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Martin Chuzzlewit

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CHAPTER ELEVEN. WHEREIN A CERTAIN GENTLEMAN BECOMES PARTICULAR IN HIS ATTENTIONS TO A CERTAIN LADY; AND MORE COMING EVENTS THAN ONE, CAST THEIR SHADOWS BEFORE


The family were within two or three days of their departure from Mrs Todgers’s, and the commercial gentlemen were to a man despondent and not to be comforted, because of the approaching separation, when Bailey junior, at the jocund time of noon, presented himself before Miss Charity Pecksniff, then sitting with her sister in the banquet chamber, hemming six new pocket-handkerchiefs for Mr Jinkins; and having expressed a hope, preliminary and pious, that he might be blest, gave her in his pleasant way to understand that a visitor attended to pay his respects to her, and was at that moment waiting in the drawing-room. Perhaps this last announcement showed in a more striking point of view than many lengthened speeches could have done, the trustfulness and faith of Bailey’s nature; since he had, in fact, last seen the visitor on the door-mat, where, after signifying to him that he would do well to go upstairs, he had left him to the guidance of his own sagacity. Hence it was at least an even chance that the visitor was then wandering on the roof of the house, or vainly seeking to extricate himself from the maze of bedrooms; Todgers’s being precisely that kind of establishment in which an unpiloted stranger is pretty sure to find himself in some place where he least expects and least desires to be.

‘A gentleman for me!’ cried Charity, pausing in her work; ‘my gracious, Bailey!’

‘Ah!’ said Bailey. ‘It is my gracious, an’t it? Wouldn’t I be gracious neither, not if I wos him!’

The remark was rendered somewhat obscure in itself, by reason (as the reader may have observed) of a redundancy of negatives; but accompanied by action expressive of a faithful couple walking arm-in-arm towards a parochial church, mutually exchanging looks of love, it clearly signified this youth’s conviction that the caller’s purpose was of an amorous tendency. Miss Charity affected to reprove so great a liberty; but she could not help smiling. He was a strange boy, to be sure. There was always some ground of probability and likelihood mingled with his absurd behaviour. That was the best of it!

‘But I don’t know any gentlemen, Bailey,’ said Miss Pecksniff. ‘I think you must have made a mistake.’

Mr Bailey smiled at the extreme wildness of such a supposition, and regarded the young ladies with unimpaired affability.

‘My dear Merry,’ said Charity, ‘who can it be? Isn’t it odd? I have a great mind not to go to him really. So very strange, you know!’

The younger sister plainly considered that this appeal had its origin in the pride of being called upon and asked for; and that it was intended as an assertion of superiority, and a retaliation upon her for having captured the commercial gentlemen. Therefore, she replied, with great affection and politeness, that it was, no doubt, very strange indeed; and that she was totally at a loss to conceive what the ridiculous person unknown could mean by it.

‘Quite impossible to divine!’ said Charity, with some sharpness, ‘though still, at the same time, you needn’t be angry, my dear.’

‘Thank you,’ retorted Merry, singing at her needle. ‘I am quite aware of that, my love.’

‘I am afraid your head is turned, you silly thing,’ said Cherry.

‘Do you know, my dear,’ said Merry, with engaging candour, ‘that I have been afraid of that, myself, all along! So much incense and nonsense, and all the rest of it, is enough to turn a stronger head than mine. What a relief it must be to you, my dear, to be so very comfortable in that respect, and not to be worried by those odious men! How do you do it, Cherry?’

This artless inquiry might have led to turbulent results, but for the strong emotions of delight evinced by Bailey junior, whose relish in the turn the conversation had lately taken was so acute, that it impelled and forced him to the instantaneous performance of a dancing step, extremely difficult in its nature, and only to be achieved in a moment of ecstasy, which is commonly called The Frog’s Hornpipe. A manifestation so lively, brought to their immediate recollection the great virtuous precept, ‘Keep up appearances whatever you do,’ in which they had been educated. They forbore at once, and jointly signified to Mr Bailey that if he should presume to practice that figure any more in their presence, they would instantly acquaint Mrs Todgers with the fact, and would demand his condign punishment, at the hands of that lady. The young gentleman having expressed the bitterness of his contrition by affecting to wipe away scalding tears with his apron, and afterwards feigning to wring a vast amount of water from that garment, held the door open while Miss Charity passed out; and so that damsel went in state upstairs to receive her mysterious adorer.

By some strange occurrence of favourable circumstances he had found out the drawing-room, and was sitting there alone.

‘Ah, cousin!’ he said. ‘Here I am, you see. You thought I was lost, I’ll be bound. Well! how do you find yourself by this time?’

Miss Charity replied that she was quite well, and gave Mr Jonas Chuzzlewit her hand.

‘That’s right,’ said Mr Jonas, ‘and you’ve got over the fatigues of the journey have you? I say. How’s the other one?’

‘My sister is very well, I believe,’ returned the young lady. ‘I have not heard her complain of any indisposition, sir. Perhaps you would like to see her, and ask her yourself?’

‘No, no cousin!’ said Mr Jonas, sitting down beside her on the window-seat. ‘Don’t be in a hurry. There’s no occasion for that, you know. What a cruel girl you are!’

‘It’s impossible for you to know,’ said Cherry, ‘whether I am or not.’

‘Well, perhaps it is,’ said Mr Jonas. ‘I say—Did you think I was lost? You haven’t told me that.’

‘I didn’t think at all about it,’ answered Cherry.

‘Didn’t you though?’ said Jonas, pondering upon this strange reply. ‘Did the other one?’

‘I am sure it’s impossible for me to say what my sister may, or may not have thought on such a subject,’ cried Cherry. ‘She never said anything to me about it, one way or other.’

‘Didn’t she laugh about it?’ inquired Jonas.

‘No. She didn’t even laugh about it,’ answered Charity.

‘She’s a terrible one to laugh, an’t she?’ said Jonas, lowering his voice.

‘She is very lively,’ said Cherry.

‘Liveliness is a pleasant thing—when it don’t lead to spending money. An’t it?’ asked Mr Jonas.

‘Very much so, indeed,’ said Cherry, with a demureness of manner that gave a very disinterested character to her assent.

‘Such liveliness as yours I mean, you know,’ observed Mr Jonas, as he nudged her with his elbow. ‘I should have come to see you before, but I didn’t know where you was. How quick you hurried off, that morning!’

‘I was amenable to my papa’s directions,’ said Miss Charity.

‘I wish he had given me his direction,’ returned her cousin, ‘and then I should have found you out before. Why, I shouldn’t have found you even now, if I hadn’t met him in the street this morning. What a sleek, sly chap he is! Just like a tomcat, an’t he?’

‘I must trouble you to have the goodness to speak more respectfully of my papa, Mr Jonas,’ said Charity. ‘I can’t allow such a tone as that, even in jest.’

‘Ecod, you may say what you like of my father, then, and so I give you leave,’ said Jonas. ‘I think it’s liquid aggravation that circulates through his veins, and not regular blood. How old should you think my father was, cousin?’

‘Old, no doubt,’ replied Miss Charity; ‘but a fine old gentleman.’

‘A fine old gentleman!’ repeated Jonas, giving the crown of his hat an angry knock. ‘Ah! It’s time he was thinking of being drawn out a little finer too. Why, he’s eighty!’

‘Is he, indeed?’ said the young lady.

‘And ecod,’ cried Jonas, ‘now he’s gone so far without giving in, I don’t see much to prevent his being ninety; no, nor even a hundred. Why, a man with any feeling ought to be ashamed of being eighty, let alone more. Where’s his religion, I should like to know, when he goes flying in the face of the Bible like that? Threescore-and-ten’s the mark, and no man with a conscience, and a proper sense of what’s expected of him, has any business to live longer.’

Is any one surprised at Mr Jonas making such a reference to such a book for such a purpose? Does any one doubt the old saw, that the Devil (being a layman) quotes Scripture for his own ends? If he will take the trouble to look about him, he may find a greater number of confirmations of the fact in the occurrences of any single day, than the steam-gun can discharge balls in a minute.

‘But there’s enough of my father,’ said Jonas; ‘it’s of no use to go putting one’s self out of the way by talking about him. I called to ask you to come and take a walk, cousin, and see some of the sights; and to come to our house afterwards, and have a bit of something. Pecksniff will most likely look in in the evening, he says, and bring you home. See, here’s his writing; I made him put it down this morning when he told me he shouldn’t be back before I came here; in case you wouldn’t believe me. There’s nothing like proof, is there? Ha, ha! I say—you’ll bring the other one, you know!’

Miss Charity cast her eyes upon her father’s autograph, which merely said—‘Go, my children, with your cousin. Let there be union among us when it is possible;’ and after enough of hesitation to impart a proper value to her consent, withdrew to prepare her sister and herself for the excursion. She soon returned, accompanied by Miss Mercy, who was by no means pleased to leave the brilliant triumphs of Todgers’s for the society of Mr Jonas and his respected father.

‘Aha!’ cried Jonas. ‘There you are, are you?’

‘Yes, fright,’ said Mercy, ‘here I am; and I would much rather be anywhere else, I assure you.’

‘You don’t mean that,’ cried Mr Jonas. ‘You can’t, you know. It isn’t possible.’

‘You can have what opinion you like, fright,’ retorted Mercy. ‘I am content to keep mine; and mine is that you are a very unpleasant, odious, disagreeable person.’ Here she laughed heartily, and seemed to enjoy herself very much.

‘Oh, you’re a sharp gal!’ said Mr Jonas. ‘She’s a regular teaser, an’t she, cousin?’

Miss Charity replied in effect, that she was unable to say what the habits and propensities of a regular teaser might be; and that even if she possessed such information, it would ill become her to admit the existence of any creature with such an unceremonious name in her family; far less in the person of a beloved sister; ‘whatever,’ added Cherry with an angry glance, ‘whatever her real nature may be.’

‘Well, my dear,’ said Merry, ‘the only observation I have to make is, that if we don’t go out at once, I shall certainly take my bonnet off again, and stay at home.’

This threat had the desired effect of preventing any farther altercation, for Mr Jonas immediately proposed an adjournment, and the same being carried unanimously, they departed from the house straightway. On the doorstep, Mr Jonas gave an arm to each cousin; which act of gallantry being observed by Bailey junior, from the garret window, was by him saluted with a loud and violent fit of coughing, to which paroxysm he was still the victim when they turned the corner.

Mr Jonas inquired in the first instance if they were good walkers and being answered, ‘Yes,’ submitted their pedestrian powers to a pretty severe test; for he showed them as many sights, in the way of bridges, churches, streets, outsides of theatres, and other free spectacles, in that one forenoon, as most people see in a twelvemonth. It was observable in this gentleman, that he had an insurmountable distaste to the insides of buildings, and that he was perfectly acquainted with the merits of all shows, in respect of which there was any charge for admission, which it seemed were every one detestable, and of the very lowest grade of merit. He was so thoroughly possessed with this opinion, that when Miss Charity happened to mention the circumstance of their having been twice or thrice to the theatre with Mr Jinkins and party, he inquired, as a matter of course, ‘where the orders came from?’ and being told that Mr Jinkins and party paid, was beyond description entertained, observing that ‘they must be nice flats, certainly;’ and often in the course of the walk, bursting out again into a perfect convulsion of laughter at the surpassing silliness of those gentlemen, and (doubtless) at his own superior wisdom.

When they had been out for some hours and were thoroughly fatigued, it being by that time twilight, Mr Jonas intimated that he would show them one of the best pieces of fun with which he was acquainted. This joke was of a practical kind, and its humour lay in taking a hackney-coach to the extreme limits of possibility for a shilling. Happily it brought them to the place where Mr Jonas dwelt, or the young ladies might have rather missed the point and cream of the jest.

The old-established firm of Anthony Chuzzlewit and Son, Manchester Warehousemen, and so forth, had its place of business in a very narrow street somewhere behind the Post Office; where every house was in the brightest summer morning very gloomy; and where light porters watered the pavement, each before his own employer’s premises, in fantastic patterns, in the dog-days; and where spruce gentlemen with their hands in the pockets of symmetrical trousers, were always to be seen in warm weather, contemplating their undeniable boots in dusty warehouse doorways; which appeared to be the hardest work they did, except now and then carrying pens behind their ears. A dim, dirty, smoky, tumble-down, rotten old house it was, as anybody would desire to see; but there the firm of Anthony Chuzzlewit and Son transacted all their business and their pleasure too, such as it was; for neither the young man nor the old had any other residence, or any care or thought beyond its narrow limits.

Business, as may be readily supposed, was the main thing in this establishment; insomuch indeed that it shouldered comfort out of doors, and jostled the domestic arrangements at every turn. Thus in the miserable bedrooms there were files of moth-eaten letters hanging up against the walls; and linen rollers, and fragments of old patterns, and odds and ends of spoiled goods, strewed upon the ground; while the meagre bedsteads, washing-stands, and scraps of carpet, were huddled away into corners as objects of secondary consideration, not to be thought of but as disagreeable necessities, furnishing no profit, and intruding on the one affair of life. The single sitting-room was on the same principle, a chaos of boxes and old papers, and had more counting-house stools in it than chairs; not to mention a great monster of a desk straddling over the middle of the floor, and an iron safe sunk into the wall above the fireplace. The solitary little table for purposes of refection and social enjoyment, bore as fair a proportion to the desk and other business furniture, as the graces and harmless relaxations of life had ever done, in the persons of the old man and his son, to their pursuit of wealth. It was meanly laid out now for dinner; and in a chair before the fire sat Anthony himself, who rose to greet his son and his fair cousins as they entered.

An ancient proverb warns us that we should not expect to find old heads upon young shoulders; to which it may be added that we seldom meet with that unnatural combination, but we feel a strong desire to knock them off; merely from an inherent love we have of seeing things in their right places. It is not improbable that many men, in no wise choleric by nature, felt this impulse rising up within them, when they first made the acquaintance of Mr Jonas; but if they had known him more intimately in his own house, and had sat with him at his own board, it would assuredly have been paramount to all other considerations.

‘Well, ghost!’ said Mr Jonas, dutifully addressing his parent by that title. ‘Is dinner nearly ready?’

‘I should think it was,’ rejoined the old man.

‘What’s the good of that?’ rejoined the son. ‘I should think it was. I want to know.’

‘Ah! I don’t know for certain,’ said Anthony.

‘You don’t know for certain,’ rejoined his son in a lower tone. ‘No. You don’t know anything for certain, you don’t. Give me your candle here. I want it for the gals.’

Anthony handed him a battered old office candlestick, with which Mr Jonas preceded the young ladies to the nearest bedroom, where he left them to take off their shawls and bonnets; and returning, occupied himself in opening a bottle of wine, sharpening the carving-knife, and muttering compliments to his father, until they and the dinner appeared together. The repast consisted of a hot leg of mutton with greens and potatoes; and the dishes having been set upon the table by a slipshod old woman, they were left to enjoy it after their own manner.

‘Bachelor’s Hall, you know, cousin,’ said Mr Jonas to Charity. ‘I say—the other one will be having a laugh at this when she gets home, won’t she? Here; you sit on the right side of me, and I’ll have her upon the left. Other one, will you come here?’

‘You’re such a fright,’ replied Mercy, ‘that I know I shall have no appetite if I sit so near you; but I suppose I must.’

‘An’t she lively?’ whispered Mr Jonas to the elder sister, with his favourite elbow emphasis.

‘Oh I really don’t know!’ replied Miss Pecksniff, tartly. ‘I am tired of being asked such ridiculous questions.’

‘What’s that precious old father of mine about now?’ said Mr Jonas, seeing that his parent was travelling up and down the room instead of taking his seat at table. ‘What are you looking for?’

‘I’ve lost my glasses, Jonas,’ said old Anthony.

‘Sit down without your glasses, can’t you?’ returned his son. ‘You don’t eat or drink out of ‘em, I think; and where’s that sleepy-headed old Chuffey got to! Now, stupid. Oh! you know your name, do you?’

It would seem that he didn’t, for he didn’t come until the father called. As he spoke, the door of a small glass office, which was partitioned off from the rest of the room, was slowly opened, and a little blear-eyed, weazen-faced, ancient man came creeping out. He was of a remote fashion, and dusty, like the rest of the furniture; he was dressed in a decayed suit of black; with breeches garnished at the knees with rusty wisps of ribbon, the very paupers of shoestrings; on the lower portion of his spindle legs were dingy worsted stockings of the same colour. He looked as if he had been put away and forgotten half a century before, and somebody had just found him in a lumber-closet.

Such as he was, he came slowly creeping on towards the table, until at last he crept into the vacant chair, from which, as his dim faculties became conscious of the presence of strangers, and those strangers ladies, he rose again, apparently intending to make a bow. But he sat down once more without having made it, and breathing on his shrivelled hands to warm them, remained with his poor blue nose immovable above his plate, looking at nothing, with eyes that saw nothing, and a face that meant nothing. Take him in that state, and he was an embodiment of nothing. Nothing else.

‘Our clerk,’ said Mr Jonas, as host and master of the ceremonies: ‘Old Chuffey.’

‘Is he deaf?’ inquired one of the young ladies.

‘No, I don’t know that he is. He an’t deaf, is he, father?’

‘I never heard him say he was,’ replied the old man.

‘Blind?’ inquired the young ladies.

‘N—no. I never understood that he was at all blind,’ said Jonas, carelessly. ‘You don’t consider him so, do you, father?’

‘Certainly not,’ replied Anthony.

‘What is he, then?’

‘Why, I’ll tell you what he is,’ said Mr Jonas, apart to the young ladies, ‘he’s precious old, for one thing; and I an’t best pleased with him for that, for I think my father must have caught it of him. He’s a strange old chap, for another,’ he added in a louder voice, ‘and don’t understand any one hardly, but him!’ He pointed to his honoured parent with the carving-fork, in order that they might know whom he meant.

‘How very strange!’ cried the sisters.

‘Why, you see,’ said Mr Jonas, ‘he’s been addling his old brains with figures and book-keeping all his life; and twenty years ago or so he went and took a fever. All the time he was out of his head (which was three weeks) he never left off casting up; and he got to so many million at last that I don’t believe he’s ever been quite right since. We don’t do much business now though, and he an’t a bad clerk.’

‘A very good one,’ said Anthony.

‘Well! He an’t a dear one at all events,’ observed Jonas; ‘and he earns his salt, which is enough for our look-out. I was telling you that he hardly understands any one except my father; he always understands him, though, and wakes up quite wonderful. He’s been used to his ways so long, you see! Why, I’ve seen him play whist, with my father for a partner; and a good rubber too; when he had no more notion what sort of people he was playing against, than you have.’

‘Has he no appetite?’ asked Merry.

‘Oh, yes,’ said Jonas, plying his own knife and fork very fast. ‘He eats—when he’s helped. But he don’t care whether he waits a minute or an hour, as long as father’s here; so when I’m at all sharp set, as I am to-day, I come to him after I’ve taken the edge off my own hunger, you know. Now, Chuffey, stupid, are you ready?’

Chuffey remained immovable.

‘Always a perverse old file, he was,’ said Mr Jonas, coolly helping himself to another slice. ‘Ask him, father.’

‘Are you ready for your dinner, Chuffey?’ asked the old man

‘Yes, yes,’ said Chuffey, lighting up into a sentient human creature at the first sound of the voice, so that it was at once a curious and quite a moving sight to see him. ‘Yes, yes. Quite ready, Mr Chuzzlewit. Quite ready, sir. All ready, all ready, all ready.’ With that he stopped, smilingly, and listened for some further address; but being spoken to no more, the light forsook his face by little and little, until he was nothing again.

‘He’ll be very disagreeable, mind,’ said Jonas, addressing his cousins as he handed the old man’s portion to his father. ‘He always chokes himself when it an’t broth. Look at him, now! Did you ever see a horse with such a wall-eyed expression as he’s got? If it hadn’t been for the joke of it I wouldn’t have let him come in to-day; but I thought he’d amuse you.’

The poor old subject of this humane speech was, happily for himself, as unconscious of its purport as of most other remarks that were made in his presence. But the mutton being tough, and his gums weak, he quickly verified the statement relative to his choking propensities, and underwent so much in his attempts to dine, that Mr Jonas was infinitely amused; protesting that he had seldom seen him better company in all his life, and that he was enough to make a man split his sides with laughing. Indeed, he went so far as to assure the sisters, that in this point of view he considered Chuffey superior to his own father; which, as he significantly added, was saying a great deal.

