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Martin Chuzzlewit

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CHAPTER SIX. COMPRISES, AMONG OTHER IMPORTANT MATTERS, PECKSNIFFIAN AND ARCHITECTURAL, AND EXACT RELATION OF THE PROGRESS MADE BY MR PINCH IN THE CONFIDENCE AND FRIENDSHIP OF THE NEW PUPIL


It was morning; and the beautiful Aurora, of whom so much hath been written, said, and sung, did, with her rosy fingers, nip and tweak Miss Pecksniff’s nose. It was the frolicsome custom of the Goddess, in her intercourse with the fair Cherry, so to do; or in more prosaic phrase, the tip of that feature in the sweet girl’s countenance was always very red at breakfast-time. For the most part, indeed, it wore, at that season of the day, a scraped and frosty look, as if it had been rasped; while a similar phenomenon developed itself in her humour, which was then observed to be of a sharp and acid quality, as though an extra lemon (figuratively speaking) had been squeezed into the nectar of her disposition, and had rather damaged its flavour.

This additional pungency on the part of the fair young creature led, on ordinary occasions, to such slight consequences as the copious dilution of Mr Pinch’s tea, or to his coming off uncommonly short in respect of butter, or to other the like results. But on the morning after the Installation Banquet, she suffered him to wander to and fro among the eatables and drinkables, a perfectly free and unchecked man; so utterly to Mr Pinch’s wonder and confusion, that like the wretched captive who recovered his liberty in his old age, he could make but little use of his enlargement, and fell into a strange kind of flutter for want of some kind hand to scrape his bread, and cut him off in the article of sugar with a lump, and pay him those other little attentions to which he was accustomed. There was something almost awful, too, about the self-possession of the new pupil; who ‘troubled’ Mr Pecksniff for the loaf, and helped himself to a rasher of that gentleman’s own particular and private bacon, with all the coolness in life. He even seemed to think that he was doing quite a regular thing, and to expect that Mr Pinch would follow his example, since he took occasion to observe of that young man ‘that he didn’t get on’; a speech of so tremendous a character, that Tom cast down his eyes involuntarily, and felt as if he himself had committed some horrible deed and heinous breach of Mr Pecksniff’s confidence. Indeed, the agony of having such an indiscreet remark addressed to him before the assembled family, was breakfast enough in itself, and would, without any other matter of reflection, have settled Mr Pinch’s business and quenched his appetite, for one meal, though he had been never so hungry.

The young ladies, however, and Mr Pecksniff likewise, remained in the very best of spirits in spite of these severe trials, though with something of a mysterious understanding among themselves. When the meal was nearly over, Mr Pecksniff smilingly explained the cause of their common satisfaction.

‘It is not often,’ he said, ‘Martin, that my daughters and I desert our quiet home to pursue the giddy round of pleasures that revolves abroad. But we think of doing so to-day.’

‘Indeed, sir!’ cried the new pupil.

‘Yes,’ said Mr Pecksniff, tapping his left hand with a letter which he held in his right. ‘I have a summons here to repair to London; on professional business, my dear Martin; strictly on professional business; and I promised my girls, long ago, that whenever that happened again, they should accompany me. We shall go forth to-night by the heavy coach—like the dove of old, my dear Martin—and it will be a week before we again deposit our olive-branches in the passage. When I say olive-branches,’ observed Mr Pecksniff, in explanation, ‘I mean, our unpretending luggage.’

‘I hope the young ladies will enjoy their trip,’ said Martin.

‘Oh! that I’m sure we shall!’ cried Mercy, clapping her hands. ‘Good gracious, Cherry, my darling, the idea of London!’

‘Ardent child!’ said Mr Pecksniff, gazing on her in a dreamy way. ‘And yet there is a melancholy sweetness in these youthful hopes! It is pleasant to know that they never can be realised. I remember thinking once myself, in the days of my childhood, that pickled onions grew on trees, and that every elephant was born with an impregnable castle on his back. I have not found the fact to be so; far from it; and yet those visions have comforted me under circumstances of trial. Even when I have had the anguish of discovering that I have nourished in my breast on ostrich, and not a human pupil—even in that hour of agony, they have soothed me.’

At this dread allusion to John Westlock, Mr Pinch precipitately choked in his tea; for he had that very morning received a letter from him, as Mr Pecksniff very well knew.

‘You will take care, my dear Martin,’ said Mr Pecksniff, resuming his former cheerfulness, ‘that the house does not run away in our absence. We leave you in charge of everything. There is no mystery; all is free and open. Unlike the young man in the Eastern tale—who is described as a one-eyed almanac, if I am not mistaken, Mr Pinch?—’

‘A one-eyed calender, I think, sir,’ faltered Tom.

‘They are pretty nearly the same thing, I believe,’ said Mr Pecksniff, smiling compassionately; ‘or they used to be in my time. Unlike that young man, my dear Martin, you are forbidden to enter no corner of this house; but are requested to make yourself perfectly at home in every part of it. You will be jovial, my dear Martin, and will kill the fatted calf if you please!’

There was not the least objection, doubtless, to the young man’s slaughtering and appropriating to his own use any calf, fat or lean, that he might happen to find upon the premises; but as no such animal chanced at that time to be grazing on Mr Pecksniff’s estate, this request must be considered rather as a polite compliment that a substantial hospitality. It was the finishing ornament of the conversation; for when he had delivered it, Mr Pecksniff rose and led the way to that hotbed of architectural genius, the two-pair front.

‘Let me see,’ he said, searching among the papers, ‘how you can best employ yourself, Martin, while I am absent. Suppose you were to give me your idea of a monument to a Lord Mayor of London; or a tomb for a sheriff; or your notion of a cow-house to be erected in a nobleman’s park. Do you know, now,’ said Mr Pecksniff, folding his hands, and looking at his young relation with an air of pensive interest, ‘that I should very much like to see your notion of a cow-house?’

But Martin by no means appeared to relish this suggestion.

‘A pump,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘is very chaste practice. I have found that a lamp post is calculated to refine the mind and give it a classical tendency. An ornamental turnpike has a remarkable effect upon the imagination. What do you say to beginning with an ornamental turnpike?’

‘Whatever Mr Pecksniff pleased,’ said Martin, doubtfully.

‘Stay,’ said that gentleman. ‘Come! as you’re ambitious, and are a very neat draughtsman, you shall—ha ha!—you shall try your hand on these proposals for a grammar-school; regulating your plan, of course, by the printed particulars. Upon my word, now,’ said Mr Pecksniff, merrily, ‘I shall be very curious to see what you make of the grammar-school. Who knows but a young man of your taste might hit upon something, impracticable and unlikely in itself, but which I could put into shape? For it really is, my dear Martin, it really is in the finishing touches alone, that great experience and long study in these matters tell. Ha, ha, ha! Now it really will be,’ continued Mr Pecksniff, clapping his young friend on the back in his droll humour, ‘an amusement to me, to see what you make of the grammar-school.’

Martin readily undertook this task, and Mr Pecksniff forthwith proceeded to entrust him with the materials necessary for its execution; dwelling meanwhile on the magical effect of a few finishing touches from the hand of a master; which, indeed, as some people said (and these were the old enemies again!) was unquestionably very surprising, and almost miraculous; as there were cases on record in which the masterly introduction of an additional back window, or a kitchen door, or half-a-dozen steps, or even a water spout, had made the design of a pupil Mr Pecksniff’s own work, and had brought substantial rewards into that gentleman’s pocket. But such is the magic of genius, which changes all it handles into gold!

‘When your mind requires to be refreshed by change of occupation,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘Thomas Pinch will instruct you in the art of surveying the back garden, or in ascertaining the dead level of the road between this house and the finger-post, or in any other practical and pleasing pursuit. There are a cart-load of loose bricks, and a score or two of old flower-pots, in the back yard. If you could pile them up my dear Martin, into any form which would remind me on my return say of St. Peter’s at Rome, or the Mosque of St. Sophia at Constantinople, it would be at once improving to you and agreeable to my feelings. And now,’ said Mr Pecksniff, in conclusion, ‘to drop, for the present, our professional relations and advert to private matters, I shall be glad to talk with you in my own room, while I pack up my portmanteau.’

Martin attended him; and they remained in secret conference together for an hour or more; leaving Tom Pinch alone. When the young man returned, he was very taciturn and dull, in which state he remained all day; so that Tom, after trying him once or twice with indifferent conversation, felt a delicacy in obtruding himself upon his thoughts, and said no more.

He would not have had leisure to say much, had his new friend been ever so loquacious; for first of all Mr Pecksniff called him down to stand upon the top of his portmanteau and represent ancient statues there, until such time as it would consent to be locked; and then Miss Charity called him to come and cord her trunk; and then Miss Mercy sent for him to come and mend her box; and then he wrote the fullest possible cards for all the luggage; and then he volunteered to carry it all downstairs; and after that to see it safely carried on a couple of barrows to the old finger-post at the end of the lane; and then to mind it till the coach came up. In short, his day’s work would have been a pretty heavy one for a porter, but his thorough good-will made nothing of it; and as he sat upon the luggage at last, waiting for the Pecksniffs, escorted by the new pupil, to come down the lane, his heart was light with the hope of having pleased his benefactor.

‘I was almost afraid,’ said Tom, taking a letter from his pocket and wiping his face, for he was hot with bustling about though it was a cold day, ‘that I shouldn’t have had time to write it, and that would have been a thousand pities; postage from such a distance being a serious consideration, when one’s not rich. She will be glad to see my hand, poor girl, and to hear that Pecksniff is as kind as ever. I would have asked John Westlock to call and see her, and tell her all about me by word of mouth, but I was afraid he might speak against Pecksniff to her, and make her uneasy. Besides, they are particular people where she is, and it might have rendered her situation uncomfortable if she had had a visit from a young man like John. Poor Ruth!’

Tom Pinch seemed a little disposed to be melancholy for half a minute or so, but he found comfort very soon, and pursued his ruminations thus:

‘I’m a nice man, I don’t think, as John used to say (John was a kind, merry-hearted fellow; I wish he had liked Pecksniff better), to be feeling low, on account of the distance between us, when I ought to be thinking, instead, of my extraordinary good luck in having ever got here. I must have been born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I am sure, to have ever come across Pecksniff. And here have I fallen again into my usual good luck with the new pupil! Such an affable, generous, free fellow, as he is, I never saw. Why, we were companions directly! and he a relation of Pecksniff’s too, and a clever, dashing youth who might cut his way through the world as if it were a cheese! Here he comes while the words are on my lips’ said Tom; ‘walking down the lane as if the lane belonged to him.’

In truth, the new pupil, not at all disconcerted by the honour of having Miss Mercy Pecksniff on his arm, or by the affectionate adieux of that young lady, approached as Mr Pinch spoke, followed by Miss Charity and Mr Pecksniff. As the coach appeared at the same moment, Tom lost no time in entreating the gentleman last mentioned, to undertake the delivery of his letter.

‘Oh!’ said Mr Pecksniff, glancing at the superscription. ‘For your sister, Thomas. Yes, oh yes, it shall be delivered, Mr Pinch. Make your mind easy upon that score. She shall certainly have it, Mr Pinch.’

He made the promise with so much condescension and patronage, that Tom felt he had asked a great deal (this had not occurred to his mind before), and thanked him earnestly. The Miss Pecksniffs, according to a custom they had, were amused beyond description at the mention of Mr Pinch’s sister. Oh the fright! The bare idea of a Miss Pinch! Good heavens!

Tom was greatly pleased to see them so merry, for he took it as a token of their favour, and good-humoured regard. Therefore he laughed too and rubbed his hands and wished them a pleasant journey and safe return, and was quite brisk. Even when the coach had rolled away with the olive-branches in the boot and the family of doves inside, he stood waving his hand and bowing; so much gratified by the unusually courteous demeanour of the young ladies, that he was quite regardless, for the moment, of Martin Chuzzlewit, who stood leaning thoughtfully against the finger-post, and who after disposing of his fair charge had hardly lifted his eyes from the ground.

The perfect silence which ensued upon the bustle and departure of the coach, together with the sharp air of the wintry afternoon, roused them both at the same time. They turned, as by mutual consent, and moved off arm-in-arm.

‘How melancholy you are!’ said Tom; ‘what is the matter?’

‘Nothing worth speaking of,’ said Martin. ‘Very little more than was the matter yesterday, and much more, I hope, than will be the matter to-morrow. I’m out of spirits, Pinch.’

‘Well,’ cried Tom, ‘now do you know I am in capital spirits today, and scarcely ever felt more disposed to be good company. It was a very kind thing in your predecessor, John, to write to me, was it not?’

‘Why, yes,’ said Martin carelessly; ‘I should have thought he would have had enough to do to enjoy himself, without thinking of you, Pinch.’

‘Just what I felt to be so very likely,’ Tom rejoined; ‘but no, he keeps his word, and says, “My dear Pinch, I often think of you,” and all sorts of kind and considerate things of that description.’

‘He must be a devilish good-natured fellow,’ said Martin, somewhat peevishly: ‘because he can’t mean that, you know.’

‘I don’t suppose he can, eh?’ said Tom, looking wistfully in his companion’s face. ‘He says so to please me, you think?’

‘Why, is it likely,’ rejoined Martin, with greater earnestness, ‘that a young man newly escaped from this kennel of a place, and fresh to all the delights of being his own master in London, can have much leisure or inclination to think favourably of anything or anybody he has left behind him here? I put it to you, Pinch, is it natural?’

After a short reflection, Mr Pinch replied, in a more subdued tone, that to be sure it was unreasonable to expect any such thing, and that he had no doubt Martin knew best.

‘Of course I know best,’ Martin observed.

‘Yes, I feel that,’ said Mr Pinch mildly. ‘I said so.’ And when he had made this rejoinder, they fell into a blank silence again, which lasted until they reached home; by which time it was dark.

Now, Miss Charity Pecksniff, in consideration of the inconvenience of carrying them with her in the coach, and the impossibility of preserving them by artificial means until the family’s return, had set forth, in a couple of plates, the fragments of yesterday’s feast. In virtue of which liberal arrangement, they had the happiness to find awaiting them in the parlour two chaotic heaps of the remains of last night’s pleasure, consisting of certain filmy bits of oranges, some mummied sandwiches, various disrupted masses of the geological cake, and several entire captain’s biscuits. That choice liquor in which to steep these dainties might not be wanting, the remains of the two bottles of currant wine had been poured together and corked with a curl-paper; so that every material was at hand for making quite a heavy night of it.

Martin Chuzzlewit beheld these roystering preparations with infinite contempt, and stirring the fire into a blaze (to the great destruction of Mr Pecksniff’s coals), sat moodily down before it, in the most comfortable chair he could find. That he might the better squeeze himself into the small corner that was left for him, Mr Pinch took up his position on Miss Mercy Pecksniff’s stool, and setting his glass down upon the hearthrug and putting his plate upon his knees, began to enjoy himself.

If Diogenes coming to life again could have rolled himself, tub and all, into Mr Pecksniff’s parlour and could have seen Tom Pinch as he sat on Mercy Pecksniff’s stool with his plate and glass before him he could not have faced it out, though in his surliest mood, but must have smiled good-temperedly. The perfect and entire satisfaction of Tom; his surpassing appreciation of the husky sandwiches, which crumbled in his mouth like saw-dust; the unspeakable relish with which he swallowed the thin wine by drops, and smacked his lips, as though it were so rich and generous that to lose an atom of its fruity flavour were a sin; the look with which he paused sometimes, with his glass in his hand, proposing silent toasts to himself; and the anxious shade that came upon his contented face when, after wandering round the room, exulting in its uninvaded snugness, his glance encountered the dull brow of his companion; no cynic in the world, though in his hatred of its men a very griffin, could have withstood these things in Thomas Pinch.

Some men would have slapped him on the back, and pledged him in a bumper of the currant wine, though it had been the sharpest vinegar—aye, and liked its flavour too; some would have seized him by his honest hand, and thanked him for the lesson that his simple nature taught them. Some would have laughed with, and others would have laughed at him; of which last class was Martin Chuzzlewit, who, unable to restrain himself, at last laughed loud and long.

‘That’s right,’ said Tom, nodding approvingly. ‘Cheer up! That’s capital!’

At which encouragement young Martin laughed again; and said, as soon as he had breath and gravity enough:

‘I never saw such a fellow as you are, Pinch.’

‘Didn’t you though?’ said Tom. ‘Well, it’s very likely you do find me strange, because I have hardly seen anything of the world, and you have seen a good deal I dare say?’

‘Pretty well for my time of life,’ rejoined Martin, drawing his chair still nearer to the fire, and spreading his feet out on the fender. ‘Deuce take it, I must talk openly to somebody. I’ll talk openly to you, Pinch.’

‘Do!’ said Tom. ‘I shall take it as being very friendly of you,’

‘I’m not in your way, am I?’ inquired Martin, glancing down at Mr Pinch, who was by this time looking at the fire over his leg.

‘Not at all!’ cried Tom.

‘You must know then, to make short of a long story,’ said Martin, beginning with a kind of effort, as if the revelation were not agreeable to him; ‘that I have been bred up from childhood with great expectations, and have always been taught to believe that I should be, one day, very rich. So I should have been, but for certain brief reasons which I am going to tell you, and which have led to my being disinherited.’

‘By your father?’ inquired Mr Pinch, with open eyes.

‘By my grandfather. I have had no parents these many years. Scarcely within my remembrance.’

‘Neither have I,’ said Tom, touching the young man’s hand with his own and timidly withdrawing it again. ‘Dear me!’

‘Why, as to that, you know, Pinch,’ pursued the other, stirring the fire again, and speaking in his rapid, off-hand way; ‘it’s all very right and proper to be fond of parents when we have them, and to bear them in remembrance after they’re dead, if you have ever known anything of them. But as I never did know anything about mine personally, you know, why, I can’t be expected to be very sentimental about ‘em. And I am not; that’s the truth.’

Mr Pinch was just then looking thoughtfully at the bars. But on his companion pausing in this place, he started, and said ‘Oh! of course’—and composed himself to listen again.

‘In a word,’ said Martin, ‘I have been bred and reared all my life by this grandfather of whom I have just spoken. Now, he has a great many good points—there is no doubt about that; I’ll not disguise the fact from you—but he has two very great faults, which are the staple of his bad side. In the first place, he has the most confirmed obstinacy of character you ever met with in any human creature. In the second, he is most abominably selfish.’

‘Is he indeed?’ cried Tom.

‘In those two respects,’ returned the other, ‘there never was such a man. I have often heard from those who know, that they have been, time out of mind, the failings of our family; and I believe there’s some truth in it. But I can’t say of my own knowledge. All I have to do, you know, is to be very thankful that they haven’t descended to me, and, to be very careful that I don’t contract ‘em.’

‘To be sure,’ said Mr Pinch. ‘Very proper.’

‘Well, sir,’ resumed Martin, stirring the fire once more, and drawing his chair still closer to it, ‘his selfishness makes him exacting, you see; and his obstinacy makes him resolute in his exactions. The consequence is that he has always exacted a great deal from me in the way of respect, and submission, and self-denial when his wishes were in question, and so forth. I have borne a great deal from him, because I have been under obligations to him (if one can ever be said to be under obligations to one’s own grandfather), and because I have been really attached to him; but we have had a great many quarrels for all that, for I could not accommodate myself to his ways very often—not out of the least reference to myself, you understand, but because—’ he stammered here, and was rather at a loss.

Mr Pinch being about the worst man in the world to help anybody out of a difficulty of this sort, said nothing.

‘Well! as you understand me,’ resumed Martin, quickly, ‘I needn’t hunt for the precise expression I want. Now I come to the cream of my story, and the occasion of my being here. I am in love, Pinch.’

Mr Pinch looked up into his face with increased interest.

‘I say I am in love. I am in love with one of the most beautiful girls the sun ever shone upon. But she is wholly and entirely dependent upon the pleasure of my grandfather; and if he were to know that she favoured my passion, she would lose her home and everything she possesses in the world. There is nothing very selfish in that love, I think?’

‘Selfish!’ cried Tom. ‘You have acted nobly. To love her as I am sure you do, and yet in consideration for her state of dependence, not even to disclose—’

‘What are you talking about, Pinch?’ said Martin pettishly: ‘don’t make yourself ridiculous, my good fellow! What do you mean by not disclosing?’

‘I beg your pardon,’ answered Tom. ‘I thought you meant that, or I wouldn’t have said it.’

‘If I didn’t tell her I loved her, where would be the use of my being in love?’ said Martin: ‘unless to keep myself in a perpetual state of worry and vexation?’

‘That’s true,’ Tom answered. ‘Well! I can guess what she said when you told her,’ he added, glancing at Martin’s handsome face.

‘Why, not exactly, Pinch,’ he rejoined, with a slight frown; ‘because she has some girlish notions about duty and gratitude, and all the rest of it, which are rather hard to fathom; but in the main you are right. Her heart was mine, I found.’

‘Just what I supposed,’ said Tom. ‘Quite natural!’ and, in his great satisfaction, he took a long sip out of his wine-glass.

