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Martin Chuzzlewit

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CHAPTER SIXTEEN. MARTIN DISEMBARKS FROM THAT NOBLE AND FAST-SAILING LINE-OF-PACKET SHIP, ‘THE SCREW’, AT THE PORT OF NEW YORK, IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. HE MAKES SOME ACQUAINTANCES, AND DINES AT A BOARDING-HOUSE. THE PARTICULARS OF THOSE TRANSACTIONS


Some trifling excitement prevailed upon the very brink and margin of the land of liberty; for an alderman had been elected the day before; and Party Feeling naturally running rather high on such an exciting occasion, the friends of the disappointed candidate had found it necessary to assert the great principles of Purity of Election and Freedom of opinion by breaking a few legs and arms, and furthermore pursuing one obnoxious gentleman through the streets with the design of hitting his nose. These good-humoured little outbursts of the popular fancy were not in themselves sufficiently remarkable to create any great stir, after the lapse of a whole night; but they found fresh life and notoriety in the breath of the newsboys, who not only proclaimed them with shrill yells in all the highways and byways of the town, upon the wharves and among the shipping, but on the deck and down in the cabins of the steamboat; which, before she touched the shore, was boarded and overrun by a legion of those young citizens.

‘Here’s this morning’s New York Sewer!’ cried one. ‘Here’s this morning’s New York Stabber! Here’s the New York Family Spy! Here’s the New York Private Listener! Here’s the New York Peeper! Here’s the New York Plunderer! Here’s the New York Keyhole Reporter! Here’s the New York Rowdy Journal! Here’s all the New York papers! Here’s full particulars of the patriotic locofoco movement yesterday, in which the whigs was so chawed up; and the last Alabama gouging case; and the interesting Arkansas dooel with Bowie knives; and all the Political, Commercial, and Fashionable News. Here they are! Here they are! Here’s the papers, here’s the papers!’

‘Here’s the Sewer!’ cried another. ‘Here’s the New York Sewer! Here’s some of the twelfth thousand of to-day’s Sewer, with the best accounts of the markets, and all the shipping news, and four whole columns of country correspondence, and a full account of the Ball at Mrs White’s last night, where all the beauty and fashion of New York was assembled; with the Sewer’s own particulars of the private lives of all the ladies that was there! Here’s the Sewer! Here’s some of the twelfth thousand of the New York Sewer! Here’s the Sewer’s exposure of the Wall Street Gang, and the Sewer’s exposure of the Washington Gang, and the Sewer’s exclusive account of a flagrant act of dishonesty committed by the Secretary of State when he was eight years old; now communicated, at a great expense, by his own nurse. Here’s the Sewer! Here’s the New York Sewer, in its twelfth thousand, with a whole column of New Yorkers to be shown up, and all their names printed! Here’s the Sewer’s article upon the Judge that tried him, day afore yesterday, for libel, and the Sewer’s tribute to the independent Jury that didn’t convict him, and the Sewer’s account of what they might have expected if they had! Here’s the Sewer, here’s the Sewer! Here’s the wide-awake Sewer; always on the lookout; the leading Journal of the United States, now in its twelfth thousand, and still a-printing off:—Here’s the New York Sewer!’

‘It is in such enlightened means,’ said a voice almost in Martin’s ear, ‘that the bubbling passions of my country find a vent.’

Martin turned involuntarily, and saw, standing close at his side, a sallow gentleman, with sunken cheeks, black hair, small twinkling eyes, and a singular expression hovering about that region of his face, which was not a frown, nor a leer, and yet might have been mistaken at the first glance for either. Indeed it would have been difficult, on a much closer acquaintance, to describe it in any more satisfactory terms than as a mixed expression of vulgar cunning and conceit. This gentleman wore a rather broad-brimmed hat for the greater wisdom of his appearance; and had his arms folded for the greater impressiveness of his attitude. He was somewhat shabbily dressed in a blue surtout reaching nearly to his ankles, short loose trousers of the same colour, and a faded buff waistcoat, through which a discoloured shirt-frill struggled to force itself into notice, as asserting an equality of civil rights with the other portions of his dress, and maintaining a declaration of Independence on its own account. His feet, which were of unusually large proportions, were leisurely crossed before him as he half leaned against, half sat upon, the steamboat’s bulwark; and his thick cane, shod with a mighty ferule at one end and armed with a great metal knob at the other, depended from a line-and-tassel on his wrist. Thus attired, and thus composed into an aspect of great profundity, the gentleman twitched up the right-hand corner of his mouth and his right eye simultaneously, and said, once more:

‘It is in such enlightened means that the bubbling passions of my country find a vent.’

As he looked at Martin, and nobody else was by, Martin inclined his head, and said:

‘You allude to—?’

‘To the Palladium of rational Liberty at home, sir, and the dread of Foreign oppression abroad,’ returned the gentleman, as he pointed with his cane to an uncommonly dirty newsboy with one eye. ‘To the Envy of the world, sir, and the leaders of Human Civilization. Let me ask you sir,’ he added, bringing the ferule of his stick heavily upon the deck with the air of a man who must not be equivocated with, ‘how do you like my Country?’

‘I am hardly prepared to answer that question yet,’ said Martin ‘seeing that I have not been ashore.’

‘Well, I should expect you were not prepared, sir,’ said the gentleman, ‘to behold such signs of National Prosperity as those?’

He pointed to the vessels lying at the wharves; and then gave a vague flourish with his stick, as if he would include the air and water, generally, in this remark.

‘Really,’ said Martin, ‘I don’t know. Yes. I think I was.’

The gentleman glanced at him with a knowing look, and said he liked his policy. It was natural, he said, and it pleased him as a philosopher to observe the prejudices of human nature.

‘You have brought, I see, sir,’ he said, turning round towards Martin, and resting his chin on the top of his stick, ‘the usual amount of misery and poverty and ignorance and crime, to be located in the bosom of the great Republic. Well, sir! let ‘em come on in shiploads from the old country. When vessels are about to founder, the rats are said to leave ‘em. There is considerable of truth, I find, in that remark.’

‘The old ship will keep afloat a year or two longer yet, perhaps,’ said Martin with a smile, partly occasioned by what the gentleman said, and partly by his manner of saying it, which was odd enough for he emphasised all the small words and syllables in his discourse, and left the others to take care of themselves; as if he thought the larger parts of speech could be trusted alone, but the little ones required to be constantly looked after.

‘Hope is said by the poet, sir,’ observed the gentleman, ‘to be the nurse of young Desire.’

Martin signified that he had heard of the cardinal virtue in question serving occasionally in that domestic capacity.

‘She will not rear her infant in the present instance, sir, you’ll find,’ observed the gentleman.

‘Time will show,’ said Martin.

The gentleman nodded his head gravely; and said, ‘What is your name, sir?’

Martin told him.

‘How old are you, sir?’

Martin told him.

‘What is your profession, sir?’

Martin told him that also.

‘What is your destination, sir?’ inquired the gentleman.

‘Really,’ said Martin laughing, ‘I can’t satisfy you in that particular, for I don’t know it myself.’

‘Yes?’ said the gentleman.

‘No,’ said Martin.

The gentleman adjusted his cane under his left arm, and took a more deliberate and complete survey of Martin than he had yet had leisure to make. When he had completed his inspection, he put out his right hand, shook Martin’s hand, and said:

‘My name is Colonel Diver, sir. I am the Editor of the New York Rowdy Journal.’

Martin received the communication with that degree of respect which an announcement so distinguished appeared to demand.

‘The New York Rowdy Journal, sir,’ resumed the colonel, ‘is, as I expect you know, the organ of our aristocracy in this city.’

‘Oh! there is an aristocracy here, then?’ said Martin. ‘Of what is it composed?’

‘Of intelligence, sir,’ replied the colonel; ‘of intelligence and virtue. And of their necessary consequence in this republic—dollars, sir.’

Martin was very glad to hear this, feeling well assured that if intelligence and virtue led, as a matter of course, to the acquisition of dollars, he would speedily become a great capitalist. He was about to express the gratification such news afforded him, when he was interrupted by the captain of the ship, who came up at the moment to shake hands with the colonel; and who, seeing a well-dressed stranger on the deck (for Martin had thrown aside his cloak), shook hands with him also. This was an unspeakable relief to Martin, who, in spite of the acknowledged supremacy of Intelligence and virtue in that happy country, would have been deeply mortified to appear before Colonel Diver in the poor character of a steerage passenger.

‘Well cap’en!’ said the colonel.

‘Well colonel,’ cried the captain. ‘You’re looking most uncommon bright, sir. I can hardly realise its being you, and that’s a fact.’

‘A good passage, cap’en?’ inquired the colonel, taking him aside,

‘Well now! It was a pretty spanking run, sir,’ said, or rather sung, the captain, who was a genuine New Englander; ‘considerin’ the weather.’

‘Yes?’ said the colonel.

‘Well! It was, sir,’ said the captain. ‘I’ve just now sent a boy up to your office with the passenger-list, colonel.’

‘You haven’t got another boy to spare, p’raps, cap’en?’ said the colonel, in a tone almost amounting to severity.

‘I guess there air a dozen if you want ‘em, colonel,’ said the captain.

‘One moderate big ‘un could convey a dozen champagne, perhaps,’ observed the colonel, musing, ‘to my office. You said a spanking run, I think?’

‘Well, so I did,’ was the reply.

‘It’s very nigh, you know,’ observed the colonel. ‘I’m glad it was a spanking run, cap’en. Don’t mind about quarts if you’re short of ‘em. The boy can as well bring four-and-twenty pints, and travel twice as once.—A first-rate spanker, cap’en, was it? Yes?’

‘A most e—tarnal spanker,’ said the skipper.

‘I admire at your good fortun, cap’en. You might loan me a corkscrew at the same time, and half-a-dozen glasses if you liked. However bad the elements combine against my country’s noble packet-ship, the Screw, sir,’ said the colonel, turning to Martin, and drawing a flourish on the surface of the deck with his cane, ‘her passage either way is almost certain to eventuate a spanker!’

The captain, who had the Sewer below at that moment, lunching expensively in one cabin, while the amiable Stabber was drinking himself into a state of blind madness in another, took a cordial leave of his friend the colonel, and hurried away to dispatch the champagne; well knowing (as it afterwards appeared) that if he failed to conciliate the editor of the Rowdy Journal, that potentate would denounce him and his ship in large capitals before he was a day older; and would probably assault the memory of his mother also, who had not been dead more than twenty years. The colonel being again left alone with Martin, checked him as he was moving away, and offered in consideration of his being an Englishman, to show him the town and to introduce him, if such were his desire, to a genteel boarding-house. But before they entered on these proceedings (he said), he would beseech the honour of his company at the office of the Rowdy Journal, to partake of a bottle of champagne of his own importation.

All this was so extremely kind and hospitable, that Martin, though it was quite early in the morning, readily acquiesced. So, instructing Mark, who was deeply engaged with his friend and her three children, that when he had done assisting them, and had cleared the baggage, he was to wait for further orders at the Rowdy Journal Office, Martin accompanied his new friend on shore.

They made their way as they best could through the melancholy crowd of emigrants upon the wharf, who, grouped about their beds and boxes, with the bare ground below them and the bare sky above, might have fallen from another planet, for anything they knew of the country; and walked for some short distance along a busy street, bounded on one side by the quays and shipping; and on the other by a long row of staring red-brick storehouses and offices, ornamented with more black boards and white letters, and more white boards and black letters, than Martin had ever seen before, in fifty times the space. Presently they turned up a narrow street, and presently into other narrow streets, until at last they stopped before a house whereon was painted in great characters, ‘Rowdy Journal.’

The colonel, who had walked the whole way with one hand in his breast, his head occasionally wagging from side to side, and his hat thrown back upon his ears, like a man who was oppressed to inconvenience by a sense of his own greatness, led the way up a dark and dirty flight of stairs into a room of similar character, all littered and bestrewn with odds and ends of newspapers and other crumpled fragments, both in proof and manuscript. Behind a mangy old writing-table in this apartment sat a figure with a stump of a pen in its mouth and a great pair of scissors in its right hand, clipping and slicing at a file of Rowdy Journals; and it was such a laughable figure that Martin had some difficulty in preserving his gravity, though conscious of the close observation of Colonel Diver.

The individual who sat clipping and slicing as aforesaid at the Rowdy Journals, was a small young gentleman of very juvenile appearance, and unwholesomely pale in the face; partly, perhaps, from intense thought, but partly, there is no doubt, from the excessive use of tobacco, which he was at that moment chewing vigorously. He wore his shirt-collar turned down over a black ribbon; and his lank hair, a fragile crop, was not only smoothed and parted back from his brow, that none of the Poetry of his aspect might be lost, but had, here and there, been grubbed up by the roots; which accounted for his loftiest developments being somewhat pimply. He had that order of nose on which the envy of mankind has bestowed the appellation ‘snub,’ and it was very much turned up at the end, as with a lofty scorn. Upon the upper lip of this young gentleman were tokens of a sandy down; so very, very smooth and scant, that, though encouraged to the utmost, it looked more like a recent trace of gingerbread than the fair promise of a moustache; and this conjecture, his apparently tender age went far to strengthen. He was intent upon his work. Every time he snapped the great pair of scissors, he made a corresponding motion with his jaws, which gave him a very terrible appearance.

Martin was not long in determining within himself that this must be Colonel Diver’s son; the hope of the family, and future mainspring of the Rowdy Journal. Indeed he had begun to say that he presumed this was the colonel’s little boy, and that it was very pleasant to see him playing at Editor in all the guilelessness of childhood, when the colonel proudly interposed and said:

‘My War Correspondent, sir—Mr Jefferson Brick!’

Martin could not help starting at this unexpected announcement, and the consciousness of the irretrievable mistake he had nearly made.

Mr Brick seemed pleased with the sensation he produced upon the stranger, and shook hands with him, with an air of patronage designed to reassure him, and to let him blow that there was no occasion to be frightened, for he (Brick) wouldn’t hurt him.

‘You have heard of Jefferson Brick, I see, sir,’ quoth the colonel, with a smile. ‘England has heard of Jefferson Brick. Europe has heard of Jefferson Brick. Let me see. When did you leave England, sir?’

‘Five weeks ago,’ said Martin.

‘Five weeks ago,’ repeated the colonel, thoughtfully; as he took his seat upon the table, and swung his legs. ‘Now let me ask you, sir which of Mr Brick’s articles had become at that time the most obnoxious to the British Parliament and the Court of Saint James’s?’

‘Upon my word,’ said Martin, ‘I—’

‘I have reason to know, sir,’ interrupted the colonel, ‘that the aristocratic circles of your country quail before the name of Jefferson Brick. I should like to be informed, sir, from your lips, which of his sentiments has struck the deadliest blow—’

‘At the hundred heads of the Hydra of Corruption now grovelling in the dust beneath the lance of Reason, and spouting up to the universal arch above us, its sanguinary gore,’ said Mr Brick, putting on a little blue cloth cap with a glazed front, and quoting his last article.

‘The libation of freedom, Brick’—hinted the colonel.

‘—Must sometimes be quaffed in blood, colonel,’ cried Brick. And when he said ‘blood,’ he gave the great pair of scissors a sharp snap, as if they said blood too, and were quite of his opinion.

This done, they both looked at Martin, pausing for a reply.

‘Upon my life,’ said Martin, who had by this time quite recovered his usual coolness, ‘I can’t give you any satisfactory information about it; for the truth is that I—’

‘Stop!’ cried the colonel, glancing sternly at his war correspondent and giving his head one shake after every sentence. ‘That you never heard of Jefferson Brick, sir. That you never read Jefferson Brick, sir. That you never saw the Rowdy Journal, sir. That you never knew, sir, of its mighty influence upon the cabinets of Europe. Yes?’

‘That’s what I was about to observe, certainly,’ said Martin.

‘Keep cool, Jefferson,’ said the colonel gravely. ‘Don’t bust! oh you Europeans! After that, let’s have a glass of wine!’ So saying, he got down from the table, and produced, from a basket outside the door, a bottle of champagne, and three glasses.

‘Mr Jefferson Brick, sir,’ said the colonel, filling Martin’s glass and his own, and pushing the bottle to that gentleman, ‘will give us a sentiment.’ ‘Well, sir!’ cried the war correspondent, ‘Since you have concluded to call upon me, I will respond. I will give you, sir, The Rowdy Journal and its brethren; the well of Truth, whose waters are black from being composed of printers’ ink, but are quite clear enough for my country to behold the shadow of her Destiny reflected in.’

‘Hear, hear!’ cried the colonel, with great complacency. ‘There are flowery components, sir, in the language of my friend?’

‘Very much so, indeed,’ said Martin.

‘There is to-day’s Rowdy, sir,’ observed the colonel, handing him a paper. ‘You’ll find Jefferson Brick at his usual post in the van of human civilization and moral purity.’

The colonel was by this time seated on the table again. Mr Brick also took up a position on that same piece of furniture; and they fell to drinking pretty hard. They often looked at Martin as he read the paper, and then at each other. When he laid it down, which was not until they had finished a second bottle, the colonel asked him what he thought of it.

‘Why, it’s horribly personal,’ said Martin.

The colonel seemed much flattered by this remark; and said he hoped it was.

‘We are independent here, sir,’ said Mr Jefferson Brick. ‘We do as we like.’

‘If I may judge from this specimen,’ returned Martin, ‘there must be a few thousands here, rather the reverse of independent, who do as they don’t like.’

‘Well! They yield to the popular mind of the Popular Instructor, sir,’ said the colonel. ‘They rile up, sometimes; but in general we have a hold upon our citizens, both in public and in private life, which is as much one of the ennobling institutions of our happy country as—’

‘As nigger slavery itself,’ suggested Mr Brick.

‘En—tirely so,’ remarked the colonel.

‘Pray,’ said Martin, after some hesitation, ‘may I venture to ask, with reference to a case I observe in this paper of yours, whether the Popular Instructor often deals in—I am at a loss to express it without giving you offence—in forgery? In forged letters, for instance,’ he pursued, for the colonel was perfectly calm and quite at his ease, ‘solemnly purporting to have been written at recent periods by living men?’

‘Well, sir!’ replied the colonel. ‘It does, now and then.’

‘And the popular instructed—what do they do?’ asked Martin.

‘Buy ‘em:’ said the colonel.

Mr Jefferson Brick expectorated and laughed; the former copiously, the latter approvingly.

‘Buy ‘em by hundreds of thousands,’ resumed the colonel. ‘We are a smart people here, and can appreciate smartness.’

‘Is smartness American for forgery?’ asked Martin.

‘Well!’ said the colonel, ‘I expect it’s American for a good many things that you call by other names. But you can’t help yourself in Europe. We can.’

‘And do, sometimes,’ thought Martin. ‘You help yourselves with very little ceremony, too!’

‘At all events, whatever name we choose to employ,’ said the colonel, stooping down to roll the third empty bottle into a corner after the other two, ‘I suppose the art of forgery was not invented here sir?’

‘I suppose not,’ replied Martin.

‘Nor any other kind of smartness I reckon?’

‘Invented! No, I presume not.’

‘Well!’ said the colonel; ‘then we got it all from the old country, and the old country’s to blame for it, and not the new ‘un. There’s an end of that. Now, if Mr Jefferson Brick and you will be so good as to clear, I’ll come out last, and lock the door.’

Rightly interpreting this as the signal for their departure, Martin walked downstairs after the war correspondent, who preceded him with great majesty. The colonel following, they left the Rowdy Journal Office and walked forth into the streets; Martin feeling doubtful whether he ought to kick the colonel for having presumed to speak to him, or whether it came within the bounds of possibility that he and his establishment could be among the boasted usages of that regenerated land.

It was clear that Colonel Diver, in the security of his strong position, and in his perfect understanding of the public sentiment, cared very little what Martin or anybody else thought about him. His high-spiced wares were made to sell, and they sold; and his thousands of readers could as rationally charge their delight in filth upon him, as a glutton can shift upon his cook the responsibility of his beastly excess. Nothing would have delighted the colonel more than to be told that no such man as he could walk in high success the streets of any other country in the world; for that would only have been a logical assurance to him of the correct adaptation of his labours to the prevailing taste, and of his being strictly and peculiarly a national feature of America.

They walked a mile or more along a handsome street which the colonel said was called Broadway, and which Mr Jefferson Brick said ‘whipped the universe.’ Turning, at length, into one of the numerous streets which branched from this main thoroughfare, they stopped before a rather mean-looking house with jalousie blinds to every window; a flight of steps before the green street-door; a shining white ornament on the rails on either side like a petrified pineapple, polished; a little oblong plate of the same material over the knocker whereon the name of ‘Pawkins’ was engraved; and four accidental pigs looking down the area.