It was strange enough that Anthony Chuzzlewit, himself so old a man, should take a pleasure in these gibings of his estimable son at the expense of the poor shadow at their table. But he did, unquestionably; though not so much—to do him justice—with reference to their ancient clerk, as in exultation at the sharpness of Jonas. For the same reason that young man’s coarse allusions, even to himself, filled him with a stealthy glee; causing him to rub his hands and chuckle covertly, as if he said in his sleeve, ‘I taught him. I trained him. This is the heir of my bringing-up. Sly, cunning, and covetous, he’ll not squander my money. I worked for this; I hoped for this; it has been the great end and aim of my life.’

What a noble end and aim it was to contemplate in the attainment truly! But there be some who manufacture idols after the fashion of themselves, and fail to worship them when they are made; charging their deformity on outraged nature. Anthony was better than these at any rate.

Chuffey boggled over his plate so long, that Mr Jonas, losing patience, took it from him at last with his own hands, and requested his father to signify to that venerable person that he had better ‘peg away at his bread;’ which Anthony did.

‘Aye, aye!’ cried the old man, brightening up as before, when this was communicated to him in the same voice, ‘quite right, quite right. He’s your own son, Mr Chuzzlewit! Bless him for a sharp lad! Bless him, bless him!’

Mr Jonas considered this so particularly childish (perhaps with some reason), that he only laughed the more, and told his cousins that he was afraid one of these fine days, Chuffey would be the death of him. The cloth was then removed, and the bottle of wine set upon the table, from which Mr Jonas filled the young ladies’ glasses, calling on them not to spare it, as they might be certain there was plenty more where that came from. But he added with some haste after this sally that it was only his joke, and they wouldn’t suppose him to be in earnest, he was sure.

‘I shall drink,’ said Anthony, ‘to Pecksniff. Your father, my dears. A clever man, Pecksniff. A wary man! A hypocrite, though, eh? A hypocrite, girls, eh? Ha, ha, ha! Well, so he is. Now, among friends, he is. I don’t think the worse of him for that, unless it is that he overdoes it. You may overdo anything, my darlings. You may overdo even hypocrisy. Ask Jonas!’

‘You can’t overdo taking care of yourself,’ observed that hopeful gentleman with his mouth full.

‘Do you hear that, my dears?’ cried Anthony, quite enraptured. ‘Wisdom, wisdom! A good exception, Jonas. No. It’s not easy to overdo that.’

‘Except,’ whispered Mr Jonas to his favourite cousin, ‘except when one lives too long. Ha, ha! Tell the other one that—I say!’

‘Good gracious me!’ said Cherry, in a petulant manner. ‘You can tell her yourself, if you wish, can’t you?’

‘She seems to make such game of one,’ replied Mr Jonas.

‘Then why need you trouble yourself about her?’ said Charity. ‘I am sure she doesn’t trouble herself much about you.’

‘Don’t she though?’ asked Jonas.

‘Good gracious me, need I tell you that she don’t?’ returned the young lady.

Mr Jonas made no verbal rejoinder, but he glanced at Mercy with an odd expression in his face; and said that wouldn’t break his heart, she might depend upon it. Then he looked on Charity with even greater favour than before, and besought her, as his polite manner was, to ‘come a little closer.’

‘There’s another thing that’s not easily overdone, father,’ remarked Jonas, after a short silence.

‘What’s that?’ asked the father; grinning already in anticipation.

‘A bargain,’ said the son. ‘Here’s the rule for bargains—“Do other men, for they would do you.” That’s the true business precept. All others are counterfeits.’

The delighted father applauded this sentiment to the echo; and was so much tickled by it, that he was at the pains of imparting the same to his ancient clerk, who rubbed his hands, nodded his palsied head, winked his watery eyes, and cried in his whistling tones, ‘Good! good! Your own son, Mr Chuzzlewit’ with every feeble demonstration of delight that he was capable of making. But this old man’s enthusiasm had the redeeming quality of being felt in sympathy with the only creature to whom he was linked by ties of long association, and by his present helplessness. And if there had been anybody there, who cared to think about it, some dregs of a better nature unawakened, might perhaps have been descried through that very medium, melancholy though it was, yet lingering at the bottom of the worn-out cask called Chuffey.

As matters stood, nobody thought or said anything upon the subject; so Chuffey fell back into a dark corner on one side of the fireplace, where he always spent his evenings, and was neither seen nor heard again that night; save once, when a cup of tea was given him, in which he was seen to soak his bread mechanically. There was no reason to suppose that he went to sleep at these seasons, or that he heard, or saw, or felt, or thought. He remained, as it were, frozen up—if any term expressive of such a vigorous process can be applied to him—until he was again thawed for the moment by a word or touch from Anthony.

Miss Charity made tea by desire of Mr Jonas, and felt and looked so like the lady of the house that she was in the prettiest confusion imaginable; the more so from Mr Jonas sitting close beside her, and whispering a variety of admiring expressions in her ear. Miss Mercy, for her part, felt the entertainment of the evening to be so distinctly and exclusively theirs, that she silently deplored the commercial gentlemen—at that moment, no doubt, wearying for her return—and yawned over yesterday’s newspaper. As to Anthony, he went to sleep outright, so Jonas and Cherry had a clear stage to themselves as long as they chose to keep possession of it.

When the tea-tray was taken away, as it was at last, Mr Jonas produced a dirty pack of cards, and entertained the sisters with divers small feats of dexterity: whereof the main purpose of every one was, that you were to decoy somebody into laying a wager with you that you couldn’t do it; and were then immediately to win and pocket his money. Mr Jonas informed them that these accomplishments were in high vogue in the most intellectual circles, and that large amounts were constantly changing hands on such hazards. And it may be remarked that he fully believed this; for there is a simplicity of cunning no less than a simplicity of innocence; and in all matters where a lively faith in knavery and meanness was required as the ground-work of belief, Mr Jonas was one of the most credulous of men. His ignorance, which was stupendous, may be taken into account, if the reader pleases, separately.

This fine young man had all the inclination to be a profligate of the first water, and only lacked the one good trait in the common catalogue of debauched vices—open-handedness—to be a notable vagabond. But there his griping and penurious habits stepped in; and as one poison will sometimes neutralise another, when wholesome remedies would not avail, so he was restrained by a bad passion from quaffing his full measure of evil, when virtue might have sought to hold him back in vain.

By the time he had unfolded all the peddling schemes he knew upon the cards, it was growing late in the evening; and Mr Pecksniff not making his appearance, the young ladies expressed a wish to return home. But this, Mr Jonas, in his gallantry, would by no means allow, until they had partaken of some bread and cheese and porter; and even then he was excessively unwilling to allow them to depart; often beseeching Miss Charity to come a little closer, or to stop a little longer, and preferring many other complimentary petitions of that nature in his own hospitable and earnest way. When all his efforts to detain them were fruitless, he put on his hat and greatcoat preparatory to escorting them to Todgers’s; remarking that he knew they would rather walk thither than ride; and that for his part he was quite of their opinion.

‘Good night,’ said Anthony. ‘Good night; remember me to—ha, ha, ha!—to Pecksniff. Take care of your cousin, my dears; beware of Jonas; he’s a dangerous fellow. Don’t quarrel for him, in any case!’

‘Oh, the creature!’ cried Mercy. ‘The idea of quarrelling for him! You may take him, Cherry, my love, all to yourself. I make you a present of my share.’

‘What! I’m a sour grape, am I, cousin?’ said Jonas.

Miss Charity was more entertained by this repartee than one would have supposed likely, considering its advanced age and simple character. But in her sisterly affection she took Mr Jonas to task for leaning so very hard upon a broken reed, and said that he must not be so cruel to poor Merry any more, or she (Charity) would positively be obliged to hate him. Mercy, who really had her share of good humour, only retorted with a laugh; and they walked home in consequence without any angry passages of words upon the way. Mr Jonas being in the middle, and having a cousin on each arm, sometimes squeezed the wrong one; so tightly too, as to cause her not a little inconvenience; but as he talked to Charity in whispers the whole time, and paid her great attention, no doubt this was an accidental circumstance. When they arrived at Todgers’s, and the door was opened, Mercy broke hastily from them, and ran upstairs; but Charity and Jonas lingered on the steps talking together for more than five minutes; so, as Mrs Todgers observed next morning, to a third party, ‘It was pretty clear what was going on there, and she was glad of it, for it really was high time that Miss Pecksniff thought of settling.’

And now the day was coming on, when that bright vision which had burst on Todgers’s so suddenly, and made a sunshine in the shady breast of Jinkins, was to be seen no more; when it was to be packed, like a brown paper parcel, or a fish-basket, or an oyster barrel or a fat gentleman, or any other dull reality of life, in a stagecoach and carried down into the country.

‘Never, my dear Miss Pecksniffs,’ said Mrs Todgers, when they retired to rest on the last night of their stay, ‘never have I seen an establishment so perfectly broken-hearted as mine is at this present moment of time. I don’t believe the gentlemen will be the gentlemen they were, or anything like it—no, not for weeks to come. You have a great deal to answer for, both of you.’

They modestly disclaimed any wilful agency in this disastrous state of things, and regretted it very much.

‘Your pious pa, too,’ said Mrs Todgers. ‘There’s a loss! My dear Miss Pecksniffs, your pa is a perfect missionary of peace and love.’

Entertaining an uncertainty as to the particular kind of love supposed to be comprised in Mr Pecksniff’s mission, the young ladies received the compliment rather coldly.

‘If I dared,’ said Mrs Todgers, perceiving this, ‘to violate a confidence which has been reposed in me, and to tell you why I must beg of you to leave the little door between your room and mine open tonight, I think you would be interested. But I mustn’t do it, for I promised Mr Jinkins faithfully, that I would be as silent as the tomb.’

‘Dear Mrs Todgers! What can you mean?’

‘Why, then, my sweet Miss Pecksniffs,’ said the lady of the house; ‘my own loves, if you will allow me the privilege of taking that freedom on the eve of our separation, Mr Jinkins and the gentlemen have made up a little musical party among themselves, and do intend, in the dead of this night, to perform a serenade upon the stairs outside the door. I could have wished, I own,’ said Mrs Todgers, with her usual foresight, ‘that it had been fixed to take place an hour or two earlier; because when gentlemen sit up late they drink, and when they drink they’re not so musical, perhaps, as when they don’t. But this is the arrangement; and I know you will be gratified, my dear Miss Pecksniffs, by such a mark of their attention.’

The young ladies were at first so much excited by the news, that they vowed they couldn’t think of going to bed until the serenade was over. But half an hour of cool waiting so altered their opinion that they not only went to bed, but fell asleep; and were, moreover, not ecstatically charmed to be awakened some time afterwards by certain dulcet strains breaking in upon the silent watches of the night.

It was very affecting—very. Nothing more dismal could have been desired by the most fastidious taste. The gentleman of a vocal turn was head mute, or chief mourner; Jinkins took the bass; and the rest took anything they could get. The youngest gentleman blew his melancholy into a flute. He didn’t blow much out of it, but that was all the better. If the two Miss Pecksniffs and Mrs Todgers had perished by spontaneous combustion, and the serenade had been in honour of their ashes, it would have been impossible to surpass the unutterable despair expressed in that one chorus, ‘Go where glory waits thee!’ It was a requiem, a dirge, a moan, a howl, a wail, a lament, an abstract of everything that is sorrowful and hideous in sound. The flute of the youngest gentleman was wild and fitful. It came and went in gusts, like the wind. For a long time together he seemed to have left off, and when it was quite settled by Mrs Todgers and the young ladies that, overcome by his feelings, he had retired in tears, he unexpectedly turned up again at the very top of the tune, gasping for breath. He was a tremendous performer. There was no knowing where to have him; and exactly when you thought he was doing nothing at all, then was he doing the very thing that ought to astonish you most.

There were several of these concerted pieces; perhaps two or three too many, though that, as Mrs Todgers said, was a fault on the right side. But even then, even at that solemn moment, when the thrilling sounds may be presumed to have penetrated into the very depths of his nature, if he had any depths, Jinkins couldn’t leave the youngest gentleman alone. He asked him distinctly, before the second song began—as a personal favour too, mark the villain in that—not to play. Yes; he said so; not to play. The breathing of the youngest gentleman was heard through the key-hole of the door. He didn’t play. What vent was a flute for the passions swelling up within his breast? A trombone would have been a world too mild.

The serenade approached its close. Its crowning interest was at hand. The gentleman of a literary turn had written a song on the departure of the ladies, and adapted it to an old tune. They all joined, except the youngest gentleman in company, who, for the reasons aforesaid, maintained a fearful silence. The song (which was of a classical nature) invoked the oracle of Apollo, and demanded to know what would become of Todgers’s when CHARITY and MERCY were banished from its walls. The oracle delivered no opinion particularly worth remembering, according to the not infrequent practice of oracles from the earliest ages down to the present time. In the absence of enlightenment on that subject, the strain deserted it, and went on to show that the Miss Pecksniffs were nearly related to Rule Britannia, and that if Great Britain hadn’t been an island, there could have been no Miss Pecksniffs. And being now on a nautical tack, it closed with this verse:

‘All hail to the vessel of Pecksniff the sire!
And favouring breezes to fan;
While Tritons flock round it, and proudly admire
The architect, artist, and man!’

As they presented this beautiful picture to the imagination, the gentlemen gradually withdrew to bed to give the music the effect of distance; and so it died away, and Todgers’s was left to its repose.

Mr Bailey reserved his vocal offering until the morning, when he put his head into the room as the young ladies were kneeling before their trunks, packing up, and treated them to an imitation of the voice of a young dog in trying circumstances; when that animal is supposed by persons of a lively fancy, to relieve his feelings by calling for pen and ink.

‘Well, young ladies,’ said the youth, ‘so you’re a-going home, are you, worse luck?’

‘Yes, Bailey, we’re going home,’ returned Mercy.

‘An’t you a-going to leave none of ‘em a lock of your hair?’ inquired the youth. ‘It’s real, an’t it?’

They laughed at this, and told him of course it was.

‘Oh, is it of course, though?’ said Bailey. ‘I know better than that. Hers an’t. Why, I see it hanging up once, on that nail by the winder. Besides, I have gone behind her at dinner-time and pulled it; and she never know’d. I say, young ladies, I’m a-going to leave. I an’t a-going to stand being called names by her, no longer.’

Miss Mercy inquired what his plans for the future might be; in reply to whom Mr Bailey intimated that he thought of going either into top-boots, or into the army.

‘Into the army!’ cried the young ladies, with a laugh.

‘Ah!’ said Bailey, ‘why not? There’s a many drummers in the Tower. I’m acquainted with ‘em. Don’t their country set a valley on ‘em, mind you! Not at all!’

‘You’ll be shot, I see,’ observed Mercy.

‘Well!’ cried Mr Bailey, ‘wot if I am? There’s something gamey in it, young ladies, an’t there? I’d sooner be hit with a cannon-ball than a rolling-pin, and she’s always a-catching up something of that sort, and throwing it at me, when the gentlemans’ appetites is good. Wot,’ said Mr Bailey, stung by the recollection of his wrongs, ‘wot, if they do consume the per-vishuns. It an’t my fault, is it?’

‘Surely no one says it is,’ said Mercy.

‘Don’t they though?’ retorted the youth. ‘No. Yes. Ah! oh! No one mayn’t say it is! but some one knows it is. But I an’t a-going to have every rise in prices wisited on me. I an’t a-going to be killed because the markets is dear. I won’t stop. And therefore,’ added Mr Bailey, relenting into a smile, ‘wotever you mean to give me, you’d better give me all at once, becos if ever you come back agin, I shan’t be here; and as to the other boy, he won’t deserve nothing, I know.’

The young ladies, on behalf of Mr Pecksniff and themselves, acted on this thoughtful advice; and in consideration of their private friendship, presented Mr Bailey with a gratuity so liberal that he could hardly do enough to show his gratitude; which found but an imperfect vent, during the remainder of the day, in divers secret slaps upon his pocket, and other such facetious pantomime. Nor was it confined to these ebullitions; for besides crushing a bandbox, with a bonnet in it, he seriously damaged Mr Pecksniff’s luggage, by ardently hauling it down from the top of the house; and in short evinced, by every means in his power, a lively sense of the favours he had received from that gentleman and his family.

Mr Pecksniff and Mr Jinkins came home to dinner arm-in-arm; for the latter gentleman had made half-holiday on purpose; thus gaining an immense advantage over the youngest gentleman and the rest, whose time, as it perversely chanced, was all bespoke, until the evening. The bottle of wine was Mr Pecksniff’s treat, and they were very sociable indeed; though full of lamentations on the necessity of parting. While they were in the midst of their enjoyment, old Anthony and his son were announced; much to the surprise of Mr Pecksniff, and greatly to the discomfiture of Jinkins.

‘Come to say good-bye, you see,’ said Anthony, in a low voice, to Mr Pecksniff, as they took their seats apart at the table, while the rest conversed among themselves. ‘Where’s the use of a division between you and me? We are the two halves of a pair of scissors, when apart, Pecksniff; but together we are something. Eh?’

‘Unanimity, my good sir,’ rejoined Mr Pecksniff, ‘is always delightful.’

‘I don’t know about that,’ said the old man, ‘for there are some people I would rather differ from than agree with. But you know my opinion of you.’

Mr Pecksniff, still having ‘hypocrite’ in his mind, only replied by a motion of his head, which was something between an affirmative bow, and a negative shake.

‘Complimentary,’ said Anthony. ‘Complimentary, upon my word. It was an involuntary tribute to your abilities, even at the time; and it was not a time to suggest compliments either. But we agreed in the coach, you know, that we quite understood each other.’

‘Oh, quite!’ assented Mr Pecksniff, in a manner which implied that he himself was misunderstood most cruelly, but would not complain.

Anthony glanced at his son as he sat beside Miss Charity, and then at Mr Pecksniff, and then at his son again, very many times. It happened that Mr Pecksniff’s glances took a similar direction; but when he became aware of it, he first cast down his eyes, and then closed them; as if he were determined that the old man should read nothing there.

‘Jonas is a shrewd lad,’ said the old man.

‘He appears,’ rejoined Mr Pecksniff in his most candid manner, ‘to be very shrewd.’

‘And careful,’ said the old man.

‘And careful, I have no doubt,’ returned Mr Pecksniff.

‘Look ye!’ said Anthony in his ear. ‘I think he is sweet upon you daughter.’

‘Tut, my good sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff, with his eyes still closed; ‘young people—young people—a kind of cousins, too—no more sweetness than is in that, sir.’

‘Why, there is very little sweetness in that, according to our experience,’ returned Anthony. ‘Isn’t there a trifle more here?’

‘Impossible to say,’ rejoined Mr Pecksniff. ‘Quite impossible! You surprise me.’

‘Yes, I know that,’ said the old man, drily. ‘It may last; I mean the sweetness, not the surprise; and it may die off. Supposing it should last, perhaps (you having feathered your nest pretty well, and I having done the same), we might have a mutual interest in the matter.’

Mr Pecksniff, smiling gently, was about to speak, but Anthony stopped him.

‘I know what you are going to say. It’s quite unnecessary. You have never thought of this for a moment; and in a point so nearly affecting the happiness of your dear child, you couldn’t, as a tender father, express an opinion; and so forth. Yes, quite right. And like you! But it seems to me, my dear Pecksniff,’ added Anthony, laying his hand upon his sleeve, ‘that if you and I kept up the joke of pretending not to see this, one of us might possibly be placed in a position of disadvantage; and as I am very unwilling to be that party myself, you will excuse my taking the liberty of putting the matter beyond a doubt thus early; and having it distinctly understood, as it is now, that we do see it, and do know it. Thank you for your attention. We are now upon an equal footing; which is agreeable to us both, I am sure.’

He rose as he spoke; and giving Mr Pecksniff a nod of intelligence, moved away from him to where the young people were sitting; leaving that good man somewhat puzzled and discomfited by such very plain dealing, and not quite free from a sense of having been foiled in the exercise of his familiar weapons.

But the night-coach had a punctual character, and it was time to join it at the office; which was so near at hand that they had already sent their luggage and arranged to walk. Thither the whole party repaired, therefore, after no more delay than sufficed for the equipment of the Miss Pecksniffs and Mrs Todgers. They found the coach already at its starting-place, and the horses in; there, too, were a large majority of the commercial gentlemen, including the youngest, who was visibly agitated, and in a state of deep mental dejection.

Nothing could equal the distress of Mrs Todgers in parting from the young ladies, except the strong emotions with which she bade adieu to Mr Pecksniff. Never surely was a pocket-handkerchief taken in and out of a flat reticule so often as Mrs Todgers’s was, as she stood upon the pavement by the coach-door supported on either side by a commercial gentleman; and by the sight of the coach-lamps caught such brief snatches and glimpses of the good man’s face, as the constant interposition of Mr Jinkins allowed. For Jinkins, to the last the youngest gentleman’s rock a-head in life, stood upon the coachstep talking to the ladies. Upon the other step was Mr Jonas, who maintained that position in right of his cousinship; whereas the youngest gentleman, who had been first upon the ground, was deep in the booking-office among the black and red placards, and the portraits of fast coaches, where he was ignominiously harassed by porters, and had to contend and strive perpetually with heavy baggage. This false position, combined with his nervous excitement, brought about the very consummation and catastrophe of his miseries; for when in the moment of parting he aimed a flower, a hothouse flower that had cost money, at the fair hand of Mercy, it reached, instead, the coachman on the box, who thanked him kindly, and stuck it in his buttonhole.

