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Martin Chuzzlewit

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CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE. MR PINCH IS DISCHARGED OF A DUTY WHICH HE NEVER OWED TO ANYBODY, AND MR PECKSNIFF DISCHARGES A DUTY WHICH HE OWES TO SOCIETY


The closing words of the last chapter lead naturally to the commencement of this, its successor; for it has to do with a church. With the church, so often mentioned heretofore, in which Tom Pinch played the organ for nothing.

One sultry afternoon, about a week after Miss Charity’s departure for London, Mr Pecksniff being out walking by himself, took it into his head to stray into the churchyard. As he was lingering among the tombstones, endeavouring to extract an available sentiment or two from the epitaphs—for he never lost an opportunity of making up a few moral crackers, to be let off as occasion served—Tom Pinch began to practice. Tom could run down to the church and do so whenever he had time to spare; for it was a simple little organ, provided with wind by the action of the musician’s feet; and he was independent, even of a bellows-blower. Though if Tom had wanted one at any time, there was not a man or boy in all the village, and away to the turnpike (tollman included), but would have blown away for him till he was black in the face.

Mr Pecksniff had no objection to music; not the least. He was tolerant of everything; he often said so. He considered it a vagabond kind of trifling, in general, just suited to Tom’s capacity. But in regard to Tom’s performance upon this same organ, he was remarkably lenient, singularly amiable; for when Tom played it on Sundays, Mr Pecksniff in his unbounded sympathy felt as if he played it himself, and were a benefactor to the congregation. So whenever it was impossible to devise any other means of taking the value of Tom’s wages out of him, Mr Pecksniff gave him leave to cultivate this instrument. For which mark of his consideration Tom was very grateful.

The afternoon was remarkably warm, and Mr Pecksniff had been strolling a long way. He had not what may be called a fine ear for music, but he knew when it had a tranquilizing influence on his soul; and that was the case now, for it sounded to him like a melodious snore. He approached the church, and looking through the diamond lattice of a window near the porch, saw Tom, with the curtains in the loft drawn back, playing away with great expression and tenderness.

The church had an inviting air of coolness. The old oak roof supported by cross-beams, the hoary walls, the marble tablets, and the cracked stone pavement, were refreshing to look at. There were leaves of ivy tapping gently at the opposite windows; and the sun poured in through only one; leaving the body of the church in tempting shade. But the most tempting spot of all, was one red-curtained and soft-cushioned pew, wherein the official dignitaries of the place (of whom Mr Pecksniff was the head and chief) enshrined themselves on Sundays. Mr Pecksniff’s seat was in the corner; a remarkably comfortable corner; where his very large Prayer-Book was at that minute making the most of its quarto self upon the desk. He determined to go in and rest.

He entered very softly; in part because it was a church; in part because his tread was always soft; in part because Tom played a solemn tune; in part because he thought he would surprise him when he stopped. Unbolting the door of the high pew of state, he glided in and shut it after him; then sitting in his usual place, and stretching out his legs upon the hassocks, he composed himself to listen to the music.

It is an unaccountable circumstance that he should have felt drowsy there, where the force of association might surely have been enough to keep him wide awake; but he did. He had not been in the snug little corner five minutes before he began to nod. He had not recovered himself one minute before he began to nod again. In the very act of opening his eyes indolently, he nodded again. In the very act of shutting them, he nodded again. So he fell out of one nod into another until at last he ceased to nod at all, and was as fast as the church itself.

He had a consciousness of the organ, long after he fell asleep, though as to its being an organ he had no more idea of that than he had of its being a bull. After a while he began to have at intervals the same dreamy impressions of voices; and awakening to an indolent curiosity upon the subject, opened his eyes.

He was so indolent, that after glancing at the hassocks and the pew, he was already half-way off to sleep again, when it occurred to him that there really were voices in the church; low voices, talking earnestly hard by; while the echoes seemed to mutter responses. He roused himself, and listened.

Before he had listened half a dozen seconds, he became as broad awake as ever he had been in all his life. With eyes, and ears, and mouth, wide open, he moved himself a very little with the utmost caution, and gathering the curtain in his hand, peeped out.

Tom Pinch and Mary. Of course. He had recognized their voices, and already knew the topic they discussed. Looking like the small end of a guillotined man, with his chin on a level with the top of the pew, so that he might duck down immediately in case of either of them turning round, he listened. Listened with such concentrated eagerness, that his very hair and shirt-collar stood bristling up to help him.

‘No,’ cried Tom. ‘No letters have ever reached me, except that one from New York. But don’t be uneasy on that account, for it’s very likely they have gone away to some far-off place, where the posts are neither regular nor frequent. He said in that very letter that it might be so, even in that city to which they thought of travelling—Eden, you know.’

‘It is a great weight upon my mind,’ said Mary.

‘Oh, but you mustn’t let it be,’ said Tom. ‘There’s a true saying that nothing travels so fast as ill news; and if the slightest harm had happened to Martin, you may be sure you would have heard of it long ago. I have often wished to say this to you,’ Tom continued with an embarrassment that became him very well, ‘but you have never given me an opportunity.’

‘I have sometimes been almost afraid,’ said Mary, ‘that you might suppose I hesitated to confide in you, Mr Pinch.’

‘No,’ Tom stammered, ‘I—I am not aware that I ever supposed that. I am sure that if I have, I have checked the thought directly, as an injustice to you. I feel the delicacy of your situation in having to confide in me at all,’ said Tom, ‘but I would risk my life to save you from one day’s uneasiness; indeed I would!’

Poor Tom!

‘I have dreaded sometimes,’ Tom continued, ‘that I might have displeased you by—by having the boldness to try and anticipate your wishes now and then. At other times I have fancied that your kindness prompted you to keep aloof from me.’

‘Indeed!’

‘It was very foolish; very presumptuous and ridiculous, to think so,’ Tom pursued; ‘but I feared you might suppose it possible that I—I—should admire you too much for my own peace; and so denied yourself the slight assistance you would otherwise have accepted from me. If such an idea has ever presented itself to you,’ faltered Tom, ‘pray dismiss it. I am easily made happy; and I shall live contented here long after you and Martin have forgotten me. I am a poor, shy, awkward creature; not at all a man of the world; and you should think no more of me, bless you, than if I were an old friar!’

If friars bear such hearts as thine, Tom, let friars multiply; though they have no such rule in all their stern arithmetic.

‘Dear Mr Pinch!’ said Mary, giving him her hand; ‘I cannot tell you how your kindness moves me. I have never wronged you by the lightest doubt, and have never for an instant ceased to feel that you were all—much more than all—that Martin found you. Without the silent care and friendship I have experienced from you, my life here would have been unhappy. But you have been a good angel to me; filling me with gratitude of heart, hope, and courage.’

‘I am as little like an angel, I am afraid,’ replied Tom, shaking his head, ‘as any stone cherubim among the grave-stones; and I don’t think there are many real angels of that pattern. But I should like to know (if you will tell me) why you have been so very silent about Martin.’

‘Because I have been afraid,’ said Mary, ‘of injuring you.’

‘Of injuring me!’ cried Tom.

‘Of doing you an injury with your employer.’

The gentleman in question dived.

‘With Pecksniff!’ rejoined Tom, with cheerful confidence. ‘Oh dear, he’d never think of us! He’s the best of men. The more at ease you were, the happier he would be. Oh dear, you needn’t be afraid of Pecksniff. He is not a spy.’

Many a man in Mr Pecksniff’s place, if he could have dived through the floor of the pew of state and come out at Calcutta or any inhabited region on the other side of the earth, would have done it instantly. Mr Pecksniff sat down upon a hassock, and listening more attentively than ever, smiled.

