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Martin Chuzzlewit

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CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE. MORE AMERICAN EXPERIENCES, MARTIN TAKES A PARTNER, AND MAKES A PURCHASE. SOME ACCOUNT OF EDEN, AS IT APPEARED ON PAPER. ALSO OF THE BRITISH LION. ALSO OF THE KIND OF SYMPATHY PROFESSED AND ENTERTAINED BY THE WATERTOAST ASSOCIATION OF UNITED SYMPATHISERS


The knocking at Mr Pecksniff’s door, though loud enough, bore no resemblance whatever to the noise of an American railway train at full speed. It may be well to begin the present chapter with this frank admission, lest the reader should imagine that the sounds now deafening this history’s ears have any connection with the knocker on Mr Pecksniff’s door, or with the great amount of agitation pretty equally divided between that worthy man and Mr Pinch, of which its strong performance was the cause.

Mr Pecksniff’s house is more than a thousand leagues away; and again this happy chronicle has Liberty and Moral Sensibility for its high companions. Again it breathes the blessed air of Independence; again it contemplates with pious awe that moral sense which renders unto Ceasar nothing that is his; again inhales that sacred atmosphere which was the life of him—oh noble patriot, with many followers!—who dreamed of Freedom in a slave’s embrace, and waking sold her offspring and his own in public markets.

How the wheels clank and rattle, and the tram-road shakes, as the train rushes on! And now the engine yells, as it were lashed and tortured like a living labourer, and writhed in agony. A poor fancy; for steel and iron are of infinitely greater account, in this commonwealth, than flesh and blood. If the cunning work of man be urged beyond its power of endurance, it has within it the elements of its own revenge; whereas the wretched mechanism of the Divine Hand is dangerous with no such property, but may be tampered with, and crushed, and broken, at the driver’s pleasure. Look at that engine! It shall cost a man more dollars in the way of penalty and fine, and satisfaction of the outraged law, to deface in wantonness that senseless mass of metal, than to take the lives of twenty human creatures! Thus the stars wink upon the bloody stripes; and Liberty pulls down her cap upon her eyes, and owns Oppression in its vilest aspect, for her sister.

The engine-driver of the train whose noise awoke us to the present chapter was certainly troubled with no such reflections as these; nor is it very probable that his mind was disturbed by any reflections at all. He leaned with folded arms and crossed legs against the side of the carriage, smoking; and, except when he expressed, by a grunt as short as his pipe, his approval of some particularly dexterous aim on the part of his colleague, the fireman, who beguiled his leisure by throwing logs of wood from the tender at the numerous stray cattle on the line, he preserved a composure so immovable, and an indifference so complete, that if the locomotive had been a sucking-pig, he could not have been more perfectly indifferent to its doings. Notwithstanding the tranquil state of this officer, and his unbroken peace of mind, the train was proceeding with tolerable rapidity; and the rails being but poorly laid, the jolts and bumps it met with in its progress were neither slight nor few.

There were three great caravans or cars attached. The ladies’ car, the gentlemen’s car, and the car for negroes; the latter painted black, as an appropriate compliment to its company. Martin and Mark Tapley were in the first, as it was the most comfortable; and, being far from full, received other gentlemen who, like them, were unblessed by the society of ladies of their own. They were seated side by side, and were engaged in earnest conversation.

‘And so, Mark,’ said Martin, looking at him with an anxious expression, ‘and so you are glad we have left New York far behind us, are you?’

‘Yes, sir,’ said Mark. ‘I am. Precious glad.’

‘Were you not “jolly” there?’ asked Martin.

‘On the contrairy, sir,’ returned Mark. ‘The jolliest week as ever I spent in my life, was that there week at Pawkins’s.’

‘What do you think of our prospects?’ inquired Martin, with an air that plainly said he had avoided the question for some time.

‘Uncommon bright, sir,’ returned Mark. ‘Impossible for a place to have a better name, sir, than the Walley of Eden. No man couldn’t think of settling in a better place than the Walley of Eden. And I’m told,’ added Mark, after a pause, ‘as there’s lots of serpents there, so we shall come out, quite complete and reg’lar.’

So far from dwelling upon this agreeable piece of information with the least dismay, Mark’s face grew radiant as he called it to mind; so very radiant, that a stranger might have supposed he had all his life been yearning for the society of serpents, and now hailed with delight the approaching consummation of his fondest wishes.

‘Who told you that?’ asked Martin, sternly.

‘A military officer,’ said Mark.

‘Confound you for a ridiculous fellow!’ cried Martin, laughing heartily in spite of himself. ‘What military officer? You know they spring up in every field.’

‘As thick as scarecrows in England, sir,’ interposed Mark, ‘which is a sort of milita themselves, being entirely coat and wescoat, with a stick inside. Ha, ha!—Don’t mind me, sir; it’s my way sometimes. I can’t help being jolly. Why it was one of them inwading conquerors at Pawkins’s, as told me. “Am I rightly informed,” he says—not exactly through his nose, but as if he’d got a stoppage in it, very high up—“that you’re a-going to the Walley of Eden?” “I heard some talk on it,” I told him. “Oh!” says he, “if you should ever happen to go to bed there—you may, you know,” he says, “in course of time as civilisation progresses—don’t forget to take a axe with you.” I looks at him tolerable hard. “Fleas?” says I. “And more,” says he. “Wampires?” says I. “And more,” says he. “Musquitoes, perhaps?” says I. “And more,” says he. “What more?” says I. “Snakes more,” says he; “rattle-snakes. You’re right to a certain extent, stranger. There air some catawampous chawers in the small way too, as graze upon a human pretty strong; but don’t mind them—they’re company. It’s snakes,” he says, “as you’ll object to; and whenever you wake and see one in a upright poster on your bed,” he says, “like a corkscrew with the handle off a-sittin’ on its bottom ring, cut him down, for he means wenom.”’

‘Why didn’t you tell me this before!’ cried Martin, with an expression of face which set off the cheerfulness of Mark’s visage to great advantage.

‘I never thought on it, sir,’ said Mark. ‘It come in at one ear, and went out at the other. But Lord love us, he was one of another Company, I dare say, and only made up the story that we might go to his Eden, and not the opposition one.’

‘There’s some probability in that,’ observed Martin. ‘I can honestly say that I hope so, with all my heart.’

‘I’ve not a doubt about it, sir,’ returned Mark, who, full of the inspiriting influence of the anecodote upon himself, had for the moment forgotten its probable effect upon his master; ‘anyhow, we must live, you know, sir.’

‘Live!’ cried Martin. ‘Yes, it’s easy to say live; but if we should happen not to wake when rattlesnakes are making corkscrews of themselves upon our beds, it may be not so easy to do it.’

‘And that’s a fact,’ said a voice so close in his ear that it tickled him. ‘That’s dreadful true.’

Martin looked round, and found that a gentleman, on the seat behind, had thrust his head between himself and Mark, and sat with his chin resting on the back rail of their little bench, entertaining himself with their conversation. He was as languid and listless in his looks as most of the gentlemen they had seen; his cheeks were so hollow that he seemed to be always sucking them in; and the sun had burnt him, not a wholesome red or brown, but dirty yellow. He had bright dark eyes, which he kept half closed; only peeping out of the corners, and even then with a glance that seemed to say, ‘Now you won’t overreach me; you want to, but you won’t.’ His arms rested carelessly on his knees as he leant forward; in the palm of his left hand, as English rustics have their slice of cheese, he had a cake of tobacco; in his right a penknife. He struck into the dialogue with as little reserve as if he had been specially called in, days before, to hear the arguments on both sides, and favour them with his opinion; and he no more contemplated or cared for the possibility of their not desiring the honour of his acquaintance or interference in their private affairs than if he had been a bear or a buffalo.

‘That,’ he repeated, nodding condescendingly to Martin, as to an outer barbarian and foreigner, ‘is dreadful true. Darn all manner of vermin.’

Martin could not help frowning for a moment, as if he were disposed to insinuate that the gentleman had unconsciously ‘darned’ himself. But remembering the wisdom of doing at Rome as Romans do, he smiled with the pleasantest expression he could assume upon so short a notice.

Their new friend said no more just then, being busily employed in cutting a quid or plug from his cake of tobacco, and whistling softly to himself the while. When he had shaped it to his liking, he took out his old plug, and deposited the same on the back of the seat between Mark and Martin, while he thrust the new one into the hollow of his cheek, where it looked like a large walnut, or tolerable pippin. Finding it quite satisfactory, he stuck the point of his knife into the old plug, and holding it out for their inspection, remarked with the air of a man who had not lived in vain, that it was ‘used up considerable.’ Then he tossed it away; put his knife into one pocket and his tobacco into another; rested his chin upon the rail as before; and approving of the pattern on Martin’s waistcoat, reached out his hand to feel the texture of that garment.

‘What do you call this now?’ he asked.

‘Upon my word’ said Martin, ‘I don’t know what it’s called.’

‘It’ll cost a dollar or more a yard, I reckon?’

‘I really don’t know.’

‘In my country,’ said the gentleman, ‘we know the cost of our own pro-duce.’

Martin not discussing the question, there was a pause.

‘Well!’ resumed their new friend, after staring at them intently during the whole interval of silence; ‘how’s the unnat’ral old parent by this time?’

Mr Tapley regarding this inquiry as only another version of the impertinent English question, ‘How’s your mother?’ would have resented it instantly, but for Martin’s prompt interposition.

‘You mean the old country?’ he said.

‘Ah!’ was the reply. ‘How’s she? Progressing back’ards, I expect, as usual? Well! How’s Queen Victoria?’

‘In good health, I believe,’ said Martin.

‘Queen Victoria won’t shake in her royal shoes at all, when she hears to-morrow named,’ observed the stranger, ‘No.’

‘Not that I am aware of. Why should she?’

‘She won’t be taken with a cold chill, when she realises what is being done in these diggings,’ said the stranger. ‘No.’

‘No,’ said Martin. ‘I think I could take my oath of that.’

The strange gentleman looked at him as if in pity for his ignorance or prejudice, and said:

‘Well, sir, I tell you this—there ain’t a engine with its biler bust, in God A’mighty’s free U-nited States, so fixed, and nipped, and frizzled to a most e-tarnal smash, as that young critter, in her luxurious location in the Tower of London will be, when she reads the next double-extra Watertoast Gazette.’

Several other gentlemen had left their seats and gathered round during the foregoing dialogue. They were highly delighted with this speech. One very lank gentleman, in a loose limp white cravat, long white waistcoat, and a black great-coat, who seemed to be in authority among them, felt called upon to acknowledge it.

‘Hem! Mr La Fayette Kettle,’ he said, taking off his hat.

There was a grave murmur of ‘Hush!’

‘Mr La Fayette Kettle! Sir!’

Mr Kettle bowed.

‘In the name of this company, sir, and in the name of our common country, and in the name of that righteous cause of holy sympathy in which we are engaged, I thank you. I thank you, sir, in the name of the Watertoast Sympathisers; and I thank you, sir, in the name of the Watertoast Gazette; and I thank you, sir, in the name of the star-spangled banner of the Great United States, for your eloquent and categorical exposition. And if, sir,’ said the speaker, poking Martin with the handle of his umbrella to bespeak his attention, for he was listening to a whisper from Mark; ‘if, sir, in such a place, and at such a time, I might venture to con-clude with a sentiment, glancing—however slantin’dicularly—at the subject in hand, I would say, sir, may the British Lion have his talons eradicated by the noble bill of the American Eagle, and be taught to play upon the Irish Harp and the Scotch Fiddle that music which is breathed in every empty shell that lies upon the shores of green Co-lumbia!’

Here the lank gentleman sat down again, amidst a great sensation; and every one looked very grave.

‘General Choke,’ said Mr La Fayette Kettle, ‘you warm my heart; sir, you warm my heart. But the British Lion is not unrepresented here, sir; and I should be glad to hear his answer to those remarks.’

‘Upon my word,’ cried Martin, laughing, ‘since you do me the honour to consider me his representative, I have only to say that I never heard of Queen Victoria reading the What’s-his-name Gazette and that I should scarcely think it probable.’

General Choke smiled upon the rest, and said, in patient and benignant explanation:

‘It is sent to her, sir. It is sent to her. Her mail.’

‘But if it is addressed to the Tower of London, it would hardly come to hand, I fear,’ returned Martin; ‘for she don’t live there.’

‘The Queen of England, gentlemen,’ observed Mr Tapley, affecting the greatest politeness, and regarding them with an immovable face, ‘usually lives in the Mint to take care of the money. She has lodgings, in virtue of her office, with the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House; but don’t often occupy them, in consequence of the parlour chimney smoking.’

‘Mark,’ said Martin, ‘I shall be very much obliged to you if you’ll have the goodness not to interfere with preposterous statements, however jocose they may appear to you. I was merely remarking gentlemen—though it’s a point of very little import—that the Queen of England does not happen to live in the Tower of London.’

‘General!’ cried Mr La Fayette Kettle. ‘You hear?’

‘General!’ echoed several others. ‘General!’

‘Hush! Pray, silence!’ said General Choke, holding up his hand, and speaking with a patient and complacent benevolence that was quite touching. ‘I have always remarked it as a very extraordinary circumstance, which I impute to the natur’ of British Institutions and their tendency to suppress that popular inquiry and information which air so widely diffused even in the trackless forests of this vast Continent of the Western Ocean; that the knowledge of Britishers themselves on such points is not to be compared with that possessed by our intelligent and locomotive citizens. This is interesting, and confirms my observation. When you say, sir,’ he continued, addressing Martin, ‘that your Queen does not reside in the Tower of London, you fall into an error, not uncommon to your countrymen, even when their abilities and moral elements air such as to command respect. But, sir, you air wrong. She does live there—’

‘When she is at the Court of Saint James’s,’ interposed Kettle.

‘When she is at the Court of Saint James’s, of course,’ returned the General, in the same benignant way; ‘for if her location was in Windsor Pavilion it couldn’t be in London at the same time. Your Tower of London, sir,’ pursued the General, smiling with a mild consciousness of his knowledge, ‘is nat’rally your royal residence. Being located in the immediate neighbourhood of your Parks, your Drives, your Triumphant Arches, your Opera, and your Royal Almacks, it nat’rally suggests itself as the place for holding a luxurious and thoughtless court. And, consequently,’ said the General, ‘consequently, the court is held there.’

‘Have you been in England?’ asked Martin.

‘In print I have, sir,’ said the General, ‘not otherwise. We air a reading people here, sir. You will meet with much information among us that will surprise you, sir.’

‘I have not the least doubt of it,’ returned Martin. But here he was interrupted by Mr La Fayette Kettle, who whispered in his ear:

‘You know General Choke?’

‘No,’ returned Martin, in the same tone.

‘You know what he is considered?’

‘One of the most remarkable men in the country?’ said Martin, at a venture.

‘That’s a fact,’ rejoined Kettle. ‘I was sure you must have heard of him!’

‘I think,’ said Martin, addressing himself to the General again, ‘that I have the pleasure of being the bearer of a letter of introduction to you, sir. From Mr Bevan, of Massachusetts,’ he added, giving it to him.

The General took it and read it attentively; now and then stopping to glance at the two strangers. When he had finished the note, he came over to Martin, sat down by him, and shook hands.

‘Well!’ he said, ‘and you think of settling in Eden?’

‘Subject to your opinion, and the agent’s advice,’ replied Martin. ‘I am told there is nothing to be done in the old towns.’

‘I can introduce you to the agent, sir,’ said the General. ‘I know him. In fact, I am a member of the Eden Land Corporation myself.’

This was serious news to Martin, for his friend had laid great stress upon the General’s having no connection, as he thought, with any land company, and therefore being likely to give him disinterested advice. The General explained that he had joined the Corporation only a few weeks ago, and that no communication had passed between himself and Mr Bevan since.

‘We have very little to venture,’ said Martin anxiously—‘only a few pounds—but it is our all. Now, do you think that for one of my profession, this would be a speculation with any hope or chance in it?’

‘Well,’ observed the General, gravely, ‘if there wasn’t any hope or chance in the speculation, it wouldn’t have engaged my dollars, I opinionate.’

‘I don’t mean for the sellers,’ said Martin. ‘For the buyers—for the buyers!’

‘For the buyers, sir?’ observed the General, in a most impressive manner. ‘Well! you come from an old country; from a country, sir, that has piled up golden calves as high as Babel, and worshipped ‘em for ages. We are a new country, sir; man is in a more primeval state here, sir; we have not the excuse of having lapsed in the slow course of time into degenerate practices; we have no false gods; man, sir, here, is man in all his dignity. We fought for that or nothing. Here am I, sir,’ said the General, setting up his umbrella to represent himself, and a villanous-looking umbrella it was; a very bad counter to stand for the sterling coin of his benevolence, ‘here am I with grey hairs sir, and a moral sense. Would I, with my principles, invest capital in this speculation if I didn’t think it full of hopes and chances for my brother man?’

Martin tried to look convinced, but he thought of New York, and found it difficult.

‘What are the Great United States for, sir,’ pursued the General ‘if not for the regeneration of man? But it is nat’ral in you to make such an enquerry, for you come from England, and you do not know my country.’

‘Then you think,’ said Martin, ‘that allowing for the hardships we are prepared to undergo, there is a reasonable—Heaven knows we don’t expect much—a reasonable opening in this place?’

‘A reasonable opening in Eden, sir! But see the agent, see the agent; see the maps and plans, sir; and conclude to go or stay, according to the natur’ of the settlement. Eden hadn’t need to go a-begging yet, sir,’ remarked the General.

‘It is an awful lovely place, sure-ly. And frightful wholesome, likewise!’ said Mr Kettle, who had made himself a party to this conversation as a matter of course.

Martin felt that to dispute such testimony, for no better reason than because he had his secret misgivings on the subject, would be ungentlemanly and indecent. So he thanked the General for his promise to put him in personal communication with the agent; and ‘concluded’ to see that officer next morning. He then begged the General to inform him who the Watertoast Sympathisers were, of whom he had spoken in addressing Mr La Fayette Kettle, and on what grievances they bestowed their Sympathy. To which the General, looking very serious, made answer, that he might fully enlighten himself on those points to-morrow by attending a Great Meeting of the Body, which would then be held at the town to which they were travelling; ‘over which, sir,’ said the General, ‘my fellow-citizens have called on me to preside.’

They came to their journey’s end late in the evening. Close to the railway was an immense white edifice, like an ugly hospital, on which was painted ‘National Hotel.’ There was a wooden gallery or verandah in front, in which it was rather startling, when the train stopped, to behold a great many pairs of boots and shoes, and the smoke of a great many cigars, but no other evidences of human habitation. By slow degrees, however, some heads and shoulders appeared, and connecting themselves with the boots and shoes, led to the discovery that certain gentlemen boarders, who had a fancy for putting their heels where the gentlemen boarders in other countries usually put their heads, were enjoying themselves after their own manner in the cool of the evening.