‘Although I had conducted myself from the first with the utmost circumspection,’ pursued Martin, ‘I had not managed matters so well but that my grandfather, who is full of jealousy and distrust, suspected me of loving her. He said nothing to her, but straightway attacked me in private, and charged me with designing to corrupt the fidelity to himself (there you observe his selfishness), of a young creature whom he had trained and educated to be his only disinterested and faithful companion, when he should have disposed of me in marriage to his heart’s content. Upon that, I took fire immediately, and told him that with his good leave I would dispose of myself in marriage, and would rather not be knocked down by him or any other auctioneer to any bidder whomsoever.’

Mr Pinch opened his eyes wider, and looked at the fire harder than he had done yet.

‘You may be sure,’ said Martin, ‘that this nettled him, and that he began to be the very reverse of complimentary to myself. Interview succeeded interview; words engendered words, as they always do; and the upshot of it was, that I was to renounce her, or be renounced by him. Now you must bear in mind, Pinch, that I am not only desperately fond of her (for though she is poor, her beauty and intellect would reflect great credit on anybody, I don’t care of what pretensions who might become her husband), but that a chief ingredient in my composition is a most determined—’

‘Obstinacy,’ suggested Tom in perfect good faith. But the suggestion was not so well received as he had expected; for the young man immediately rejoined, with some irritation,

‘What a fellow you are, Pinch!’

‘I beg your pardon,’ said Tom, ‘I thought you wanted a word.’

‘I didn’t want that word,’ he rejoined. ‘I told you obstinacy was no part of my character, did I not? I was going to say, if you had given me leave, that a chief ingredient in my composition is a most determined firmness.’

‘Oh!’ cried Tom, screwing up his mouth, and nodding. ‘Yes, yes; I see!’

‘And being firm,’ pursued Martin, ‘of course I was not going to yield to him, or give way by so much as the thousandth part of an inch.’

‘No, no,’ said Tom.

‘On the contrary, the more he urged, the more I was determined to oppose him.’

‘To be sure!’ said Tom.

‘Very well,’ rejoined Martin, throwing himself back in his chair, with a careless wave of both hands, as if the subject were quite settled, and nothing more could be said about it—‘There is an end of the matter, and here am I!’

Mr Pinch sat staring at the fire for some minutes with a puzzled look, such as he might have assumed if some uncommonly difficult conundrum had been proposed, which he found it impossible to guess. At length he said:

‘Pecksniff, of course, you had known before?’

‘Only by name. No, I had never seen him, for my grandfather kept not only himself but me, aloof from all his relations. But our separation took place in a town in the adjoining country. From that place I came to Salisbury, and there I saw Pecksniff’s advertisement, which I answered, having always had some natural taste, I believe, in the matters to which it referred, and thinking it might suit me. As soon as I found it to be his, I was doubly bent on coming to him if possible, on account of his being—’

‘Such an excellent man,’ interposed Tom, rubbing his hands: ‘so he is. You were quite right.’

‘Why, not so much on that account, if the truth must be spoken,’ returned Martin, ‘as because my grandfather has an inveterate dislike to him, and after the old man’s arbitrary treatment of me, I had a natural desire to run as directly counter to all his opinions as I could. Well! As I said before, here I am. My engagement with the young lady I have been telling you about is likely to be a tolerably long one; for neither her prospects nor mine are very bright; and of course I shall not think of marrying until I am well able to do so. It would never do, you know, for me to be plunging myself into poverty and shabbiness and love in one room up three pair of stairs, and all that sort of thing.’

‘To say nothing of her,’ remarked Tom Pinch, in a low voice.

‘Exactly so,’ rejoined Martin, rising to warm his back, and leaning against the chimney-piece. ‘To say nothing of her. At the same time, of course it’s not very hard upon her to be obliged to yield to the necessity of the case; first, because she loves me very much; and secondly, because I have sacrificed a great deal on her account, and might have done much better, you know.’

It was a very long time before Tom said ‘Certainly;’ so long, that he might have taken a nap in the interval, but he did say it at last.

‘Now, there is one odd coincidence connected with this love-story,’ said Martin, ‘which brings it to an end. You remember what you told me last night as we were coming here, about your pretty visitor in the church?’

‘Surely I do,’ said Tom, rising from his stool, and seating himself in the chair from which the other had lately risen, that he might see his face. ‘Undoubtedly.’

‘That was she.’

‘I knew what you were going to say,’ cried Tom, looking fixedly at him, and speaking very softly. ‘You don’t tell me so?’

‘That was she,’ repeated the young man. ‘After what I have heard from Pecksniff, I have no doubt that she came and went with my grandfather.—Don’t you drink too much of that sour wine, or you’ll have a fit of some sort, Pinch, I see.’

‘It is not very wholesome, I am afraid,’ said Tom, setting down the empty glass he had for some time held. ‘So that was she, was it?’

Martin nodded assent; and adding, with a restless impatience, that if he had been a few days earlier he would have seen her; and that now she might be, for anything he knew, hundreds of miles away; threw himself, after a few turns across the room, into a chair, and chafed like a spoilt child.

Tom Pinch’s heart was very tender, and he could not bear to see the most indifferent person in distress; still less one who had awakened an interest in him, and who regarded him (either in fact, or as he supposed) with kindness, and in a spirit of lenient construction. Whatever his own thoughts had been a few moments before—and to judge from his face they must have been pretty serious—he dismissed them instantly, and gave his young friend the best counsel and comfort that occurred to him.

‘All will be well in time,’ said Tom, ‘I have no doubt; and some trial and adversity just now will only serve to make you more attached to each other in better days. I have always read that the truth is so, and I have a feeling within me, which tells me how natural and right it is that it should be. That never ran smooth yet,’ said Tom, with a smile which, despite the homeliness of his face, was pleasanter to see than many a proud beauty’s brightest glance; ‘what never ran smooth yet, can hardly be expected to change its character for us; so we must take it as we find it, and fashion it into the very best shape we can, by patience and good-humour. I have no power at all; I needn’t tell you that; but I have an excellent will; and if I could ever be of use to you, in any way whatever, how very glad I should be!’

‘Thank you,’ said Martin, shaking his hand. ‘You’re a good fellow, upon my word, and speak very kindly. Of course you know,’ he added, after a moment’s pause, as he drew his chair towards the fire again, ‘I should not hesitate to avail myself of your services if you could help me at all; but mercy on us!’—Here he rumpled his hair impatiently with his hand, and looked at Tom as if he took it rather ill that he was not somebody else—‘you might as well be a toasting-fork or a frying-pan, Pinch, for any help you can render me.’

‘Except in the inclination,’ said Tom, gently.

‘Oh! to be sure. I meant that, of course. If inclination went for anything, I shouldn’t want help. I tell you what you may do, though, if you will, and at the present moment too.’

‘What is that?’ demanded Tom.

‘Read to me.’

‘I shall be delighted,’ cried Tom, catching up the candle with enthusiasm. ‘Excuse my leaving you in the dark a moment, and I’ll fetch a book directly. What will you like? Shakespeare?’

‘Aye!’ replied his friend, yawning and stretching himself. ‘He’ll do. I am tired with the bustle of to-day, and the novelty of everything about me; and in such a case, there’s no greater luxury in the world, I think, than being read to sleep. You won’t mind my going to sleep, if I can?’

‘Not at all!’ cried Tom.

‘Then begin as soon as you like. You needn’t leave off when you see me getting drowsy (unless you feel tired), for it’s pleasant to wake gradually to the sounds again. Did you ever try that?’

‘No, I never tried that,’ said Tom

‘Well! You can, you know, one of these days when we’re both in the right humour. Don’t mind leaving me in the dark. Look sharp!’

Mr Pinch lost no time in moving away; and in a minute or two returned with one of the precious volumes from the shelf beside his bed. Martin had in the meantime made himself as comfortable as circumstances would permit, by constructing before the fire a temporary sofa of three chairs with Mercy’s stool for a pillow, and lying down at full-length upon it.

‘Don’t be too loud, please,’ he said to Pinch.

‘No, no,’ said Tom.

‘You’re sure you’re not cold’

‘Not at all!’ cried Tom.

‘I am quite ready, then.’

Mr Pinch accordingly, after turning over the leaves of his book with as much care as if they were living and highly cherished creatures, made his own selection, and began to read. Before he had completed fifty lines his friend was snoring.

‘Poor fellow!’ said Tom, softly, as he stretched out his head to peep at him over the backs of the chairs. ‘He is very young to have so much trouble. How trustful and generous in him to bestow all this confidence in me. And that was she, was it?’

But suddenly remembering their compact, he took up the poem at the place where he had left off, and went on reading; always forgetting to snuff the candle, until its wick looked like a mushroom. He gradually became so much interested, that he quite forgot to replenish the fire; and was only reminded of his neglect by Martin Chuzzlewit starting up after the lapse of an hour or so, and crying with a shiver.

‘Why, it’s nearly out, I declare! No wonder I dreamed of being frozen. Do call for some coals. What a fellow you are, Pinch!’






CHAPTER SEVEN. IN WHICH MR CHEVY SLYME ASSERTS THE INDEPENDENCE OF HIS SPIRIT, AND THE BLUE DRAGON LOSES A LIMB


Martin began to work at the grammar-school next morning, with so much vigour and expedition, that Mr Pinch had new reason to do homage to the natural endowments of that young gentleman, and to acknowledge his infinite superiority to himself. The new pupil received Tom’s compliments very graciously; and having by this time conceived a real regard for him, in his own peculiar way, predicted that they would always be the very best of friends, and that neither of them, he was certain (but particularly Tom), would ever have reason to regret the day on which they became acquainted. Mr Pinch was delighted to hear him say this, and felt so much flattered by his kind assurances of friendship and protection, that he was at a loss how to express the pleasure they afforded him. And indeed it may be observed of this friendship, such as it was, that it had within it more likely materials of endurance than many a sworn brotherhood that has been rich in promise; for so long as the one party found a pleasure in patronizing, and the other in being patronised (which was in the very essence of their respective characters), it was of all possible events among the least probable, that the twin demons, Envy and Pride, would ever arise between them. So in very many cases of friendship, or what passes for it, the old axiom is reversed, and like clings to unlike more than to like.

They were both very busy on the afternoon succeeding the family’s departure—Martin with the grammar-school, and Tom in balancing certain receipts of rents, and deducting Mr Pecksniff’s commission from the same; in which abstruse employment he was much distracted by a habit his new friend had of whistling aloud while he was drawing—when they were not a little startled by the unexpected obtrusion into that sanctuary of genius, of a human head which, although a shaggy and somewhat alarming head in appearance, smiled affably upon them from the doorway, in a manner that was at once waggish, conciliatory, and expressive of approbation.

‘I am not industrious myself, gents both,’ said the head, ‘but I know how to appreciate that quality in others. I wish I may turn grey and ugly, if it isn’t in my opinion, next to genius, one of the very charmingest qualities of the human mind. Upon my soul, I am grateful to my friend Pecksniff for helping me to the contemplation of such a delicious picture as you present. You remind me of Whittington, afterwards thrice Lord Mayor of London. I give you my unsullied word of honour, that you very strongly remind me of that historical character. You are a pair of Whittingtons, gents, without the cat; which is a most agreeable and blessed exception to me, for I am not attached to the feline species. My name is Tigg; how do you do?’

Martin looked to Mr Pinch for an explanation; and Tom, who had never in his life set eyes on Mr Tigg before, looked to that gentleman himself.

‘Chevy Slyme?’ said Mr Tigg, interrogatively, and kissing his left hand in token of friendship. ‘You will understand me when I say that I am the accredited agent of Chevy Slyme; that I am the ambassador from the court of Chiv? Ha ha!’

‘Heyday!’ asked Martin, starting at the mention of a name he knew. ‘Pray, what does he want with me?’

‘If your name is Pinch’—Mr Tigg began.

‘It is not’ said Martin, checking himself. ‘That is Mr Pinch.’

‘If that is Mr Pinch,’ cried Tigg, kissing his hand again, and beginning to follow his head into the room, ‘he will permit me to say that I greatly esteem and respect his character, which has been most highly commended to me by my friend Pecksniff; and that I deeply appreciate his talent for the organ, notwithstanding that I do not, if I may use the expression, grind myself. If that is Mr Pinch, I will venture to express a hope that I see him well, and that he is suffering no inconvenience from the easterly wind?’

‘Thank you,’ said Tom. ‘I am very well.’

‘That is a comfort,’ Mr Tigg rejoined. ‘Then,’ he added, shielding his lips with the palm of his hand, and applying them close to Mr Pinch’s ear, ‘I have come for the letter.’

‘For the letter,’ said Tom, aloud. ‘What letter?’

‘The letter,’ whispered Tigg in the same cautious manner as before, ‘which my friend Pecksniff addressed to Chevy Slyme, Esquire, and left with you.’

‘He didn’t leave any letter with me,’ said Tom.

‘Hush!’ cried the other. ‘It’s all the same thing, though not so delicately done by my friend Pecksniff as I could have wished. The money.’

‘The money!’ cried Tom quite scared.

‘Exactly so,’ said Mr Tigg. With which he rapped Tom twice or thrice upon the breast and nodded several times, as though he would say that he saw they understood each other; that it was unnecessary to mention the circumstance before a third person; and that he would take it as a particular favour if Tom would slip the amount into his hand, as quietly as possible.

Mr Pinch, however, was so very much astounded by this (to him) inexplicable deportment, that he at once openly declared there must be some mistake, and that he had been entrusted with no commission whatever having any reference to Mr Tigg or to his friend, either. Mr Tigg received this declaration with a grave request that Mr Pinch would have the goodness to make it again; and on Tom’s repeating it in a still more emphatic and unmistakable manner, checked it off, sentence for sentence, by nodding his head solemnly at the end of each. When it had come to a close for the second time, Mr Tigg sat himself down in a chair and addressed the young men as follows:

‘Then I tell you what it is, gents both. There is at this present moment in this very place, a perfect constellation of talent and genius, who is involved, through what I cannot but designate as the culpable negligence of my friend Pecksniff, in a situation as tremendous, perhaps, as the social intercourse of the nineteenth century will readily admit of. There is actually at this instant, at the Blue Dragon in this village—an ale-house, observe; a common, paltry, low-minded, clodhopping, pipe-smoking ale-house—an individual, of whom it may be said, in the language of the Poet, that nobody but himself can in any way come up to him; who is detained there for his bill. Ha! ha! For his bill. I repeat it—for his bill. Now,’ said Mr Tigg, ‘we have heard of Fox’s Book of Martyrs, I believe, and we have heard of the Court of Requests, and the Star Chamber; but I fear the contradiction of no man alive or dead, when I assert that my friend Chevy Slyme being held in pawn for a bill, beats any amount of cockfighting with which I am acquainted.’

Martin and Mr Pinch looked, first at each other, and afterwards at Mr Tigg, who with his arms folded on his breast surveyed them, half in despondency and half in bitterness.

‘Don’t mistake me, gents both,’ he said, stretching forth his right hand. ‘If it had been for anything but a bill, I could have borne it, and could still have looked upon mankind with some feeling of respect; but when such a man as my friend Slyme is detained for a score—a thing in itself essentially mean; a low performance on a slate, or possibly chalked upon the back of a door—I do feel that there is a screw of such magnitude loose somewhere, that the whole framework of society is shaken, and the very first principles of things can no longer be trusted. In short, gents both,’ said Mr Tigg with a passionate flourish of his hands and head, ‘when a man like Slyme is detained for such a thing as a bill, I reject the superstitions of ages, and believe nothing. I don’t even believe that I don’t believe, curse me if I do!’

‘I am very sorry, I am sure,’ said Tom after a pause, ‘but Mr Pecksniff said nothing to me about it, and I couldn’t act without his instructions. Wouldn’t it be better, sir, if you were to go to—to wherever you came from—yourself, and remit the money to your friend?’

‘How can that be done, when I am detained also?’ said Mr Tigg; ‘and when moreover, owing to the astounding, and I must add, guilty negligence of my friend Pecksniff, I have no money for coach-hire?’

Tom thought of reminding the gentleman (who, no doubt, in his agitation had forgotten it) that there was a post-office in the land; and that possibly if he wrote to some friend or agent for a remittance it might not be lost upon the road; or at all events that the chance, however desperate, was worth trusting to. But, as his good-nature presently suggested to him certain reasons for abstaining from this hint, he paused again, and then asked:

‘Did you say, sir, that you were detained also?’

‘Come here,’ said Mr Tigg, rising. ‘You have no objection to my opening this window for a moment?’

‘Certainly not,’ said Tom.

‘Very good,’ said Mr Tigg, lifting the sash. ‘You see a fellow down there in a red neckcloth and no waistcoat?’

‘Of course I do,’ cried Tom. ‘That’s Mark Tapley.’

‘Mark Tapley is it?’ said the gentleman. ‘Then Mark Tapley had not only the great politeness to follow me to this house, but is waiting now, to see me home again. And for that attention, sir,’ added Mr Tigg, stroking his moustache, ‘I can tell you, that Mark Tapley had better in his infancy have been fed to suffocation by Mrs Tapley, than preserved to this time.’

Mr Pinch was not so dismayed by this terrible threat, but that he had voice enough to call to Mark to come in, and upstairs; a summons which he so speedily obeyed, that almost as soon as Tom and Mr Tigg had drawn in their heads and closed the window again, he, the denounced, appeared before them.

‘Come here, Mark!’ said Mr Pinch. ‘Good gracious me! what’s the matter between Mrs Lupin and this gentleman?’

‘What gentleman, sir?’ said Mark. ‘I don’t see no gentleman here sir, excepting you and the new gentleman,’ to whom he made a rough kind of bow—‘and there’s nothing wrong between Mrs Lupin and either of you, Mr Pinch, I am sure.’

‘Nonsense, Mark!’ cried Tom. ‘You see Mr—’

‘Tigg,’ interposed that gentleman. ‘Wait a bit. I shall crush him soon. All in good time!’

‘Oh him!’ rejoined Mark, with an air of careless defiance. ‘Yes, I see him. I could see him a little better, if he’d shave himself, and get his hair cut.’

Mr Tigg shook his head with a ferocious look, and smote himself once upon the breast.

‘It’s no use,’ said Mark. ‘If you knock ever so much in that quarter, you’ll get no answer. I know better. There’s nothing there but padding; and a greasy sort it is.’

‘Nay, Mark,’ urged Mr Pinch, interposing to prevent hostilities, ‘tell me what I ask you. You’re not out of temper, I hope?’

‘Out of temper, sir!’ cried Mark, with a grin; ‘why no, sir. There’s a little credit—not much—in being jolly, when such fellows as him is a-going about like roaring lions; if there is any breed of lions, at least, as is all roar and mane. What is there between him and Mrs Lupin, sir? Why, there’s a score between him and Mrs Lupin. And I think Mrs Lupin lets him and his friend off very easy in not charging ‘em double prices for being a disgrace to the Dragon. That’s my opinion. I wouldn’t have any such Peter the Wild Boy as him in my house, sir, not if I was paid race-week prices for it. He’s enough to turn the very beer in the casks sour with his looks; he is! So he would, if it had judgment enough.’

‘You’re not answering my question, you know, Mark,’ observed Mr Pinch.

‘Well, sir,’ said Mark, ‘I don’t know as there’s much to answer further than that. Him and his friend goes and stops at the Moon and Stars till they’ve run a bill there; and then comes and stops with us and does the same. The running of bills is common enough Mr Pinch; it an’t that as we object to; it’s the ways of this chap. Nothing’s good enough for him; all the women is dying for him he thinks, and is overpaid if he winks at ‘em; and all the men was made to be ordered about by him. This not being aggravation enough, he says this morning to me, in his usual captivating way, “We’re going to-night, my man.” “Are you, sir?” says I. “Perhaps you’d like the bill got ready, sir?” “Oh no, my man,” he says; “you needn’t mind that. I’ll give Pecksniff orders to see to that.” In reply to which, the Dragon makes answer, “Thankee, sir, you’re very kind to honour us so far, but as we don’t know any particular good of you, and you don’t travel with luggage, and Mr Pecksniff an’t at home (which perhaps you mayn’t happen to be aware of, sir), we should prefer something more satisfactory;” and that’s where the matter stands. And I ask,’ said Mr Tapley, pointing, in conclusion, to Mr Tigg, with his hat, ‘any lady or gentleman, possessing ordinary strength of mind, to say whether he’s a disagreeable-looking chap or not!’

‘Let me inquire,’ said Martin, interposing between this candid speech and the delivery of some blighting anathema by Mr Tigg, ‘what the amount of this debt may be?’

‘In point of money, sir, very little,’ answered Mark. ‘Only just turned of three pounds. But it an’t that; it’s the—’

‘Yes, yes, you told us so before,’ said Martin. ‘Pinch, a word with you.’

‘What is it?’ asked Tom, retiring with him to a corner of the room.

‘Why, simply—I am ashamed to say—that this Mr Slyme is a relation of mine, of whom I never heard anything pleasant; and that I don’t want him here just now, and think he would be cheaply got rid of, perhaps, for three or four pounds. You haven’t enough money to pay this bill, I suppose?’