The colonel knocked at this house with the air of a man who lived there; and an Irish girl popped her head out of one of the top windows to see who it was. Pending her journey downstairs, the pigs were joined by two or three friends from the next street, in company with whom they lay down sociably in the gutter.

‘Is the major indoors?’ inquired the colonel, as he entered.

‘Is it the master, sir?’ returned the girl, with a hesitation which seemed to imply that they were rather flush of majors in that establishment.

‘The master!’ said Colonel Diver, stopping short and looking round at his war correspondent.

‘Oh! The depressing institutions of that British empire, colonel!’ said Jefferson Brick. ‘Master!’

‘What’s the matter with the word?’ asked Martin.

‘I should hope it was never heard in our country, sir; that’s all,’ said Jefferson Brick; ‘except when it is used by some degraded Help, as new to the blessings of our form of government, as this Help is. There are no masters here.’

‘All “owners,” are they?’ said Martin.

Mr Jefferson Brick followed in the Rowdy Journal’s footsteps without returning any answer. Martin took the same course, thinking as he went, that perhaps the free and independent citizens, who in their moral elevation, owned the colonel for their master, might render better homage to the goddess, Liberty, in nightly dreams upon the oven of a Russian Serf.

The colonel led the way into a room at the back of the house upon the ground-floor, light, and of fair dimensions, but exquisitely uncomfortable; having nothing in it but the four cold white walls and ceiling, a mean carpet, a dreary waste of dining-table reaching from end to end, and a bewildering collection of cane-bottomed chairs. In the further region of this banqueting-hall was a stove, garnished on either side with a great brass spittoon, and shaped in itself like three little iron barrels set up on end in a fender, and joined together on the principle of the Siamese Twins. Before it, swinging himself in a rocking-chair, lounged a large gentleman with his hat on, who amused himself by spitting alternately into the spittoon on the right hand of the stove, and the spittoon on the left, and then working his way back again in the same order. A negro lad in a soiled white jacket was busily engaged in placing on the table two long rows of knives and forks, relieved at intervals by jugs of water; and as he travelled down one side of this festive board, he straightened with his dirty hands the dirtier cloth, which was all askew, and had not been removed since breakfast. The atmosphere of this room was rendered intensely hot and stifling by the stove; but being further flavoured by a sickly gush of soup from the kitchen, and by such remote suggestions of tobacco as lingered within the brazen receptacles already mentioned, it became, to a stranger’s senses, almost insupportable.

The gentleman in the rocking-chair having his back towards them, and being much engaged in his intellectual pastime, was not aware of their approach until the colonel, walking up to the stove, contributed his mite towards the support of the left-hand spittoon, just as the major—for it was the major—bore down upon it. Major Pawkins then reserved his fire, and looking upward, said, with a peculiar air of quiet weariness, like a man who had been up all night—an air which Martin had already observed both in the colonel and Mr Jefferson Brick—

‘Well, colonel!’

‘Here is a gentleman from England, major,’ the colonel replied, ‘who has concluded to locate himself here if the amount of compensation suits him.’

‘I am glad to see you, sir,’ observed the major, shaking hands with Martin, and not moving a muscle of his face. ‘You are pretty bright, I hope?’

‘Never better,’ said Martin.

‘You are never likely to be,’ returned the major. ‘You will see the sun shine here.’

‘I think I remember to have seen it shine at home sometimes,’ said Martin, smiling.

‘I think not,’ replied the major. He said so with a stoical indifference certainly, but still in a tone of firmness which admitted of no further dispute on that point. When he had thus settled the question, he put his hat a little on one side for the greater convenience of scratching his head, and saluted Mr Jefferson Brick with a lazy nod.

Major Pawkins (a gentleman of Pennsylvanian origin) was distinguished by a very large skull, and a great mass of yellow forehead; in deference to which commodities it was currently held in bar-rooms and other such places of resort that the major was a man of huge sagacity. He was further to be known by a heavy eye and a dull slow manner; and for being a man of that kind who—mentally speaking—requires a deal of room to turn himself in. But, in trading on his stock of wisdom, he invariably proceeded on the principle of putting all the goods he had (and more) into his window; and that went a great way with his constituency of admirers. It went a great way, perhaps, with Mr Jefferson Brick, who took occasion to whisper in Martin’s ear:

‘One of the most remarkable men in our country, sir!’

It must not be supposed, however, that the perpetual exhibition in the market-place of all his stock-in-trade for sale or hire, was the major’s sole claim to a very large share of sympathy and support. He was a great politician; and the one article of his creed, in reference to all public obligations involving the good faith and integrity of his country, was, ‘run a moist pen slick through everything, and start fresh.’ This made him a patriot. In commercial affairs he was a bold speculator. In plainer words he had a most distinguished genius for swindling, and could start a bank, or negotiate a loan, or form a land-jobbing company (entailing ruin, pestilence, and death, on hundreds of families), with any gifted creature in the Union. This made him an admirable man of business. He could hang about a bar-room, discussing the affairs of the nation, for twelve hours together; and in that time could hold forth with more intolerable dulness, chew more tobacco, smoke more tobacco, drink more rum-toddy, mint-julep, gin-sling, and cocktail, than any private gentleman of his acquaintance. This made him an orator and a man of the people. In a word, the major was a rising character, and a popular character, and was in a fair way to be sent by the popular party to the State House of New York, if not in the end to Washington itself. But as a man’s private prosperity does not always keep pace with his patriotic devotion to public affairs; and as fraudulent transactions have their downs as well as ups, the major was occasionally under a cloud. Hence, just now Mrs Pawkins kept a boarding-house, and Major Pawkins rather ‘loafed’ his time away than otherwise.

‘You have come to visit our country, sir, at a season of great commercial depression,’ said the major.

‘At an alarming crisis,’ said the colonel.

‘At a period of unprecedented stagnation,’ said Mr Jefferson Brick.

‘I am sorry to hear that,’ returned Martin. ‘It’s not likely to last, I hope?’

Martin knew nothing about America, or he would have known perfectly well that if its individual citizens, to a man, are to be believed, it always is depressed, and always is stagnated, and always is at an alarming crisis, and never was otherwise; though as a body they are ready to make oath upon the Evangelists at any hour of the day or night, that it is the most thriving and prosperous of all countries on the habitable globe.

‘It’s not likely to last, I hope?’ said Martin.

‘Well!’ returned the major, ‘I expect we shall get along somehow, and come right in the end.’

‘We are an elastic country,’ said the Rowdy Journal.

‘We are a young lion,’ said Mr Jefferson Brick.

‘We have revivifying and vigorous principles within ourselves,’ observed the major. ‘Shall we drink a bitter afore dinner, colonel?’

The colonel assenting to this proposal with great alacrity, Major Pawkins proposed an adjournment to a neighbouring bar-room, which, as he observed, was ‘only in the next block.’ He then referred Martin to Mrs Pawkins for all particulars connected with the rate of board and lodging, and informed him that he would have the pleasure of seeing that lady at dinner, which would soon be ready, as the dinner hour was two o’clock, and it only wanted a quarter now. This reminded him that if the bitter were to be taken at all, there was no time to lose; so he walked off without more ado, and left them to follow if they thought proper.

When the major rose from his rocking-chair before the stove, and so disturbed the hot air and balmy whiff of soup which fanned their brows, the odour of stale tobacco became so decidedly prevalent as to leave no doubt of its proceeding mainly from that gentleman’s attire. Indeed, as Martin walked behind him to the bar-room, he could not help thinking that the great square major, in his listlessness and langour, looked very much like a stale weed himself; such as might be hoed out of the public garden, with great advantage to the decent growth of that preserve, and tossed on some congenial dunghill.

They encountered more weeds in the bar-room, some of whom (being thirsty souls as well as dirty) were pretty stale in one sense, and pretty fresh in another. Among them was a gentleman who, as Martin gathered from the conversation that took place over the bitter, started that afternoon for the Far West on a six months’ business tour, and who, as his outfit and equipment for this journey, had just such another shiny hat and just such another little pale valise as had composed the luggage of the gentleman who came from England in the Screw.

They were walking back very leisurely; Martin arm-in-arm with Mr Jefferson Brick, and the major and the colonel side-by-side before them; when, as they came within a house or two of the major’s residence, they heard a bell ringing violently. The instant this sound struck upon their ears, the colonel and the major darted off, dashed up the steps and in at the street-door (which stood ajar) like lunatics; while Mr Jefferson Brick, detaching his arm from Martin’s, made a precipitate dive in the same direction, and vanished also.

‘Good Heaven!’ thought Martin. ‘The premises are on fire! It was an alarm bell!’

But there was no smoke to be seen, nor any flame, nor was there any smell of fire. As Martin faltered on the pavement, three more gentlemen, with horror and agitation depicted in their faces, came plunging wildly round the street corner; jostled each other on the steps; struggled for an instant; and rushed into the house, a confused heap of arms and legs. Unable to bear it any longer, Martin followed. Even in his rapid progress he was run down, thrust aside, and passed, by two more gentlemen, stark mad, as it appeared, with fierce excitement.

‘Where is it?’ cried Martin, breathlessly, to a negro whom he encountered in the passage.

‘In a eatin room, sa. Kernell, sa, him kep a seat ‘side himself, sa.’

‘A seat!’ cried Martin.

‘For a dinnar, sa.’

Martin started at him for a moment, and burst into a hearty laugh; to which the negro, out of his natural good humour and desire to please, so heartily responded, that his teeth shone like a gleam of light. ‘You’re the pleasantest fellow I have seen yet,’ said Martin clapping him on the back, ‘and give me a better appetite than bitters.’

With this sentiment he walked into the dining-room and slipped into a chair next the colonel, which that gentleman (by this time nearly through his dinner) had turned down in reserve for him, with its back against the table.

It was a numerous company—eighteen or twenty perhaps. Of these some five or six were ladies, who sat wedged together in a little phalanx by themselves. All the knives and forks were working away at a rate that was quite alarming; very few words were spoken; and everybody seemed to eat his utmost in self-defence, as if a famine were expected to set in before breakfast time to-morrow morning, and it had become high time to assert the first law of nature. The poultry, which may perhaps be considered to have formed the staple of the entertainment—for there was a turkey at the top, a pair of ducks at the bottom, and two fowls in the middle—disappeared as rapidly as if every bird had had the use of its wings, and had flown in desperation down a human throat. The oysters, stewed and pickled, leaped from their capacious reservoirs, and slid by scores into the mouths of the assembly. The sharpest pickles vanished, whole cucumbers at once, like sugar-plums, and no man winked his eye. Great heaps of indigestible matter melted away as ice before the sun. It was a solemn and an awful thing to see. Dyspeptic individuals bolted their food in wedges; feeding, not themselves, but broods of nightmares, who were continually standing at livery within them. Spare men, with lank and rigid cheeks, came out unsatisfied from the destruction of heavy dishes, and glared with watchful eyes upon the pastry. What Mrs Pawkins felt each day at dinner-time is hidden from all human knowledge. But she had one comfort. It was very soon over.

When the colonel had finished his dinner, which event took place while Martin, who had sent his plate for some turkey, was waiting to begin, he asked him what he thought of the boarders, who were from all parts of the Union, and whether he would like to know any particulars concerning them.

‘Pray,’ said Martin, ‘who is that sickly little girl opposite, with the tight round eyes? I don’t see anybody here, who looks like her mother, or who seems to have charge of her.’

‘Do you mean the matron in blue, sir?’ asked the colonel, with emphasis. ‘That is Mrs Jefferson Brick, sir.’

‘No, no,’ said Martin, ‘I mean the little girl, like a doll; directly opposite.’

‘Well, sir!’ cried the colonel. ‘that is Mrs Jefferson Brick.’

Martin glanced at the colonel’s face, but he was quite serious.

‘Bless my soul! I suppose there will be a young Brick then, one of these days?’ said Martin.

‘There are two young Bricks already, sir,’ returned the colonel.

The matron looked so uncommonly like a child herself, that Martin could not help saying as much. ‘Yes, sir,’ returned the colonel, ‘but some institutions develop human natur; others re—tard it.’

‘Jefferson Brick,’ he observed after a short silence, in commendation of his correspondent, ‘is one of the most remarkable men in our country, sir!’

This had passed almost in a whisper, for the distinguished gentleman alluded to sat on Martin’s other hand.

‘Pray, Mr Brick,’ said Martin, turning to him, and asking a question more for conversation’s sake than from any feeling of interest in its subject, ‘who is that;’ he was going to say ‘young’ but thought it prudent to eschew the word—‘that very short gentleman yonder, with the red nose?’

‘That is Pro—fessor Mullit, sir,’ replied Jefferson.

‘May I ask what he is professor of?’ asked Martin.

‘Of education, sir,’ said Jefferson Brick.

‘A sort of schoolmaster, possibly?’ Martin ventured to observe.

‘He is a man of fine moral elements, sir, and not commonly endowed,’ said the war correspondent. ‘He felt it necessary, at the last election for President, to repudiate and denounce his father, who voted on the wrong interest. He has since written some powerful pamphlets, under the signature of “Suturb,” or Brutus reversed. He is one of the most remarkable men in our country, sir.’

‘There seem to be plenty of ‘em,’ thought Martin, ‘at any rate.’

Pursuing his inquiries Martin found that there were no fewer than four majors present, two colonels, one general, and a captain, so that he could not help thinking how strongly officered the American militia must be; and wondering very much whether the officers commanded each other; or if they did not, where on earth the privates came from. There seemed to be no man there without a title; for those who had not attained to military honours were either doctors, professors, or reverends. Three very hard and disagreeable gentlemen were on missions from neighbouring States; one on monetary affairs, one on political, one on sectarian. Among the ladies, there were Mrs Pawkins, who was very straight, bony, and silent; and a wiry-faced old damsel, who held strong sentiments touching the rights of women, and had diffused the same in lectures; but the rest were strangely devoid of individual traits of character, insomuch that any one of them might have changed minds with the other, and nobody would have found it out. These, by the way, were the only members of the party who did not appear to be among the most remarkable people in the country.

Several of the gentlemen got up, one by one, and walked off as they swallowed their last morsel; pausing generally by the stove for a minute or so to refresh themselves at the brass spittoons. A few sedentary characters, however, remained at table full a quarter of an hour, and did not rise until the ladies rose, when all stood up.

‘Where are they going?’ asked Martin, in the ear of Mr Jefferson Brick.

‘To their bedrooms, sir.’

‘Is there no dessert, or other interval of conversation?’ asked Martin, who was disposed to enjoy himself after his long voyage.

‘We are a busy people here, sir, and have no time for that,’ was the reply.

So the ladies passed out in single file; Mr Jefferson Brick and such other married gentlemen as were left, acknowledging the departure of their other halves by a nod; and there was an end of them. Martin thought this an uncomfortable custom, but he kept his opinion to himself for the present, being anxious to hear, and inform himself by, the conversation of the busy gentlemen, who now lounged about the stove as if a great weight had been taken off their minds by the withdrawal of the other sex; and who made a plentiful use of the spittoons and their toothpicks.

It was rather barren of interest, to say the truth; and the greater part of it may be summed up in one word. Dollars. All their cares, hopes, joys, affections, virtues, and associations, seemed to be melted down into dollars. Whatever the chance contributions that fell into the slow cauldron of their talk, they made the gruel thick and slab with dollars. Men were weighed by their dollars, measures gauged by their dollars; life was auctioneered, appraised, put up, and knocked down for its dollars. The next respectable thing to dollars was any venture having their attainment for its end. The more of that worthless ballast, honour and fair-dealing, which any man cast overboard from the ship of his Good Name and Good Intent, the more ample stowage-room he had for dollars. Make commerce one huge lie and mighty theft. Deface the banner of the nation for an idle rag; pollute it star by star; and cut out stripe by stripe as from the arm of a degraded soldier. Do anything for dollars! What is a flag to them!

One who rides at all hazards of limb and life in the chase of a fox, will prefer to ride recklessly at most times. So it was with these gentlemen. He was the greatest patriot, in their eyes, who brawled the loudest, and who cared the least for decency. He was their champion who, in the brutal fury of his own pursuit, could cast no stigma upon them for the hot knavery of theirs. Thus, Martin learned in the five minutes’ straggling talk about the stove, that to carry pistols into legislative assemblies, and swords in sticks, and other such peaceful toys; to seize opponents by the throat, as dogs or rats might do; to bluster, bully, and overbear by personal assailment; were glowing deeds. Not thrusts and stabs at Freedom, striking far deeper into her House of Life than any sultan’s scimitar could reach; but rare incense on her altars, having a grateful scent in patriotic nostrils, and curling upward to the seventh heaven of Fame.

Once or twice, when there was a pause, Martin asked such questions as naturally occurred to him, being a stranger, about the national poets, the theatre, literature, and the arts. But the information which these gentlemen were in a condition to give him on such topics, did not extend beyond the effusions of such master-spirits of the time as Colonel Diver, Mr Jefferson Brick, and others; renowned, as it appeared, for excellence in the achievement of a peculiar style of broadside essay called ‘a screamer.’

‘We are a busy people, sir,’ said one of the captains, who was from the West, ‘and have no time for reading mere notions. We don’t mind ‘em if they come to us in newspapers along with almighty strong stuff of another sort, but darn your books.’

Here the general, who appeared to grow quite faint at the bare thought of reading anything which was neither mercantile nor political, and was not in a newspaper, inquired ‘if any gentleman would drink some?’ Most of the company, considering this a very choice and seasonable idea, lounged out, one by one, to the bar-room in the next block. Thence they probably went to their stores and counting-houses; thence to the bar-room again, to talk once more of dollars, and enlarge their minds with the perusal and discussion of screamers; and thence each man to snore in the bosom of his own family.

‘Which would seem,’ said Martin, pursuing the current of his own thoughts, ‘to be the principal recreation they enjoy in common.’ With that, he fell a-musing again on dollars, demagogues, and bar-rooms; debating within himself whether busy people of this class were really as busy as they claimed to be, or only had an inaptitude for social and domestic pleasure.

It was a difficult question to solve; and the mere fact of its being strongly presented to his mind by all that he had seen and heard, was not encouraging. He sat down at the deserted board, and becoming more and more despondent, as he thought of all the uncertainties and difficulties of his precarious situation, sighed heavily.

Now, there had been at the dinner-table a middle-aged man with a dark eye and a sunburnt face, who had attracted Martin’s attention by having something very engaging and honest in the expression of his features; but of whom he could learn nothing from either of his neighbours, who seemed to consider him quite beneath their notice. He had taken no part in the conversation round the stove, nor had he gone forth with the rest; and now, when he heard Martin sigh for the third or fourth time, he interposed with some casual remark, as if he desired, without obtruding himself upon a stranger’s notice, to engage him in cheerful conversation if he could. His motive was so obvious, and yet so delicately expressed, that Martin felt really grateful to him, and showed him so in the manner of his reply.

‘I will not ask you,’ said this gentleman with a smile, as he rose and moved towards him, ‘how you like my country, for I can quite anticipate your feeling on that point. But, as I am an American, and consequently bound to begin with a question, I’ll ask you how you like the colonel?’

‘You are so very frank,’ returned Martin, ‘that I have no hesitation in saying I don’t like him at all. Though I must add that I am beholden to him for his civility in bringing me here—and arranging for my stay, on pretty reasonable terms, by the way,’ he added, remembering that the colonel had whispered him to that effect, before going out.

‘Not much beholden,’ said the stranger drily. ‘The colonel occasionally boards packet-ships, I have heard, to glean the latest information for his journal; and he occasionally brings strangers to board here, I believe, with a view to the little percentage which attaches to those good offices; and which the hostess deducts from his weekly bill. I don’t offend you, I hope?’ he added, seeing that Martin reddened.

‘My dear sir,’ returned Martin, as they shook hands, ‘how is that possible! to tell you the truth, I—am—’

‘Yes?’ said the gentleman, sitting down beside him.

‘I am rather at a loss, since I must speak plainly,’ said Martin, getting the better of his hesitation, ‘to know how this colonel escapes being beaten.’

‘Well! He has been beaten once or twice,’ remarked the gentleman quietly. ‘He is one of a class of men, in whom our own Franklin, so long ago as ten years before the close of the last century, foresaw our danger and disgrace. Perhaps you don’t know that Franklin, in very severe terms, published his opinion that those who were slandered by such fellows as this colonel, having no sufficient remedy in the administration of this country’s laws or in the decent and right-minded feeling of its people, were justified in retorting on such public nuisances by means of a stout cudgel?’

‘I was not aware of that,’ said Martin, ‘but I am very glad to know it, and I think it worthy of his memory; especially’—here he hesitated again.

‘Go on,’ said the other, smiling as if he knew what stuck in Martin’s throat.

‘Especially,’ pursued Martin, ‘as I can already understand that it may have required great courage, even in his time, to write freely on any question which was not a party one in this very free country.’