They were off now; and Todgers’s was alone again. The two young ladies, leaning back in their separate corners, resigned themselves to their own regretful thoughts. But Mr Pecksniff, dismissing all ephemeral considerations of social pleasure and enjoyment, concentrated his meditations on the one great virtuous purpose before him, of casting out that ingrate and deceiver, whose presence yet troubled his domestic hearth, and was a sacrilege upon the altars of his household gods.






CHAPTER TWELVE. WILL BE SEEN IN THE LONG RUN, IF NOT IN THE SHORT ONE, TO CONCERN MR PINCH AND OTHERS, NEARLY. MR PECKSNIFF ASSERTS THE DIGNITY OF OUTRAGED VIRTUE. YOUNG MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT FORMS A DESPERATE RESOLUTION


Mr Pinch and Martin, little dreaming of the stormy weather that impended, made themselves very comfortable in the Pecksniffian halls, and improved their friendship daily. Martin’s facility, both of invention and execution, being remarkable, the grammar-school proceeded with great vigour; and Tom repeatedly declared, that if there were anything like certainty in human affairs, or impartiality in human judges, a design so new and full of merit could not fail to carry off the first prize when the time of competition arrived. Without being quite so sanguine himself, Martin had his hopeful anticipations too; and they served to make him brisk and eager at his task.

‘If I should turn out a great architect, Tom,’ said the new pupil one day, as he stood at a little distance from his drawing, and eyed it with much complacency, ‘I’ll tell you what should be one of the things I’d build.’

‘Aye!’ cried Tom. ‘What?’

‘Why, your fortune.’

‘No!’ said Tom Pinch, quite as much delighted as if the thing were done. ‘Would you though? How kind of you to say so.’

‘I’d build it up, Tom,’ returned Martin, ‘on such a strong foundation, that it should last your life—aye, and your children’s lives too, and their children’s after them. I’d be your patron, Tom. I’d take you under my protection. Let me see the man who should give the cold shoulder to anybody I chose to protect and patronise, if I were at the top of the tree, Tom!’

‘Now, I don’t think,’ said Mr Pinch, ‘upon my word, that I was ever more gratified than by this. I really don’t.’

‘Oh! I mean what I say,’ retorted Martin, with a manner as free and easy in its condescension to, not to say in its compassion for, the other, as if he were already First Architect in ordinary to all the Crowned Heads in Europe. ‘I’d do it. I’d provide for you.’

‘I am afraid,’ said Tom, shaking his head, ‘that I should be a mighty awkward person to provide for.’

‘Pooh, pooh!’ rejoined Martin. ‘Never mind that. If I took it in my head to say, “Pinch is a clever fellow; I approve of Pinch;” I should like to know the man who would venture to put himself in opposition to me. Besides, confound it, Tom, you could be useful to me in a hundred ways.’

‘If I were not useful in one or two, it shouldn’t be for want of trying,’ said Tom.

‘For instance,’ pursued Martin, after a short reflection, ‘you’d be a capital fellow, now, to see that my ideas were properly carried out; and to overlook the works in their progress before they were sufficiently advanced to be very interesting to me; and to take all that sort of plain sailing. Then you’d be a splendid fellow to show people over my studio, and to talk about Art to ‘em, when I couldn’t be bored myself, and all that kind of thing. For it would be devilish creditable, Tom (I’m quite in earnest, I give you my word), to have a man of your information about one, instead of some ordinary blockhead. Oh, I’d take care of you. You’d be useful, rely upon it!’

To say that Tom had no idea of playing first fiddle in any social orchestra, but was always quite satisfied to be set down for the hundred and fiftieth violin in the band, or thereabouts, is to express his modesty in very inadequate terms. He was much delighted, therefore, by these observations.

‘I should be married to her then, Tom, of course,’ said Martin.

What was that which checked Tom Pinch so suddenly, in the high flow of his gladness; bringing the blood into his honest cheeks, and a remorseful feeling to his honest heart, as if he were unworthy of his friend’s regard?

‘I should be married to her then,’ said Martin, looking with a smile towards the light; ‘and we should have, I hope, children about us. They’d be very fond of you, Tom.’

But not a word said Mr Pinch. The words he would have uttered died upon his lips, and found a life more spiritual in self-denying thoughts.

‘All the children hereabouts are fond of you, Tom, and mine would be, of course,’ pursued Martin. ‘Perhaps I might name one of ‘em after you. Tom, eh? Well, I don’t know. Tom’s not a bad name. Thomas Pinch Chuzzlewit. T. P. C. on his pinafores—no objection to that, I should say?’

Tom cleared his throat, and smiled.

‘She would like you, Tom, I know,’ said Martin.

‘Aye!’ cried Tom Pinch, faintly.

‘I can tell exactly what she would think of you,’ said Martin leaning his chin upon his hand, and looking through the window-glass as if he read there what he said; ‘I know her so well. She would smile, Tom, often at first when you spoke to her, or when she looked at you—merrily too—but you wouldn’t mind that. A brighter smile you never saw.’

‘No, no,’ said Tom. ‘I wouldn’t mind that.’

‘She would be as tender with you, Tom,’ said Martin, ‘as if you were a child yourself. So you are almost, in some things, an’t you, Tom?’

Mr Pinch nodded his entire assent.

‘She would always be kind and good-humoured, and glad to see you,’ said Martin; ‘and when she found out exactly what sort of fellow you were (which she’d do very soon), she would pretend to give you little commissions to execute, and to ask little services of you, which she knew you were burning to render; so that when she really pleased you most, she would try to make you think you most pleased her. She would take to you uncommonly, Tom; and would understand you far more delicately than I ever shall; and would often say, I know, that you were a harmless, gentle, well-intentioned, good fellow.’

How silent Tom Pinch was!

‘In honour of old time,’ said Martin, ‘and of her having heard you play the organ in this damp little church down here—for nothing too—we will have one in the house. I shall build an architectural music-room on a plan of my own, and it’ll look rather knowing in a recess at one end. There you shall play away, Tom, till you tire yourself; and, as you like to do so in the dark, it shall be dark; and many’s the summer evening she and I will sit and listen to you, Tom; be sure of that!’

It may have required a stronger effort on Tom Pinch’s part to leave the seat on which he sat, and shake his friend by both hands, with nothing but serenity and grateful feeling painted on his face; it may have required a stronger effort to perform this simple act with a pure heart, than to achieve many and many a deed to which the doubtful trumpet blown by Fame has lustily resounded. Doubtful, because from its long hovering over scenes of violence, the smoke and steam of death have clogged the keys of that brave instrument; and it is not always that its notes are either true or tuneful.

‘It’s a proof of the kindness of human nature,’ said Tom, characteristically putting himself quite out of sight in the matter, ‘that everybody who comes here, as you have done, is more considerate and affectionate to me than I should have any right to hope, if I were the most sanguine creature in the world; or should have any power to express, if I were the most eloquent. It really overpowers me. But trust me,’ said Tom, ‘that I am not ungrateful—that I never forget—and that if I can ever prove the truth of my words to you, I will.’

‘That’s all right,’ observed Martin, leaning back in his chair with a hand in each pocket, and yawning drearily. ‘Very fine talking, Tom; but I’m at Pecksniff’s, I remember, and perhaps a mile or so out of the high-road to fortune just at this minute. So you’ve heard again this morning from what’s his name, eh?’

‘Who may that be?’ asked Tom, seeming to enter a mild protest on behalf of the dignity of an absent person.

‘You know. What is it? Northkey.’

‘Westlock,’ rejoined Tom, in rather a louder tone than usual.

‘Ah! to be sure,’ said Martin, ‘Westlock. I knew it was something connected with a point of the compass and a door. Well! and what says Westlock?’

‘Oh! he has come into his property,’ answered Tom, nodding his head, and smiling.

‘He’s a lucky dog,’ said Martin. ‘I wish it were mine instead. Is that all the mystery you were to tell me?’

‘No,’ said Tom; ‘not all.’

‘What’s the rest?’ asked Martin.

‘For the matter of that,’ said Tom, ‘it’s no mystery, and you won’t think much of it; but it’s very pleasant to me. John always used to say when he was here, “Mark my words, Pinch. When my father’s executors cash up”—he used strange expressions now and then, but that was his way.’

‘Cash-up’s a very good expression,’ observed Martin, ‘when other people don’t apply it to you. Well!—What a slow fellow you are, Pinch!’

‘Yes, I am I know,’ said Tom; ‘but you’ll make me nervous if you tell me so. I’m afraid you have put me out a little now, for I forget what I was going to say.’

‘When John’s father’s executors cashed up,’ said Martin impatiently.

‘Oh yes, to be sure,’ cried Tom; ‘yes. “Then,” says John, “I’ll give you a dinner, Pinch, and come down to Salisbury on purpose.” Now, when John wrote the other day—the morning Pecksniff left, you know—he said his business was on the point of being immediately settled, and as he was to receive his money directly, when could I meet him at Salisbury? I wrote and said, any day this week; and I told him besides, that there was a new pupil here, and what a fine fellow you were, and what friends we had become. Upon which John writes back this letter’—Tom produced it—‘fixes to-morrow; sends his compliments to you; and begs that we three may have the pleasure of dining together; not at the house where you and I were, either; but at the very first hotel in the town. Read what he says.’

‘Very well,’ said Martin, glancing over it with his customary coolness; ‘much obliged to him. I’m agreeable.’

Tom could have wished him to be a little more astonished, a little more pleased, or in some form or other a little more interested in such a great event. But he was perfectly self-possessed; and falling into his favourite solace of whistling, took another turn at the grammar-school, as if nothing at all had happened.

Mr Pecksniff’s horse being regarded in the light of a sacred animal, only to be driven by him, the chief priest of that temple, or by some person distinctly nominated for the time being to that high office by himself, the two young men agreed to walk to Salisbury; and so, when the time came, they set off on foot; which was, after all, a better mode of travelling than in the gig, as the weather was very cold and very dry.

Better! A rare strong, hearty, healthy walk—four statute miles an hour—preferable to that rumbling, tumbling, jolting, shaking, scraping, creaking, villanous old gig? Why, the two things will not admit of comparison. It is an insult to the walk, to set them side by side. Where is an instance of a gig having ever circulated a man’s blood, unless when, putting him in danger of his neck, it awakened in his veins and in his ears, and all along his spine, a tingling heat, much more peculiar than agreeable? When did a gig ever sharpen anybody’s wits and energies, unless it was when the horse bolted, and, crashing madly down a steep hill with a stone wall at the bottom, his desperate circumstances suggested to the only gentleman left inside, some novel and unheard-of mode of dropping out behind? Better than the gig!

The air was cold, Tom; so it was, there was no denying it; but would it have been more genial in the gig? The blacksmith’s fire burned very bright, and leaped up high, as though it wanted men to warm; but would it have been less tempting, looked at from the clammy cushions of a gig? The wind blew keenly, nipping the features of the hardy wight who fought his way along; blinding him with his own hair if he had enough to it, and wintry dust if he hadn’t; stopping his breath as though he had been soused in a cold bath; tearing aside his wrappings-up, and whistling in the very marrow of his bones; but it would have done all this a hundred times more fiercely to a man in a gig, wouldn’t it? A fig for gigs!

Better than the gig! When were travellers by wheels and hoofs seen with such red-hot cheeks as those? when were they so good-humouredly and merrily bloused? when did their laughter ring upon the air, as they turned them round, what time the stronger gusts came sweeping up; and, facing round again as they passed by, dashed on, in such a glow of ruddy health as nothing could keep pace with, but the high spirits it engendered? Better than the gig! Why, here is a man in a gig coming the same way now. Look at him as he passes his whip into his left hand, chafes his numbed right fingers on his granite leg, and beats those marble toes of his upon the foot-board. Ha, ha, ha! Who would exchange this rapid hurry of the blood for yonder stagnant misery, though its pace were twenty miles for one?

Better than the gig! No man in a gig could have such interest in the milestones. No man in a gig could see, or feel, or think, like merry users of their legs. How, as the wind sweeps on, upon these breezy downs, it tracks its flight in darkening ripples on the grass, and smoothest shadows on the hills! Look round and round upon this bare bleak plain, and see even here, upon a winter’s day, how beautiful the shadows are! Alas! it is the nature of their kind to be so. The loveliest things in life, Tom, are but shadows; and they come and go, and change and fade away, as rapidly as these!

Another mile, and then begins a fall of snow, making the crow, who skims away so close above the ground to shirk the wind, a blot of ink upon the landscape. But though it drives and drifts against them as they walk, stiffening on their skirts, and freezing in the lashes of their eyes, they wouldn’t have it fall more sparingly, no, not so much as by a single flake, although they had to go a score of miles. And, lo! the towers of the Old Cathedral rise before them, even now! and by-and-bye they come into the sheltered streets, made strangely silent by their white carpet; and so to the Inn for which they are bound; where they present such flushed and burning faces to the cold waiter, and are so brimful of vigour, that he almost feels assaulted by their presence; and, having nothing to oppose to the attack (being fresh, or rather stale, from the blazing fire in the coffee-room), is quite put out of his pale countenance.

A famous Inn! the hall a very grove of dead game, and dangling joints of mutton; and in one corner an illustrious larder, with glass doors, developing cold fowls and noble joints, and tarts wherein the raspberry jam coyly withdrew itself, as such a precious creature should, behind a lattice work of pastry. And behold, on the first floor, at the court-end of the house, in a room with all the window-curtains drawn, a fire piled half-way up the chimney, plates warming before it, wax candles gleaming everywhere, and a table spread for three, with silver and glass enough for thirty—John Westlock; not the old John of Pecksniff’s, but a proper gentleman; looking another and a grander person, with the consciousness of being his own master and having money in the bank; and yet in some respects the old John too, for he seized Tom Pinch by both his hands the instant he appeared, and fairly hugged him, in his cordial welcome.

‘And this,’ said John, ‘is Mr Chuzzlewit. I am very glad to see him!’—John had an off-hand manner of his own; so they shook hands warmly, and were friends in no time.

‘Stand off a moment, Tom,’ cried the old pupil, laying one hand on each of Mr Pinch’s shoulders, and holding him out at arm’s length. ‘Let me look at you! Just the same! Not a bit changed!’

‘Why, it’s not so very long ago, you know,’ said Tom Pinch, ‘after all.’

‘It seems an age to me,’ cried John, ‘and so it ought to seem to you, you dog.’ And then he pushed Tom down into the easiest chair, and clapped him on the back so heartily, and so like his old self in their old bedroom at old Pecksniff’s that it was a toss-up with Tom Pinch whether he should laugh or cry. Laughter won it; and they all three laughed together.

‘I have ordered everything for dinner, that we used to say we’d have, Tom,’ observed John Westlock.

‘No!’ said Tom Pinch. ‘Have you?’

‘Everything. Don’t laugh, if you can help it, before the waiters. I couldn’t when I was ordering it. It’s like a dream.’

John was wrong there, because nobody ever dreamed such soup as was put upon the table directly afterwards; or such fish; or such side-dishes; or such a top and bottom; or such a course of birds and sweets; or in short anything approaching the reality of that entertainment at ten-and-sixpence a head, exclusive of wines. As to them, the man who can dream such iced champagne, such claret, port, or sherry, had better go to bed and stop there.

But perhaps the finest feature of the banquet was, that nobody was half so much amazed by everything as John himself, who in his high delight was constantly bursting into fits of laughter, and then endeavouring to appear preternaturally solemn, lest the waiters should conceive he wasn’t used to it. Some of the things they brought him to carve, were such outrageous practical jokes, though, that it was impossible to stand it; and when Tom Pinch insisted, in spite of the deferential advice of an attendant, not only on breaking down the outer wall of a raised pie with a tablespoon, but on trying to eat it afterwards, John lost all dignity, and sat behind the gorgeous dish-cover at the head of the table, roaring to that extent that he was audible in the kitchen. Nor had he the least objection to laugh at himself, as he demonstrated when they had all three gathered round the fire and the dessert was on the table; at which period the head waiter inquired with respectful solicitude whether that port, being a light and tawny wine, was suited to his taste, or whether he would wish to try a fruity port with greater body. To this John gravely answered that he was well satisfied with what he had, which he esteemed, as one might say, a pretty tidy vintage; for which the waiter thanked him and withdrew. And then John told his friends, with a broad grin, that he supposed it was all right, but he didn’t know; and went off into a perfect shout.

They were very merry and full of enjoyment the whole time, but not the least pleasant part of the festival was when they all three sat about the fire, cracking nuts, drinking wine and talking cheerfully. It happened that Tom Pinch had a word to say to his friend the organist’s assistant, and so deserted his warm corner for a few minutes at this season, lest it should grow too late; leaving the other two young men together.

They drank his health in his absence, of course; and John Westlock took that opportunity of saying, that he had never had even a peevish word with Tom during the whole term of their residence in Mr Pecksniff’s house. This naturally led him to dwell upon Tom’s character, and to hint that Mr Pecksniff understood it pretty well. He only hinted this, and very distantly; knowing that it pained Tom Pinch to have that gentleman disparaged, and thinking it would be as well to leave the new pupil to his own discoveries.

‘Yes,’ said Martin. ‘It’s impossible to like Pinch better than I do, or to do greater justice to his good qualities. He is the most willing fellow I ever saw.’

‘He’s rather too willing,’ observed John, who was quick in observation. ‘It’s quite a fault in him.’

‘So it is,’ said Martin. ‘Very true. There was a fellow only a week or so ago—a Mr Tigg—who borrowed all the money he had, on a promise to repay it in a few days. It was but half a sovereign, to be sure; but it’s well it was no more, for he’ll never see it again.’

‘Poor fellow!’ said John, who had been very attentive to these few words. ‘Perhaps you have not had an opportunity of observing that, in his own pecuniary transactions, Tom’s proud.’

‘You don’t say so! No, I haven’t. What do you mean? Won’t he borrow?’

John Westlock shook his head.

‘That’s very odd,’ said Martin, setting down his empty glass. ‘He’s a strange compound, to be sure.’

‘As to receiving money as a gift,’ resumed John Westlock; ‘I think he’d die first.’

‘He’s made up of simplicity,’ said Martin. ‘Help yourself.’

‘You, however,’ pursued John, filling his own glass, and looking at his companion with some curiosity, ‘who are older than the majority of Mr Pecksniff’s assistants, and have evidently had much more experience, understand him, I have no doubt, and see how liable he is to be imposed upon.’

‘Certainly,’ said Martin, stretching out his legs, and holding his wine between his eye and the light. ‘Mr Pecksniff knows that too. So do his daughters. Eh?’

John Westlock smiled, but made no answer.

‘By the bye,’ said Martin, ‘that reminds me. What’s your opinion of Pecksniff? How did he use you? What do you think of him now?—Coolly, you know, when it’s all over?’

‘Ask Pinch,’ returned the old pupil. ‘He knows what my sentiments used to be upon the subject. They are not changed, I assure you.’

‘No, no,’ said Martin, ‘I’d rather have them from you.’

‘But Pinch says they are unjust,’ urged John with a smile.

‘Oh! well! Then I know what course they take beforehand,’ said Martin; ‘and, therefore, you can have no delicacy in speaking plainly. Don’t mind me, I beg. I don’t like him I tell you frankly. I am with him because it happens from particular circumstances to suit my convenience. I have some ability, I believe, in that way; and the obligation, if any, will most likely be on his side and not mine. At the lowest mark, the balance will be even, and there’ll be no obligation at all. So you may talk to me, as if I had no connection with him.’

‘If you press me to give my opinion—’ returned John Westlock.

‘Yes, I do,’ said Martin. ‘You’ll oblige me.’

‘—I should say,’ resumed the other, ‘that he is the most consummate scoundrel on the face of the earth.’

‘Oh!’ said Martin, as coolly as ever. ‘That’s rather strong.’

‘Not stronger than he deserves,’ said John; ‘and if he called upon me to express my opinion of him to his face, I would do so in the very same terms, without the least qualification. His treatment of Pinch is in itself enough to justify them; but when I look back upon the five years I passed in that house, and remember the hyprocrisy, the knavery, the meannesses, the false pretences, the lip service of that fellow, and his trading in saintly semblances for the very worst realities; when I remember how often I was the witness of all this and how often I was made a kind of party to it, by the fact of being there, with him for my teacher; I swear to you that I almost despise myself.’