Tom shook his head to an extent that left no doubt of his entire sincerity.

‘That’s unfortunate, for I am poor too; and in case you had had it, I’d have borrowed it of you. But if we told this landlady we would see her paid, I suppose that would answer the same purpose?’

‘Oh dear, yes!’ said Tom. ‘She knows me, bless you!’

‘Then let us go down at once and tell her so; for the sooner we are rid of their company the better. As you have conducted the conversation with this gentleman hitherto, perhaps you’ll tell him what we purpose doing; will you?’

Mr Pinch, complying, at once imparted the intelligence to Mr Tigg, who shook him warmly by the hand in return, assuring him that his faith in anything and everything was again restored. It was not so much, he said, for the temporary relief of this assistance that he prized it, as for its vindication of the high principle that Nature’s Nobs felt with Nature’s Nobs, and that true greatness of soul sympathized with true greatness of soul, all the world over. It proved to him, he said, that like him they admired genius, even when it was coupled with the alloy occasionally visible in the metal of his friend Slyme; and on behalf of that friend, he thanked them; as warmly and heartily as if the cause were his own. Being cut short in these speeches by a general move towards the stairs, he took possession at the street door of the lapel of Mr Pinch’s coat, as a security against further interruption; and entertained that gentleman with some highly improving discourse until they reached the Dragon, whither they were closely followed by Mark and the new pupil.

The rosy hostess scarcely needed Mr Pinch’s word as a preliminary to the release of her two visitors, of whom she was glad to be rid on any terms; indeed, their brief detention had originated mainly with Mr Tapley, who entertained a constitutional dislike to gentleman out-at-elbows who flourished on false pretences; and had conceived a particular aversion to Mr Tigg and his friend, as choice specimens of the species. The business in hand thus easily settled, Mr Pinch and Martin would have withdrawn immediately, but for the urgent entreaties of Mr Tigg that they would allow him the honour of presenting them to his friend Slyme, which were so very difficult of resistance that, yielding partly to these persuasions and partly to their own curiosity, they suffered themselves to be ushered into the presence of that distinguished gentleman.

He was brooding over the remains of yesterday’s decanter of brandy, and was engaged in the thoughtful occupation of making a chain of rings on the top of the table with the wet foot of his drinking-glass. Wretched and forlorn as he looked, Mr Slyme had once been in his way, the choicest of swaggerers; putting forth his pretensions boldly, as a man of infinite taste and most undoubted promise. The stock-in-trade requisite to set up an amateur in this department of business is very slight, and easily got together; a trick of the nose and a curl of the lip sufficient to compound a tolerable sneer, being ample provision for any exigency. But, in an evil hour, this off-shoot of the Chuzzlewit trunk, being lazy, and ill qualified for any regular pursuit and having dissipated such means as he ever possessed, had formally established himself as a professor of Taste for a livelihood; and finding, too late, that something more than his old amount of qualifications was necessary to sustain him in this calling, had quickly fallen to his present level, where he retained nothing of his old self but his boastfulness and his bile, and seemed to have no existence separate or apart from his friend Tigg. And now so abject and so pitiful was he—at once so maudlin, insolent, beggarly, and proud—that even his friend and parasite, standing erect beside him, swelled into a Man by contrast.

‘Chiv,’ said Mr Tigg, clapping him on the back, ‘my friend Pecksniff not being at home, I have arranged our trifling piece of business with Mr Pinch and friend. Mr Pinch and friend, Mr Chevy Slyme! Chiv, Mr Pinch and friend!’

‘These are agreeable circumstances in which to be introduced to strangers,’ said Chevy Slyme, turning his bloodshot eyes towards Tom Pinch. ‘I am the most miserable man in the world, I believe!’

Tom begged he wouldn’t mention it; and finding him in this condition, retired, after an awkward pause, followed by Martin. But Mr Tigg so urgently conjured them, by coughs and signs, to remain in the shadow of the door, that they stopped there.

‘I swear,’ cried Mr Slyme, giving the table an imbecile blow with his fist, and then feebly leaning his head upon his hand, while some drunken drops oozed from his eyes, ‘that I am the wretchedest creature on record. Society is in a conspiracy against me. I’m the most literary man alive. I’m full of scholarship. I’m full of genius; I’m full of information; I’m full of novel views on every subject; yet look at my condition! I’m at this moment obliged to two strangers for a tavern bill!’

Mr Tigg replenished his friend’s glass, pressed it into his hand, and nodded an intimation to the visitors that they would see him in a better aspect immediately.

‘Obliged to two strangers for a tavern bill, eh!’ repeated Mr Slyme, after a sulky application to his glass. ‘Very pretty! And crowds of impostors, the while, becoming famous; men who are no more on a level with me than—Tigg, I take you to witness that I am the most persecuted hound on the face of the earth.’

With a whine, not unlike the cry of the animal he named, in its lowest state of humiliation, he raised his glass to his mouth again. He found some encouragement in it; for when he set it down he laughed scornfully. Upon that Mr Tigg gesticulated to the visitors once more, and with great expression, implying that now the time was come when they would see Chiv in his greatness.

‘Ha, ha, ha,’ laughed Mr Slyme. ‘Obliged to two strangers for a tavern bill! Yet I think I’ve a rich uncle, Tigg, who could buy up the uncles of fifty strangers! Have I, or have I not? I come of a good family, I believe! Do I, or do I not? I’m not a man of common capacity or accomplishments, I think! Am I, or am I not?’

‘You are the American aloe of the human race, my dear Chiv,’ said Mr Tigg, ‘which only blooms once in a hundred years!’

‘Ha, ha, ha!’ laughed Mr Slyme again. ‘Obliged to two strangers for a tavern bill! I obliged to two architect’s apprentices. Fellows who measure earth with iron chains, and build houses like bricklayers. Give me the names of those two apprentices. How dare they oblige me!’

Mr Tigg was quite lost in admiration of this noble trait in his friend’s character; as he made known to Mr Pinch in a neat little ballet of action, spontaneously invented for the purpose.

‘I’ll let ‘em know, and I’ll let all men know,’ cried Chevy Slyme, ‘that I’m none of the mean, grovelling, tame characters they meet with commonly. I have an independent spirit. I have a heart that swells in my bosom. I have a soul that rises superior to base considerations.’

‘Oh Chiv, Chiv,’ murmured Mr Tigg, ‘you have a nobly independent nature, Chiv!’

‘You go and do your duty, sir,’ said Mr Slyme, angrily, ‘and borrow money for travelling expenses; and whoever you borrow it of, let ‘em know that I possess a haughty spirit, and a proud spirit, and have infernally finely-touched chords in my nature, which won’t brook patronage. Do you hear? Tell ‘em I hate ‘em, and that that’s the way I preserve my self-respect; and tell ‘em that no man ever respected himself more than I do!’

He might have added that he hated two sorts of men; all those who did him favours, and all those who were better off than himself; as in either case their position was an insult to a man of his stupendous merits. But he did not; for with the apt closing words above recited, Mr Slyme; of too haughty a stomach to work, to beg, to borrow, or to steal; yet mean enough to be worked or borrowed, begged or stolen for, by any catspaw that would serve his turn; too insolent to lick the hand that fed him in his need, yet cur enough to bite and tear it in the dark; with these apt closing words Mr Slyme fell forward with his head upon the table, and so declined into a sodden sleep.

‘Was there ever,’ cried Mr Tigg, joining the young men at the door, and shutting it carefully behind him, ‘such an independent spirit as is possessed by that extraordinary creature? Was there ever such a Roman as our friend Chiv? Was there ever a man of such a purely classical turn of thought, and of such a toga-like simplicity of nature? Was there ever a man with such a flow of eloquence? Might he not, gents both, I ask, have sat upon a tripod in the ancient times, and prophesied to a perfectly unlimited extent, if previously supplied with gin-and-water at the public cost?’

Mr Pinch was about to contest this latter position with his usual mildness, when, observing that his companion had already gone downstairs, he prepared to follow him.

‘You are not going, Mr Pinch?’ said Tigg.

‘Thank you,’ answered Tom. ‘Yes. Don’t come down.’

‘Do you know that I should like one little word in private with you Mr Pinch?’ said Tigg, following him. ‘One minute of your company in the skittle-ground would very much relieve my mind. Might I beseech that favour?’

‘Oh, certainly,’ replied Tom, ‘if you really wish it.’ So he accompanied Mr Tigg to the retreat in question; on arriving at which place that gentleman took from his hat what seemed to be the fossil remains of an antediluvian pocket-handkerchief, and wiped his eyes therewith.

‘You have not beheld me this day,’ said Mr Tigg, ‘in a favourable light.’

‘Don’t mention that,’ said Tom, ‘I beg.’

‘But you have not,’ cried Tigg. ‘I must persist in that opinion. If you could have seen me, Mr Pinch, at the head of my regiment on the coast of Africa, charging in the form of a hollow square, with the women and children and the regimental plate-chest in the centre, you would not have known me for the same man. You would have respected me, sir.’

Tom had certain ideas of his own upon the subject of glory; and consequently he was not quite so much excited by this picture as Mr Tigg could have desired.

‘But no matter!’ said that gentleman. ‘The school-boy writing home to his parents and describing the milk-and-water, said “This is indeed weakness.” I repeat that assertion in reference to myself at the present moment; and I ask your pardon. Sir, you have seen my friend Slyme?’

‘No doubt,’ said Mr Pinch.

‘Sir, you have been impressed by my friend Slyme?’

‘Not very pleasantly, I must say,’ answered Tom, after a little hesitation.

‘I am grieved but not surprised,’ cried Mr Tigg, detaining him with both hands, ‘to hear that you have come to that conclusion; for it is my own. But, Mr Pinch, though I am a rough and thoughtless man, I can honour Mind. I honour Mind in following my friend. To you of all men, Mr Pinch, I have a right to make appeal on Mind’s behalf, when it has not the art to push its fortune in the world. And so, sir—not for myself, who have no claim upon you, but for my crushed, my sensitive and independent friend, who has—I ask the loan of three half-crowns. I ask you for the loan of three half-crowns, distinctly, and without a blush. I ask it, almost as a right. And when I add that they will be returned by post, this week, I feel that you will blame me for that sordid stipulation.’

Mr Pinch took from his pocket an old-fashioned red-leather purse with a steel clasp, which had probably once belonged to his deceased grandmother. It held one half-sovereign and no more. All Tom’s worldly wealth until next quarter-day.

‘Stay!’ cried Mr Tigg, who had watched this proceeding keenly. ‘I was just about to say, that for the convenience of posting you had better make it gold. Thank you. A general direction, I suppose, to Mr Pinch at Mr Pecksniff’s—will that find you?’

‘That’ll find me,’ said Tom. ‘You had better put Esquire to Mr Pecksniff’s name, if you please. Direct to me, you know, at Seth Pecksniff’s, Esquire.’

‘At Seth Pecksniff’s, Esquire,’ repeated Mr Tigg, taking an exact note of it with a stump of pencil. ‘We said this week, I believe?’

‘Yes; or Monday will do,’ observed Tom.

‘No, no, I beg your pardon. Monday will not do,’ said Mr Tigg. ‘If we stipulated for this week, Saturday is the latest day. Did we stipulate for this week?’

‘Since you are so particular about it,’ said Tom, ‘I think we did.’

Mr Tigg added this condition to his memorandum; read the entry over to himself with a severe frown; and that the transaction might be the more correct and business-like, appended his initials to the whole. That done, he assured Mr Pinch that everything was now perfectly regular; and, after squeezing his hand with great fervour, departed.

Tom entertained enough suspicion that Martin might possibly turn this interview into a jest, to render him desirous to avoid the company of that young gentleman for the present. With this view he took a few turns up and down the skittle-ground, and did not re-enter the house until Mr Tigg and his friend had quitted it, and the new pupil and Mark were watching their departure from one of the windows.

‘I was just a-saying, sir, that if one could live by it,’ observed Mark, pointing after their late guests, ‘that would be the sort of service for me. Waiting on such individuals as them would be better than grave-digging, sir.’

‘And staying here would be better than either, Mark,’ replied Tom. ‘So take my advice, and continue to swim easily in smooth water.’

‘It’s too late to take it now, sir,’ said Mark. ‘I have broke it to her, sir. I am off to-morrow morning.’

‘Off!’ cried Mr Pinch, ‘where to?’

‘I shall go up to London, sir.’

‘What to be?’ asked Mr Pinch.

‘Well! I don’t know yet, sir. Nothing turned up that day I opened my mind to you, as was at all likely to suit me. All them trades I thought of was a deal too jolly; there was no credit at all to be got in any of ‘em. I must look for a private service, I suppose, sir. I might be brought out strong, perhaps, in a serious family, Mr Pinch.’

‘Perhaps you might come out rather too strong for a serious family’s taste, Mark.’

‘That’s possible, sir. If I could get into a wicked family, I might do myself justice; but the difficulty is to make sure of one’s ground, because a young man can’t very well advertise that he wants a place, and wages an’t so much an object as a wicked sitivation; can he, sir?’

‘Why, no,’ said Mr Pinch, ‘I don’t think he can.’

‘An envious family,’ pursued Mark, with a thoughtful face; ‘or a quarrelsome family, or a malicious family, or even a good out-and-out mean family, would open a field of action as I might do something in. The man as would have suited me of all other men was that old gentleman as was took ill here, for he really was a trying customer. Howsever, I must wait and see what turns up, sir; and hope for the worst.’

‘You are determined to go then?’ said Mr Pinch.

‘My box is gone already, sir, by the waggon, and I’m going to walk on to-morrow morning, and get a lift by the day coach when it overtakes me. So I wish you good-bye, Mr Pinch—and you too, sir—and all good luck and happiness!’

They both returned his greeting laughingly, and walked home arm-in-arm. Mr Pinch imparting to his new friend, as they went, such further particulars of Mark Tapley’s whimsical restlessness as the reader is already acquainted with.

In the meantime Mark, having a shrewd notion that his mistress was in very low spirits, and that he could not exactly answer for the consequences of any lengthened tete-a-tete in the bar, kept himself obstinately out of her way all the afternoon and evening. In this piece of generalship he was very much assisted by the great influx of company into the taproom; for the news of his intention having gone abroad, there was a perfect throng there all the evening, and much drinking of healths and clinking of mugs. At length the house was closed for the night; and there being now no help for it, Mark put the best face he could upon the matter, and walked doggedly to the bar-door.

‘If I look at her,’ said Mark to himself, ‘I’m done. I feel that I’m a-going fast.’

‘You have come at last,’ said Mrs Lupin.

Aye, Mark said: There he was.

‘And you are determined to leave us, Mark?’ cried Mrs Lupin.

‘Why, yes; I am,’ said Mark; keeping his eyes hard upon the floor.

‘I thought,’ pursued the landlady, with a most engaging hesitation, ‘that you had been—fond—of the Dragon?’

‘So I am,’ said Mark.

‘Then,’ pursued the hostess—and it really was not an unnatural inquiry—‘why do you desert it?’

But as he gave no manner of answer to this question; not even on its being repeated; Mrs Lupin put his money into his hand, and asked him—not unkindly, quite the contrary—what he would take?

It is proverbial that there are certain things which flesh and blood cannot bear. Such a question as this, propounded in such a manner, at such a time, and by such a person, proved (at least, as far as, Mark’s flesh and blood were concerned) to be one of them. He looked up in spite of himself directly; and having once looked up, there was no looking down again; for of all the tight, plump, buxom, bright-eyed, dimple-faced landladies that ever shone on earth, there stood before him then, bodily in that bar, the very pink and pineapple.

‘Why, I tell you what,’ said Mark, throwing off all his constraint in an instant and seizing the hostess round the waist—at which she was not at all alarmed, for she knew what a good young man he was—‘if I took what I liked most, I should take you. If I only thought what was best for me, I should take you. If I took what nineteen young fellows in twenty would be glad to take, and would take at any price, I should take you. Yes, I should,’ cried Mr Tapley, shaking his head expressively enough, and looking (in a momentary state of forgetfulness) rather hard at the hostess’s ripe lips. ‘And no man wouldn’t wonder if I did!’

Mrs Lupin said he amazed her. She was astonished how he could say such things. She had never thought it of him.

‘Why, I never thought if of myself till now!’ said Mark, raising his eyebrows with a look of the merriest possible surprise. ‘I always expected we should part, and never have no explanation; I meant to do it when I come in here just now; but there’s something about you, as makes a man sensible. Then let us have a word or two together; letting it be understood beforehand,’ he added this in a grave tone, to prevent the possibility of any mistake, ‘that I’m not a-going to make no love, you know.’

There was for just one second a shade, though not by any means a dark one, on the landlady’s open brow. But it passed off instantly, in a laugh that came from her very heart.

‘Oh, very good!’ she said; ‘if there is to be no love-making, you had better take your arm away.’

‘Lord, why should I!’ cried Mark. ‘It’s quite innocent.’

‘Of course it’s innocent,’ returned the hostess, ‘or I shouldn’t allow it.’

‘Very well!’ said Mark. ‘Then let it be.’

There was so much reason in this that the landlady laughed again, suffered it to remain, and bade him say what he had to say, and be quick about it. But he was an impudent fellow, she added.

‘Ha ha! I almost think I am!’ cried Mark, ‘though I never thought so before. Why, I can say anything to-night!’ ‘Say what you’re going to say if you please, and be quick,’ returned the landlady, ‘for I want to get to bed.’

‘Why, then, my dear good soul,’ said Mark, ‘and a kinder woman than you are never drawed breath—let me see the man as says she did!—what would be the likely consequence of us two being—’

‘Oh nonsense!’ cried Mrs Lupin. ‘Don’t talk about that any more.’

‘No, no, but it an’t nonsense,’ said Mark; ‘and I wish you’d attend. What would be the likely consequence of us two being married? If I can’t be content and comfortable in this here lively Dragon now, is it to be looked for as I should be then? By no means. Very good. Then you, even with your good humour, would be always on the fret and worrit, always uncomfortable in your own mind, always a-thinking as you was getting too old for my taste, always a-picturing me to yourself as being chained up to the Dragon door, and wanting to break away. I don’t know that it would be so,’ said Mark, ‘but I don’t know that it mightn’t be. I am a roving sort of chap, I know. I’m fond of change. I’m always a-thinking that with my good health and spirits it would be more creditable in me to be jolly where there’s things a-going on to make one dismal. It may be a mistake of mine you see, but nothing short of trying how it acts will set it right. Then an’t it best that I should go; particular when your free way has helped me out to say all this, and we can part as good friends as we have ever been since first I entered this here noble Dragon, which,’ said Mr Tapley in conclusion, ‘has my good word and my good wish to the day of my death!’

The hostess sat quite silent for a little time, but she very soon put both her hands in Mark’s and shook them heartily.

‘For you are a good man,’ she said; looking into his face with a smile, which was rather serious for her. ‘And I do believe have been a better friend to me to-night than ever I have had in all my life.’

‘Oh! as to that, you know,’ said Mark, ‘that’s nonsense. But love my heart alive!’ he added, looking at her in a sort of rapture, ‘if you are that way disposed, what a lot of suitable husbands there is as you may drive distracted!’

She laughed again at this compliment; and, once more shaking him by both hands, and bidding him, if he should ever want a friend, to remember her, turned gayly from the little bar and up the Dragon staircase.

‘Humming a tune as she goes,’ said Mark, listening, ‘in case I should think she’s at all put out, and should be made down-hearted. Come, here’s some credit in being jolly, at last!’

With that piece of comfort, very ruefully uttered, he went, in anything but a jolly manner, to bed.

He rose early next morning, and was a-foot soon after sunrise. But it was of no use; the whole place was up to see Mark Tapley off; the boys, the dogs, the children, the old men, the busy people and the idlers; there they were, all calling out ‘Good-b’ye, Mark,’ after their own manner, and all sorry he was going. Somehow he had a kind of sense that his old mistress was peeping from her chamber-window, but he couldn’t make up his mind to look back.

‘Good-b’ye one, good-b’ye all!’ cried Mark, waving his hat on the top of his walking-stick, as he strode at a quick pace up the little street. ‘Hearty chaps them wheelwrights—hurrah! Here’s the butcher’s dog a-coming out of the garden—down, old fellow! And Mr Pinch a-going to his organ—good-b’ye, sir! And the terrier-bitch from over the way—hie, then, lass! And children enough to hand down human natur to the latest posterity—good-b’ye, boys and girls! There’s some credit in it now. I’m a-coming out strong at last. These are the circumstances that would try a ordinary mind; but I’m uncommon jolly. Not quite as jolly as I could wish to be, but very near. Good-b’ye! good-b’ye!’