‘Some courage, no doubt,’ returned his new friend. ‘Do you think it would require any to do so, now?’

‘Indeed I think it would; and not a little,’ said Martin.

‘You are right. So very right, that I believe no satirist could breathe this air. If another Juvenal or Swift could rise up among us to-morrow, he would be hunted down. If you have any knowledge of our literature, and can give me the name of any man, American born and bred, who has anatomized our follies as a people, and not as this or that party; and who has escaped the foulest and most brutal slander, the most inveterate hatred and intolerant pursuit; it will be a strange name in my ears, believe me. In some cases I could name to you, where a native writer has ventured on the most harmless and good-humoured illustrations of our vices or defects, it has been found necessary to announce, that in a second edition the passage has been expunged, or altered, or explained away, or patched into praise.’

‘And how has this been brought about?’ asked Martin, in dismay.

‘Think of what you have seen and heard to-day, beginning with the colonel,’ said his friend, ‘and ask yourself. How they came about, is another question. Heaven forbid that they should be samples of the intelligence and virtue of America, but they come uppermost, and in great numbers, and too often represent it. Will you walk?’

There was a cordial candour in his manner, and an engaging confidence that it would not be abused; a manly bearing on his own part, and a simple reliance on the manly faith of a stranger; which Martin had never seen before. He linked his arm readily in that of the American gentleman, and they walked out together.

It was perhaps to men like this, his new companion, that a traveller of honoured name, who trod those shores now nearly forty years ago, and woke upon that soil, as many have done since, to blots and stains upon its high pretensions, which in the brightness of his distant dreams were lost to view, appealed in these words—

     ‘Oh, but for such, Columbia’s days were done;
     Rank without ripeness, quickened without sun,
     Crude at the surface, rotten at the core,
     Her fruits would fall before her spring were o’er!’





CHAPTER SEVENTEEN. MARTIN ENLARGES HIS CIRCLE OF AQUAINTANCE; INCREASES HIS STOCK OF WISDOM; AND HAS AN EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY OF COMPARING HIS OWN EXPERIENCES WITH THOSE OF LUMMY NED OF THE LIGHT SALISBURY, AS RELATED BY HIS FRIEND MR WILLIAM SIMMONS


It was characteristic of Martin, that all this while he had either forgotten Mark Tapley as completely as if there had been no such person in existence, or, if for a moment the figure of that gentleman rose before his mental vision, had dismissed it as something by no means of a pressing nature, which might be attended to by-and-bye, and could wait his perfect leisure. But, being now in the streets again, it occurred to him as just coming within the bare limits of possibility that Mr Tapley might, in course of time, grow tired of waiting on the threshold of the Rowdy Journal Office, so he intimated to his new friend, that if they could conveniently walk in that direction, he would be glad to get this piece of business off his mind.

‘And speaking of business,’ said Martin, ‘may I ask, in order that I may not be behind-hand with questions either, whether your occupation holds you to this city, or like myself, you are a visitor here?’

‘A visitor,’ replied his friend. ‘I was “raised” in the State of Massachusetts, and reside there still. My home is in a quiet country town. I am not often in these busy places; and my inclination to visit them does not increase with our better acquaintance, I assure you.’

‘You have been abroad?’ asked Martin.

‘Oh yes.’

‘And, like most people who travel, have become more than ever attached to your home and native country,’ said Martin, eyeing him curiously.

‘To my home—yes,’ rejoined his friend. ‘To my native country as my home—yes, also.’

‘You imply some reservation,’ said Martin.

‘Well,’ returned his new friend, ‘if you ask me whether I came back here with a greater relish for my country’s faults; with a greater fondness for those who claim (at the rate of so many dollars a day) to be her friends; with a cooler indifference to the growth of principles among us in respect of public matters and of private dealings between man and man, the advocacy of which, beyond the foul atmosphere of a criminal trial, would disgrace your own old Bailey lawyers; why, then I answer plainly, No.’

‘Oh!’ said Martin; in so exactly the same key as his friend’s No, that it sounded like an echo.

‘If you ask me,’ his companion pursued, ‘whether I came back here better satisfied with a state of things which broadly divides society into two classes—whereof one, the great mass, asserts a spurious independence, most miserably dependent for its mean existence on the disregard of humanizing conventionalities of manner and social custom, so that the coarser a man is, the more distinctly it shall appeal to his taste; while the other, disgusted with the low standard thus set up and made adaptable to everything, takes refuge among the graces and refinements it can bring to bear on private life, and leaves the public weal to such fortune as may betide it in the press and uproar of a general scramble—then again I answer, No.’

And again Martin said ‘Oh!’ in the same odd way as before, being anxious and disconcerted; not so much, to say the truth, on public grounds, as with reference to the fading prospects of domestic architecture.

‘In a word,’ resumed the other, ‘I do not find and cannot believe and therefore will not allow, that we are a model of wisdom, and an example to the world, and the perfection of human reason, and a great deal more to the same purpose, which you may hear any hour in the day; simply because we began our political life with two inestimable advantages.’

‘What were they?’ asked Martin.

‘One, that our history commenced at so late a period as to escape the ages of bloodshed and cruelty through which other nations have passed; and so had all the light of their probation, and none of its darkness. The other, that we have a vast territory, and not—as yet—too many people on it. These facts considered, we have done little enough, I think.’

‘Education?’ suggested Martin, faintly.

‘Pretty well on that head,’ said the other, shrugging his shoulders, ‘still no mighty matter to boast of; for old countries, and despotic countries too, have done as much, if not more, and made less noise about it. We shine out brightly in comparison with England, certainly; but hers is a very extreme case. You complimented me on my frankness, you know,’ he added, laughing.

‘Oh! I am not at all astonished at your speaking thus openly when my country is in question,’ returned Martin. ‘It is your plain-speaking in reference to your own that surprises me.’

‘You will not find it a scarce quality here, I assure you, saving among the Colonel Divers, and Jefferson Bricks, and Major Pawkinses; though the best of us are something like the man in Goldsmith’s comedy, who wouldn’t suffer anybody but himself to abuse his master. Come!’ he added. ‘Let us talk of something else. You have come here on some design of improving your fortune, I dare say; and I should grieve to put you out of heart. I am some years older than you, besides; and may, on a few trivial points, advise you, perhaps.’

There was not the least curiosity or impertinence in the manner of this offer, which was open-hearted, unaffected, and good-natured. As it was next to impossible that he should not have his confidence awakened by a deportment so prepossessing and kind, Martin plainly stated what had brought him into those parts, and even made the very difficult avowal that he was poor. He did not say how poor, it must be admitted, rather throwing off the declaration with an air which might have implied that he had money enough for six months, instead of as many weeks; but poor he said he was, and grateful he said he would be, for any counsel that his friend would give him.

It would not have been very difficult for any one to see; but it was particularly easy for Martin, whose perceptions were sharpened by his circumstances, to discern; that the stranger’s face grew infinitely longer as the domestic-architecture project was developed. Nor, although he made a great effort to be as encouraging as possible, could he prevent his head from shaking once involuntarily, as if it said in the vulgar tongue, upon its own account, ‘No go!’ But he spoke in a cheerful tone, and said, that although there was no such opening as Martin wished, in that city, he would make it matter of immediate consideration and inquiry where one was most likely to exist; and then he made Martin acquainted with his name, which was Bevan; and with his profession, which was physic, though he seldom or never practiced; and with other circumstances connected with himself and family, which fully occupied the time, until they reached the Rowdy Journal Office.

Mr Tapley appeared to be taking his ease on the landing of the first floor; for sounds as of some gentleman established in that region whistling ‘Rule Britannia’ with all his might and main, greeted their ears before they reached the house. On ascending to the spot from whence this music proceeded, they found him recumbent in the midst of a fortification of luggage, apparently performing his national anthem for the gratification of a grey-haired black man, who sat on one of the outworks (a portmanteau), staring intently at Mark, while Mark, with his head reclining on his hand, returned the compliment in a thoughtful manner, and whistled all the time. He seemed to have recently dined, for his knife, a casebottle, and certain broken meats in a handkerchief, lay near at hand. He had employed a portion of his leisure in the decoration of the Rowdy Journal door, whereon his own initials now appeared in letters nearly half a foot long, together with the day of the month in smaller type; the whole surrounded by an ornamental border, and looking very fresh and bold.

‘I was a’most afraid you was lost, sir!’ cried Mark, rising, and stopping the tune at that point where Britons generally are supposed to declare (when it is whistled) that they never, never, never—

‘Nothing gone wrong, I hope, sir?’

‘No, Mark. Where’s your friend?’

‘The mad woman, sir?’ said Mr Tapley. ‘Oh! she’s all right, sir.’

‘Did she find her husband?’

‘Yes, sir. Leastways she’s found his remains,’ said Mark, correcting himself.

‘The man’s not dead, I hope?’

‘Not altogether dead, sir,’ returned Mark; ‘but he’s had more fevers and agues than is quite reconcilable with being alive. When she didn’t see him a-waiting for her, I thought she’d have died herself, I did!’

‘Was he not here, then?’

‘He wasn’t here. There was a feeble old shadow come a-creeping down at last, as much like his substance when she know’d him, as your shadow when it’s drawn out to its very finest and longest by the sun, is like you. But it was his remains, there’s no doubt about that. She took on with joy, poor thing, as much as if it had been all of him!’

‘Had he bought land?’ asked Mr Bevan.

‘Ah! He’d bought land,’ said Mark, shaking his head, ‘and paid for it too. Every sort of nateral advantage was connected with it, the agents said; and there certainly was one, quite unlimited. No end to the water!’

‘It’s a thing he couldn’t have done without, I suppose,’ observed Martin, peevishly.

‘Certainly not, sir. There it was, any way; always turned on, and no water-rate. Independent of three or four slimy old rivers close by, it varied on the farm from four to six foot deep in the dry season. He couldn’t say how deep it was in the rainy time, for he never had anything long enough to sound it with.’

‘Is this true?’ asked Martin of his companion.

‘Extremely probable,’ he answered. ‘Some Mississippi or Missouri lot, I dare say.’

‘However,’ pursued Mark, ‘he came from I-don’t-know-where-and-all, down to New York here, to meet his wife and children; and they started off again in a steamboat this blessed afternoon, as happy to be along with each other as if they were going to Heaven. I should think they was, pretty straight, if I may judge from the poor man’s looks.’

‘And may I ask,’ said Martin, glancing, but not with any displeasure, from Mark to the negro, ‘who this gentleman is? Another friend of yours?’

‘Why sir,’ returned Mark, taking him aside, and speaking confidentially in his ear, ‘he’s a man of colour, sir!’

‘Do you take me for a blind man,’ asked Martin, somewhat impatiently, ‘that you think it necessary to tell me that, when his face is the blackest that ever was seen?’

‘No, no; when I say a man of colour,’ returned Mark, ‘I mean that he’s been one of them as there’s picters of in the shops. A man and a brother, you know, sir,’ said Mr Tapley, favouring his master with a significant indication of the figure so often represented in tracts and cheap prints.

‘A slave!’ cried Martin, in a whisper.

‘Ah!’ said Mark in the same tone. ‘Nothing else. A slave. Why, when that there man was young—don’t look at him while I’m a-telling it—he was shot in the leg; gashed in the arm; scored in his live limbs, like crimped fish; beaten out of shape; had his neck galled with an iron collar, and wore iron rings upon his wrists and ankles. The marks are on him to this day. When I was having my dinner just now, he stripped off his coat, and took away my appetite.’

‘Is this true?’ asked Martin of his friend, who stood beside them.

‘I have no reason to doubt it,’ he answered, shaking his head ‘It very often is.’

‘Bless you,’ said Mark, ‘I know it is, from hearing his whole story. That master died; so did his second master from having his head cut open with a hatchet by another slave, who, when he’d done it, went and drowned himself; then he got a better one; in years and years he saved up a little money, and bought his freedom, which he got pretty cheap at last, on account of his strength being nearly gone, and he being ill. Then he come here. And now he’s a-saving up to treat himself, afore he dies, to one small purchase—it’s nothing to speak of. Only his own daughter; that’s all!’ cried Mr Tapley, becoming excited. ‘Liberty for ever! Hurrah! Hail, Columbia!’

‘Hush!’ cried Martin, clapping his hand upon his mouth; ‘and don’t be an idiot. What is he doing here?’

‘Waiting to take our luggage off upon a truck,’ said Mark. ‘He’d have come for it by-and-bye, but I engaged him for a very reasonable charge (out of my own pocket) to sit along with me and make me jolly; and I am jolly; and if I was rich enough to contract with him to wait upon me once a day, to be looked at, I’d never be anything else.’

The fact may cause a solemn impeachment of Mark’s veracity, but it must be admitted nevertheless, that there was that in his face and manner at the moment, which militated strongly against this emphatic declaration of his state of mind.

‘Lord love you, sir,’ he added, ‘they’re so fond of Liberty in this part of the globe, that they buy her and sell her and carry her to market with ‘em. They’ve such a passion for Liberty, that they can’t help taking liberties with her. That’s what it’s owing to.’

‘Very well,’ said Martin, wishing to change the theme. ‘Having come to that conclusion, Mark, perhaps you’ll attend to me. The place to which the luggage is to go is printed on this card. Mrs Pawkins’s Boarding House.’

‘Mrs Pawkins’s boarding-house,’ repeated Mark. ‘Now, Cicero.’

‘Is that his name?’ asked Martin

‘That’s his name, sir,’ rejoined Mark. And the negro grinning assent from under a leathern portmanteau, than which his own face was many shades deeper, hobbled downstairs with his portion of their worldly goods; Mark Tapley having already gone before with his share.

Martin and his friend followed them to the door below, and were about to pursue their walk, when the latter stopped, and asked, with some hesitation, whether that young man was to be trusted?

‘Mark! oh certainly! with anything.’

‘You don’t understand me—I think he had better go with us. He is an honest fellow, and speaks his mind so very plainly.’

‘Why, the fact is,’ said Martin, smiling, ‘that being unaccustomed to a free republic, he is used to do so.’

‘I think he had better go with us,’ returned the other. ‘He may get into some trouble otherwise. This is not a slave State; but I am ashamed to say that a spirit of Tolerance is not so common anywhere in these latitudes as the form. We are not remarkable for behaving very temperately to each other when we differ; but to strangers! no, I really think he had better go with us.’

Martin called to him immediately to be of their party; so Cicero and the truck went one way, and they three went another.

They walked about the city for two or three hours; seeing it from the best points of view, and pausing in the principal streets, and before such public buildings as Mr Bevan pointed out. Night then coming on apace, Martin proposed that they should adjourn to Mrs Pawkins’s establishment for coffee; but in this he was overruled by his new acquaintance, who seemed to have set his heart on carrying him, though it were only for an hour, to the house of a friend of his who lived hard by. Feeling (however disinclined he was, being weary) that it would be in bad taste, and not very gracious, to object that he was unintroduced, when this open-hearted gentleman was so ready to be his sponsor, Martin—for once in his life, at all events—sacrificed his own will and pleasure to the wishes of another, and consented with a fair grace. So travelling had done him that much good, already.

Mr Bevan knocked at the door of a very neat house of moderate size, from the parlour windows of which, lights were shining brightly into the now dark street. It was quickly opened by a man with such a thoroughly Irish face, that it seemed as if he ought, as a matter of right and principle, to be in rags, and could have no sort of business to be looking cheerfully at anybody out of a whole suit of clothes.

Commending Mark to the care of this phenomenon—for such he may be said to have been in Martin’s eyes—Mr Bevan led the way into the room which had shed its cheerfulness upon the street, to whose occupants he introduced Mr Chuzzlewit as a gentleman from England, whose acquaintance he had recently had the pleasure to make. They gave him welcome in all courtesy and politeness; and in less than five minutes’ time he found himself sitting very much at his ease by the fireside, and becoming vastly well acquainted with the whole family.

There were two young ladies—one eighteen; the other twenty—both very slender, but very pretty; their mother, who looked, as Martin thought much older and more faded than she ought to have looked; and their grandmother, a little sharp-eyed, quick old woman, who seemed to have got past that stage, and to have come all right again. Besides these, there were the young ladies’ father, and the young ladies’ brother; the first engaged in mercantile affairs; the second, a student at college; both, in a certain cordiality of manner, like his own friend, and not unlike him in face. Which was no great wonder, for it soon appeared that he was their near relation. Martin could not help tracing the family pedigree from the two young ladies, because they were foremost in his thoughts; not only from being, as aforesaid, very pretty, but by reason of their wearing miraculously small shoes, and the thinnest possible silk stockings; the which their rocking-chairs developed to a distracting extent.

There is no doubt that it was a monstrous comfortable circumstance to be sitting in a snug, well-furnished room, warmed by a cheerful fire, and full of various pleasant decorations, including four small shoes, and the like amount of silk stockings, and—yes, why not?—the feet and legs therein enshrined. And there is no doubt that Martin was monstrous well-disposed to regard his position in that light, after his recent experience of the Screw, and of Mrs Pawkins’s boarding-house. The consequence was that he made himself very agreeable indeed; and by the time the tea and coffee arrived (with sweet preserves, and cunning tea-cakes in its train), was in a highly genial state, and much esteemed by the whole family.

Another delightful circumstance turned up before the first cup of tea was drunk. The whole family had been in England. There was a pleasant thing! But Martin was not quite so glad of this, when he found that they knew all the great dukes, lords, viscounts, marquesses, duchesses, knights, and baronets, quite affectionately, and were beyond everything interested in the least particular concerning them. However, when they asked, after the wearer of this or that coronet, and said, ‘Was he quite well?’ Martin answered, ‘Yes, oh yes. Never better;’ and when they said, ‘his lordship’s mother, the duchess, was she much changed?’ Martin said, ‘Oh dear no, they would know her anywhere, if they saw her to-morrow;’ and so got on pretty well. In like manner when the young ladies questioned him touching the Gold Fish in that Grecian fountain in such and such a nobleman’s conservatory, and whether there were as many as there used to be, he gravely reported, after mature consideration, that there must be at least twice as many; and as to the exotics, ‘Oh! well! it was of no use talking about them; they must be seen to be believed;’ which improved state of circumstances reminded the family of the splendour of that brilliant festival (comprehending the whole British Peerage and Court Calendar) to which they were specially invited, and which indeed had been partly given in their honour; and recollections of what Mr Norris the father had said to the marquess, and of what Mrs Norris the mother had said to the marchioness, and of what the marquess and marchioness had both said, when they said that upon their words and honours they wished Mr Norris the father and Mrs Norris the mother, and the Misses Norris the daughters, and Mr Norris Junior, the son, would only take up their permanent residence in England, and give them the pleasure of their everlasting friendship, occupied a very considerable time.

Martin thought it rather stange, and in some sort inconsistent, that during the whole of these narrations, and in the very meridian of their enjoyment thereof, both Mr Norris the father, and Mr Norris Junior, the son (who corresponded, every post, with four members of the English Peerage), enlarged upon the inestimable advantage of having no such arbitrary distinctions in that enlightened land, where there were no noblemen but nature’s noblemen, and where all society was based on one broad level of brotherly love and natural equality. Indeed, Mr Norris the father gradually expanding into an oration on this swelling theme, was becoming tedious, when Mr Bevan diverted his thoughts by happening to make some causal inquiry relative to the occupier of the next house; in reply to which, this same Mr Norris the father observed, that ‘that person entertained religious opinions of which he couldn’t approve; and therefore he hadn’t the honour of knowing the gentleman.’ Mrs Norris the mother added another reason of her own, the same in effect, but varying in words; to wit, that she believed the people were well enough in their way, but they were not genteel.

Another little trait came out, which impressed itself on Martin forcibly. Mr Bevan told them about Mark and the negro, and then it appeared that all the Norrises were abolitionists. It was a great relief to hear this, and Martin was so much encouraged on finding himself in such company, that he expressed his sympathy with the oppressed and wretched blacks. Now, one of the young ladies—the prettiest and most delicate—was mightily amused at the earnestness with which he spoke; and on his craving leave to ask her why, was quite unable for a time to speak for laughing. As soon however as she could, she told him that the negroes were such a funny people, so excessively ludicrous in their manners and appearance, that it was wholly impossible for those who knew them well, to associate any serious ideas with such a very absurd part of the creation. Mr Norris the father, and Mrs Norris the mother, and Miss Norris the sister, and Mr Norris Junior the brother, and even Mrs Norris Senior the grandmother, were all of this opinion, and laid it down as an absolute matter of fact—as if there were nothing in suffering and slavery, grim enough to cast a solemn air on any human animal; though it were as ridiculous, physically, as the most grotesque of apes, or morally, as the mildest Nimrod among tuft-hunting republicans!

‘In short,’ said Mr Norris the father, settling the question comfortably, ‘there is a natural antipathy between the races.’