Martin drained his glass, and looked at the fire.

‘I don’t mean to say that is a right feeling,’ pursued John Westlock ‘because it was no fault of mine; and I can quite understand—you for instance, fully appreciating him, and yet being forced by circumstances to remain there. I tell you simply what my feeling is; and even now, when, as you say, it’s all over; and when I have the satisfaction of knowing that he always hated me, and we always quarrelled, and I always told him my mind; even now, I feel sorry that I didn’t yield to an impulse I often had, as a boy, of running away from him and going abroad.’

‘Why abroad?’ asked Martin, turning his eyes upon the speaker.

‘In search,’ replied John Westlock, shrugging his shoulders, ‘of the livelihood I couldn’t have earned at home. There would have been something spirited in that. But, come! Fill your glass, and let us forget him.’

‘As soon as you please,’ said Martin. ‘In reference to myself and my connection with him, I have only to repeat what I said before. I have taken my own way with him so far, and shall continue to do so, even more than ever; for the fact is, to tell you the truth, that I believe he looks to me to supply his defects, and couldn’t afford to lose me. I had a notion of that in first going there. Your health!’

‘Thank you,’ returned young Westlock. ‘Yours. And may the new pupil turn out as well as you can desire!’

‘What new pupil?’

‘The fortunate youth, born under an auspicious star,’ returned John Westlock, laughing; ‘whose parents, or guardians, are destined to be hooked by the advertisement. What! Don’t you know that he has advertised again?’

‘No.’

‘Oh, yes. I read it just before dinner in the old newspaper. I know it to be his; having some reason to remember the style. Hush! Here’s Pinch. Strange, is it not, that the more he likes Pecksniff (if he can like him better than he does), the greater reason one has to like him? Not a word more, or we shall spoil his whole enjoyment.’

Tom entered as the words were spoken, with a radiant smile upon his face; and rubbing his hands, more from a sense of delight than because he was cold (for he had been running fast), sat down in his warm corner again, and was as happy as only Tom Pinch could be. There is no other simile that will express his state of mind.

‘And so,’ he said, when he had gazed at his friend for some time in silent pleasure, ‘so you really are a gentleman at last, John. Well, to be sure!’

‘Trying to be, Tom; trying to be,’ he rejoined good-humouredly. ‘There is no saying what I may turn out, in time.’

‘I suppose you wouldn’t carry your own box to the mail now?’ said Tom Pinch, smiling; ‘although you lost it altogether by not taking it.’

‘Wouldn’t I?’ retorted John. ‘That’s all you know about it, Pinch. It must be a very heavy box that I wouldn’t carry to get away from Pecksniff’s, Tom.’

‘There!’ cried Pinch, turning to Martin, ‘I told you so. The great fault in his character is his injustice to Pecksniff. You mustn’t mind a word he says on that subject. His prejudice is most extraordinary.’

‘The absence of anything like prejudice on Tom’s part, you know,’ said John Westlock, laughing heartily, as he laid his hand on Mr Pinch’s shoulder, ‘is perfectly wonderful. If one man ever had a profound knowledge of another, and saw him in a true light, and in his own proper colours, Tom has that knowledge of Mr Pecksniff.’

‘Why, of course I have,’ cried Tom. ‘That’s exactly what I have so often said to you. If you knew him as well as I do—John, I’d give almost any money to bring that about—you’d admire, respect, and reverence him. You couldn’t help it. Oh, how you wounded his feelings when you went away!’

‘If I had known whereabout his feelings lay,’ retorted young Westlock, ‘I’d have done my best, Tom, with that end in view, you may depend upon it. But as I couldn’t wound him in what he has not, and in what he knows nothing of, except in his ability to probe them to the quick in other people, I am afraid I can lay no claim to your compliment.’

Mr Pinch, being unwilling to protract a discussion which might possibly corrupt Martin, forbore to say anything in reply to this speech; but John Westlock, whom nothing short of an iron gag would have silenced when Mr Pecksniff’s merits were once in question, continued notwithstanding.

‘His feelings! Oh, he’s a tender-hearted man. His feelings! Oh, he’s a considerate, conscientious, self-examining, moral vagabond, he is! His feelings! Oh!—what’s the matter, Tom?’

Mr Pinch was by this time erect upon the hearth-rug, buttoning his coat with great energy.

‘I can’t bear it,’ said Tom, shaking his head. ‘No. I really cannot. You must excuse me, John. I have a great esteem and friendship for you; I love you very much; and have been perfectly charmed and overjoyed to-day, to find you just the same as ever; but I cannot listen to this.’

‘Why, it’s my old way, Tom; and you say yourself that you are glad to find me unchanged.’

‘Not in this respect,’ said Tom Pinch. ‘You must excuse me, John. I cannot, really; I will not. It’s very wrong; you should be more guarded in your expressions. It was bad enough when you and I used to be alone together, but under existing circumstances, I can’t endure it, really. No. I cannot, indeed.’

‘You are quite right!’ exclaimed the other, exchanging looks with Martin. ‘and I am quite wrong, Tom, I don’t know how the deuce we fell on this unlucky theme. I beg your pardon with all my heart.’

‘You have a free and manly temper, I know,’ said Pinch; ‘and therefore, your being so ungenerous in this one solitary instance, only grieves me the more. It’s not my pardon you have to ask, John. You have done me nothing but kindnesses.’

‘Well! Pecksniff’s pardon then,’ said young Westlock. ‘Anything Tom, or anybody. Pecksniff’s pardon—will that do? Here! let us drink Pecksniff’s health!’

‘Thank you,’ cried Tom, shaking hands with him eagerly, and filling a bumper. ‘Thank you; I’ll drink it with all my heart, John. Mr Pecksniff’s health, and prosperity to him!’

John Westlock echoed the sentiment, or nearly so; for he drank Mr Pecksniff’s health, and Something to him—but what, was not quite audible. The general unanimity being then completely restored, they drew their chairs closer round the fire, and conversed in perfect harmony and enjoyment until bed-time.

No slight circumstance, perhaps, could have better illustrated the difference of character between John Westlock and Martin Chuzzlewit, than the manner in which each of the young men contemplated Tom Pinch, after the little rupture just described. There was a certain amount of jocularity in the looks of both, no doubt, but there all resemblance ceased. The old pupil could not do enough to show Tom how cordially he felt towards him, and his friendly regard seemed of a graver and more thoughtful kind than before. The new one, on the other hand, had no impulse but to laugh at the recollection of Tom’s extreme absurdity; and mingled with his amusement there was something slighting and contemptuous, indicative, as it appeared, of his opinion that Mr Pinch was much too far gone in simplicity to be admitted as the friend, on serious and equal terms, of any rational man.

John Westlock, who did nothing by halves, if he could help it, had provided beds for his two guests in the hotel; and after a very happy evening, they retired. Mr Pinch was sitting on the side of his bed with his cravat and shoes off, ruminating on the manifold good qualities of his old friend, when he was interrupted by a knock at his chamber door, and the voice of John himself.

‘You’re not asleep yet, are you, Tom?’

‘Bless you, no! not I. I was thinking of you,’ replied Tom, opening the door. ‘Come in.’

‘I am not going to detail you,’ said John; ‘but I have forgotten all the evening a little commission I took upon myself; and I am afraid I may forget it again, if I fail to discharge it at once. You know a Mr Tigg, Tom, I believe?’

‘Tigg!’ cried Tom. ‘Tigg! The gentleman who borrowed some money of me?’

‘Exactly,’ said John Westlock. ‘He begged me to present his compliments, and to return it with many thanks. Here it is. I suppose it’s a good one, but he is rather a doubtful kind of customer, Tom.’

Mr Pinch received the little piece of gold with a face whose brightness might have shamed the metal; and said he had no fear about that. He was glad, he added, to find Mr Tigg so prompt and honourable in his dealings; very glad.

‘Why, to tell you the truth, Tom,’ replied his friend, ‘he is not always so. If you’ll take my advice, you’ll avoid him as much as you can, in the event of your encountering him again. And by no means, Tom—pray bear this in mind, for I am very serious—by no means lend him money any more.’

‘Aye, aye!’ said Tom, with his eyes wide open.

‘He is very far from being a reputable acquaintance,’ returned young Westlock; ‘and the more you let him know you think so, the better for you, Tom.’

‘I say, John,’ quoth Mr Pinch, as his countenance fell, and he shook his head in a dejected manner. ‘I hope you are not getting into bad company.’

‘No, no,’ he replied laughing. ‘Don’t be uneasy on that score.’

‘Oh, but I am uneasy,’ said Tom Pinch; ‘I can’t help it, when I hear you talking in that way. If Mr Tigg is what you describe him to be, you have no business to know him, John. You may laugh, but I don’t consider it by any means a laughing matter, I assure you.’

‘No, no,’ returned his friend, composing his features. ‘Quite right. It is not, certainly.’

‘You know, John,’ said Mr Pinch, ‘your very good nature and kindness of heart make you thoughtless, and you can’t be too careful on such a point as this. Upon my word, if I thought you were falling among bad companions, I should be quite wretched, for I know how difficult you would find it to shake them off. I would much rather have lost this money, John, than I would have had it back again on such terms.’

‘I tell you, my dear good old fellow,’ cried his friend, shaking him to and fro with both hands, and smiling at him with a cheerful, open countenance, that would have carried conviction to a mind much more suspicious than Tom’s; ‘I tell you there is no danger.’

‘Well!’ cried Tom, ‘I am glad to hear it; I am overjoyed to hear it. I am sure there is not, when you say so in that manner. You won’t take it ill, John, that I said what I did just now!’

‘Ill!’ said the other, giving his hand a hearty squeeze; ‘why what do you think I am made of? Mr Tigg and I are not on such an intimate footing that you need be at all uneasy, I give you my solemn assurance of that, Tom. You are quite comfortable now?’

‘Quite,’ said Tom.

‘Then once more, good night!’

‘Good night!’ cried Tom; ‘and such pleasant dreams to you as should attend the sleep of the best fellow in the world!’

‘—Except Pecksniff,’ said his friend, stopping at the door for a moment, and looking gayly back.

‘Except Pecksniff,’ answered Tom, with great gravity; ‘of course.’

And thus they parted for the night; John Westlock full of light-heartedness and good humour, and poor Tom Pinch quite satisfied; though still, as he turned over on his side in bed, he muttered to himself, ‘I really do wish, for all that, though, that he wasn’t acquainted with Mr Tigg.’

They breakfasted together very early next morning, for the two young men desired to get back again in good season; and John Westlock was to return to London by the coach that day. As he had some hours to spare, he bore them company for three or four miles on their walk, and only parted from them at last in sheer necessity. The parting was an unusually hearty one, not only as between him and Tom Pinch, but on the side of Martin also, who had found in the old pupil a very different sort of person from the milksop he had prepared himself to expect.

Young Westlock stopped upon a rising ground, when he had gone a little distance, and looked back. They were walking at a brisk pace, and Tom appeared to be talking earnestly. Martin had taken off his greatcoat, the wind being now behind them, and carried it upon his arm. As he looked, he saw Tom relieve him of it, after a faint resistance, and, throwing it upon his own, encumber himself with the weight of both. This trivial incident impressed the old pupil mightily, for he stood there, gazing after them, until they were hidden from his view; when he shook his head, as if he were troubled by some uneasy reflection, and thoughtfully retraced his steps to Salisbury.

In the meantime, Martin and Tom pursued their way, until they halted, safe and sound, at Mr Pecksniff’s house, where a brief epistle from that good gentleman to Mr Pinch announced the family’s return by that night’s coach. As it would pass the corner of the lane at about six o’clock in the morning, Mr Pecksniff requested that the gig might be in waiting at the finger-post about that time, together with a cart for the luggage. And to the end that he might be received with the greater honour, the young men agreed to rise early, and be upon the spot themselves.

It was the least cheerful day they had yet passed together. Martin was out of spirits and out of humour, and took every opportunity of comparing his condition and prospects with those of young Westlock; much to his own disadvantage always. This mood of his depressed Tom; and neither that morning’s parting, nor yesterday’s dinner, helped to mend the matter. So the hours dragged on heavily enough; and they were glad to go to bed early.

They were not quite so glad to get up again at half-past four o’clock, in all the shivering discomfort of a dark winter’s morning; but they turned out punctually, and were at the finger-post full half-an-hour before the appointed time. It was not by any means a lively morning, for the sky was black and cloudy, and it rained hard; but Martin said there was some satisfaction in seeing that brute of a horse (by this, he meant Mr Pecksniff’s Arab steed) getting very wet; and that he rejoiced, on his account, that it rained so fast. From this it may be inferred that Martin’s spirits had not improved, as indeed they had not; for while he and Mr Pinch stood waiting under a hedge, looking at the rain, the gig, the cart, and its reeking driver, he did nothing but grumble; and, but that it is indispensable to any dispute that there should be two parties to it, he would certainly have picked a quarrel with Tom.

At length the noise of wheels was faintly audible in the distance and presently the coach came splashing through the mud and mire with one miserable outside passenger crouching down among wet straw, under a saturated umbrella; and the coachman, guard, and horses, in a fellowship of dripping wretchedness. Immediately on its stopping, Mr Pecksniff let down the window-glass and hailed Tom Pinch.

‘Dear me, Mr Pinch! Is it possible that you are out upon this very inclement morning?’

‘Yes, sir,’ cried Tom, advancing eagerly, ‘Mr Chuzzlewit and I, sir.’

‘Oh!’ said Mr Pecksniff, looking not so much at Martin as at the spot on which he stood. ‘Oh! Indeed. Do me the favour to see to the trunks, if you please, Mr Pinch.’

Then Mr Pecksniff descended, and helped his daughters to alight; but neither he nor the young ladies took the slightest notice of Martin, who had advanced to offer his assistance, but was repulsed by Mr Pecksniff’s standing immediately before his person, with his back towards him. In the same manner, and in profound silence, Mr Pecksniff handed his daughters into the gig; and following himself and taking the reins, drove off home.

Lost in astonishment, Martin stood staring at the coach, and when the coach had driven away, at Mr Pinch, and the luggage, until the cart moved off too; when he said to Tom:

‘Now will you have the goodness to tell me what this portends?’

‘What?’ asked Tom.

‘This fellow’s behaviour. Mr Pecksniff’s, I mean. You saw it?’

‘No. Indeed I did not,’ cried Tom. ‘I was busy with the trunks.’

‘It is no matter,’ said Martin. ‘Come! Let us make haste back!’ And without another word started off at such a pace, that Tom had some difficulty in keeping up with him.

He had no care where he went, but walked through little heaps of mud and little pools of water with the utmost indifference; looking straight before him, and sometimes laughing in a strange manner within himself. Tom felt that anything he could say would only render him the more obstinate, and therefore trusted to Mr Pecksniff’s manner when they reached the house, to remove the mistaken impression under which he felt convinced so great a favourite as the new pupil must unquestionably be labouring. But he was not a little amazed himself, when they did reach it, and entered the parlour where Mr Pecksniff was sitting alone before the fire, drinking some hot tea, to find that instead of taking favourable notice of his relative and keeping him, Mr Pinch, in the background, he did exactly the reverse, and was so lavish in his attentions to Tom, that Tom was thoroughly confounded.

‘Take some tea, Mr Pinch—take some tea,’ said Pecksniff, stirring the fire. ‘You must be very cold and damp. Pray take some tea, and come into a warm place, Mr Pinch.’

Tom saw that Martin looked at Mr Pecksniff as though he could have easily found it in his heart to give him an invitation to a very warm place; but he was quite silent, and standing opposite that gentleman at the table, regarded him attentively.

‘Take a chair, Pinch,’ said Pecksniff. ‘Take a chair, if you please. How have things gone on in our absence, Mr Pinch?’

‘You—you will be very much pleased with the grammar-school, sir,’ said Tom. ‘It’s nearly finished.’

‘If you will have the goodness, Mr Pinch,’ said Pecksniff, waving his hand and smiling, ‘we will not discuss anything connected with that question at present. What have you been doing, Thomas, humph?’

Mr Pinch looked from master to pupil, and from pupil to master, and was so perplexed and dismayed that he wanted presence of mind to answer the question. In this awkward interval, Mr Pecksniff (who was perfectly conscious of Martin’s gaze, though he had never once glanced towards him) poked the fire very much, and when he couldn’t do that any more, drank tea assiduously.

‘Now, Mr Pecksniff,’ said Martin at last, in a very quiet voice, ‘if you have sufficiently refreshed and recovered yourself, I shall be glad to hear what you mean by this treatment of me.’

‘And what,’ said Mr Pecksniff, turning his eyes on Tom Pinch, even more placidly and gently than before, ‘what have you been doing, Thomas, humph?’

When he had repeated this inquiry, he looked round the walls of the room as if he were curious to see whether any nails had been left there by accident in former times.

Tom was almost at his wit’s end what to say between the two, and had already made a gesture as if he would call Mr Pecksniff’s attention to the gentleman who had last addressed him, when Martin saved him further trouble, by doing so himself.

‘Mr Pecksniff,’ he said, softly rapping the table twice or thrice, and moving a step or two nearer, so that he could have touched him with his hand; ‘you heard what I said just now. Do me the favour to reply, if you please. I ask you’—he raised his voice a little here—‘what you mean by this?’

‘I will talk to you, sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff in a severe voice, as he looked at him for the first time, ‘presently.’

‘You are very obliging,’ returned Martin; ‘presently will not do. I must trouble you to talk to me at once.’

Mr Pecksniff made a feint of being deeply interested in his pocketbook, but it shook in his hands; he trembled so.

‘Now,’ retorted Martin, rapping the table again. ‘Now. Presently will not do. Now!’

‘Do you threaten me, sir?’ cried Mr Pecksniff.

Martin looked at him, and made no answer; but a curious observer might have detected an ominous twitching at his mouth, and perhaps an involuntary attraction of his right hand in the direction of Mr Pecksniff’s cravat.

‘I lament to be obliged to say, sir,’ resumed Mr Pecksniff, ‘that it would be quite in keeping with your character if you did threaten me. You have deceived me. You have imposed upon a nature which you knew to be confiding and unsuspicious. You have obtained admission, sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff, rising, ‘to this house, on perverted statements and on false pretences.’

‘Go on,’ said Martin, with a scornful smile. ‘I understand you now. What more?’

‘Thus much more, sir,’ cried Mr Pecksniff, trembling from head to foot, and trying to rub his hands, as though he were only cold. ‘Thus much more, if you force me to publish your shame before a third party, which I was unwilling and indisposed to do. This lowly roof, sir, must not be contaminated by the presence of one who has deceived, and cruelly deceived, an honourable, beloved, venerated, and venerable gentleman; and who wisely suppressed that deceit from me when he sought my protection and favour, knowing that, humble as I am, I am an honest man, seeking to do my duty in this carnal universe, and setting my face against all vice and treachery. I weep for your depravity, sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff; ‘I mourn over your corruption, I pity your voluntary withdrawal of yourself from the flowery paths of purity and peace;’ here he struck himself upon his breast, or moral garden; ‘but I cannot have a leper and a serpent for an inmate. Go forth,’ said Mr Pecksniff, stretching out his hand: ‘go forth, young man! Like all who know you, I renounce you!’

With what intention Martin made a stride forward at these words, it is impossible to say. It is enough to know that Tom Pinch caught him in his arms, and that, at the same moment, Mr Pecksniff stepped back so hastily, that he missed his footing, tumbled over a chair, and fell in a sitting posture on the ground; where he remained without an effort to get up again, with his head in a corner, perhaps considering it the safest place.

‘Let me go, Pinch!’ cried Martin, shaking him away. ‘Why do you hold me? Do you think a blow could make him a more abject creature than he is? Do you think that if I spat upon him, I could degrade him to a lower level than his own? Look at him. Look at him, Pinch!’

Mr Pinch involuntarily did so. Mr Pecksniff sitting, as has been already mentioned, on the carpet, with his head in an acute angle of the wainscot, and all the damage and detriment of an uncomfortable journey about him, was not exactly a model of all that is prepossessing and dignified in man, certainly. Still he was Pecksniff; it was impossible to deprive him of that unique and paramount appeal to Tom. And he returned Tom’s glance, as if he would have said, ‘Aye, Mr Pinch, look at me! Here I am! You know what the Poet says about an honest man; and an honest man is one of the few great works that can be seen for nothing! Look at me!’

‘I tell you,’ said Martin, ‘that as he lies there, disgraced, bought, used; a cloth for dirty hands, a mat for dirty feet, a lying, fawning, servile hound, he is the very last and worst among the vermin of the world. And mark me, Pinch! The day will come—he knows it; see it written on his face, while I speak!—when even you will find him out, and will know him as I do, and as he knows I do. he renounce me! Cast your eyes on the Renouncer, Pinch, and be the wiser for the recollection!’