There was a great bar-room in this hotel, and a great public room in which the general table was being set out for supper. There were interminable whitewashed staircases, long whitewashed galleries upstairs and downstairs, scores of little whitewashed bedrooms, and a four-sided verandah to every story in the house, which formed a large brick square with an uncomfortable courtyard in the centre, where some clothes were drying. Here and there, some yawning gentlemen lounged up and down with their hands in their pockets; but within the house and without, wherever half a dozen people were collected together, there, in their looks, dress, morals, manners, habits, intellect, and conversation, were Mr Jefferson Brick, Colonel Diver, Major Pawkins, General Choke, and Mr La Fayette Kettle, over, and over, and over again. They did the same things; said the same things; judged all subjects by, and reduced all subjects to, the same standard. Observing how they lived, and how they were always in the enchanting company of each other, Martin even began to comprehend their being the social, cheerful, winning, airy men they were.

At the sounding of a dismal gong, this pleasant company went trooping down from all parts of the house to the public room; while from the neighbouring stores other guests came flocking in, in shoals; for half the town, married folks as well as single, resided at the National Hotel. Tea, coffee, dried meats, tongue, ham, pickles, cake, toast, preserves, and bread and butter, were swallowed with the usual ravaging speed; and then, as before, the company dropped off by degrees, and lounged away to the desk, the counter, or the bar-room. The ladies had a smaller ordinary of their own, to which their husbands and brothers were admitted if they chose; and in all other respects they enjoyed themselves as at Pawkins’s.

‘Now, Mark, my good fellow, said Martin, closing the door of his little chamber, ‘we must hold a solemn council, for our fate is decided to-morrow morning. You are determined to invest these savings of yours in the common stock, are you?’

‘If I hadn’t been determined to make that wentur, sir,’ answered Mr Tapley, ‘I shouldn’t have come.’

‘How much is there here, did you say’ asked Martin, holding up a little bag.

‘Thirty-seven pound ten and sixpence. The Savings’ Bank said so at least. I never counted it. But they know, bless you!’ said Mark, with a shake of the head expressive of his unbounded confidence in the wisdom and arithmetic of those Institutions.

‘The money we brought with us,’ said Martin, ‘is reduced to a few shillings less than eight pounds.’

Mr Tapley smiled, and looked all manner of ways, that he might not be supposed to attach any importance to this fact.

‘Upon the ring—her ring, Mark,’ said Martin, looking ruefully at his empty finger—

‘Ah!’ sighed Mr Tapley. ‘Beg your pardon, sir.’

‘—We raised, in English money, fourteen pounds. So, even with that, your share of the stock is still very much the larger of the two you see. Now, Mark,’ said Martin, in his old way, just as he might have spoken to Tom Pinch, ‘I have thought of a means of making this up to you—more than making it up to you, I hope—and very materially elevating your prospects in life.’

‘Oh! don’t talk of that, you know, sir,’ returned Mark. ‘I don’t want no elevating, sir. I’m all right enough, sir, I am.’

‘No, but hear me,’ said Martin, ‘because this is very important to you, and a great satisfaction to me. Mark, you shall be a partner in the business; an equal partner with myself. I will put in, as my additional capital, my professional knowledge and ability; and half the annual profits, as long as it is carried on, shall be yours.’

Poor Martin! For ever building castles in the air. For ever, in his very selfishness, forgetful of all but his own teeming hopes and sanguine plans. Swelling, at that instant, with the consciousness of patronizing and most munificently rewarding Mark!

‘I don’t know, sir,’ Mark rejoined, much more sadly than his custom was, though from a very different cause than Martin supposed, ‘what I can say to this, in the way of thanking you. I’ll stand by you, sir, to the best of my ability, and to the last. That’s all.’

‘We quite understand each other, my good fellow,’ said Martin rising in self-approval and condescension. ‘We are no longer master and servant, but friends and partners; and are mutually gratified. If we determine on Eden, the business shall be commenced as soon as we get there. Under the name,’ said Martin, who never hammered upon an idea that wasn’t red hot, ‘under the name of Chuzzlewit and Tapley.’

‘Lord love you, sir,’ cried Mark, ‘don’t have my name in it. I ain’t acquainted with the business, sir. I must be Co., I must. I’ve often thought,’ he added, in a low voice, ‘as I should like to know a Co.; but I little thought as ever I should live to be one.’

‘You shall have your own way, Mark.’

‘Thank’ee, sir. If any country gentleman thereabouts, in the public way, or otherwise, wanted such a thing as a skittle-ground made, I could take that part of the bis’ness, sir.’

‘Against any architect in the States,’ said Martin. ‘Get a couple of sherry-cobblers, Mark, and we’ll drink success to the firm.’

Either he forgot already (and often afterwards), that they were no longer master and servant, or considered this kind of duty to be among the legitimate functions of the Co. But Mark obeyed with his usual alacrity; and before they parted for the night, it was agreed between them that they should go together to the agent’s in the morning, but that Martin should decide the Eden question, on his own sound judgment. And Mark made no merit, even to himself in his jollity, of this concession; perfectly well knowing that the matter would come to that in the end, any way.

The General was one of the party at the public table next day, and after breakfast suggested that they should wait upon the agent without loss of time. They, desiring nothing more, agreed; so off they all four started for the office of the Eden Settlement, which was almost within rifle-shot of the National Hotel.

It was a small place—something like a turnpike. But a great deal of land may be got into a dice-box, and why may not a whole territory be bargained for in a shed? It was but a temporary office too; for the Edeners were ‘going’ to build a superb establishment for the transaction of their business, and had already got so far as to mark out the site. Which is a great way in America. The office-door was wide open, and in the doorway was the agent; no doubt a tremendous fellow to get through his work, for he seemed to have no arrears, but was swinging backwards and forwards in a rocking-chair, with one of his legs planted high up against the door-post, and the other doubled up under him, as if he were hatching his foot.

He was a gaunt man in a huge straw hat, and a coat of green stuff. The weather being hot, he had no cravat, and wore his shirt collar wide open; so that every time he spoke something was seen to twitch and jerk up in his throat, like the little hammers in a harpsichord when the notes are struck. Perhaps it was the Truth feebly endeavouring to leap to his lips. If so, it never reached them.

Two grey eyes lurked deep within this agent’s head, but one of them had no sight in it, and stood stock still. With that side of his face he seemed to listen to what the other side was doing. Thus each profile had a distinct expression; and when the movable side was most in action, the rigid one was in its coldest state of watchfulness. It was like turning the man inside out, to pass to that view of his features in his liveliest mood, and see how calculating and intent they were.

Each long black hair upon his head hung down as straight as any plummet line; but rumpled tufts were on the arches of his eyes, as if the crow whose foot was deeply printed in the corners had pecked and torn them in a savage recognition of his kindred nature as a bird of prey.

Such was the man whom they now approached, and whom the General saluted by the name of Scadder.

‘Well, Gen’ral,’ he returned, ‘and how are you?’

‘Ac-tive and spry, sir, in my country’s service and the sympathetic cause. Two gentlemen on business, Mr Scadder.’

He shook hands with each of them—nothing is done in America without shaking hands—then went on rocking.

‘I think I know what bis’ness you have brought these strangers here upon, then, Gen’ral?’

‘Well, sir. I expect you may.’

‘You air a tongue-y person, Gen’ral. For you talk too much, and that’s fact,’ said Scadder. ‘You speak a-larming well in public, but you didn’t ought to go ahead so fast in private. Now!’

‘If I can realise your meaning, ride me on a rail!’ returned the General, after pausing for consideration.

‘You know we didn’t wish to sell the lots off right away to any loafer as might bid,’ said Scadder; ‘but had con-cluded to reserve ‘em for Aristocrats of Natur’. Yes!’

‘And they are here, sir!’ cried the General with warmth. ‘They are here, sir!’

‘If they air here,’ returned the agent, in reproachful accents, ‘that’s enough. But you didn’t ought to have your dander ris with me, Gen’ral.’

The General whispered Martin that Scadder was the honestest fellow in the world, and that he wouldn’t have given him offence designedly, for ten thousand dollars.

‘I do my duty; and I raise the dander of my feller critters, as I wish to serve,’ said Scadder in a low voice, looking down the road and rocking still. ‘They rile up rough, along of my objecting to their selling Eden off too cheap. That’s human natur’! Well!’

‘Mr Scadder,’ said the General, assuming his oratorical deportment. ‘Sir! Here is my hand, and here my heart. I esteem you, sir, and ask your pardon. These gentlemen air friends of mine, or I would not have brought ‘em here, sir, being well aware, sir, that the lots at present go entirely too cheap. But these air friends, sir; these air partick’ler friends.’

Mr Scadder was so satisfied by this explanation, that he shook the General warmly by the hand, and got out of the rocking-chair to do it. He then invited the General’s particular friends to accompany him into the office. As to the General, he observed, with his usual benevolence, that being one of the company, he wouldn’t interfere in the transaction on any account; so he appropriated the rocking-chair to himself, and looked at the prospect, like a good Samaritan waiting for a traveller.

‘Heyday!’ cried Martin, as his eye rested on a great plan which occupied one whole side of the office. Indeed, the office had little else in it, but some geological and botanical specimens, one or two rusty ledgers, a homely desk, and a stool. ‘Heyday! what’s that?’

‘That’s Eden,’ said Scadder, picking his teeth with a sort of young bayonet that flew out of his knife when he touched a spring.

‘Why, I had no idea it was a city.’

‘Hadn’t you? Oh, it’s a city.’

A flourishing city, too! An architectural city! There were banks, churches, cathedrals, market-places, factories, hotels, stores, mansions, wharves; an exchange, a theatre; public buildings of all kinds, down to the office of the Eden Stinger, a daily journal; all faithfully depicted in the view before them.

‘Dear me! It’s really a most important place!’ cried Martin turning round.

‘Oh! it’s very important,’ observed the agent.

‘But, I am afraid,’ said Martin, glancing again at the Public Buildings, ‘that there’s nothing left for me to do.’

‘Well! it ain’t all built,’ replied the agent. ‘Not quite.’

This was a great relief.

‘The market-place, now,’ said Martin. ‘Is that built?’

‘That?’ said the agent, sticking his toothpick into the weathercock on the top. ‘Let me see. No; that ain’t built.’

‘Rather a good job to begin with—eh, Mark?’ whispered Martin nudging him with his elbow.

Mark, who, with a very stolid countenance had been eyeing the plan and the agent by turns, merely rejoined ‘Uncommon!’

A dead silence ensued, Mr Scadder in some short recesses or vacations of his toothpick, whistled a few bars of Yankee Doodle, and blew the dust off the roof of the Theatre.

‘I suppose,’ said Martin, feigning to look more narrowly at the plan, but showing by his tremulous voice how much depended, in his mind, upon the answer; ‘I suppose there are—several architects there?’

‘There ain’t a single one,’ said Scadder.

‘Mark,’ whispered Martin, pulling him by the sleeve, ‘do you hear that? But whose work is all this before us, then?’ he asked aloud.

‘The soil being very fruitful, public buildings grows spontaneous, perhaps,’ said Mark.

He was on the agent’s dark side as he said it; but Scadder instantly changed his place, and brought his active eye to bear upon him.

‘Feel of my hands, young man,’ he said.

‘What for?’ asked Mark, declining.

‘Air they dirty, or air they clean, sir?’ said Scadder, holding them out.

In a physical point of view they were decidedly dirty. But it being obvious that Mr Scadder offered them for examination in a figurative sense, as emblems of his moral character, Martin hastened to pronounce them pure as the driven snow.

‘I entreat, Mark,’ he said, with some irritation, ‘that you will not obtrude remarks of that nature, which, however harmless and well-intentioned, are quite out of place, and cannot be expected to be very agreeable to strangers. I am quite surprised.’

‘The Co.‘s a-putting his foot in it already,’ thought Mark. ‘He must be a sleeping partner—fast asleep and snoring—Co. must; I see.’

Mr Scadder said nothing, but he set his back against the plan, and thrust his toothpick into the desk some twenty times; looking at Mark all the while as if he were stabbing him in effigy.

‘You haven’t said whose work it is,’ Martin ventured to observe at length, in a tone of mild propitiation.

‘Well, never mind whose work it is, or isn’t,’ said the agent sulkily. ‘No matter how it did eventuate. P’raps he cleared off, handsome, with a heap of dollars; p’raps he wasn’t worth a cent. P’raps he was a loafin’ rowdy; p’raps a ring-tailed roarer. Now!’

‘All your doing, Mark!’ said Martin.

‘P’raps,’ pursued the agent, ‘them ain’t plants of Eden’s raising. No! P’raps that desk and stool ain’t made from Eden lumber. No! P’raps no end of squatters ain’t gone out there. No! P’raps there ain’t no such location in the territoary of the Great U-nited States. Oh, no!’

‘I hope you’re satisfied with the success of your joke, Mark,’ said Martin.

But here, at a most opportune and happy time, the General interposed, and called out to Scadder from the doorway to give his friends the particulars of that little lot of fifty acres with the house upon it; which, having belonged to the company formerly, had lately lapsed again into their hands.

‘You air a deal too open-handed, Gen’ral,’ was the answer. ‘It is a lot as should be rose in price. It is.’

He grumblingly opened his books notwithstanding, and always keeping his bright side towards Mark, no matter at what amount of inconvenience to himself, displayed a certain leaf for their perusal. Martin read it greedily, and then inquired:

‘Now where upon the plan may this place be?’

‘Upon the plan?’ said Scadder.

‘Yes.’

He turned towards it, and reflected for a short time, as if, having been put upon his mettle, he was resolved to be particular to the very minutest hair’s breadth of a shade. At length, after wheeling his toothpick slowly round and round in the air, as if it were a carrier pigeon just thrown up, he suddenly made a dart at the drawing, and pierced the very centre of the main wharf, through and through.

‘There!’ he said, leaving his knife quivering in the wall; ‘that’s where it is!’

Martin glanced with sparkling eyes upon his Co., and his Co. saw that the thing was done.

The bargain was not concluded as easily as might have been expected though, for Scadder was caustic and ill-humoured, and cast much unnecessary opposition in the way; at one time requesting them to think of it, and call again in a week or a fortnight; at another, predicting that they wouldn’t like it; at another, offering to retract and let them off, and muttering strong imprecations upon the folly of the General. But the whole of the astoundingly small sum total of purchase-money—it was only one hundred and fifty dollars, or something more than thirty pounds of the capital brought by Co. into the architectural concern—was ultimately paid down; and Martin’s head was two inches nearer the roof of the little wooden office, with the consciousness of being a landed proprietor in the thriving city of Eden.

‘If it shouldn’t happen to fit,’ said Scadder, as he gave Martin the necessary credentials on recepit of his money, ‘don’t blame me.’

‘No, no,’ he replied merrily. ‘We’ll not blame you. General, are you going?’

‘I am at your service, sir; and I wish you,’ said the General, giving him his hand with grave cordiality, ‘joy of your po-ssession. You air now, sir, a denizen of the most powerful and highly-civilised dominion that has ever graced the world; a do-minion, sir, where man is bound to man in one vast bond of equal love and truth. May you, sir, be worthy of your a-dopted country!’

Martin thanked him, and took leave of Mr Scadder; who had resumed his post in the rocking-chair, immediately on the General’s rising from it, and was once more swinging away as if he had never been disturbed. Mark looked back several times as they went down the road towards the National Hotel, but now his blighted profile was towards them, and nothing but attentive thoughtfulness was written on it. Strangely different to the other side! He was not a man much given to laughing, and never laughed outright; but every line in the print of the crow’s foot, and every little wiry vein in that division of his head, was wrinkled up into a grin! The compound figure of Death and the Lady at the top of the old ballad was not divided with a greater nicety, and hadn’t halves more monstrously unlike each other, than the two profiles of Zephaniah Scadder.

The General posted along at a great rate, for the clock was on the stroke of twelve; and at that hour precisely, the Great Meeting of the Watertoast Sympathisers was to be holden in the public room of the National Hotel. Being very curious to witness the demonstration, and know what it was all about, Martin kept close to the General; and, keeping closer than ever when they entered the Hall, got by that means upon a little platform of tables at the upper end; where an armchair was set for the General, and Mr La Fayette Kettle, as secretary, was making a great display of some foolscap documents. Screamers, no doubt.

‘Well, sir!’ he said, as he shook hands with Martin, ‘here is a spectacle calc’lated to make the British Lion put his tail between his legs, and howl with anguish, I expect!’

Martin certainly thought it possible that the British Lion might have been rather out of his element in that Ark; but he kept the idea to himself. The General was then voted to the chair, on the motion of a pallid lad of the Jefferson Brick school; who forthwith set in for a high-spiced speech, with a good deal about hearths and homes in it, and unriveting the chains of Tyranny.

Oh but it was a clincher for the British Lion, it was! The indignation of the glowing young Columbian knew no bounds. If he could only have been one of his own forefathers, he said, wouldn’t he have peppered that same Lion, and been to him as another Brute Tamer with a wire whip, teaching him lessons not easily forgotten. ‘Lion! (cried that young Columbian) where is he? Who is he? What is he? Show him to me. Let me have him here. Here!’ said the young Columbian, in a wrestling attitude, ‘upon this sacred altar. Here!’ cried the young Columbian, idealising the dining-table, ‘upon ancestral ashes, cemented with the glorious blood poured out like water on our native plains of Chickabiddy Lick! Bring forth that Lion!’ said the young Columbian. ‘Alone, I dare him! I taunt that Lion. I tell that Lion, that Freedom’s hand once twisted in his mane, he rolls a corse before me, and the Eagles of the Great Republic laugh ha, ha!’

When it was found that the Lion didn’t come, but kept out of the way; that the young Columbian stood there, with folded arms, alone in his glory; and consequently that the Eagles were no doubt laughing wildly on the mountain tops; such cheers arose as might have shaken the hands upon the Horse-Guards’ clock, and changed the very mean time of the day in England’s capital.

‘Who is this?’ Martin telegraphed to La Fayette.

The Secretary wrote something, very gravely, on a piece of paper, twisted it up, and had it passed to him from hand to hand. It was an improvement on the old sentiment: ‘Perhaps as remarkable a man as any in our country.’