CHAPTER EIGHT. ACCOMPANIES MR PECKSNIFF AND HIS CHARMING DAUGHTERS TO THE CITY OF LONDON; AND RELATES WHAT FELL OUT UPON THEIR WAY THITHER


When Mr Pecksniff and the two young ladies got into the heavy coach at the end of the lane, they found it empty, which was a great comfort; particularly as the outside was quite full and the passengers looked very frosty. For as Mr Pecksniff justly observed—when he and his daughters had burrowed their feet deep in the straw, wrapped themselves to the chin, and pulled up both windows—it is always satisfactory to feel, in keen weather, that many other people are not as warm as you are. And this, he said, was quite natural, and a very beautiful arrangement; not confined to coaches, but extending itself into many social ramifications. ‘For’ (he observed), ‘if every one were warm and well-fed, we should lose the satisfaction of admiring the fortitude with which certain conditions of men bear cold and hunger. And if we were no better off than anybody else, what would become of our sense of gratitude; which,’ said Mr Pecksniff with tears in his eyes, as he shook his fist at a beggar who wanted to get up behind, ‘is one of the holiest feelings of our common nature.’

His children heard with becoming reverence these moral precepts from the lips of their father, and signified their acquiescence in the same, by smiles. That he might the better feed and cherish that sacred flame of gratitude in his breast, Mr Pecksniff remarked that he would trouble his eldest daughter, even in this early stage of their journey, for the brandy-bottle. And from the narrow neck of that stone vessel he imbibed a copious refreshment.

‘What are we?’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘but coaches? Some of us are slow coaches’—

‘Goodness, Pa!’ cried Charity.

‘Some of us, I say,’ resumed her parent with increased emphasis, ‘are slow coaches; some of us are fast coaches. Our passions are the horses; and rampant animals too—!’

‘Really, Pa,’ cried both the daughters at once. ‘How very unpleasant.’

‘And rampant animals too’ repeated Mr Pecksniff with so much determination, that he may be said to have exhibited, at the moment a sort of moral rampancy himself;’—and Virtue is the drag. We start from The Mother’s Arms, and we run to The Dust Shovel.’

When he had said this, Mr Pecksniff, being exhausted, took some further refreshment. When he had done that, he corked the bottle tight, with the air of a man who had effectually corked the subject also; and went to sleep for three stages.

The tendency of mankind when it falls asleep in coaches, is to wake up cross; to find its legs in its way; and its corns an aggravation. Mr Pecksniff not being exempt from the common lot of humanity found himself, at the end of his nap, so decidedly the victim of these infirmities, that he had an irresistible inclination to visit them upon his daughters; which he had already begun to do in the shape of divers random kicks, and other unexpected motions of his shoes, when the coach stopped, and after a short delay the door was opened.

‘Now mind,’ said a thin sharp voice in the dark. ‘I and my son go inside, because the roof is full, but you agree only to charge us outside prices. It’s quite understood that we won’t pay more. Is it?’

‘All right, sir,’ replied the guard.

‘Is there anybody inside now?’ inquired the voice.

‘Three passengers,’ returned the guard.

‘Then I ask the three passengers to witness this bargain, if they will be so good,’ said the voice. ‘My boy, I think we may safely get in.’

In pursuance of which opinion, two people took their seats in the vehicle, which was solemnly licensed by Act of Parliament to carry any six persons who could be got in at the door.

‘That was lucky!’ whispered the old man, when they moved on again. ‘And a great stroke of policy in you to observe it. He, he, he! We couldn’t have gone outside. I should have died of the rheumatism!’

Whether it occurred to the dutiful son that he had in some degree over-reached himself by contributing to the prolongation of his father’s days; or whether the cold had effected his temper; is doubtful. But he gave his father such a nudge in reply, that that good old gentleman was taken with a cough which lasted for full five minutes without intermission, and goaded Mr Pecksniff to that pitch of irritation, that he said at last—and very suddenly:

‘There is no room! There is really no room in this coach for any gentleman with a cold in his head!’

‘Mine,’ said the old man, after a moment’s pause, ‘is upon my chest, Pecksniff.’

The voice and manner, together, now that he spoke out; the composure of the speaker; the presence of his son; and his knowledge of Mr Pecksniff; afforded a clue to his identity which it was impossible to mistake.

‘Hem! I thought,’ said Mr Pecksniff, returning to his usual mildness, ‘that I addressed a stranger. I find that I address a relative, Mr Anthony Chuzzlewit and his son Mr Jonas—for they, my dear children, are our travelling companions—will excuse me for an apparently harsh remark. It is not my desire to wound the feelings of any person with whom I am connected in family bonds. I may be a Hypocrite,’ said Mr Pecksniff, cuttingly; ‘but I am not a Brute.’

‘Pooh, pooh!’ said the old man. ‘What signifies that word, Pecksniff? Hypocrite! why, we are all hypocrites. We were all hypocrites t’other day. I am sure I felt that to be agreed upon among us, or I shouldn’t have called you one. We should not have been there at all, if we had not been hypocrites. The only difference between you and the rest was—shall I tell you the difference between you and the rest now, Pecksniff?’

‘If you please, my good sir; if you please.’

‘Why, the annoying quality in you, is,’ said the old man, ‘that you never have a confederate or partner in your juggling; you would deceive everybody, even those who practise the same art; and have a way with you, as if you—he, he, he!—as if you really believed yourself. I’d lay a handsome wager now,’ said the old man, ‘if I laid wagers, which I don’t and never did, that you keep up appearances by a tacit understanding, even before your own daughters here. Now I, when I have a business scheme in hand, tell Jonas what it is, and we discuss it openly. You’re not offended, Pecksniff?’

‘Offended, my good sir!’ cried that gentleman, as if he had received the highest compliments that language could convey.

‘Are you travelling to London, Mr Pecksniff?’ asked the son.

‘Yes, Mr Jonas, we are travelling to London. We shall have the pleasure of your company all the way, I trust?’

‘Oh! ecod, you had better ask father that,’ said Jonas. ‘I am not a-going to commit myself.’

Mr Pecksniff was, as a matter of course, greatly entertained by this retort. His mirth having subsided, Mr Jonas gave him to understand that himself and parent were in fact travelling to their home in the metropolis; and that, since the memorable day of the great family gathering, they had been tarrying in that part of the country, watching the sale of certain eligible investments, which they had had in their copartnership eye when they came down; for it was their custom, Mr Jonas said, whenever such a thing was practicable, to kill two birds with one stone, and never to throw away sprats, but as bait for whales. When he had communicated to Mr Pecksniff these pithy scraps of intelligence, he said, ‘That if it was all the same to him, he would turn him over to father, and have a chat with the gals;’ and in furtherance of this polite scheme, he vacated his seat adjoining that gentleman, and established himself in the opposite corner, next to the fair Miss Mercy.

The education of Mr Jonas had been conducted from his cradle on the strictest principles of the main chance. The very first word he learnt to spell was ‘gain,’ and the second (when he got into two syllables), ‘money.’ But for two results, which were not clearly foreseen perhaps by his watchful parent in the beginning, his training may be said to have been unexceptionable. One of these flaws was, that having been long taught by his father to over-reach everybody, he had imperceptibly acquired a love of over-reaching that venerable monitor himself. The other, that from his early habits of considering everything as a question of property, he had gradually come to look, with impatience, on his parent as a certain amount of personal estate, which had no right whatever to be going at large, but ought to be secured in that particular description of iron safe which is commonly called a coffin, and banked in the grave.

‘Well, cousin!’ said Mr Jonas—‘Because we are cousins, you know, a few times removed—so you’re going to London?’

Miss Mercy replied in the affirmative, pinching her sister’s arm at the same time, and giggling excessively.

‘Lots of beaux in London, cousin!’ said Mr Jonas, slightly advancing his elbow.

‘Indeed, sir!’ cried the young lady. ‘They won’t hurt us, sir, I dare say.’ And having given him this answer with great demureness she was so overcome by her own humour, that she was fain to stifle her merriment in her sister’s shawl.

‘Merry,’ cried that more prudent damsel, ‘really I am ashamed of you. How can you go on so? You wild thing!’ At which Miss Merry only laughed the more, of course.

‘I saw a wildness in her eye, t’other day,’ said Mr Jonas, addressing Charity. ‘But you’re the one to sit solemn! I say—You were regularly prim, cousin!’

‘Oh! The old-fashioned fright!’ cried Merry, in a whisper. ‘Cherry my dear, upon my word you must sit next him. I shall die outright if he talks to me any more; I shall, positively!’ To prevent which fatal consequence, the buoyant creature skipped out of her seat as she spoke, and squeezed her sister into the place from which she had risen.

‘Don’t mind crowding me,’ cried Mr Jonas. ‘I like to be crowded by gals. Come a little closer, cousin.’

‘No, thank you, sir,’ said Charity.

‘There’s that other one a-laughing again,’ said Mr Jonas; ‘she’s a-laughing at my father, I shouldn’t wonder. If he puts on that old flannel nightcap of his, I don’t know what she’ll do! Is that my father a-snoring, Pecksniff?’

‘Yes, Mr Jonas.’

‘Tread upon his foot, will you be so good?’ said the young gentleman. ‘The foot next you’s the gouty one.’

Mr Pecksniff hesitating to perform this friendly office, Mr Jonas did it himself; at the same time crying:

‘Come, wake up, father, or you’ll be having the nightmare, and screeching out, I know.—Do you ever have the nightmare, cousin?’ he asked his neighbour, with characteristic gallantry, as he dropped his voice again.

‘Sometimes,’ answered Charity. ‘Not often.’

‘The other one,’ said Mr Jonas, after a pause. ‘Does she ever have the nightmare?’

‘I don’t know,’ replied Charity. ‘You had better ask her.’

‘She laughs so,’ said Jonas; ‘there’s no talking to her. Only hark how she’s a-going on now! You’re the sensible one, cousin!’

‘Tut, tut!’ cried Charity.

‘Oh! But you are! You know you are!’

‘Mercy is a little giddy,’ said Miss Charity. But she’ll sober down in time.’

‘It’ll be a very long time, then, if she does at all,’ rejoined her cousin. ‘Take a little more room.’

‘I am afraid of crowding you,’ said Charity. But she took it notwithstanding; and after one or two remarks on the extreme heaviness of the coach, and the number of places it stopped at, they fell into a silence which remained unbroken by any member of the party until supper-time.

Although Mr Jonas conducted Charity to the hotel and sat himself beside her at the board, it was pretty clear that he had an eye to ‘the other one’ also, for he often glanced across at Mercy, and seemed to draw comparisons between the personal appearance of the two, which were not unfavourable to the superior plumpness of the younger sister. He allowed himself no great leisure for this kind of observation, however, being busily engaged with the supper, which, as he whispered in his fair companion’s ear, was a contract business, and therefore the more she ate, the better the bargain was. His father and Mr Pecksniff, probably acting on the same wise principle, demolished everything that came within their reach, and by that means acquired a greasy expression of countenance, indicating contentment, if not repletion, which it was very pleasant to contemplate.

When they could eat no more, Mr Pecksniff and Mr Jonas subscribed for two sixpenny-worths of hot brandy-and-water, which the latter gentleman considered a more politic order than one shillingsworth; there being a chance of their getting more spirit out of the innkeeper under this arrangement than if it were all in one glass. Having swallowed his share of the enlivening fluid, Mr Pecksniff, under pretence of going to see if the coach were ready, went secretly to the bar, and had his own little bottle filled, in order that he might refresh himself at leisure in the dark coach without being observed.

These arrangements concluded, and the coach being ready, they got into their old places and jogged on again. But before he composed himself for a nap, Mr Pecksniff delivered a kind of grace after meat, in these words:

‘The process of digestion, as I have been informed by anatomical friends, is one of the most wonderful works of nature. I do not know how it may be with others, but it is a great satisfaction to me to know, when regaling on my humble fare, that I am putting in motion the most beautiful machinery with which we have any acquaintance. I really feel at such times as if I was doing a public service. When I have wound myself up, if I may employ such a term,’ said Mr Pecksniff with exquisite tenderness, ‘and know that I am Going, I feel that in the lesson afforded by the works within me, I am a Benefactor to my Kind!’

As nothing could be added to this, nothing was said; and Mr Pecksniff, exulting, it may be presumed, in his moral utility, went to sleep again.

The rest of the night wore away in the usual manner. Mr Pecksniff and Old Anthony kept tumbling against each other and waking up much terrified, or crushed their heads in opposite corners of the coach and strangely tattooed the surface of their faces—Heaven knows how—in their sleep. The coach stopped and went on, and went on and stopped, times out of number. Passengers got up and passengers got down, and fresh horses came and went and came again, with scarcely any interval between each team as it seemed to those who were dozing, and with a gap of a whole night between every one as it seemed to those who were broad awake. At length they began to jolt and rumble over horribly uneven stones, and Mr Pecksniff looking out of window said it was to-morrow morning, and they were there.

Very soon afterwards the coach stopped at the office in the city; and the street in which it was situated was already in a bustle, that fully bore out Mr Pecksniff’s words about its being morning, though for any signs of day yet appearing in the sky it might have been midnight. There was a dense fog too; as if it were a city in the clouds, which they had been travelling to all night up a magic beanstalk; and there was a thick crust upon the pavement like oilcake; which, one of the outsides (mad, no doubt) said to another (his keeper, of course), was Snow.

Taking a confused leave of Anthony and his son, and leaving the luggage of himself and daughters at the office to be called for afterwards, Mr Pecksniff, with one of the young ladies under each arm, dived across the street, and then across other streets, and so up the queerest courts, and down the strangest alleys and under the blindest archways, in a kind of frenzy; now skipping over a kennel, now running for his life from a coach and horses; now thinking he had lost his way, now thinking he had found it; now in a state of the highest confidence, now despondent to the last degree, but always in a great perspiration and flurry; until at length they stopped in a kind of paved yard near the Monument. That is to say, Mr Pecksniff told them so; for as to anything they could see of the Monument, or anything else but the buildings close at hand, they might as well have been playing blindman’s buff at Salisbury.

Mr Pecksniff looked about him for a moment, and then knocked at the door of a very dingy edifice, even among the choice collection of dingy edifices at hand; on the front of which was a little oval board like a tea-tray, with this inscription—‘Commercial Boarding-House: M. Todgers.’

It seemed that M. Todgers was not up yet, for Mr Pecksniff knocked twice and rang thrice, without making any impression on anything but a dog over the way. At last a chain and some bolts were withdrawn with a rusty noise, as if the weather had made the very fastenings hoarse, and a small boy with a large red head, and no nose to speak of, and a very dirty Wellington boot on his left arm, appeared; who (being surprised) rubbed the nose just mentioned with the back of a shoe-brush, and said nothing.

‘Still a-bed my man?’ asked Mr Pecksniff.

‘Still a-bed!’ replied the boy. ‘I wish they wos still a-bed. They’re very noisy a-bed; all calling for their boots at once. I thought you was the Paper, and wondered why you didn’t shove yourself through the grating as usual. What do you want?’

Considering his years, which were tender, the youth may be said to have preferred this question sternly, and in something of a defiant manner. But Mr Pecksniff, without taking umbrage at his bearing put a card in his hand, and bade him take that upstairs, and show them in the meanwhile into a room where there was a fire.

‘Or if there’s one in the eating parlour,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘I can find it myself.’ So he led his daughters, without waiting for any further introduction, into a room on the ground-floor, where a table-cloth (rather a tight and scanty fit in reference to the table it covered) was already spread for breakfast; displaying a mighty dish of pink boiled beef; an instance of that particular style of loaf which is known to housekeepers as a slack-baked, crummy quartern; a liberal provision of cups and saucers; and the usual appendages.

Inside the fender were some half-dozen pairs of shoes and boots, of various sizes, just cleaned and turned with the soles upwards to dry; and a pair of short black gaiters, on one of which was chalked—in sport, it would appear, by some gentleman who had slipped down for the purpose, pending his toilet, and gone up again—‘Jinkins’s Particular,’ while the other exhibited a sketch in profile, claiming to be the portrait of Jinkins himself.

M. Todgers’s Commercial Boarding-House was a house of that sort which is likely to be dark at any time; but that morning it was especially dark. There was an odd smell in the passage, as if the concentrated essence of all the dinners that had been cooked in the kitchen since the house was built, lingered at the top of the kitchen stairs to that hour, and like the Black Friar in Don Juan, ‘wouldn’t be driven away.’ In particular, there was a sensation of cabbage; as if all the greens that had ever been boiled there, were evergreens, and flourished in immortal strength. The parlour was wainscoted, and communicated to strangers a magnetic and instinctive consciousness of rats and mice. The staircase was very gloomy and very broad, with balustrades so thick and heavy that they would have served for a bridge. In a sombre corner on the first landing, stood a gruff old giant of a clock, with a preposterous coronet of three brass balls on his head; whom few had ever seen—none ever looked in the face—and who seemed to continue his heavy tick for no other reason than to warn heedless people from running into him accidentally. It had not been papered or painted, hadn’t Todgers’s, within the memory of man. It was very black, begrimed, and mouldy. And, at the top of the staircase, was an old, disjointed, rickety, ill-favoured skylight, patched and mended in all kinds of ways, which looked distrustfully down at everything that passed below, and covered Todgers’s up as if it were a sort of human cucumber-frame, and only people of a peculiar growth were reared there.

Mr Pecksniff and his fair daughters had not stood warming themselves at the fire ten minutes, when the sound of feet was heard upon the stairs, and the presiding deity of the establishment came hurrying in.

M. Todgers was a lady, rather a bony and hard-featured lady, with a row of curls in front of her head, shaped like little barrels of beer; and on the top of it something made of net—you couldn’t call it a cap exactly—which looked like a black cobweb. She had a little basket on her arm, and in it a bunch of keys that jingled as she came. In her other hand she bore a flaming tallow candle, which, after surveying Mr Pecksniff for one instant by its light, she put down upon the table, to the end that she might receive him with the greater cordiality.

‘Mr Pecksniff!’ cried Mrs Todgers. ‘Welcome to London! Who would have thought of such a visit as this, after so—dear, dear!—so many years! How do you do, Mr Pecksniff?’

‘As well as ever; and as glad to see you, as ever;’ Mr Pecksniff made response. ‘Why, you are younger than you used to be!’

‘You are, I am sure!’ said Mrs Todgers. ‘You’re not a bit changed.’

‘What do you say to this?’ cried Mr Pecksniff, stretching out his hand towards the young ladies. ‘Does this make me no older?’

‘Not your daughters!’ exclaimed the lady, raising her hands and clasping them. ‘Oh, no, Mr Pecksniff! Your second, and her bridesmaid!’

Mr Pecksniff smiled complacently; shook his head; and said, ‘My daughters, Mrs Todgers. Merely my daughters.’

‘Ah!’ sighed the good lady, ‘I must believe you, for now I look at ‘em I think I should have known ‘em anywhere. My dear Miss Pecksniffs, how happy your Pa has made me!’

She hugged them both; and being by this time overpowered by her feelings or the inclemency of the morning, jerked a little pocket handkerchief out of the little basket, and applied the same to her face.

‘Now, my good madam,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘I know the rules of your establishment, and that you only receive gentlemen boarders. But it occurred to me, when I left home, that perhaps you would give my daughters house room, and make an exception in their favour.’

‘Perhaps?’ cried Mrs Todgers ecstatically. ‘Perhaps?’

‘I may say then, that I was sure you would,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘I know that you have a little room of your own, and that they can be comfortable there, without appearing at the general table.’

‘Dear girls!’ said Mrs Todgers. ‘I must take that liberty once more.’

Mrs Todgers meant by this that she must embrace them once more, which she accordingly did with great ardour. But the truth was that the house being full with the exception of one bed, which would now be occupied by Mr Pecksniff, she wanted time for consideration; and so much time too (for it was a knotty point how to dispose of them), that even when this second embrace was over, she stood for some moments gazing at the sisters, with affection beaming in one eye, and calculation shining out of the other.

‘I think I know how to arrange it,’ said Mrs Todgers, at length. ‘A sofa bedstead in the little third room which opens from my own parlour.—Oh, you dear girls!’

Thereupon she embraced them once more, observing that she could not decide which was most like their poor mother (which was highly probable, seeing that she had never beheld that lady), but that she rather thought the youngest was; and then she said that as the gentlemen would be down directly, and the ladies were fatigued with travelling, would they step into her room at once?

It was on the same floor; being, in fact, the back parlour; and had, as Mrs Todgers said, the great advantage (in London) of not being overlooked; as they would see when the fog cleared off. Nor was this a vainglorious boast, for it commanded at a perspective of two feet, a brown wall with a black cistern on the top. The sleeping apartment designed for the young ladies was approached from this chamber by a mightily convenient little door, which would only open when fallen against by a strong person. It commanded from a similar point of sight another angle of the wall, and another side of the cistern. ‘Not the damp side,’ said Mrs Todgers. ‘That is Mr Jinkins’s.’

In the first of these sanctuaries a fire was speedily kindled by the youthful porter, who, whistling at his work in the absence of Mrs Todgers (not to mention his sketching figures on his corduroys with burnt firewood), and being afterwards taken by that lady in the fact, was dismissed with a box on his ears. Having prepared breakfast for the young ladies with her own hands, she withdrew to preside in the other room; where the joke at Mr Jinkins’s expense seemed to be proceeding rather noisily.

‘I won’t ask you yet, my dears,’ said Mr Pecksniff, looking in at the door, ‘how you like London. Shall I?’