‘Extending,’ said Martin’s friend, in a low voice, ‘to the cruellest of tortures, and the bargain and sale of unborn generations.’

Mr Norris the son said nothing, but he made a wry face, and dusted his fingers as Hamlet might after getting rid of Yorick’s skull; just as though he had that moment touched a negro, and some of the black had come off upon his hands.

In order that their talk might fall again into its former pleasant channel, Martin dropped the subject, with a shrewd suspicion that it would be a dangerous theme to revive under the best of circumstances; and again addressed himself to the young ladies, who were very gorgeously attired in very beautiful colours, and had every article of dress on the same extensive scale as the little shoes and the thin silk stockings. This suggested to him that they were great proficients in the French fashions, which soon turned out to be the case, for though their information appeared to be none of the newest, it was very extensive; and the eldest sister in particular, who was distinguished by a talent for metaphysics, the laws of hydraulic pressure, and the rights of human kind, had a novel way of combining these acquirements and bringing them to bear on any subject from Millinery to the Millennium, both inclusive, which was at once improving and remarkable; so much so, in short, that it was usually observed to reduce foreigners to a state of temporary insanity in five minutes.

Martin felt his reason going; and as a means of saving himself, besought the other sister (seeing a piano in the room) to sing. With this request she willingly complied; and a bravura concert, solely sustained by the Misses Noriss, presently began. They sang in all languages—except their own. German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swiss; but nothing native; nothing so low as native. For, in this respect, languages are like many other travellers—ordinary and commonplace enough at home, but ‘specially genteel abroad.

There is little doubt that in course of time the Misses Norris would have come to Hebrew, if they had not been interrupted by an announcement from the Irishman, who, flinging open the door, cried in a loud voice—

‘Jiniral Fladdock!’

‘My!’ cried the sisters, desisting suddenly. ‘The general come back!’

As they made the exclamation, the general, attired in full uniform for a ball, came darting in with such precipitancy that, hitching his boot in the carpet, and getting his sword between his legs, he came down headlong, and presented a curious little bald place on the crown of his head to the eyes of the astonished company. Nor was this the worst of it; for being rather corpulent and very tight, the general being down, could not get up again, but lay there writhing and doing such things with his boots, as there is no other instance of in military history.

Of course there was an immediate rush to his assistance; and the general was promptly raised. But his uniform was so fearfully and wonderfully made, that he came up stiff and without a bend in him like a dead Clown, and had no command whatever of himself until he was put quite flat upon the soles of his feet, when he became animated as by a miracle, and moving edgewise that he might go in a narrower compass and be in less danger of fraying the gold lace on his epaulettes by brushing them against anything, advanced with a smiling visage to salute the lady of the house.

To be sure, it would have been impossible for the family to testify purer delight and joy than at this unlooked-for appearance of General Fladdock! The general was as warmly received as if New York had been in a state of siege and no other general was to be got for love or money. He shook hands with the Norrises three times all round, and then reviewed them from a little distance as a brave commander might, with his ample cloak drawn forward over the right shoulder and thrown back upon the left side to reveal his manly breast.

‘And do I then,’ cried the general, ‘once again behold the choicest spirits of my country!’

‘Yes,’ said Mr Norris the father. ‘Here we are, general.’

Then all the Norrises pressed round the general, inquiring how and where he had been since the date of his letter, and how he had enjoyed himself in foreign parts, and particularly and above all, to what extent he had become acquainted with the great dukes, lords, viscounts, marquesses, duchesses, knights, and baronets, in whom the people of those benighted countries had delight.

‘Well, then, don’t ask me,’ said the general, holding up his hand. ‘I was among ‘em all the time, and have got public journals in my trunk with my name printed’—he lowered his voice and was very impressive here—‘among the fashionable news. But, oh, the conventionalities of that a-mazing Europe!’

‘Ah!’ cried Mr Norris the father, giving his head a melancholy shake, and looking towards Martin as though he would say, ‘I can’t deny it, sir. I would if I could.’

‘The limited diffusion of a moral sense in that country!’ exclaimed the general. ‘The absence of a moral dignity in man!’

‘Ah!’ sighed all the Norrises, quite overwhelmed with despondency.

‘I couldn’t have realised it,’ pursued the general, ‘without being located on the spot. Norris, your imagination is the imagination of a strong man, but you couldn’t have realised it, without being located on the spot!’

‘Never,’ said Mr Norris.

‘The ex-clusiveness, the pride, the form, the ceremony,’ exclaimed the general, emphasizing the article more vigorously at every repetition. ‘The artificial barriers set up between man and man; the division of the human race into court cards and plain cards, of every denomination—into clubs, diamonds, spades—anything but heart!’

‘Ah!’ cried the whole family. ‘Too true, general!’

‘But stay!’ cried Mr Norris the father, taking him by the arm. ‘Surely you crossed in the Screw, general?’

‘Well! so I did,’ was the reply.

‘Possible!’ cried the young ladies. ‘Only think!’

The general seemed at a loss to understand why his having come home in the Screw should occasion such a sensation, nor did he seem at all clearer on the subject when Mr Norris, introducing him to Martin, said:

‘A fellow-passenger of yours, I think?’

‘Of mine?’ exclaimed the general; ‘No!’

He had never seen Martin, but Martin had seen him, and recognized him, now that they stood face to face, as the gentleman who had stuck his hands in his pockets towards the end of the voyage, and walked the deck with his nostrils dilated.

Everybody looked at Martin. There was no help for it. The truth must out.

‘I came over in the same ship as the general,’ said Martin, ‘but not in the same cabin. It being necessary for me to observe strict economy, I took my passage in the steerage.’

If the general had been carried up bodily to a loaded cannon, and required to let it off that moment, he could not have been in a state of greater consternation than when he heard these words. He, Fladdock—Fladdock in full militia uniform, Fladdock the General, Fladdock, the caressed of foreign noblemen—expected to know a fellow who had come over in the steerage of line-of-packet ship, at the cost of four pound ten! And meeting that fellow in the very sanctuary of New York fashion, and nestling in the bosom of the New York aristocracy! He almost laid his hand upon his sword.

A death-like stillness fell upon the Norisses. If this story should get wind, their country relation had, by his imprudence, for ever disgraced them. They were the bright particular stars of an exalted New York sphere. There were other fashionable spheres above them, and other fashionable spheres below, and none of the stars in any one of these spheres had anything to say to the stars in any other of these spheres. But, through all the spheres it would go forth that the Norrises, deceived by gentlemanly manners and appearances, had, falling from their high estate, ‘received’ a dollarless and unknown man. O guardian eagle of the pure Republic, had they lived for this!

‘You will allow me,’ said Martin, after a terrible silence, ‘to take my leave. I feel that I am the cause of at least as much embarrassment here, as I have brought upon myself. But I am bound, before I go, to exonerate this gentleman, who, in introducing me to such society, was quite ignorant of my unworthiness, I assure you.’

With that he made his bow to the Norrises, and walked out like a man of snow; very cool externally, but pretty hot within.

‘Come, come,’ said Mr Norris the father, looking with a pale face on the assembled circle as Martin closed the door, ‘the young man has this night beheld a refinement of social manner, and an easy magnificence of social decoration, to which he is a stranger in his own country. Let us hope it may awake a moral sense within him.’

If that peculiarly transatlantic article, a moral sense—for, if native statesmen, orators, and pamphleteers, are to be believed, America quite monopolises the commodity—if that peculiarly transatlantic article be supposed to include a benevolent love of all mankind, certainly Martin’s would have borne, just then, a deal of waking. As he strode along the street, with Mark at his heels, his immoral sense was in active operation; prompting him to the utterance of some rather sanguinary remarks, which it was well for his own credit that nobody overheard. He had so far cooled down, however, that he had begun to laugh at the recollection of these incidents, when he heard another step behind him, and turning round encountered his friend Bevan, quite out of breath.

He drew his arm through Martin’s, and entreating him to walk slowly, was silent for some minutes. At length he said:

‘I hope you exonerate me in another sense?’

‘How do you mean?’ asked Martin.

‘I hope you acquit me of intending or foreseeing the termination of our visit. But I scarcely need ask you that.’

‘Scarcely indeed,’ said Martin. ‘I am the more beholden to you for your kindness, when I find what kind of stuff the good citizens here are made of.’

‘I reckon,’ his friend returned, ‘that they are made of pretty much the same stuff as other folks, if they would but own it, and not set up on false pretences.’

‘In good faith, that’s true,’ said Martin.

‘I dare say,’ resumed his friend, ‘you might have such a scene as that in an English comedy, and not detect any gross improbability or anomaly in the matter of it?’

‘Yes, indeed!’

‘Doubtless it is more ridiculous here than anywhere else,’ said his companion; ‘but our professions are to blame for that. So far as I myself am concerned, I may add that I was perfectly aware from the first that you came over in the steerage, for I had seen the list of passengers, and knew it did not comprise your name.’

‘I feel more obliged to you than before,’ said Martin.

‘Norris is a very good fellow in his way,’ observed Mr Bevan.

‘Is he?’ said Martin drily.

‘Oh yes! there are a hundred good points about him. If you or anybody else addressed him as another order of being, and sued to him In Forma Pauperis, he would be all kindness and consideration.’

‘I needn’t have travelled three thousand miles from home to find such a character as that,’ said Martin. Neither he nor his friend said anything more on the way back; each appearing to find sufficient occupation in his own thoughts.

The tea, or the supper, or whatever else they called the evening meal, was over when they reached the Major’s; but the cloth, ornamented with a few additional smears and stains, was still upon the table. At one end of the board Mrs Jefferson Brick and two other ladies were drinking tea; out of the ordinary course, evidently, for they were bonneted and shawled, and seemed to have just come home. By the light of three flaring candles of different lengths, in as many candlesticks of different patterns, the room showed to almost as little advantage as in broad day.

These ladies were all three talking together in a very loud tone when Martin and his friend entered; but seeing those gentlemen, they stopped directly, and became excessively genteel, not to say frosty. As they went on to exchange some few remarks in whispers, the very water in the teapot might have fallen twenty degrees in temperature beneath their chilling coldness.

‘Have you been to meeting, Mrs Brick?’ asked Martin’s friend, with something of a roguish twinkle in his eye.

‘To lecture, sir.’

‘I beg your pardon. I forgot. You don’t go to meeting, I think?’

Here the lady on the right of Mrs Brick gave a pious cough as much as to say ‘I do!’—as, indeed, she did nearly every night in the week.

‘A good discourse, ma’am?’ asked Mr Bevan, addressing this lady.

The lady raised her eyes in a pious manner, and answered ‘Yes.’ She had been much comforted by some good, strong, peppery doctrine, which satisfactorily disposed of all her friends and acquaintances, and quite settled their business. Her bonnet, too, had far outshone every bonnet in the congregation; so she was tranquil on all accounts.

‘What course of lectures are you attending now, ma’am?’ said Martin’s friend, turning again to Mrs Brick.

‘The Philosophy of the Soul, on Wednesdays.’

‘On Mondays?’

‘The Philosophy of Crime.’

‘On Fridays?’

‘The Philosophy of Vegetables.’

‘You have forgotten Thursdays; the Philosophy of Government, my dear,’ observed the third lady.

‘No,’ said Mrs Brick. ‘That’s Tuesdays.’

‘So it is!’ cried the lady. ‘The Philosophy of Matter on Thursdays, of course.’

‘You see, Mr Chuzzlewit, our ladies are fully employed,’ said Bevan.

‘Indeed you have reason to say so,’ answered Martin. ‘Between these very grave pursuits abroad, and family duties at home, their time must be pretty well engrossed.’

Martin stopped here, for he saw that the ladies regarded him with no very great favour, though what he had done to deserve the disdainful expression which appeared in their faces he was at a loss to divine. But on their going upstairs to their bedrooms—which they very soon did—Mr Bevan informed him that domestic drudgery was far beneath the exalted range of these Philosophers, and that the chances were a hundred to one that not one of the three could perform the easiest woman’s work for herself, or make the simplest article of dress for any of her children.

‘Though whether they might not be better employed with such blunt instruments as knitting-needles than with these edge-tools,’ he said, ‘is another question; but I can answer for one thing—they don’t often cut themselves. Devotions and lectures are our balls and concerts. They go to these places of resort, as an escape from monotony; look at each other’s clothes; and come home again.’

‘When you say “home,” do you mean a house like this?’

‘Very often. But I see you are tired to death, and will wish you good night. We will discuss your projects in the morning. You cannot but feel already that it is useless staying here, with any hope of advancing them. You will have to go further.’

‘And to fare worse?’ said Martin, pursuing the old adage.

‘Well, I hope not. But sufficient for the day, you know—good night’

They shook hands heartily and separated. As soon as Martin was left alone, the excitement of novelty and change which had sustained him through all the fatigues of the day, departed; and he felt so thoroughly dejected and worn out, that he even lacked the energy to crawl upstairs to bed.

In twelve or fifteen hours, how great a change had fallen on his hopes and sanguine plans! New and strange as he was to the ground on which he stood, and to the air he breathed, he could not—recalling all that he had crowded into that one day—but entertain a strong misgiving that his enterprise was doomed. Rash and ill-considered as it had often looked on shipboard, but had never seemed on shore, it wore a dismal aspect, now, that frightened him. Whatever thoughts he called up to his aid, they came upon him in depressing and discouraging shapes, and gave him no relief. Even the diamonds on his finger sparkled with the brightness of tears, and had no ray of hope in all their brilliant lustre.

He continued to sit in gloomy rumination by the stove, unmindful of the boarders who dropped in one by one from their stores and counting-houses, or the neighbouring bar-rooms, and, after taking long pulls from a great white waterjug upon the sideboard, and lingering with a kind of hideous fascination near the brass spittoons, lounged heavily to bed; until at length Mark Tapley came and shook him by the arm, supposing him asleep.

‘Mark!’ he cried, starting.

‘All right, sir,’ said that cheerful follower, snuffing with his fingers the candle he bore. ‘It ain’t a very large bed, your’n, sir; and a man as wasn’t thirsty might drink, afore breakfast, all the water you’ve got to wash in, and afterwards eat the towel. But you’ll sleep without rocking to-night, sir.’

‘I feel as if the house were on the sea’ said Martin, staggering when he rose; ‘and am utterly wretched.’

‘I’m as jolly as a sandboy, myself, sir,’ said Mark. ‘But, Lord, I have reason to be! I ought to have been born here; that’s my opinion. Take care how you go’—for they were now ascending the stairs. ‘You recollect the gentleman aboard the Screw as had the very small trunk, sir?’

‘The valise? Yes.’

‘Well, sir, there’s been a delivery of clean clothes from the wash to-night, and they’re put outside the bedroom doors here. If you take notice as we go up, what a very few shirts there are, and what a many fronts, you’ll penetrate the mystery of his packing.’

But Martin was too weary and despondent to take heed of anything, so had no interest in this discovery. Mr Tapley, nothing dashed by his indifference, conducted him to the top of the house, and into the bed-chamber prepared for his reception; which was a very little narrow room, with half a window in it; a bedstead like a chest without a lid; two chairs; a piece of carpet, such as shoes are commonly tried upon at a ready-made establishment in England; a little looking-glass nailed against the wall; and a washing-table, with a jug and ewer, that might have been mistaken for a milk-pot and slop-basin.

‘I suppose they polish themselves with a dry cloth in this country,’ said Mark. ‘They’ve certainly got a touch of the ‘phoby, sir.’

‘I wish you would pull off my boots for me,’ said Martin, dropping into one of the chairs ‘I am quite knocked up—dead beat, Mark.’

‘You won’t say that to-morrow morning, sir,’ returned Mr Tapley; ‘nor even to-night, sir, when you’ve made a trial of this.’ With which he produced a very large tumbler, piled up to the brim with little blocks of clear transparent ice, through which one or two thin slices of lemon, and a golden liquid of delicious appearance, appealed from the still depths below, to the loving eye of the spectator.

‘What do you call this?’ said Martin.

But Mr Tapley made no answer; merely plunging a reed into the mixture—which caused a pleasant commotion among the pieces of ice—and signifying by an expressive gesture that it was to be pumped up through that agency by the enraptured drinker.

Martin took the glass with an astonished look; applied his lips to the reed; and cast up his eyes once in ecstasy. He paused no more until the goblet was drained to the last drop.

‘There, sir!’ said Mark, taking it from him with a triumphant face; ‘if ever you should happen to be dead beat again, when I ain’t in the way, all you’ve got to do is to ask the nearest man to go and fetch a cobbler.’

‘To go and fetch a cobbler?’ repeated Martin.

‘This wonderful invention, sir,’ said Mark, tenderly patting the empty glass, ‘is called a cobbler. Sherry cobbler when you name it long; cobbler, when you name it short. Now you’re equal to having your boots took off, and are, in every particular worth mentioning, another man.’

Having delivered himself of this solemn preface, he brought the bootjack.

‘Mind! I am not going to relapse, Mark,’ said Martin; ‘but, good Heaven, if we should be left in some wild part of this country without goods or money!’

‘Well, sir!’ replied the imperturbable Tapley; ‘from what we’ve seen already, I don’t know whether, under those circumstances, we shouldn’t do better in the wild parts than in the tame ones.’

‘Oh, Tom Pinch, Tom Pinch!’ said Martin, in a thoughtful tone; ‘what would I give to be again beside you, and able to hear your voice, though it were even in the old bedroom at Pecksniff’s!’

‘Oh, Dragon, Dragon!’ echoed Mark, cheerfully, ‘if there warn’t any water between you and me, and nothing faint-hearted-like in going back, I don’t know that I mightn’t say the same. But here am I, Dragon, in New York, America; and there are you in Wiltshire, Europe; and there’s a fortune to make, Dragon, and a beautiful young lady to make it for; and whenever you go to see the Monument, Dragon, you mustn’t give in on the doorsteps, or you’ll never get up to the top!’

‘Wisely said, Mark,’ cried Martin. ‘We must look forward.’

‘In all the story-books as ever I read, sir, the people as looked backward was turned into stones,’ replied Mark; ‘and my opinion always was, that they brought it on themselves, and it served ‘em right. I wish you good night, sir, and pleasant dreams!’

‘They must be of home, then,’ said Martin, as he lay down in bed.

‘So I say, too,’ whispered Mark Tapley, when he was out of hearing and in his own room; ‘for if there don’t come a time afore we’re well out of this, when there’ll be a little more credit in keeping up one’s jollity, I’m a United Statesman!’

Leaving them to blend and mingle in their sleep the shadows of objects afar off, as they take fantastic shapes upon the wall in the dim light of thought without control, be it the part of this slight chronicle—a dream within a dream—as rapidly to change the scene, and cross the ocean to the English shore.






CHAPTER EIGHTEEN. DOES BUSINESS WITH THE HOUSE OF ANTHONY CHUZZLEWIT AND SON, FROM WHICH ONE OF THE PARTNERS RETIRES UNEXPECTEDLY


Change begets change. Nothing propagates so fast. If a man habituated to a narrow circle of cares and pleasures, out of which he seldom travels, step beyond it, though for never so brief a space, his departure from the monotonous scene on which he has been an actor of importance, would seem to be the signal for instant confusion. As if, in the gap he had left, the wedge of change were driven to the head, rending what was a solid mass to fragments, things cemented and held together by the usages of years, burst asunder in as many weeks. The mine which Time has slowly dug beneath familiar objects is sprung in an instant; and what was rock before, becomes but sand and dust.

Most men, at one time or other, have proved this in some degree. The extent to which the natural laws of change asserted their supremacy in that limited sphere of action which Martin had deserted, shall be faithfully set down in these pages.

‘What a cold spring it is!’ whimpered old Anthony, drawing near the evening fire, ‘It was a warmer season, sure, when I was young!’

‘You needn’t go scorching your clothes into holes, whether it was or not,’ observed the amiable Jonas, raising his eyes from yesterday’s newspaper, ‘Broadcloth ain’t so cheap as that comes to.’

‘A good lad!’ cried the father, breathing on his cold hands, and feebly chafing them against each other. ‘A prudent lad! He never delivered himself up to the vanities of dress. No, no!’

‘I don’t know but I would, though, mind you, if I could do it for nothing,’ said his son, as he resumed the paper.

‘Ah!’ chuckled the old man. ‘if, indeed!—But it’s very cold.’

‘Let the fire be!’ cried Mr Jonas, stopping his honoured parent’s hand in the use of the poker. ‘Do you mean to come to want in your old age, that you take to wasting now?’

‘There’s not time for that, Jonas,’ said the old man.

‘Not time for what?’ bawled his heir.

‘For me to come to want. I wish there was!’