This young Columbian was succeeded by another, to the full as eloquent as he, who drew down storms of cheers. But both remarkable youths, in their great excitement (for your true poetry can never stoop to details), forgot to say with whom or what the Watertoasters sympathized, and likewise why or wherefore they were sympathetic. Thus Martin remained for a long time as completely in the dark as ever; until at length a ray of light broke in upon him through the medium of the Secretary, who, by reading the minutes of their past proceedings, made the matter somewhat clearer. He then learned that the Watertoast Association sympathized with a certain Public Man in Ireland, who held a contest upon certain points with England; and that they did so, because they didn’t love England at all—not by any means because they loved Ireland much; being indeed horribly jealous and distrustful of its people always, and only tolerating them because of their working hard, which made them very useful; labour being held in greater indignity in the simple republic than in any other country upon earth. This rendered Martin curious to see what grounds of sympathy the Watertoast Association put forth; nor was he long in suspense, for the General rose to read a letter to the Public Man, which with his own hands he had written.

‘Thus,’ said the General, ‘thus, my friends and fellow-citizens, it runs:

‘“Sir—I address you on behalf of the Watertoast Association of United Sympathisers. It is founded, sir, in the great republic of America! and now holds its breath, and swells the blue veins in its forehead nigh to bursting, as it watches, sir, with feverish intensity and sympathetic ardour, your noble efforts in the cause of Freedom.”’

At the name of Freedom, and at every repetition of that name, all the Sympathisers roared aloud; cheering with nine times nine, and nine times over.

‘“In Freedom’s name, sir—holy Freedom—I address you. In Freedom’s name, I send herewith a contribution to the funds of your society. In Freedom’s name, sir, I advert with indignation and disgust to that accursed animal, with gore-stained whiskers, whose rampant cruelty and fiery lust have ever been a scourge, a torment to the world. The naked visitors to Crusoe’s Island, sir; the flying wives of Peter Wilkins; the fruit-smeared children of the tangled bush; nay, even the men of large stature, anciently bred in the mining districts of Cornwall; alike bear witness to its savage nature. Where, sir, are the Cormorans, the Blunderbores, the Great Feefofums, named in History? All, all, exterminated by its destroying hand.

‘“I allude, sir, to the British Lion.

‘“Devoted, mind and body, heart and soul, to Freedom, sir—to Freedom, blessed solace to the snail upon the cellar-door, the oyster in his pearly bed, the still mite in his home of cheese, the very winkle of your country in his shelly lair—in her unsullied name, we offer you our sympathy. Oh, sir, in this our cherished and our happy land, her fires burn bright and clear and smokeless; once lighted up in yours, the lion shall be roasted whole.

‘“I am, sir, in Freedom’s name,

‘“Your affectionate friend and faithful Sympathiser,

‘“CYRUS CHOKE,

‘“General, U.S.M.”’

It happened that just as the General began to read this letter, the railroad train arrived, bringing a new mail from England; and a packet had been handed in to the Secretary, which during its perusal and the frequent cheerings in homage to freedom, he had opened. Now, its contents disturbed him very much, and the moment the General sat down, he hurried to his side, and placed in his hand a letter and several printed extracts from English newspapers; to which, in a state of infinite excitement, he called his immediate attention.

The General, being greatly heated by his own composition, was in a fit state to receive any inflammable influence; but he had no sooner possessed himself of the contents of these documents, than a change came over his face, involving such a huge amount of choler and passion, that the noisy concourse were silent in a moment, in very wonder at the sight of him.

‘My friends!’ cried the General, rising; ‘my friends and fellow citizens, we have been mistaken in this man.’

‘In what man?’ was the cry.

‘In this,’ panted the General, holding up the letter he had read aloud a few minutes before. ‘I find that he has been, and is, the advocate—consistent in it always too—of Nigger emancipation!’

If anything beneath the sky be real, those Sons of Freedom would have pistolled, stabbed—in some way slain—that man by coward hands and murderous violence, if he had stood among them at that time. The most confiding of their own countrymen would not have wagered then—no, nor would they ever peril—one dunghill straw, upon the life of any man in such a strait. They tore the letter, cast the fragments in the air, trod down the pieces as they fell; and yelled, and groaned, and hissed, till they could cry no longer.

‘I shall move,’ said the General, when he could make himself heard, ‘that the Watertoast Association of United Sympathisers be immediately dissolved!’

Down with it! Away with it! Don’t hear of it! Burn its records! Pull the room down! Blot it out of human memory!

‘But, my fellow-countrymen!’ said the General, ‘the contributions. We have funds. What is to be done with the funds?’

It was hastily resolved that a piece of plate should be presented to a certain constitutional Judge, who had laid down from the Bench the noble principle that it was lawful for any white mob to murder any black man; and that another piece of plate, of similar value should be presented to a certain Patriot, who had declared from his high place in the Legislature, that he and his friends would hang without trial, any Abolitionist who might pay them a visit. For the surplus, it was agreed that it should be devoted to aiding the enforcement of those free and equal laws, which render it incalculably more criminal and dangerous to teach a negro to read and write than to roast him alive in a public city. These points adjusted, the meeting broke up in great disorder, and there was an end of the Watertoast Sympathy.

As Martin ascended to his bedroom, his eye was attracted by the Republican banner, which had been hoisted from the house-top in honour of the occasion, and was fluttering before a window which he passed.

‘Tut!’ said Martin. ‘You’re a gay flag in the distance. But let a man be near enough to get the light upon the other side and see through you; and you are but sorry fustian!’






CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO. FROM WHICH IT WILL BE SEEN THAT MARTIN BECAME A LION OF HIS OWN ACCOUNT. TOGETHER WITH THE REASON WHY


As soon as it was generally known in the National Hotel, that the young Englishman, Mr Chuzzlewit, had purchased a ‘lo-cation’ in the Valley of Eden, and intended to betake himself to that earthly Paradise by the next steamboat, he became a popular character. Why this should be, or how it had come to pass, Martin no more knew than Mrs Gamp, of Kingsgate Street, High Holborn, did; but that he was for the time being the lion, by popular election, of the Watertoast community, and that his society was in rather inconvenient request there could be no kind of doubt.

The first notification he received of this change in his position, was the following epistle, written in a thin running hand—with here and there a fat letter or two, to make the general effect more striking—on a sheet of paper, ruled with blue lines.

‘NATIONAL HOTEL, ‘MONDAY MORNING.

‘Dear Sir—‘When I had the privillidge of being your fellow-traveller in the cars, the day before yesterday, you offered some remarks upon the subject of the tower of London, which (in common with my fellow-citizens generally) I could wish to hear repeated to a public audience.

‘As secretary to the Young Men’s Watertoast Association of this town, I am requested to inform you that the Society will be proud to hear you deliver a lecture upon the Tower of London, at their Hall to-morrow evening, at seven o’clock; and as a large issue of quarter-dollar tickets may be expected, your answer and consent by bearer will be considered obliging.

‘Dear Sir,
‘Yours truly,
‘LA FAYETTE KETTLE.
‘The Honourable M. Chuzzlewit.

‘P.S.—The Society would not be particular in limiting you to the Tower of London. Permit me to suggest that any remarks upon the Elements of Geology, or (if more convenient) upon the Writings of your talented and witty countryman, the honourable Mr Miller, would be well received.’

Very much aghast at this invitation, Martin wrote back, civilly declining it; and had scarcely done so, when he received another letter.

‘No. 47, Bunker Hill Street,
‘Monday Morning.
‘(Private).

‘Sir—I was raised in those interminable solitudes where our mighty Mississippi (or Father of Waters) rolls his turbid flood.

‘I am young, and ardent. For there is a poetry in wildness, and every alligator basking in the slime is in himself an Epic, self-contained. I aspirate for fame. It is my yearning and my thirst.

‘Are you, sir, aware of any member of Congress in England, who would undertake to pay my expenses to that country, and for six months after my arrival?

‘There is something within me which gives me the assurance that this enlightened patronage would not be thrown away. In literature or art; the bar, the pulpit, or the stage; in one or other, if not all, I feel that I am certain to succeed.

‘If too much engaged to write to any such yourself, please let me have a list of three or four of those most likely to respond, and I will address them through the Post Office. May I also ask you to favour me with any critical observations that have ever presented themselves to your reflective faculties, on “Cain, a Mystery,” by the Right Honourable Lord Byron?

‘I am, Sir,
‘Yours (forgive me if I add, soaringly),
‘PUTNAM SMIF

‘P.S.—Address your answer to America Junior, Messrs. Hancock & Floby, Dry Goods Store, as above.’

Both of which letters, together with Martin’s reply to each, were, according to a laudable custom, much tending to the promotion of gentlemanly feeling and social confidence, published in the next number of the Watertoast Gazette.

He had scarcely got through this correspondence when Captain Kedgick, the landlord, kindly came upstairs to see how he was getting on. The Captain sat down upon the bed before he spoke; and finding it rather hard, moved to the pillow.

‘Well, sir!’ said the Captain, putting his hat a little more on one side, for it was rather tight in the crown: ‘You’re quite a public man I calc’late.’

‘So it seems,’ retorted Martin, who was very tired.

‘Our citizens, sir,’ pursued the Captain, ‘intend to pay their respects to you. You will have to hold a sort of le-vee, sir, while you’re here.’

‘Powers above!’ cried Martin, ‘I couldn’t do that, my good fellow!’

‘I reckon you must then,’ said the Captain.

‘Must is not a pleasant word, Captain,’ urged Martin.

‘Well! I didn’t fix the mother language, and I can’t unfix it,’ said the Captain coolly; ‘else I’d make it pleasant. You must re-ceive. That’s all.’

‘But why should I receive people who care as much for me as I care for them?’ asked Martin.

‘Well! because I have had a muniment put up in the bar,’ returned the Captain.

‘A what?’ cried Martin.

‘A muniment,’ rejoined the Captain.

Martin looked despairingly at Mark, who informed him that the Captain meant a written notice that Mr Chuzzlewit would receive the Watertoasters that day, at and after two o’clock which was in effect then hanging in the bar, as Mark, from ocular inspection of the same, could testify.

‘You wouldn’t be unpop’lar, I know,’ said the Captain, paring his nails. ‘Our citizens an’t long of riling up, I tell you; and our Gazette could flay you like a wild cat.’

Martin was going to be very wroth, but he thought better of it, and said:

‘In Heaven’s name let them come, then.’

‘Oh, they’ll come,’ returned the Captain. ‘I have seen the big room fixed a’purpose, with my eyes.’

‘But will you,’ said Martin, seeing that the Captain was about to go; ‘will you at least tell me this? What do they want to see me for? what have I done? and how do they happen to have such a sudden interest in me?’

Captain Kedgick put a thumb and three fingers to each side of the brim of his hat; lifted it a little way off his head; put it on again carefully; passed one hand all down his face, beginning at the forehead and ending at the chin; looked at Martin; then at Mark; then at Martin again; winked, and walked out.

‘Upon my life, now!’ said Martin, bringing his hand heavily upon the table; ‘such a perfectly unaccountable fellow as that, I never saw. Mark, what do you say to this?’

‘Why, sir,’ returned his partner, ‘my opinion is that we must have got to the most remarkable man in the country at last. So I hope there’s an end to the breed, sir.’

Although this made Martin laugh, it couldn’t keep off two o’clock. Punctually, as the hour struck, Captain Kedgick returned to hand him to the room of state; and he had no sooner got him safe there, than he bawled down the staircase to his fellow-citizens below, that Mr Chuzzlewit was ‘receiving.’

Up they came with a rush. Up they came until the room was full, and, through the open door, a dismal perspective of more to come, was shown upon the stairs. One after another, one after another, dozen after dozen, score after score, more, more, more, up they came; all shaking hands with Martin. Such varieties of hands, the thick, the thin, the short, the long, the fat, the lean, the coarse, the fine; such differences of temperature, the hot, the cold, the dry, the moist, the flabby; such diversities of grasp, the tight, the loose, the short-lived, and the lingering! Still up, up, up, more, more, more; and ever and anon the Captain’s voice was heard above the crowd—‘There’s more below! there’s more below. Now, gentlemen you that have been introduced to Mr Chuzzlewit, will you clear gentlemen? Will you clear? Will you be so good as clear, gentlemen, and make a little room for more?’

Regardless of the Captain’s cries, they didn’t clear at all, but stood there, bolt upright and staring. Two gentlemen connected with the Watertoast Gazette had come express to get the matter for an article on Martin. They had agreed to divide the labour. One of them took him below the waistcoat. One above. Each stood directly in front of his subject with his head a little on one side, intent on his department. If Martin put one boot before the other, the lower gentleman was down upon him; he rubbed a pimple on his nose, and the upper gentleman booked it. He opened his mouth to speak, and the same gentleman was on one knee before him, looking in at his teeth, with the nice scrutiny of a dentist. Amateurs in the physiognomical and phrenological sciences roved about him with watchful eyes and itching fingers, and sometimes one, more daring than the rest, made a mad grasp at the back of his head, and vanished in the crowd. They had him in all points of view: in front, in profile, three-quarter face, and behind. Those who were not professional or scientific, audibly exchanged opinions on his looks. New lights shone in upon him, in respect of his nose. Contradictory rumours were abroad on the subject of his hair. And still the Captain’s voice was heard—so stifled by the concourse, that he seemed to speak from underneath a feather-bed—exclaiming—‘Gentlemen, you that have been introduced to Mr Chuzzlewit, will you clear?’

Even when they began to clear it was no better; for then a stream of gentlemen, every one with a lady on each arm (exactly like the chorus to the National Anthem when Royalty goes in state to the play), came gliding in—every new group fresher than the last, and bent on staying to the latest moment. If they spoke to him, which was not often, they invariably asked the same questions, in the same tone; with no more remorse, or delicacy, or consideration, than if he had been a figure of stone, purchased, and paid for, and set up there for their delight. Even when, in the slow course of time, these died off, it was as bad as ever, if not worse; for then the boys grew bold, and came in as a class of themselves, and did everything that the grown-up people had done. Uncouth stragglers, too, appeared; men of a ghostly kind, who being in, didn’t know how to get out again; insomuch that one silent gentleman with glazed and fishy eyes and only one button on his waistcoat (which was a very large metal one, and shone prodigiously), got behind the door, and stood there, like a clock, long after everybody else was gone.

Martin felt, from pure fatigue, and heat, and worry, as if he could have fallen on the ground and willingly remained there, if they would but have had the mercy to leave him alone. But as letters and messages, threatening his public denouncement if he didn’t see the senders, poured in like hail; and as more visitors came while he took his coffee by himself; and as Mark, with all his vigilance, was unable to keep them from the door; he resolved to go to bed—not that he felt at all sure of bed being any protection, but that he might not leave a forlorn hope untried.

He had communicated this design to Mark, and was on the eve of escaping, when the door was thrown open in a great hurry, and an elderly gentleman entered; bringing with him a lady who certainly could not be considered young—that was matter of fact; and probably could not be considered handsome—but that was matter of opinion. She was very straight, very tall, and not at all flexible in face or figure. On her head she wore a great straw bonnet, with trimmings of the same, in which she looked as if she had been thatched by an unskillful labourer; and in her hand she held a most enormous fan.

‘Mr Chuzzlewit, I believe?’ said the gentleman.

‘That is my name.’

‘Sir,’ said the gentleman, ‘I am pressed for time.’

‘Thank God!’ thought Martin.

‘I go back Toe my home, sir,’ pursued the gentleman, ‘by the return train, which starts immediate. Start is not a word you use in your country, sir.’

‘Oh yes, it is,’ said Martin.

‘You air mistaken, sir,’ returned the gentleman, with great decision: ‘but we will not pursue the subject, lest it should awake your preju—dice. Sir, Mrs Hominy.’

Martin bowed.

‘Mrs Hominy, sir, is the lady of Major Hominy, one of our chicest spirits; and belongs Toe one of our most aristocratic families. You air, p’raps, acquainted, sir, with Mrs Hominy’s writings.’

Martin couldn’t say he was.

‘You have much Toe learn, and Toe enjoy, sir,’ said the gentleman. ‘Mrs Hominy is going Toe stay until the end of the Fall, sir, with her married daughter at the settlement of New Thermopylae, three days this side of Eden. Any attention, sir, that you can show Toe Mrs Hominy upon the journey, will be very grateful Toe the Major and our fellow-citizens. Mrs Hominy, I wish you good night, ma’am, and a pleasant pro-gress on your route!’

Martin could scarcely believe it; but he had gone, and Mrs Hominy was drinking the milk.

‘A’most used-up I am, I do declare!’ she observed. ‘The jolting in the cars is pretty nigh as bad as if the rail was full of snags and sawyers.’

‘Snags and sawyers, ma’am?’ said Martin.

‘Well, then, I do suppose you’ll hardly realise my meaning, sir,’ said Mrs Hominy. ‘My! Only think! do tell!’

It did not appear that these expressions, although they seemed to conclude with an urgent entreaty, stood in need of any answer; for Mrs Hominy, untying her bonnet-strings, observed that she would withdraw to lay that article of dress aside, and would return immediately.

‘Mark!’ said Martin. ‘Touch me, will you. Am I awake?’

‘Hominy is, sir,’ returned his partner—‘Broad awake! Just the sort of woman, sir, as would be discovered with her eyes wide open, and her mind a-working for her country’s good, at any hour of the day or night.’

They had no opportunity of saying more, for Mrs Hominy stalked in again—very erect, in proof of her aristocratic blood; and holding in her clasped hands a red cotton pocket-handkerchief, perhaps a parting gift from that choice spirit, the Major. She had laid aside her bonnet, and now appeared in a highly aristocratic and classical cap, meeting beneath her chin: a style of headdress so admirably adapted to her countenance, that if the late Mr Grimaldi had appeared in the lappets of Mrs Siddons, a more complete effect could not have been produced.

Martin handed her to a chair. Her first words arrested him before he could get back to his own seat.

‘Pray, sir!’ said Mrs Hominy, ‘where do you hail from?’

‘I am afraid I am dull of comprehension,’ answered Martin, ‘being extremely tired; but upon my word I don’t understand you.’

Mrs Hominy shook her head with a melancholy smile that said, not inexpressively, ‘They corrupt even the language in that old country!’ and added then, as coming down a step or two to meet his low capacity, ‘Where was you rose?’

‘Oh!’ said Martin ‘I was born in Kent.’

‘And how do you like our country, sir?’ asked Mrs Hominy.

‘Very much indeed,’ said Martin, half asleep. ‘At least—that is—pretty well, ma’am.’

‘Most strangers—and partick’larly Britishers—are much surprised by what they see in the U-nited States,’ remarked Mrs Hominy.

‘They have excellent reason to be so, ma’am,’ said Martin. ‘I never was so much surprised in all my life.’

‘Our institutions make our people smart much, sir,’ Mrs Hominy remarked.

‘The most short-sighted man could see that at a glance, with his naked eye,’ said Martin.

Mrs Hominy was a philosopher and an authoress, and consequently had a pretty strong digestion; but this coarse, this indecorous phrase, was almost too much for her. For a gentleman sitting alone with a lady—although the door was open—to talk about a naked eye!