‘We haven’t seen much of it, Pa!’ cried Merry.

‘Nothing, I hope,’ said Cherry. (Both very miserably.)

‘Indeed,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘that’s true. We have our pleasure, and our business too, before us. All in good time. All in good time!’

Whether Mr Pecksniff’s business in London was as strictly professional as he had given his new pupil to understand, we shall see, to adopt that worthy man’s phraseology, ‘all in good time.’






CHAPTER NINE. TOWN AND TODGER’S

Surely there never was, in any other borough, city, or hamlet in the world, such a singular sort of a place as Todgers’s. And surely London, to judge from that part of it which hemmed Todgers’s round and hustled it, and crushed it, and stuck its brick-and-mortar elbows into it, and kept the air from it, and stood perpetually between it and the light, was worthy of Todgers’s, and qualified to be on terms of close relationship and alliance with hundreds and thousands of the odd family to which Todgers’s belonged.

You couldn’t walk about Todgers’s neighbourhood, as you could in any other neighbourhood. You groped your way for an hour through lanes and byways, and court-yards, and passages; and you never once emerged upon anything that might be reasonably called a street. A kind of resigned distraction came over the stranger as he trod those devious mazes, and, giving himself up for lost, went in and out and round about and quietly turned back again when he came to a dead wall or was stopped by an iron railing, and felt that the means of escape might possibly present themselves in their own good time, but that to anticipate them was hopeless. Instances were known of people who, being asked to dine at Todgers’s, had travelled round and round for a weary time, with its very chimney-pots in view; and finding it, at last, impossible of attainment, had gone home again with a gentle melancholy on their spirits, tranquil and uncomplaining. Nobody had ever found Todgers’s on a verbal direction, though given within a few minutes’ walk of it. Cautious emigrants from Scotland or the North of England had been known to reach it safely, by impressing a charity-boy, town-bred, and bringing him along with them; or by clinging tenaciously to the postman; but these were rare exceptions, and only went to prove the rule that Todgers’s was in a labyrinth, whereof the mystery was known but to a chosen few.

Several fruit-brokers had their marts near Todgers’s; and one of the first impressions wrought upon the stranger’s senses was of oranges—of damaged oranges—with blue and green bruises on them, festering in boxes, or mouldering away in cellars. All day long, a stream of porters from the wharves beside the river, each bearing on his back a bursting chest of oranges, poured slowly through the narrow passages; while underneath the archway by the public-house, the knots of those who rested and regaled within, were piled from morning until night. Strange solitary pumps were found near Todgers’s hiding themselves for the most part in blind alleys, and keeping company with fire-ladders. There were churches also by dozens, with many a ghostly little churchyard, all overgrown with such straggling vegetation as springs up spontaneously from damp, and graves, and rubbish. In some of these dingy resting-places which bore much the same analogy to green churchyards, as the pots of earth for mignonette and wall-flower in the windows overlooking them did to rustic gardens, there were trees; tall trees; still putting forth their leaves in each succeeding year, with such a languishing remembrance of their kind (so one might fancy, looking on their sickly boughs) as birds in cages have of theirs. Here, paralysed old watchmen guarded the bodies of the dead at night, year after year, until at last they joined that solemn brotherhood; and, saving that they slept below the ground a sounder sleep than even they had ever known above it, and were shut up in another kind of box, their condition can hardly be said to have undergone any material change when they, in turn, were watched themselves.

Among the narrow thoroughfares at hand, there lingered, here and there, an ancient doorway of carved oak, from which, of old, the sounds of revelry and feasting often came; but now these mansions, only used for storehouses, were dark and dull, and, being filled with wool, and cotton, and the like—such heavy merchandise as stifles sound and stops the throat of echo—had an air of palpable deadness about them which, added to their silence and desertion, made them very grim. In like manner, there were gloomy courtyards in these parts, into which few but belated wayfarers ever strayed, and where vast bags and packs of goods, upward or downward bound, were for ever dangling between heaven and earth from lofty cranes There were more trucks near Todgers’s than you would suppose whole city could ever need; not active trucks, but a vagabond race, for ever lounging in the narrow lanes before their masters’ doors and stopping up the pass; so that when a stray hackney-coach or lumbering waggon came that way, they were the cause of such an uproar as enlivened the whole neighbourhood, and made the bells in the next churchtower vibrate again. In the throats and maws of dark no-thoroughfares near Todgers’s, individual wine-merchants and wholesale dealers in grocery-ware had perfect little towns of their own; and, deep among the foundations of these buildings, the ground was undermined and burrowed out into stables, where cart-horses, troubled by rats, might be heard on a quiet Sunday rattling their halters, as disturbed spirits in tales of haunted houses are said to clank their chains.

To tell of half the queer old taverns that had a drowsy and secret existence near Todgers’s, would fill a goodly book; while a second volume no less capacious might be devoted to an account of the quaint old guests who frequented their dimly lighted parlours. These were, in general, ancient inhabitants of that region; born, and bred there from boyhood, who had long since become wheezy and asthmatical, and short of breath, except in the article of story-telling; in which respect they were still marvellously long-winded. These gentry were much opposed to steam and all new-fangled ways, and held ballooning to be sinful, and deplored the degeneracy of the times; which that particular member of each little club who kept the keys of the nearest church, professionally, always attributed to the prevalence of dissent and irreligion; though the major part of the company inclined to the belief that virtue went out with hair-powder, and that Old England’s greatness had decayed amain with barbers.

As to Todgers’s itself—speaking of it only as a house in that neighbourhood, and making no reference to its merits as a commercial boarding establishment—it was worthy to stand where it did. There was one staircase-window in it, at the side of the house, on the ground floor; which tradition said had not been opened for a hundred years at least, and which, abutting on an always dirty lane, was so begrimed and coated with a century’s mud, that no one pane of glass could possibly fall out, though all were cracked and broken twenty times. But the grand mystery of Todgers’s was the cellarage, approachable only by a little back door and a rusty grating; which cellarage within the memory of man had had no connection with the house, but had always been the freehold property of somebody else, and was reported to be full of wealth; though in what shape—whether in silver, brass, or gold, or butts of wine, or casks of gun-powder—was matter of profound uncertainty and supreme indifference to Todgers’s and all its inmates.

The top of the house was worthy of notice. There was a sort of terrace on the roof, with posts and fragments of rotten lines, once intended to dry clothes upon; and there were two or three tea-chests out there, full of earth, with forgotten plants in them, like old walking-sticks. Whoever climbed to this observatory, was stunned at first from having knocked his head against the little door in coming out; and after that, was for the moment choked from having looked perforce, straight down the kitchen chimney; but these two stages over, there were things to gaze at from the top of Todgers’s, well worth your seeing too. For first and foremost, if the day were bright, you observed upon the house-tops, stretching far away, a long dark path; the shadow of the Monument; and turning round, the tall original was close beside you, with every hair erect upon his golden head, as if the doings of the city frightened him. Then there were steeples, towers, belfries, shining vanes, and masts of ships; a very forest. Gables, housetops, garret-windows, wilderness upon wilderness. Smoke and noise enough for all the world at once.

After the first glance, there were slight features in the midst of this crowd of objects, which sprung out from the mass without any reason, as it were, and took hold of the attention whether the spectator would or no. Thus, the revolving chimney-pots on one great stack of buildings seemed to be turning gravely to each other every now and then, and whispering the result of their separate observation of what was going on below. Others, of a crook-backed shape, appeared to be maliciously holding themselves askew, that they might shut the prospect out and baffle Todgers’s. The man who was mending a pen at an upper window over the way, became of paramount importance in the scene, and made a blank in it, ridiculously disproportionate in its extent, when he retired. The gambols of a piece of cloth upon the dyer’s pole had far more interest for the moment than all the changing motion of the crowd. Yet even while the looker-on felt angry with himself for this, and wondered how it was, the tumult swelled into a roar; the hosts of objects seemed to thicken and expand a hundredfold, and after gazing round him, quite scared, he turned into Todgers’s again, much more rapidly than he came out; and ten to one he told M. Todgers afterwards that if he hadn’t done so, he would certainly have come into the street by the shortest cut; that is to say, head-foremost.

So said the two Miss Pecksniffs, when they retired with Mrs Todgers from this place of espial, leaving the youthful porter to close the door and follow them downstairs; who, being of a playful temperament, and contemplating with a delight peculiar to his sex and time of life, any chance of dashing himself into small fragments, lingered behind to walk upon the parapet.

It being the second day of their stay in London, the Miss Pecksniffs and Mrs Todgers were by this time highly confidential, insomuch that the last-named lady had already communicated the particulars of three early disappointments of a tender nature; and had furthermore possessed her young friends with a general summary of the life, conduct, and character of Mr Todgers. Who, it seemed, had cut his matrimonial career rather short, by unlawfully running away from his happiness, and establishing himself in foreign countries as a bachelor.

‘Your pa was once a little particular in his attentions, my dears,’ said Mrs Todgers, ‘but to be your ma was too much happiness denied me. You’d hardly know who this was done for, perhaps?’

She called their attention to an oval miniature, like a little blister, which was tacked up over the kettle-holder, and in which there was a dreamy shadowing forth of her own visage.

‘It’s a speaking likeness!’ cried the two Miss Pecksniffs.

‘It was considered so once,’ said Mrs Todgers, warming herself in a gentlemanly manner at the fire; ‘but I hardly thought you would have known it, my loves.’

They would have known it anywhere. If they could have met with it in the street, or seen it in a shop window, they would have cried ‘Good gracious! Mrs Todgers!’

‘Presiding over an establishment like this, makes sad havoc with the features, my dear Miss Pecksniffs,’ said Mrs Todgers. ‘The gravy alone, is enough to add twenty years to one’s age, I do assure you.’

‘Lor’!’ cried the two Miss Pecksniffs.

‘The anxiety of that one item, my dears,’ said Mrs Todgers, ‘keeps the mind continually upon the stretch. There is no such passion in human nature, as the passion for gravy among commercial gentlemen. It’s nothing to say a joint won’t yield—a whole animal wouldn’t yield—the amount of gravy they expect each day at dinner. And what I have undergone in consequence,’ cried Mrs Todgers, raising her eyes and shaking her head, ‘no one would believe!’

‘Just like Mr Pinch, Merry!’ said Charity. ‘We have always noticed it in him, you remember?’

‘Yes, my dear,’ giggled Merry, ‘but we have never given it him, you know.’

‘You, my dears, having to deal with your pa’s pupils who can’t help themselves, are able to take your own way,’ said Mrs Todgers; ‘but in a commercial establishment, where any gentleman may say any Saturday evening, “Mrs Todgers, this day week we part, in consequence of the cheese,” it is not so easy to preserve a pleasant understanding. Your pa was kind enough,’ added the good lady, ‘to invite me to take a ride with you to-day; and I think he mentioned that you were going to call upon Miss Pinch. Any relation to the gentleman you were speaking of just now, Miss Pecksniff?’

‘For goodness sake, Mrs Todgers,’ interposed the lively Merry, ‘don’t call him a gentleman. My dear Cherry, Pinch a gentleman! The idea!’

‘What a wicked girl you are!’ cried Mrs Todgers, embracing her with great affection. ‘You are quite a quiz, I do declare! My dear Miss Pecksniff, what a happiness your sister’s spirits must be to your pa and self!’

‘He’s the most hideous, goggle-eyed creature, Mrs Todgers, in existence,’ resumed Merry: ‘quite an ogre. The ugliest, awkwardest frightfullest being, you can imagine. This is his sister, so I leave you to suppose what she is. I shall be obliged to laugh outright, I know I shall!’ cried the charming girl, ‘I never shall be able to keep my countenance. The notion of a Miss Pinch presuming to exist at all is sufficient to kill one, but to see her—oh my stars!’

Mrs Todgers laughed immensely at the dear love’s humour, and declared she was quite afraid of her, that she was. She was so very severe.

‘Who is severe?’ cried a voice at the door. ‘There is no such thing as severity in our family, I hope!’ And then Mr Pecksniff peeped smilingly into the room, and said, ‘May I come in, Mrs Todgers?’

Mrs Todgers almost screamed, for the little door of communication between that room and the inner one being wide open, there was a full disclosure of the sofa bedstead in all its monstrous impropriety. But she had the presence of mind to close this portal in the twinkling of an eye; and having done so, said, though not without confusion, ‘Oh yes, Mr Pecksniff, you can come in, if you please.’

‘How are we to-day,’ said Mr Pecksniff, jocosely, ‘and what are our plans? Are we ready to go and see Tom Pinch’s sister? Ha, ha, ha! Poor Thomas Pinch!’

‘Are we ready,’ returned Mrs Todgers, nodding her head with mysterious intelligence, ‘to send a favourable reply to Mr Jinkins’s round-robin? That’s the first question, Mr Pecksniff.’

‘Why Mr Jinkins’s robin, my dear madam?’ asked Mr Pecksniff, putting one arm round Mercy, and the other round Mrs Todgers, whom he seemed, in the abstraction of the moment, to mistake for Charity. ‘Why Mr Jinkins’s?’

‘Because he began to get it up, and indeed always takes the lead in the house,’ said Mrs Todgers, playfully. ‘That’s why, sir.’

‘Jinkins is a man of superior talents,’ observed Mr Pecksniff. ‘I have conceived a great regard for Jinkins. I take Jinkins’s desire to pay polite attention to my daughters, as an additional proof of the friendly feeling of Jinkins, Mrs Todgers.’

‘Well now,’ returned that lady, ‘having said so much, you must say the rest, Mr Pecksniff; so tell the dear young ladies all about it.’

With these words she gently eluded Mr Pecksniff’s grasp, and took Miss Charity into her own embrace; though whether she was impelled to this proceeding solely by the irrepressible affection she had conceived for that young lady, or whether it had any reference to a lowering, not to say distinctly spiteful expression which had been visible in her face for some moments, has never been exactly ascertained. Be this as it may, Mr Pecksniff went on to inform his daughters of the purport and history of the round-robin aforesaid, which was in brief, that the commercial gentlemen who helped to make up the sum and substance of that noun of multitude signifying many, called Todgers’s, desired the honour of their presence at the general table, so long as they remained in the house, and besought that they would grace the board at dinner-time next day, the same being Sunday. He further said, that Mrs Todgers being a consenting party to this invitation, he was willing, for his part, to accept it; and so left them that he might write his gracious answer, the while they armed themselves with their best bonnets for the utter defeat and overthrow of Miss Pinch.

Tom Pinch’s sister was governess in a family, a lofty family; perhaps the wealthiest brass and copper founders’ family known to mankind. They lived at Camberwell; in a house so big and fierce, that its mere outside, like the outside of a giant’s castle, struck terror into vulgar minds and made bold persons quail. There was a great front gate; with a great bell, whose handle was in itself a note of admiration; and a great lodge; which being close to the house, rather spoilt the look-out certainly but made the look-in tremendous. At this entry, a great porter kept constant watch and ward; and when he gave the visitor high leave to pass, he rang a second great bell, responsive to whose note a great footman appeared in due time at the great halldoor, with such great tags upon his liveried shoulder that he was perpetually entangling and hooking himself among the chairs and tables, and led a life of torment which could scarcely have been surpassed, if he had been a blue-bottle in a world of cobwebs.

To this mansion Mr Pecksniff, accompanied by his daughters and Mrs Todgers, drove gallantly in a one-horse fly. The foregoing ceremonies having been all performed, they were ushered into the house; and so, by degrees, they got at last into a small room with books in it, where Mr Pinch’s sister was at that moment instructing her eldest pupil; to wit, a premature little woman of thirteen years old, who had already arrived at such a pitch of whalebone and education that she had nothing girlish about her, which was a source of great rejoicing to all her relations and friends.

‘Visitors for Miss Pinch!’ said the footman. He must have been an ingenious young man, for he said it very cleverly; with a nice discrimination between the cold respect with which he would have announced visitors to the family, and the warm personal interest with which he would have announced visitors to the cook.

‘Visitors for Miss Pinch!’

Miss Pinch rose hastily; with such tokens of agitation as plainly declared that her list of callers was not numerous. At the same time, the little pupil became alarmingly upright, and prepared herself to take mental notes of all that might be said and done. For the lady of the establishment was curious in the natural history and habits of the animal called Governess, and encouraged her daughters to report thereon whenever occasion served; which was, in reference to all parties concerned, very laudable, improving, and pleasant.

It is a melancholy fact; but it must be related, that Mr Pinch’s sister was not at all ugly. On the contrary, she had a good face; a very mild and prepossessing face; and a pretty little figure—slight and short, but remarkable for its neatness. There was something of her brother, much of him indeed, in a certain gentleness of manner, and in her look of timid trustfulness; but she was so far from being a fright, or a dowdy, or a horror, or anything else, predicted by the two Miss Pecksniffs, that those young ladies naturally regarded her with great indignation, feeling that this was by no means what they had come to see.

Miss Mercy, as having the larger share of gaiety, bore up the best against this disappointment, and carried it off, in outward show at least, with a titter; but her sister, not caring to hide her disdain, expressed it pretty openly in her looks. As to Mrs Todgers, she leaned on Mr Pecksniff’s arm and preserved a kind of genteel grimness, suitable to any state of mind, and involving any shade of opinion.

‘Don’t be alarmed, Miss Pinch,’ said Mr Pecksniff, taking her hand condescendingly in one of his, and patting it with the other. ‘I have called to see you, in pursuance of a promise given to your brother, Thomas Pinch. My name—compose yourself, Miss Pinch—is Pecksniff.’

The good man emphasised these words as though he would have said, ‘You see in me, young person, the benefactor of your race; the patron of your house; the preserver of your brother, who is fed with manna daily from my table; and in right of whom there is a considerable balance in my favour at present standing in the books beyond the sky. But I have no pride, for I can afford to do without it!’

The poor girl felt it all as if it had been Gospel truth. Her brother writing in the fullness of his simple heart, had often told her so, and how much more! As Mr Pecksniff ceased to speak, she hung her head, and dropped a tear upon his hand.

‘Oh very well, Miss Pinch!’ thought the sharp pupil, ‘crying before strangers, as if you didn’t like the situation!’

‘Thomas is well,’ said Mr Pecksniff; ‘and sends his love and this letter. I cannot say, poor fellow, that he will ever be distinguished in our profession; but he has the will to do well, which is the next thing to having the power; and, therefore, we must bear with him. Eh?’

‘I know he has the will, sir,’ said Tom Pinch’s sister, ‘and I know how kindly and considerately you cherish it, for which neither he nor I can ever be grateful enough, as we very often say in writing to each other. The young ladies too,’ she added, glancing gratefully at his two daughters, ‘I know how much we owe to them.’

‘My dears,’ said Mr Pecksniff, turning to them with a smile: ‘Thomas’s sister is saying something you will be glad to hear, I think.’

‘We can’t take any merit to ourselves, papa!’ cried Cherry, as they both apprised Tom Pinch’s sister, with a curtsey, that they would feel obliged if she would keep her distance. ‘Mr Pinch’s being so well provided for is owing to you alone, and we can only say how glad we are to hear that he is as grateful as he ought to be.’

‘Oh very well, Miss Pinch!’ thought the pupil again. ‘Got a grateful brother, living on other people’s kindness!’

‘It was very kind of you,’ said Tom Pinch’s sister, with Tom’s own simplicity and Tom’s own smile, ‘to come here; very kind indeed; though how great a kindness you have done me in gratifying my wish to see you, and to thank you with my own lips, you, who make so light of benefits conferred, can scarcely think.’

‘Very grateful; very pleasant; very proper,’ murmured Mr Pecksniff.

‘It makes me happy too,’ said Ruth Pinch, who now that her first surprise was over, had a chatty, cheerful way with her, and a single-hearted desire to look upon the best side of everything, which was the very moral and image of Tom; ‘very happy to think that you will be able to tell him how more than comfortably I am situated here, and how unnecessary it is that he should ever waste a regret on my being cast upon my own resources. Dear me! So long as I heard that he was happy, and he heard that I was,’ said Tom’s sister, ‘we could both bear, without one impatient or complaining thought, a great deal more than ever we have had to endure, I am very certain.’ And if ever the plain truth were spoken on this occasionally false earth, Tom’s sister spoke it when she said that.

‘Ah!’ cried Mr Pecksniff whose eyes had in the meantime wandered to the pupil; ‘certainly. And how do you do, my very interesting child?’

‘Quite well, I thank you, sir,’ replied that frosty innocent.

‘A sweet face this, my dears,’ said Mr Pecksniff, turning to his daughters. ‘A charming manner!’

Both young ladies had been in ecstasies with the scion of a wealthy house (through whom the nearest road and shortest cut to her parents might be supposed to lie) from the first. Mrs Todgers vowed that anything one quarter so angelic she had never seen. ‘She wanted but a pair of wings, a dear,’ said that good woman, ‘to be a young syrup’—meaning, possibly, young sylph, or seraph.

‘If you will give that to your distinguished parents, my amiable little friend,’ said Mr Pecksniff, producing one of his professional cards, ‘and will say that I and my daughters—’

‘And Mrs Todgers, pa,’ said Merry.