‘You always were as selfish an old blade as need be,’ said Jonas in a voice too low for him to hear, and looking at him with an angry frown. ‘You act up to your character. You wouldn’t mind coming to want, wouldn’t you! I dare say you wouldn’t. And your own flesh and blood might come to want too, might they, for anything you cared? Oh you precious old flint!’

After this dutiful address he took his tea-cup in his hand—for that meal was in progress, and the father and son and Chuffey were partakers of it. Then, looking steadfastly at his father, and stopping now and then to carry a spoonful of tea to his lips, he proceeded in the same tone, thus:

‘Want, indeed! You’re a nice old man to be talking of want at this time of day. Beginning to talk of want, are you? Well, I declare! There isn’t time? No, I should hope not. But you’d live to be a couple of hundred if you could; and after all be discontented. I know you!’

The old man sighed, and still sat cowering before the fire. Mr Jonas shook his Britannia-metal teaspoon at him, and taking a loftier position, went on to argue the point on high moral grounds.

‘If you’re in such a state of mind as that,’ he grumbled, but in the same subdued key, ‘why don’t you make over your property? Buy an annuity cheap, and make your life interesting to yourself and everybody else that watches the speculation. But no, that wouldn’t suit you. That would be natural conduct to your own son, and you like to be unnatural, and to keep him out of his rights. Why, I should be ashamed of myself if I was you, and glad to hide my head in the what you may call it.’

Possibly this general phrase supplied the place of grave, or tomb, or sepulchre, or cemetery, or mausoleum, or other such word which the filial tenderness of Mr Jonas made him delicate of pronouncing. He pursued the theme no further; for Chuffey, somehow discovering, from his old corner by the fireside, that Anthony was in the attitude of a listener, and that Jonas appeared to be speaking, suddenly cried out, like one inspired:

‘He is your own son, Mr Chuzzlewit. Your own son, sir!’

Old Chuffey little suspected what depth of application these words had, or that, in the bitter satire which they bore, they might have sunk into the old man’s very soul, could he have known what words here hanging on his own son’s lips, or what was passing in his thoughts. But the voice diverted the current of Anthony’s reflections, and roused him.

‘Yes, yes, Chuffey, Jonas is a chip of the old block. It is a very old block, now, Chuffey,’ said the old man, with a strange look of discomposure.

‘Precious old,’ assented Jonas

‘No, no, no,’ said Chuffey. ‘No, Mr Chuzzlewit. Not old at all, sir.’

‘Oh! He’s worse than ever, you know!’ cried Jonas, quite disgusted. ‘Upon my soul, father, he’s getting too bad. Hold your tongue, will you?’

‘He says you’re wrong!’ cried Anthony to the old clerk.

‘Tut, tut!’ was Chuffey’s answer. ‘I know better. I say he’s wrong. I say he’s wrong. He’s a boy. That’s what he is. So are you, Mr Chuzzlewit—a kind of boy. Ha! ha! ha! You’re quite a boy to many I have known; you’re a boy to me; you’re a boy to hundreds of us. Don’t mind him!’

With which extraordinary speech—for in the case of Chuffey this was a burst of eloquence without a parallel—the poor old shadow drew through his palsied arm his master’s hand, and held it there, with his own folded upon it, as if he would defend him.

‘I grow deafer every day, Chuff,’ said Anthony, with as much softness of manner, or, to describe it more correctly, with as little hardness as he was capable of expressing.

‘No, no,’ cried Chuffey. ‘No, you don’t. What if you did? I’ve been deaf this twenty year.’

‘I grow blinder, too,’ said the old man, shaking his head.

‘That’s a good sign!’ cried Chuffey. ‘Ha! ha! The best sign in the world! You saw too well before.’

He patted Anthony upon the hand as one might comfort a child, and drawing the old man’s arm still further through his own, shook his trembling fingers towards the spot where Jonas sat, as though he would wave him off. But, Anthony remaining quite still and silent, he relaxed his hold by slow degrees and lapsed into his usual niche in the corner; merely putting forth his hand at intervals and touching his old employer gently on the coat, as with the design of assuring himself that he was yet beside him.

Mr Jonas was so very much amazed by these proceedings that he could do nothing but stare at the two old men, until Chuffey had fallen into his usual state, and Anthony had sunk into a doze; when he gave some vent to his emotions by going close up to the former personage, and making as though he would, in vulgar parlance, ‘punch his head.’

‘They’ve been carrying on this game,’ thought Jonas in a brown study, ‘for the last two or three weeks. I never saw my father take so much notice of him as he has in that time. What! You’re legacy hunting, are you, Mister Chuff? Eh?’

But Chuffey was as little conscious of the thought as of the bodily advance of Mr Jonas’s clenched fist, which hovered fondly about his ear. When he had scowled at him to his heart’s content, Jonas took the candle from the table, and walking into the glass office, produced a bunch of keys from his pocket. With one of these he opened a secret drawer in the desk; peeping stealthily out, as he did so, to be certain that the two old men were still before the fire.

‘All as right as ever,’ said Jonas, propping the lid of the desk open with his forehead, and unfolding a paper. ‘Here’s the will, Mister Chuff. Thirty pound a year for your maintenance, old boy, and all the rest to his only son, Jonas. You needn’t trouble yourself to be too affectionate. You won’t get anything by it. What’s that?’

It was startling, certainly. A face on the other side of the glass partition looking curiously in; and not at him but at the paper in his hand. For the eyes were attentively cast down upon the writing, and were swiftly raised when he cried out. Then they met his own, and were as the eyes of Mr Pecksniff.

Suffering the lid of the desk to fall with a loud noise, but not forgetting even then to lock it, Jonas, pale and breathless, gazed upon this phantom. It moved, opened the door, and walked in.

‘What’s the matter?’ cried Jonas, falling back. ‘Who is it? Where do you come from? What do you want?’

‘Matter!’ cried the voice of Mr Pecksniff, as Pecksniff in the flesh smiled amiably upon him. ‘The matter, Mr Jonas!’

‘What are you prying and peering about here for?’ said Jonas, angrily. ‘What do you mean by coming up to town in this way, and taking one unawares? It’s precious odd a man can’t read the—the newspaper—in his own office without being startled out of his wits by people coming in without notice. Why didn’t you knock at the door?’

‘So I did, Mr Jonas,’ answered Pecksniff, ‘but no one heard me. I was curious,’ he added in his gentle way as he laid his hand upon the young man’s shoulder, ‘to find out what part of the newspaper interested you so much; but the glass was too dim and dirty.’

Jonas glanced in haste at the partition. Well. It wasn’t very clean. So far he spoke the truth.

‘Was it poetry now?’ said Mr Pecksniff, shaking the forefinger of his right hand with an air of cheerful banter. ‘Or was it politics? Or was it the price of stock? The main chance, Mr Jonas, the main chance, I suspect.’

‘You ain’t far from the truth,’ answered Jonas, recovering himself and snuffing the candle; ‘but how the deuce do you come to be in London again? Ecod! it’s enough to make a man stare, to see a fellow looking at him all of a sudden, who he thought was sixty or seventy mile away.’

‘So it is,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘No doubt of it, my dear Mr Jonas. For while the human mind is constituted as it is—’

‘Oh, bother the human mind,’ interrupted Jonas with impatience ‘what have you come up for?’

‘A little matter of business,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘which has arisen quite unexpectedly.’

‘Oh!’ cried Jonas, ‘is that all? Well. Here’s father in the next room. Hallo father, here’s Pecksniff! He gets more addle-pated every day he lives, I do believe,’ muttered Jonas, shaking his honoured parent roundly. ‘Don’t I tell you Pecksniff’s here, stupid-head?’

The combined effects of the shaking and this loving remonstrance soon awoke the old man, who gave Mr Pecksniff a chuckling welcome which was attributable in part to his being glad to see that gentleman, and in part to his unfading delight in the recollection of having called him a hypocrite. As Mr Pecksniff had not yet taken tea (indeed he had, but an hour before, arrived in London) the remains of the late collation, with a rasher of bacon, were served up for his entertainment; and as Mr Jonas had a business appointment in the next street, he stepped out to keep it; promising to return before Mr Pecksniff could finish his repast.

‘And now, my good sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff to Anthony; ‘now that we are alone, pray tell me what I can do for you. I say alone, because I believe that our dear friend Mr Chuffey is, metaphysically speaking, a—shall I say a dummy?’ asked Mr Pecksniff with his sweetest smile, and his head very much on one side.

‘He neither hears us,’ replied Anthony, ‘nor sees us.’

‘Why, then,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘I will be bold to say, with the utmost sympathy for his afflictions, and the greatest admiration of those excellent qualities which do equal honour to his head and to his heart, that he is what is playfully termed a dummy. You were going to observe, my dear sir—?’

‘I was not going to make any observation that I know of,’ replied the old man.

‘I was,’ said Mr Pecksniff, mildly.

‘Oh! you were? What was it?’

‘That I never,’ said Mr Pecksniff, previously rising to see that the door was shut, and arranging his chair when he came back, so that it could not be opened in the least without his immediately becoming aware of the circumstance; ‘that I never in my life was so astonished as by the receipt of your letter yesterday. That you should do me the honour to wish to take counsel with me on any matter, amazed me; but that you should desire to do so, to the exclusion even of Mr Jonas, showed an amount of confidence in one to whom you had done a verbal injury—merely a verbal injury, you were anxious to repair—which gratified, which moved, which overcame me.’

He was always a glib speaker, but he delivered this short address very glibly; having been at some pains to compose it outside the coach.

Although he paused for a reply, and truly said that he was there at Anthony’s request, the old man sat gazing at him in profound silence and with a perfectly blank face. Nor did he seem to have the least desire or impulse to pursue the conversation, though Mr Pecksniff looked towards the door, and pulled out his watch, and gave him many other hints that their time was short, and Jonas, if he kept his word, would soon return. But the strangest incident in all this strange behaviour was, that of a sudden, in a moment, so swiftly that it was impossible to trace how, or to observe any process of change, his features fell into their old expression, and he cried, striking his hand passionately upon the table as if no interval at all had taken place:

‘Will you hold your tongue, sir, and let me speak?’

Mr Pecksniff deferred to him with a submissive bow; and said within himself, ‘I knew his hand was changed, and that his writing staggered. I said so yesterday. Ahem! Dear me!’

‘Jonas is sweet upon your daughter, Pecksniff,’ said the old man, in his usual tone.

‘We spoke of that, if you remember, sir, at Mrs Todgers’s,’ replied the courteous architect.

‘You needn’t speak so loud,’ retorted Anthony. ‘I’m not so deaf as that.’

Mr Pecksniff had certainly raised his voice pretty high; not so much because he thought Anthony was deaf, as because he felt convinced that his perceptive faculties were waxing dim; but this quick resentment of his considerate behaviour greatly disconcerted him, and, not knowing what tack to shape his course upon, he made another inclination of the head, yet more submissive that the last.

‘I have said,’ repeated the old man, ‘that Jonas is sweet upon your daughter.’

‘A charming girl, sir,’ murmured Mr Pecksniff, seeing that he waited for an answer. ‘A dear girl, Mr Chuzzlewit, though I say it, who should not.’

‘You know better,’ cried the old man, advancing his weazen face at least a yard, and starting forward in his chair to do it. ‘You lie! What, you will be a hypocrite, will you?’

‘My good sir,’ Mr Pecksniff began.

‘Don’t call me a good sir,’ retorted Anthony, ‘and don’t claim to be one yourself. If your daughter was what you would have me believe, she wouldn’t do for Jonas. Being what she is, I think she will. He might be deceived in a wife. She might run riot, contract debts, and waste his substance. Now when I am dead—’

His face altered so horribly as he said the word, that Mr Pecksniff really was fain to look another way.

‘—It will be worse for me to know of such doings, than if I was alive; for to be tormented for getting that together, which even while I suffer for its acquisition, is flung into the very kennels of the streets, would be insupportable torture. No,’ said the old man, hoarsely, ‘let that be saved at least; let there be something gained, and kept fast hold of, when so much is lost.’

‘My dear Mr Chuzzlewit,’ said Pecksniff, ‘these are unwholesome fancies; quite unnecessary, sir, quite uncalled for, I am sure. The truth is, my dear sir, that you are not well!’

‘Not dying though!’ cried Anthony, with something like the snarl of a wild animal. ‘Not yet! There are years of life in me. Why, look at him,’ pointing to his feeble clerk. ‘Death has no right to leave him standing, and to mow me down!’

Mr Pecksniff was so much afraid of the old man, and so completely taken aback by the state in which he found him, that he had not even presence of mind enough to call up a scrap of morality from the great storehouse within his own breast. Therefore he stammered out that no doubt it was, in fairness and decency, Mr Chuffey’s turn to expire; and that from all he had heard of Mr Chuffey, and the little he had the pleasure of knowing of that gentleman, personally, he felt convinced in his own mind that he would see the propriety of expiring with as little delay as possible.

‘Come here!’ said the old man, beckoning him to draw nearer. ‘Jonas will be my heir, Jonas will be rich, and a great catch for you. You know that. Jonas is sweet upon your daughter.’

‘I know that too,’ thought Mr Pecksniff, ‘for you have said it often enough.’

‘He might get more money than with her,’ said the old man, ‘but she will help him to take care of what they have. She is not too young or heedless, and comes of a good hard griping stock. But don’t you play too fine a game. She only holds him by a thread; and if you draw it too tight (I know his temper) it’ll snap. Bind him when he’s in the mood, Pecksniff; bind him. You’re too deep. In your way of leading him on, you’ll leave him miles behind. Bah, you man of oil, have I no eyes to see how you have angled with him from the first?’

‘Now I wonder,’ thought Mr Pecksniff, looking at him with a wistful face, ‘whether this is all he has to say?’

Old Anthony rubbed his hands and muttered to himself; complained again that he was cold; drew his chair before the fire; and, sitting with his back to Mr Pecksniff, and his chin sunk down upon his breast, was, in another minute, quite regardless or forgetful of his presence.

Uncouth and unsatisfactory as this short interview had been, it had furnished Mr Pecksniff with a hint which, supposing nothing further were imparted to him, repaid the journey up and home again. For the good gentleman had never (for want of an opportunity) dived into the depths of Mr Jonas’s nature; and any recipe for catching such a son-in-law (much more one written on a leaf out of his own father’s book) was worth the having. In order that he might lose no chance of improving so fair an opportunity by allowing Anthony to fall asleep before he had finished all he had to say, Mr Pecksniff, in the disposal of the refreshments on the table, a work to which he now applied himself in earnest, resorted to many ingenious contrivances for attracting his attention; such as coughing, sneezing, clattering the teacups, sharpening the knives, dropping the loaf, and so forth. But all in vain, for Mr Jonas returned, and Anthony had said no more.

‘What! My father asleep again?’ he cried, as he hung up his hat, and cast a look at him. ‘Ah! and snoring. Only hear!’

‘He snores very deep,’ said Mr Pecksniff.

‘Snores deep?’ repeated Jonas. ‘Yes; let him alone for that. He’ll snore for six, at any time.’

‘Do you know, Mr Jonas,’ said Pecksniff, ‘that I think your father is—don’t let me alarm you—breaking?’

‘Oh, is he though?’ replied Jonas, with a shake of the head which expressed the closeness of his dutiful observation. ‘Ecod, you don’t know how tough he is. He ain’t upon the move yet.’

‘It struck me that he was changed, both in his appearance and manner,’ said Mr Pecksniff.

‘That’s all you know about it,’ returned Jonas, seating himself with a melancholy air. ‘He never was better than he is now. How are they all at home? How’s Charity?’

‘Blooming, Mr Jonas, blooming.’

‘And the other one; how’s she?’

‘Volatile trifler!’ said Mr Pecksniff, fondly musing. ‘She is well, she is well. Roving from parlour to bedroom, Mr Jonas, like a bee, skimming from post to pillar, like the butterfly; dipping her young beak into our currant wine, like the humming-bird! Ah! were she a little less giddy than she is; and had she but the sterling qualities of Cherry, my young friend!’

‘Is she so very giddy, then?’ asked Jonas.

‘Well, well!’ said Mr Pecksniff, with great feeling; ‘let me not be hard upon my child. Beside her sister Cherry she appears so. A strange noise that, Mr Jonas!’

‘Something wrong in the clock, I suppose,’ said Jonas, glancing towards it. ‘So the other one ain’t your favourite, ain’t she?’

The fond father was about to reply, and had already summoned into his face a look of most intense sensibility, when the sound he had already noticed was repeated.

‘Upon my word, Mr Jonas, that is a very extraordinary clock,’ said Pecksniff.

It would have been, if it had made the noise which startled them; but another kind of time-piece was fast running down, and from that the sound proceeded. A scream from Chuffey, rendered a hundred times more loud and formidable by his silent habits, made the house ring from roof to cellar; and, looking round, they saw Anthony Chuzzlewit extended on the floor, with the old clerk upon his knees beside him.

He had fallen from his chair in a fit, and lay there, battling for each gasp of breath, with every shrivelled vein and sinew starting in its place, as if it were bent on bearing witness to his age, and sternly pleading with Nature against his recovery. It was frightful to see how the principle of life, shut up within his withered frame, fought like a strong devil, mad to be released, and rent its ancient prison-house. A young man in the fullness of his vigour, struggling with so much strength of desperation, would have been a dismal sight; but an old, old, shrunken body, endowed with preternatural might, and giving the lie in every motion of its every limb and joint to its enfeebled aspect, was a hideous spectacle indeed.

They raised him up, and fetched a surgeon with all haste, who bled the patient and applied some remedies; but the fits held him so long that it was past midnight when they got him—quiet now, but quite unconscious and exhausted—into bed.

‘Don’t go,’ said Jonas, putting his ashy lips to Mr Pecksniff’s ear and whispered across the bed. ‘It was a mercy you were present when he was taken ill. Some one might have said it was my doing.’

‘your doing!’ cried Mr Pecksniff.

‘I don’t know but they might,’ he replied, wiping the moisture from his white face. ‘People say such things. How does he look now?’

Mr Pecksniff shook his head.

‘I used to joke, you know,’ said. Jonas: ‘but I—I never wished him dead. Do you think he’s very bad?’

‘The doctor said he was. You heard,’ was Mr Pecksniff’s answer.

‘Ah! but he might say that to charge us more, in case of his getting well’ said Jonas. ‘You mustn’t go away, Pecksniff. Now it’s come to this, I wouldn’t be without a witness for a thousand pound.’

Chuffey said not a word, and heard not a word. He had sat himself down in a chair at the bedside, and there he remained, motionless; except that he sometimes bent his head over the pillow, and seemed to listen. He never changed in this. Though once in the dreary night Mr Pecksniff, having dozed, awoke with a confused impression that he had heard him praying, and strangely mingling figures—not of speech, but arithmetic—with his broken prayers.

Jonas sat there, too, all night; not where his father could have seen him, had his consciousness returned, but hiding, as it were, behind him, and only reading how he looked, in Mr Pecksniff’s eyes. He, the coarse upstart, who had ruled the house so long—that craven cur, who was afraid to move, and shook so, that his very shadow fluttered on the wall! It was broad, bright, stirring day when, leaving the old clerk to watch him, they went down to breakfast. People hurried up and down the street; windows and doors were opened; thieves and beggars took their usual posts; workmen bestirred themselves; tradesmen set forth their shops; bailiffs and constables were on the watch; all kinds of human creatures strove, in their several ways, as hard to live, as the one sick old man who combated for every grain of sand in his fast-emptying glass, as eagerly as if it were an empire.

‘If anything happens Pecksniff,’ said Jonas, ‘you must promise me to stop here till it’s all over. You shall see that I do what’s right.’

‘I know that you will do what’s right, Mr Jonas,’ said Pecksniff.

‘Yes, yes, but I won’t be doubted. No one shall have it in his power to say a syllable against me,’ he returned. ‘I know how people will talk. Just as if he wasn’t old, or I had the secret of keeping him alive!’

Mr Pecksniff promised that he would remain, if circumstances should render it, in his esteemed friend’s opinion, desirable; they were finishing their meal in silence, when suddenly an apparition stood before them, so ghastly to the view that Jonas shrieked aloud, and both recoiled in horror.

Old Anthony, dressed in his usual clothes, was in the room—beside the table. He leaned upon the shoulder of his solitary friend; and on his livid face, and on his horny hands, and in his glassy eyes, and traced by an eternal finger in the very drops of sweat upon his brow, was one word—Death.

He spoke to them—in something of his own voice too, but sharpened and made hollow, like a dead man’s face. What he would have said, God knows. He seemed to utter words, but they were such as man had never heard. And this was the most fearful circumstance of all, to see him standing there, gabbling in an unearthly tongue.

‘He’s better now,’ said Chuffey. ‘Better now. Let him sit in his old chair, and he’ll be well again. I told him not to mind. I said so, yesterday.’