A long interval elapsed before even she—woman of masculine and towering intellect though she was—could call up fortitude enough to resume the conversation. But Mrs Hominy was a traveller. Mrs Hominy was a writer of reviews and analytical disquisitions. Mrs Hominy had had her letters from abroad, beginning ‘My ever dearest blank,’ and signed ‘The Mother of the Modern Gracchi’ (meaning the married Miss Hominy), regularly printed in a public journal, with all the indignation in capitals, and all the sarcasm in italics. Mrs Hominy had looked on foreign countries with the eye of a perfect republican hot from the model oven; and Mrs Hominy could talk (or write) about them by the hour together. So Mrs Hominy at last came down on Martin heavily, and as he was fast asleep, she had it all her own way, and bruised him to her heart’s content.

It is no great matter what Mrs Hominy said, save that she had learnt it from the cant of a class, and a large class, of her fellow countrymen, who in their every word, avow themselves to be as senseless to the high principles on which America sprang, a nation, into life, as any Orson in her legislative halls. Who are no more capable of feeling, or of caring if they did feel, that by reducing their own country to the ebb of honest men’s contempt, they put in hazard the rights of nations yet unborn, and very progress of the human race, than are the swine who wallow in their streets. Who think that crying out to other nations, old in their iniquity, ‘We are no worse than you!’ (No worse!) is high defence and ‘vantage-ground enough for that Republic, but yesterday let loose upon her noble course, and but to-day so maimed and lame, so full of sores and ulcers, foul to the eye and almost hopeless to the sense, that her best friends turn from the loathsome creature with disgust. Who, having by their ancestors declared and won their Independence, because they would not bend the knee to certain Public vices and corruptions, and would not abrogate the truth, run riot in the Bad, and turn their backs upon the Good; and lying down contented with the wretched boast that other Temples also are of glass, and stones which batter theirs may be flung back; show themselves, in that alone, as immeasurably behind the import of the trust they hold, and as unworthy to possess it as if the sordid hucksterings of all their little governments—each one a kingdom in its small depravity—were brought into a heap for evidence against them.

Martin by degrees became so far awake, that he had a sense of a terrible oppression on his mind; an imperfect dream that he had murdered a particular friend, and couldn’t get rid of the body. When his eyes opened it was staring him full in the face. There was the horrible Hominy talking deep truths in a melodious snuffle, and pouring forth her mental endowments to such an extent that the Major’s bitterest enemy, hearing her, would have forgiven him from the bottom of his heart. Martin might have done something desperate if the gong had not sounded for supper; but sound it did most opportunely; and having stationed Mrs Hominy at the upper end of the table he took refuge at the lower end himself; whence, after a hasty meal he stole away, while the lady was yet busied with dried beef and a saucer-full of pickled fixings.

It would be difficult to give an adequate idea of Mrs Hominy’s freshness next day, or of the avidity with which she went headlong into moral philosophy at breakfast. Some little additional degree of asperity, perhaps, was visible in her features, but not more than the pickles would have naturally produced. All that day she clung to Martin. She sat beside him while he received his friends (for there was another Reception, yet more numerous than the former), propounded theories, and answered imaginary objections, so that Martin really began to think he must be dreaming, and speaking for two; she quoted interminable passages from certain essays on government, written by herself; used the Major’s pocket-handkerchief as if the snuffle were a temporary malady, of which she was determined to rid herself by some means or other; and, in short, was such a remarkable companion, that Martin quite settled it between himself and his conscience, that in any new settlement it would be absolutely necessary to have such a person knocked on the head for the general peace of society.

In the meantime Mark was busy, from early in the morning until late at night, in getting on board the steamboat such provisions, tools and other necessaries, as they had been forewarned it would be wise to take. The purchase of these things, and the settlement of their bill at the National, reduced their finances to so low an ebb, that if the captain had delayed his departure any longer, they would have been in almost as bad a plight as the unfortunate poorer emigrants, who (seduced on board by solemn advertisement) had been living on the lower deck a whole week, and exhausting their miserable stock of provisions before the voyage commenced. There they were, all huddled together with the engine and the fires. Farmers who had never seen a plough; woodmen who had never used an axe; builders who couldn’t make a box; cast out of their own land, with not a hand to aid them: newly come into an unknown world, children in helplessness, but men in wants—with younger children at their backs, to live or die as it might happen!

The morning came, and they would start at noon. Noon came, and they would start at night. But nothing is eternal in this world; not even the procrastination of an American skipper; and at night all was ready.

Dispirited and weary to the last degree, but a greater lion than ever (he had done nothing all the afternoon but answer letters from strangers; half of them about nothing; half about borrowing money, and all requiring an instantaneous reply), Martin walked down to the wharf, through a concourse of people, with Mrs Hominy upon his arm; and went on board. But Mark was bent on solving the riddle of this lionship, if he could; and so, not without the risk of being left behind, ran back to the hotel.

Captain Kedgick was sitting in the colonnade, with a julep on his knee, and a cigar in his mouth. He caught Mark’s eye, and said:

‘Why, what the ‘Tarnal brings you here?’

‘I’ll tell you plainly what it is, Captain,’ said Mark. ‘I want to ask you a question.’

‘A man may ask a question, so he may,’ returned Kedgick; strongly implying that another man might not answer a question, so he mightn’t.

‘What have they been making so much of him for, now?’ said Mark, slyly. ‘Come!’

‘Our people like ex-citement,’ answered Kedgick, sucking his cigar.

‘But how has he excited ‘em?’ asked Mark.

The Captain looked at him as if he were half inclined to unburden his mind of a capital joke.

‘You air a-going?’ he said.

‘Going!’ cried Mark. ‘Ain’t every moment precious?’

‘Our people like ex-citement,’ said the Captain, whispering. ‘He ain’t like emigrants in gin’ral; and he excited ‘em along of this;’ he winked and burst into a smothered laugh; ‘along of this. Scadder is a smart man, and—and—nobody as goes to Eden ever comes back alive!’

The wharf was close at hand, and at that instant Mark could hear them shouting out his name; could even hear Martin calling to him to make haste, or they would be separated. It was too late to mend the matter, or put any face upon it but the best. He gave the Captain a parting benediction, and ran off like a race-horse.

‘Mark! Mark!’ cried Martin.

‘Here am I, sir!’ shouted Mark, suddenly replying from the edge of the quay, and leaping at a bound on board. ‘Never was half so jolly, sir. All right. Haul in! Go ahead!’

The sparks from the wood fire streamed upward from the two chimneys, as if the vessel were a great firework just lighted; and they roared away upon the dark water.






CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE. MARTIN AND HIS PARTNER TAKE POSSESSION OF THEIR ESTATE. THE JOYFUL OCCASION INVOLVES SOME FURTHER ACCOUNT OF EDEN


There happened to be on board the steamboat several gentlemen passengers, of the same stamp as Martin’s New York friend Mr Bevan; and in their society he was cheerful and happy. They released him as well as they could from the intellectual entanglements of Mrs Hominy; and exhibited, in all they said and did, so much good sense and high feeling, that he could not like them too well. ‘If this were a republic of Intellect and Worth,’ he said, ‘instead of vapouring and jobbing, they would not want the levers to keep it in motion.’

‘Having good tools, and using bad ones,’ returned Mr Tapley, ‘would look as if they was rather a poor sort of carpenters, sir, wouldn’t it?’

Martin nodded. ‘As if their work were infinitely above their powers and purpose, Mark; and they botched it in consequence.’

‘The best on it is,’ said Mark, ‘that when they do happen to make a decent stroke; such as better workmen, with no such opportunities, make every day of their lives and think nothing of—they begin to sing out so surprising loud. Take notice of my words, sir. If ever the defaulting part of this here country pays its debts—along of finding that not paying ‘em won’t do in a commercial point of view, you see, and is inconvenient in its consequences—they’ll take such a shine out of it, and make such bragging speeches, that a man might suppose no borrowed money had ever been paid afore, since the world was first begun. That’s the way they gammon each other, sir. Bless you, I know ‘em. Take notice of my words, now!’

‘You seem to be growing profoundly sagacious!’ cried Martin, laughing.

‘Whether that is,’ thought Mark, ‘because I’m a day’s journey nearer Eden, and am brightening up afore I die, I can’t say. P’rhaps by the time I get there I shall have growed into a prophet.’

He gave no utterance to these sentiments; but the excessive joviality they inspired within him, and the merriment they brought upon his shining face, were quite enough for Martin. Although he might sometimes profess to make light of his partner’s inexhaustible cheerfulness, and might sometimes, as in the case of Zephaniah Scadder, find him too jocose a commentator, he was always sensible of the effect of his example in rousing him to hopefulness and courage. Whether he were in the humour to profit by it, mattered not a jot. It was contagious, and he could not choose but be affected.

At first they parted with some of their passengers once or twice a day, and took in others to replace them. But by degrees, the towns upon their route became more thinly scattered; and for many hours together they would see no other habitations than the huts of the wood-cutters, where the vessel stopped for fuel. Sky, wood, and water all the livelong day; and heat that blistered everything it touched.

On they toiled through great solitudes, where the trees upon the banks grew thick and close; and floated in the stream; and held up shrivelled arms from out the river’s depths; and slid down from the margin of the land, half growing, half decaying, in the miry water. On through the weary day and melancholy night; beneath the burning sun, and in the mist and vapour of the evening; on, until return appeared impossible, and restoration to their home a miserable dream.

They had now but few people on board, and these few were as flat, as dull, and stagnant, as the vegetation that oppressed their eyes. No sound of cheerfulness or hope was heard; no pleasant talk beguiled the tardy time; no little group made common cause against the full depression of the scene. But that, at certain periods, they swallowed food together from a common trough, it might have been old Charon’s boat, conveying melancholy shades to judgment.

At length they drew near New Thermopylae; where, that same evening, Mrs Hominy would disembark. A gleam of comfort sunk into Martin’s bosom when she told him this. Mark needed none; but he was not displeased.

It was almost night when they came alongside the landing-place. A steep bank with an hotel like a barn on the top of it; a wooden store or two; and a few scattered sheds.

‘You sleep here to-night, and go on in the morning, I suppose, ma’am?’ said Martin.

‘Where should I go on to?’ cried the mother of the modern Gracchi.

‘To New Thermopylae.’

‘My! ain’t I there?’ said Mrs Hominy.

Martin looked for it all round the darkening panorama; but he couldn’t see it, and was obliged to say so.

‘Why that’s it!’ cried Mrs Hominy, pointing to the sheds just mentioned.

‘That!’ exclaimed Martin.

‘Ah! that; and work it which way you will, it whips Eden,’ said Mrs Hominy, nodding her head with great expression.

The married Miss Hominy, who had come on board with her husband, gave to this statement her most unqualified support, as did that gentleman also. Martin gratefully declined their invitation to regale himself at their house during the half hour of the vessel’s stay; and having escorted Mrs Hominy and the red pocket-handkerchief (which was still on active service) safely across the gangway, returned in a thoughtful mood to watch the emigrants as they removed their goods ashore.

Mark, as he stood beside him, glanced in his face from time to time; anxious to discover what effect this dialogue had had upon him, and not unwilling that his hopes should be dashed before they reached their destination, so that the blow he feared might be broken in its fall. But saving that he sometimes looked up quickly at the poor erections on the hill, he gave him no clue to what was passing in his mind, until they were again upon their way.

‘Mark,’ he said then, ‘are there really none but ourselves on board this boat who are bound for Eden?’

‘None at all, sir. Most of ‘em, as you know, have stopped short; and the few that are left are going further on. What matters that! More room there for us, sir.’

‘Oh, to be sure!’ said Martin. ‘But I was thinking—’ and there he paused.

‘Yes, sir?’ observed Mark.

‘How odd it was that the people should have arranged to try their fortune at a wretched hole like that, for instance, when there is such a much better, and such a very different kind of place, near at hand, as one may say.’

He spoke in a tone so very different from his usual confidence, and with such an obvious dread of Mark’s reply, that the good-natured fellow was full of pity.

‘Why, you know, sir,’ said Mark, as gently as he could by any means insinuate the observation, ‘we must guard against being too sanguine. There’s no occasion for it, either, because we’re determined to make the best of everything, after we know the worst of it. Ain’t we, sir?’

Martin looked at him, but answered not a word.

‘Even Eden, you know, ain’t all built,’ said Mark.

‘In the name of Heaven, man,’ cried Martin angrily, ‘don’t talk of Eden in the same breath with that place. Are you mad? There—God forgive me!—don’t think harshly of me for my temper!’

After that, he turned away, and walked to and fro upon the deck full two hours. Nor did he speak again, except to say ‘Good night,’ until next day; nor even then upon this subject, but on other topics quite foreign to the purpose.

As they proceeded further on their track, and came more and more towards their journey’s end, the monotonous desolation of the scene increased to that degree, that for any redeeming feature it presented to their eyes, they might have entered, in the body, on the grim domains of Giant Despair. A flat morass, bestrewn with fallen timber; a marsh on which the good growth of the earth seemed to have been wrecked and cast away, that from its decomposing ashes vile and ugly things might rise; where the very trees took the aspect of huge weeds, begotten of the slime from which they sprung, by the hot sun that burnt them up; where fatal maladies, seeking whom they might infect, came forth at night in misty shapes, and creeping out upon the water, hunted them like spectres until day; where even the blessed sun, shining down on festering elements of corruption and disease, became a horror; this was the realm of Hope through which they moved.

At last they stopped. At Eden too. The waters of the Deluge might have left it but a week before; so choked with slime and matted growth was the hideous swamp which bore that name.

There being no depth of water close in shore, they landed from the vessel’s boat, with all their goods beside them. There were a few log-houses visible among the dark trees; the best, a cow-shed or a rude stable; but for the wharves, the market-place, the public buildings—

‘Here comes an Edener,’ said Mark. ‘He’ll get us help to carry these things up. Keep a good heart, sir. Hallo there!’

The man advanced toward them through the thickening gloom, very slowly; leaning on a stick. As he drew nearer, they observed that he was pale and worn, and that his anxious eyes were deeply sunken in his head. His dress of homespun blue hung about him in rags; his feet and head were bare. He sat down on a stump half-way, and beckoned them to come to him. When they complied, he put his hand upon his side as if in pain, and while he fetched his breath stared at them, wondering.

‘Strangers!’ he exclaimed, as soon as he could speak.

‘The very same,’ said Mark. ‘How are you, sir?’

‘I’ve had the fever very bad,’ he answered faintly. ‘I haven’t stood upright these many weeks. Those are your notions I see,’ pointing to their property.

‘Yes, sir,’ said Mark, ‘they are. You couldn’t recommend us some one as would lend a hand to help carry ‘em up to the—to the town, could you, sir?’

‘My eldest son would do it if he could,’ replied the man; ‘but today he has his chill upon him, and is lying wrapped up in the blankets. My youngest died last week.’

‘I’m sorry for it, governor, with all my heart,’ said Mark, shaking him by the hand. ‘Don’t mind us. Come along with me, and I’ll give you an arm back. The goods is safe enough, sir’—to Martin—‘there ain’t many people about, to make away with ‘em. What a comfort that is!’

‘No,’ cried the man. ‘You must look for such folk here,’ knocking his stick upon the ground, ‘or yonder in the bush, towards the north. We’ve buried most of ‘em. The rest have gone away. Them that we have here, don’t come out at night.’

‘The night air ain’t quite wholesome, I suppose?’ said Mark.

‘It’s deadly poison,’ was the settler’s answer.

Mark showed no more uneasiness than if it had been commended to him as ambrosia; but he gave the man his arm, and as they went along explained to him the nature of their purchase, and inquired where it lay. Close to his own log-house, he said; so close that he had used their dwelling as a store-house for some corn; they must excuse it that night, but he would endeavour to get it taken out upon the morrow. He then gave them to understand, as an additional scrap of local chit-chat, that he had buried the last proprietor with his own hands; a piece of information which Mark also received without the least abatement of his equanimity.

In a word, he conducted them to a miserable cabin, rudely constructed of the trunks of trees; the door of which had either fallen down or been carried away long ago; and which was consequently open to the wild landscape and the dark night. Saving for the little store he had mentioned, it was perfectly bare of all furniture; but they had left a chest upon the landing-place, and he gave them a rude torch in lieu of candle. This latter acquisition Mark planted in the earth, and then declaring that the mansion ‘looked quite comfortable,’ hurried Martin off again to help bring up the chest. And all the way to the landing-place and back, Mark talked incessantly; as if he would infuse into his partner’s breast some faint belief that they had arrived under the most auspicious and cheerful of all imaginable circumstances.

But many a man who would have stood within a home dismantled, strong in his passion and design of vengeance, has had the firmness of his nature conquered by the razing of an air-built castle. When the log-hut received them for the second time, Martin laid down upon the ground, and wept aloud.

‘Lord love you, sir!’ cried Mr Tapley, in great terror; ‘Don’t do that! Don’t do that, sir! Anything but that! It never helped man, woman, or child, over the lowest fence yet, sir, and it never will. Besides its being of no use to you, it’s worse than of no use to me, for the least sound of it will knock me flat down. I can’t stand up agin it, sir. Anything but that!’

There is no doubt he spoke the truth, for the extraordinary alarm with which he looked at Martin as he paused upon his knees before the chest, in the act of unlocking it, to say these words, sufficiently confirmed him.

‘I ask your forgiveness a thousand times, my dear fellow,’ said Martin. ‘I couldn’t have helped it, if death had been the penalty.’

‘Ask my forgiveness!’ said Mark, with his accustomed cheerfulness, as he proceeded to unpack the chest. ‘The head partner a-asking forgiveness of Co., eh? There must be something wrong in the firm when that happens. I must have the books inspected and the accounts gone over immediate. Here we are. Everything in its proper place. Here’s the salt pork. Here’s the biscuit. Here’s the whiskey. Uncommon good it smells too. Here’s the tin pot. This tin pot’s a small fortun’ in itself! Here’s the blankets. Here’s the axe. Who says we ain’t got a first-rate fit out? I feel as if I was a cadet gone out to Indy, and my noble father was chairman of the Board of Directors. Now, when I’ve got some water from the stream afore the door and mixed the grog,’ cried Mark, running out to suit the action to the word, ‘there’s a supper ready, comprising every delicacy of the season. Here we are, sir, all complete. For what we are going to receive, et cetrer. Lord bless you, sir, it’s very like a gipsy party!’

It was impossible not to take heart, in the company of such a man as this. Martin sat upon the ground beside the box; took out his knife; and ate and drank sturdily.

‘Now you see,’ said Mark, when they had made a hearty meal; ‘with your knife and mine, I sticks this blanket right afore the door. Or where, in a state of high civilization, the door would be. And very neat it looks. Then I stops the aperture below, by putting the chest agin it. And very neat that looks. Then there’s your blanket, sir. Then here’s mine. And what’s to hinder our passing a good night?’

