring; always striving to be manful and staunch; he began to think, how was it that this man who had had so few advantages, was so much better than he who had had so many? And attendance upon a sick bed, but especially the sick bed of one whom we have been accustomed to see in full activity and vigour, being a great breeder of reflection, he began to ask himself in what they differed. He was assisted in coming to a conclusion on this head by the frequent presence of Mark's friend, their fellow-passenger across the ocean, which suggested to him that in regard to having aided her, for example, they had differed very much. Somehow he coupled Tom Pinch with this train of reflection; and thinking that Tom would be very likely to have struck up the same sort of acquaintance under similar circumstances, began to think in what respects two people so extremely different were like each other, and were unlike him. At first sight there was nothing very distressing in these meditations, but they did undoubtedly distress him for all that.
Martin's nature was a frank and generous one; but he had been bred up in his grandfather's house; and it will usually be found that the meaner domestic vices propagate themselves to be their own antagonists. Selfishness does this especially; so do suspicion, cunning, stealth, and covetous propensities. Martin had unconsciously reasoned as a child, 'My guardian takes so much thought of himself, that unless I do the like by MYself, I shall be forgotten.' So he had grown selfish.
But he had never known it. If any one had taxed him with the vice, he would have indignantly repelled the accusation, and conceived himself unworthily aspersed. He never would have known it, but that being newly risen from a bed of dangerous sickness, to watch by such another couch, he felt how nearly Self had dropped into the grave, and what a poor dependent, miserable thing it was. It was natural for him to reflect--he had months to do it in--upon his own escape, and Mark's extremity. This led him to consider which of them could be the better spared, and why? Then the curtain slowly rose a very little way; and Self, Self, Self, was shown below.
He asked himself, besides, when dreading Mark's decease (as all men do and must, at such a time), whether he had done his duty by him, and had deserved and made a good response to his fidelity and zeal. No. Short as their companionship had been, he felt in many, many instances, that there was blame against himself; and still inquiring why, the curtain slowly rose a little more, and Self, Self, Self, dilated on the scene.
It was long before he fixed the knowledge of himself so firmly in his mind that he could thoroughly discern the truth; but in the hideous solitude of that most hideous place, with Hope so far removed, Ambition quenched, and Death beside him rattling at the very door, reflection came, as in a plague-beleaguered town; and so he felt and knew the failing of his life, and saw distinctly what an ugly spot it was.
Eden was a hard school to learn so hard a lesson in; but there were teachers in the swamp and thicket, and the pestilential air, who had a searching method of their own.
He made a solemn resolution that when his strength returned he would not dispute the point or resist the conviction, but would look upon it as an established fact, that selfishness was in his breast, and must be rooted out. He was so doubtful (and with justice) of his own character, that he determined not to say one word of vain regret or good resolve to Mark, but steadily to keep his purpose before his own eyes solely; and there was not a jot of pride in this; nothing but humility and steadfastness; the best armour he could wear. So low had Eden brought him down. So high had Eden raised him up.
After a long and lingering illness (in certain forlorn stages of which, when too far gone to speak, he had feebly written 'jolly!' on a slate), Mark showed some symptoms of returning health. They came and went, and flickered for a time; but he began to mend at last decidedly; and after that continued to improve from day to day.
As soon as he was well enough to talk without fatigue, Martin consulted him upon a project he had in his mind, and which a few months back he would have carried into execution without troubling anybody's head but his own.
'Ours is a desperate case,' said Martin. 'Plainly. The place is deserted; its failure must have become known; and selling what we have bought to any one, for anything, is hopeless, even if it were honest. We left home on a mad enterprise, and have failed. The only hope left us, the only one end for which we have now to try, is to quit this settlement for ever, and get back to England. Anyhow! by any means! only to get back there, Mark.'
'That's all, sir,' returned Mr Tapley, with a significant stress upon the words; 'only that!'
'Now, upon this side of the water,' said Martin, 'we have but one friend who can help us, and that is Mr Bevan.'