Mary seemed to have expressed some dissent in the meanwhile, for Tom went on to say, with honest energy:

‘Well, I don’t know how it is, but it always happens, whenever I express myself in this way to anybody almost, that I find they won’t do justice to Pecksniff. It is one of the most extraordinary circumstances that ever came within my knowledge, but it is so. There’s John Westlock, who used to be a pupil here, one of the best-hearted young men in the world, in all other matters—I really believe John would have Pecksniff flogged at the cart’s tail if he could. And John is not a solitary case, for every pupil we have had in my time has gone away with the same inveterate hatred of him. There was Mark Tapley, too, quite in another station of life,’ said Tom; ‘the mockery he used to make of Pecksniff when he was at the Dragon was shocking. Martin too: Martin was worse than any of ‘em. But I forgot. He prepared you to dislike Pecksniff, of course. So you came with a prejudice, you know, Miss Graham, and are not a fair witness.’

Tom triumphed very much in this discovery, and rubbed his hands with great satisfaction.

‘Mr Pinch,’ said Mary, ‘you mistake him.’

‘No, no!’ cried Tom. ‘You mistake him. But,’ he added, with a rapid change in his tone, ‘what is the matter? Miss Graham, what is the matter?’

Mr Pecksniff brought up to the top of the pew, by slow degrees, his hair, his forehead, his eyebrow, his eye. She was sitting on a bench beside the door with her hands before her face; and Tom was bending over her.

‘What is the matter?’ cried Tom. ‘Have I said anything to hurt you? Has any one said anything to hurt you? Don’t cry. Pray tell me what it is. I cannot bear to see you so distressed. Mercy on us, I never was so surprised and grieved in all my life!’

Mr Pecksniff kept his eye in the same place. He could have moved it now for nothing short of a gimlet or a red-hot wire.

‘I wouldn’t have told you, Mr Pinch,’ said Mary, ‘if I could have helped it; but your delusion is so absorbing, and it is so necessary that we should be upon our guard; that you should not be compromised; and to that end that you should know by whom I am beset; that no alternative is left me. I came here purposely to tell you, but I think I should have wanted courage if you had not chanced to lead me so directly to the object of my coming.’

Tom gazed at her steadfastly, and seemed to say, ‘What else?’ But he said not a word.

‘That person whom you think the best of men,’ said Mary, looking up, and speaking with a quivering lip and flashing eye.

‘Lord bless me!’ muttered Tom, staggering back. ‘Wait a moment. That person whom I think the best of men! You mean Pecksniff, of course. Yes, I see you mean Pecksniff. Good gracious me, don’t speak without authority. What has he done? If he is not the best of men, what is he?’

‘The worst. The falsest, craftiest, meanest, cruellest, most sordid, most shameless,’ said the trembling girl—trembling with her indignation.

Tom sat down on a seat, and clasped his hands.

‘What is he,’ said Mary, ‘who receiving me in his house as his guest; his unwilling guest; knowing my history, and how defenceless and alone I am, presumes before his daughters to affront me so, that if I had a brother but a child, who saw it, he would instinctively have helped me?’

‘He is a scoundrel!’ exclaimed Tom. ‘Whoever he may be, he is a scoundrel.’

Mr Pecksniff dived again.

‘What is he,’ said Mary, ‘who, when my only friend—a dear and kind one, too—was in full health of mind, humbled himself before him, but was spurned away (for he knew him then) like a dog. Who, in his forgiving spirit, now that that friend is sunk into a failing state, can crawl about him again, and use the influence he basely gains for every base and wicked purpose, and not for one—not one—that’s true or good?’

‘I say he is a scoundrel!’ answered Tom.

‘But what is he—oh, Mr Pinch, what is he—who, thinking he could compass these designs the better if I were his wife, assails me with the coward’s argument that if I marry him, Martin, on whom I have brought so much misfortune, shall be restored to something of his former hopes; and if I do not, shall be plunged in deeper ruin? What is he who makes my very constancy to one I love with all my heart a torture to myself and wrong to him; who makes me, do what I will, the instrument to hurt a head I would heap blessings on! What is he who, winding all these cruel snares about me, explains their purpose to me, with a smooth tongue and a smiling face, in the broad light of day; dragging me on, the while, in his embrace, and holding to his lips a hand,’ pursued the agitated girl, extending it, ‘which I would have struck off, if with it I could lose the shame and degradation of his touch?’

‘I say,’ cried Tom, in great excitement, ‘he is a scoundrel and a villain! I don’t care who he is, I say he is a double-dyed and most intolerable villain!’

Covering her face with her hands again, as if the passion which had sustained her through these disclosures lost itself in an overwhelming sense of shame and grief, she abandoned herself to tears.

Any sight of distress was sure to move the tenderness of Tom, but this especially. Tears and sobs from her were arrows in his heart. He tried to comfort her; sat down beside her; expended all his store of homely eloquence; and spoke in words of praise and hope of Martin. Aye, though he loved her from his soul with such a self-denying love as woman seldom wins; he spoke from first to last of Martin. Not the wealth of the rich Indies would have tempted Tom to shirk one mention of her lover’s name.

When she was more composed, she impressed upon Tom that this man she had described, was Pecksniff in his real colours; and word by word and phrase by phrase, as well as she remembered it, related what had passed between them in the wood: which was no doubt a source of high gratification to that gentleman himself, who in his desire to see and his dread of being seen, was constantly diving down into the state pew, and coming up again like the intelligent householder in Punch’s Show, who avoids being knocked on the head with a cudgel. When she had concluded her account, and had besought Tom to be very distant and unconscious in his manner towards her after this explanation, and had thanked him very much, they parted on the alarm of footsteps in the burial-ground; and Tom was left alone in the church again.

And now the full agitation and misery of the disclosure came rushing upon Tom indeed. The star of his whole life from boyhood had become, in a moment, putrid vapour. It was not that Pecksniff, Tom’s Pecksniff, had ceased to exist, but that he never had existed. In his death Tom would have had the comfort of remembering what he used to be, but in this discovery, he had the anguish of recollecting what he never was. For, as Tom’s blindness in this matter had been total and not partial, so was his restored sight. His Pecksniff could never have worked the wickedness of which he had just now heard, but any other Pecksniff could; and the Pecksniff who could do that could do anything, and no doubt had been doing anything and everything except the right thing, all through his career. From the lofty height on which poor Tom had placed his idol it was tumbled down headlong, and

     Not all the king’s horses, nor all the king’s men,
     Could have set Mr Pecksniff up again.

Legions of Titans couldn’t have got him out of the mud; and serve him right! But it was not he who suffered; it was Tom. His compass was broken, his chart destroyed, his chronometer had stopped, his masts were gone by the board; his anchor was adrift, ten thousand leagues away.

Mr Pecksniff watched him with a lively interest, for he divined the purpose of Tom’s ruminations, and was curious to see how he conducted himself. For some time, Tom wandered up and down the aisle like a man demented, stopping occasionally to lean against a pew and think it over; then he stood staring at a blank old monument bordered tastefully with skulls and cross-bones, as if it were the finest work of Art he had ever seen, although at other times he held it in unspeakable contempt; then he sat down; then walked to and fro again; then went wandering up into the organ-loft, and touched the keys. But their minstrelsy was changed, their music gone; and sounding one long melancholy chord, Tom drooped his head upon his hands and gave it up as hopeless.

‘I wouldn’t have cared,’ said Tom Pinch, rising from his stool and looking down into the church as if he had been the Clergyman, ‘I wouldn’t have cared for anything he might have done to Me, for I have tried his patience often, and have lived upon his sufferance and have never been the help to him that others could have been. I wouldn’t have minded, Pecksniff,’ Tom continued, little thinking who heard him, ‘if you had done Me any wrong; I could have found plenty of excuses for that; and though you might have hurt me, could have still gone on respecting you. But why did you ever fall so low as this in my esteem! Oh Pecksniff, Pecksniff, there is nothing I would not have given, to have had you deserve my old opinion of you; nothing!’

Mr Pecksniff sat upon the hassock pulling up his shirt-collar, while Tom, touched to the quick, delivered this apostrophe. After a pause he heard Tom coming down the stairs, jingling the church keys; and bringing his eye to the top of the pew again, saw him go slowly out and lock the door.