For all his light-hearted speaking, it was long before he slept himself. He wrapped his blanket round him, put the axe ready to his hand, and lay across the threshold of the door; too anxious and too watchful to close his eyes. The novelty of their dreary situation, the dread of some rapacious animal or human enemy, the terrible uncertainty of their means of subsistence, the apprehension of death, the immense distance and the hosts of obstacles between themselves and England, were fruitful sources of disquiet in the deep silence of the night. Though Martin would have had him think otherwise, Mark felt that he was waking also, and a prey to the same reflections. This was almost worse than all, for if he began to brood over their miseries instead of trying to make head against them there could be little doubt that such a state of mind would powerfully assist the influence of the pestilent climate. Never had the light of day been half so welcome to his eyes, as when awaking from a fitful doze, Mark saw it shining through the blanket in the doorway.

He stole out gently, for his companion was sleeping now; and having refreshed himself by washing in the river, where it snowed before the door, took a rough survey of the settlement. There were not above a score of cabins in the whole; half of these appeared untenanted; all were rotten and decayed. The most tottering, abject, and forlorn among them was called, with great propriety, the Bank, and National Credit Office. It had some feeble props about it, but was settling deep down in the mud, past all recovery.

Here and there an effort had been made to clear the land, and something like a field had been marked out, where, among the stumps and ashes of burnt trees, a scanty crop of Indian corn was growing. In some quarters, a snake or zigzag fence had been begun, but in no instance had it been completed; and the felled logs, half hidden in the soil, lay mouldering away. Three or four meagre dogs, wasted and vexed with hunger; some long-legged pigs, wandering away into the woods in search of food; some children, nearly naked, gazing at him from the huts; were all the living things he saw. A fetid vapour, hot and sickening as the breath of an oven, rose up from the earth, and hung on everything around; and as his foot-prints sunk into the marshy ground, a black ooze started forth to blot them out.

Their own land was mere forest. The trees had grown so think and close that they shouldered one another out of their places, and the weakest, forced into shapes of strange distortion, languished like cripples. The best were stunted, from the pressure and the want of room; and high about the stems of all grew long rank grass, dank weeds, and frowsy underwood; not divisible into their separate kinds, but tangled all together in a heap; a jungle deep and dark, with neither earth nor water at its roots, but putrid matter, formed of the pulpy offal of the two, and of their own corruption.

He went down to the landing-place where they had left their goods last night; and there he found some half-dozen men—wan and forlorn to look at, but ready enough to assist—who helped him to carry them to the log-house. They shook their heads in speaking of the settlement, and had no comfort to give him. Those who had the means of going away had all deserted it. They who were left had lost their wives, their children, friends, or brothers there, and suffered much themselves. Most of them were ill then; none were the men they had been once. They frankly offered their assistance and advice, and, leaving him for that time, went sadly off upon their several tasks.

Martin was by this time stirring; but he had greatly changed, even in one night. He was very pale and languid; he spoke of pains and weakness in his limbs, and complained that his sight was dim, and his voice feeble. Increasing in his own briskness as the prospect grew more and more dismal, Mark brought away a door from one of the deserted houses, and fitted it to their own habitation; then went back again for a rude bench he had observed, with which he presently returned in triumph; and having put this piece of furniture outside the house, arranged the notable tin pot and other such movables upon it, that it might represent a dresser or a sideboard. Greatly satisfied with this arrangement, he next rolled their cask of flour into the house and set it up on end in one corner, where it served for a side-table. No better dining-table could be required than the chest, which he solemnly devoted to that useful service thenceforth. Their blankets, clothes, and the like, he hung on pegs and nails. And lastly, he brought forth a great placard (which Martin in the exultation of his heart had prepared with his own hands at the National Hotel) bearing the inscription, CHUZZLEWIT & CO., ARCHITECTS AND SURVEYORS, which he displayed upon the most conspicuous part of the premises, with as much gravity as if the thriving city of Eden had a real existence, and they expected to be overwhelmed with business.

‘These here tools,’ said Mark, bringing forward Martin’s case of instruments and sticking the compasses upright in a stump before the door, ‘shall be set out in the open air to show that we come provided. And now, if any gentleman wants a house built, he’d better give his orders, afore we’re other ways bespoke.’

Considering the intense heat of the weather, this was not a bad morning’s work; but without pausing for a moment, though he was streaming at every pore, Mark vanished into the house again, and presently reappeared with a hatchet; intent on performing some impossibilities with that implement.

‘Here’s ugly old tree in the way, sir,’ he observed, ‘which’ll be all the better down. We can build the oven in the afternoon. There never was such a handy spot for clay as Eden is. That’s convenient, anyhow.’

But Martin gave him no answer. He had sat the whole time with his head upon his hands, gazing at the current as it rolled swiftly by; thinking, perhaps, how fast it moved towards the open sea, the high road to the home he never would behold again.

Not even the vigorous strokes which Mark dealt at the tree awoke him from his mournful meditation. Finding all his endeavours to rouse him of no use, Mark stopped in his work and came towards him.

‘Don’t give in, sir,’ said Mr Tapley.

‘Oh, Mark,’ returned his friend, ‘what have I done in all my life that has deserved this heavy fate?’

‘Why, sir,’ returned Mark, ‘for the matter of that, everybody as is here might say the same thing; many of ‘em with better reason p’raps than you or me. Hold up, sir. Do something. Couldn’t you ease your mind, now, don’t you think, by making some personal obserwations in a letter to Scadder?’

‘No,’ said Martin, shaking his head sorrowfully: ‘I am past that.’

‘But if you’re past that already,’ returned Mark, ‘you must be ill, and ought to be attended to.’

‘Don’t mind me,’ said Martin. ‘Do the best you can for yourself. You’ll soon have only yourself to consider. And then God speed you home, and forgive me for bringing you here! I am destined to die in this place. I felt it the instant I set foot upon the shore. Sleeping or waking, Mark, I dreamed it all last night.’

‘I said you must be ill,’ returned Mark, tenderly, ‘and now I’m sure of it. A touch of fever and ague caught on these rivers, I dare say; but bless you, that’s nothing. It’s only a seasoning, and we must all be seasoned, one way or another. That’s religion that is, you know,’ said Mark.

He only sighed and shook his head.

‘Wait half a minute,’ said Mark cheerily, ‘till I run up to one of our neighbours and ask what’s best to be took, and borrow a little of it to give you; and to-morrow you’ll find yourself as strong as ever again. I won’t be gone a minute. Don’t give in while I’m away, whatever you do!’

Throwing down his hatchet, he sped away immediately, but stopped when he had got a little distance, and looked back; then hurried on again.

‘Now, Mr Tapley,’ said Mark, giving himself a tremendous blow in the chest by way of reviver, ‘just you attend to what I’ve got to say. Things is looking about as bad as they can look, young man. You’ll not have such another opportunity for showing your jolly disposition, my fine fellow, as long as you live. And therefore, Tapley, Now’s your time to come out strong; or Never!’






CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR. REPORTS PROGRESS IN CERTAIN HOMELY MATTERS OF LOVE, HATRED, JEALOUSY, AND REVENGE


‘Hallo, Pecksniff!’ cried Mr Jonas from the parlour. ‘Isn’t somebody a-going to open that precious old door of yours?’

‘Immediately, Mr Jonas. Immediately.’

‘Ecod,’ muttered the orphan, ‘not before it’s time neither. Whoever it is, has knocked three times, and each one loud enough to wake the—’ he had such a repugnance to the idea of waking the Dead, that he stopped even then with the words upon his tongue, and said, instead, ‘the Seven Sleepers.’

‘Immediately, Mr Jonas; immediately,’ repeated Pecksniff. ‘Thomas Pinch’—he couldn’t make up his mind, in his great agitation, whether to call Tom his dear friend or a villain, so he shook his fist at him pro tem—‘go up to my daughters’ room, and tell them who is here. Say, Silence. Silence! Do you hear me, sir?

‘Directly, sir!’ cried Tom, departing, in a state of much amazement, on his errand.

‘You’ll—ha, ha, ha!—you’ll excuse me, Mr Jonas, if I close this door a moment, will you?’ said Pecksniff. ‘This may be a professional call. Indeed I am pretty sure it is. Thank you.’ Then Mr Pecksniff, gently warbling a rustic stave, put on his garden hat, seized a spade, and opened the street door; calmly appearing on the threshold, as if he thought he had, from his vineyard, heard a modest rap, but was not quite certain.

Seeing a gentleman and lady before him, he started back in as much confusion as a good man with a crystal conscience might betray in mere surprise. Recognition came upon him the next moment, and he cried:

‘Mr Chuzzlewit! Can I believe my eyes! My dear sir; my good sir! A joyful hour, a happy hour indeed. Pray, my dear sir, walk in. You find me in my garden-dress. You will excuse it, I know. It is an ancient pursuit, gardening. Primitive, my dear sir. Or, if I am not mistaken, Adam was the first of our calling. my Eve, I grieve to say is no more, sir; but’—here he pointed to his spade, and shook his head as if he were not cheerful without an effort—‘but I do a little bit of Adam still.’

He had by this time got them into the best parlour, where the portrait by Spiller, and the bust by Spoker, were.

‘My daughters,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘will be overjoyed. If I could feel weary upon such a theme, I should have been worn out long ago, my dear sir, by their constant anticipation of this happiness and their repeated allusions to our meeting at Mrs Todgers’s. Their fair young friend, too,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘whom they so desire to know and love—indeed to know her, is to love—I hope I see her well. I hope in saying, “Welcome to my humble roof!” I find some echo in her own sentiments. If features are an index to the heart, I have no fears of that. An extremely engaging expression of countenance, Mr Chuzzlewit, my dear sir—very much so!’

‘Mary,’ said the old man, ‘Mr Pecksniff flatters you. But flattery from him is worth the having. He is not a dealer in it, and it comes from his heart. We thought Mr—’

‘Pinch,’ said Mary.

‘Mr Pinch would have arrived before us, Pecksniff.’

‘He did arrive before you, my dear sir,’ retorted Pecksniff, raising his voice for the edification of Tom upon the stairs, ‘and was about, I dare say, to tell me of your coming, when I begged him first to knock at my daughters’ chamber, and inquire after Charity, my dear child, who is not so well as I could wish. No,’ said Mr Pecksniff, answering their looks, ‘I am sorry to say, she is not. It is merely an hysterical affection; nothing more, I am not uneasy. Mr Pinch! Thomas!’ exclaimed Pecksniff, in his kindest accents. ‘Pray come in. I shall make no stranger of you. Thomas is a friend of mine, of rather long-standing, Mr Chuzzlewit, you must know.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ said Tom. ‘You introduce me very kindly, and speak of me in terms of which I am very proud.’

‘Old Thomas!’ cried his master, pleasantly ‘God bless you!’

Tom reported that the young ladies would appear directly, and that the best refreshments which the house afforded were even then in preparation, under their joint superintendence. While he was speaking, the old man looked at him intently, though with less harshness than was common to him; nor did the mutual embarrassment of Tom and the young lady, to whatever cause he attributed it, seem to escape his observation.

‘Pecksniff,’ he said after a pause, rising and taking him aside towards the window, ‘I was much shocked on hearing of my brother’s death. We had been strangers for many years. My only comfort is that he must have lived the happier and better man for having associated no hopes or schemes with me. Peace to his memory! We were play-fellows once; and it would have been better for us both if we had died then.’

Finding him in this gentle mood, Mr Pecksniff began to see another way out of his difficulties, besides the casting overboard of Jonas.

‘That any man, my dear sir, could possibly be the happier for not knowing you,’ he returned, ‘you will excuse my doubting. But that Mr Anthony, in the evening of his life, was happier in the affection of his excellent son—a pattern, my dear sir, a pattern to all sons—and in the care of a distant relation who, however lowly in his means of serving him, had no bounds to his inclination; I can inform you.’

‘How’s this?’ said the old man. ‘You are not a legatee?’

‘You don’t,’ said Mr Pecksniff, with a melancholy pressure of his hand, ‘quite understand my nature yet, I find. No, sir, I am not a legatee. I am proud to say I am not a legatee. I am proud to say that neither of my children is a legatee. And yet, sir, I was with him at his own request. he understood me somewhat better, sir. He wrote and said, “I am sick. I am sinking. Come to me!” I went to him. I sat beside his bed, sir, and I stood beside his grave. Yes, at the risk of offending even you, I did it, sir. Though the avowal should lead to our instant separation, and to the severing of those tender ties between us which have recently been formed, I make it. But I am not a legatee,’ said Mr Pecksniff, smiling dispassionately; ‘and I never expected to be a legatee. I knew better!’

‘His son a pattern!’ cried old Martin. ‘How can you tell me that? My brother had in his wealth the usual doom of wealth, and root of misery. He carried his corrupting influence with him, go where he would; and shed it round him, even on his hearth. It made of his own child a greedy expectant, who measured every day and hour the lessening distance between his father and the grave, and cursed his tardy progress on that dismal road.’

‘No!’ cried Mr Pecksniff, boldly. ‘Not at all, sir!’

‘But I saw that shadow in his house,’ said Martin Chuzzlewit, ‘the last time we met, and warned him of its presence. I know it when I see it, do I not? I, who have lived within it all these years!’

‘I deny it,’ Mr Pecksniff answered, warmly. ‘I deny it altogether. That bereaved young man is now in this house, sir, seeking in change of scene the peace of mind he has lost. Shall I be backward in doing justice to that young man, when even undertakers and coffin-makers have been moved by the conduct he has exhibited; when even mutes have spoken in his praise, and the medical man hasn’t known what to do with himself in the excitement of his feelings! There is a person of the name of Gamp, sir—Mrs Gamp—ask her. She saw Mr Jonas in a trying time. Ask her, sir. She is respectable, but not sentimental, and will state the fact. A line addressed to Mrs Gamp, at the Bird Shop, Kingsgate Street, High Holborn, London, will meet with every attention, I have no doubt. Let her be examined, my good sir. Strike, but hear! Leap, Mr Chuzzlewit, but look! Forgive me, my dear sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff, taking both his hands, ‘if I am warm; but I am honest, and must state the truth.’

In proof of the character he gave himself, Mr Pecksniff suffered tears of honesty to ooze out of his eyes.

The old man gazed at him for a moment with a look of wonder, repeating to himself, ‘Here now! In this house!’ But he mastered his surprise, and said, after a pause:

‘Let me see him.’

‘In a friendly spirit, I hope?’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Forgive me, sir but he is in the receipt of my humble hospitality.’

‘I said,’ replied the old man, ‘let me see him. If I were disposed to regard him in any other than a friendly spirit, I should have said keep us apart.’

‘Certainly, my dear sir. So you would. You are frankness itself, I know. I will break this happiness to him,’ said Mr Pecksniff, as he left the room, ‘if you will excuse me for a minute—gently.’

He paved the way to the disclosure so very gently, that a quarter of an hour elapsed before he returned with Mr Jonas. In the meantime the young ladies had made their appearance, and the table had been set out for the refreshment of the travellers.

Now, however well Mr Pecksniff, in his morality, had taught Jonas the lesson of dutiful behaviour to his uncle, and however perfectly Jonas, in the cunning of his nature, had learnt it, that young man’s bearing, when presented to his father’s brother, was anything but manly or engaging. Perhaps, indeed, so singular a mixture of defiance and obsequiousness, of fear and hardihood, of dogged sullenness and an attempt at enraging and propitiation, never was expressed in any one human figure as in that of Jonas, when, having raised his downcast eyes to Martin’s face, he let them fall again, and uneasily closing and unclosing his hands without a moment’s intermission, stood swinging himself from side to side, waiting to be addressed.

‘Nephew,’ said the old man. ‘You have been a dutiful son, I hear.’

‘As dutiful as sons in general, I suppose,’ returned Jonas, looking up and down once more. ‘I don’t brag to have been any better than other sons; but I haven’t been any worse, I dare say.’

‘A pattern to all sons, I am told,’ said the old man, glancing towards Mr Pecksniff.

‘Ecod!’ said Jonas, looking up again for a moment, and shaking his head, ‘I’ve been as good a son as ever you were a brother. It’s the pot and the kettle, if you come to that.’

‘You speak bitterly, in the violence of your regret,’ said Martin, after a pause. ‘Give me your hand.’

Jonas did so, and was almost at his ease. ‘Pecksniff,’ he whispered, as they drew their chairs about the table; ‘I gave him as good as he brought, eh? He had better look at home, before he looks out of window, I think?’

Mr Pecksniff only answered by a nudge of the elbow, which might either be construed into an indignant remonstrance or a cordial assent; but which, in any case, was an emphatic admonition to his chosen son-in-law to be silent. He then proceeded to do the honours of the house with his accustomed ease and amiability.

But not even Mr Pecksniff’s guileless merriment could set such a party at their ease, or reconcile materials so utterly discordant and conflicting as those with which he had to deal. The unspeakable jealously and hatred which that night’s explanation had sown in Charity’s breast, was not to be so easily kept down; and more than once it showed itself in such intensity, as seemed to render a full disclosure of all the circumstances then and there, impossible to be avoided. The beauteous Merry, too, with all the glory of her conquest fresh upon her, so probed and lanced the rankling disappointment of her sister by her capricious airs and thousand little trials of Mr Jonas’s obedience, that she almost goaded her into a fit of madness, and obliged her to retire from table in a burst of passion, hardly less vehement than that to which she had abandoned herself in the first tumult of her wrath. The constraint imposed upon the family by the presence among them for the first time of Mary Graham (for by that name old Martin Chuzzlewit had introduced her) did not at all improve this state of things; gentle and quiet though her manner was. Mr Pecksniff’s situation was peculiarly trying; for, what with having constantly to keep the peace between his daughters; to maintain a reasonable show of affection and unity in his household; to curb the growing ease and gaiety of Jonas, which vented itself in sundry insolences towards Mr Pinch, and an indefinable coarseness of manner in reference to Mary (they being the two dependants); to make no mention at all of his having perpetually to conciliate his rich old relative, and to smooth down, or explain away, some of the ten thousand bad appearances and combinations of bad appearances, by which they were surrounded on that unlucky evening—what with having to do this, and it would be difficult to sum up how much more, without the least relief or assistance from anybody, it may be easily imagined that Mr Pecksniff had in his enjoyment something more than that usual portion of alloy which is mixed up with the best of men’s delights. Perhaps he had never in his life felt such relief as when old Martin, looking at his watch, announced that it was time to go.

‘We have rooms,’ he said, ‘at the Dragon, for the present. I have a fancy for the evening walk. The nights are dark just now; perhaps Mr Pinch would not object to light us home?’

‘My dear sir!’ cried Pecksniff, ‘I shall be delighted. Merry, my child, the lantern.’

‘The lantern, if you please, my dear,’ said Martin; ‘but I couldn’t think of taking your father out of doors to-night; and, to be brief, I won’t.’