He pointed at him as he spoke, with unutterable contempt, and flinging his hat upon his head, walked from the room and from the house. He went so rapidly that he was already clear of the village, when he heard Tom Pinch calling breathlessly after him in the distance.

‘Well! what now?’ he said, when Tom came up.

‘Dear, dear!’ cried Tom, ‘are you going?’

‘Going!’ he echoed. ‘Going!’

‘I didn’t so much mean that, as were you going now at once—in this bad weather—on foot—without your clothes—with no money?’ cried Tom.

‘Yes,’ he answered sternly, ‘I am.’

‘And where?’ cried Tom. ‘Oh where will you go?’

‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘Yes, I do. I’ll go to America!’

‘No, no,’ cried Tom, in a kind of agony. ‘Don’t go there. Pray don’t. Think better of it. Don’t be so dreadfully regardless of yourself. Don’t go to America!’

‘My mind is made up,’ he said. ‘Your friend was right. I’ll go to America. God bless you, Pinch!’

‘Take this!’ cried Tom, pressing a book upon him in great agitation. ‘I must make haste back, and can’t say anything I would. Heaven be with you. Look at the leaf I have turned down. Good-bye, good-bye!’

The simple fellow wrung him by the hand, with tears stealing down his cheeks; and they parted hurriedly upon their separate ways.






CHAPTER THIRTEEN. SHOWING WHAT BECAME OF MARTIN AND HIS DESPARATE RESOLVE, AFTER HE LEFT MR PECKSNIFF’S HOUSE; WHAT PERSONS HE ENCOUNTERED; WHAT ANXIETIES HE SUFFERED; AND WHAT NEWS HE HEARD


Carrying Tom Pinch’s book quite unconsciously under his arm, and not even buttoning his coat as a protection against the heavy rain, Martin went doggedly forward at the same quick pace, until he had passed the finger-post, and was on the high road to London. He slackened very little in his speed even then, but he began to think, and look about him, and to disengage his senses from the coil of angry passions which hitherto had held them prisoner.

It must be confessed that, at that moment, he had no very agreeable employment either for his moral or his physical perceptions. The day was dawning from a patch of watery light in the east, and sullen clouds came driving up before it, from which the rain descended in a thick, wet mist. It streamed from every twig and bramble in the hedge; made little gullies in the path; ran down a hundred channels in the road; and punched innumerable holes into the face of every pond and gutter. It fell with an oozy, slushy sound among the grass; and made a muddy kennel of every furrow in the ploughed fields. No living creature was anywhere to be seen. The prospect could hardly have been more desolate if animated nature had been dissolved in water, and poured down upon the earth again in that form.

The range of view within the solitary traveller was quite as cheerless as the scene without. Friendless and penniless; incensed to the last degree; deeply wounded in his pride and self-love; full of independent schemes, and perfectly destitute of any means of realizing them; his most vindictive enemy might have been satisfied with the extent of his troubles. To add to his other miseries, he was by this time sensible of being wet to the skin, and cold at his very heart.

In this deplorable condition he remembered Mr Pinch’s book; more because it was rather troublesome to carry, than from any hope of being comforted by that parting gift. He looked at the dingy lettering on the back, and finding it to be an odd volume of the ‘Bachelor of Salamanca,’ in the French tongue, cursed Tom Pinch’s folly twenty times. He was on the point of throwing it away, in his ill-humour and vexation, when he bethought himself that Tom had referred him to a leaf, turned down; and opening it at that place, that he might have additional cause of complaint against him for supposing that any cold scrap of the Bachelor’s wisdom could cheer him in such circumstances, found!—

Well, well! not much, but Tom’s all. The half-sovereign. He had wrapped it hastily in a piece of paper, and pinned it to the leaf. These words were scrawled in pencil on the inside: ‘I don’t want it indeed. I should not know what to do with it if I had it.’

There are some falsehoods, Tom, on which men mount, as on bright wings, towards Heaven. There are some truths, cold bitter taunting truths, wherein your worldly scholars are very apt and punctual, which bind men down to earth with leaden chains. Who would not rather have to fan him, in his dying hour, the lightest feather of a falsehood such as thine, than all the quills that have been plucked from the sharp porcupine, reproachful truth, since time began!

Martin felt keenly for himself, and he felt this good deed of Tom’s keenly. After a few minutes it had the effect of raising his spirits, and reminding him that he was not altogether destitute, as he had left a fair stock of clothes behind him, and wore a gold hunting-watch in his pocket. He found a curious gratification, too, in thinking what a winning fellow he must be to have made such an impression on Tom; and in reflecting how superior he was to Tom; and how much more likely to make his way in the world. Animated by these thoughts, and strengthened in his design of endeavouring to push his fortune in another country, he resolved to get to London as a rallying-point, in the best way he could; and to lose no time about it.

He was ten good miles from the village made illustrious by being the abiding-place of Mr Pecksniff, when he stopped to breakfast at a little roadside alehouse; and resting upon a high-backed settle before the fire, pulled off his coat, and hung it before the cheerful blaze to dry. It was a very different place from the last tavern in which he had regaled; boasting no greater extent of accommodation than the brick-floored kitchen yielded; but the mind so soon accommodates itself to the necessities of the body, that this poor waggoner’s house-of-call, which he would have despised yesterday, became now quite a choice hotel; while his dish of eggs and bacon, and his mug of beer, were not by any means the coarse fare he had supposed, but fully bore out the inscription on the window-shutter, which proclaimed those viands to be ‘Good entertainment for Travellers.’

He pushed away his empty plate; and with a second mug upon the hearth before him, looked thoughtfully at the fire until his eyes ached. Then he looked at the highly-coloured scripture pieces on the walls, in little black frames like common shaving-glasses, and saw how the Wise Men (with a strong family likeness among them) worshipped in a pink manger; and how the Prodigal Son came home in red rags to a purple father, and already feasted his imagination on a sea-green calf. Then he glanced through the window at the falling rain, coming down aslant upon the sign-post over against the house, and overflowing the horse-trough; and then he looked at the fire again, and seemed to descry a double distant London, retreating among the fragments of the burning wood.

He had repeated this process in just the same order, many times, as if it were a matter of necessity, when the sound of wheels called his attention to the window out of its regular turn; and there he beheld a kind of light van drawn by four horses, and laden, as well as he could see (for it was covered in), with corn and straw. The driver, who was alone, stopped at the door to water his team, and presently came stamping and shaking the wet off his hat and coat, into the room where Martin sat.

He was a red-faced burly young fellow; smart in his way, and with a good-humoured countenance. As he advanced towards the fire he touched his shining forehead with the forefinger of his stiff leather glove, by way of salutation; and said (rather unnecessarily) that it was an uncommon wet day.

‘Very wet,’ said Martin.

‘I don’t know as ever I see a wetter.’

‘I never felt one,’ said Martin.

The driver glanced at Martin’s soiled dress, and his damp shirt-sleeves, and his coat hung up to dry; and said, after a pause, as he warmed his hands:

‘You have been caught in it, sir?’

‘Yes,’ was the short reply.

‘Out riding, maybe?’ said the driver

‘I should have been, if I owned a horse; but I don’t,’ returned Martin.

‘That’s bad,’ said the driver.

‘And may be worse,’ said Martin.

Now the driver said ‘That’s bad,’ not so much because Martin didn’t own a horse, as because he said he didn’t with all the reckless desperation of his mood and circumstances, and so left a great deal to be inferred. Martin put his hands in his pockets and whistled when he had retorted on the driver; thus giving him to understand that he didn’t care a pin for Fortune; that he was above pretending to be her favourite when he was not; and that he snapped his fingers at her, the driver, and everybody else.

The driver looked at him stealthily for a minute or so; and in the pauses of his warming whistled too. At length he asked, as he pointed his thumb towards the road.

‘Up or down?’

‘Which is up?’ said Martin.

‘London, of course,’ said the driver.

‘Up then,’ said Martin. He tossed his head in a careless manner afterwards, as if he would have added, ‘Now you know all about it.’ put his hands deeper into his pockets; changed his tune, and whistled a little louder.

‘I’m going up,’ observed the driver; ‘Hounslow, ten miles this side London.’

‘Are you?’ cried Martin, stopping short and looking at him.

The driver sprinkled the fire with his wet hat until it hissed again and answered, ‘Aye, to be sure he was.’

‘Why, then,’ said Martin, ‘I’ll be plain with you. You may suppose from my dress that I have money to spare. I have not. All I can afford for coach-hire is a crown, for I have but two. If you can take me for that, and my waistcoat, or this silk handkerchief, do. If you can’t, leave it alone.’

‘Short and sweet,’ remarked the driver.

‘You want more?’ said Martin. ‘Then I haven’t got more, and I can’t get it, so there’s an end of that.’ Whereupon he began to whistle again.

‘I didn’t say I wanted more, did I?’ asked the driver, with something like indignation.

‘You didn’t say my offer was enough,’ rejoined Martin.

‘Why, how could I, when you wouldn’t let me? In regard to the waistcoat, I wouldn’t have a man’s waistcoat, much less a gentleman’s waistcoat, on my mind, for no consideration; but the silk handkerchief’s another thing; and if you was satisfied when we got to Hounslow, I shouldn’t object to that as a gift.’

‘Is it a bargain, then?’ said Martin.

‘Yes, it is,’ returned the other.

‘Then finish this beer,’ said Martin, handing him the mug, and pulling on his coat with great alacrity; ‘and let us be off as soon as you like.’

In two minutes more he had paid his bill, which amounted to a shilling; was lying at full length on a truss of straw, high and dry at the top of the van, with the tilt a little open in front for the convenience of talking to his new friend; and was moving along in the right direction with a most satisfactory and encouraging briskness.

The driver’s name, as he soon informed Martin, was William Simmons, better known as Bill; and his spruce appearance was sufficiently explained by his connection with a large stage-coaching establishment at Hounslow, whither he was conveying his load from a farm belonging to the concern in Wiltshire. He was frequently up and down the road on such errands, he said, and to look after the sick and rest horses, of which animals he had much to relate that occupied a long time in the telling. He aspired to the dignity of the regular box, and expected an appointment on the first vacancy. He was musical besides, and had a little key-bugle in his pocket, on which, whenever the conversation flagged, he played the first part of a great many tunes, and regularly broke down in the second.

‘Ah!’ said Bill, with a sigh, as he drew the back of his hand across his lips, and put this instrument in his pocket, after screwing off the mouth-piece to drain it; ‘Lummy Ned of the Light Salisbury, he was the one for musical talents. He was a guard. What you may call a Guard’an Angel, was Ned.’

‘Is he dead?’ asked Martin.

‘Dead!’ replied the other, with a contemptuous emphasis. ‘Not he. You won’t catch Ned a-dying easy. No, no. He knows better than that.’

‘You spoke of him in the past tense,’ observed Martin, ‘so I supposed he was no more.

‘He’s no more in England,’ said Bill, ‘if that’s what you mean. He went to the U-nited States.’

‘Did he?’ asked Martin, with sudden interest. ‘When?’

‘Five year ago, or then about,’ said Bill. ‘He had set up in the public line here, and couldn’t meet his engagements, so he cut off to Liverpool one day, without saying anything about it, and went and shipped himself for the U-nited States.’

‘Well?’ said Martin.

‘Well! as he landed there without a penny to bless himself with, of course they wos very glad to see him in the U-nited States.’

‘What do you mean?’ asked Martin, with some scorn.

‘What do I mean?’ said Bill. ‘Why, that. All men are alike in the U-nited States, an’t they? It makes no odds whether a man has a thousand pound, or nothing, there. Particular in New York, I’m told, where Ned landed.’

‘New York, was it?’ asked Martin, thoughtfully.

‘Yes,’ said Bill. ‘New York. I know that, because he sent word home that it brought Old York to his mind, quite vivid, in consequence of being so exactly unlike it in every respect. I don’t understand what particular business Ned turned his mind to, when he got there; but he wrote home that him and his friends was always a-singing, Ale Columbia, and blowing up the President, so I suppose it was something in the public line; or free-and-easy way again. Anyhow, he made his fortune.’

‘No!’ cried Martin.

‘Yes, he did,’ said Bill. ‘I know that, because he lost it all the day after, in six-and-twenty banks as broke. He settled a lot of the notes on his father, when it was ascertained that they was really stopped and sent ‘em over with a dutiful letter. I know that, because they was shown down our yard for the old gentleman’s benefit, that he might treat himself with tobacco in the workus.’

‘He was a foolish fellow not to take care of his money when he had it,’ said Martin, indignantly.

‘There you’re right,’ said Bill, ‘especially as it was all in paper, and he might have took care of it so very easy, by folding it up in a small parcel.’

Martin said nothing in reply, but soon afterwards fell asleep, and remained so for an hour or more. When he awoke, finding it had ceased to rain, he took his seat beside the driver, and asked him several questions; as how long had the fortunate guard of the Light Salisbury been in crossing the Atlantic; at what time of the year had he sailed; what was the name of the ship in which he made the voyage; how much had he paid for passage-money; did he suffer greatly from sea-sickness? and so forth. But on these points of detail his friend was possessed of little or no information; either answering obviously at random or acknowledging that he had never heard, or had forgotten; nor, although he returned to the charge very often, could he obtain any useful intelligence on these essential particulars.

They jogged on all day, and stopped so often—now to refresh, now to change their team of horses, now to exchange or bring away a set of harness, now on one point of business, and now upon another, connected with the coaching on that line of road—that it was midnight when they reached Hounslow. A little short of the stables for which the van was bound, Martin got down, paid his crown, and forced his silk handkerchief upon his honest friend, notwithstanding the many protestations that he didn’t wish to deprive him of it, with which he tried to give the lie to his longing looks. That done, they parted company; and when the van had driven into its own yard and the gates were closed, Martin stood in the dark street, with a pretty strong sense of being shut out, alone, upon the dreary world, without the key of it.

But in this moment of despondency, and often afterwards, the recollection of Mr Pecksniff operated as a cordial to him; awakening in his breast an indignation that was very wholesome in nerving him to obstinate endurance. Under the influence of this fiery dram he started off for London without more ado. Arriving there in the middle of the night, and not knowing where to find a tavern open, he was fain to stroll about the streets and market-places until morning.

He found himself, about an hour before dawn, in the humbler regions of the Adelphi; and addressing himself to a man in a fur-cap, who was taking down the shutters of an obscure public-house, informed him that he was a stranger, and inquired if he could have a bed there. It happened by good luck that he could. Though none of the gaudiest, it was tolerably clean, and Martin felt very glad and grateful when he crept into it, for warmth, rest, and forgetfulness.

It was quite late in the afternoon when he awoke; and by the time he had washed and dressed, and broken his fast, it was growing dusk again. This was all the better, for it was now a matter of absolute necessity that he should part with his watch to some obliging pawn-broker. He would have waited until after dark for this purpose, though it had been the longest day in the year, and he had begun it without a breakfast.

He passed more Golden Balls than all the jugglers in Europe have juggled with, in the course of their united performances, before he could determine in favour of any particular shop where those symbols were displayed. In the end he came back to one of the first he had seen, and entering by a side-door in a court, where the three balls, with the legend ‘Money Lent,’ were repeated in a ghastly transparency, passed into one of a series of little closets, or private boxes, erected for the accommodation of the more bashful and uninitiated customers. He bolted himself in; pulled out his watch; and laid it on the counter.

‘Upon my life and soul!’ said a low voice in the next box to the shopman who was in treaty with him, ‘you must make it more; you must make it a trifle more, you must indeed! You must dispense with one half-quarter of an ounce in weighing out your pound of flesh, my best of friends, and make it two-and-six.’

Martin drew back involuntarily, for he knew the voice at once.

‘You’re always full of your chaff,’ said the shopman, rolling up the article (which looked like a shirt) quite as a matter of course, and nibbing his pen upon the counter.

‘I shall never be full of my wheat,’ said Mr Tigg, ‘as long as I come here. Ha, ha! Not bad! Make it two-and-six, my dear friend, positively for this occasion only. Half-a-crown is a delightful coin. Two-and-six. Going at two-and-six! For the last time at two-and-six!’

‘It’ll never be the last time till it’s quite worn out,’ rejoined the shopman. ‘It’s grown yellow in the service as it is.’

‘Its master has grown yellow in the service, if you mean that, my friend,’ said Mr Tigg; ‘in the patriotic service of an ungrateful country. You are making it two-and-six, I think?’

‘I’m making it,’ returned the shopman, ‘what it always has been—two shillings. Same name as usual, I suppose?’

‘Still the same name,’ said Mr Tigg; ‘my claim to the dormant peerage not being yet established by the House of Lords.’

‘The old address?’

‘Not at all,’ said Mr Tigg; ‘I have removed my town establishment from thirty-eight, Mayfair, to number fifteen-hundred-and-forty-two, Park Lane.’

‘Come, I’m not going to put down that, you know,’ said the shopman with a grin.

‘You may put down what you please, my friend,’ quoth Mr Tigg. ‘The fact is still the same. The apartments for the under-butler and the fifth footman being of a most confounded low and vulgar kind at thirty-eight, Mayfair, I have been compelled, in my regard for the feelings which do them so much honour, to take on lease for seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years, renewable at the option of the tenant, the elegant and commodious family mansion, number fifteen-hundred-and-forty-two Park Lane. Make it two-and-six, and come and see me!’

The shopman was so highly entertained by this piece of humour that Mr Tigg himself could not repress some little show of exultation. It vented itself, in part, in a desire to see how the occupant of the next box received his pleasantry; to ascertain which he glanced round the partition, and immediately, by the gaslight, recognized Martin.

‘I wish I may die,’ said Mr Tigg, stretching out his body so far that his head was as much in Martin’s little cell as Martin’s own head was, ‘but this is one of the most tremendous meetings in Ancient or Modern History! How are you? What is the news from the agricultural districts? How are our friends the P.‘s? Ha, ha! David, pay particular attention to this gentleman immediately, as a friend of mine, I beg.’

‘Here! Please to give me the most you can for this,’ said Martin, handing the watch to the shopman. ‘I want money sorely.’

‘He wants money, sorely!’ cried Mr Tigg with excessive sympathy. ‘David, will you have the goodness to do your very utmost for my friend, who wants money sorely. You will deal with my friend as if he were myself. A gold hunting-watch, David, engine-turned, capped and jewelled in four holes, escape movement, horizontal lever, and warranted to perform correctly, upon my personal reputation, who have observed it narrowly for many years, under the most trying circumstances’—here he winked at Martin, that he might understand this recommendation would have an immense effect upon the shopman; ‘what do you say, David, to my friend? Be very particular to deserve my custom and recommendation, David.’

‘I can lend you three pounds on this, if you like’ said the shopman to Martin, confidentially. ‘It is very old-fashioned. I couldn’t say more.’

‘And devilish handsome, too,’ cried Mr Tigg. ‘Two-twelve-six for the watch, and seven-and-six for personal regard. I am gratified; it may be weakness, but I am. Three pounds will do. We take it. The name of my friend is Smivey: Chicken Smivey, of Holborn, twenty-six-and-a-half B: lodger.’ Here he winked at Martin again, to apprise him that all the forms and ceremonies prescribed by law were now complied with, and nothing remained but the receipt for the money.

In point of fact, this proved to be the case, for Martin, who had no resource but to take what was offered him, signified his acquiescence by a nod of his head, and presently came out with the cash in his pocket. He was joined in the entry by Mr Tigg, who warmly congratulated him, as he took his arm and accompanied him into the street, on the successful issue of the negotiation.

‘As for my part in the same,’ said Mr Tigg, ‘don’t mention it. Don’t compliment me, for I can’t bear it!’

‘I have no such intention, I assure you,’ retorted Martin, releasing his arm and stopping.

‘You oblige me very much’ said Mr Tigg. ‘Thank you.’

‘Now, sir,’ observed Martin, biting his lip, ‘this is a large town, and we can easily find different ways in it. If you will show me which is your way, I will take another.’

Mr Tigg was about to speak, but Martin interposed:

‘I need scarcely tell you, after what you have just seen, that I have nothing to bestow upon your friend Mr Slyme. And it is quite as unnecessary for me to tell you that I don’t desire the honour of your company.’

‘Stop’ cried Mr Tigg, holding out his hand. ‘Hold! There is a most remarkably long-headed, flowing-bearded, and patriarchal proverb, which observes that it is the duty of a man to be just before he is generous. Be just now, and you can be generous presently. Do not confuse me with the man Slyme. Do not distinguish the man Slyme as a friend of mine, for he is no such thing. I have been compelled, sir, to abandon the party whom you call Slyme. I have no knowledge of the party whom you call Slyme. I am, sir,’ said Mr Tigg, striking himself upon the breast, ‘a premium tulip, of a very different growth and cultivation from the cabbage Slyme, sir.’