Mr Pecksniff durst not issue from his place of concealment; for through the windows of the church he saw Tom passing on among the graves, and sometimes stopping at a stone, and leaning there as if he were a mourner who had lost a friend. Even when he had left the churchyard, Mr Pecksniff still remained shut up; not being at all secure but that in his restless state of mind Tom might come wandering back. At length he issued forth, and walked with a pleasant countenance into the vestry; where he knew there was a window near the ground, by which he could release himself by merely stepping out.

He was in a curious frame of mind, Mr Pecksniff; being in no hurry to go, but rather inclining to a dilatory trifling with the time, which prompted him to open the vestry cupboard, and look at himself in the parson’s little glass that hung within the door. Seeing that his hair was rumpled, he took the liberty of borrowing the canonical brush and arranging it. He also took the liberty of opening another cupboard; but he shut it up again quickly, being rather startled by the sight of a black and a white surplice dangling against the wall; which had very much the appearance of two curates who had committed suicide by hanging themselves. Remembering that he had seen in the first cupboard a port-wine bottle and some biscuits, he peeped into it again, and helped himself with much deliberation; cogitating all the time though, in a very deep and weighty manner, as if his thoughts were otherwise employed.

He soon made up his mind, if it had ever been in doubt; and putting back the bottle and biscuits, opened the casement. He got out into the churchyard without any difficulty; shut the window after him; and walked straight home.

‘Is Mr Pinch indoors?’ asked Mr Pecksniff of his serving-maid.

‘Just come in, sir.’

‘Just come in, eh?’ repeated Mr Pecksniff, cheerfully. ‘And gone upstairs, I suppose?’

‘Yes sir. Gone upstairs. Shall I call him, sir?’

‘No,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘no. You needn’t call him, Jane. Thank you, Jane. How are your relations, Jane?’

‘Pretty well, I thank you, sir.’

‘I am glad to hear it. Let them know I asked about them, Jane. Is Mr Chuzzlewit in the way, Jane?’

‘Yes, sir. He’s in the parlour, reading.’

‘He’s in the parlour, reading, is he, Jane?’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Very well. Then I think I’ll go and see him, Jane.’

Never had Mr Pecksniff been beheld in a more pleasant humour!

But when he walked into the parlour where the old man was engaged as Jane had said; with pen and ink and paper on a table close at hand (for Mr Pecksniff was always very particular to have him well supplied with writing materials), he became less cheerful. He was not angry, he was not vindictive, he was not cross, he was not moody, but he was grieved; he was sorely grieved. As he sat down by the old man’s side, two tears—not tears like those with which recording angels blot their entries out, but drops so precious that they use them for their ink—stole down his meritorious cheeks.

‘What is the matter?’ asked old Martin. ‘Pecksniff, what ails you, man?’

‘I am sorry to interrupt you, my dear sir, and I am still more sorry for the cause. My good, my worthy friend, I am deceived.’

‘You are deceived!’

‘Ah!’ cried Mr Pecksniff, in an agony, ‘deceived in the tenderest point. Cruelly deceived in that quarter, sir, in which I placed the most unbounded confidence. Deceived, Mr Chuzzlewit, by Thomas Pinch.’

‘Oh! bad, bad, bad!’ said Martin, laying down his book. ‘Very bad! I hope not. Are you certain?’

‘Certain, my good sir! My eyes and ears are witnesses. I wouldn’t have believed it otherwise. I wouldn’t have believed it, Mr Chuzzlewit, if a Fiery Serpent had proclaimed it from the top of Salisbury Cathedral. I would have said,’ cried Mr Pecksniff, ‘that the Serpent lied. Such was my faith in Thomas Pinch, that I would have cast the falsehood back into the Serpent’s teeth, and would have taken Thomas to my heart. But I am not a Serpent, sir, myself, I grieve to say, and no excuse or hope is left me.’

Martin was greatly disturbed to see him so much agitated, and to hear such unexpected news. He begged him to compose himself, and asked upon what subject Mr Pinch’s treachery had been developed.

‘That is almost the worst of all, sir,’ Mr Pecksniff answered, ‘on a subject nearly concerning you. Oh! is it not enough,’ said Mr Pecksniff, looking upward, ‘that these blows must fall on me, but must they also hit my friends!’

‘You alarm me,’ cried the old man, changing colour. ‘I am not so strong as I was. You terrify me, Pecksniff!’

‘Cheer up, my noble sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff, taking courage, ‘and we will do what is required of us. You shall know all, sir, and shall be righted. But first excuse me, sir, excuse me. I have a duty to discharge, which I owe to society.’

He rang the bell, and Jane appeared. ‘Send Mr Pinch here, if you please, Jane.’

Tom came. Constrained and altered in his manner, downcast and dejected, visibly confused; not liking to look Pecksniff in the face.

The honest man bestowed a glance on Mr Chuzzlewit, as who should say ‘You see!’ and addressed himself to Tom in these terms:

‘Mr Pinch, I have left the vestry-window unfastened. Will you do me the favour to go and secure it; then bring the keys of the sacred edifice to me!’

‘The vestry-window, sir?’ cried Tom.

‘You understand me, Mr Pinch, I think,’ returned his patron. ‘Yes, Mr Pinch, the vestry-window. I grieve to say that sleeping in the church after a fatiguing ramble, I overheard just now some fragments,’ he emphasised that word, ‘of a dialogue between two parties; and one of them locking the church when he went out, I was obliged to leave it myself by the vestry-window. Do me the favour to secure that vestry-window, Mr Pinch, and then come back to me.’

No physiognomist that ever dwelt on earth could have construed Tom’s face when he heard these words. Wonder was in it, and a mild look of reproach, but certainly no fear or guilt, although a host of strong emotions struggled to display themselves. He bowed, and without saying one word, good or bad, withdrew.

‘Pecksniff,’ cried Martin, in a tremble, ‘what does all this mean? You are not going to do anything in haste, you may regret!’

‘No, my good sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff, firmly, ‘No. But I have a duty to discharge which I owe to society; and it shall be discharged, my friend, at any cost!’

Oh, late-remembered, much-forgotten, mouthing, braggart duty, always owed, and seldom paid in any other coin than punishment and wrath, when will mankind begin to know thee! When will men acknowledge thee in thy neglected cradle, and thy stunted youth, and not begin their recognition in thy sinful manhood and thy desolate old age! Oh, ermined Judge whose duty to society is, now, to doom the ragged criminal to punishment and death, hadst thou never, Man, a duty to discharge in barring up the hundred open gates that wooed him to the felon’s dock, and throwing but ajar the portals to a decent life! Oh, prelate, prelate, whose duty to society it is to mourn in melancholy phrase the sad degeneracy of these bad times in which thy lot of honours has been cast, did nothing go before thy elevation to the lofty seat, from which thou dealest out thy homilies to other tarriers for dead men’s shoes, whose duty to society has not begun! Oh! magistrate, so rare a country gentleman and brave a squire, had you no duty to society, before the ricks were blazing and the mob were mad; or did it spring up, armed and booted from the earth, a corps of yeomanry full-grown!

Mr Pecksniff’s duty to society could not be paid till Tom came back. The interval which preceded the return of that young man, he occupied in a close conference with his friend; so that when Tom did arrive, he found the two quite ready to receive him. Mary was in her own room above, whither Mr Pecksniff, always considerate, had besought old Martin to entreat her to remain some half-hour longer, that her feelings might be spared.

When Tom came back, he found old Martin sitting by the window, and Mr Pecksniff in an imposing attitude at the table. On one side of him was his pocket-handkerchief; and on the other a little heap (a very little heap) of gold and silver, and odd pence. Tom saw, at a glance, that it was his own salary for the current quarter.

‘Have you fastened the vestry-window, Mr Pinch?’ said Pecksniff.

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Thank you. Put down the keys if you please, Mr Pinch.’