Mr Pecksniff already had his hat in his hand, but it was so emphatically said that he paused.

‘I take Mr Pinch, or go alone,’ said Martin. ‘Which shall it be?’

‘It shall be Thomas, sir,’ cried Pecksniff, ‘since you are so resolute upon it. Thomas, my friend, be very careful, if you please.’

Tom was in some need of this injunction, for he felt so nervous, and trembled to such a degree, that he found it difficult to hold the lantern. How much more difficult when, at the old man’s bidding she drew her hand through his—Tom Pinch’s—arm!

‘And so, Mr Pinch,’ said Martin, on the way, ‘you are very comfortably situated here; are you?’

Tom answered, with even more than his usual enthusiasm, that he was under obligations to Mr Pecksniff which the devotion of a lifetime would but imperfectly repay.

‘How long have you known my nephew?’ asked Martin.

‘Your nephew, sir?’ faltered Tom.

‘Mr Jonas Chuzzlewit,’ said Mary.

‘Oh dear, yes,’ cried Tom, greatly relieved, for his mind was running upon Martin. ‘Certainly. I never spoke to him before to-night, sir!’

‘Perhaps half a lifetime will suffice for the acknowledgment of his kindness,’ observed the old man.

Tom felt that this was a rebuff for him, and could not but understand it as a left-handed hit at his employer. So he was silent. Mary felt that Mr Pinch was not remarkable for presence of mind, and that he could not say too little under existing circumstances. So she was silent. The old man, disgusted by what in his suspicious nature he considered a shameless and fulsome puff of Mr Pecksniff, which was a part of Tom’s hired service and in which he was determined to persevere, set him down at once for a deceitful, servile, miserable fawner. So he was silent. And though they were all sufficiently uncomfortable, it is fair to say that Martin was perhaps the most so; for he had felt kindly towards Tom at first, and had been interested by his seeming simplicity.

‘You’re like the rest,’ he thought, glancing at the face of the unconscious Tom. ‘You had nearly imposed upon me, but you have lost your labour. You are too zealous a toad-eater, and betray yourself, Mr Pinch.’

During the whole remainder of the walk, not another word was spoken. First among the meetings to which Tom had long looked forward with a beating heart, it was memorable for nothing but embarrassment and confusion. They parted at the Dragon door; and sighing as he extinguished the candle in the lantern, Tom turned back again over the gloomy fields.

As he approached the first stile, which was in a lonely part, made very dark by a plantation of young firs, a man slipped past him and went on before. Coming to the stile he stopped, and took his seat upon it. Tom was rather startled, and for a moment stood still, but he stepped forward again immediately, and went close up to him.

It was Jonas; swinging his legs to and fro, sucking the head of a stick, and looking with a sneer at Tom.

‘Good gracious me!’ cried Tom, ‘who would have thought of its being you! You followed us, then?’

‘What’s that to you?’ said Jonas. ‘Go to the devil!’

‘You are not very civil, I think,’ remarked Tom.

‘Civil enough for you,’ retorted Jonas. ‘Who are you?’

‘One who has as good a right to common consideration as another,’ said Tom mildly.

‘You’re a liar,’ said Jonas. ‘You haven’t a right to any consideration. You haven’t a right to anything. You’re a pretty sort of fellow to talk about your rights, upon my soul! Ha, ha!—Rights, too!’

‘If you proceed in this way,’ returned Tom, reddening, ‘you will oblige me to talk about my wrongs. But I hope your joke is over.’

‘It’s the way with you curs,’ said Mr Jonas, ‘that when you know a man’s in real earnest, you pretend to think he’s joking, so that you may turn it off. But that won’t do with me. It’s too stale. Now just attend to me for a bit, Mr Pitch, or Witch, or Stitch, or whatever your name is.’

‘My name is Pinch,’ observed Tom. ‘Have the goodness to call me by it.’

‘What! You mustn’t even be called out of your name, mustn’t you!’ cried Jonas. ‘Pauper’ prentices are looking up, I think. Ecod, we manage ‘em a little better in the city!’

‘Never mind what you do in the city,’ said Tom. ‘What have you got to say to me?’

‘Just this, Mister Pinch,’ retorted Jonas, thrusting his face so close to Tom’s that Tom was obliged to retreat a step. ‘I advise you to keep your own counsel, and to avoid title-tattle, and not to cut in where you’re not wanted. I’ve heard something of you, my friend, and your meek ways; and I recommend you to forget ‘em till I am married to one of Pecksniff’s gals, and not to curry favour among my relations, but to leave the course clear. You know, when curs won’t leave the course clear, they’re whipped off; so this is kind advice. Do you understand? Eh? Damme, who are you,’ cried Jonas, with increased contempt, ‘that you should walk home with them, unless it was behind ‘em, like any other servant out of livery?’

‘Come!’ cried Tom, ‘I see that you had better get off the stile, and let me pursue my way home. Make room for me, if you please.’

‘Don’t think it!’ said Jonas, spreading out his legs. ‘Not till I choose. And I don’t choose now. What! You’re afraid of my making you split upon some of your babbling just now, are you, Sneak?’

‘I am not afraid of many things, I hope,’ said Tom; ‘and certainly not of anything that you will do. I am not a tale-bearer, and I despise all meanness. You quite mistake me. Ah!’ cried Tom, indignantly. ‘Is this manly from one in your position to one in mine? Please to make room for me to pass. The less I say, the better.’

‘The less you say!’ retorted Jonas, dangling his legs the more, and taking no heed of this request. ‘You say very little, don’t you? Ecod, I should like to know what goes on between you and a vagabond member of my family. There’s very little in that too, I dare say!’

‘I know no vagabond member of your family,’ cried Tom, stoutly.

‘You do!’ said Jonas.

‘I don’t,’ said Tom. ‘Your uncle’s namesake, if you mean him, is no vagabond. Any comparison between you and him’—Tom snapped his fingers at him, for he was rising fast in wrath—‘is immeasurably to your disadvantage.’

‘Oh indeed!’ sneered Jonas. ‘And what do you think of his deary—his beggarly leavings, eh, Mister Pinch?’

‘I don’t mean to say another word, or stay here another instant,’ replied Tom.

‘As I told you before, you’re a liar,’ said Jonas, coolly. ‘You’ll stay here till I give you leave to go. Now, keep where you are, will you?’

He flourished his stick over Tom’s head; but in a moment it was spinning harmlessly in the air, and Jonas himself lay sprawling in the ditch. In the momentary struggle for the stick, Tom had brought it into violent contact with his opponent’s forehead; and the blood welled out profusely from a deep cut on the temple. Tom was first apprised of this by seeing that he pressed his handkerchief to the wounded part, and staggered as he rose, being stunned.

‘Are you hurt?’ said Tom. ‘I am very sorry. Lean on me for a moment. You can do that without forgiving me, if you still bear me malice. But I don’t know why; for I never offended you before we met on this spot.’

He made him no answer; not appearing at first to understand him, or even to know that he was hurt, though he several times took his handkerchief from the cut to look vacantly at the blood upon it. After one of these examinations, he looked at Tom, and then there was an expression in his features, which showed that he understood what had taken place, and would remember it.

Nothing more passed between them as they went home. Jonas kept a little in advance, and Tom Pinch sadly followed, thinking of the grief which the knowledge of this quarrel must occasion his excellent benefactor. When Jonas knocked at the door, Tom’s heart beat high; higher when Miss Mercy answered it, and seeing her wounded lover, shireked aloud; higher, when he followed them into the family parlour; higher than at any other time, when Jonas spoke.

‘Don’t make a noise about it,’ he said. ‘It’s nothing worth mentioning. I didn’t know the road; the night’s very dark; and just as I came up with Mr Pinch’—he turned his face towards Tom, but not his eyes—‘I ran against a tree. It’s only skin deep.’

‘Cold water, Merry, my child!’ cried Mr Pecksniff. ‘Brown paper! Scissors! A piece of old linen! Charity, my dear, make a bandage. Bless me, Mr Jonas!’

‘Oh, bother your nonsense,’ returned the gracious son-in-law elect. ‘Be of some use if you can. If you can’t, get out!’

Miss Charity, though called upon to lend her aid, sat upright in one corner, with a smile upon her face, and didn’t move a finger. Though Mercy laved the wound herself; and Mr Pecksniff held the patient’s head between his two hands, as if without that assistance it must inevitably come in half; and Tom Pinch, in his guilty agitation, shook a bottle of Dutch Drops until they were nothing but English Froth, and in his other hand sustained a formidable carving-knife, really intended to reduce the swelling, but apparently designed for the ruthless infliction of another wound as soon as that was dressed; Charity rendered not the least assistance, nor uttered a word. But when Mr Jonas’s head was bound up, and he had gone to bed, and everybody else had retired, and the house was quiet, Mr Pinch, as he sat mournfully on his bedstead, ruminating, heard a gentle tap at his door; and opening it, saw her, to his great astonishment, standing before him with her finger on her lip.

‘Mr Pinch,’ she whispered. ‘Dear Mr Pinch! Tell me the truth! You did that? There was some quarrel between you, and you struck him? I am sure of it!’

It was the first time she had ever spoken kindly to Tom, in all the many years they had passed together. He was stupefied with amazement.

‘Was it so, or not?’ she eagerly demanded.

‘I was very much provoked,’ said Tom.

‘Then it was?’ cried Charity, with sparkling eyes.

‘Ye-yes. We had a struggle for the path,’ said Tom. ‘But I didn’t mean to hurt him so much.’

‘Not so much!’ she repeated, clenching her hand and stamping her foot, to Tom’s great wonder. ‘Don’t say that. It was brave of you. I honour you for it. If you should ever quarrel again, don’t spare him for the world, but beat him down and set your shoe upon him. Not a word of this to anybody. Dear Mr Pinch, I am your friend from tonight. I am always your friend from this time.’

She turned her flushed face upon Tom to confirm her words by its kindling expression; and seizing his right hand, pressed it to her breast, and kissed it. And there was nothing personal in this to render it at all embarrassing, for even Tom, whose power of observation was by no means remarkable, knew from the energy with which she did it that she would have fondled any hand, no matter how bedaubed or dyed, that had broken the head of Jonas Chuzzlewit.

Tom went into his room, and went to bed, full of uncomfortable thoughts. That there should be any such tremendous division in the family as he knew must have taken place to convert Charity Pecksniff into his friend, for any reason, but, above all, for that which was clearly the real one; that Jonas, who had assailed him with such exceeding coarseness, should have been sufficiently magnanimous to keep the secret of their quarrel; and that any train of circumstances should have led to the commission of an assault and battery by Thomas Pinch upon any man calling himself the friend of Seth Pecksniff; were matters of such deep and painful cogitation that he could not close his eyes. His own violence, in particular, so preyed upon the generous mind of Tom, that coupling it with the many former occasions on which he had given Mr Pecksniff pain and anxiety (occasions of which that gentleman often reminded him), he really began to regard himself as destined by a mysterious fate to be the evil genius and bad angel of his patron. But he fell asleep at last, and dreamed—new source of waking uneasiness—that he had betrayed his trust, and run away with Mary Graham.

It must be acknowledged that, asleep or awake, Tom’s position in reference to this young lady was full of uneasiness. The more he saw of her, the more he admired her beauty, her intelligence, the amiable qualities that even won on the divided house of Pecksniff, and in a few days restored, at all events, the semblance of harmony and kindness between the angry sisters. When she spoke, Tom held his breath, so eagerly he listened; when she sang, he sat like one entranced. She touched his organ, and from that bright epoch even it, the old companion of his happiest hours, incapable as he had thought of elevation, began a new and deified existence.

God’s love upon thy patience, Tom! Who, that had beheld thee, for three summer weeks, poring through half the deadlong night over the jingling anatomy of that inscrutable old harpsichord in the back parlour, could have missed the entrance to thy secret heart: albeit it was dimly known to thee? Who that had seen the glow upon thy cheek when leaning down to listen, after hours of labour, for the sound of one incorrigible note, thou foundest that it had a voice at last, and wheezed out a flat something, distantly akin to what it ought to be, would not have known that it was destined for no common touch, but one that smote, though gently as an angel’s hand, upon the deepest chord within thee! And if a friendly glance—aye, even though it were as guileless as thine own, Dear Tom—could have but pierced the twilight of that evening, when, in a voice well tempered to the time, sad, sweet, and low, yet hopeful, she first sang to the altered instrument, and wondered at the change; and thou, sitting apart at the open window, kept a glad silence and a swelling heart—must not that glance have read perforce the dawning of a story, Tom, that it were well for thee had never been begun!

Tom Pinch’s situation was not made the less dangerous or difficult by the fact of no one word passing between them in reference to Martin. Honourably mindful of his promise, Tom gave her opportunities of all kinds. Early and late he was in the church; in her favourite walks; in the village, in the garden, in the meadows; and in any or all of these places he might have spoken freely. But no; at all such times she carefully avoided him, or never came in his way unaccompanied. It could not be that she disliked or distrusted him, for by a thousand little delicate means, too slight for any notice but his own, she singled him out when others were present, and showed herself the very soul of kindness. Could it be that she had broken with Martin, or had never returned his affection, save in his own bold and heightened fancy? Tom’s cheek grew red with self-reproach as he dismissed the thought.

All this time old Martin came and went in his own strange manner, or sat among the rest absorbed within himself, and holding little intercourse with any one. Although he was unsocial, he was not willful in other things, or troublesome, or morose; being never better pleased than when they left him quite unnoticed at his book, and pursued their own amusements in his presence, unreserved. It was impossible to discern in whom he took an interest, or whether he had an interest in any of them. Unless they spoke to him directly, he never showed that he had ears or eyes for anything that passed.

One day the lively Merry, sitting with downcast eyes under a shady tree in the churchyard, whither she had retired after fatiguing herself by the imposition of sundry trials on the temper of Mr Jonas, felt that a new shadow came between her and the sun. Raising her eyes in the expectation of seeing her betrothed, she was not a little surprised to see old Martin instead. Her surprise was not diminished when he took his seat upon the turf beside her, and opened a conversation thus:

‘When are you to be married?’

‘Oh! dear Mr Chuzzlewit, my goodness me! I’m sure I don’t know. Not yet awhile, I hope.’

‘You hope?’ said the old man.

It was very gravely said, but she took it for banter, and giggled excessively.

‘Come!’ said the old man, with unusual kindness, ‘you are young, good-looking, and I think good-natured! Frivolous you are, and love to be, undoubtedly; but you must have some heart.’

‘I have not given it all away, I can tell you,’ said Merry, nodding her head shrewdly, and plucking up the grass.

‘Have you parted with any of it?’

She threw the grass about, and looked another way, but said nothing.

Martin repeated his question.

‘Lor, my dear Mr Chuzzlewit! really you must excuse me! How very odd you are.’

‘If it be odd in me to desire to know whether you love the young man whom I understand you are to marry, I am very odd,’ said Martin. ‘For that is certainly my wish.’

‘He’s such a monster, you know,’ said Merry, pouting.

‘Then you don’t love him?’ returned the old man. ‘Is that your meaning?’

‘Why, my dear Mr Chuzzlewit, I’m sure I tell him a hundred times a day that I hate him. You must have heard me tell him that.’

‘Often,’ said Martin.

‘And so I do,’ cried Merry. ‘I do positively.’

‘Being at the same time engaged to marry him,’ observed the old man.

‘Oh yes,’ said Merry. ‘But I told the wretch—my dear Mr Chuzzlewit, I told him when he asked me—that if I ever did marry him, it should only be that I might hate and tease him all my life.’

She had a suspicion that the old man regarded Jonas with anything but favour, and intended these remarks to be extremely captivating. He did not appear, however, to regard them in that light by any means; for when he spoke again, it was in a tone of severity.

‘Look about you,’ he said, pointing to the graves; ‘and remember that from your bridal hour to the day which sees you brought as low as these, and laid in such a bed, there will be no appeal against him. Think, and speak, and act, for once, like an accountable creature. Is any control put upon your inclinations? Are you forced into this match? Are you insidiously advised or tempted to contract it, by any one? I will not ask by whom; by any one?’

‘No,’ said Merry, shrugging her shoulders. ‘I don’t know that I am.’

‘Don’t know that you are! Are you?’

‘No,’ replied Merry. ‘Nobody ever said anything to me about it. If any one had tried to make me have him, I wouldn’t have had him at all.’

‘I am told that he was at first supposed to be your sister’s admirer,’ said Martin.

‘Oh, good gracious! My dear Mr Chuzzlewit, it would be very hard to make him, though he is a monster, accountable for other people’s vanity,’ said Merry. ‘And poor dear Cherry is the vainest darling!’

‘It was her mistake, then?’

‘I hope it was,’ cried Merry; ‘but, all along, the dear child has been so dreadfully jealous, and so cross, that, upon my word and honour, it’s impossible to please her, and it’s of no use trying.’

‘Not forced, persuaded, or controlled,’ said Martin, thoughtfully. ‘And that’s true, I see. There is one chance yet. You may have lapsed into this engagement in very giddiness. It may have been the wanton act of a light head. Is that so?’

‘My dear Mr Chuzzlewit,’ simpered Merry, ‘as to light-headedness, there never was such a feather of a head as mine. It’s perfect balloon, I declare! You never did, you know!’

He waited quietly till she had finished, and then said, steadily and slowly, and in a softened voice, as if he would still invite her confidence:

‘Have you any wish—or is there anything within your breast that whispers you may form the wish, if you have time to think—to be released from this engagement?’

Again Miss Merry pouted, and looked down, and plucked the grass, and shrugged her shoulders. No. She didn’t know that she had. She was pretty sure she hadn’t. Quite sure, she might say. She ‘didn’t mind it.’

‘Has it ever occurred to you,’ said Martin, ‘that your married life may perhaps be miserable, full of bitterness, and most unhappy?’

Merry looked down again; and now she tore the grass up by the roots.

‘My dear Mr Chuzzlewit, what shocking words! Of course, I shall quarrel with him. I should quarrel with any husband. Married people always quarrel, I believe. But as to being miserable, and bitter, and all those dreadful things, you know, why I couldn’t be absolutely that, unless he always had the best of it; and I mean to have the best of it myself. I always do now,’ cried Merry, nodding her head and giggling very much; ‘for I make a perfect slave of the creature.’

‘Let it go on,’ said Martin, rising. ‘Let it go on! I sought to know your mind, my dear, and you have shown it me. I wish you joy. Joy!’ he repeated, looking full upon her, and pointing to the wicket-gate where Jonas entered at the moment. And then, without waiting for his nephew, he passed out at another gate, and went away.

‘Oh, you terrible old man!’ cried the facetious Merry to herself. ‘What a perfectly hideous monster to be wandering about churchyards in the broad daylight, frightening people out of their wits! Don’t come here, Griffin, or I’ll go away directly.’