They put him in his easy-chair, and wheeled it near the window; then, swinging open the door, exposed him to the free current of morning air. But not all the air that is, nor all the winds that ever blew ‘twixt Heaven and Earth, could have brought new life to him.

Plunge him to the throat in golden pieces now, and his heavy fingers shall not close on one!






CHAPTER NINETEEN. THE READER IS BROUGHT INTO COMMUNICATION WITH SOME PROFESSIONAL PERSONS, AND SHEDS A TEAR OVER THE FILIAL PIETY OF GOOD MR JONAS


Mr Pecksniff was in a hackney cabriolet, for Jonas Chuzzlewit had said ‘Spare no expense.’ Mankind is evil in its thoughts and in its base constructions, and Jonas was resolved it should not have an inch to stretch into an ell against him. It never should be charged upon his father’s son that he had grudged the money for his father’s funeral. Hence, until the obsequies should be concluded, Jonas had taken for his motto ‘Spend, and spare not!’

Mr Pecksniff had been to the undertaker, and was now upon his way to another officer in the train of mourning—a female functionary, a nurse, and watcher, and performer of nameless offices about the persons of the dead—whom he had recommended. Her name, as Mr Pecksniff gathered from a scrap of writing in his hand, was Gamp; her residence in Kingsgate Street, High Holborn. So Mr Pecksniff, in a hackney cab, was rattling over Holborn stones, in quest of Mrs Gamp.

This lady lodged at a bird-fancier’s, next door but one to the celebrated mutton-pie shop, and directly opposite to the original cat’s-meat warehouse; the renown of which establishments was duly heralded on their respective fronts. It was a little house, and this was the more convenient; for Mrs Gamp being, in her highest walk of art, a monthly nurse, or, as her sign-board boldly had it, ‘Midwife,’ and lodging in the first-floor front, was easily assailable at night by pebbles, walking-sticks, and fragments of tobacco-pipe; all much more efficacious than the street-door knocker, which was so constructed as to wake the street with ease, and even spread alarms of fire in Holborn, without making the smallest impression on the premises to which it was addressed.

It chanced on this particular occasion, that Mrs Gamp had been up all the previous night, in attendance upon a ceremony to which the usage of gossips has given that name which expresses, in two syllables, the curse pronounced on Adam. It chanced that Mrs Gamp had not been regularly engaged, but had been called in at a crisis, in consequence of her great repute, to assist another professional lady with her advice; and thus it happened that, all points of interest in the case being over, Mrs Gamp had come home again to the bird-fancier’s and gone to bed. So when Mr Pecksniff drove up in the hackney cab, Mrs Gamp’s curtains were drawn close, and Mrs Gamp was fast asleep behind them.

If the bird-fancier had been at home, as he ought to have been, there would have been no great harm in this; but he was out, and his shop was closed. The shutters were down certainly; and in every pane of glass there was at least one tiny bird in a tiny bird-cage, twittering and hopping his little ballet of despair, and knocking his head against the roof; while one unhappy goldfinch who lived outside a red villa with his name on the door, drew the water for his own drinking, and mutely appealed to some good man to drop a farthing’s-worth of poison in it. Still, the door was shut. Mr Pecksniff tried the latch, and shook it, causing a cracked bell inside to ring most mournfully; but no one came. The bird-fancier was an easy shaver also, and a fashionable hair-dresser also, and perhaps he had been sent for, express, from the court end of the town, to trim a lord, or cut and curl a lady; but however that might be, there, upon his own ground, he was not; nor was there any more distinct trace of him to assist the imagination of an inquirer, than a professional print or emblem of his calling (much favoured in the trade), representing a hair-dresser of easy manners curling a lady of distinguished fashion, in the presence of a patent upright grand pianoforte.

Noting these circumstances, Mr Pecksniff, in the innocence of his heart, applied himself to the knocker; but at the first double knock every window in the street became alive with female heads; and before he could repeat the performance whole troops of married ladies (some about to trouble Mrs Gamp themselves very shortly) came flocking round the steps, all crying out with one accord, and with uncommon interest, ‘Knock at the winder, sir, knock at the winder. Lord bless you, don’t lose no more time than you can help—knock at the winder!’

Acting upon this suggestion, and borrowing the driver’s whip for the purpose, Mr Pecksniff soon made a commotion among the first floor flower-pots, and roused Mrs Gamp, whose voice—to the great satisfaction of the matrons—was heard to say, ‘I’m coming.’

‘He’s as pale as a muffin,’ said one lady, in allusion to Mr Pecksniff.

‘So he ought to be, if he’s the feelings of a man,’ observed another.

A third lady (with her arms folded) said she wished he had chosen any other time for fetching Mrs Gamp, but it always happened so with her.

It gave Mr Pecksniff much uneasiness to find, from these remarks, that he was supposed to have come to Mrs Gamp upon an errand touching—not the close of life, but the other end. Mrs Gamp herself was under the same impression, for, throwing open the window, she cried behind the curtains, as she hastily attired herself—

‘Is it Mrs Perkins?’

‘No!’ returned Mr Pecksniff, sharply. ‘Nothing of the sort.’

‘What, Mr Whilks!’ cried Mrs Gamp. ‘Don’t say it’s you, Mr Whilks, and that poor creetur Mrs Whilks with not even a pincushion ready. Don’t say it’s you, Mr Whilks!’

‘It isn’t Mr Whilks,’ said Pecksniff. ‘I don’t know the man. Nothing of the kind. A gentleman is dead; and some person being wanted in the house, you have been recommended by Mr Mould the undertaker.’

As she was by this time in a condition to appear, Mrs Gamp, who had a face for all occasions, looked out of the window with her mourning countenance, and said she would be down directly. But the matrons took it very ill that Mr Pecksniff’s mission was of so unimportant a kind; and the lady with her arms folded rated him in good round terms, signifying that she would be glad to know what he meant by terrifying delicate females ‘with his corpses;’ and giving it as her opinion that he was quite ugly enough to know better. The other ladies were not at all behind-hand in expressing similar sentiments; and the children, of whom some scores had now collected, hooted and defied Mr Pecksniff quite savagely. So when Mrs Gamp appeared, the unoffending gentleman was glad to hustle her with very little ceremony into the cabriolet, and drive off, overwhelmed with popular execration.

Mrs Gamp had a large bundle with her, a pair of pattens, and a species of gig umbrella; the latter article in colour like a faded leaf, except where a circular patch of a lively blue had been dexterously let in at the top. She was much flurried by the haste she had made, and laboured under the most erroneous views of cabriolets, which she appeared to confound with mail-coaches or stage-wagons, inasmuch as she was constantly endeavouring for the first half mile to force her luggage through the little front window, and clamouring to the driver to ‘put it in the boot.’ When she was disabused of this idea, her whole being resolved itself into an absorbing anxiety about her pattens, with which she played innumerable games at quoits on Mr Pecksniff’s legs. It was not until they were close upon the house of mourning that she had enough composure to observe—

‘And so the gentleman’s dead, sir! Ah! The more’s the pity.’ She didn’t even know his name. ‘But it’s what we must all come to. It’s as certain as being born, except that we can’t make our calculations as exact. Ah! Poor dear!’

She was a fat old woman, this Mrs Gamp, with a husky voice and a moist eye, which she had a remarkable power of turning up, and only showing the white of it. Having very little neck, it cost her some trouble to look over herself, if one may say so, at those to whom she talked. She wore a very rusty black gown, rather the worse for snuff, and a shawl and bonnet to correspond. In these dilapidated articles of dress she had, on principle, arrayed herself, time out of mind, on such occasions as the present; for this at once expressed a decent amount of veneration for the deceased, and invited the next of kin to present her with a fresher suit of weeds; an appeal so frequently successful, that the very fetch and ghost of Mrs Gamp, bonnet and all, might be seen hanging up, any hour in the day, in at least a dozen of the second-hand clothes shops about Holborn. The face of Mrs Gamp—the nose in particular—was somewhat red and swollen, and it was difficult to enjoy her society without becoming conscious of a smell of spirits. Like most persons who have attained to great eminence in their profession, she took to hers very kindly; insomuch that, setting aside her natural predilections as a woman, she went to a lying-in or a laying-out with equal zest and relish.

‘Ah!’ repeated Mrs Gamp; for it was always a safe sentiment in cases of mourning. ‘Ah dear! When Gamp was summoned to his long home, and I see him a-lying in Guy’s Hospital with a penny-piece on each eye, and his wooden leg under his left arm, I thought I should have fainted away. But I bore up.’

If certain whispers current in the Kingsgate Street circles had any truth in them, she had indeed borne up surprisingly; and had exerted such uncommon fortitude as to dispose of Mr Gamp’s remains for the benefit of science. But it should be added, in fairness, that this had happened twenty years before; and that Mr and Mrs Gamp had long been separated on the ground of incompatibility of temper in their drink.

‘You have become indifferent since then, I suppose?’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Use is second nature, Mrs Gamp.’

‘You may well say second nater, sir,’ returned that lady. ‘One’s first ways is to find sich things a trial to the feelings, and so is one’s lasting custom. If it wasn’t for the nerve a little sip of liquor gives me (I never was able to do more than taste it), I never could go through with what I sometimes has to do. “Mrs Harris,” I says, at the very last case as ever I acted in, which it was but a young person, “Mrs Harris,” I says, “leave the bottle on the chimley-piece, and don’t ask me to take none, but let me put my lips to it when I am so dispoged, and then I will do what I’m engaged to do, according to the best of my ability.” “Mrs Gamp,” she says, in answer, “if ever there was a sober creetur to be got at eighteen pence a day for working people, and three and six for gentlefolks—night watching,”’ said Mrs Gamp with emphasis, ‘“being a extra charge—you are that inwallable person.” “Mrs Harris,” I says to her, “don’t name the charge, for if I could afford to lay all my feller creeturs out for nothink, I would gladly do it, sich is the love I bears ‘em. But what I always says to them as has the management of matters, Mrs Harris”’—here she kept her eye on Mr Pecksniff—‘"be they gents or be they ladies, is, don’t ask me whether I won’t take none, or whether I will, but leave the bottle on the chimley-piece, and let me put my lips to it when I am so dispoged.”’

The conclusion of this affecting narrative brought them to the house. In the passage they encountered Mr Mould the undertaker; a little elderly gentleman, bald, and in a suit of black; with a notebook in his hand, a massive gold watch-chain dangling from his fob, and a face in which a queer attempt at melancholy was at odds with a smirk of satisfaction; so that he looked as a man might, who, in the very act of smacking his lips over choice old wine, tried to make believe it was physic.

‘Well, Mrs Gamp, and how are you, Mrs Gamp?’ said this gentleman, in a voice as soft as his step.

‘Pretty well, I thank you, sir,’ dropping a curtsey.

‘You’ll be very particular here, Mrs Gamp. This is not a common case, Mrs Gamp. Let everything be very nice and comfortable, Mrs Gamp, if you please,’ said the undertaker, shaking his head with a solemn air.

‘It shall be, sir,’ she replied, curtseying again. ‘You knows me of old, sir, I hope.’

‘I hope so, too, Mrs Gamp,’ said the undertaker, ‘and I think so also.’ Mrs Gamp curtseyed again. ‘This is one of the most impressive cases, sir,’ he continued, addressing Mr Pecksniff, ‘that I have seen in the whole course of my professional experience.’

‘Indeed, Mr Mould!’ cried that gentleman.

‘Such affectionate regret, sir, I never saw. There is no limitation, there is positively no limitation’—opening his eyes wide, and standing on tiptoe—‘in point of expense! I have orders, sir, to put on my whole establishment of mutes; and mutes come very dear, Mr Pecksniff; not to mention their drink. To provide silver-plated handles of the very best description, ornamented with angels’ heads from the most expensive dies. To be perfectly profuse in feathers. In short, sir, to turn out something absolutely gorgeous.’

‘My friend Mr Jonas is an excellent man,’ said Mr Pecksniff.

‘I have seen a good deal of what is filial in my time, sir,’ retorted Mould, ‘and what is unfilial too. It is our lot. We come into the knowledge of those secrets. But anything so filial as this; anything so honourable to human nature; so calculated to reconcile all of us to the world we live in; never yet came under my observation. It only proves, sir, what was so forcibly observed by the lamented theatrical poet—buried at Stratford—that there is good in everything.’

‘It is very pleasant to hear you say so, Mr Mould,’ observed Pecksniff.

‘You are very kind, sir. And what a man Mr Chuzzlewit was, sir! Ah! what a man he was. You may talk of your lord mayors,’ said Mould, waving his hand at the public in general, ‘your sheriffs, your common councilmen, your trumpery; but show me a man in this city who is worthy to walk in the shoes of the departed Mr Chuzzlewit. No, no,’ cried Mould, with bitter sarcasm. ‘Hang ‘em up, hang ‘em up; sole ‘em and heel ‘em, and have ‘em ready for his son against he’s old enough to wear ‘em; but don’t try ‘em on yourselves, for they won’t fit you. We knew him,’ said Mould, in the same biting vein, as he pocketed his note-book; ‘we knew him, and are not to be caught with chaff. Mr Pecksniff, sir, good morning.’

Mr Pecksniff returned the compliment; and Mould, sensible of having distinguished himself, was going away with a brisk smile, when he fortunately remembered the occasion. Quickly becoming depressed again, he sighed; looked into the crown of his hat, as if for comfort; put it on without finding any; and slowly departed.

Mrs Gamp and Mr Pecksniff then ascended the staircase; and the former, having been shown to the chamber in which all that remained of Anthony Chuzzlewit lay covered up, with but one loving heart, and that a halting one, to mourn it, left the latter free to enter the darkened room below, and rejoin Mr Jonas, from whom he had now been absent nearly two hours.

He found that example to bereaved sons, and pattern in the eyes of all performers of funerals, musing over a fragment of writing-paper on the desk, and scratching figures on it with a pen. The old man’s chair, and hat, and walking-stick, were removed from their accustomed places, and put out of sight; the window-blinds as yellow as November fogs, were drawn down close; Jonas himself was so subdued, that he could scarcely be heard to speak, and only seen to walk across the room.

‘Pecksniff,’ he said, in a whisper, ‘you shall have the regulation of it all, mind! You shall be able to tell anybody who talks about it that everything was correctly and nicely done. There isn’t any one you’d like to ask to the funeral, is there?’

‘No, Mr Jonas, I think not.’

‘Because if there is, you know,’ said Jonas, ‘ask him. We don’t want to make a secret of it.’

‘No,’ repeated Mr Pecksniff, after a little reflection. ‘I am not the less obliged to you on that account, Mr Jonas, for your liberal hospitality; but there really is no one.’

‘Very well,’ said Jonas; ‘then you, and I, and Chuffey, and the doctor, will be just a coachful. We’ll have the doctor, Pecksniff, because he knows what was the matter with him, and that it couldn’t be helped.’

‘Where is our dear friend, Mr Chuffey?’ asked Pecksniff, looking round the chamber, and winking both his eyes at once—for he was overcome by his feelings.

But here he was interrupted by Mrs Gamp, who, divested of her bonnet and shawl, came sidling and bridling into the room; and with some sharpness demanded a conference outside the door with Mr Pecksniff.

‘You may say whatever you wish to say here, Mrs Gamp,’ said that gentleman, shaking his head with a melancholy expression.

‘It is not much as I have to say when people is a-mourning for the dead and gone,’ said Mrs Gamp; ‘but what I have to say is to the pint and purpose, and no offence intended, must be so considered. I have been at a many places in my time, gentlemen, and I hope I knows what my duties is, and how the same should be performed; in course, if I did not, it would be very strange, and very wrong in sich a gentleman as Mr Mould, which has undertook the highest families in this land, and given every satisfaction, so to recommend me as he does. I have seen a deal of trouble my own self,’ said Mrs Gamp, laying greater and greater stress upon her words, ‘and I can feel for them as has their feelings tried, but I am not a Rooshan or a Prooshan, and consequently cannot suffer Spies to be set over me.’

Before it was possible that an answer could be returned, Mrs Gamp, growing redder in the face, went on to say:

‘It is not a easy matter, gentlemen, to live when you are left a widder woman; particular when your feelings works upon you to that extent that you often find yourself a-going out on terms which is a certain loss, and never can repay. But in whatever way you earns your bread, you may have rules and regulations of your own which cannot be broke through. Some people,’ said Mrs Gamp, again entrenching herself behind her strong point, as if it were not assailable by human ingenuity, ‘may be Rooshans, and others may be Prooshans; they are born so, and will please themselves. Them which is of other naturs thinks different.’

‘If I understand this good lady,’ said Mr Pecksniff, turning to Jonas, ‘Mr Chuffey is troublesome to her. Shall I fetch him down?’

‘Do,’ said Jonas. ‘I was going to tell you he was up there, when she came in. I’d go myself and bring him down, only—only I’d rather you went, if you don’t mind.’

Mr Pecksniff promptly departed, followed by Mrs Gamp, who, seeing that he took a bottle and glass from the cupboard, and carried it in his hand, was much softened.

‘I am sure,’ she said, ‘that if it wasn’t for his own happiness, I should no more mind him being there, poor dear, than if he was a fly. But them as isn’t used to these things, thinks so much of ‘em afterwards, that it’s a kindness to ‘em not to let ‘em have their wish. And even,’ said Mrs Gamp, probably in reference to some flowers of speech she had already strewn on Mr Chuffey, ‘even if one calls ‘em names, it’s only done to rouse ‘em.’

Whatever epithets she had bestowed on the old clerk, they had not roused him. He sat beside the bed, in the chair he had occupied all the previous night, with his hands folded before him, and his head bowed down; and neither looked up, on their entrance, nor gave any sign of consciousness, until Mr Pecksniff took him by the arm, when he meekly rose.

‘Three score and ten,’ said Chuffey, ‘ought and carry seven. Some men are so strong that they live to four score—four times ought’s an ought, four times two’s an eight—eighty. Oh! why—why—why didn’t he live to four times ought’s an ought, and four times two’s an eight, eighty?’

‘Ah! what a wale of grief!’ cried Mrs Gamp, possessing herself of the bottle and glass.

‘Why did he die before his poor old crazy servant?’ said Chuffey, clasping his hands and looking up in anguish. ‘Take him from me, and what remains?’

‘Mr Jonas,’ returned Pecksniff, ‘Mr Jonas, my good friend.’

‘I loved him,’ cried the old man, weeping. ‘He was good to me. We learnt Tare and Tret together at school. I took him down once, six boys in the arithmetic class. God forgive me! Had I the heart to take him down!’

‘Come, Mr Chuffey,’ said Pecksniff. ‘Come with me. Summon up your fortitude, Mr Chuffey.’

‘Yes, I will,’ returned the old clerk. ‘Yes. I’ll sum up my forty—How many times forty—Oh, Chuzzlewit and Son—Your own son Mr Chuzzlewit; your own son, sir!’

He yielded to the hand that guided him, as he lapsed into this familiar expression, and submitted to be led away. Mrs Gamp, with the bottle on one knee, and the glass on the other, sat upon a stool, shaking her head for a long time, until, in a moment of abstraction, she poured out a dram of spirits, and raised it to her lips. It was succeeded by a second, and by a third, and then her eyes—either in the sadness of her reflections upon life and death, or in her admiration of the liquor—were so turned up, as to be quite invisible. But she shook her head still.

Poor Chuffey was conducted to his accustomed corner, and there he remained, silent and quiet, save at long intervals, when he would rise, and walk about the room, and wring his hands, or raise some strange and sudden cry. For a whole week they all three sat about the hearth and never stirred abroad. Mr Pecksniff would have walked out in the evening time, but Mr Jonas was so averse to his being absent for a minute, that he abandoned the idea, and so, from morning until night, they brooded together in the dark room, without relief or occupation.

The weight of that which was stretched out, stiff and stark, in the awful chamber above-stairs, so crushed and bore down Jonas, that he bent beneath the load. During the whole long seven days and nights, he was always oppressed and haunted by a dreadful sense of its presence in the house. Did the door move, he looked towards it with a livid face and starting eye, as if he fully believed that ghostly fingers clutched the handle. Did the fire flicker in a draught of air, he glanced over his shoulder, as almost dreading to behold some shrouded figure fanning and flapping at it with its fearful dress. The lightest noise disturbed him; and once, in the night, at the sound of a footstep overhead, he cried out that the dead man was walking—tramp, tramp, tramp—about his coffin.