‘And Mrs Todgers, of London,’ added Mr Pecksniff; ‘that I, and my daughters, and Mrs Todgers, of London, did not intrude upon them, as our object simply was to take some notice of Miss Pinch, whose brother is a young man in my employment; but that I could not leave this very chaste mansion, without adding my humble tribute, as an Architect, to the correctness and elegance of the owner’s taste, and to his just appreciation of that beautiful art to the cultivation of which I have devoted a life, and to the promotion of whose glory and advancement I have sacrified a—a fortune—I shall be very much obliged to you.’

‘Missis’s compliments to Miss Pinch,’ said the footman, suddenly appearing, and speaking in exactly the same key as before, ‘and begs to know wot my young lady is a-learning of just now.’

‘Oh!’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘Here is the young man. he will take the card. With my compliments, if you please, young man. My dears, we are interrupting the studies. Let us go.’

Some confusion was occasioned for an instant by Mrs Todgers’s unstrapping her little flat hand-basket, and hurriedly entrusting the ‘young man’ with one of her own cards, which, in addition to certain detailed information relative to the terms of the commercial establishment, bore a foot-note to the effect that M. T. took that opportunity of thanking those gentlemen who had honoured her with their favours, and begged they would have the goodness, if satisfied with the table, to recommend her to their friends. But Mr Pecksniff, with admirable presence of mind, recovered this document, and buttoned it up in his own pocket.

Then he said to Miss Pinch—with more condescension and kindness than ever, for it was desirable the footman should expressly understand that they were not friends of hers, but patrons:

‘Good morning. Good-bye. God bless you! You may depend upon my continued protection of your brother Thomas. Keep your mind quite at ease, Miss Pinch!’

‘Thank you,’ said Tom’s sister heartily; ‘a thousand times.’

‘Not at all,’ he retorted, patting her gently on the head. ‘Don’t mention it. You will make me angry if you do. My sweet child’—to the pupil—‘farewell! That fairy creature,’ said Mr Pecksniff, looking in his pensive mood hard at the footman, as if he meant him, ‘has shed a vision on my path, refulgent in its nature, and not easily to be obliterated. My dears, are you ready?’

They were not quite ready yet, for they were still caressing the pupil. But they tore themselves away at length; and sweeping past Miss Pinch with each a haughty inclination of the head and a curtsey strangled in its birth, flounced into the passage.

The young man had rather a long job in showing them out; for Mr Pecksniff’s delight in the tastefulness of the house was such that he could not help often stopping (particularly when they were near the parlour door) and giving it expression, in a loud voice and very learned terms. Indeed, he delivered, between the study and the hall, a familiar exposition of the whole science of architecture as applied to dwelling-houses, and was yet in the freshness of his eloquence when they reached the garden.

‘If you look,’ said Mr Pecksniff, backing from the steps, with his head on one side and his eyes half-shut that he might the better take in the proportions of the exterior: ‘If you look, my dears, at the cornice which supports the roof, and observe the airiness of its construction, especially where it sweeps the southern angle of the building, you will feel with me—How do you do, sir? I hope you’re well?’

Interrupting himself with these words, he very politely bowed to a middle-aged gentleman at an upper window, to whom he spoke—not because the gentleman could hear him (for he certainly could not), but as an appropriate accompaniment to his salutation.

‘I have no doubt, my dears,’ said Mr Pecksniff, feigning to point out other beauties with his hand, ‘that this is the proprietor. I should be glad to know him. It might lead to something. Is he looking this way, Charity?’

‘He is opening the window pa!’

‘Ha, ha!’ cried Mr Pecksniff softly. ‘All right! He has found I’m professional. He heard me inside just now, I have no doubt. Don’t look! With regard to the fluted pillars in the portico, my dears—’

‘Hallo!’ cried the gentleman.

‘Sir, your servant!’ said Mr Pecksniff, taking off his hat. ‘I am proud to make your acquaintance.’

‘Come off the grass, will you!’ roared the gentleman.

‘I beg your pardon, sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff, doubtful of his having heard aright. ‘Did you—?’

‘Come off the grass!’ repeated the gentleman, warmly.

‘We are unwilling to intrude, sir,’ Mr Pecksniff smilingly began.

‘But you are intruding,’ returned the other, ‘unwarrantably intruding. Trespassing. You see a gravel walk, don’t you? What do you think it’s meant for? Open the gate there! Show that party out!’

With that he clapped down the window again, and disappeared.

Mr Pecksniff put on his hat, and walked with great deliberation and in profound silence to the fly, gazing at the clouds as he went, with great interest. After helping his daughters and Mrs Todgers into that conveyance, he stood looking at it for some moments, as if he were not quite certain whether it was a carriage or a temple; but having settled this point in his mind, he got into his place, spread his hands out on his knees, and smiled upon the three beholders.

But his daughters, less tranquil-minded, burst into a torrent of indignation. This came, they said, of cherishing such creatures as the Pinches. This came of lowering themselves to their level. This came of putting themselves in the humiliating position of seeming to know such bold, audacious, cunning, dreadful girls as that. They had expected this. They had predicted it to Mrs Todgers, as she (Todgers) could depone, that very morning. To this, they added, that the owner of the house, supposing them to be Miss Pinch’s friends, had acted, in their opinion, quite correctly, and had done no more than, under such circumstances, might reasonably have been expected. To that they added (with a trifling inconsistency), that he was a brute and a bear; and then they merged into a flood of tears, which swept away all wandering epithets before it.

Perhaps Miss Pinch was scarcely so much to blame in the matter as the Seraph, who, immediately on the withdrawal of the visitors, had hastened to report them at head-quarters, with a full account of their having presumptuously charged her with the delivery of a message afterwards consigned to the footman; which outrage, taken in conjunction with Mr Pecksniff’s unobtrusive remarks on the establishment, might possibly have had some share in their dismissal. Poor Miss Pinch, however, had to bear the brunt of it with both parties; being so severely taken to task by the Seraph’s mother for having such vulgar acquaintances, that she was fain to retire to her own room in tears, which her natural cheerfulness and submission, and the delight of having seen Mr Pecksniff, and having received a letter from her brother, were at first insufficient to repress.

As to Mr Pecksniff, he told them in the fly, that a good action was its own reward; and rather gave them to understand, that if he could have been kicked in such a cause, he would have liked it all the better. But this was no comfort to the young ladies, who scolded violently the whole way back, and even exhibited, more than once, a keen desire to attack the devoted Mrs Todgers; on whose personal appearance, but particularly on whose offending card and hand-basket, they were secretly inclined to lay the blame of half their failure.

Todgers’s was in a great bustle that evening, partly owing to some additional domestic preparations for the morrow, and partly to the excitement always inseparable in that house from Saturday night, when every gentleman’s linen arrived at a different hour in its own little bundle, with his private account pinned on the outside. There was always a great clinking of pattens downstairs, too, until midnight or so, on Saturdays; together with a frequent gleaming of mysterious lights in the area; much working at the pump; and a constant jangling of the iron handle of the pail. Shrill altercations from time to time arose between Mrs Todgers and unknown females in remote back kitchens; and sounds were occasionally heard, indicative of small articles of iron mongery and hardware being thrown at the boy. It was the custom of that youth on Saturdays, to roll up his shirt sleeves to his shoulders, and pervade all parts of the house in an apron of coarse green baize; moreover, he was more strongly tempted on Saturdays than on other days (it being a busy time), to make excursive bolts into the neighbouring alleys when he answered the door, and there to play at leap-frog and other sports with vagrant lads, until pursued and brought back by the hair of his head or the lobe of his ear; thus he was quite a conspicuous feature among the peculiar incidents of the last day in the week at Todgers’s.

He was especially so on this particular Saturday evening, and honoured the Miss Pecksniffs with a deal of notice; seldom passing the door of Mrs Todgers’s private room, where they sat alone before the fire, working by the light of a solitary candle, without putting in his head and greeting them with some such compliments as, ‘There you are agin!’ ‘An’t it nice?’—and similar humorous attentions.

‘I say,’ he whispered, stopping in one of his journeys to and fro, ‘young ladies, there’s soup to-morrow. She’s a-making it now. An’t she a-putting in the water? Oh! not at all neither!’

In the course of answering another knock, he thrust in his head again.

‘I say! There’s fowls to-morrow. Not skinny ones. Oh no!’

Presently he called through the key-hole:

‘There’s a fish to-morrow. Just come. Don’t eat none of him!’ And, with this special warning, vanished again.

By-and-bye, he returned to lay the cloth for supper; it having been arranged between Mrs Todgers and the young ladies, that they should partake of an exclusive veal-cutlet together in the privacy of that apartment. He entertained them on this occasion by thrusting the lighted candle into his mouth, and exhibiting his face in a state of transparency; after the performance of which feat, he went on with his professional duties; brightening every knife as he laid it on the table, by breathing on the blade and afterwards polishing the same on the apron already mentioned. When he had completed his preparations, he grinned at the sisters, and expressed his belief that the approaching collation would be of ‘rather a spicy sort.’

‘Will it be long, before it’s ready, Bailey?’ asked Mercy.

‘No,’ said Bailey, ‘it is cooked. When I come up, she was dodging among the tender pieces with a fork, and eating of ‘em.’

But he had scarcely achieved the utterance of these words, when he received a manual compliment on the head, which sent him staggering against the wall; and Mrs Todgers, dish in hand, stood indignantly before him.

‘Oh you little villain!’ said that lady. ‘Oh you bad, false boy!’

‘No worse than yerself,’ retorted Bailey, guarding his head, on a principle invented by Mr Thomas Cribb. ‘Ah! Come now! Do that again, will yer?’

‘He’s the most dreadful child,’ said Mrs Todgers, setting down the dish, ‘I ever had to deal with. The gentlemen spoil him to that extent, and teach him such things, that I’m afraid nothing but hanging will ever do him any good.’

‘Won’t it!’ cried Bailey. ‘Oh! Yes! Wot do you go a-lowerin the table-beer for then, and destroying my constitooshun?’

‘Go downstairs, you vicious boy,’ said Mrs Todgers, holding the door open. ‘Do you hear me? Go along!’

After two or three dexterous feints, he went, and was seen no more that night, save once, when he brought up some tumblers and hot water, and much disturbed the two Miss Pecksniffs by squinting hideously behind the back of the unconscious Mrs Todgers. Having done this justice to his wounded feelings, he retired underground; where, in company with a swarm of black beetles and a kitchen candle, he employed his faculties in cleaning boots and brushing clothes until the night was far advanced.

Benjamin was supposed to be the real name of this young retainer but he was known by a great variety of names. Benjamin, for instance, had been converted into Uncle Ben, and that again had been corrupted into Uncle; which, by an easy transition, had again passed into Barnwell, in memory of the celebrated relative in that degree who was shot by his nephew George, while meditating in his garden at Camberwell. The gentlemen at Todgers’s had a merry habit, too, of bestowing upon him, for the time being, the name of any notorious malefactor or minister; and sometimes when current events were flat they even sought the pages of history for these distinctions; as Mr Pitt, Young Brownrigg, and the like. At the period of which we write, he was generally known among the gentlemen as Bailey junior; a name bestowed upon him in contradistinction, perhaps, to Old Bailey; and possibly as involving the recollection of an unfortunate lady of the same name, who perished by her own hand early in life, and has been immortalised in a ballad.

The usual Sunday dinner-hour at Todgers’s was two o’clock—a suitable time, it was considered for all parties; convenient to Mrs Todgers, on account of the bakers; and convenient to the gentlemen with reference to their afternoon engagements. But on the Sunday which was to introduce the two Miss Pecksniffs to a full knowledge of Todgers’s and its society, the dinner was postponed until five, in order that everything might be as genteel as the occasion demanded.

When the hour drew nigh, Bailey junior, testifying great excitement, appeared in a complete suit of cast-off clothes several sizes too large for him, and in particular, mounted a clean shirt of such extraordinary magnitude, that one of the gentlemen (remarkable for his ready wit) called him ‘collars’ on the spot. At about a quarter before five, a deputation, consisting of Mr Jinkins, and another gentleman, whose name was Gander, knocked at the door of Mrs Todgers’s room, and, being formally introduced to the two Miss Pecksniffs by their parent who was in waiting, besought the honour of conducting them upstairs.

The drawing-room at Todgers’s was out of the common style; so much so indeed, that you would hardly have taken it to be a drawingroom, unless you were told so by somebody who was in the secret. It was floor-clothed all over; and the ceiling, including a great beam in the middle, was papered. Besides the three little windows, with seats in them, commanding the opposite archway, there was another window looking point blank, without any compromise at all about it into Jinkins’s bedroom; and high up, all along one side of the wall was a strip of panes of glass, two-deep, giving light to the staircase. There were the oddest closets possible, with little casements in them like eight-day clocks, lurking in the wainscot and taking the shape of the stairs; and the very door itself (which was painted black) had two great glass eyes in its forehead, with an inquisitive green pupil in the middle of each.

Here the gentlemen were all assembled. There was a general cry of ‘Hear, hear!’ and ‘Bravo Jink!’ when Mr Jinkins appeared with Charity on his arm; which became quite rapturous as Mr Gander followed, escorting Mercy, and Mr Pecksniff brought up the rear with Mrs Todgers.

Then the presentations took place. They included a gentleman of a sporting turn, who propounded questions on jockey subjects to the editors of Sunday papers, which were regarded by his friends as rather stiff things to answer; and they included a gentleman of a theatrical turn, who had once entertained serious thoughts of ‘coming out,’ but had been kept in by the wickedness of human nature; and they included a gentleman of a debating turn, who was strong at speech-making; and a gentleman of a literary turn, who wrote squibs upon the rest, and knew the weak side of everybody’s character but his own. There was a gentleman of a vocal turn, and a gentleman of a smoking turn, and a gentleman of a convivial turn; some of the gentlemen had a turn for whist, and a large proportion of the gentlemen had a strong turn for billiards and betting. They had all, it may be presumed, a turn for business; being all commercially employed in one way or other; and had, every one in his own way, a decided turn for pleasure to boot. Mr Jinkins was of a fashionable turn; being a regular frequenter of the Parks on Sundays, and knowing a great many carriages by sight. He spoke mysteriously, too, of splendid women, and was suspected of having once committed himself with a Countess. Mr Gander was of a witty turn being indeed the gentleman who had originated the sally about ‘collars;’ which sparkling pleasantry was now retailed from mouth to mouth, under the title of Gander’s Last, and was received in all parts of the room with great applause. Mr Jinkins it may be added, was much the oldest of the party; being a fish-salesman’s book-keeper, aged forty. He was the oldest boarder also; and in right of his double seniority, took the lead in the house, as Mrs Todgers had already said.

There was considerable delay in the production of dinner, and poor Mrs Todgers, being reproached in confidence by Jinkins, slipped in and out, at least twenty times to see about it; always coming back as though she had no such thing upon her mind, and hadn’t been out at all. But there was no hitch in the conversation nevertheless; for one gentleman, who travelled in the perfumery line, exhibited an interesting nick-nack, in the way of a remarkable cake of shaving soap which he had lately met with in Germany; and the gentleman of a literary turn repeated (by desire) some sarcastic stanzas he had recently produced on the freezing of the tank at the back of the house. These amusements, with the miscellaneous conversation arising out of them, passed the time splendidly, until dinner was announced by Bailey junior in these terms:

‘The wittles is up!’

On which notice they immediately descended to the banquet-hall; some of the more facetious spirits in the rear taking down gentlemen as if they were ladies, in imitation of the fortunate possessors of the two Miss Pecksniffs.

Mr Pecksniff said grace—a short and pious grace, involving a blessing on the appetites of those present, and committing all persons who had nothing to eat, to the care of Providence; whose business (so said the grace, in effect) it clearly was, to look after them. This done, they fell to with less ceremony than appetite; the table groaning beneath the weight, not only of the delicacies whereof the Miss Pecksniffs had been previously forewarned, but of boiled beef, roast veal, bacon, pies and abundance of such heavy vegetables as are favourably known to housekeepers for their satisfying qualities. Besides which, there were bottles of stout, bottles of wine, bottles of ale, and divers other strong drinks, native and foreign.

All this was highly agreeable to the two Miss Pecksniffs, who were in immense request; sitting one on either hand of Mr Jinkins at the bottom of the table; and who were called upon to take wine with some new admirer every minute. They had hardly ever felt so pleasant, and so full of conversation, in their lives; Mercy, in particular, was uncommonly brilliant, and said so many good things in the way of lively repartee that she was looked upon as a prodigy. ‘In short,’ as that young lady observed, ‘they felt now, indeed, that they were in London, and for the first time too.’

Their young friend Bailey sympathized in these feelings to the fullest extent, and, abating nothing of his patronage, gave them every encouragement in his power; favouring them, when the general attention was diverted from his proceedings, with many nods and winks and other tokens of recognition, and occasionally touching his nose with a corkscrew, as if to express the Bacchanalian character of the meeting. In truth, perhaps even the spirits of the two Miss Pecksniffs, and the hungry watchfulness of Mrs Todgers, were less worthy of note than the proceedings of this remarkable boy, whom nothing disconcerted or put out of his way. If any piece of crockery, a dish or otherwise, chanced to slip through his hands (which happened once or twice), he let it go with perfect good breeding, and never added to the painful emotions of the company by exhibiting the least regret. Nor did he, by hurrying to and fro, disturb the repose of the assembly, as many well-trained servants do; on the contrary, feeling the hopelessness of waiting upon so large a party, he left the gentlemen to help themselves to what they wanted, and seldom stirred from behind Mr Jinkins’s chair, where, with his hands in his pockets, and his legs planted pretty wide apart, he led the laughter, and enjoyed the conversation.

The dessert was splendid. No waiting either. The pudding-plates had been washed in a little tub outside the door while cheese was on, and though they were moist and warm with friction, still there they were again, up to the mark, and true to time. Quarts of almonds; dozens of oranges; pounds of raisins; stacks of biffins; soup-plates full of nuts.—Oh, Todgers’s could do it when it chose! mind that.

Then more wine came on; red wines and white wines; and a large china bowl of punch, brewed by the gentleman of a convivial turn, who adjured the Miss Pecksniffs not to be despondent on account of its dimensions, as there were materials in the house for the decoction of half a dozen more of the same size. Good gracious, how they laughed! How they coughed when they sipped it, because it was so strong; and how they laughed again when somebody vowed that but for its colour it might have been mistaken, in regard of its innocuous qualities, for new milk! What a shout of ‘No!’ burst from the gentlemen when they pathetically implored Mr Jinkins to suffer them to qualify it with hot water; and how blushingly, by little and little, did each of them drink her whole glassful, down to its very dregs!

Now comes the trying time. The sun, as Mr Jinkins says (gentlemanly creature, Jinkins—never at a loss!), is about to leave the firmament. ‘Miss Pecksniff!’ says Mrs Todgers, softly, ‘will you—?’ ‘Oh dear, no more, Mrs Todgers.’ Mrs Todgers rises; the two Miss Pecksniffs rise; all rise. Miss Mercy Pecksniff looks downward for her scarf. Where is it? Dear me, where can it be? Sweet girl, she has it on; not on her fair neck, but loose upon her flowing figure. A dozen hands assist her. She is all confusion. The youngest gentleman in company thirsts to murder Jinkins. She skips and joins her sister at the door. Her sister has her arm about the waist of Mrs Todgers. She winds her arm around her sister. Diana, what a picture! The last things visible are a shape and a skip. ‘Gentlemen, let us drink the ladies!’

The enthusiasm is tremendous. The gentleman of a debating turn rises in the midst, and suddenly lets loose a tide of eloquence which bears down everything before it. He is reminded of a toast—a toast to which they will respond. There is an individual present; he has him in his eye; to whom they owe a debt of gratitude. He repeats it—a debt of gratitude. Their rugged natures have been softened and ameliorated that day, by the society of lovely woman. There is a gentleman in company whom two accomplished and delightful females regard with veneration, as the fountain of their existence. Yes, when yet the two Miss Pecksniffs lisped in language scarce intelligible, they called that individual ‘Father!’ There is great applause. He gives them ‘Mr Pecksniff, and God bless him!’ They all shake hands with Mr Pecksniff, as they drink the toast. The youngest gentleman in company does so with a thrill; for he feels that a mysterious influence pervades the man who claims that being in the pink scarf for his daughter.

What saith Mr Pecksniff in reply? Or rather let the question be, What leaves he unsaid? Nothing. More punch is called for, and produced, and drunk. Enthusiasm mounts still higher. Every man comes out freely in his own character. The gentleman of a theatrical turn recites. The vocal gentleman regales them with a song. Gander leaves the Gander of all former feasts whole leagues behind. he rises to propose a toast. It is, The Father of Todgers’s. It is their common friend Jink—it is old Jink, if he may call him by that familiar and endearing appellation. The youngest gentleman in company utters a frantic negative. He won’t have it—he can’t bear it—it mustn’t be. But his depth of feeling is misunderstood. He is supposed to be a little elevated; and nobody heeds him.