Mr Jonas was the Griffin. He sat down upon the grass at her side, in spite of this warning, and sulkily inquired:

‘What’s my uncle been a-talking about?’

‘About you,’ rejoined Merry. ‘He says you’re not half good enough for me.’

‘Oh, yes, I dare say! We all know that. He means to give you some present worth having, I hope. Did he say anything that looked like it?’

‘That he didn’t!’ cried Merry, most decisively.

‘A stingy old dog he is,’ said Jonas. ‘Well?’

‘Griffin!’ cried Miss Mercy, in counterfeit amazement; ‘what are you doing, Griffin?’

‘Only giving you a squeeze,’ said the discomfited Jonas. ‘There’s no harm in that, I suppose?’

‘But there is great deal of harm in it, if I don’t consider it agreeable,’ returned his cousin. ‘Do go along, will you? You make me so hot!’

Mr Jonas withdrew his arm, and for a moment looked at her more like a murderer than a lover. But he cleared his brow by degrees, and broke silence with:

‘I say, Mel!’

‘What do you say, you vulgar thing—you low savage?’ cried his fair betrothed.

‘When is it to be? I can’t afford to go on dawdling about here half my life, I needn’t tell you, and Pecksniff says that father’s being so lately dead makes very little odds; for we can be married as quiet as we please down here, and my being lonely is a good reason to the neighbours for taking a wife home so soon, especially one that he knew. As to crossbones (my uncle, I mean), he’s sure not to put a spoke in the wheel, whatever we settle on, for he told Pecksniff only this morning, that if you liked it he’d nothing at all to say. So, Mel,’ said Jonas, venturing on another squeeze; ‘when shall it be?’

‘Upon my word!’ cried Merry.

‘Upon my soul, if you like,’ said Jonas. ‘What do you say to next week, now?’

‘To next week! If you had said next quarter, I should have wondered at your impudence.’

‘But I didn’t say next quarter,’ retorted Jonas. ‘I said next week.’

‘Then, Griffin,’ cried Miss Merry, pushing him off, and rising. ‘I say no! not next week. It shan’t be till I choose, and I may not choose it to be for months. There!’

He glanced up at her from the ground, almost as darkly as he had looked at Tom Pinch; but held his peace.

‘No fright of a Griffin with a patch over his eye shall dictate to me or have a voice in the matter,’ said Merry. ‘There!’

Still Mr Jonas held his peace.

‘If it’s next month, that shall be the very earliest; but I won’t say when it shall be till to-morrow; and if you don’t like that, it shall never be at all,’ said Merry; ‘and if you follow me about and won’t leave me alone, it shall never be at all. There! And if you don’t do everything I order you to do, it shall never be at all. So don’t follow me. There, Griffin!’

And with that, she skipped away, among the trees.

‘Ecod, my lady!’ said Jonas, looking after her, and biting a piece of straw, almost to powder; ‘you’ll catch it for this, when you are married. It’s all very well now—it keeps one on, somehow, and you know it—but I’ll pay you off scot and lot by-and-bye. This is a plaguey dull sort of a place for a man to be sitting by himself in. I never could abide a mouldy old churchyard.’

As he turned into the avenue himself, Miss Merry, who was far ahead, happened to look back.

‘Ah!’ said Jonas, with a sullen smile, and a nod that was not addressed to her. ‘Make the most of it while it lasts. Get in your hay while the sun shines. Take your own way as long as it’s in your power, my lady!’






CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE. IS IN PART PROFESSIONAL, AND FURNISHES THE READER WITH SOME VALUABLE HINTS IN RELATION TO THE MANAGEMENT OF A SICK CHAMBER


Mr Mould was surrounded by his household gods. He was enjoying the sweets of domestic repose, and gazing on them with a calm delight. The day being sultry, and the window open, the legs of Mr Mould were on the window-seat, and his back reclined against the shutter. Over his shining head a handkerchief was drawn, to guard his baldness from the flies. The room was fragrant with the smell of punch, a tumbler of which grateful compound stood upon a small round table, convenient to the hand of Mr Mould; so deftly mixed that as his eye looked down into the cool transparent drink, another eye, peering brightly from behind the crisp lemon-peel, looked up at him, and twinkled like a star.

Deep in the City, and within the ward of Cheap, stood Mr Mould’s establishment. His Harem, or, in other words, the common sitting room of Mrs Mould and family, was at the back, over the little counting-house behind the shop; abutting on a churchyard small and shady. In this domestic chamber Mr Mould now sat; gazing, a placid man, upon his punch and home. If, for a moment at a time, he sought a wider prospect, whence he might return with freshened zest to these enjoyments, his moist glance wandered like a sunbeam through a rural screen of scarlet runners, trained on strings before the window, and he looked down, with an artist’s eye, upon the graves.

The partner of his life, and daughters twain, were Mr Mould’s companions. Plump as any partridge was each Miss Mould, and Mrs M. was plumper than the two together. So round and chubby were their fair proportions, that they might have been the bodies once belonging to the angels’ faces in the shop below, grown up, with other heads attached to make them mortal. Even their peachy cheeks were puffed out and distended, as though they ought of right to be performing on celestial trumpets. The bodiless cherubs in the shop, who were depicted as constantly blowing those instruments for ever and ever without any lungs, played, it is to be presumed, entirely by ear.

Mr Mould looked lovingly at Mrs Mould, who sat hard by, and was a helpmate to him in his punch as in all other things. Each seraph daughter, too, enjoyed her share of his regards, and smiled upon him in return. So bountiful were Mr Mould’s possessions, and so large his stock in trade, that even there, within his household sanctuary, stood a cumbrous press, whose mahogany maw was filled with shrouds, and winding-sheets, and other furniture of funerals. But, though the Misses Mould had been brought up, as one may say, beneath his eye, it had cast no shadow on their timid infancy or blooming youth. Sporting behind the scenes of death and burial from cradlehood, the Misses Mould knew better. Hat-bands, to them, were but so many yards of silk or crape; the final robe but such a quantity of linen. The Misses Mould could idealise a player’s habit, or a court-lady’s petticoat, or even an act of parliament. But they were not to be taken in by palls. They made them sometimes.

The premises of Mr Mould were hard of hearing to the boisterous noises in the great main streets, and nestled in a quiet corner, where the City strife became a drowsy hum, that sometimes rose and sometimes fell and sometimes altogether ceased; suggesting to a thoughtful mind a stoppage in Cheapside. The light came sparkling in among the scarlet runners, as if the churchyard winked at Mr Mould, and said, ‘We understand each other;’ and from the distant shop a pleasant sound arose of coffin-making with a low melodious hammer, rat, tat, tat, tat, alike promoting slumber and digestion.

‘Quite the buzz of insects,’ said Mr Mould, closing his eyes in a perfect luxury. ‘It puts one in mind of the sound of animated nature in the agricultural districts. It’s exactly like the woodpecker tapping.’

‘The woodpecker tapping the hollow Elm tree,’ observed Mrs Mould, adapting the words of the popular melody to the description of wood commonly used in the trade.

‘Ha, ha!’ laughed Mr Mould. ‘Not at all bad, my dear. We shall be glad to hear from you again, Mrs M. Hollow elm tree, eh! Ha, ha! Very good indeed. I’ve seen worse than that in the Sunday papers, my love.’

Mrs Mould, thus encouraged, took a little more of the punch, and handed it to her daughters, who dutifully followed the example of their mother.

‘Hollow Elm tree, eh?’ said Mr Mould, making a slight motion with his legs in his enjoyment of the joke. ‘It’s beech in the song. Elm, eh? Yes, to be sure. Ha, ha, ha! Upon my soul, that’s one of the best things I know?’ He was so excessively tickled by the jest that he couldn’t forget it, but repeated twenty times, ‘Elm, eh? Yes, to be sure. Elm, of course. Ha, ha, ha! Upon my life, you know, that ought to be sent to somebody who could make use of it. It’s one of the smartest things that ever was said. Hollow Elm ree, eh? of course. Very hollow. Ha, ha, ha!’

Here a knock was heard at the room door.

‘That’s Tacker, I know,’ said Mrs Mould, ‘by the wheezing he makes. Who that hears him now, would suppose he’d ever had wind enough to carry the feathers on his head! Come in, Tacker.’

‘Beg your pardon, ma’am,’ said Tacker, looking in a little way. ‘I thought our Governor was here.’

‘Well! so he is,’ cried Mould.

‘Oh! I didn’t see you, I’m sure,’ said Tacker, looking in a little farther. ‘You wouldn’t be inclined to take a walking one of two, with the plain wood and a tin plate, I suppose?’

‘Certainly not,’ replied Mr Mould, ‘much too common. Nothing to say to it.’

‘I told ‘em it was precious low,’ observed Mr Tacker.

‘Tell ‘em to go somewhere else. We don’t do that style of business here,’ said Mr Mould. ‘Like their impudence to propose it. Who is it?’

‘Why,’ returned Tacker, pausing, ‘that’s where it is, you see. It’s the beadle’s son-in-law.’

‘The beadle’s son-in-law, eh?’ said Mould. ‘Well! I’ll do it if the beadle follows in his cocked hat; not else. We carry it off that way, by looking official, but it’ll be low enough, then. His cocked hat, mind!’

‘I’ll take care, sir,’ rejoined Tacker. ‘Oh! Mrs Gamp’s below, and wants to speak to you.’

‘Tell Mrs Gamp to come upstairs,’ said Mould. ‘Now Mrs Gamp, what’s your news?’

The lady in question was by this time in the doorway, curtseying to Mrs Mould. At the same moment a peculiar fragrance was borne upon the breeze, as if a passing fairy had hiccoughed, and had previously been to a wine-vaults.

Mrs Gamp made no response to Mr Mould, but curtseyed to Mrs Mould again, and held up her hands and eyes, as in a devout thanksgiving that she looked so well. She was neatly, but not gaudily attired, in the weeds she had worn when Mr Pecksniff had the pleasure of making her acquaintance; and was perhaps the turning of a scale more snuffy.

‘There are some happy creeturs,’ Mrs Gamp observed, ‘as time runs back’ards with, and you are one, Mrs Mould; not that he need do nothing except use you in his most owldacious way for years to come, I’m sure; for young you are and will be. I says to Mrs Harris,’ Mrs Gamp continued, ‘only t’other day; the last Monday evening fortnight as ever dawned upon this Piljian’s Projiss of a mortal wale; I says to Mrs Harris when she says to me, “Years and our trials, Mrs Gamp, sets marks upon us all.”—“Say not the words, Mrs Harris, if you and me is to be continual friends, for sech is not the case. Mrs Mould,” I says, making so free, I will confess, as use the name,’ (she curtseyed here), ‘“is one of them that goes agen the obserwation straight; and never, Mrs Harris, whilst I’ve a drop of breath to draw, will I set by, and not stand up, don’t think it.”—“I ast your pardon, ma’am,” says Mrs Harris, “and I humbly grant your grace; for if ever a woman lived as would see her feller creeturs into fits to serve her friends, well do I know that woman’s name is Sairey Gamp.”’

At this point she was fain to stop for breath; and advantage may be taken of the circumstance, to state that a fearful mystery surrounded this lady of the name of Harris, whom no one in the circle of Mrs Gamp’s acquaintance had ever seen; neither did any human being know her place of residence, though Mrs Gamp appeared on her own showing to be in constant communication with her. There were conflicting rumours on the subject; but the prevalent opinion was that she was a phantom of Mrs Gamp’s brain—as Messrs. Doe and Roe are fictions of the law—created for the express purpose of holding visionary dialogues with her on all manner of subjects, and invariably winding up with a compliment to the excellence of her nature.

‘And likeways what a pleasure,’ said Mrs Gamp, turning with a tearful smile towards the daughters, ‘to see them two young ladies as I know’d afore a tooth in their pretty heads was cut, and have many a day seen—ah, the sweet creeturs!—playing at berryins down in the shop, and follerin’ the order-book to its long home in the iron safe! But that’s all past and over, Mr Mould;’ as she thus got in a carefully regulated routine to that gentleman, she shook her head waggishly; ‘That’s all past and over now, sir, an’t it?’

‘Changes, Mrs Gamp, changes!’ returned the undertaker.

‘More changes too, to come, afore we’ve done with changes, sir,’ said Mrs Gamp, nodding yet more waggishly than before. ‘Young ladies with such faces thinks of something else besides berryins, don’t they, sir?’

‘I am sure I don’t know, Mrs Gamp,’ said Mould, with a chuckle—‘Not bad in Mrs Gamp, my dear?’

‘Oh yes, you do know, sir!’ said Mrs Gamp, ‘and so does Mrs Mould, your ‘ansome pardner too, sir; and so do I, although the blessing of a daughter was deniged me; which, if we had had one, Gamp would certainly have drunk its little shoes right off its feet, as with our precious boy he did, and arterward send the child a errand to sell his wooden leg for any money it would fetch as matches in the rough, and bring it home in liquor; which was truly done beyond his years, for ev’ry individgle penny that child lost at toss or buy for kidney ones; and come home arterwards quite bold, to break the news, and offering to drown himself if sech would be a satisfaction to his parents.—Oh yes, you do know, sir,’ said Mrs Gamp, wiping her eye with her shawl, and resuming the thread of her discourse. ‘There’s something besides births and berryins in the newspapers, an’t there, Mr Mould?’

Mr Mould winked at Mrs Mould, whom he had by this time taken on his knee, and said: ‘No doubt. A good deal more, Mrs Gamp. Upon my life, Mrs Gamp is very far from bad, my dear!’

‘There’s marryings, an’t there, sir?’ said Mrs Gamp, while both the daughters blushed and tittered. ‘Bless their precious hearts, and well they knows it! Well you know’d it too, and well did Mrs Mould, when you was at their time of life! But my opinion is, you’re all of one age now. For as to you and Mrs Mould, sir, ever having grandchildren—’

‘Oh! Fie, fie! Nonsense, Mrs Gamp,’ replied the undertaker. ‘Devilish smart, though. Ca-pi-tal!’—this was in a whisper. ‘My dear’—aloud again—‘Mrs Gamp can drink a glass of rum, I dare say. Sit down, Mrs Gamp, sit down.’

Mrs Gamp took the chair that was nearest the door, and casting up her eyes towards the ceiling, feigned to be wholly insensible to the fact of a glass of rum being in preparation, until it was placed in her hand by one of the young ladies, when she exhibited the greatest surprise.

‘A thing,’ she said, ‘as hardly ever, Mrs Mould, occurs with me unless it is when I am indispoged, and find my half a pint of porter settling heavy on the chest. Mrs Harris often and often says to me, “Sairey Gamp,” she says, “you raly do amaze me!” “Mrs Harris,” I says to her, “why so? Give it a name, I beg.” “Telling the truth then, ma’am,” says Mrs Harris, “and shaming him as shall be nameless betwixt you and me, never did I think till I know’d you, as any woman could sick-nurse and monthly likeways, on the little that you takes to drink.” “Mrs Harris,” I says to her, “none on us knows what we can do till we tries; and wunst, when me and Gamp kept ‘ouse, I thought so too. But now,” I says, “my half a pint of porter fully satisfies; perwisin’, Mrs Harris, that it is brought reg’lar, and draw’d mild. Whether I sicks or monthlies, ma’am, I hope I does my duty, but I am but a poor woman, and I earns my living hard; therefore I do require it, which I makes confession, to be brought reg’lar and draw’d mild.”’

The precise connection between these observations and the glass of rum, did not appear; for Mrs Gamp proposing as a toast ‘The best of lucks to all!’ took off the dram in quite a scientific manner, without any further remarks.

‘And what’s your news, Mrs Gamp?’ asked Mould again, as that lady wiped her lips upon her shawl, and nibbled a corner off a soft biscuit, which she appeared to carry in her pocket as a provision against contingent drams. ‘How’s Mr Chuffey?’

‘Mr Chuffey, sir,’ she replied, ‘is jest as usual; he an’t no better and he an’t no worse. I take it very kind in the gentleman to have wrote up to you and said, “let Mrs Gamp take care of him till I come home;” but ev’rythink he does is kind. There an’t a many like him. If there was, we shouldn’t want no churches.’

‘What do you want to speak to me about, Mrs Gamp?’ said Mould, coming to the point.

‘Jest this, sir,’ Mrs Gamp returned, ‘with thanks to you for asking. There is a gent, sir, at the Bull in Holborn, as has been took ill there, and is bad abed. They have a day nurse as was recommended from Bartholomew’s; and well I knows her, Mr Mould, her name bein’ Mrs Prig, the best of creeturs. But she is otherways engaged at night, and they are in wants of night-watching; consequent she says to them, having reposed the greatest friendliness in me for twenty year, “The soberest person going, and the best of blessings in a sick room, is Mrs Gamp. Send a boy to Kingsgate Street,” she says, “and snap her up at any price, for Mrs Gamp is worth her weight and more in goldian guineas.” My landlord brings the message down to me, and says, “bein’ in a light place where you are, and this job promising so well, why not unite the two?” “No, sir,” I says, “not unbeknown to Mr Mould, and therefore do not think it. But I will go to Mr Mould,” I says, “and ast him, if you like.”’ Here she looked sideways at the undertaker, and came to a stop.

‘Night-watching, eh?’ said Mould, rubbing his chin.

‘From eight o’clock till eight, sir. I will not deceive you,’ Mrs Gamp rejoined.

‘And then go back, eh?’ said would.

‘Quite free, then, sir, to attend to Mr Chuffey. His ways bein’ quiet, and his hours early, he’d be abed, sir, nearly all the time. I will not deny,’ said Mrs Gamp with meekness, ‘that I am but a poor woman, and that the money is a object; but do not let that act upon you, Mr Mould. Rich folks may ride on camels, but it an’t so easy for ‘em to see out of a needle’s eye. That is my comfort, and I hope I knows it.’

‘Well, Mrs Gamp,’ observed Mould, ‘I don’t see any particular objection to your earning an honest penny under such circumstances. I should keep it quiet, I think, Mrs Gamp. I wouldn’t mention it to Mr Chuzzlewit on his return, for instance, unless it were necessary, or he asked you pointblank.’

‘The very words was on my lips, sir,’ Mrs Gamp rejoined. ‘Suppoging that the gent should die, I hope I might take the liberty of saying as I know’d some one in the undertaking line, and yet give no offence to you, sir?’

‘Certainly, Mrs Gamp,’ said Mould, with much condescension. ‘You may casually remark, in such a case, that we do the thing pleasantly and in a great variety of styles, and are generally considered to make it as agreeable as possible to the feelings of the survivors. But don’t obtrude it, don’t obtrude it. Easy, easy! My dear, you may as well give Mrs Gamp a card or two, if you please.’