Tom placed them on the table. He held the bunch by the key of the organ-loft (though it was one of the smallest), and looked hard at it as he laid it down. It had been an old, old friend of Tom’s; a kind companion to him, many and many a day.

‘Mr Pinch,’ said Pecksniff, shaking his head; ‘oh, Mr Pinch! I wonder you can look me in the face!’

Tom did it though; and notwithstanding that he has been described as stooping generally, he stood as upright then as man could stand.

‘Mr Pinch,’ said Pecksniff, taking up his handkerchief, as if he felt that he should want it soon, ‘I will not dwell upon the past. I will spare you, and I will spare myself, that pain at least.’

Tom’s was not a very bright eye, but it was a very expressive one when he looked at Mr Pecksniff, and said:

‘Thank you, sir. I am very glad you will not refer to the past.’

‘The present is enough,’ said Mr Pecksniff, dropping a penny, ‘and the sooner that is past, the better. Mr Pinch, I will not dismiss you without a word of explanation. Even such a course would be quite justifiable under the circumstances; but it might wear an appearance of hurry, and I will not do it; for I am,’ said Mr Pecksniff, knocking down another penny, ‘perfectly self-possessed. Therefore I will say to you, what I have already said to Mr Chuzzlewit.’

Tom glanced at the old gentleman, who nodded now and then as approving of Mr Pecksniff’s sentences and sentiments, but interposed between them in no other way.

‘From fragments of a conversation which I overheard in the church, just now, Mr Pinch,’ said Pecksniff, ‘between yourself and Miss Graham—I say fragments, because I was slumbering at a considerable distance from you, when I was roused by your voices—and from what I saw, I ascertained (I would have given a great deal not to have ascertained, Mr Pinch) that you, forgetful of all ties of duty and of honour, sir; regardless of the sacred laws of hospitality, to which you were pledged as an inmate of this house; have presumed to address Miss Graham with unreturned professions of attachment and proposals of love.’

Tom looked at him steadily.

‘Do you deny it, sir?’ asked Mr Pecksniff, dropping one pound two and fourpence, and making a great business of picking it up again.

‘No, sir,’ replied Tom. ‘I do not.’

‘You do not,’ said Mr Pecksniff, glancing at the old gentleman. ‘Oblige me by counting this money, Mr Pinch, and putting your name to this receipt. You do not?’

No, Tom did not. He scorned to deny it. He saw that Mr Pecksniff having overheard his own disgrace, cared not a jot for sinking lower yet in his contempt. He saw that he had devised this fiction as the readiest means of getting rid of him at once, but that it must end in that any way. He saw that Mr Pecksniff reckoned on his not denying it, because his doing so and explaining would incense the old man more than ever against Martin and against Mary; while Pecksniff himself would only have been mistaken in his ‘fragments.’ Deny it! No.

‘You find the amount correct, do you, Mr Pinch?’ said Pecksniff.

‘Quite correct, sir,’ answered Tom.

‘A person is waiting in the kitchen,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘to carry your luggage wherever you please. We part, Mr Pinch, at once, and are strangers from this time.’

Something without a name; compassion, sorrow, old tenderness, mistaken gratitude, habit; none of these, and yet all of them; smote upon Tom’s gentle heart at parting. There was no such soul as Pecksniff’s in that carcase; and yet, though his speaking out had not involved the compromise of one he loved, he couldn’t have denounced the very shape and figure of the man. Not even then.

‘I will not say,’ cried Mr Pecksniff, shedding tears, ‘what a blow this is. I will not say how much it tries me; how it works upon my nature; how it grates upon my feelings. I do not care for that. I can endure as well as another man. But what I have to hope, and what you have to hope, Mr Pinch (otherwise a great responsibility rests upon you), is, that this deception may not alter my ideas of humanity; that it may not impair my freshness, or contract, if I may use the expression, my Pinions. I hope it will not; I don’t think it will. It may be a comfort to you, if not now, at some future time, to know that I shall endeavour not to think the worse of my fellow-creatures in general, for what has passed between us. Farewell!’

Tom had meant to spare him one little puncturation with a lancet, which he had it in his power to administer, but he changed his mind on hearing this, and said:

‘I think you left something in the church, sir.’

‘Thank you, Mr Pinch,’ said Pecksniff. ‘I am not aware that I did.’

‘This is your double eye-glass, I believe?’ said Tom.

‘Oh!’ cried Pecksniff, with some degree of confusion. ‘I am obliged to you. Put it down, if you please.’

‘I found it,’ said Tom, slowly—‘when I went to bolt the vestry-window—in the pew.’

So he had. Mr Pecksniff had taken it off when he was bobbing up and down, lest it should strike against the panelling; and had forgotten it. Going back to the church with his mind full of having been watched, and wondering very much from what part, Tom’s attention was caught by the door of the state pew standing open. Looking into it he found the glass. And thus he knew, and by returning it gave Mr Pecksniff the information that he knew, where the listener had been; and that instead of overhearing fragments of the conversation, he must have rejoiced in every word of it.

‘I am glad he’s gone,’ said Martin, drawing a long breath when Tom had left the room.

‘It is a relief,’ assented Mr Pecksniff. ‘It is a great relief. But having discharged—I hope with tolerable firmness—the duty which I owed to society, I will now, my dear sir, if you will give me leave, retire to shed a few tears in the back garden, as an humble individual.’

Tom went upstairs; cleared his shelf of books; packed them up with his music and an old fiddle in his trunk; got out his clothes (they were not so many that they made his head ache); put them on the top of his books; and went into the workroom for his case of instruments. There was a ragged stool there, with the horsehair all sticking out of the top like a wig: a very Beast of a stool in itself; on which he had taken up his daily seat, year after year, during the whole period of his service. They had grown older and shabbier in company. Pupils had served their time; seasons had come and gone. Tom and the worn-out stool had held together through it all. That part of the room was traditionally called ‘Tom’s Corner.’ It had been assigned to him at first because of its being situated in a strong draught, and a great way from the fire; and he had occupied it ever since. There were portraits of him on the walls, with all his weak points monstrously portrayed. Diabolical sentiments, foreign to his character, were represented as issuing from his mouth in fat balloons. Every pupil had added something, even unto fancy portraits of his father with one eye, and of his mother with a disproportionate nose, and especially of his sister; who always being presented as extremely beautiful, made full amends to Tom for any other jokes. Under less uncommon circumstances, it would have cut Tom to the heart to leave these things and think that he saw them for the last time; but it didn’t now. There was no Pecksniff; there never had been a Pecksniff; and all his other griefs were swallowed up in that.

So, when he returned into the bedroom, and, having fastened his box and a carpet-bag, put on his walking gaiters, and his great-coat, and his hat, and taken his stick in his hand, looked round it for the last time. Early on summer mornings, and by the light of private candle-ends on winter nights, he had read himself half blind in this same room. He had tried in this same room to learn the fiddle under the bedclothes, but yielding to objections from the other pupils, had reluctantly abandoned the design. At any other time he would have parted from it with a pang, thinking of all he had learned there, of the many hours he had passed there; for the love of his very dreams. But there was no Pecksniff; there never had been a Pecksniff, and the unreality of Pecksniff extended itself to the chamber, in which, sitting on one particular bed, the thing supposed to be that Great Abstraction had often preached morality with such effect that Tom had felt a moisture in his eyes, while hanging breathless on the words.

The man engaged to bear his box—Tom knew him well: a Dragon man—came stamping up the stairs, and made a roughish bow to Tom (to whom in common times he would have nodded with a grin) as though he were aware of what had happened, and wished him to perceive it made no difference to him. It was clumsily done; he was a mere waterer of horses; but Tom liked the man for it, and felt it more than going away.

Tom would have helped him with the box, but he made no more of it, though it was a heavy one, than an elephant would have made of a castle; just swinging it on his back and bowling downstairs as if, being naturally a heavy sort of fellow, he could carry a box infinitely better than he could go alone. Tom took the carpet-bag, and went downstairs along with him. At the outer door stood Jane, crying with all her might; and on the steps was Mrs Lupin, sobbing bitterly, and putting out her hand for Tom to shake.