Mr Jinkins thanks them from his heart. It is, by many degrees, the proudest day in his humble career. When he looks around him on the present occasion, he feels that he wants words in which to express his gratitude. One thing he will say. He hopes it has been shown that Todgers’s can be true to itself; and that, an opportunity arising, it can come out quite as strong as its neighbours—perhaps stronger. He reminds them, amidst thunders of encouragement, that they have heard of a somewhat similar establishment in Cannon Street; and that they have heard it praised. He wishes to draw no invidious comparisons; he would be the last man to do it; but when that Cannon Street establishment shall be able to produce such a combination of wit and beauty as has graced that board that day, and shall be able to serve up (all things considered) such a dinner as that of which they have just partaken, he will be happy to talk to it. Until then, gentlemen, he will stick to Todgers’s.

More punch, more enthusiasm, more speeches. Everybody’s health is drunk, saving the youngest gentleman’s in company. He sits apart, with his elbow on the back of a vacant chair, and glares disdainfully at Jinkins. Gander, in a convulsing speech, gives them the health of Bailey junior; hiccups are heard; and a glass is broken. Mr Jinkins feels that it is time to join the ladies. He proposes, as a final sentiment, Mrs Todgers. She is worthy to be remembered separately. Hear, hear. So she is; no doubt of it. They all find fault with her at other times; but every man feels now, that he could die in her defence.

They go upstairs, where they are not expected so soon; for Mrs Todgers is asleep, Miss Charity is adjusting her hair, and Mercy, who has made a sofa of one of the window-seats is in a gracefully recumbent attitude. She is rising hastily, when Mr Jinkins implores her, for all their sakes, not to stir; she looks too graceful and too lovely, he remarks, to be disturbed. She laughs, and yields, and fans herself, and drops her fan, and there is a rush to pick it up. Being now installed, by one consent, as the beauty of the party, she is cruel and capricious, and sends gentlemen on messages to other gentlemen, and forgets all about them before they can return with the answer, and invents a thousand tortures, rending their hearts to pieces. Bailey brings up the tea and coffee. There is a small cluster of admirers round Charity; but they are only those who cannot get near her sister. The youngest gentleman in company is pale, but collected, and still sits apart; for his spirit loves to hold communion with itself, and his soul recoils from noisy revellers. She has a consciousness of his presence and adoration. He sees it flashing sometimes in the corner of her eye. Have a care, Jinkins, ere you provoke a desperate man to frenzy!

Mr Pecksniff had followed his younger friends upstairs, and taken a chair at the side of Mrs Todgers. He had also spilt a cup of coffee over his legs without appearing to be aware of the circumstance; nor did he seem to know that there was muffin on his knee.

‘And how have they used you downstairs, sir?’ asked the hostess.

‘Their conduct has been such, my dear madam,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘as I can never think of without emotion, or remember without a tear. Oh, Mrs Todgers!’

‘My goodness!’ exclaimed that lady. ‘How low you are in your spirits, sir!’

‘I am a man, my dear madam,’ said Mr Pecksniff, shedding tears and speaking with an imperfect articulation, ‘but I am also a father. I am also a widower. My feelings, Mrs Todgers, will not consent to be entirely smothered, like the young children in the Tower. They are grown up, and the more I press the bolster on them, the more they look round the corner of it.’

He suddenly became conscious of the bit of muffin, and stared at it intently; shaking his head the while, in a forlorn and imbecile manner, as if he regarded it as his evil genius, and mildly reproached it.

‘She was beautiful, Mrs Todgers,’ he said, turning his glazed eye again upon her, without the least preliminary notice. ‘She had a small property.’

‘So I have heard,’ cried Mrs Todgers with great sympathy.

‘Those are her daughters,’ said Mr Pecksniff, pointing out the young ladies, with increased emotion.

Mrs Todgers had no doubt about it.

‘Mercy and Charity,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘Charity and Mercy. Not unholy names, I hope?’

‘Mr Pecksniff!’ cried Mrs Todgers. ‘What a ghastly smile! Are you ill, sir?’

He pressed his hand upon her arm, and answered in a solemn manner, and a faint voice, ‘Chronic.’

‘Cholic?’ cried the frightened Mrs Todgers.

‘Chron-ic,’ he repeated with some difficulty. ‘Chron-ic. A chronic disorder. I have been its victim from childhood. It is carrying me to my grave.’

‘Heaven forbid!’ cried Mrs Todgers.

‘Yes, it is,’ said Mr Pecksniff, reckless with despair. ‘I am rather glad of it, upon the whole. You are like her, Mrs Todgers.’

‘Don’t squeeze me so tight, pray, Mr Pecksniff. If any of the gentlemen should notice us.’

‘For her sake,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Permit me—in honour of her memory. For the sake of a voice from the tomb. You are very like her Mrs Todgers! What a world this is!’

‘Ah! Indeed you may say that!’ cried Mrs Todgers.

‘I’m afraid it is a vain and thoughtless world,’ said Mr Pecksniff, overflowing with despondency. ‘These young people about us. Oh! what sense have they of their responsibilities? None. Give me your other hand, Mrs Todgers.’

The lady hesitated, and said ‘she didn’t like.’

‘Has a voice from the grave no influence?’ said Mr Pecksniff, with, dismal tenderness. ‘This is irreligious! My dear creature.’

‘Hush!’ urged Mrs Todgers. ‘Really you mustn’t.’

‘It’s not me,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Don’t suppose it’s me; it’s the voice; it’s her voice.’

Mrs Pecksniff deceased, must have had an unusually thick and husky voice for a lady, and rather a stuttering voice, and to say the truth somewhat of a drunken voice, if it had ever borne much resemblance to that in which Mr Pecksniff spoke just then. But perhaps this was delusion on his part.

‘It has been a day of enjoyment, Mrs Todgers, but still it has been a day of torture. It has reminded me of my loneliness. What am I in the world?’

‘An excellent gentleman, Mr Pecksniff,’ said Mrs Todgers.

‘There is consolation in that too,’ cried Mr Pecksniff. ‘Am I?’

‘There is no better man living,’ said Mrs Todgers, ‘I am sure.’

Mr Pecksniff smiled through his tears, and slightly shook his head. ‘You are very good,’ he said, ‘thank you. It is a great happiness to me, Mrs Todgers, to make young people happy. The happiness of my pupils is my chief object. I dote upon ‘em. They dote upon me too—sometimes.’

‘Always,’ said Mrs Todgers.

‘When they say they haven’t improved, ma’am,’ whispered Mr Pecksniff, looking at her with profound mystery, and motioning to her to advance her ear a little closer to his mouth. ‘When they say they haven’t improved, ma’am, and the premium was too high, they lie! I shouldn’t wish it to be mentioned; you will understand me; but I say to you as to an old friend, they lie.’

‘Base wretches they must be!’ said Mrs Todgers.

‘Madam,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘you are right. I respect you for that observation. A word in your ear. To Parents and Guardians. This is in confidence, Mrs Todgers?’

‘The strictest, of course!’ cried that lady.

‘To Parents and Guardians,’ repeated Mr Pecksniff. ‘An eligible opportunity now offers, which unites the advantages of the best practical architectural education with the comforts of a home, and the constant association with some, who, however humble their sphere and limited their capacity—observe!—are not unmindful of their moral responsibilities.’

Mrs Todgers looked a little puzzled to know what this might mean, as well she might; for it was, as the reader may perchance remember, Mr Pecksniff’s usual form of advertisement when he wanted a pupil; and seemed to have no particular reference, at present, to anything. But Mr Pecksniff held up his finger as a caution to her not to interrupt him.

‘Do you know any parent or guardian, Mrs Todgers,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘who desires to avail himself of such an opportunity for a young gentleman? An orphan would be preferred. Do you know of any orphan with three or four hundred pound?’

Mrs Todgers reflected, and shook her head.

‘When you hear of an orphan with three or four hundred pound,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘let that dear orphan’s friends apply, by letter post-paid, to S. P., Post Office, Salisbury. I don’t know who he is exactly. Don’t be alarmed, Mrs Todgers,’ said Mr Pecksniff, falling heavily against her; ‘Chronic—chronic! Let’s have a little drop of something to drink.’

‘Bless my life, Miss Pecksniffs!’ cried Mrs Todgers, aloud, ‘your dear pa’s took very poorly!’

Mr Pecksniff straightened himself by a surprising effort, as every one turned hastily towards him; and standing on his feet, regarded the assembly with a look of ineffable wisdom. Gradually it gave place to a smile; a feeble, helpless, melancholy smile; bland, almost to sickliness. ‘Do not repine, my friends,’ said Mr Pecksniff, tenderly. ‘Do not weep for me. It is chronic.’ And with these words, after making a futile attempt to pull off his shoes, he fell into the fireplace.

The youngest gentleman in company had him out in a second. Yes, before a hair upon his head was singed, he had him on the hearth-rug—her father!

She was almost beside herself. So was her sister. Jinkins consoled them both. They all consoled them. Everybody had something to say, except the youngest gentleman in company, who with a noble self-devotion did the heavy work, and held up Mr Pecksniff’s head without being taken notice of by anybody. At last they gathered round, and agreed to carry him upstairs to bed. The youngest gentleman in company was rebuked by Jinkins for tearing Mr Pecksniff’s coat! Ha, ha! But no matter.

They carried him upstairs, and crushed the youngest gentleman at every step. His bedroom was at the top of the house, and it was a long way; but they got him there in course of time. He asked them frequently on the road for a little drop of something to drink. It seemed an idiosyncrasy. The youngest gentleman in company proposed a draught of water. Mr Pecksniff called him opprobious names for the suggestion.

Jinkins and Gander took the rest upon themselves, and made him as comfortable as they could, on the outside of his bed; and when he seemed disposed to sleep, they left him. But before they had all gained the bottom of the staircase, a vision of Mr Pecksniff, strangely attired, was seen to flutter on the top landing. He desired to collect their sentiments, it seemed, upon the nature of human life.

‘My friends,’ cried Mr Pecksniff, looking over the banisters, ‘let us improve our minds by mutual inquiry and discussion. Let us be moral. Let us contemplate existence. Where is Jinkins?’

‘Here,’ cried that gentleman. ‘Go to bed again’

‘To bed!’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Bed! ‘Tis the voice of the sluggard, I hear him complain, you have woke me too soon, I must slumber again. If any young orphan will repeat the remainder of that simple piece from Doctor Watts’s collection, an eligible opportunity now offers.’

Nobody volunteered.

‘This is very soothing,’ said Mr Pecksniff, after a pause. ‘Extremely so. Cool and refreshing; particularly to the legs! The legs of the human subject, my friends, are a beautiful production. Compare them with wooden legs, and observe the difference between the anatomy of nature and the anatomy of art. Do you know,’ said Mr Pecksniff, leaning over the banisters, with an odd recollection of his familiar manner among new pupils at home, ‘that I should very much like to see Mrs Todgers’s notion of a wooden leg, if perfectly agreeable to herself!’

As it appeared impossible to entertain any reasonable hopes of him after this speech, Mr Jinkins and Mr Gander went upstairs again, and once more got him into bed. But they had not descended to the second floor before he was out again; nor, when they had repeated the process, had they descended the first flight, before he was out again. In a word, as often as he was shut up in his own room, he darted out afresh, charged with some new moral sentiment, which he continually repeated over the banisters, with extraordinary relish, and an irrepressible desire for the improvement of his fellow creatures that nothing could subdue.

Under these circumstances, when they had got him into bed for the thirtieth time or so, Mr Jinkins held him, while his companion went downstairs in search of Bailey junior, with whom he presently returned. That youth having been apprised of the service required of him, was in great spirits, and brought up a stool, a candle, and his supper; to the end that he might keep watch outside the bedroom door with tolerable comfort.

When he had completed his arrangements, they locked Mr Pecksniff in, and left the key on the outside; charging the young page to listen attentively for symptoms of an apoplectic nature, with which the patient might be troubled, and, in case of any such presenting themselves, to summon them without delay. To which Mr Bailey modestly replied that ‘he hoped he knowed wot o’clock it wos in gineral, and didn’t date his letters to his friends from Todgers’s for nothing.’






CHAPTER TEN. CONTAINING STRANGE MATTER, ON WHICH MANY EVENTS IN THIS HISTORY MAY, FOR THEIR GOOD OR EVIL INFLUENCE, CHIEFLY DEPEND


But Mr Pecksniff came to town on business. Had he forgotten that? Was he always taking his pleasure with Todgers’s jovial brood, unmindful of the serious demands, whatever they might be, upon his calm consideration? No.

Time and tide will wait for no man, saith the adage. But all men have to wait for time and tide. That tide which, taken at the flood, would lead Seth Pecksniff on to fortune, was marked down in the table, and about to flow. No idle Pecksniff lingered far inland, unmindful of the changes of the stream; but there, upon the water’s edge, over his shoes already, stood the worthy creature, prepared to wallow in the very mud, so that it slid towards the quarter of his hope.

The trustfulness of his two fair daughters was beautiful indeed. They had that firm reliance on their parent’s nature, which taught them to feel certain that in all he did he had his purpose straight and full before him. And that its noble end and object was himself, which almost of necessity included them, they knew. The devotion of these maids was perfect.

Their filial confidence was rendered the more touching, by their having no knowledge of their parent’s real designs, in the present instance. All that they knew of his proceedings was, that every morning, after the early breakfast, he repaired to the post office and inquired for letters. That task performed, his business for the day was over; and he again relaxed, until the rising of another sun proclaimed the advent of another post.

This went on for four or five days. At length, one morning, Mr Pecksniff returned with a breathless rapidity, strange to observe in him, at other times so calm; and, seeking immediate speech with his daughters, shut himself up with them in private conference for two whole hours. Of all that passed in this period, only the following words of Mr Pecksniff’s utterance are known:

‘How he has come to change so very much (if it should turn out as I expect, that he has), we needn’t stop to inquire. My dears, I have my thoughts upon the subject, but I will not impart them. It is enough that we will not be proud, resentful, or unforgiving. If he wants our friendship he shall have it. We know our duty, I hope!’

That same day at noon, an old gentleman alighted from a hackney-coach at the post-office, and, giving his name, inquired for a letter addressed to himself, and directed to be left till called for. It had been lying there some days. The superscription was in Mr Pecksniff’s hand, and it was sealed with Mr Pecksniff’s seal.

It was very short, containing indeed nothing more than an address ‘with Mr Pecksniff’s respectful, and (not withstanding what has passed) sincerely affectionate regards.’ The old gentleman tore off the direction—scattering the rest in fragments to the winds—and giving it to the coachman, bade him drive as near that place as he could. In pursuance of these instructions he was driven to the Monument; where he again alighted, and dismissed the vehicle, and walked towards Todgers’s.

Though the face, and form, and gait of this old man, and even his grip of the stout stick on which he leaned, were all expressive of a resolution not easily shaken, and a purpose (it matters little whether right or wrong, just now) such as in other days might have survived the rack, and had its strongest life in weakest death; still there were grains of hesitation in his mind, which made him now avoid the house he sought, and loiter to and fro in a gleam of sunlight, that brightened the little churchyard hard by. There may have been, in the presence of those idle heaps of dust among the busiest stir of life, something to increase his wavering; but there he walked, awakening the echoes as he paced up and down, until the church clock, striking the quarters for the second time since he had been there, roused him from his meditation. Shaking off his incertitude as the air parted with the sound of the bells, he walked rapidly to the house, and knocked at the door.

Mr Pecksniff was seated in the landlady’s little room, and his visitor found him reading—by an accident; he apologised for it—an excellent theological work. There were cake and wine upon a little table—by another accident, for which he also apologised. Indeed he said, he had given his visitor up, and was about to partake of that simple refreshment with his children, when he knocked at the door.

‘Your daughters are well?’ said old Martin, laying down his hat and stick.

Mr Pecksniff endeavoured to conceal his agitation as a father when he answered Yes, they were. They were good girls, he said, very good. He would not venture to recommend Mr Chuzzlewit to take the easy-chair, or to keep out of the draught from the door. If he made any such suggestion, he would expose himself, he feared, to most unjust suspicion. He would, therefore, content himself with remarking that there was an easy-chair in the room, and that the door was far from being air-tight. This latter imperfection, he might perhaps venture to add, was not uncommonly to be met with in old houses.

The old man sat down in the easy-chair, and after a few moments’ silence, said:

‘In the first place, let me thank you for coming to London so promptly, at my almost unexplained request; I need scarcely add, at my cost.’

‘At your cost, my good sir!’ cried Mr Pecksniff, in a tone of great surprise.

‘It is not,’ said Martin, waving his hand impatiently, ‘my habit to put my—well! my relatives—to any personal expense to gratify my caprices.’

‘Caprices, my good sir!’ cried Mr Pecksniff

‘That is scarcely the proper word either, in this instance,’ said the old man. ‘No. You are right.’

Mr Pecksniff was inwardly very much relieved to hear it, though he didn’t at all know why.

‘You are right,’ repeated Martin. ‘It is not a caprice. It is built up on reason, proof, and cool comparison. Caprices never are. Moreover, I am not a capricious man. I never was.’

‘Most assuredly not,’ said Mr Pecksniff.

‘How do you know?’ returned the other quickly. ‘You are to begin to know it now. You are to test and prove it, in time to come. You and yours are to find that I can be constant, and am not to be diverted from my end. Do you hear?’

‘Perfectly,’ said Mr Pecksniff.

‘I very much regret,’ Martin resumed, looking steadily at him, and speaking in a slow and measured tone; ‘I very much regret that you and I held such a conversation together, as that which passed between us at our last meeting. I very much regret that I laid open to you what were then my thoughts of you, so freely as I did. The intentions that I bear towards you now are of another kind; deserted by all in whom I have ever trusted; hoodwinked and beset by all who should help and sustain me; I fly to you for refuge. I confide in you to be my ally; to attach yourself to me by ties of Interest and Expectation’—he laid great stress upon these words, though Mr Pecksniff particularly begged him not to mention it; ‘and to help me to visit the consequences of the very worst species of meanness, dissimulation, and subtlety, on the right heads.’

‘My noble sir!’ cried Mr Pecksniff, catching at his outstretched hand. ‘And you regret the having harboured unjust thoughts of me! you with those grey hairs!’

‘Regrets,’ said Martin, ‘are the natural property of grey hairs; and I enjoy, in common with all other men, at least my share of such inheritance. And so enough of that. I regret having been severed from you so long. If I had known you sooner, and sooner used you as you well deserve, I might have been a happier man.’

Mr Pecksniff looked up to the ceiling, and clasped his hands in rapture.

‘Your daughters,’ said Martin, after a short silence. ‘I don’t know them. Are they like you?’

‘In the nose of my eldest and the chin of my youngest, Mr Chuzzlewit,’ returned the widower, ‘their sainted parent (not myself, their mother) lives again.’

‘I don’t mean in person,’ said the old man. ‘Morally, morally.’

‘’Tis not for me to say,’ retorted Mr Pecksniff with a gentle smile. ‘I have done my best, sir.’

‘I could wish to see them,’ said Martin; ‘are they near at hand?’

They were, very near; for they had in fact been listening at the door from the beginning of this conversation until now, when they precipitately retired. Having wiped the signs of weakness from his eyes, and so given them time to get upstairs, Mr Pecksniff opened the door, and mildly cried in the passage,

‘My own darlings, where are you?’

‘Here, my dear pa!’ replied the distant voice of Charity.

‘Come down into the back parlour, if you please, my love,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘and bring your sister with you.’

‘Yes, my dear pa,’ cried Merry; and down they came directly (being all obedience), singing as they came.

Nothing could exceed the astonishment of the two Miss Pecksniffs when they found a stranger with their dear papa. Nothing could surpass their mute amazement when he said, ‘My children, Mr Chuzzlewit!’ But when he told them that Mr Chuzzlewit and he were friends, and that Mr Chuzzlewit had said such kind and tender words as pierced his very heart, the two Miss Pecksniffs cried with one accord, ‘Thank Heaven for this!’ and fell upon the old man’s neck. And when they had embraced him with such fervour of affection that no words can describe it, they grouped themselves about his chair, and hung over him, as figuring to themselves no earthly joy like that of ministering to his wants, and crowding into the remainder of his life, the love they would have diffused over their whole existence, from infancy, if he—dear obdurate!—had but consented to receive the precious offering.

The old man looked attentively from one to the other, and then at Mr Pecksniff, several times.

‘What,’ he asked of Mr Pecksniff, happening to catch his eye in its descent; for until now it had been piously upraised, with something of that expression which the poetry of ages has attributed to a domestic bird, when breathing its last amid the ravages of an electric storm: ‘What are their names?’

Mr Pecksniff told him, and added, rather hastily; his caluminators would have said, with a view to any testamentary thoughts that might be flitting through old Martin’s mind; ‘Perhaps, my dears, you had better write them down. Your humble autographs are of no value in themselves, but affection may prize them.’

‘Affection,’ said the old man, ‘will expend itself on the living originals. Do not trouble yourselves, my girls, I shall not so easily forget you, Charity and Mercy, as to need such tokens of remembrance. Cousin!’

‘Sir!’ said Mr Pecksniff, with alacrity.

‘Do you never sit down?’