‘It matters very little to me,’ said Martin coolly, ‘whether you have set up as a vagabond on your own account, or are still trading on behalf of Mr Slyme. I wish to hold no correspondence with you. In the devil’s name, man’ said Martin, scarcely able, despite his vexation, to repress a smile as Mr Tigg stood leaning his back against the shutters of a shop window, adjusting his hair with great composure, ‘will you go one way or other?’

‘You will allow me to remind you, sir,’ said Mr Tigg, with sudden dignity, ‘that you—not I—that you—I say emphatically, you—have reduced the proceedings of this evening to a cold and distant matter of business, when I was disposed to place them on a friendly footing. It being made a matter of business, sir, I beg to say that I expect a trifle (which I shall bestow in charity) as commission upon the pecuniary advance, in which I have rendered you my humble services. After the terms in which you have addressed me, sir,’ concluded Mr Tigg, ‘you will not insult me, if you please, by offering more than half-a-crown.’

Martin drew that piece of money from his pocket, and tossed it towards him. Mr Tigg caught it, looked at it to assure himself of its goodness, spun it in the air after the manner of a pieman, and buttoned it up. Finally, he raised his hat an inch or two from his head with a military air, and, after pausing a moment with deep gravity, as to decide in which direction he should go, and to what Earl or Marquis among his friends he should give the preference in his next call, stuck his hands in his skirt-pockets and swaggered round the corner. Martin took the directly opposite course; and so, to his great content, they parted company.

It was with a bitter sense of humiliation that he cursed, again and again, the mischance of having encountered this man in the pawnbroker’s shop. The only comfort he had in the recollection was, Mr Tigg’s voluntary avowal of a separation between himself and Slyme, that would at least prevent his circumstances (so Martin argued) from being known to any member of his family, the bare possibility of which filled him with shame and wounded pride. Abstractedly there was greater reason, perhaps, for supposing any declaration of Mr Tigg’s to be false, than for attaching the least credence to it; but remembering the terms on which the intimacy between that gentleman and his bosom friend had subsisted, and the strong probability of Mr Tigg’s having established an independent business of his own on Mr Slyme’s connection, it had a reasonable appearance of probability; at all events, Martin hoped so; and that went a long way.

His first step, now that he had a supply of ready money for his present necessities, was, to retain his bed at the public-house until further notice, and to write a formal note to Tom Pinch (for he knew Pecksniff would see it) requesting to have his clothes forwarded to London by coach, with a direction to be left at the office until called for. These measures taken, he passed the interval before the box arrived—three days—in making inquiries relative to American vessels, at the offices of various shipping-agents in the city; and in lingering about the docks and wharves, with the faint hope of stumbling upon some engagement for the voyage, as clerk or supercargo, or custodian of something or somebody, which would enable him to procure a free passage. But finding, soon, that no such means of employment were likely to present themselves, and dreading the consequences of delay, he drew up a short advertisement, stating what he wanted, and inserted it in the leading newspapers. Pending the receipt of the twenty or thirty answers which he vaguely expected, he reduced his wardrobe to the narrowest limits consistent with decent respectability, and carried the overplus at different times to the pawnbroker’s shop, for conversion into money.

And it was strange, very strange, even to himself, to find how, by quick though almost imperceptible degrees, he lost his delicacy and self-respect, and gradually came to do that as a matter of course, without the least compunction, which but a few short days before had galled him to the quick. The first time he visited the pawnbroker’s, he felt on his way there as if every person whom he passed suspected whither he was going; and on his way back again, as if the whole human tide he stemmed, knew well where he had come from. When did he care to think of their discernment now! In his first wanderings up and down the weary streets, he counterfeited the walk of one who had an object in his view; but soon there came upon him the sauntering, slipshod gait of listless idleness, and the lounging at street-corners, and plucking and biting of stray bits of straw, and strolling up and down the same place, and looking into the same shop-windows, with a miserable indifference, fifty times a day. At first, he came out from his lodging with an uneasy sense of being observed—even by those chance passers-by, on whom he had never looked before, and hundreds to one would never see again—issuing in the morning from a public-house; but now, in his comings-out and goings-in he did not mind to lounge about the door, or to stand sunning himself in careless thought beside the wooden stem, studded from head to heel with pegs, on which the beer-pots dangled like so many boughs upon a pewter-tree. And yet it took but five weeks to reach the lowest round of this tall ladder!

Oh, moralists, who treat of happiness and self-respect, innate in every sphere of life, and shedding light on every grain of dust in God’s highway, so smooth below your carriage-wheels, so rough beneath the tread of naked feet, bethink yourselves in looking on the swift descent of men who have lived in their own esteem, that there are scores of thousands breathing now, and breathing thick with painful toil, who in that high respect have never lived at all, nor had a chance of life! Go ye, who rest so placidly upon the sacred Bard who had been young, and when he strung his harp was old, and had never seen the righteous forsaken, or his seed begging their bread; go, Teachers of content and honest pride, into the mine, the mill, the forge, the squalid depths of deepest ignorance, and uttermost abyss of man’s neglect, and say can any hopeful plant spring up in air so foul that it extinguishes the soul’s bright torch as fast as it is kindled! And, oh! ye Pharisees of the nineteen hundredth year of Christian Knowledge, who soundingly appeal to human nature, see that it be human first. Take heed it has not been transformed, during your slumber and the sleep of generations, into the nature of the Beasts!

Five weeks! Of all the twenty or thirty answers, not one had come. His money—even the additional stock he had raised from the disposal of his spare clothes (and that was not much, for clothes, though dear to buy, are cheap to pawn)—was fast diminishing. Yet what could he do? At times an agony came over him in which he darted forth again, though he was but newly home, and, returning to some place where he had been already twenty times, made some new attempt to gain his end, but always unsuccessfully. He was years and years too old for a cabin-boy, and years upon years too inexperienced to be accepted as a common seaman. His dress and manner, too, militated fatally against any such proposal as the latter; and yet he was reduced to making it; for even if he could have contemplated the being set down in America totally without money, he had not enough left now for a steerage passage and the poorest provisions upon the voyage.

It is an illustration of a very common tendency in the mind of man, that all this time he never once doubted, one may almost say the certainty of doing great things in the New World, if he could only get there. In proportion as he became more and more dejected by his present circumstances, and the means of gaining America receded from his grasp, the more he fretted himself with the conviction that that was the only place in which he could hope to achieve any high end, and worried his brain with the thought that men going there in the meanwhile might anticipate him in the attainment of those objects which were dearest to his heart. He often thought of John Westlock, and besides looking out for him on all occasions, actually walked about London for three days together for the express purpose of meeting with him. But although he failed in this; and although he would not have scrupled to borrow money of him; and although he believed that John would have lent it; yet still he could not bring his mind to write to Pinch and inquire where he was to be found. For although, as we have seen, he was fond of Tom after his own fashion, he could not endure the thought (feeling so superior to Tom) of making him the stepping-stone to his fortune, or being anything to him but a patron; and his pride so revolted from the idea that it restrained him even now.

It might have yielded, however; and no doubt must have yielded soon, but for a very strange and unlooked-for occurrence.

The five weeks had quite run out, and he was in a truly desperate plight, when one evening, having just returned to his lodging, and being in the act of lighting his candle at the gas jet in the bar before stalking moodily upstairs to his own room, his landlord called him by his name. Now as he had never told it to the man, but had scrupulously kept it to himself, he was not a little startled by this; and so plainly showed his agitation that the landlord, to reassure him, said ‘it was only a letter.’

‘A letter!’ cried Martin.

‘For Mr Martin Chuzzlewit,’ said the landlord, reading the superscription of one he held in his hand. ‘Noon. Chief office. Paid.’

Martin took it from him, thanked him, and walked upstairs. It was not sealed, but pasted close; the handwriting was quite unknown to him. He opened it and found enclosed, without any name, address, or other inscription or explanation of any kind whatever, a Bank of England note for Twenty Pounds.

To say that he was perfectly stunned with astonishment and delight; that he looked again and again at the note and the wrapper; that he hurried below stairs to make quite certain that the note was a good note; and then hurried up again to satisfy himself for the fiftieth time that he had not overlooked some scrap of writing on the wrapper; that he exhausted and bewildered himself with conjectures; and could make nothing of it but that there the note was, and he was suddenly enriched; would be only to relate so many matters of course to no purpose. The final upshot of the business at that time was, that he resolved to treat himself to a comfortable but frugal meal in his own chamber; and having ordered a fire to be kindled, went out to purchase it forthwith.

He bought some cold beef, and ham, and French bread, and butter, and came back with his pockets pretty heavily laden. It was somewhat of a damping circumstance to find the room full of smoke, which was attributable to two causes; firstly, to the flue being naturally vicious and a smoker; and secondly, to their having forgotten, in lighting the fire, an odd sack or two and some trifles, which had been put up the chimney to keep the rain out. They had already remedied this oversight, however; and propped up the window-sash with a bundle of firewood to keep it open; so that except in being rather inflammatory to the eyes and choking to the lungs, the apartment was quite comfortable.

Martin was in no vein to quarrel with it, if it had been in less tolerable order, especially when a gleaming pint of porter was set upon the table, and the servant-girl withdrew, bearing with her particular instructions relative to the production of something hot when he should ring the bell. The cold meat being wrapped in a playbill, Martin laid the cloth by spreading that document on the little round table with the print downwards, and arranging the collation upon it. The foot of the bed, which was very close to the fire, answered for a sideboard; and when he had completed these preparations, he squeezed an old arm-chair into the warmest corner, and sat down to enjoy himself.

He had begun to eat with great appetite, glancing round the room meanwhile with a triumphant anticipation of quitting it for ever on the morrow, when his attention was arrested by a stealthy footstep on the stairs, and presently by a knock at his chamber door, which, although it was a gentle knock enough, communicated such a start to the bundle of firewood, that it instantly leaped out of window, and plunged into the street.

‘More coals, I suppose,’ said Martin. ‘Come in!’

‘It an’t a liberty, sir, though it seems so,’ rejoined a man’s voice. ‘Your servant, sir. Hope you’re pretty well, sir.’

Martin stared at the face that was bowing in the doorway, perfectly remembering the features and expression, but quite forgetting to whom they belonged.

‘Tapley, sir,’ said his visitor. ‘Him as formerly lived at the Dragon, sir, and was forced to leave in consequence of a want of jollity, sir.’

‘To be sure!’ cried Martin. ‘Why, how did you come here?’

‘Right through the passage, and up the stairs, sir,’ said Mark.

‘How did you find me out, I mean?’ asked Martin.

‘Why, sir,’ said Mark, ‘I’ve passed you once or twice in the street, if I’m not mistaken; and when I was a-looking in at the beef-and-ham shop just now, along with a hungry sweep, as was very much calculated to make a man jolly, sir—I see you a-buying that.’

Martin reddened as he pointed to the table, and said, somewhat hastily:

‘Well! What then?’

‘Why, then, sir,’ said Mark, ‘I made bold to foller; and as I told ‘em downstairs that you expected me, I was let up.’

‘Are you charged with any message, that you told them you were expected?’ inquired Martin.

‘No, sir, I an’t,’ said Mark. ‘That was what you may call a pious fraud, sir, that was.’

Martin cast an angry look at him; but there was something in the fellow’s merry face, and in his manner—which with all its cheerfulness was far from being obtrusive or familiar—that quite disarmed him. He had lived a solitary life too, for many weeks, and the voice was pleasant in his ear.

‘Tapley,’ he said, ‘I’ll deal openly with you. From all I can judge and from all I have heard of you through Pinch, you are not a likely kind of fellow to have been brought here by impertinent curiosity or any other offensive motive. Sit down. I’m glad to see you.’

‘Thankee, sir,’ said Mark. ‘I’d as lieve stand.’

‘If you don’t sit down,’ retorted Martin, ‘I’ll not talk to you.’

‘Very good, sir,’ observed Mark. ‘Your will’s a law, sir. Down it is;’ and he sat down accordingly upon the bedstead.

‘Help yourself,’ said Martin, handing him the only knife.

‘Thankee, sir,’ rejoined Mark. ‘After you’ve done.’

‘If you don’t take it now, you’ll not have any,’ said Martin.

‘Very good, sir,’ rejoined Mark. ‘That being your desire—now it is.’ With which reply he gravely helped himself and went on eating. Martin having done the like for a short time in silence, said abruptly:

‘What are you doing in London?’

‘Nothing at all, sir,’ rejoined Mark.

‘How’s that?’ asked Martin.

‘I want a place,’ said Mark.

‘I’m sorry for you,’ said Martin.

‘—To attend upon a single gentleman,’ resumed Mark. ‘If from the country the more desirable. Makeshifts would be preferred. Wages no object.’

He said this so pointedly, that Martin stopped in his eating, and said:

‘If you mean me—’

‘Yes, I do, sir,’ interposed Mark.

‘Then you may judge from my style of living here, of my means of keeping a man-servant. Besides, I am going to America immediately.’

‘Well, sir,’ returned Mark, quite unmoved by this intelligence ‘from all that ever I heard about it, I should say America is a very likely sort of place for me to be jolly in!’

Again Martin looked at him angrily; and again his anger melted away in spite of himself.

‘Lord bless you, sir,’ said Mark, ‘what is the use of us a-going round and round, and hiding behind the corner, and dodging up and down, when we can come straight to the point in six words? I’ve had my eye upon you any time this fortnight. I see well enough there’s a screw loose in your affairs. I know’d well enough the first time I see you down at the Dragon that it must be so, sooner or later. Now, sir here am I, without a sitiwation; without any want of wages for a year to come; for I saved up (I didn’t mean to do it, but I couldn’t help it) at the Dragon—here am I with a liking for what’s wentersome, and a liking for you, and a wish to come out strong under circumstances as would keep other men down; and will you take me, or will you leave me?’

‘How can I take you?’ cried Martin.

‘When I say take,’ rejoined Mark, ‘I mean will you let me go? and when I say will you let me go, I mean will you let me go along with you? for go I will, somehow or another. Now that you’ve said America, I see clear at once, that that’s the place for me to be jolly in. Therefore, if I don’t pay my own passage in the ship you go in, sir, I’ll pay my own passage in another. And mark my words, if I go alone it shall be, to carry out the principle, in the rottenest, craziest, leakingest tub of a wessel that a place can be got in for love or money. So if I’m lost upon the way, sir, there’ll be a drowned man at your door—and always a-knocking double knocks at it, too, or never trust me!’

‘This is mere folly,’ said Martin.

‘Very good, sir,’ returned Mark. ‘I’m glad to hear it, because if you don’t mean to let me go, you’ll be more comfortable, perhaps, on account of thinking so. Therefore I contradict no gentleman. But all I say is, that if I don’t emigrate to America in that case, in the beastliest old cockle-shell as goes out of port, I’m—’

‘You don’t mean what you say, I’m sure,’ said Martin.

‘Yes I do,’ cried Mark.

‘I tell you I know better,’ rejoined Martin.

‘Very good, sir,’ said Mark, with the same air of perfect satisfaction. ‘Let it stand that way at present, sir, and wait and see how it turns out. Why, love my heart alive! the only doubt I have is, whether there’s any credit in going with a gentleman like you, that’s as certain to make his way there as a gimlet is to go through soft deal.’

This was touching Martin on his weak point, and having him at a great advantage. He could not help thinking, either, what a brisk fellow this Mark was, and how great a change he had wrought in the atmosphere of the dismal little room already.

‘Why, certainly, Mark,’ he said, ‘I have hopes of doing well there, or I shouldn’t go. I may have the qualifications for doing well, perhaps.’

‘Of course you have, sir,’ returned Mark Tapley. ‘Everybody knows that.’

‘You see,’ said Martin, leaning his chin upon his hand, and looking at the fire, ‘ornamental architecture applied to domestic purposes, can hardly fail to be in great request in that country; for men are constantly changing their residences there, and moving further off; and it’s clear they must have houses to live in.’

‘I should say, sir,’ observed Mark, ‘that that’s a state of things as opens one of the jolliest look-outs for domestic architecture that ever I heerd tell on.’

Martin glanced at him hastily, not feeling quite free from a suspicion that this remark implied a doubt of the successful issue of his plans. But Mr Tapley was eating the boiled beef and bread with such entire good faith and singleness of purpose expressed in his visage that he could not but be satisfied. Another doubt arose in his mind however, as this one disappeared. He produced the blank cover in which the note had been enclosed, and fixing his eyes on Mark as he put it in his hands, said:

‘Now tell me the truth. Do you know anything about that?’

Mark turned it over and over; held it near his eyes; held it away from him at arm’s length; held it with the superscription upwards and with the superscription downwards; and shook his head with such a genuine expression of astonishment at being asked the question, that Martin said, as he took it from him again:

‘No, I see you don’t. How should you! Though, indeed, your knowing about it would not be more extraordinary than its being here. Come, Tapley,’ he added, after a moment’s thought, ‘I’ll trust you with my history, such as it is, and then you’ll see more clearly what sort of fortunes you would link yourself to, if you followed me.’

‘I beg your pardon, sir,’ said Mark; ‘but afore you enter upon it will you take me if I choose to go? Will you turn off me—Mark Tapley—formerly of the Blue Dragon, as can be well recommended by Mr Pinch, and as wants a gentleman of your strength of mind to look up to; or will you, in climbing the ladder as you’re certain to get to the top of, take me along with you at a respectful distance? Now, sir,’ said Mark, ‘it’s of very little importance to you, I know, there’s the difficulty; but it’s of very great importance to me, and will you be so good as to consider of it?’

If this were meant as a second appeal to Martin’s weak side, founded on his observation of the effect of the first, Mr Tapley was a skillful and shrewd observer. Whether an intentional or an accidental shot, it hit the mark fully for Martin, relenting more and more, said with a condescension which was inexpressibly delicious to him, after his recent humiliation:

‘We’ll see about it, Tapley. You shall tell me in what disposition you find yourself to-morrow.’

‘Then, sir,’ said Mark, rubbing his hands, ‘the job’s done. Go on, sir, if you please. I’m all attention.’

Throwing himself back in his arm-chair, and looking at the fire, with now and then a glance at Mark, who at such times nodded his head sagely, to express his profound interest and attention. Martin ran over the chief points in his history, to the same effect as he had related them, weeks before, to Mr Pinch. But he adapted them, according to the best of his judgment, to Mr Tapley’s comprehension; and with that view made as light of his love affair as he could, and referred to it in very few words. But here he reckoned without his host; for Mark’s interest was keenest in this part of the business, and prompted him to ask sundry questions in relation to it; for which he apologised as one in some measure privileged to do so, from having seen (as Martin explained to him) the young lady at the Blue Dragon.

‘And a young lady as any gentleman ought to feel more proud of being in love with,’ said Mark, energetically, ‘don’t draw breath.’

‘Aye! You saw her when she was not happy,’ said Martin, gazing at the fire again. ‘If you had seen her in the old times, indeed—’

‘Why, she certainly was a little down-hearted, sir, and something paler in her colour than I could have wished,’ said Mark, ‘but none the worse in her looks for that. I think she seemed better, sir, after she come to London.’

Martin withdrew his eyes from the fire; stared at Mark as if he thought he had suddenly gone mad; and asked him what he meant.

‘No offence intended, sir,’ urged Mark. ‘I don’t mean to say she was any the happier without you; but I thought she was a-looking better, sir.’

‘Do you mean to tell me she has been in London?’ asked Martin, rising hurriedly, and pushing back his chair.

‘Of course I do,’ said Mark, rising too, in great amazement from the bedstead.

‘Do you mean to tell me she is in London now?’

‘Most likely, sir. I mean to say she was a week ago.’

‘And you know where?’

‘Yes!’ cried Mark. ‘What! Don’t you?’

‘My good fellow!’ exclaimed Martin, clutching him by both arms, ‘I have never seen her since I left my grandfather’s house.’

‘Why, then!’ cried Mark, giving the little table such a blow with his clenched fist that the slices of beef and ham danced upon it, while all his features seemed, with delight, to be going up into his forehead, and never coming back again any more, ‘if I an’t your nat’ral born servant, hired by Fate, there an’t such a thing in natur’ as a Blue Dragon. What! when I was a-rambling up and down a old churchyard in the City, getting myself into a jolly state, didn’t I see your grandfather a-toddling to and fro for pretty nigh a mortal hour! Didn’t I watch him into Todgers’s commercial boarding-house, and watch him out, and watch him home to his hotel, and go and tell him as his was the service for my money, and I had said so, afore I left the Dragon! Wasn’t the young lady a-sitting with him then, and didn’t she fall a-laughing in a manner as was beautiful to see! Didn’t your grandfather say, “Come back again next week,” and didn’t I go next week; and didn’t he say that he couldn’t make up his mind to trust nobody no more; and therefore wouldn’t engage me, but at the same time stood something to drink as was handsome! Why,’ cried Mr Tapley, with a comical mixture of delight and chagrin, ‘where’s the credit of a man’s being jolly under such circumstances! Who could help it, when things come about like this!’