‘You’re coming to the Dragon, Mr Pinch?’

‘No,’ said Tom, ‘no. I shall walk to Salisbury to-night. I couldn’t stay here. For goodness’ sake, don’t make me so unhappy, Mrs Lupin.’

‘But you’ll come to the Dragon, Mr Pinch. If it’s only for tonight. To see me, you know; not as a traveller.’

‘God bless my soul!’ said Tom, wiping his eyes. ‘The kindness of people is enough to break one’s heart! I mean to go to Salisbury to-night, my dear good creature. If you’ll take care of my box for me till I write for it, I shall consider it the greatest kindness you can do me.’

‘I wish,’ cried Mrs Lupin, ‘there were twenty boxes, Mr Pinch, that I might have ‘em all.’

‘Thank’ee,’ said Tom. ‘It’s like you. Good-bye. Good-bye.’

There were several people, young and old, standing about the door, some of whom cried with Mrs Lupin; while others tried to keep up a stout heart, as Tom did; and others were absorbed in admiration of Mr Pecksniff—a man who could build a church, as one may say, by squinting at a sheet of paper; and others were divided between that feeling and sympathy with Tom. Mr Pecksniff had appeared on the top of the steps, simultaneously with his old pupil, and while Tom was talking with Mrs Lupin kept his hand stretched out, as though he said ‘Go forth!’ When Tom went forth, and had turned the corner Mr Pecksniff shook his head, shut his eyes, and heaving a deep sigh, shut the door. On which, the best of Tom’s supporters said he must have done some dreadful deed, or such a man as Mr Pecksniff never could have felt like that. If it had been a common quarrel (they observed), he would have said something, but when he didn’t, Mr Pinch must have shocked him dreadfully.

Tom was out of hearing of their shrewd opinions, and plodded on as steadily as he could go, until he came within sight of the turnpike where the tollman’s family had cried out ‘Mr Pinch!’ that frosty morning, when he went to meet young Martin. He had got through the village, and this toll-bar was his last trial; but when the infant toll-takers came screeching out, he had half a mind to run for it, and make a bolt across the country.

‘Why, deary Mr Pinch! oh, deary sir!’ cried the tollman’s wife. ‘What an unlikely time for you to be a-going this way with a bag!’

‘I am going to Salisbury,’ said Tom.

‘Why, goodness, where’s the gig, then?’ cried the tollman’s wife, looking down the road, as if she thought Tom might have been upset without observing it.

‘I haven’t got it,’ said Tom. ‘I—’ he couldn’t evade it; he felt she would have him in the next question, if he got over this one. ‘I have left Mr Pecksniff.’

The tollman—a crusty customer, always smoking solitary pipes in a Windsor chair, inside, set artfully between two little windows that looked up and down the road, so that when he saw anything coming up he might hug himself on having toll to take, and when he saw it going down, might hug himself on having taken it—the tollman was out in an instant.

‘Left Mr Pecksniff!’ cried the tollman.

‘Yes,’ said Tom, ‘left him.’

The tollman looked at his wife, uncertain whether to ask her if she had anything to suggest, or to order her to mind the children. Astonishment making him surly, he preferred the latter, and sent her into the toll-house with a flea in her ear.

‘You left Mr Pecksniff!’ cried the tollman, folding his arms, and spreading his legs. ‘I should as soon have thought of his head leaving him.’

‘Aye!’ said Tom, ‘so should I, yesterday. Good night!’

If a heavy drove of oxen hadn’t come by immediately, the tollman would have gone down to the village straight, to inquire into it. As things turned out, he smoked another pipe, and took his wife into his confidence. But their united sagacity could make nothing of it, and they went to bed—metaphorically—in the dark. But several times that night, when a waggon or other vehicle came through, and the driver asked the tollkeeper ‘What news?’ he looked at the man by the light of his lantern, to assure himself that he had an interest in the subject, and then said, wrapping his watch-coat round his legs:

‘You’ve heerd of Mr Pecksniff down yonder?’

‘Ah! sure-ly!’

‘And of his young man Mr Pinch, p’raps?’

‘Ah!’

‘They’ve parted.’

After every one of these disclosures, the tollman plunged into his house again, and was seen no more, while the other side went on in great amazement.

But this was long after Tom was abed, and Tom was now with his face towards Salisbury, doing his best to get there. The evening was beautiful at first, but it became cloudy and dull at sunset, and the rain fell heavily soon afterwards. For ten long miles he plodded on, wet through, until at last the lights appeared, and he came into the welcome precincts of the city.

He went to the inn where he had waited for Martin, and briefly answering their inquiries after Mr Pecksniff, ordered a bed. He had no heart for tea or supper, meat or drink of any kind, but sat by himself before an empty table in the public room while the bed was getting ready, revolving in his mind all that had happened that eventful day, and wondering what he could or should do for the future. It was a great relief when the chambermaid came in, and said the bed was ready.

It was a low four-poster, shelving downward in the centre like a trough, and the room was crowded with impracticable tables and exploded chests of drawers, full of damp linen. A graphic representation in oil of a remarkably fat ox hung over the fireplace, and the portrait of some former landlord (who might have been the ox’s brother, he was so like him) stared roundly in, at the foot of the bed. A variety of queer smells were partially quenched in the prevailing scent of very old lavender; and the window had not been opened for such a long space of time that it pleaded immemorial usage, and wouldn’t come open now.

These were trifles in themselves, but they added to the strangeness of the place, and did not induce Tom to forget his new position. Pecksniff had gone out of the world—had never been in it—and it was as much as Tom could do to say his prayers without him. But he felt happier afterwards, and went to sleep, and dreamed about him as he Never Was.






CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO. TREATS OF TODGER’S AGAIN; AND OF ANOTHER BLIGHTED PLANT BESIDES THE PLANTS UPON THE LEADS


Early on the day next after that on which she bade adieu to the halls of her youth and the scenes of her childhood, Miss Pecksniff, arriving safely at the coach-office in London, was there received, and conducted to her peaceful home beneath the shadow of the Monument, by Mrs Todgers. M. Todgers looked a little worn by cares of gravy and other such solicitudes arising out of her establishment, but displayed her usual earnestness and warmth of manner.

‘And how, my sweet Miss Pecksniff,’ said she, ‘how is your princely pa?’

Miss Pecksniff signified (in confidence) that he contemplated the introduction of a princely ma; and repeated the sentiment that she wasn’t blind, and wasn’t quite a fool, and wouldn’t bear it.

Mrs Todgers was more shocked by the intelligence than any one could have expected. She was quite bitter. She said there was no truth in man and that the warmer he expressed himself, as a general principle, the falser and more treacherous he was. She foresaw with astonishing clearness that the object of Mr Pecksniff’s attachment was designing, worthless, and wicked; and receiving from Charity the fullest confirmation of these views, protested with tears in her eyes that she loved Miss Pecksniff like a sister, and felt her injuries as if they were her own.

‘Your real darling sister, I have not seen her more than once since her marriage,’ said Mrs Todgers, ‘and then I thought her looking poorly. My sweet Miss Pecksniff, I always thought that you was to be the lady?’

‘Oh dear no!’ cried Cherry, shaking her head. ‘Oh no, Mrs Todgers. Thank you. No! not for any consideration he could offer.’

‘I dare say you are right,’ said Mrs Todgers with a sigh. ‘I feared it all along. But the misery we have had from that match, here among ourselves, in this house, my dear Miss Pecksniff, nobody would believe.’

‘Lor, Mrs Todgers!’

‘Awful, awful!’ repeated Mrs Todgers, with strong emphasis. ‘You recollect our youngest gentleman, my dear?’

‘Of course I do,’ said Cherry.

‘You might have observed,’ said Mrs Todgers, ‘how he used to watch your sister; and that a kind of stony dumbness came over him whenever she was in company?’