Mrs Gamp received them, and scenting no more rum in the wind (for the bottle was locked up again) rose to take her departure.

‘Wishing ev’ry happiness to this happy family,’ said Mrs Gamp ‘with all my heart. Good arternoon, Mrs Mould! If I was Mr would I should be jealous of you, ma’am; and I’m sure, if I was you, I should be jealous of Mr Mould.’

‘Tut, tut! Bah, bah! Go along, Mrs Gamp!’ cried the delighted undertaker.

‘As to the young ladies,’ said Mrs Gamp, dropping a curtsey, ‘bless their sweet looks—how they can ever reconsize it with their duties to be so grown up with such young parents, it an’t for sech as me to give a guess at.’

‘Nonsense, nonsense. Be off, Mrs Gamp!’ cried Mould. But in the height of his gratification he actually pinched Mrs Mould as he said it.

‘I’ll tell you what, my dear,’ he observed, when Mrs Gamp had at last withdrawn and shut the door, ‘that’s a ve-ry shrewd woman. That’s a woman whose intellect is immensely superior to her station in life. That’s a woman who observes and reflects in an uncommon manner. She’s the sort of woman now,’ said Mould, drawing his silk handkerchief over his head again, and composing himself for a nap ‘one would almost feel disposed to bury for nothing; and do it neatly, too!’

Mrs Mould and her daughters fully concurred in these remarks; the subject of which had by this time reached the street, where she experienced so much inconvenience from the air, that she was obliged to stand under an archway for a short time, to recover herself. Even after this precaution, she walked so unsteadily as to attract the compassionate regards of divers kind-hearted boys, who took the liveliest interest in her disorder; and in their simple language bade her be of good cheer, for she was ‘only a little screwed.’

Whatever she was, or whatever name the vocabulary of medical science would have bestowed upon her malady, Mrs Gamp was perfectly acquainted with the way home again; and arriving at the house of Anthony Chuzzlewit & Son, lay down to rest. Remaining there until seven o’clock in the evening, and then persuading poor old Chuffey to betake himself to bed, she sallied forth upon her new engagement. First, she went to her private lodgings in Kingsgate Street, for a bundle of robes and wrappings comfortable in the night season; and then repaired to the Bull in Holborn, which she reached as the clocks were striking eight.

As she turned into the yard, she stopped; for the landlord, landlady, and head chambermaid, were all on the threshold together talking earnestly with a young gentleman who seemed to have just come or to be just going away. The first words that struck upon Mrs Gamp’s ear obviously bore reference to the patient; and it being expedient that all good attendants should know as much as possible about the case on which their skill is brought to bear, Mrs Gamp listened as a matter of duty.

‘No better, then?’ observed the gentleman.

‘Worse!’ said the landlord.

‘Much worse,’ added the landlady.

‘Oh! a deal badder,’ cried the chambermaid from the background, opening her eyes very wide, and shaking her head.

‘Poor fellow!’ said the gentleman, ‘I am sorry to hear it. The worst of it is, that I have no idea what friends or relations he has, or where they live, except that it certainly is not in London.’

The landlord looked at the landlady; the landlady looked at the landlord; and the chambermaid remarked, hysterically, ‘that of all the many wague directions she had ever seen or heerd of (and they wasn’t few in an hotel), that was the waguest.’

‘The fact is, you see,’ pursued the gentleman, ‘as I told you yesterday when you sent to me, I really know very little about him. We were school-fellows together; but since that time I have only met him twice. On both occasions I was in London for a boy’s holiday (having come up for a week or so from Wiltshire), and lost sight of him again directly. The letter bearing my name and address which you found upon his table, and which led to your applying to me, is in answer, you will observe, to one he wrote from this house the very day he was taken ill, making an appointment with him at his own request. Here is his letter, if you wish to see it.’

The landlord read it; the landlady looked over him. The chambermaid, in the background, made out as much of it as she could, and invented the rest; believing it all from that time forth as a positive piece of evidence.

‘He has very little luggage, you say?’ observed the gentleman, who was no other than our old friend, John Westlock.

‘Nothing but a portmanteau,’ said the landlord; ‘and very little in it.’

‘A few pounds in his purse, though?’

‘Yes. It’s sealed up, and in the cash-box. I made a memorandum of the amount, which you’re welcome to see.’

‘Well!’ said John, ‘as the medical gentleman says the fever must take its course, and nothing can be done just now beyond giving him his drinks regularly and having him carefully attended to, nothing more can be said that I know of, until he is in a condition to give us some information. Can you suggest anything else?’

‘N-no,’ replied the landlord, ‘except—’

‘Except, who’s to pay, I suppose?’ said John.

‘Why,’ hesitated the landlord, ‘it would be as well.’

‘Quite as well,’ said the landlady.

‘Not forgetting to remember the servants,’ said the chambermaid in a bland whisper.

‘It is but reasonable, I fully admit,’ said John Westlock. ‘At all events, you have the stock in hand to go upon for the present; and I will readily undertake to pay the doctor and the nurses.’

‘Ah!’ cried Mrs Gamp. ‘A rayal gentleman!’

She groaned her admiration so audibly, that they all turned round. Mrs Gamp felt the necessity of advancing, bundle in hand, and introducing herself.

‘The night-nurse,’ she observed, ‘from Kingsgate Street, well beknown to Mrs Prig the day-nurse, and the best of creeturs. How is the poor dear gentleman to-night? If he an’t no better yet, still that is what must be expected and prepared for. It an’t the fust time by a many score, ma’am,’ dropping a curtsey to the landlady, ‘that Mrs Prig and me has nussed together, turn and turn about, one off, one on. We knows each other’s ways, and often gives relief when others fail. Our charges is but low, sir’—Mrs Gamp addressed herself to John on this head—‘considerin’ the nater of our painful dooty. If they wos made accordin’ to our wishes, they would be easy paid.’

Regarding herself as having now delivered her inauguration address, Mrs Gamp curtseyed all round, and signified her wish to be conducted to the scene of her official duties. The chambermaid led her, through a variety of intricate passages, to the top of the house; and pointing at length to a solitary door at the end of a gallery, informed her that yonder was the chamber where the patient lay. That done, she hurried off with all the speed she could make.

Mrs Gamp traversed the gallery in a great heat from having carried her large bundle up so many stairs, and tapped at the door which was immediately opened by Mrs Prig, bonneted and shawled and all impatience to be gone. Mrs Prig was of the Gamp build, but not so fat; and her voice was deeper and more like a man’s. She had also a beard.

‘I began to think you warn’t a-coming!’ Mrs Prig observed, in some displeasure.

‘It shall be made good to-morrow night,’ said Mrs Gamp ‘Honorable. I had to go and fetch my things.’ She had begun to make signs of inquiry in reference to the position of the patient and his overhearing them—for there was a screen before the door—when Mrs Prig settled that point easily.

‘Oh!’ she said aloud, ‘he’s quiet, but his wits is gone. It an’t no matter wot you say.’

‘Anythin’ to tell afore you goes, my dear?’ asked Mrs Gamp, setting her bundle down inside the door, and looking affectionately at her partner.

‘The pickled salmon,’ Mrs Prig replied, ‘is quite delicious. I can partlck’ler recommend it. Don’t have nothink to say to the cold meat, for it tastes of the stable. The drinks is all good.’

Mrs Gamp expressed herself much gratified.

‘The physic and them things is on the drawers and mankleshelf,’ said Mrs Prig, cursorily. ‘He took his last slime draught at seven. The easy-chair an’t soft enough. You’ll want his piller.’

Mrs Gamp thanked her for these hints, and giving her a friendly good night, held the door open until she had disappeared at the other end of the gallery. Having thus performed the hospitable duty of seeing her safely off, she shut it, locked it on the inside, took up her bundle, walked round the screen, and entered on her occupation of the sick chamber.

‘A little dull, but not so bad as might be,’ Mrs Gamp remarked. ‘I’m glad to see a parapidge, in case of fire, and lots of roofs and chimley-pots to walk upon.’

It will be seen from these remarks that Mrs Gamp was looking out of window. When she had exhausted the prospect, she tried the easy-chair, which she indignantly declared was ‘harder than a brickbadge.’ Next she pursued her researches among the physic-bottles, glasses, jugs, and tea-cups; and when she had entirely satisfied her curiosity on all these subjects of investigation, she untied her bonnet-strings and strolled up to the bedside to take a look at the patient.

A young man—dark and not ill-looking—with long black hair, that seemed the blacker for the whiteness of the bed-clothes. His eyes were partly open, and he never ceased to roll his head from side to side upon the pillow, keeping his body almost quiet. He did not utter words; but every now and then gave vent to an expression of impatience or fatigue, sometimes of surprise; and still his restless head—oh, weary, weary hour!—went to and fro without a moment’s intermission.

Mrs Gamp solaced herself with a pinch of snuff, and stood looking at him with her head inclined a little sideways, as a connoisseur might gaze upon a doubtful work of art. By degrees, a horrible remembrance of one branch of her calling took possession of the woman; and stooping down, she pinned his wandering arms against his sides, to see how he would look if laid out as a dead man. Her fingers itched to compose his limbs in that last marble attitude.

‘Ah!’ said Mrs Gamp, walking away from the bed, ‘he’d make a lovely corpse.’

She now proceeded to unpack her bundle; lighted a candle with the aid of a fire-box on the drawers; filled a small kettle, as a preliminary to refreshing herself with a cup of tea in the course of the night; laid what she called ‘a little bit of fire,’ for the same philanthropic purpose; and also set forth a small tea-board, that nothing might be wanting for her comfortable enjoyment. These preparations occupied so long, that when they were brought to a conclusion it was high time to think about supper; so she rang the bell and ordered it.

‘I think, young woman,’ said Mrs Gamp to the assistant chambermaid, in a tone expressive of weakness, ‘that I could pick a little bit of pickled salmon, with a nice little sprig of fennel, and a sprinkling of white pepper. I takes new bread, my dear, with just a little pat of fresh butter, and a mossel of cheese. In case there should be such a thing as a cowcumber in the ‘ouse, will you be so kind as bring it, for I’m rather partial to ‘em, and they does a world of good in a sick room. If they draws the Brighton Old Tipper here, I takes that ale at night, my love, it bein’ considered wakeful by the doctors. And whatever you do, young woman, don’t bring more than a shilling’s-worth of gin and water-warm when I rings the bell a second time; for that is always my allowance, and I never takes a drop beyond!’

Having preferred these moderate requests, Mrs Gamp observed that she would stand at the door until the order was executed, to the end that the patient might not be disturbed by her opening it a second time; and therefore she would thank the young woman to ‘look sharp.’

A tray was brought with everything upon it, even to the cucumber and Mrs Gamp accordingly sat down to eat and drink in high good humour. The extent to which she availed herself of the vinegar, and supped up that refreshing fluid with the blade of her knife, can scarcely be expressed in narrative.

‘Ah!’ sighed Mrs Gamp, as she meditated over the warm shilling’s-worth, ‘what a blessed thing it is—living in a wale—to be contented! What a blessed thing it is to make sick people happy in their beds, and never mind one’s self as long as one can do a service! I don’t believe a finer cowcumber was ever grow’d. I’m sure I never see one!’

She moralised in the same vein until her glass was empty, and then administered the patient’s medicine, by the simple process of clutching his windpipe to make him gasp, and immediately pouring it down his throat.

‘I a’most forgot the piller, I declare!’ said Mrs Gamp, drawing it away. ‘There! Now he’s comfortable as he can be, I’m sure! I must try to make myself as much so as I can.’

With this view, she went about the construction of an extemporaneous bed in the easy-chair, with the addition of the next easy one for her feet. Having formed the best couch that the circumstances admitted of, she took out of her bundle a yellow night-cap, of prodigious size, in shape resembling a cabbage; which article of dress she fixed and tied on with the utmost care, previously divesting herself of a row of bald old curls that could scarcely be called false, they were so very innocent of anything approaching to deception. From the same repository she brought forth a night-jacket, in which she also attired herself. Finally, she produced a watchman’s coat which she tied round her neck by the sleeves, so that she become two people; and looked, behind, as if she were in the act of being embraced by one of the old patrol.

All these arrangements made, she lighted the rush-light, coiled herself up on her couch, and went to sleep. Ghostly and dark the room became, and full of lowering shadows. The distant noises in the streets were gradually hushed; the house was quiet as a sepulchre; the dead of night was coffined in the silent city.

Oh, weary, weary hour! Oh, haggard mind, groping darkly through the past; incapable of detaching itself from the miserable present; dragging its heavy chain of care through imaginary feasts and revels, and scenes of awful pomp; seeking but a moment’s rest among the long-forgotten haunts of childhood, and the resorts of yesterday; and dimly finding fear and horror everywhere! Oh, weary, weary hour! What were the wanderings of Cain, to these!

Still, without a moment’s interval, the burning head tossed to and fro. Still, from time to time, fatigue, impatience, suffering, and surprise, found utterance upon that rack, and plainly too, though never once in words. At length, in the solemn hour of midnight, he began to talk; waiting awfully for answers sometimes; as though invisible companions were about his bed; and so replying to their speech and questioning again.

Mrs Gamp awoke, and sat up in her bed; presenting on the wall the shadow of a gigantic night constable, struggling with a prisoner.

‘Come! Hold your tongue!’ she cried, in sharp reproof. ‘Don’t make none of that noise here.’

There was no alteration in the face, or in the incessant motion of the head, but he talked on wildly.

‘Ah!’ said Mrs Gamp, coming out of the chair with an impatient shiver; ‘I thought I was a-sleepin’ too pleasant to last! The devil’s in the night, I think, it’s turned so chilly!’

‘Don’t drink so much!’ cried the sick man. ‘You’ll ruin us all. Don’t you see how the fountain sinks? Look at the mark where the sparkling water was just now!’

‘Sparkling water, indeed!’ said Mrs Gamp. ‘I’ll have a sparkling cup o’ tea, I think. I wish you’d hold your noise!’

He burst into a laugh, which, being prolonged, fell off into a dismal wail. Checking himself, with fierce inconstancy he began to count—fast.

‘One—two—three—four—five—six.’

“One, two, buckle my shoe,”’ said Mrs Gamp, who was now on her knees, lighting the fire, “three, four, shut the door,”—I wish you’d shut your mouth, young man—“five, six, picking up sticks.” If I’d got a few handy, I should have the kettle boiling all the sooner.’

Awaiting this desirable consummation, she sat down so close to the fender (which was a high one) that her nose rested upon it; and for some time she drowsily amused herself by sliding that feature backwards and forwards along the brass top, as far as she could, without changing her position to do it. She maintained, all the while, a running commentary upon the wanderings of the man in bed.

‘That makes five hundred and twenty-one men, all dressed alike, and with the same distortion on their faces, that have passed in at the window, and out at the door,’ he cried, anxiously. ‘Look there! Five hundred and twenty-two—twenty-three—twenty-four. Do you see them?’

‘Ah! I see ‘em,’ said Mrs Gamp; ‘all the whole kit of ‘em numbered like hackney-coaches, an’t they?’

‘Touch me! Let me be sure of this. Touch me!’

‘You’ll take your next draught when I’ve made the kettle bile,’ retorted Mrs Gamp, composedly, ‘and you’ll be touched then. You’ll be touched up, too, if you don’t take it quiet.’

‘Five hundred and twenty-eight, five hundred and twenty-nine, five hundred and thirty.—Look here!’

‘What’s the matter now?’ said Mrs Gamp.

‘They’re coming four abreast, each man with his arm entwined in the next man’s, and his hand upon his shoulder. What’s that upon the arm of every man, and on the flag?’

‘Spiders, p’raps,’ said Mrs Gamp.

‘Crape! Black crape! Good God! why do they wear it outside?’

‘Would you have ‘em carry black crape in their insides?’ Mrs Gamp retorted. ‘Hold your noise, hold your noise.’

The fire beginning by this time to impart a grateful warmth, Mrs Gamp became silent; gradually rubbed her nose more and more slowly along the top of the fender; and fell into a heavy doze. She was awakened by the room ringing (as she fancied) with a name she knew:

‘Chuzzlewit!’

The sound was so distinct and real, and so full of agonised entreaty, that Mrs Gamp jumped up in terror, and ran to the door. She expected to find the passage filled with people, come to tell her that the house in the city had taken fire. But the place was empty; not a soul was there. She opened the window, and looked out. Dark, dull, dingy, and desolate house-tops. As she passed to her seat again, she glanced at the patient. Just the same; but silent. Mrs Gamp was so warm now, that she threw off the watchman’s coat, and fanned herself.

‘It seemed to make the wery bottles ring,’ she said. ‘What could I have been a-dreaming of? That dratted Chuffey, I’ll be bound.’

The supposition was probable enough. At any rate, a pinch of snuff, and the song of the steaming kettle, quite restored the tone of Mrs Gamp’s nerves, which were none of the weakest. She brewed her tea; made some buttered toast; and sat down at the tea-board, with her face to the fire.

When once again, in a tone more terrible than that which had vibrated in her slumbering ear, these words were shrieked out:

‘Chuzzlewit! Jonas! No!’

Mrs Gamp dropped the cup she was in the act of raising to her lips, and turned round with a start that made the little tea-board leap. The cry had come from the bed.

It was bright morning the next time Mrs Gamp looked out of the window, and the sun was rising cheerfully. Lighter and lighter grew the sky, and noisier the streets; and high into the summer air uprose the smoke of newly kindled fires, until the busy day was broad awake.

Mrs Prig relieved punctually, having passed a good night at her other patient’s. Mr Westlock came at the same time, but he was not admitted, the disorder being infectious. The doctor came too. The doctor shook his head. It was all he could do, under the circumstances, and he did it well.

‘What sort of a night, nurse?’

‘Restless, sir,’ said Mrs Gamp.

‘Talk much?’

‘Middling, sir,’ said Mrs Gamp.

‘Nothing to the purpose, I suppose?’

‘Oh bless you, no, sir. Only jargon.’

‘Well!’ said the doctor, ‘we must keep him quiet; keep the room cool; give him his draughts regularly; and see that he’s carefully looked to. That’s all!’

‘And as long as Mrs Prig and me waits upon him, sir, no fear of that,’ said Mrs Gamp.

‘I suppose,’ observed Mrs Prig, when they had curtseyed the doctor out; ‘there’s nothin’ new?’

‘Nothin’ at all, my dear,’ said Mrs Gamp. ‘He’s rather wearin’ in his talk from making up a lot of names; elseways you needn’t mind him.’

‘Oh, I shan’t mind him,’ Mrs Prig returned. ‘I have somethin’ else to think of.’

‘I pays my debts to-night, you know, my dear, and comes afore my time,’ said Mrs Gamp. ‘But, Betsy Prig’—speaking with great feeling, and laying her hand upon her arm—‘try the cowcumbers, God bless you!’