'I thought of him when you was ill,' said Mark.
'But for the time that would be lost, I would even write to my grandfather,' Martin went on to say, 'and implore him for money to free us from this trap into which we were so cruelly decoyed. Shall I try Mr Bevan first?'
'He's a very pleasant sort of a gentleman,' said Mark. 'I think so.'
'The few goods we brought here, and in which we spent our money, would produce something if sold,' resumed Martin; 'and whatever they realise shall be paid him instantly. But they can't be sold here.'
'There's nobody but corpses to buy 'em,' said Mr Tapley, shaking his head with a rueful air, 'and pigs.'
'Shall I tell him so, and only ask him for money enough to enable us by the cheapest means to reach New York, or any port from which we may hope to get a passage home, by serving in any capacity? Explaining to him at the same time how I am connected, and that I will endeavour to repay him, even through my grandfather, immediately on our arrival in England?'
'Why to be sure,' said Mark: 'he can only say no, and he may say yes. If you don't mind trying him, sir--'
'Mind!' exclaimed Martin. 'I am to blame for coming here, and I would do anything to get away. I grieve to think of the past. If I had taken your opinion sooner, Mark, we never should have been here, I am certain.'
Mr Tapley was very much surprised at this admission, but protested, with great vehemence, that they would have been there all the same; and that he had set his heart upon coming to Eden, from the first word he had ever heard of it. Martin then read him a letter to Mr Bevan, which he had already prepared. It was frankly and ingenuously written, and described their situation without the least concealment; plainly stated the miseries they had undergone; and preferred their request in modest but straightforward terms. Mark highly commended it; and they determined to dispatch it by the next steamboat going the right way, that might call to take in wood at Eden--where there was plenty of wood to spare. Not knowing how to address Mr Bevan at his own place of abode, Martin superscribed it to the care of the memorable Mr Norris of New York, and wrote upon the cover an entreaty that it might be forwarded without delay. More than a week elapsed before a boat appeared; but at length they were awakened very early one morning by the high-pressure snorting of the 'Esau Slodge;' named after one of the most remarkable men in the country, who had been very eminent somewhere. Hurrying down to the landing-place, they got it safe on board; and waiting anxiously to see the boat depart, stopped up the gangway; an instance of neglect which caused the 'Capting' of the Esau Slodge to 'wish he might be sifted fine as flour, and whittled small as chips; that if they didn't come off that there fixing right smart too, he'd spill 'em in the drink;' whereby the Capting metaphorically said he'd throw them in the river. They were not likely to receive an answer for eight or ten weeks at the earliest. In the meantime they devoted such strength as they had to the attempted improvement of their land; to clearing some of it, and preparing it for useful purposes. Monstrously defective as their farming was, still it was better than their neighbours'; for Mark had some practical knowledge of such matters, and Martin learned of him; whereas the other settlers who remained upon the putrid swamp (a mere handful, and those withered by disease), appeared to have wandered there with the idea that husbandry was the natural gift of all mankind. They helped each other after their own manner in these struggles, and in all others; but they worked as hopelessly and sadly as a gang of convicts in a penal settlement. Often at night when Mark and Martin were alone, and lying down to sleep, they spoke of home, familiar places, houses, roads, and people whom they knew; sometimes in the lively hope of seeing them again, and sometimes with a sorrowful tranquillity, as if that hope were dead. It was a source of great amazement to Mark Tapley to find, pervading all these conversations, a singular alteration in Martin.
'I don't know what to make of him,' he thought one night, 'he ain't what I supposed. He don't think of himself half as much. I'll try him again. Asleep, sir?' 'No, Mark.'
'Thinking of home, sir?'
'So was I, sir. I was wondering how Mr Pinch and Mr Pecksniff gets on now.' 'Poor Tom!' said Martin, thoughtfully.
'Weak-minded man, sir,' observed Mr Tapley. 'Plays the organ for nothing, sir. Takes no care of himself?'