‘I am sure I never saw anything of the sort,’ said Cherry, in a peevish manner. ‘What nonsense, Mrs Todgers!’

‘My dear,’ returned that lady in a hollow voice, ‘I have seen him again and again, sitting over his pie at dinner, with his spoon a perfect fixture in his mouth, looking at your sister. I have seen him standing in a corner of our drawing-room, gazing at her, in such a lonely, melancholy state, that he was more like a Pump than a man, and might have drawed tears.’

‘I never saw it!’ cried Cherry; ‘that’s all I can say.’

‘But when the marriage took place,’ said Mrs Todgers, proceeding with her subject, ‘when it was in the paper, and was read out here at breakfast, I thought he had taken leave of his senses, I did indeed. The violence of that young man, my dear Miss Pecksniff; the frightful opinions he expressed upon the subject of self-destruction; the extraordinary actions he performed with his tea; the clenching way in which he bit his bread and butter; the manner in which he taunted Mr Jinkins; all combined to form a picture never to be forgotten.’

‘It’s a pity he didn’t destroy himself, I think,’ observed Miss Pecksniff.

‘Himself!’ said Mrs Todgers, ‘it took another turn at night. He was for destroying other people then. There was a little chaffing going on—I hope you don’t consider that a low expression, Miss Pecksniff; it is always in our gentlemen’s mouths—a little chaffing going on, my dear, among ‘em, all in good nature, when suddenly he rose up, foaming with his fury, and but for being held by three would have had Mr Jinkins’s life with a bootjack.’

Miss Pecksniff’s face expressed supreme indifference.

‘And now,’ said Mrs Todgers, ‘now he is the meekest of men. You can almost bring the tears into his eyes by looking at him. He sits with me the whole day long on Sundays, talking in such a dismal way that I find it next to impossible to keep my spirits up equal to the accommodation of the boarders. His only comfort is in female society. He takes me half-price to the play, to an extent which I sometimes fear is beyond his means; and I see the tears a-standing in his eyes during the whole performance—particularly if it is anything of a comic nature. The turn I experienced only yesterday,’ said Mrs Todgers putting her hand to her side, ‘when the house-maid threw his bedside carpet out of the window of his room, while I was sitting here, no one can imagine. I thought it was him, and that he had done it at last!’

The contempt with which Miss Charity received this pathetic account of the state to which the youngest gentleman in company was reduced, did not say much for her power of sympathising with that unfortunate character. She treated it with great levity, and went on to inform herself, then and afterwards, whether any other changes had occurred in the commercial boarding-house.

Mr Bailey was gone, and had been succeeded (such is the decay of human greatness!) by an old woman whose name was reported to be Tamaroo—which seemed an impossibility. Indeed it appeared in the fullness of time that the jocular boarders had appropriated the word from an English ballad, in which it is supposed to express the bold and fiery nature of a certain hackney coachman; and that it was bestowed upon Mr Bailey’s successor by reason of her having nothing fiery about her, except an occasional attack of that fire which is called St. Anthony’s. This ancient female had been engaged, in fulfillment of a vow, registered by Mrs Todgers, that no more boys should darken the commercial doors; and she was chiefly remarkable for a total absence of all comprehension upon every subject whatever. She was a perfect Tomb for messages and small parcels; and when dispatched to the Post Office with letters, had been frequently seen endeavouring to insinuate them into casual chinks in private doors, under the delusion that any door with a hole in it would answer the purpose. She was a very little old woman, and always wore a very coarse apron with a bib before and a loop behind, together with bandages on her wrists, which appeared to be afflicted with an everlasting sprain. She was on all occasions chary of opening the street door, and ardent to shut it again; and she waited at table in a bonnet.

This was the only great change over and above the change which had fallen on the youngest gentleman. As for him, he more than corroborated the account of Mrs Todgers; possessing greater sensibility than even she had given him credit for. He entertained some terrible notions of Destiny, among other matters, and talked much about people’s ‘Missions’; upon which he seemed to have some private information not generally attainable, as he knew it had been poor Merry’s mission to crush him in the bud. He was very frail and tearful; for being aware that a shepherd’s mission was to pipe to his flocks, and that a boatswain’s mission was to pipe all hands, and that one man’s mission was to be a paid piper, and another man’s mission was to pay the piper, so he had got it into his head that his own peculiar mission was to pipe his eye. Which he did perpetually.

He often informed Mrs Todgers that the sun had set upon him; that the billows had rolled over him; that the car of Juggernaut had crushed him, and also that the deadly Upas tree of Java had blighted him. His name was Moddle.

Towards this most unhappy Moddle, Miss Pecksniff conducted herself at first with distant haughtiness, being in no humour to be entertained with dirges in honour of her married sister. The poor young gentleman was additionally crushed by this, and remonstrated with Mrs Todgers on the subject.

‘Even she turns from me, Mrs Todgers,’ said Moddle.

‘Then why don’t you try and be a little bit more cheerful, sir?’ retorted Mrs Todgers.

‘Cheerful, Mrs Todgers! cheerful!’ cried the youngest gentleman; ‘when she reminds me of days for ever fled, Mrs Todgers!’

‘Then you had better avoid her for a short time, if she does,’ said Mrs Todgers, ‘and come to know her again, by degrees. That’s my advice.’

‘But I can’t avoid her,’ replied Moddle, ‘I haven’t strength of mind to do it. Oh, Mrs Todgers, if you knew what a comfort her nose is to me!’

‘Her nose, sir!’ Mrs Todgers cried.

‘Her profile, in general,’ said the youngest gentleman, ‘but particularly her nose. It’s so like;’ here he yielded to a burst of grief. ‘It’s so like hers who is Another’s, Mrs Todgers!’

The observant matron did not fail to report this conversation to Charity, who laughed at the time, but treated Mr Moddle that very evening with increased consideration, and presented her side face to him as much as possible. Mr Moddle was not less sentimental than usual; was rather more so, if anything; but he sat and stared at her with glistening eyes, and seemed grateful.

‘Well, sir!’ said the lady of the Boarding-House next day. ‘You held up your head last night. You’re coming round, I think.’

‘Only because she’s so like her who is Another’s, Mrs Todgers,’ rejoined the youth. ‘When she talks, and when she smiles, I think I’m looking on her brow again, Mrs Todgers.’

This was likewise carried to Charity, who talked and smiled next evening in her most engaging manner, and rallying Mr Moddle on the lowness of his spirits, challenged him to play a rubber at cribbage. Mr Moddle taking up the gauntlet, they played several rubbers for sixpences, and Charity won them all. This may have been partially attributable to the gallantry of the youngest gentleman, but it was certainly referable to the state of his feelings also; for his eyes being frequently dimmed by tears, he thought that aces were tens, and knaves queens, which at times occasioned some confusion in his play.

On the seventh night of cribbage, when Mrs Todgers, sitting by, proposed that instead of gambling they should play for ‘love,’ Mr Moddle was seen to change colour. On the fourteenth night, he kissed Miss Pecksniff’s snuffers, in the passage, when she went upstairs to bed; meaning to have kissed her hand, but missing it.

In short, Mr Moddle began to be impressed with the idea that Miss Pecksniff’s mission was to comfort him; and Miss Pecksniff began to speculate on the probability of its being her mission to become ultimately Mrs Moddle. He was a young gentleman (Miss Pecksniff was not a very young lady) with rising prospects, and ‘almost’ enough to live on. Really it looked very well.

Besides—besides—he had been regarded as devoted to Merry. Merry had joked about him, and had once spoken of it to her sister as a conquest. He was better looking, better shaped, better spoken, better tempered, better mannered than Jonas. He was easy to manage, could be made to consult the humours of his Betrothed, and could be shown off like a lamb when Jonas was a bear. There was the rub!