He lay at night upon a mattress on the floor of the sitting-room; his own chamber having been assigned to Mrs Gamp; and Mr Pecksniff was similarly accommodated. The howling of a dog before the house, filled him with a terror he could not disguise. He avoided the reflection in the opposite windows of the light that burned above, as though it had been an angry eye. He often, in every night, rose up from his fitful sleep, and looked and longed for dawn; all directions and arrangements, even to the ordering of their daily meals, he abandoned to Mr Pecksniff. That excellent gentleman, deeming that the mourner wanted comfort, and that high feeding was likely to do him infinite service, availed himself of these opportunities to such good purpose, that they kept quite a dainty table during this melancholy season; with sweetbreads, stewed kidneys, oysters, and other such light viands for supper every night; over which, and sundry jorums of hot punch, Mr Pecksniff delivered such moral reflections and spiritual consolation as might have converted a Heathen—especially if he had had but an imperfect acquaintance with the English tongue.

Nor did Mr Pecksniff alone indulge in the creature comforts during this sad time. Mrs Gamp proved to be very choice in her eating, and repudiated hashed mutton with scorn. In her drinking too, she was very punctual and particular, requiring a pint of mild porter at lunch, a pint at dinner, half-a-pint as a species of stay or holdfast between dinner and tea, and a pint of the celebrated staggering ale, or Real Old Brighton Tipper, at supper; besides the bottle on the chimney-piece, and such casual invitations to refresh herself with wine as the good breeding of her employers might prompt them to offer. In like manner, Mr Mould’s men found it necessary to drown their grief, like a young kitten in the morning of its existence, for which reason they generally fuddled themselves before they began to do anything, lest it should make head and get the better of them. In short, the whole of that strange week was a round of dismal joviality and grim enjoyment; and every one, except poor Chuffey, who came within the shadow of Anthony Chuzzlewit’s grave, feasted like a Ghoul.

At length the day of the funeral, pious and truthful ceremony that it was, arrived. Mr Mould, with a glass of generous port between his eye and the light, leaned against the desk in the little glass office with his gold watch in his unoccupied hand, and conversed with Mrs Gamp; two mutes were at the house-door, looking as mournful as could be reasonably expected of men with such a thriving job in hand; the whole of Mr Mould’s establishment were on duty within the house or without; feathers waved, horses snorted, silk and velvets fluttered; in a word, as Mr Mould emphatically said, ‘Everything that money could do was done.’

‘And what can do more, Mrs Gamp?’ exclaimed the undertaker as he emptied his glass and smacked his lips.

‘Nothing in the world, sir.’

‘Nothing in the world,’ repeated Mr Mould. ‘You are right, Mrs Gamp. Why do people spend more money’—here he filled his glass again—‘upon a death, Mrs Gamp, than upon a birth? Come, that’s in your way; you ought to know. How do you account for that now?’

‘Perhaps it is because an undertaker’s charges comes dearer than a nurse’s charges, sir,’ said Mrs Gamp, tittering, and smoothing down her new black dress with her hands.

‘Ha, ha!’ laughed Mr Mould. ‘You have been breakfasting at somebody’s expense this morning, Mrs Gamp.’ But seeing, by the aid of a little shaving-glass which hung opposite, that he looked merry, he composed his features and became sorrowful.

‘Many’s the time that I’ve not breakfasted at my own expense along of your recommending, sir; and many’s the time I hope to do the same in time to come,’ said Mrs Gamp, with an apologetic curtsey.

‘So be it,’ replied Mr Mould, ‘please Providence. No, Mrs Gamp; I’ll tell you why it is. It’s because the laying out of money with a well-conducted establishment, where the thing is performed upon the very best scale, binds the broken heart, and sheds balm upon the wounded spirit. Hearts want binding, and spirits want balming when people die; not when people are born. Look at this gentleman to-day; look at him.’

‘An open-handed gentleman?’ cried Mrs Gamp, with enthusiasm.

‘No, no,’ said the undertaker; ‘not an open-handed gentleman in general, by any means. There you mistake him; but an afflicted gentleman, an affectionate gentleman, who knows what it is in the power of money to do, in giving him relief, and in testifying his love and veneration for the departed. It can give him,’ said Mr Mould, waving his watch-chain slowly round and round, so that he described one circle after every item; ‘it can give him four horses to each vehicle; it can give him velvet trappings; it can give him drivers in cloth cloaks and top-boots; it can give him the plumage of the ostrich, dyed black; it can give him any number of walking attendants, dressed in the first style of funeral fashion, and carrying batons tipped with brass; it can give him a handsome tomb; it can give him a place in Westminster Abbey itself, if he choose to invest it in such a purchase. Oh! do not let us say that gold is dross, when it can buy such things as these, Mrs Gamp.’

‘But what a blessing, sir,’ said Mrs Gamp, ‘that there are such as you, to sell or let ‘em out on hire!’

‘Aye, Mrs Gamp, you are right,’ rejoined the undertaker. ‘We should be an honoured calling. We do good by stealth, and blush to have it mentioned in our little bills. How much consolation may I—even I,’ cried Mr Mould, ‘have diffused among my fellow-creatures by means of my four long-tailed prancers, never harnessed under ten pund ten!’

Mrs Gamp had begun to make a suitable reply, when she was interrupted by the appearance of one of Mr Mould’s assistants—his chief mourner in fact—an obese person, with his waistcoat in closer connection with his legs than is quite reconcilable with the established ideas of grace; with that cast of feature which is figuratively called a bottle nose; and with a face covered all over with pimples. He had been a tender plant once upon a time, but from constant blowing in the fat atmosphere of funerals, had run to seed.

‘Well, Tacker,’ said Mr Mould, ‘is all ready below?’

‘A beautiful show, sir,’ rejoined Tacker. ‘The horses are prouder and fresher than ever I see ‘em; and toss their heads, they do, as if they knowed how much their plumes cost. One, two, three, four,’ said Mr Tacker, heaping that number of black cloaks upon his left arm.

‘Is Tom there, with the cake and wine?’ asked Mr Mould.

‘Ready to come in at a moment’s notice, sir,’ said Tacker.

‘Then,’ rejoined Mr Mould, putting up his watch, and glancing at himself in the little shaving-glass, that he might be sure his face had the right expression on it; ‘then I think we may proceed to business. Give me the paper of gloves, Tacker. Ah, what a man he was! Ah, Tacker, Tacker, what a man he was!’

Mr Tacker, who from his great experience in the performance of funerals, would have made an excellent pantomime actor, winked at Mrs Gamp without at all disturbing the gravity of his countenance, and followed his master into the next room.

It was a great point with Mr Mould, and a part of his professional tact, not to seem to know the doctor; though in reality they were near neighbours, and very often, as in the present instance, worked together. So he advanced to fit on his black kid gloves as if he had never seen him in all his life; while the doctor, on his part, looked as distant and unconscious as if he had heard and read of undertakers, and had passed their shops, but had never before been brought into communication with one.

‘Gloves, eh?’ said the doctor. ‘Mr Pecksniff after you.’

‘I couldn’t think of it,’ returned Mr Pecksniff.

‘You are very good,’ said the doctor, taking a pair. ‘Well, sir, as I was saying—I was called up to attend that case at about half-past one o’clock. Cake and wine, eh? Which is port? Thank you.’

Mr Pecksniff took some also.

‘At about half-past one o’clock in the morning, sir,’ resumed the doctor, ‘I was called up to attend that case. At the first pull of the night-bell I turned out, threw up the window, and put out my head. Cloak, eh? Don’t tie it too tight. That’ll do.’

Mr Pecksniff having been likewise inducted into a similar garment, the doctor resumed.

‘And put out my head—hat, eh? My good friend, that is not mine. Mr Pecksniff, I beg your pardon, but I think we have unintentionally made an exchange. Thank you. Well, sir, I was going to tell you—’

‘We are quite ready,’ interrupted Mould in a low voice.

‘Ready, eh?’ said the doctor. ‘Very good, Mr Pecksniff, I’ll take an opportunity of relating the rest in the coach. It’s rather curious. Ready, eh? No rain, I hope?’

‘Quite fair, sir,’ returned Mould.

‘I was afraid the ground would have been wet,’ said the doctor, ‘for my glass fell yesterday. We may congratulate ourselves upon our good fortune.’ But seeing by this time that Mr Jonas and Chuffey were going out at the door, he put a white pocket-handkerchief to his face as if a violent burst of grief had suddenly come upon him, and walked down side by side with Mr Pecksniff.

Mr Mould and his men had not exaggerated the grandeur of the arrangements. They were splendid. The four hearse-horses, especially, reared and pranced, and showed their highest action, as if they knew a man was dead, and triumphed in it. ‘They break us, drive us, ride us; ill-treat, abuse, and maim us for their pleasure—But they die; Hurrah, they die!’

So through the narrow streets and winding city ways, went Anthony Chuzzlewit’s funeral; Mr Jonas glancing stealthily out of the coach-window now and then, to observe its effect upon the crowd; Mr Mould as he walked along, listening with a sober pride to the exclamations of the bystanders; the doctor whispering his story to Mr Pecksniff, without appearing to come any nearer the end of it; and poor old Chuffey sobbing unregarded in a corner. But he had greatly scandalized Mr Mould at an early stage of the ceremony by carrying his handkerchief in his hat in a perfectly informal manner, and wiping his eyes with his knuckles. And as Mr Mould himself had said already, his behaviour was indecent, and quite unworthy of such an occasion; and he never ought to have been there.

There he was, however; and in the churchyard there he was, also, conducting himself in a no less unbecoming manner, and leaning for support on Tacker, who plainly told him that he was fit for nothing better than a walking funeral. But Chuffey, Heaven help him! heard no sound but the echoes, lingering in his own heart, of a voice for ever silent.

‘I loved him,’ cried the old man, sinking down upon the grave when all was done. ‘He was very good to me. Oh, my dear old friend and master!’

‘Come, come, Mr Chuffey,’ said the doctor, ‘this won’t do; it’s a clayey soil, Mr Chuffey. You mustn’t, really.’

‘If it had been the commonest thing we do, and Mr Chuffey had been a Bearer, gentlemen,’ said Mould, casting an imploring glance upon them, as he helped to raise him, ‘he couldn’t have gone on worse than this.’

‘Be a man, Mr Chuffey,’ said Pecksniff.

‘Be a gentleman, Mr Chuffey,’ said Mould.

‘Upon my word, my good friend,’ murmured the doctor, in a tone of stately reproof, as he stepped up to the old man’s side, ‘this is worse than weakness. This is bad, selfish, very wrong, Mr Chuffey. You should take example from others, my good sir. You forget that you were not connected by ties of blood with our deceased friend; and that he had a very near and very dear relation, Mr Chuffey.’

‘Aye, his own son!’ cried the old man, clasping his hands with remarkable passion. ‘His own, own, only son!’

‘He’s not right in his head, you know,’ said Jonas, turning pale. ‘You’re not to mind anything he says. I shouldn’t wonder if he was to talk some precious nonsense. But don’t you mind him, any of you. I don’t. My father left him to my charge; and whatever he says or does, that’s enough. I’ll take care of him.’

A hum of admiration rose from the mourners (including Mr Mould and his merry men) at this new instance of magnanimity and kind feeling on the part of Jonas. But Chuffey put it to the test no farther. He said not a word more, and being left to himself for a little while, crept back again to the coach.

It has been said that Mr Jonas turned pale when the behaviour of the old clerk attracted general attention; his discomposure, however, was but momentary, and he soon recovered. But these were not the only changes he had exhibited that day. The curious eyes of Mr Pecksniff had observed that as soon as they left the house upon their mournful errand, he began to mend; that as the ceremonies proceeded he gradually, by little and little, recovered his old condition, his old looks, his old bearing, his old agreeable characteristics of speech and manner, and became, in all respects, his old pleasant self. And now that they were seated in the coach on their return home; and more when they got there, and found the windows open, the light and air admitted, and all traces of the late event removed; he felt so well convinced that Jonas was again the Jonas he had known a week ago, and not the Jonas of the intervening time, that he voluntarily gave up his recently-acquired power without one faint attempt to exercise it, and at once fell back into his former position of mild and deferential guest.

Mrs Gamp went home to the bird-fancier’s, and was knocked up again that very night for a birth of twins; Mr Mould dined gayly in the bosom of his family, and passed the evening facetiously at his club; the hearse, after standing for a long time at the door of a roistering public-house, repaired to its stables with the feathers inside and twelve red-nosed undertakers on the roof, each holding on by a dingy peg, to which, in times of state, a waving plume was fitted; the various trappings of sorrow were carefully laid by in presses for the next hirer; the fiery steeds were quenched and quiet in their stalls; the doctor got merry with wine at a wedding-dinner, and forgot the middle of the story which had no end to it; the pageant of a few short hours ago was written nowhere half so legibly as in the undertaker’s books.

Not in the churchyard? Not even there. The gates were closed; the night was dark and wet; the rain fell silently, among the stagnant weeds and nettles. One new mound was there which had not been there last night. Time, burrowing like a mole below the ground, had marked his track by throwing up another heap of earth. And that was all.






CHAPTER TWENTY. IS A CHAPTER OF LOVE

‘Pecksniff,’ said Jonas, taking off his hat, to see that the black crape band was all right; and finding that it was, putting it on again, complacently; ‘what do you mean to give your daughters when they marry?’

‘My dear Mr Jonas,’ cried the affectionate parent, with an ingenuous smile, ‘what a very singular inquiry!’

‘Now, don’t you mind whether it’s a singular inquiry or a plural one,’ retorted Jonas, eyeing Mr Pecksniff with no great favour, ‘but answer it, or let it alone. One or the other.’

‘Hum! The question, my dear friend,’ said Mr Pecksniff, laying his hand tenderly upon his kinsman’s knee, ‘is involved with many considerations. What would I give them? Eh?’

‘Ah! what would you give ‘em?’ repeated Jonas.

‘Why, that, ‘said Mr Pecksniff, ‘would naturally depend in a great measure upon the kind of husbands they might choose, my dear young friend.’

Mr Jonas was evidently disconcerted, and at a loss how to proceed. It was a good answer. It seemed a deep one, but such is the wisdom of simplicity!’

‘My standard for the merits I would require in a son-in-law,’ said Mr Pecksniff, after a short silence, ‘is a high one. Forgive me, my dear Mr Jonas,’ he added, greatly moved, ‘if I say that you have spoiled me, and made it a fanciful one; an imaginative one; a prismatically tinged one, if I may be permitted to call it so.’

‘What do you mean by that?’ growled Jonas, looking at him with increased disfavour.

‘Indeed, my dear friend,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘you may well inquire. The heart is not always a royal mint, with patent machinery to work its metal into current coin. Sometimes it throws it out in strange forms, not easily recognized as coin at all. But it is sterling gold. It has at least that merit. It is sterling gold.’

‘Is it?’ grumbled Jonas, with a doubtful shake of the head.

‘Aye!’ said Mr Pecksniff, warming with his subject ‘it is. To be plain with you, Mr Jonas, if I could find two such sons-in-law as you will one day make to some deserving man, capable of appreciating a nature such as yours, I would—forgetful of myself—bestow upon my daughters portions reaching to the very utmost limit of my means.’

This was strong language, and it was earnestly delivered. But who can wonder that such a man as Mr Pecksniff, after all he had seen and heard of Mr Jonas, should be strong and earnest upon such a theme; a theme that touched even the worldly lips of undertakers with the honey of eloquence!

Mr Jonas was silent, and looked thoughtfully at the landscape. For they were seated on the outside of the coach, at the back, and were travelling down into the country. He accompanied Mr Pecksniff home for a few days’ change of air and scene after his recent trials.

‘Well,’ he said, at last, with captivating bluntness, ‘suppose you got one such son-in-law as me, what then?’

Mr Pecksniff regarded him at first with inexpressible surprise; then gradually breaking into a sort of dejected vivacity, said:

‘Then well I know whose husband he would be!’

‘Whose?’ asked Jonas, drily.

‘My eldest girl’s, Mr Jonas,’ replied Pecksniff, with moistening eyes. ‘My dear Cherry’s; my staff, my scrip, my treasure, Mr Jonas. A hard struggle, but it is in the nature of things! I must one day part with her to a husband. I know it, my dear friend. I am prepared for it.’

‘Ecod! you’ve been prepared for that a pretty long time, I should think,’ said Jonas.

‘Many have sought to bear her from me,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘All have failed. “I never will give my hand, papa”—those were her words—“unless my heart is won.” She has not been quite so happy as she used to be, of late. I don’t know why.’

Again Mr Jonas looked at the landscape; then at the coachman; then at the luggage on the roof; finally at Mr Pecksniff.

‘I suppose you’ll have to part with the other one, some of these days?’ he observed, as he caught that gentleman’s eye.

‘Probably,’ said the parent. ‘Years will tame down the wildness of my foolish bird, and then it will be caged. But Cherry, Mr Jonas, Cherry—’

‘Oh, ah!’ interrupted Jonas. ‘Years have made her all right enough. Nobody doubts that. But you haven’t answered what I asked you. Of course, you’re not obliged to do it, you know, if you don’t like. You’re the best judge.’

There was a warning sulkiness in the manner of this speech, which admonished Mr Pecksniff that his dear friend was not to be trifled with or fenced off, and that he must either return a straight-forward reply to his question, or plainly give him to understand that he declined to enlighten him upon the subject to which it referred. Mindful in this dilemma of the caution old Anthony had given him almost with his latest breath, he resolved to speak to the point, and so told Mr Jonas (enlarging upon the communication as a proof of his great attachment and confidence), that in the case he had put; to wit, in the event of such a man as he proposing for his daughter’s hand, he would endow her with a fortune of four thousand pounds.

‘I should sadly pinch and cramp myself to do so,’ was his fatherly remark; ‘but that would be my duty, and my conscience would reward me. For myself, my conscience is my bank. I have a trifle invested there—a mere trifle, Mr Jonas—but I prize it as a store of value, I assure you.’

The good man’s enemies would have divided upon this question into two parties. One would have asserted without scruple that if Mr Pecksniff’s conscience were his bank, and he kept a running account there, he must have overdrawn it beyond all mortal means of computation. The other would have contended that it was a mere fictitious form; a perfectly blank book; or one in which entries were only made with a peculiar kind of invisible ink to become legible at some indefinite time; and that he never troubled it at all.

‘It would sadly pinch and cramp me, my dear friend,’ repeated Mr Pecksniff, ‘but Providence—perhaps I may be permitted to say a special Providence—has blessed my endeavours, and I could guarantee to make the sacrifice.’

A question of philosophy arises here, whether Mr Pecksniff had or had not good reason to say that he was specially patronized and encouraged in his undertakings. All his life long he had been walking up and down the narrow ways and by-places, with a hook in one hand and a crook in the other, scraping all sorts of valuable odds and ends into his pouch. Now, there being a special Providence in the fall of a sparrow, it follows (so Mr Pecksniff, and only such admirable men, would have reasoned), that there must also be a special Providence in the alighting of the stone or stick, or other substance which is aimed at the sparrow. And Mr Pecksniff’s hook, or crook, having invariably knocked the sparrow on the head and brought him down, that gentleman may have been led to consider himself as specially licensed to bag sparrows, and as being specially seized and possessed of all the birds he had got together. That many undertakings, national as well as individual—but especially the former—are held to be specially brought to a glorious and successful issue, which never could be so regarded on any other process of reasoning, must be clear to all men. Therefore the precedents would seem to show that Mr Pecksniff had (as things go) good argument for what he said and might be permitted to say it, and did not say it presumptuously, vainly, or arrogantly, but in a spirit of high faith and great wisdom.

Mr Jonas, not being much accustomed to perplex his mind with theories of this nature, expressed no opinion on the subject. Nor did he receive his companion’s announcement with one solitary syllable, good, bad, or indifferent. He preserved this taciturnity for a quarter of an hour at least, and during the whole of that time appeared to be steadily engaged in subjecting some given amount to the operation of every known rule in figures; adding to it, taking from it, multiplying it, reducing it by long and short division; working it by the rule-of-three direct and inversed; exchange or barter; practice; simple interest; compound interest; and other means of arithmetical calculation. The result of these labours appeared to be satisfactory, for when he did break silence, it was as one who had arrived at some specific result, and freed himself from a state of distressing uncertainty.

‘Come, old Pecksniff!’—Such was his jocose address, as he slapped that gentleman on the back, at the end of the stage—‘let’s have something!’

‘With all my heart,’ said Mr Pecksniff.

‘Let’s treat the driver,’ cried Jonas.

‘If you think it won’t hurt the man, or render him discontented with his station—certainly,’ faltered Mr Pecksniff.

Jonas only laughed at this, and getting down from the coach-top with great alacrity, cut a cumbersome kind of caper in the road. After which, he went into the public-house, and there ordered spirituous drink to such an extent, that Mr Pecksniff had some doubts of his perfect sanity, until Jonas set them quite at rest by saying, when the coach could wait no longer:

‘I’ve been standing treat for a whole week and more, and letting you have all the delicacies of the season. You shall pay for this Pecksniff.’ It was not a joke either, as Mr Pecksniff at first supposed; for he went off to the coach without further ceremony, and left his respected victim to settle the bill.