‘Why—yes—occasionally, sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff, who had been standing all this time.

‘Will you do so now?’

‘Can you ask me,’ returned Mr Pecksniff, slipping into a chair immediately, ‘whether I will do anything that you desire?’

‘You talk confidently,’ said Martin, ‘and you mean well; but I fear you don’t know what an old man’s humours are. You don’t know what it is to be required to court his likings and dislikings; to adapt yourself to his prejudices; to do his bidding, be it what it may; to bear with his distrusts and jealousies; and always still be zealous in his service. When I remember how numerous these failings are in me, and judge of their occasional enormity by the injurious thoughts I lately entertained of you, I hardly dare to claim you for my friend.’

‘My worthy sir,’ returned his relative, ‘how can you talk in such a painful strain! What was more natural than that you should make one slight mistake, when in all other respects you were so very correct, and have had such reason—such very sad and undeniable reason—to judge of every one about you in the worst light!’

‘True,’ replied the other. ‘You are very lenient with me.’

‘We always said, my girls and I,’ cried Mr Pecksniff with increasing obsequiousness, ‘that while we mourned the heaviness of our misfortune in being confounded with the base and mercenary, still we could not wonder at it. My dears, you remember?’

Oh vividly! A thousand times!

‘We uttered no complaint,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Occasionally we had the presumption to console ourselves with the remark that Truth would in the end prevail, and Virtue be triumphant; but not often. My loves, you recollect?’

Recollect! Could he doubt it! Dearest pa, what strange unnecessary questions!

‘And when I saw you,’ resumed Mr Pecksniff, with still greater deference, ‘in the little, unassuming village where we take the liberty of dwelling, I said you were mistaken in me, my dear sir; that was all, I think?’

‘No—not all,’ said Martin, who had been sitting with his hand upon his brow for some time past, and now looked up again; ‘you said much more, which, added to other circumstances that have come to my knowledge, opened my eyes. You spoke to me, disinterestedly, on behalf of—I needn’t name him. You know whom I mean.’

Trouble was expressed in Mr Pecksniff’s visage, as he pressed his hot hands together, and replied, with humility, ‘Quite disinterestedly, sir, I assure you.’

‘I know it,’ said old Martin, in his quiet way. ‘I am sure of it. I said so. It was disinterested too, in you, to draw that herd of harpies off from me, and be their victim yourself; most other men would have suffered them to display themselves in all their rapacity, and would have striven to rise, by contrast, in my estimation. You felt for me, and drew them off, for which I owe you many thanks. Although I left the place, I know what passed behind my back, you see!’

‘You amaze me, sir!’ cried Mr Pecksniff; which was true enough.

‘My knowledge of your proceedings,’ said the old man, does not stop at this. You have a new inmate in your house.’

‘Yes, sir,’ rejoined the architect, ‘I have.’

‘He must quit it’ said Martin.

‘For—for yours?’ asked Mr Pecksniff, with a quavering mildness.

‘For any shelter he can find,’ the old man answered. ‘He has deceived you.’

‘I hope not’ said Mr Pecksniff, eagerly. ‘I trust not. I have been extremely well disposed towards that young man. I hope it cannot be shown that he has forfeited all claim to my protection. Deceit—deceit, my dear Mr Chuzzlewit, would be final. I should hold myself bound, on proof of deceit, to renounce him instantly.’

The old man glanced at both his fair supporters, but especially at Miss Mercy, whom, indeed, he looked full in the face, with a greater demonstration of interest than had yet appeared in his features. His gaze again encountered Mr Pecksniff, as he said, composedly:

‘Of course you know that he has made his matrimonial choice?’

‘Oh dear!’ cried Mr Pecksniff, rubbing his hair up very stiff upon his head, and staring wildly at his daughters. ‘This is becoming tremendous!’

‘You know the fact?’ repeated Martin

‘Surely not without his grandfather’s consent and approbation my dear sir!’ cried Mr Pecksniff. ‘Don’t tell me that. For the honour of human nature, say you’re not about to tell me that!’

‘I thought he had suppressed it,’ said the old man.

The indignation felt by Mr Pecksniff at this terrible disclosure, was only to be equalled by the kindling anger of his daughters. What! Had they taken to their hearth and home a secretly contracted serpent; a crocodile, who had made a furtive offer of his hand; an imposition on society; a bankrupt bachelor with no effects, trading with the spinster world on false pretences! And oh, to think that he should have disobeyed and practised on that sweet, that venerable gentleman, whose name he bore; that kind and tender guardian; his more than father—to say nothing at all of mother—horrible, horrible! To turn him out with ignominy would be treatment much too good. Was there nothing else that could be done to him? Had he incurred no legal pains and penalties? Could it be that the statutes of the land were so remiss as to have affixed no punishment to such delinquency? Monster; how basely had they been deceived!

‘I am glad to find you second me so warmly,’ said the old man holding up his hand to stay the torrent of their wrath. ‘I will not deny that it is a pleasure to me to find you so full of zeal. We will consider that topic as disposed of.’

‘No, my dear sir,’ cried Mr Pecksniff, ‘not as disposed of, until I have purged my house of this pollution.’

‘That will follow,’ said the old man, ‘in its own time. I look upon that as done.’

‘You are very good, sir,’ answered Mr Pecksniff, shaking his hand. ‘You do me honour. You may look upon it as done, I assure you.’

‘There is another topic,’ said Martin, ‘on which I hope you will assist me. You remember Mary, cousin?’

‘The young lady that I mentioned to you, my dears, as having interested me so very much,’ remarked Mr Pecksniff. ‘Excuse my interrupting you, sir.’

‘I told you her history?’ said the old man.

‘Which I also mentioned, you will recollect, my dears,’ cried Mr Pecksniff. ‘Silly girls, Mr Chuzzlewit—quite moved by it, they were!’

‘Why, look now!’ said Martin, evidently pleased; ‘I feared I should have had to urge her case upon you, and ask you to regard her favourably for my sake. But I find you have no jealousies! Well! You have no cause for any, to be sure. She has nothing to gain from me, my dears, and she knows it.’

The two Miss Pecksniffs murmured their approval of this wise arrangement, and their cordial sympathy with its interesting object.

‘If I could have anticipated what has come to pass between us four,’ said the old man thoughfully; ‘but it is too late to think of that. You would receive her courteously, young ladies, and be kind to her, if need were?’

Where was the orphan whom the two Miss Pecksniffs would not have cherished in their sisterly bosom! But when that orphan was commended to their care by one on whom the dammed-up love of years was gushing forth, what exhaustless stores of pure affection yearned to expend themselves upon her!

An interval ensued, during which Mr Chuzzlewit, in an absent frame of mind, sat gazing at the ground, without uttering a word; and as it was plain that he had no desire to be interrupted in his meditations, Mr Pecksniff and his daughters were profoundly silent also. During the whole of the foregoing dialogue, he had borne his part with a cold, passionless promptitude, as though he had learned and painfully rehearsed it all a hundred times. Even when his expressions were warmest and his language most encouraging, he had retained the same manner, without the least abatement. But now there was a keener brightness in his eye, and more expression in his voice, as he said, awakening from his thoughtful mood:

‘You know what will be said of this? Have you reflected?’

‘Said of what, my dear sir?’ Mr Pecksniff asked.

‘Of this new understanding between us.’

Mr Pecksniff looked benevolently sagacious, and at the same time far above all earthly misconstruction, as he shook his head, and observed that a great many things would be said of it, no doubt.

‘A great many,’ rejoined the old man. ‘Some will say that I dote in my old age; that illness has shaken me; that I have lost all strength of mind, and have grown childish. You can bear that?’

Mr Pecksniff answered that it would be dreadfully hard to bear, but he thought he could, if he made a great effort.

‘Others will say—I speak of disappointed, angry people only—that you have lied and fawned, and wormed yourself through dirty ways into my favour; by such concessions and such crooked deeds, such meannesses and vile endurances, as nothing could repay; no, not the legacy of half the world we live in. You can bear that?’

Mr Pecksniff made reply that this would be also very hard to bear, as reflecting, in some degree, on the discernment of Mr Chuzzlewit. Still he had a modest confidence that he could sustain the calumny, with the help of a good conscience, and that gentleman’s friendship.

‘With the great mass of slanderers,’ said old Martin, leaning back in his chair, ‘the tale, as I clearly foresee, will run thus: That to mark my contempt for the rabble whom I despised, I chose from among them the very worst, and made him do my will, and pampered and enriched him at the cost of all the rest. That, after casting about for the means of a punishment which should rankle in the bosoms of these kites the most, and strike into their gall, I devised this scheme at a time when the last link in the chain of grateful love and duty, that held me to my race, was roughly snapped asunder; roughly, for I loved him well; roughly, for I had ever put my trust in his affection; roughly, for that he broke it when I loved him most—God help me!—and he without a pang could throw me off, while I clung about his heart! Now,’ said the old man, dismissing this passionate outburst as suddenly as he had yielded to it, ‘is your mind made up to bear this likewise? Lay your account with having it to bear, and put no trust in being set right by me.’

‘My dear Mr Chuzzlewit,’ cried Pecksniff in an ecstasy, ‘for such a man as you have shown yourself to be this day; for a man so injured, yet so very humane; for a man so—I am at a loss what precise term to use—yet at the same time so remarkably—I don’t know how to express my meaning; for such a man as I have described, I hope it is no presumption to say that I, and I am sure I may add my children also (my dears, we perfectly agree in this, I think?), would bear anything whatever!’

‘Enough,’ said Martin. ‘You can charge no consequences on me. When do you retire home?’

‘Whenever you please, my dear sir. To-night if you desire it.’

‘I desire nothing,’ returned the old man, ‘that is unreasonable. Such a request would be. Will you be ready to return at the end of this week?’

The very time of all others that Mr Pecksniff would have suggested if it had been left to him to make his own choice. As to his daughters—the words, ‘Let us be at home on Saturday, dear pa,’ were actually upon their lips.

‘Your expenses, cousin,’ said Martin, taking a folded slip of paper from his pocketbook, ‘may possibly exceed that amount. If so, let me know the balance that I owe you, when we next meet. It would be useless if I told you where I live just now; indeed, I have no fixed abode. When I have, you shall know it. You and your daughters may expect to see me before long; in the meantime I need not tell you that we keep our own confidence. What you will do when you get home is understood between us. Give me no account of it at any time; and never refer to it in any way. I ask that as a favour. I am commonly a man of few words, cousin; and all that need be said just now is said, I think.’

‘One glass of wine—one morsel of this homely cake?’ cried Mr Pecksniff, venturing to detain him. ‘My dears—!’

The sisters flew to wait upon him.

‘Poor girls!’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘You will excuse their agitation, my dear sir. They are made up of feeling. A bad commodity to go through the world with, Mr Chuzzlewit! My youngest daughter is almost as much of a woman as my eldest, is she not, sir?’

‘Which is the youngest?’ asked the old man.

‘Mercy, by five years,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘We sometimes venture to consider her rather a fine figure, sir. Speaking as an artist, I may perhaps be permitted to suggest that its outline is graceful and correct. I am naturally,’ said Mr Pecksniff, drying his hands upon his handkerchief, and looking anxiously in his cousin’s face at almost every word, ‘proud, if I may use the expression, to have a daughter who is constructed on the best models.’

‘She seems to have a lively disposition,’ observed Martin.

‘Dear me!’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘That is quite remarkable. You have defined her character, my dear sir, as correctly as if you had known her from her birth. She has a lively disposition. I assure you, my dear sir, that in our unpretending home her gaiety is delightful.’

‘No doubt,’ returned the old man.

‘Charity, upon the other hand,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘is remarkable for strong sense, and for rather a deep tone of sentiment, if the partiality of a father may be excused in saying so. A wonderful affection between them, my dear sir! Allow me to drink your health. Bless you!’

‘I little thought,’ retorted Martin, ‘but a month ago, that I should be breaking bread and pouring wine with you. I drink to you.’

Not at all abashed by the extraordinary abruptness with which these latter words were spoken, Mr Pecksniff thanked him devoutly.

‘Now let me go,’ said Martin, putting down the wine when he had merely touched it with his lips. ‘My dears, good morning!’

But this distant form of farewell was by no means tender enough for the yearnings of the young ladies, who again embraced him with all their hearts—with all their arms at any rate—to which parting caresses their new-found friend submitted with a better grace than might have been expected from one who, not a moment before, had pledged their parent in such a very uncomfortable manner. These endearments terminated, he took a hasty leave of Mr Pecksniff and withdrew, followed to the door by both father and daughters, who stood there kissing their hands and beaming with affection until he disappeared; though, by the way, he never once looked back, after he had crossed the threshold.

When they returned into the house, and were again alone in Mrs Todgers’s room, the two young ladies exhibited an unusual amount of gaiety; insomuch that they clapped their hands, and laughed, and looked with roguish aspects and a bantering air upon their dear papa. This conduct was so very unaccountable, that Mr Pecksniff (being singularly grave himself) could scarcely choose but ask them what it meant; and took them to task, in his gentle manner, for yielding to such light emotions.

‘If it was possible to divine any cause for this merriment, even the most remote,’ he said, ‘I should not reprove you. But when you can have none whatever—oh, really, really!’

This admonition had so little effect on Mercy, that she was obliged to hold her handkerchief before her rosy lips, and to throw herself back in her chair, with every demonstration of extreme amusement; which want of duty so offended Mr Pecksniff that he reproved her in set terms, and gave her his parental advice to correct herself in solitude and contemplation. But at that juncture they were disturbed by the sound of voices in dispute; and as it proceeded from the next room, the subject matter of the altercation quickly reached their ears.

‘I don’t care that! Mrs Todgers,’ said the young gentleman who had been the youngest gentleman in company on the day of the festival; ‘I don’t care that, ma’am,’ said he, snapping his fingers, ‘for Jinkins. Don’t suppose I do.’

‘I am quite certain you don’t, sir,’ replied Mrs Todgers. ‘You have too independent a spirit, I know, to yield to anybody. And quite right. There is no reason why you should give way to any gentleman. Everybody must be well aware of that.’

‘I should think no more of admitting daylight into the fellow,’ said the youngest gentleman, in a desperate voice, ‘than if he was a bulldog.’

Mrs Todgers did not stop to inquire whether, as a matter of principle, there was any particular reason for admitting daylight even into a bulldog, otherwise than by the natural channel of his eyes, but she seemed to wring her hands, and she moaned.

‘Let him be careful,’ said the youngest gentleman. ‘I give him warning. No man shall step between me and the current of my vengeance. I know a Cove—’ he used that familiar epithet in his agitation but corrected himself by adding, ‘a gentleman of property, I mean—who practices with a pair of pistols (fellows too) of his own. If I am driven to borrow ‘em, and to send at friend to Jinkins, a tragedy will get into the papers. That’s all.’

Again Mrs Todgers moaned.

‘I have borne this long enough,’ said the youngest gentleman but now my soul rebels against it, and I won’t stand it any longer. I left home originally, because I had that within me which wouldn’t be domineered over by a sister; and do you think I’m going to be put down by him? No.’

‘It is very wrong in Mr Jinkins; I know it is perfectly inexcusable in Mr Jinkins, if he intends it,’ observed Mrs Todgers

‘If he intends it!’ cried the youngest gentleman. ‘Don’t he interrupt and contradict me on every occasion? Does he ever fail to interpose himself between me and anything or anybody that he sees I have set my mind upon? Does he make a point of always pretending to forget me, when he’s pouring out the beer? Does he make bragging remarks about his razors, and insulting allusions to people who have no necessity to shave more than once a week? But let him look out! He’ll find himself shaved, pretty close, before long, and so I tell him.’

The young gentleman was mistaken in this closing sentence, inasmuch as he never told it to Jinkins, but always to Mrs Todgers.

‘However,’ he said, ‘these are not proper subjects for ladies’ ears. All I’ve got to say to you, Mrs Todgers, is, a week’s notice from next Saturday. The same house can’t contain that miscreant and me any longer. If we get over the intermediate time without bloodshed, you may think yourself pretty fortunate. I don’t myself expect we shall.’

‘Dear, dear!’ cried Mrs Todgers, ‘what would I have given to have prevented this? To lose you, sir, would be like losing the house’s right-hand. So popular as you are among the gentlemen; so generally looked up to; and so much liked! I do hope you’ll think better of it; if on nobody else’s account, on mine.’

‘There’s Jinkins,’ said the youngest gentleman, moodily. ‘Your favourite. He’ll console you, and the gentlemen too, for the loss of twenty such as me. I’m not understood in this house. I never have been.’

‘Don’t run away with that opinion, sir!’ cried Mrs Todgers, with a show of honest indignation. ‘Don’t make such a charge as that against the establishment, I must beg of you. It is not so bad as that comes to, sir. Make any remark you please against the gentlemen, or against me; but don’t say you’re not understood in this house.’

‘I’m not treated as if I was,’ said the youngest gentleman.

‘There you make a great mistake, sir,’ returned Mrs Todgers, in the same strain. ‘As many of the gentlemen and I have often said, you are too sensitive. That’s where it is. You are of too susceptible a nature; it’s in your spirit.’

The young gentleman coughed.

‘And as,’ said Mrs Todgers, ‘as to Mr Jinkins, I must beg of you, if we are to part, to understand that I don’t abet Mr Jinkins by any means. Far from it. I could wish that Mr Jinkins would take a lower tone in this establishment, and would not be the means of raising differences between me and gentlemen that I can much less bear to part with than I could with Mr Jinkins. Mr Jinkins is not such a boarder, sir,’ added Mrs Todgers, ‘that all considerations of private feeling and respect give way before him. Quite the contrary, I assure you.’

The young gentleman was so much mollified by these and similar speeches on the part of Mrs Todgers, that he and that lady gradually changed positions; so that she became the injured party, and he was understood to be the injurer; but in a complimentary, not in an offensive sense; his cruel conduct being attributable to his exalted nature, and to that alone. So, in the end, the young gentleman withdrew his notice, and assured Mrs Todgers of his unalterable regard; and having done so, went back to business.

‘Goodness me, Miss Pecksniffs!’ cried that lady, as she came into the back room, and sat wearily down, with her basket on her knees, and her hands folded upon it, ‘what a trial of temper it is to keep a house like this! You must have heard most of what has just passed. Now did you ever hear the like?’

‘Never!’ said the two Miss Pecksniffs.

‘Of all the ridiculous young fellows that ever I had to deal with,’ resumed Mrs Todgers, ‘that is the most ridiculous and unreasonable. Mr Jinkins is hard upon him sometimes, but not half as hard as he deserves. To mention such a gentleman as Mr Jinkins in the same breath with him—you know it’s too much! And yet he’s as jealous of him, bless you, as if he was his equal.’

The young ladies were greatly entertained by Mrs Todgers’s account, no less than with certain anecdotes illustrative of the youngest gentleman’s character, which she went on to tell them. But Mr Pecksniff looked quite stern and angry; and when she had concluded, said in a solemn voice:

‘Pray, Mrs Todgers, if I may inquire, what does that young gentleman contribute towards the support of these premises?’

‘Why, sir, for what he has, he pays about eighteen shillings a week!’ said Mrs Todgers.

‘Eighteen shillings a week!’ repeated Mr Pecksniff.

‘Taking one week with another; as near that as possible,’ said Mrs Todgers.

Mr Pecksniff rose from his chair, folded his arms, looked at her, and shook his head.

‘And do you mean to say, ma’am—is it possible, Mrs Todgers—that for such a miserable consideration as eighteen shillings a week, a female of your understanding can so far demean herself as to wear a double face, even for an instant?’

‘I am forced to keep things on the square if I can, sir,’ faltered Mrs Todgers. ‘I must preserve peace among them, and keep my connection together, if possible, Mr Pecksniff. The profit is very small.’

‘The profit!’ cried that gentleman, laying great stress upon the word. ‘The profit, Mrs Todgers! You amaze me!’

He was so severe, that Mrs Todgers shed tears.

‘The profit!’ repeated Mr pecksniff. ‘The profit of dissimulation! To worship the golden calf of Baal, for eighteen shillings a week!’

‘Don’t in your own goodness be too hard upon me, Mr Pecksniff,’ cried Mrs Todgers, taking out her handkerchief.

‘Oh Calf, Calf!’ cried Mr Pecksniff mournfully. ‘Oh, Baal, Baal! oh my friend, Mrs Todgers! To barter away that precious jewel, self-esteem, and cringe to any mortal creature—for eighteen shillings a week!’

He was so subdued and overcome by the reflection, that he immediately took down his hat from its peg in the passage, and went out for a walk, to compose his feelings. Anybody passing him in the street might have known him for a good man at first sight; for his whole figure teemed with a consciousness of the moral homily he had read to Mrs Todgers.

Eighteen shillings a week! Just, most just, thy censure, upright Pecksniff! Had it been for the sake of a ribbon, star, or garter; sleeves of lawn, a great man’s smile, a seat in parliament, a tap upon the shoulder from a courtly sword; a place, a party, or a thriving lie, or eighteen thousand pounds, or even eighteen hundred;—but to worship the golden calf for eighteen shillings a week! oh pitiful, pitiful!