In the meantime the cribbage went on, and Mrs Todgers went off; for the youngest gentleman, dropping her society, began to take Miss Pecksniff to the play. He also began, as Mrs Todgers said, to slip home ‘in his dinner-times,’ and to get away from ‘the office’ at unholy seasons; and twice, as he informed Mrs Todgers himself, he received anonymous letters, enclosing cards from Furniture Warehouses—clearly the act of that ungentlemanly ruffian Jinkins; only he hadn’t evidence enough to call him out upon. All of which, so Mrs Todgers told Miss Pecksniff, spoke as plain English as the shining sun.

‘My dear Miss Pecksniff, you may depend upon it,’ said Mrs Todgers, ‘that he is burning to propose.’

‘My goodness me, why don’t he then?’ cried Cherry.

‘Men are so much more timid than we think ‘em, my dear,’ returned Mrs Todgers. ‘They baulk themselves continually. I saw the words on Todgers’s lips for months and months and months, before he said ‘em.’

Miss Pecksniff submitted that Todgers might not have been a fair specimen.

‘Oh yes, he was. Oh bless you, yes, my dear. I was very particular in those days, I assure you,’ said Mrs Todgers, bridling. ‘No, no. You give Mr Moddle a little encouragement, Miss Pecksniff, if you wish him to speak; and he’ll speak fast enough, depend upon it.’

‘I am sure I don’t know what encouragement he would have, Mrs Todgers,’ returned Charity. ‘He walks with me, and plays cards with me, and he comes and sits alone with me.’

‘Quite right,’ said Mrs Todgers. ‘That’s indispensable, my dear.’

‘And he sits very close to me.’

‘Also quite correct,’ said Mrs Todgers.

‘And he looks at me.’

‘To be sure he does,’ said Mrs Todgers.

‘And he has his arm upon the back of the chair or sofa, or whatever it is—behind me, you know.’

‘I should think so,’ said Mrs Todgers.

‘And then he begins to cry!’

Mrs Todgers admitted that he might do better than that; and might undoubtedly profit by the recollection of the great Lord Nelson’s signal at the battle of Trafalgar. Still, she said, he would come round, or, not to mince the matter, would be brought round, if Miss Pecksniff took up a decided position, and plainly showed him that it must be done.

Determining to regulate her conduct by this opinion, the young lady received Mr Moddle, on the earliest subsequent occasion, with an air of constraint; and gradually leading him to inquire, in a dejected manner, why she was so changed, confessed to him that she felt it necessary for their mutual peace and happiness to take a decided step. They had been much together lately, she observed, much together, and had tasted the sweets of a genuine reciprocity of sentiment. She never could forget him, nor could she ever cease to think of him with feelings of the liveliest friendship, but people had begun to talk, the thing had been observed, and it was necessary that they should be nothing more to each other, than any gentleman and lady in society usually are. She was glad she had had the resolution to say thus much before her feelings had been tried too far; they had been greatly tried, she would admit; but though she was weak and silly, she would soon get the better of it, she hoped.

Moddle, who had by this time become in the last degree maudlin, and wept abundantly, inferred from the foregoing avowal, that it was his mission to communicate to others the blight which had fallen on himself; and that, being a kind of unintentional Vampire, he had had Miss Pecksniff assigned to him by the Fates, as Victim Number One. Miss Pecksniff controverting this opinion as sinful, Moddle was goaded on to ask whether she could be contented with a blighted heart; and it appearing on further examination that she could be, plighted his dismal troth, which was accepted and returned. He bore his good fortune with the utmost moderation. Instead of being triumphant, he shed more tears than he had ever been known to shed before; and, sobbing, said:

‘Oh! what a day this has been! I can’t go back to the office this afternoon. Oh, what a trying day this has been! Good Gracious!’






CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE. FURTHER PROCEEDINGS IN EDEN, AND A PROCEEDING OUT OF IT. MARTIN MAKES A DISCOVERY OF SOME IMPORTANCE


From Mr Moddle to Eden is an easy and natural transition. Mr Moddle, living in the atmosphere of Miss Pecksniff’s love, dwelt (if he had but known it) in a terrestrial Paradise. The thriving city of Eden was also a terrestrial Paradise, upon the showing of its proprietors. The beautiful Miss Pecksniff might have been poetically described as a something too good for man in his fallen and degraded state. That was exactly the character of the thriving city of Eden, as poetically heightened by Zephaniah Scadder, General Choke, and other worthies; part and parcel of the talons of that great American Eagle, which is always airing itself sky-high in purest aether, and never, no never, never, tumbles down with draggled wings into the mud.

When Mark Tapley, leaving Martin in the architectural and surveying offices, had effectually strengthened and encouraged his own spirits by the contemplation of their joint misfortunes, he proceeded, with new cheerfulness, in search of help; congratulating himself, as he went along, on the enviable position to which he had at last attained.

‘I used to think, sometimes,’ said Mr Tapley, ‘as a desolate island would suit me, but I should only have had myself to provide for there, and being naturally a easy man to manage, there wouldn’t have been much credit in that. Now here I’ve got my partner to take care on, and he’s something like the sort of man for the purpose. I want a man as is always a-sliding off his legs when he ought to be on ‘em. I want a man as is so low down in the school of life that he’s always a-making figures of one in his copy-book, and can’t get no further. I want a man as is his own great coat and cloak, and is always a-wrapping himself up in himself. And I have got him too,’ said Mr Tapley, after a moment’s silence. ‘What a happiness!’

He paused to look round, uncertain to which of the log-houses he should repair.

‘I don’t know which to take,’ he observed; ‘that’s the truth. They’re equally prepossessing outside, and equally commodious, no doubt, within; being fitted up with every convenience that a Alligator, in a state of natur’, could possibly require. Let me see! The citizen as turned out last night, lives under water, in the right hand dog-kennel at the corner. I don’t want to trouble him if I can help it, poor man, for he is a melancholy object; a reg’lar Settler in every respect. There’s house with a winder, but I am afraid of their being proud. I don’t know whether a door ain’t too aristocratic; but here goes for the first one!’

He went up to the nearest cabin, and knocked with his hand. Being desired to enter, he complied.

‘Neighbour,’ said Mark; ‘for I am a neighbour, though you don’t know me; I’ve come a-begging. Hallo! hal—lo! Am I a-bed, and dreaming!’

He made this exclamation on hearing his own name pronounced, and finding himself clasped about the skirts by two little boys, whose faces he had often washed, and whose suppers he had often cooked, on board of that noble and fast-sailing line-of-packet ship, the Screw.

‘My eyes is wrong!’ said Mark. ‘I don’t believe ‘em. That ain’t my fellow-passenger younder, a-nursing her little girl, who, I am sorry to see, is so delicate; and that ain’t her husband as come to New York to fetch her. Nor these,’ he added, looking down upon the boys, ‘ain’t them two young shavers as was so familiar to me; though they are uncommon like ‘em. That I must confess.’

The woman shed tears, in very joy to see him; the man shook both his hands and would not let them go; the two boys hugged his legs; the sick child in the mother’s arms stretched out her burning little fingers, and muttered, in her hoarse, dry throat, his well-remembered name.

It was the same family, sure enough. Altered by the salubrious air of Eden. But the same.

‘This is a new sort of a morning call,’ said Mark, drawing a long breath. ‘It strikes one all of a heap. Wait a little bit! I’m a-coming round fast. That’ll do! These gentlemen ain’t my friends. Are they on the visiting list of the house?’

The inquiry referred to certain gaunt pigs, who had walked in after him, and were much interested in the heels of the family. As they did not belong to the mansion, they were expelled by the two little boys.

‘I ain’t superstitious about toads,’ said Mark, looking round the room, ‘but if you could prevail upon the two or three I see in company, to step out at the same time, my young friends, I think they’d find the open air refreshing. Not that I at all object to ‘em. A very handsome animal is a toad,’ said Mr Tapley, sitting down upon a stool; ‘very spotted; very like a partickler style of old gentleman about the throat; very bright-eyed, very cool, and very slippy. But one sees ‘em to the best advantage out of doors perhaps.’