'I wish he took a little more, indeed,' said Martin. 'Though I don't know why I should. We shouldn't like him half as well, perhaps.'
'He gets put upon, sir,' hinted Mark.
'Yes!' said Martin, after a short silence. 'I know that, Mark.'
He spoke so regretfully that his partner abandoned the theme, and was silent for a short time until he had thought of another.
'Ah, sir!' said Mark, with a sigh. 'Dear me! You've ventured a good deal for a young lady's love!'
'I tell you what. I'm not so sure of that, Mark,' was the reply; so hastily and energetically spoken, that Martin sat up in his bed to give it. 'I begin to be far from clear upon it. You may depend upon it she is very unhappy. She has sacrificed her peace of mind; she has endangered her interests very much; she can't run away from those who are jealous of her, and opposed to her, as I have done. She has to endure, Mark; to endure without the possibility of action, poor girl! I begin to think that she has more to bear than ever I had. Upon my soul I do!' Mr Tapley opened his eyes wide in the dark; but did not interrupt. 'And I'll tell you a secret, Mark,' said Martin, 'since we ARE upon this subject. That ring--'
'Which ring, sir?' Mark inquired, opening his eyes still wider.
'That ring she gave me when we parted, Mark. She bought it; bought it; knowing I was poor and proud (Heaven help me! Proud!) and wanted money.' 'Who says so, sir?' asked Mark.
'I say so. I know it. I thought of it, my good fellow, hundreds of times, while you were lying ill. And like a beast, I took it from her hand, and wore it on my own, and never dreamed of this even at the moment when I parted with it, when some faint glimmering of the truth might surely have possessed me! But it's late,' said Martin, checking himself, 'and you are weak and tired, I know. You only talk to cheer me up. Good night! God bless you, Mark!'
'God bless you, sir! But I'm reg'larly defrauded,' thought Mr Tapley, turning round with a happy face. 'It's a swindle. I never entered for this sort of service. There'll be no credit in being jolly with HIM!'
The time wore on, and other steamboats coming from the point on which their hopes were fixed, arrived to take in wood; but still no answer to the letter. Rain, heat, foul slime, and noxious vapour, with all the ills and filthy things they bred, prevailed. The earth, the air, the vegetation, and the water that they drank, all teemed with deadly properties. Their fellow-passenger had lost two children long before; and buried now her last. Such things are much too common to be widely known or cared for. Smart citizens grow rich, and friendless victims smart and die, and are forgotten. That is all.
At last a boat came panting up the ugly river, and stopped at Eden. Mark was waiting at the wood hut when it came, and had a letter handed to him from on board. He bore it off to Martin. They looked at one another, trembling. 'It feels heavy,' faltered Martin. And opening it a little roll of dollar-notes fell out upon the ground.
What either of them said, or did, or felt, at first, neither of them knew. All Mark could ever tell was, that he was at the river's bank again out of breath, before the boat had gone, inquiring when it would retrace its track and put in there. The answer was, in ten or twelve days; notwithstanding which they began to get their goods together and to tie them up that very night. When this stage of excitement was passed, each of them believed (they found this out, in talking of it afterwards) that he would surely die before the boat returned.
They lived, however, and it came, after the lapse of three long crawling weeks. At sunrise, on an autumn day, they stood upon her deck.
'Courage! We shall meet again!' cried Martin, waving his hand to two thin figures on the bank. 'In the Old World!'
'Or in the next one,' added Mark below his breath. 'To see them standing side by side, so quiet, is a'most the worst of all!'
They looked at one another as the vessel moved away, and then looked backward at the spot from which it hurried fast. The log-house, with the open door, and drooping trees about it; the stagnant morning mist, and red sun, dimly seen beyond; the vapour rising up from land and river; the quick stream making the loathsome banks it washed more flat and dull; how often they returned in dreams! How often it was happiness to wake and find them Shadows that had vanished!