For some moments Martin stood gazing at him, as if he really doubted the evidence of his senses, and could not believe that Mark stood there, in the body, before him. At length he asked him whether, if the young lady were still in London, he thought he could contrive to deliver a letter to her secretly.

‘Do I think I can?’ cried Mark. ‘Think I can? Here, sit down, sir. Write it out, sir!’

With that he cleared the table by the summary process of tilting everything upon it into the fireplace; snatched some writing materials from the mantel-shelf; set Martin’s chair before them; forced him down into it; dipped a pen into the ink; and put it in his hand.

‘Cut away, sir!’ cried Mark. ‘Make it strong, sir. Let it be wery pinted, sir. Do I think so? I should think so. Go to work, sir!’

Martin required no further adjuration, but went to work at a great rate; while Mr Tapley, installing himself without any more formalities into the functions of his valet and general attendant, divested himself of his coat, and went on to clear the fireplace and arrange the room; talking to himself in a low voice the whole time.

‘Jolly sort of lodgings,’ said Mark, rubbing his nose with the knob at the end of the fire-shovel, and looking round the poor chamber; ‘that’s a comfort. The rain’s come through the roof too. That an’t bad. A lively old bedstead, I’ll be bound; popilated by lots of wampires, no doubt. Come! my spirits is a-getting up again. An uncommon ragged nightcap this. A very good sign. We shall do yet! Here, Jane, my dear,’ calling down the stairs, ‘bring up that there hot tumbler for my master as was a-mixing when I come in. That’s right, sir,’ to Martin. ‘Go at it as if you meant it, sir. Be very tender, sir, if you please. You can’t make it too strong, sir!’






CHAPTER FOURTEEN. IN WHICH MARTIN BIDS ADIEU TO THE LADY OF HIS LOVE; AND HONOURS AN OBSCURE INDIVIDUAL WHOSE FORTUNE HE INTENDS TO MAKE BY COMMENDING HER TO HIS PROTECTION


The letter being duly signed, sealed, and delivered, was handed to Mark Tapley, for immediate conveyance if possible. And he succeeded so well in his embassy as to be enabled to return that same night, just as the house was closing, with the welcome intelligence that he had sent it upstairs to the young lady, enclosed in a small manuscript of his own, purporting to contain his further petition to be engaged in Mr Chuzzlewit’s service; and that she had herself come down and told him, in great haste and agitation, that she would meet the gentleman at eight o’clock to-morrow morning in St. James’s Park. It was then agreed between the new master and the new man, that Mark should be in waiting near the hotel in good time, to escort the young lady to the place of appointment; and when they had parted for the night with this understanding, Martin took up his pen again; and before he went to bed wrote another letter, whereof more will be seen presently.

He was up before daybreak, and came upon the Park with the morning, which was clad in the least engaging of the three hundred and sixty-five dresses in the wardrobe of the year. It was raw, damp, dark, and dismal; the clouds were as muddy as the ground; and the short perspective of every street and avenue was closed up by the mist as by a filthy curtain.

‘Fine weather indeed,’ Martin bitterly soliloquised, ‘to be wandering up and down here in, like a thief! Fine weather indeed, for a meeting of lovers in the open air, and in a public walk! I need be departing, with all speed, for another country; for I have come to a pretty pass in this!’

He might perhaps have gone on to reflect that of all mornings in the year, it was not the best calculated for a young lady’s coming forth on such an errand, either. But he was stopped on the road to this reflection, if his thoughts tended that way, by her appearance at a short distance, on which he hurried forward to meet her. Her squire, Mr Tapley, at the same time fell discreetly back, and surveyed the fog above him with an appearance of attentive interest.

‘My dear Martin,’ said Mary.

‘My dear Mary,’ said Martin; and lovers are such a singular kind of people that this is all they did say just then, though Martin took her arm, and her hand too, and they paced up and down a short walk that was least exposed to observation, half-a-dozen times.

‘If you have changed at all, my love, since we parted,’ said Martin at length, as he looked upon her with a proud delight, ‘it is only to be more beautiful than ever!’

Had she been of the common metal of love-worn young ladies, she would have denied this in her most interesting manner; and would have told him that she knew she had become a perfect fright; or that she had wasted away with weeping and anxiety; or that she was dwindling gently into an early grave; or that her mental sufferings were unspeakable; or would, either by tears or words, or a mixture of both, have furnished him with some other information to that effect, and made him as miserable as possible. But she had been reared up in a sterner school than the minds of most young girls are formed in; she had had her nature strengthened by the hands of hard endurance and necessity; had come out from her young trials constant, self-denying, earnest, and devoted; had acquired in her maidenhood—whether happily in the end, for herself or him, is foreign to our present purpose to inquire—something of that nobler quality of gentle hearts which is developed often by the sorrows and struggles of matronly years, but often by their lessons only. Unspoiled, unpampered in her joys or griefs; with frank and full, and deep affection for the object of her early love; she saw in him one who for her sake was an outcast from his home and fortune, and she had no more idea of bestowing that love upon him in other than cheerful and sustaining words, full of high hope and grateful trustfulness, than she had of being unworthy of it, in her lightest thought or deed, for any base temptation that the world could offer.

‘What change is there in you, Martin,’ she replied; ‘for that concerns me nearest? You look more anxious and more thoughtful than you used.’

‘Why, as to that, my love,’ said Martin as he drew her waist within his arm, first looking round to see that there were no observers near, and beholding Mr Tapley more intent than ever on the fog; ‘it would be strange if I did not; for my life—especially of late—has been a hard one.’

‘I know it must have been,’ she answered. ‘When have I forgotten to think of it and you?’

‘Not often, I hope,’ said Martin. ‘Not often, I am sure. Not often, I have some right to expect, Mary; for I have undergone a great deal of vexation and privation, and I naturally look for that return, you know.’

‘A very, very poor return,’ she answered with a fainter smile. ‘But you have it, and will have it always. You have paid a dear price for a poor heart, Martin; but it is at least your own, and a true one.’

‘Of course I feel quite certain of that,’ said Martin, ‘or I shouldn’t have put myself in my present position. And don’t say a poor heart, Mary, for I say a rich one. Now, I am about to break a design to you, dearest, which will startle you at first, but which is undertaken for your sake. I am going,’ he added slowly, looking far into the deep wonder of her bright dark eyes, ‘abroad.’

‘Abroad, Martin!’

‘Only to America. See now. How you droop directly!’

‘If I do, or, I hope I may say, if I did,’ she answered, raising her head after a short silence, and looking once more into his face, ‘it was for grief to think of what you are resolved to undergo for me. I would not venture to dissuade you, Martin; but it is a long, long distance; there is a wide ocean to be crossed; illness and want are sad calamities in any place, but in a foreign country dreadful to endure. Have you thought of all this?’

‘Thought of it!’ cried Martin, abating, in his fondness—and he was very fond of her—hardly an iota of his usual impetuosity. ‘What am I to do? It’s very well to say, “Have I thought of it?” my love; but you should ask me in the same breath, have I thought of starving at home; have I thought of doing porter’s work for a living; have I thought of holding horses in the streets to earn my roll of bread from day to day? Come, come,’ he added, in a gentler tone, ‘do not hang down your head, my dear, for I need the encouragement that your sweet face alone can give me. Why, that’s well! Now you are brave again.’

‘I am endeavouring to be,’ she answered, smiling through her tears.

‘Endeavouring to be anything that’s good, and being it, is, with you, all one. Don’t I know that of old?’ cried Martin, gayly. ‘So! That’s famous! Now I can tell you all my plans as cheerfully as if you were my little wife already, Mary.’

She hung more closely on his arm, and looking upwards in his face, bade him speak on.

‘You see,’ said Martin, playing with the little hand upon his wrist, ‘that my attempts to advance myself at home have been baffled and rendered abortive. I will not say by whom, Mary, for that would give pain to us both. But so it is. Have you heard him speak of late of any relative of mine or his, called Pecksniff? Only tell me what I ask you, no more.’

‘I have heard, to my surprise, that he is a better man than was supposed.’

‘I thought so,’ interrupted Martin.

‘And that it is likely we may come to know him, if not to visit and reside with him and—I think—his daughters. He has daughters, has he, love?’

‘A pair of them,’ Martin answered. ‘A precious pair! Gems of the first water!’

‘Ah! You are jesting!’

‘There is a sort of jesting which is very much in earnest, and includes some pretty serious disgust,’ said Martin. ‘I jest in reference to Mr Pecksniff (at whose house I have been living as his assistant, and at whose hands I have received insult and injury), in that vein. Whatever betides, or however closely you may be brought into communication with this family, never forget that, Mary; and never for an instant, whatever appearances may seem to contradict me, lose sight of this assurance—Pecksniff is a scoundrel.’

‘Indeed!’

‘In thought, and in deed, and in everything else. A scoundrel from the topmost hair of his head, to the nethermost atom of his heel. Of his daughters I will only say that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, they are dutiful young ladies, and take after their father closely. This is a digression from the main point, and yet it brings me to what I was going to say.’

He stopped to look into her eyes again, and seeing, in a hasty glance over his shoulder, that there was no one near, and that Mark was still intent upon the fog, not only looked at her lips, too, but kissed them into the bargain.

‘Now I am going to America, with great prospects of doing well, and of returning home myself very soon; it may be to take you there for a few years, but, at all events, to claim you for my wife; which, after such trials, I should do with no fear of your still thinking it a duty to cleave to him who will not suffer me to live (for this is true), if he can help it, in my own land. How long I may be absent is, of course, uncertain; but it shall not be very long. Trust me for that.’

‘In the meantime, dear Martin—’

‘That’s the very thing I am coming to. In the meantime you shall hear, constantly, of all my goings-on. Thus.’

He paused to take from his pocket the letter he had written overnight, and then resumed:

‘In this fellow’s employment, and living in this fellow’s house (by fellow, I mean Mr Pecksniff, of course), there is a certain person of the name of Pinch. Don’t forget; a poor, strange, simple oddity, Mary; but thoroughly honest and sincere; full of zeal; and with a cordial regard for me. Which I mean to return one of these days, by setting him up in life in some way or other.’

‘Your old kind nature, Martin!’

‘Oh!’ said Martin, ‘that’s not worth speaking of, my love. He’s very grateful and desirous to serve me; and I am more than repaid. Now one night I told this Pinch my history, and all about myself and you; in which he was not a little interested, I can tell you, for he knows you! Aye, you may look surprised—and the longer the better for it becomes you—but you have heard him play the organ in the church of that village before now; and he has seen you listening to his music; and has caught his inspiration from you, too!’

‘Was he the organist?’ cried Mary. ‘I thank him from my heart!’

‘Yes, he was,’ said Martin, ‘and is, and gets nothing for it either. There never was such a simple fellow! Quite an infant! But a very good sort of creature, I assure you.’

‘I am sure of that,’ she said with great earnestness. ‘He must be!’

‘Oh, yes, no doubt at all about it,’ rejoined Martin, in his usual careless way. ‘He is. Well! It has occurred to me—but stay. If I read you what I have written and intend sending to him by post to-night it will explain itself. “My dear Tom Pinch.” That’s rather familiar perhaps,’ said Martin, suddenly remembering that he was proud when they had last met, ‘but I call him my dear Tom Pinch because he likes it, and it pleases him.’

‘Very right, and very kind,’ said Mary.

‘Exactly so!’ cried Martin. ‘It’s as well to be kind whenever one can; and, as I said before, he really is an excellent fellow. “My dear Tom Pinch—I address this under cover to Mrs Lupin, at the Blue Dragon, and have begged her in a short note to deliver it to you without saying anything about it elsewhere; and to do the same with all future letters she may receive from me. My reason for so doing will be at once apparent to you”—I don’t know that it will be, by the bye,’ said Martin, breaking off, ‘for he’s slow of comprehension, poor fellow; but he’ll find it out in time. My reason simply is, that I don’t want my letters to be read by other people; and particularly by the scoundrel whom he thinks an angel.’

‘Mr Pecksniff again?’ asked Mary.

‘The same,’ said Martin ‘—will be at once apparent to you. I have completed my arrangements for going to America; and you will be surprised to hear that I am to be accompanied by Mark Tapley, upon whom I have stumbled strangely in London, and who insists on putting himself under my protection’—meaning, my love,’ said Martin, breaking off again, ‘our friend in the rear, of course.’

She was delighted to hear this, and bestowed a kind glance upon Mark, which he brought his eyes down from the fog to encounter and received with immense satisfaction. She said in his hearing, too, that he was a good soul and a merry creature, and would be faithful, she was certain; commendations which Mr Tapley inwardly resolved to deserve, from such lips, if he died for it.

‘“Now, my dear Pinch,”’ resumed Martin, proceeding with his letter; ‘“I am going to repose great trust in you, knowing that I may do so with perfect reliance on your honour and secrecy, and having nobody else just now to trust in.”’

‘I don’t think I would say that, Martin.’

‘Wouldn’t you? Well! I’ll take that out. It’s perfectly true, though.’

‘But it might seem ungracious, perhaps.’

‘Oh, I don’t mind Pinch,’ said Martin. ‘There’s no occasion to stand on any ceremony with him. However, I’ll take it out, as you wish it, and make the full stop at “secrecy.” Very well! “I shall not only”—this is the letter again, you know.’

‘I understand.’

‘“I shall not only enclose my letters to the young lady of whom I have told you, to your charge, to be forwarded as she may request; but I most earnestly commit her, the young lady herself, to your care and regard, in the event of your meeting in my absence. I have reason to think that the probabilities of your encountering each other—perhaps very frequently—are now neither remote nor few; and although in our position you can do very little to lessen the uneasiness of hers, I trust to you implicitly to do that much, and so deserve the confidence I have reposed in you.” You see, my dear Mary,’ said Martin, ‘it will be a great consolation to you to have anybody, no matter how simple, with whom you can speak about me; and the very first time you talk to Pinch, you’ll feel at once that there is no more occasion for any embarrassment or hesitation in talking to him, than if he were an old woman.’

‘However that may be,’ she returned, smiling, ‘he is your friend, and that is enough.’

‘Oh, yes, he’s my friend,’ said Martin, ‘certainly. In fact, I have told him in so many words that we’ll always take notice of him, and protect him; and it’s a good trait in his character that he’s grateful—very grateful indeed. You’ll like him of all things, my love, I know. You’ll observe very much that’s comical and old-fashioned about Pinch, but you needn’t mind laughing at him; for he’ll not care about it. He’ll rather like it indeed!’

‘I don’t think I shall put that to the test, Martin.’

‘You won’t if you can help it, of course,’ he said, ‘but I think you’ll find him a little too much for your gravity. However, that’s neither here nor there, and it certainly is not the letter; which ends thus: “Knowing that I need not impress the nature and extent of that confidence upon you at any greater length, as it is already sufficiently established in your mind, I will only say, in bidding you farewell and looking forward to our next meeting, that I shall charge myself from this time, through all changes for the better, with your advancement and happiness, as if they were my own. You may rely upon that. And always believe me, my dear Tom Pinch, faithfully your friend, Martin Chuzzlewit. P.S.—I enclose the amount which you so kindly”—Oh,’ said Martin, checking himself, and folding up the letter, ‘that’s nothing!’

At this crisis Mark Tapley interposed, with an apology for remarking that the clock at the Horse Guards was striking.

‘Which I shouldn’t have said nothing about, sir,’ added Mark, ‘if the young lady hadn’t begged me to be particular in mentioning it.’

‘I did,’ said Mary. ‘Thank you. You are quite right. In another minute I shall be ready to return. We have time for a very few words more, dear Martin, and although I had much to say, it must remain unsaid until the happy time of our next meeting. Heaven send it may come speedily and prosperously! But I have no fear of that.’

‘Fear!’ cried Martin. ‘Why, who has? What are a few months? What is a whole year? When I come gayly back, with a road through life hewn out before me, then indeed, looking back upon this parting, it may seem a dismal one. But now! I swear I wouldn’t have it happen under more favourable auspices, if I could; for then I should be less inclined to go, and less impressed with the necessity.’

‘Yes, yes. I feel that too. When do you go?’

‘To-night. We leave for Liverpool to-night. A vessel sails from that port, as I hear, in three days. In a month, or less, we shall be there. Why, what’s a month! How many months have flown by, since our last parting!’

‘Long to look back upon,’ said Mary, echoing his cheerful tone, ‘but nothing in their course!’

‘Nothing at all!’ cried Martin. ‘I shall have change of scene and change of place; change of people, change of manners, change of cares and hopes! Time will wear wings indeed! I can bear anything, so that I have swift action, Mary.’

Was he thinking solely of her care for him, when he took so little heed of her share in the separation; of her quiet monotonous endurance, and her slow anxiety from day to day? Was there nothing jarring and discordant even in his tone of courage, with this one note ‘self’ for ever audible, however high the strain? Not in her ears. It had been better otherwise, perhaps, but so it was. She heard the same bold spirit which had flung away as dross all gain and profit for her sake, making light of peril and privation that she might be calm and happy; and she heard no more. That heart where self has found no place and raised no throne, is slow to recognize its ugly presence when it looks upon it. As one possessed of an evil spirit was held in old time to be alone conscious of the lurking demon in the breasts of other men, so kindred vices know each other in their hiding-places every day, when Virtue is incredulous and blind.

‘The quarter’s gone!’ cried Mr Tapley, in a voice of admonition.

‘I shall be ready to return immediately,’ she said. ‘One thing, dear Martin, I am bound to tell you. You entreated me a few minutes since only to answer what you asked me in reference to one theme, but you should and must know (otherwise I could not be at ease) that since that separation of which I was the unhappy occasion, he has never once uttered your name; has never coupled it, or any faint allusion to it, with passion or reproach; and has never abated in his kindness to me.’

‘I thank him for that last act,’ said Martin, ‘and for nothing else. Though on consideration I may thank him for his other forbearance also, inasmuch as I neither expect nor desire that he will mention my name again. He may once, perhaps—to couple it with reproach—in his will. Let him, if he please! By the time it reaches me, he will be in his grave; a satire on his own anger, God help him!’

‘Martin! If you would but sometimes, in some quiet hour; beside the winter fire; in the summer air; when you hear gentle music, or think of Death, or Home, or Childhood; if you would at such a season resolve to think, but once a month, or even once a year, of him, or any one who ever wronged you, you would forgive him in your heart, I know!’

‘If I believed that to be true, Mary,’ he replied, ‘I would resolve at no such time to bear him in my mind; wishing to spare myself the shame of such a weakness. I was not born to be the toy and puppet of any man, far less his; to whose pleasure and caprice, in return for any good he did me, my whole youth was sacrificed. It became between us two a fair exchange—a barter—and no more; and there is no such balance against me that I need throw in a mawkish forgiveness to poise the scale. He has forbidden all mention of me to you, I know,’ he added hastily. ‘Come! Has he not?’

‘That was long ago,’ she returned; ‘immediately after your parting; before you had left the house. He has never done so since.’

‘He has never done so since because he has seen no occasion,’ said Martin; ‘but that is of little consequence, one way or other. Let all allusion to him between you and me be interdicted from this time forth. And therefore, love’—he drew her quickly to him, for the time of parting had now come—‘in the first letter that you write to me through the Post Office, addressed to New York; and in all the others that you send through Pinch; remember he has no existence, but has become to us as one who is dead. Now, God bless you! This is a strange place for such a meeting and such a parting; but our next meeting shall be in a better, and our next and last parting in a worse.’

‘One other question, Martin, I must ask. Have you provided money for this journey?’

‘Have I?’ cried Martin; it might have been in his pride; it might have been in his desire to set her mind at ease: ‘Have I provided money? Why, there’s a question for an emigrant’s wife! How could I move on land or sea without it, love?’

‘I mean, enough.’

‘Enough! More than enough. Twenty times more than enough. A pocket-full. Mark and I, for all essential ends, are quite as rich as if we had the purse of Fortunatus in our baggage.’

‘The half-hour’s a-going!’ cried Mr Tapley.

‘Good-bye a hundred times!’ cried Mary, in a trembling voice.

But how cold the comfort in Good-bye! Mark Tapley knew it perfectly. Perhaps he knew it from his reading, perhaps from his experience, perhaps from intuition. It is impossible to say; but however he knew it, his knowledge instinctively suggested to him the wisest course of proceeding that any man could have adopted under the circumstances. He was taken with a violent fit of sneezing, and was obliged to turn his head another way. In doing which, he, in a manner fenced and screened the lovers into a corner by themselves.