But Mr Pecksniff was a man of meek endurance, and Mr Jonas was his friend. Moreover, his regard for that gentleman was founded, as we know, on pure esteem, and a knowledge of the excellence of his character. He came out from the tavern with a smiling face, and even went so far as to repeat the performance, on a less expensive scale, at the next ale-house. There was a certain wildness in the spirits of Mr Jonas (not usually a part of his character) which was far from being subdued by these means, and, for the rest of the journey, he was so very buoyant—it may be said, boisterous—that Mr Pecksniff had some difficulty in keeping pace with him.

They were not expected—oh dear, no! Mr Pecksniff had proposed in London to give the girls a surprise, and had said he wouldn’t write a word to prepare them on any account, in order that he and Mr Jonas might take them unawares, and just see what they were doing, when they thought their dear papa was miles and miles away. As a consequence of this playful device, there was nobody to meet them at the finger-post, but that was of small consequence, for they had come down by the day coach, and Mr Pecksniff had only a carpetbag, while Mr Jonas had only a portmanteau. They took the portmanteau between them, put the bag upon it, and walked off up the lane without delay; Mr Pecksniff already going on tiptoe as if, without this precaution, his fond children, being then at a distance of a couple of miles or so, would have some filial sense of his approach.

It was a lovely evening in the spring-time of the year; and in the soft stillness of the twilight, all nature was very calm and beautiful. The day had been fine and warm; but at the coming on of night, the air grew cool, and in the mellowing distance smoke was rising gently from the cottage chimneys. There were a thousand pleasant scents diffused around, from young leaves and fresh buds; the cuckoo had been singing all day long, and was but just now hushed; the smell of earth newly-upturned, first breath of hope to the first labourer after his garden withered, was fragrant in the evening breeze. It was a time when most men cherish good resolves, and sorrow for the wasted past; when most men, looking on the shadows as they gather, think of that evening which must close on all, and that to-morrow which has none beyond.

‘Precious dull,’ said Mr Jonas, looking about. ‘It’s enough to make a man go melancholy mad.’

‘We shall have lights and a fire soon,’ observed Mr Pecksniff.

‘We shall need ‘em by the time we get there,’ said Jonas. ‘Why the devil don’t you talk? What are you thinking of?’

‘To tell you the truth, Mr Jonas,’ said Pecksniff with great solemnity, ‘my mind was running at that moment on our late dear friend, your departed father.’

Mr Jonas immediately let his burden fall, and said, threatening him with his hand:

‘Drop that, Pecksniff!’

Mr Pecksniff not exactly knowing whether allusion was made to the subject or the portmanteau, stared at his friend in unaffected surprise.

‘Drop it, I say!’ cried Jonas, fiercely. ‘Do you hear? Drop it, now and for ever. You had better, I give you notice!’

‘It was quite a mistake,’ urged Mr Pecksniff, very much dismayed; ‘though I admit it was foolish. I might have known it was a tender string.’

‘Don’t talk to me about tender strings,’ said Jonas, wiping his forehead with the cuff of his coat. ‘I’m not going to be crowed over by you, because I don’t like dead company.’

Mr Pecksniff had got out the words ‘Crowed over, Mr Jonas!’ when that young man, with a dark expression in his countenance, cut him short once more:

‘Mind!’ he said. ‘I won’t have it. I advise you not to revive the subject, neither to me nor anybody else. You can take a hint, if you choose as well as another man. There’s enough said about it. Come along!’

Taking up his part of the load again, when he had said these words, he hurried on so fast that Mr Pecksniff, at the other end of the portmanteau, found himself dragged forward, in a very inconvenient and ungraceful manner, to the great detriment of what is called by fancy gentlemen ‘the bark’ upon his shins, which were most unmercifully bumped against the hard leather and the iron buckles. In the course of a few minutes, however, Mr Jonas relaxed his speed, and suffered his companion to come up with him, and to bring the portmanteau into a tolerably straight position.

It was pretty clear that he regretted his late outbreak, and that he mistrusted its effect on Mr Pecksniff; for as often as that gentleman glanced towards Mr Jonas, he found Mr Jonas glancing at him, which was a new source of embarrassment. It was but a short-lived one, though, for Mr Jonas soon began to whistle, whereupon Mr Pecksniff, taking his cue from his friend, began to hum a tune melodiously.

‘Pretty nearly there, ain’t we?’ said Jonas, when this had lasted some time.

‘Close, my dear friend,’ said Mr Pecksniff.

‘What’ll they be doing, do you suppose?’ asked Jonas.

‘Impossible to say,’ cried Mr Pecksniff. ‘Giddy truants! They may be away from home, perhaps. I was going to—he! he! he!—I was going to propose,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘that we should enter by the back way, and come upon them like a clap of thunder, Mr Jonas.’

It might not have been easy to decide in respect of which of their manifold properties, Jonas, Mr Pecksniff, the carpet-bag, and the portmanteau, could be likened to a clap of thunder. But Mr Jonas giving his assent to this proposal, they stole round into the back yard, and softly advanced towards the kitchen window, through which the mingled light of fire and candle shone upon the darkening night.

Truly Mr Pecksniff is blessed in his children—in one of them, at any rate. The prudent Cherry—staff and scrip, and treasure of her doting father—there she sits, at a little table white as driven snow, before the kitchen fire, making up accounts! See the neat maiden, as with pen in hand, and calculating look addressed towards the ceiling and bunch of keys within a little basket at her side, she checks the housekeeping expenditure! From flat-iron, dish-cover, and warming-pan; from pot and kettle, face of brass footman, and black-leaded stove; bright glances of approbation wink and glow upon her. The very onions dangling from the beam, mantle and shine like cherubs’ cheeks. Something of the influence of those vegetables sinks into Mr Pecksniff’s nature. He weeps.

It is but for a moment, and he hides it from the observation of his friend—very carefully—by a somewhat elaborate use of his pocket-handkerchief, in fact; for he would not have his weakness known.

‘Pleasant,’ he murmured, ‘pleasant to a father’s feelings! My dear girl! Shall we let her know we are here, Mr Jonas?’

‘Why, I suppose you don’t mean to spend the evening in the stable, or the coach-house,’ he returned.

‘That, indeed, is not such hospitality as I would show to you, my friend,’ cried Mr Pecksniff, pressing his hand. And then he took a long breath, and tapping at the window, shouted with stentorian blandness:

‘Boh!’

Cherry dropped her pen and screamed. But innocence is ever bold, or should be. As they opened the door, the valiant girl exclaimed in a firm voice, and with a presence of mind which even in that trying moment did not desert her, ‘Who are you? What do you want? Speak! or I will call my Pa.’

Mr Pecksniff held out his arms. She knew him instantly, and rushed into his fond embrace.

‘It was thoughtless of us, Mr Jonas, it was very thoughtless,’ said Pecksniff, smoothing his daugther’s hair. ‘My darling, do you see that I am not alone!’

Not she. She had seen nothing but her father until now. She saw Mr Jonas now, though; and blushed, and hung her head down, as she gave him welcome.

But where was Merry? Mr Pecksniff didn’t ask the question in reproach, but in a vein of mildness touched with a gentle sorrow. She was upstairs, reading on the parlour couch. Ah! Domestic details had no charms for her. ‘But call her down,’ said Mr Pecksniff, with a placid resignation. ‘Call her down, my love.’

She was called and came, all flushed and tumbled from reposing on the sofa; but none the worse for that. No, not at all. Rather the better, if anything.

‘Oh my goodness me!’ cried the arch girl, turning to her cousin when she had kissed her father on both cheeks, and in her frolicsome nature had bestowed a supernumerary salute upon the tip of his nose, ‘You here, fright! Well, I’m very thankful that you won’t trouble me much!’

‘What! you’re as lively as ever, are you?’ said Jonas. ‘Oh! You’re a wicked one!’

‘There, go along!’ retorted Merry, pushing him away. ‘I’m sure I don’t know what I shall ever do, if I have to see much of you. Go along, for gracious’ sake!’

Mr Pecksniff striking in here, with a request that Mr Jonas would immediately walk upstairs, he so far complied with the young lady’s adjuration as to go at once. But though he had the fair Cherry on his arm, he could not help looking back at her sister, and exchanging some further dialogue of the same bantering description, as they all four ascended to the parlour; where—for the young ladies happened, by good fortune, to be a little later than usual that night—the tea-board was at that moment being set out.

Mr Pinch was not at home, so they had it all to themselves, and were very snug and talkative, Jonas sitting between the two sisters, and displaying his gallantry in that engaging manner which was peculiar to him. It was a hard thing, Mr Pecksniff said, when tea was done, and cleared away, to leave so pleasant a little party, but having some important papers to examine in his own apartment, he must beg them to excuse him for half an hour. With this apology he withdrew, singing a careless strain as he went. He had not been gone five minutes, when Merry, who had been sitting in the window, apart from Jonas and her sister, burst into a half-smothered laugh, and skipped towards the door.

‘Hallo!’ cried Jonas. ‘Don’t go.’

‘Oh, I dare say!’ rejoined Merry, looking back. ‘You’re very anxious I should stay, fright, ain’t you?’

‘Yes, I am,’ said Jonas. ‘Upon my word I am. I want to speak to you.’ But as she left the room notwithstanding, he ran out after her, and brought her back, after a short struggle in the passage which scandalized Miss Cherry very much.

‘Upon my word, Merry,’ urged that young lady, ‘I wonder at you! There are bounds even to absurdity, my dear.’

‘Thank you, my sweet,’ said Merry, pursing up her rosy Lips. ‘Much obliged to it for its advice. Oh! do leave me alone, you monster, do!’ This entreaty was wrung from her by a new proceeding on the part of Mr Jonas, who pulled her down, all breathless as she was, into a seat beside him on the sofa, having at the same time Miss Cherry upon the other side.

‘Now,’ said Jonas, clasping the waist of each; ‘I have got both arms full, haven’t I?’

‘One of them will be black and blue to-morrow, if you don’t let me go,’ cried the playful Merry.

‘Ah! I don’t mind your pinching,’ grinned Jonas, ‘a bit.’

‘Pinch him for me, Cherry, pray,’ said Mercy. ‘I never did hate anybody so much as I hate this creature, I declare!’

‘No, no, don’t say that,’ urged Jonas, ‘and don’t pinch either, because I want to be serious. I say—Cousin Charity—’

‘Well! what?’ she answered sharply.

‘I want to have some sober talk,’ said Jonas; ‘I want to prevent any mistakes, you know, and to put everything upon a pleasant understanding. That’s desirable and proper, ain’t it?’

Neither of the sisters spoke a word. Mr Jonas paused and cleared his throat, which was very dry.

‘She’ll not believe what I am going to say, will she, cousin?’ said Jonas, timidly squeezing Miss Charity.

‘Really, Mr Jonas, I don’t know, until I hear what it is. It’s quite impossible!’

‘Why, you see,’ said Jonas, ‘her way always being to make game of people, I know she’ll laugh, or pretend to—I know that, beforehand. But you can tell her I’m in earnest, cousin; can’t you? You’ll confess you know, won’t you? You’ll be honourable, I’m sure,’ he added persuasively.

No answer. His throat seemed to grow hotter and hotter, and to be more and more difficult of control.

‘You see, Cousin Charity,’ said Jonas, ‘nobody but you can tell her what pains I took to get into her company when you were both at the boarding-house in the city, because nobody’s so well aware of it, you know. Nobody else can tell her how hard I tried to get to know you better, in order that I might get to know her without seeming to wish it; can they? I always asked you about her, and said where had she gone, and when would she come, and how lively she was, and all that; didn’t I, cousin? I know you’ll tell her so, if you haven’t told her so already, and—and—I dare say you have, because I’m sure you’re honourable, ain’t you?’

Still not a word. The right arm of Mr Jonas—the elder sister sat upon his right—may have been sensible of some tumultuous throbbing which was not within itself; but nothing else apprised him that his words had had the least effect.

‘Even if you kept it to yourself, and haven’t told her,’ resumed Jonas, ‘it don’t much matter, because you’ll bear honest witness now; won’t you? We’ve been very good friends from the first; haven’t we? and of course we shall be quite friends in future, and so I don’t mind speaking before you a bit. Cousin Mercy, you’ve heard what I’ve been saying. She’ll confirm it, every word; she must. Will you have me for your husband? Eh?’

As he released his hold of Charity, to put this question with better effect, she started up and hurried away to her own room, marking her progress as she went by such a train of passionate and incoherent sound, as nothing but a slighted woman in her anger could produce.

‘Let me go away. Let me go after her,’ said Merry, pushing him off, and giving him—to tell the truth—more than one sounding slap upon his outstretched face.

‘Not till you say yes. You haven’t told me. Will you have me for your husband?’

‘No, I won’t. I can’t bear the sight of you. I have told you so a hundred times. You are a fright. Besides, I always thought you liked my sister best. We all thought so.’

‘But that wasn’t my fault,’ said Jonas.

‘Yes it was; you know it was.’

‘Any trick is fair in love,’ said Jonas. ‘She may have thought I liked her best, but you didn’t.’

‘I did!’

‘No, you didn’t. You never could have thought I liked her best, when you were by.’

‘There’s no accounting for tastes,’ said Merry; ‘at least I didn’t mean to say that. I don’t know what I mean. Let me go to her.’

‘Say “Yes,” and then I will.’

‘If I ever brought myself to say so, it should only be that I might hate and tease you all my life.’

‘That’s as good,’ cried Jonas, ‘as saying it right out. It’s a bargain, cousin. We’re a pair, if ever there was one.’

This gallant speech was succeeded by a confused noise of kissing and slapping; and then the fair but much dishevelled Merry broke away, and followed in the footsteps of her sister.

Now whether Mr Pecksniff had been listening—which in one of his character appears impossible; or divined almost by inspiration what the matter was—which, in a man of his sagacity is far more probable; or happened by sheer good fortune to find himself in exactly the right place, at precisely the right time—which, under the special guardianship in which he lived might very reasonably happen; it is quite certain that at the moment when the sisters came together in their own room, he appeared at the chamber door. And a marvellous contrast it was—they so heated, noisy, and vehement; he so calm, so self-possessed, so cool and full of peace, that not a hair upon his head was stirred.

‘Children!’ said Mr Pecksniff, spreading out his hands in wonder, but not before he had shut the door, and set his back against it. ‘Girls! Daughters! What is this?’

‘The wretch; the apostate; the false, mean, odious villain; has before my very face proposed to Mercy!’ was his eldest daughter’s answer.

‘Who has proposed to Mercy!’ asked Mr Pecksniff.

‘He has. That thing, Jonas, downstairs.’

‘Jonas proposed to Mercy?’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Aye, aye! Indeed!’

‘Have you nothing else to say?’ cried Charity. ‘Am I to be driven mad, papa? He has proposed to Mercy, not to me.’

‘Oh, fie! For shame!’ said Mr Pecksniff, gravely. ‘Oh, for shame! Can the triumph of a sister move you to this terrible display, my child? Oh, really this is very sad! I am sorry; I am surprised and hurt to see you so. Mercy, my girl, bless you! See to her. Ah, envy, envy, what a passion you are!’

Uttering this apostrophe in a tone full of grief and lamentation, Mr Pecksniff left the room (taking care to shut the door behind him), and walked downstairs into the parlour. There he found his intended son-in-law, whom he seized by both hands.

‘Jonas!’ cried Mr Pecksniff. ‘Jonas! the dearest wish of my heart is now fulfilled!’

‘Very well; I’m glad to hear it,’ said Jonas. ‘That’ll do. I say! As it ain’t the one you’re so fond of, you must come down with another thousand, Pecksniff. You must make it up five. It’s worth that, to keep your treasure to yourself, you know. You get off very cheap that way, and haven’t a sacrifice to make.’

The grin with which he accompanied this, set off his other attractions to such unspeakable advantage, that even Mr Pecksniff lost his presence of mind for a moment, and looked at the young man as if he were quite stupefied with wonder and admiration. But he quickly regained his composure, and was in the very act of changing the subject, when a hasty step was heard without, and Tom Pinch, in a state of great excitement, came darting into the room.

On seeing a stranger there, apparently engaged with Mr Pecksniff in private conversation, Tom was very much abashed, though he still looked as if he had something of great importance to communicate, which would be a sufficient apology for his intrusion.

‘Mr Pinch,’ said Pecksniff, ‘this is hardly decent. You will excuse my saying that I think your conduct scarcely decent, Mr Pinch.’

‘I beg your pardon, sir,’ replied Tom, ‘for not knocking at the door.’

‘Rather beg this gentleman’s pardon, Mr Pinch,’ said Pecksniff. ‘I know you; he does not.—My young man, Mr Jonas.’

The son-in-law that was to be gave him a slight nod—not actively disdainful or contemptuous, only passively; for he was in a good humour.

‘Could I speak a word with you, sir, if you please?’ said Tom. ‘It’s rather pressing.’

‘It should be very pressing to justify this strange behaviour, Mr Pinch,’ returned his master. ‘Excuse me for one moment, my dear friend. Now, sir, what is the reason of this rough intrusion?’

‘I am very sorry, sir, I am sure,’ said Tom, standing, cap in hand, before his patron in the passage; ‘and I know it must have a very rude appearance—’

‘It has a very rude appearance, Mr Pinch.’

‘Yes, I feel that, sir; but the truth is, I was so surprised to see them, and knew you would be too, that I ran home very fast indeed, and really hadn’t enough command over myself to know what I was doing very well. I was in the church just now, sir, touching the organ for my own amusement, when I happened to look round, and saw a gentleman and lady standing in the aisle listening. They seemed to be strangers, sir, as well as I could make out in the dusk; and I thought I didn’t know them; so presently I left off, and said, would they walk up into the organ-loft, or take a seat? No, they said, they wouldn’t do that; but they thanked me for the music they had heard. In fact,’ observed Tom, blushing, ‘they said, “Delicious music!” at least, she did; and I am sure that was a greater pleasure and honour to me than any compliment I could have had. I—I—beg your pardon sir;’ he was all in a tremble, and dropped his hat for the second time ‘but I—I’m rather flurried, and I fear I’ve wandered from the point.’

‘If you will come back to it, Thomas,’ said Mr Pecksniff, with an icy look, ‘I shall feel obliged.’

‘Yes, sir,’ returned Tom, ‘certainly. They had a posting carriage at the porch, sir, and had stopped to hear the organ, they said. And then they said—she said, I mean, “I believe you live with Mr Pecksniff, sir?” I said I had that honour, and I took the liberty, sir,’ added Tom, raising his eyes to his benefactor’s face, ‘of saying, as I always will and must, with your permission, that I was under great obligations to you, and never could express my sense of them sufficiently.’

‘That,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘was very, very wrong. Take your time, Mr Pinch.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ cried Tom. ‘On that they asked me—she asked, I mean—“Wasn’t there a bridle road to Mr Pecksniff’s house?”’

Mr Pecksniff suddenly became full of interest.

‘“Without going by the Dragon?” When I said there was, and said how happy I should be to show it ‘em, they sent the carriage on by the road, and came with me across the meadows. I left ‘em at the turnstile to run forward and tell you they were coming, and they’ll be here, sir, in—in less than a minute’s time, I should say,’ added Tom, fetching his breath with difficulty.

‘Now, who,’ said Mr Pecksniff, pondering, ‘who may these people be?’

‘Bless my soul, sir!’ cried Tom, ‘I meant to mention that at first, I thought I had. I knew them—her, I mean—directly. The gentleman who was ill at the Dragon, sir, last winter; and the young lady who attended him.’

Tom’s teeth chattered in his head, and he positively staggered with amazement, at witnessing the extraordinary effect produced on Mr Pecksniff by these simple words. The dread of losing the old man’s favour almost as soon as they were reconciled, through the mere fact of having Jonas in the house; the impossibility of dismissing Jonas, or shutting him up, or tying him hand and foot and putting him in the coal-cellar, without offending him beyond recall; the horrible discordance prevailing in the establishment, and the impossibility of reducing it to decent harmony with Charity in loud hysterics, Mercy in the utmost disorder, Jonas in the parlour, and Martin Chuzzlewit and his young charge upon the very doorsteps; the total hopelessness of being able to disguise or feasibly explain this state of rampant confusion; the sudden accumulation over his devoted head of every complicated perplexity and entanglement for his extrication from which he had trusted to time, good fortune, chance, and his own plotting, so filled the entrapped architect with dismay, that if Tom could have been a Gorgon staring at Mr Pecksniff, and Mr Pecksniff could have been a Gorgon staring at Tom, they could not have horrified each other half so much as in their own bewildered persons.

‘Dear, dear!’ cried Tom, ‘what have I done? I hoped it would be a pleasant surprise, sir. I thought you would like to know.’

But at that moment a loud knocking was heard at the hall door.