There was a short pause, but Mark had an undefined sensation that it was a satisfactory one in its way. Then Mary, with her veil lowered, passed him with a quick step, and beckoned him to follow. She stopped once more before they lost that corner; looked back; and waved her hand to Martin. He made a start towards them at the moment as if he had some other farewell words to say; but she only hurried off the faster, and Mr Tapley followed as in duty bound.

When he rejoined Martin again in his own chamber, he found that gentleman seated moodily before the dusty grate, with his two feet on the fender, his two elbows on his knees, and his chin supported, in a not very ornamental manner, on the palms of his hands.

‘Well, Mark!’

‘Well, sir,’ said Mark, taking a long breath, ‘I see the young lady safe home, and I feel pretty comfortable after it. She sent a lot of kind words, sir, and this,’ handing him a ring, ‘for a parting keepsake.’

‘Diamonds!’ said Martin, kissing it—let us do him justice, it was for her sake; not for theirs—and putting it on his little finger. ‘Splendid diamonds! My grandfather is a singular character, Mark. He must have given her this now.’

Mark Tapley knew as well that she had bought it, to the end that that unconscious speaker might carry some article of sterling value with him in his necessity; as he knew that it was day, and not night. Though he had no more acquaintance of his own knowledge with the history of the glittering trinket on Martin’s outspread finger, than Martin himself had, he was as certain that in its purchase she had expended her whole stock of hoarded money, as if he had seen it paid down coin by coin. Her lover’s strange obtuseness in relation to this little incident, promptly suggested to Mark’s mind its real cause and root; and from that moment he had a clear and perfect insight into the one absorbing principle of Martin’s character.

‘She is worthy of the sacrifices I have made,’ said Martin, folding his arms, and looking at the ashes in the stove, as if in resumption of some former thoughts. ‘Well worthy of them. No riches’—here he stroked his chin and mused—‘could have compensated for the loss of such a nature. Not to mention that in gaining her affection I have followed the bent of my own wishes, and baulked the selfish schemes of others who had no right to form them. She is quite worthy—more than worthy—of the sacrifices I have made. Yes, she is. No doubt of it.’

These ruminations might or might not have reached Mark Tapley; for though they were by no means addressed to him, yet they were softly uttered. In any case, he stood there, watching Martin with an indescribable and most involved expression on his visage, until that young man roused himself and looked towards him; when he turned away, as being suddenly intent upon certain preparations for the journey, and, without giving vent to any articulate sound, smiled with surpassing ghastliness, and seemed by a twist of his features and a motion of his lips, to release himself of this word:

‘Jolly!’






CHAPTER FIFTEEN. THE BURDEN WHEREOF, IS HAIL COLUMBIA!

A dark and dreary night; people nestling in their beds or circling late about the fire; Want, colder than Charity, shivering at the street corners; church-towers humming with the faint vibration of their own tongues, but newly resting from the ghostly preachment ‘One!’ The earth covered with a sable pall as for the burial of yesterday; the clumps of dark trees, its giant plumes of funeral feathers, waving sadly to and fro: all hushed, all noiseless, and in deep repose, save the swift clouds that skim across the moon, and the cautious wind, as, creeping after them upon the ground, it stops to listen, and goes rustling on, and stops again, and follows, like a savage on the trail.

Whither go the clouds and wind so eagerly? If, like guilty spirits, they repair to some dread conference with powers like themselves, in what wild regions do the elements hold council, or where unbend in terrible disport?

Here! Free from that cramped prison called the earth, and out upon the waste of waters. Here, roaring, raging, shrieking, howling, all night long. Hither come the sounding voices from the caverns on the coast of that small island, sleeping, a thousand miles away, so quietly in the midst of angry waves; and hither, to meet them, rush the blasts from unknown desert places of the world. Here, in the fury of their unchecked liberty, they storm and buffet with each other, until the sea, lashed into passion like their own, leaps up, in ravings mightier than theirs, and the whole scene is madness.

On, on, on, over the countless miles of angry space roll the long heaving billows. Mountains and caves are here, and yet are not; for what is now the one, is now the other; then all is but a boiling heap of rushing water. Pursuit, and flight, and mad return of wave on wave, and savage struggle, ending in a spouting-up of foam that whitens the black night; incessant change of place, and form, and hue; constancy in nothing, but eternal strife; on, on, on, they roll, and darker grows the night, and louder howls the wind, and more clamorous and fierce become the million voices in the sea, when the wild cry goes forth upon the storm ‘A ship!’

Onward she comes, in gallant combat with the elements, her tall masts trembling, and her timbers starting on the strain; onward she comes, now high upon the curling billows, now low down in the hollows of the sea, as hiding for the moment from its fury; and every storm-voice in the air and water cries more loudly yet, ‘A ship!’

Still she comes striving on; and at her boldness and the spreading cry, the angry waves rise up above each other’s hoary heads to look; and round about the vessel, far as the mariners on the decks can pierce into the gloom, they press upon her, forcing each other down and starting up, and rushing forward from afar, in dreadful curiosity. High over her they break; and round her surge and roar; and giving place to others, moaningly depart, and dash themselves to fragments in their baffled anger. Still she comes onward bravely. And though the eager multitude crowd thick and fast upon her all the night, and dawn of day discovers the untiring train yet bearing down upon the ship in an eternity of troubled water, onward she comes, with dim lights burning in her hull, and people there, asleep; as if no deadly element were peering in at every seam and chink, and no drowned seaman’s grave, with but a plank to cover it, were yawning in the unfathomable depths below.

Among these sleeping voyagers were Martin and Mark Tapley, who, rocked into a heavy drowsiness by the unaccustomed motion, were as insensible to the foul air in which they lay, as to the uproar without. It was broad day when the latter awoke with a dim idea that he was dreaming of having gone to sleep in a four-post bedstead which had turned bottom upwards in the course of the night. There was more reason in this too, than in the roasting of eggs; for the first objects Mr Tapley recognized when he opened his eyes were his own heels—looking down to him, as he afterwards observed, from a nearly perpendicular elevation.

‘Well!’ said Mark, getting himself into a sitting posture, after various ineffectual struggles with the rolling of the ship. ‘This is the first time as ever I stood on my head all night.’

‘You shouldn’t go to sleep upon the ground with your head to leeward then,’ growled a man in one of the berths.

‘With my head to where?’ asked Mark.

The man repeated his previous sentiment.

‘No, I won’t another time,’ said Mark, ‘when I know whereabouts on the map that country is. In the meanwhile I can give you a better piece of advice. Don’t you nor any other friend of mine never go to sleep with his head in a ship any more.’

The man gave a grunt of discontented acquiescence, turned over in his berth, and drew his blanket over his head.

‘—For,’ said Mr Tapley, pursuing the theme by way of soliloquy in a low tone of voice; ‘the sea is as nonsensical a thing as any going. It never knows what to do with itself. It hasn’t got no employment for its mind, and is always in a state of vacancy. Like them Polar bears in the wild-beast shows as is constantly a-nodding their heads from side to side, it never can be quiet. Which is entirely owing to its uncommon stupidity.’

‘Is that you, Mark?’ asked a faint voice from another berth.

‘It’s as much of me as is left, sir, after a fortnight of this work,’ Mr Tapley replied, ‘What with leading the life of a fly, ever since I’ve been aboard—for I’ve been perpetually holding-on to something or other in a upside-down position—what with that, sir, and putting a very little into myself, and taking a good deal out of myself, there an’t too much of me to swear by. How do you find yourself this morning, sir?’

‘Very miserable,’ said Martin, with a peevish groan. ‘Ugh. This is wretched, indeed!’

‘Creditable,’ muttered Mark, pressing one hand upon his aching head and looking round him with a rueful grin. ‘That’s the great comfort. It is creditable to keep up one’s spirits here. Virtue’s its own reward. So’s jollity.’

Mark was so far right that unquestionably any man who retained his cheerfulness among the steerage accommodations of that noble and fast-sailing line-of-packet ship, ‘The Screw,’ was solely indebted to his own resources, and shipped his good humour, like his provisions, without any contribution or assistance from the owners. A dark, low, stifling cabin, surrounded by berths all filled to overflowing with men, women, and children, in various stages of sickness and misery, is not the liveliest place of assembly at any time; but when it is so crowded (as the steerage cabin of the Screw was, every passage out), that mattresses and beds are heaped upon the floor, to the extinction of everything like comfort, cleanliness, and decency, it is liable to operate not only as a pretty strong banner against amiability of temper, but as a positive encourager of selfish and rough humours. Mark felt this, as he sat looking about him; and his spirits rose proportionately.

There were English people, Irish people, Welsh people, and Scotch people there; all with their little store of coarse food and shabby clothes; and nearly all with their families of children. There were children of all ages; from the baby at the breast, to the slattern-girl who was as much a grown woman as her mother. Every kind of domestic suffering that is bred in poverty, illness, banishment, sorrow, and long travel in bad weather, was crammed into the little space; and yet was there infinitely less of complaint and querulousness, and infinitely more of mutual assistance and general kindness to be found in that unwholesome ark, than in many brilliant ballrooms.

Mark looked about him wistfully, and his face brightened as he looked. Here an old grandmother was crooning over a sick child, and rocking it to and fro, in arms hardly more wasted than its own young limbs; here a poor woman with an infant in her lap, mended another little creature’s clothes, and quieted another who was creeping up about her from their scanty bed upon the floor. Here were old men awkwardly engaged in little household offices, wherein they would have been ridiculous but for their good-will and kind purpose; and here were swarthy fellows—giants in their way—doing such little acts of tenderness for those about them, as might have belonged to gentlest-hearted dwarfs. The very idiot in the corner who sat mowing there, all day, had his faculty of imitation roused by what he saw about him; and snapped his fingers to amuse a crying child.

‘Now, then,’ said Mark, nodding to a woman who was dressing her three children at no great distance from him—and the grin upon his face had by this time spread from ear to ear—‘Hand over one of them young ‘uns according to custom.’

‘I wish you’d get breakfast, Mark, instead of worrying with people who don’t belong to you,’ observed Martin, petulantly.

‘All right,’ said Mark. ‘She’ll do that. It’s a fair division of labour, sir. I wash her boys, and she makes our tea. I never could make tea, but any one can wash a boy.’

The woman, who was delicate and ill, felt and understood his kindness, as well she might, for she had been covered every night with his greatcoat, while he had for his own bed the bare boards and a rug. But Martin, who seldom got up or looked about him, was quite incensed by the folly of this speech, and expressed his dissatisfaction by an impatient groan.

‘So it is, certainly,’ said Mark, brushing the child’s hair as coolly as if he had been born and bred a barber.

‘What are you talking about, now?’ asked Martin.

‘What you said,’ replied Mark; ‘or what you meant, when you gave that there dismal vent to your feelings. I quite go along with it, sir. It is very hard upon her.’

‘What is?’

‘Making the voyage by herself along with these young impediments here, and going such a way at such a time of the year to join her husband. If you don’t want to be driven mad with yellow soap in your eye, young man,’ said Mr Tapley to the second urchin, who was by this time under his hands at the basin, ‘you’d better shut it.’

‘Where does she join her husband?’ asked Martin, yawning.

‘Why, I’m very much afraid,’ said Mr Tapley, in a low voice, ‘that she don’t know. I hope she mayn’t miss him. But she sent her last letter by hand, and it don’t seem to have been very clearly understood between ‘em without it, and if she don’t see him a-waving his pocket-handkerchief on the shore, like a pictur out of a song-book, my opinion is, she’ll break her heart.’

‘Why, how, in Folly’s name, does the woman come to be on board ship on such a wild-goose venture!’ cried Martin.

Mr Tapley glanced at him for a moment as he lay prostrate in his berth, and then said, very quietly:

‘Ah! How indeed! I can’t think! He’s been away from her for two year; she’s been very poor and lonely in her own country; and has always been a-looking forward to meeting him. It’s very strange she should be here. Quite amazing! A little mad perhaps! There can’t be no other way of accounting for it.’

Martin was too far gone in the lassitude of sea-sickness to make any reply to these words, or even to attend to them as they were spoken. And the subject of their discourse returning at this crisis with some hot tea, effectually put a stop to any resumption of the theme by Mr Tapley; who, when the meal was over and he had adjusted Martin’s bed, went up on deck to wash the breakfast service, which consisted of two half-pint tin mugs, and a shaving-pot of the same metal.

It is due to Mark Tapley to state that he suffered at least as much from sea-sickness as any man, woman, or child, on board; and that he had a peculiar faculty of knocking himself about on the smallest provocation, and losing his legs at every lurch of the ship. But resolved, in his usual phrase, to ‘come out strong’ under disadvantageous circumstances, he was the life and soul of the steerage, and made no more of stopping in the middle of a facetious conversation to go away and be excessively ill by himself, and afterwards come back in the very best and gayest of tempers to resume it, than if such a course of proceeding had been the commonest in the world.

It cannot be said that as his illness wore off, his cheerfulness and good nature increased, because they would hardly admit of augmentation; but his usefulness among the weaker members of the party was much enlarged; and at all times and seasons there he was exerting it. If a gleam of sun shone out of the dark sky, down Mark tumbled into the cabin, and presently up he came again with a woman in his arms, or half-a-dozen children, or a man, or a bed, or a saucepan, or a basket, or something animate or inanimate, that he thought would be the better for the air. If an hour or two of fine weather in the middle of the day tempted those who seldom or never came on deck at other times to crawl into the long-boat, or lie down upon the spare spars, and try to eat, there, in the centre of the group, was Mr Tapley, handing about salt beef and biscuit, or dispensing tastes of grog, or cutting up the children’s provisions with his pocketknife, for their greater ease and comfort, or reading aloud from a venerable newspaper, or singing some roaring old song to a select party, or writing the beginnings of letters to their friends at home for people who couldn’t write, or cracking jokes with the crew, or nearly getting blown over the side, or emerging, half-drowned, from a shower of spray, or lending a hand somewhere or other; but always doing something for the general entertainment. At night, when the cooking-fire was lighted on the deck, and the driving sparks that flew among the rigging, and the clouds of sails, seemed to menace the ship with certain annihilation by fire, in case the elements of air and water failed to compass her destruction; there, again, was Mr Tapley, with his coat off and his shirt-sleeves turned up to his elbows, doing all kinds of culinary offices; compounding the strangest dishes; recognized by every one as an established authority; and helping all parties to achieve something which, left to themselves, they never could have done, and never would have dreamed of. In short, there never was a more popular character than Mark Tapley became, on board that noble and fast-sailing line-of-packet ship, the Screw; and he attained at last to such a pitch of universal admiration, that he began to have grave doubts within himself whether a man might reasonably claim any credit for being jolly under such exciting circumstances.

‘If this was going to last,’ said Tapley, ‘there’d be no great difference as I can perceive, between the Screw and the Dragon. I never am to get credit, I think. I begin to be afraid that the Fates is determined to make the world easy to me.’

‘Well, Mark,’ said Martin, near whose berth he had ruminated to this effect. ‘When will this be over?’

‘Another week, they say, sir,’ returned Mark, ‘will most likely bring us into port. The ship’s a-going along at present, as sensible as a ship can, sir; though I don’t mean to say as that’s any very high praise.’

‘I don’t think it is, indeed,’ groaned Martin.

‘You’d feel all the better for it, sir, if you was to turn out,’ observed Mark.

‘And be seen by the ladies and gentlemen on the after-deck,’ returned Martin, with a scronful emphasis upon the words, ‘mingling with the beggarly crowd that are stowed away in this vile hole. I should be greatly the better for that, no doubt.’

‘I’m thankful that I can’t say from my own experience what the feelings of a gentleman may be,’ said Mark, ‘but I should have thought, sir, as a gentleman would feel a deal more uncomfortable down here than up in the fresh air, especially when the ladies and gentlemen in the after-cabin know just as much about him as he does about them, and are likely to trouble their heads about him in the same proportion. I should have thought that, certainly.’

‘I tell you, then,’ rejoined Martin, ‘you would have thought wrong, and do think wrong.’

‘Very likely, sir,’ said Mark, with imperturbable good temper. ‘I often do.’

‘As to lying here,’ cried Martin, raising himself on his elbow, and looking angrily at his follower. ‘Do you suppose it’s a pleasure to lie here?’

‘All the madhouses in the world,’ said Mr Tapley, ‘couldn’t produce such a maniac as the man must be who could think that.’

‘Then why are you forever goading and urging me to get up?’ asked Martin, ‘I lie here because I don’t wish to be recognized, in the better days to which I aspire, by any purse-proud citizen, as the man who came over with him among the steerage passengers. I lie here because I wish to conceal my circumstances and myself, and not to arrive in a new world badged and ticketed as an utterly poverty-stricken man. If I could have afforded a passage in the after-cabin I should have held up my head with the rest. As I couldn’t I hide it. Do you understand that?’

‘I am very sorry, sir,’ said Mark. ‘I didn’t know you took it so much to heart as this comes to.’

‘Of course you didn’t know,’ returned his master. ‘How should you know, unless I told you? It’s no trial to you, Mark, to make yourself comfortable and to bustle about. It’s as natural for you to do so under the circumstances as it is for me not to do so. Why, you don’t suppose there is a living creature in this ship who can by possibility have half so much to undergo on board of her as I have? Do you?’ he asked, sitting upright in his berth and looking at Mark, with an expression of great earnestness not unmixed with wonder.

Mark twisted his face into a tight knot, and with his head very much on one side, pondered upon this question as if he felt it an extremely difficult one to answer. He was relieved from his embarrassment by Martin himself, who said, as he stretched himself upon his back again and resumed the book he had been reading:

‘But what is the use of my putting such a case to you, when the very essence of what I have been saying is, that you cannot by possibility understand it! Make me a little brandy-and-water—cold and very weak—and give me a biscuit, and tell your friend, who is a nearer neighbour of ours than I could wish, to try and keep her children a little quieter to-night than she did last night; that’s a good fellow.’

Mr Tapley set himself to obey these orders with great alacrity, and pending their execution, it may be presumed his flagging spirits revived; inasmuch as he several times observed, below his breath, that in respect of its power of imparting a credit to jollity, the Screw unquestionably had some decided advantages over the Dragon. He also remarked that it was a high gratification to him to reflect that he would carry its main excellence ashore with him, and have it constantly beside him wherever he went; but what he meant by these consolatory thoughts he did not explain.

And now a general excitement began to prevail on board; and various predictions relative to the precise day, and even the precise hour at which they would reach New York, were freely broached. There was infinitely more crowding on deck and looking over the ship’s side than there had been before; and an epidemic broke out for packing up things every morning, which required unpacking again every night. Those who had any letters to deliver, or any friends to meet, or any settled plans of going anywhere or doing anything, discussed their prospects a hundred times a day; and as this class of passengers was very small, and the number of those who had no prospects whatever was very large, there were plenty of listeners and few talkers. Those who had been ill all along, got well now, and those who had been well, got better. An American gentleman in the after-cabin, who had been wrapped up in fur and oilskin the whole passage, unexpectedly appeared in a very shiny, tall, black hat, and constantly overhauled a very little valise of pale leather, which contained his clothes, linen, brushes, shaving apparatus, books, trinkets, and other baggage. He likewise stuck his hands deep into his pockets, and walked the deck with his nostrils dilated, as already inhaling the air of Freedom which carries death to all tyrants, and can never (under any circumstances worth mentioning) be breathed by slaves. An English gentleman who was strongly suspected of having run away from a bank, with something in his possession belonging to its strong box besides the key, grew eloquent upon the subject of the rights of man, and hummed the Marseillaise Hymn constantly. In a word, one great sensation pervaded the whole ship, and the soil of America lay close before them; so close at last, that, upon a certain starlight night they took a pilot on board, and within a few hours afterwards lay to until the morning, awaiting the arrival of a steamboat in which the passengers were to be conveyed ashore.

Off she came, soon after it was light next morning, and lying alongside an hour or more—during which period her very firemen were objects of hardly less interest and curiosity than if they had been so many angels, good or bad—took all her living freight aboard. Among them Mark, who still had his friend and her three children under his close protection; and Martin, who had once more dressed himself in his usual attire, but wore a soiled, old cloak above his ordinary clothes, until such time as he should separate for ever from his late companions.

The steamer—which, with its machinery on deck, looked, as it worked its long slim legs, like some enormously magnified insect or antediluvian monster—dashed at great speed up a beautiful bay; and presently they saw some heights, and islands, and a long, flat, straggling city.

‘And this,’ said Mr Tapley, looking far ahead, ‘is the Land of Liberty, is it? Very well. I’m agreeable. Any land will do for me, after so much water!’