While pretending, with such talk as this, to be perfectly at his ease, and to be the most indifferent and careless of men, Mark Tapley had an eye on all around him. The wan and meagre aspect of the family, the changed looks of the poor mother, the fevered child she held in her lap, the air of great despondency and little hope on everything, were plain to him, and made a deep impression on his mind. He saw it all as clearly and as quickly, as with his bodily eyes he saw the rough shelves supported by pegs driven between the logs, of which the house was made; the flour-cask in the corner, serving also for a table; the blankets, spades, and other articles against the walls; the damp that blotched the ground; or the crop of vegetable rottenness in every crevice of the hut.

‘How is it that you have come here?’ asked the man, when their first expressions of surprise were over.

‘Why, we come by the steamer last night,’ replied Mark. ‘Our intention is to make our fortuns with punctuality and dispatch; and to retire upon our property as soon as ever it’s realised. But how are you all? You’re looking noble!’

‘We are but sickly now,’ said the poor woman, bending over her child. ‘But we shall do better when we are seasoned to the place.’

‘There are some here,’ thought Mark ‘whose seasoning will last for ever.’

But he said cheerfully, ‘Do better! To be sure you will. We shall all do better. What we’ve got to do is, to keep up our spirits, and be neighbourly. We shall come all right in the end, never fear. That reminds me, by the bye, that my partner’s all wrong just at present; and that I looked in to beg for him. I wish you’d come and give me your opinion of him, master.’

That must have been a very unreasonable request on the part of Mark Tapley, with which, in their gratitude for his kind offices on board the ship, they would not have complied instantly. The man rose to accompany him without a moment’s delay. Before they went, Mark took the sick child in his arms, and tried to comfort the mother; but the hand of death was on it then, he saw.

They found Martin in the house, lying wrapped up in his blanket on the ground. He was, to all appearance, very ill indeed, and shook and shivered horribly; not as people do from cold, but in a frightful kind of spasm or convulsion, that racked his whole body. Mark’s friend pronounced his disease an aggravated kind of fever, accompanied with ague; which was very common in those parts, and which he predicted would be worse to-morrow, and for many more to-morrows. He had had it himself off and on, he said, for a couple of years or so; but he was thankful that, while so many he had known had died about him, he had escaped with life.

‘And with not too much of that,’ thought Mark, surveying his emaciated form. ‘Eden for ever!’

They had some medicine in their chest; and this man of sad experience showed Mark how and when to administer it, and how he could best alleviate the sufferings of Martin. His attentions did not stop there; for he was backwards and forwards constantly, and rendered Mark good service in all his brisk attempts to make their situation more endurable. Hope or comfort for the future he could not bestow. The season was a sickly one; the settlement a grave. His child died that night; and Mark, keeping the secret from Martin, helped to bury it, beneath a tree, next day.

With all his various duties of attendance upon Martin (who became the more exacting in his claims, the worse he grew), Mark worked out of doors, early and late; and with the assistance of his friend and others, laboured to do something with their land. Not that he had the least strength of heart or hope, or steady purpose in so doing, beyond the habitual cheerfulness of his disposition, and his amazing power of self-sustainment; for within himself, he looked on their condition as beyond all hope, and, in his own words, ‘came out strong’ in consequence.

‘As to coming out as strong as I could wish, sir,’ he confided to Martin in a leisure moment; that is to say, one evening, while he was washing the linen of the establishment, after a hard day’s work, ‘that I give up. It’s a piece of good fortune as never is to happen to me, I see!’

‘Would you wish for circumstances stronger than these?’ Martin retorted with a groan, from underneath his blanket.

‘Why, only see how easy they might have been stronger, sir,’ said Mark, ‘if it wasn’t for the envy of that uncommon fortun of mine, which is always after me, and tripping me up. The night we landed here, I thought things did look pretty jolly. I won’t deny it. I thought they did look pretty jolly.’

‘How do they look now?’ groaned Martin.

‘Ah!’ said Mark, ‘Ah, to be sure. That’s the question. How do they look now? On the very first morning of my going out, what do I do? Stumble on a family I know, who are constantly assisting of us in all sorts of ways, from that time to this! That won’t do, you know; that ain’t what I’d a right to expect. If I had stumbled on a serpent and got bit; or stumbled on a first-rate patriot, and got bowie-knifed, or stumbled on a lot of Sympathisers with inverted shirt-collars, and got made a lion of; I might have distinguished myself, and earned some credit. As it is, the great object of my voyage is knocked on the head. So it would be, wherever I went. How do you feel to-night, sir?’

‘Worse than ever,’ said poor Martin.

‘That’s something,’ returned Mark, ‘but not enough. Nothing but being very bad myself, and jolly to the last, will ever do me justice.’

‘In Heaven’s name, don’t talk of that,’ said Martin with a thrill of terror. ‘What should I do, Mark, if you were taken ill!’

Mr Tapley’s spirits appeared to be stimulated by this remark, although it was not a very flattering one. He proceeded with his washing in a brighter mood; and observed ‘that his glass was arising.’

‘There’s one good thing in this place, sir,’ said Mr Tapley, scrubbing away at the linen, ‘as disposes me to be jolly; and that is that it’s a reg’lar little United States in itself. There’s two or three American settlers left; and they coolly comes over one, even here, sir, as if it was the wholesomest and loveliest spot in the world. But they’re like the cock that went and hid himself to save his life, and was found out by the noise he made. They can’t help crowing. They was born to do it, and do it they must, whatever comes of it.’

Glancing from his work out at the door as he said these words, Mark’s eyes encountered a lean person in a blue frock and a straw hat, with a short black pipe in his mouth, and a great hickory stick studded all over with knots, in his hand; who smoking and chewing as he came along, and spitting frequently, recorded his progress by a train of decomposed tobacco on the ground.

‘Here’s one on ‘em,’ cried Mark, ‘Hannibal Chollop.’

‘Don’t let him in,’ said Martin, feebly.

‘He won’t want any letting in,’ replied Mark. ‘He’ll come in, sir.’ Which turned out to be quite true, for he did. His face was almost as hard and knobby as his stick; and so were his hands. His head was like an old black hearth-broom. He sat down on the chest with his hat on; and crossing his legs and looking up at Mark, said, without removing his pipe:

‘Well, Mr Co.! and how do you git along, sir?’

It may be necessary to observe that Mr Tapley had gravely introduced himself to all strangers, by that name.

‘Pretty well, sir; pretty well,’ said Mark.

‘If this ain’t Mr Chuzzlewit, ain’t it!’ exclaimed the visitor ‘How do you git along, sir?’

Martin shook his head, and drew the blanket over it involuntarily; for he felt that Hannibal was going to spit; and his eye, as the song says, was upon him.

‘You need not regard me, sir,’ observed Mr Chollop, complacently. ‘I am fever-proof, and likewise agur.’

‘Mine was a more selfish motive,’ said Martin, looking out again. ‘I was afraid you were going to—’

‘I can calc’late my distance, sir,’ returned Mr Chollop, ‘to an inch.’

With a proof of which happy faculty he immediately favoured him.

‘I re-quire, sir,’ said Hannibal, ‘two foot clear in a circ’lar di-rection, and can engage my-self toe keep within it. I have gone ten foot, in a circ’lar di-rection, but that was for a wager.’

‘I hope you won it, sir,’ said Mark.

‘Well, sir, I realised the stakes,’ said Chollop. ‘Yes, sir.’

He was silent for a time, during which he was actively engaged in the formation of a magic circle round the chest on which he sat. When it was completed, he began to talk again.

‘How do you like our country, sir?’ he inquired, looking at Martin.

‘Not at all,’ was the invalid’s reply.

Chollop continued to smoke without the least appearance of emotion, until he felt disposed to speak again. That time at length arriving, he took his pipe from his mouth, and said:

‘I am not surprised to hear you say so. It re-quires An elevation, and A preparation of the intellect. The mind of man must be prepared for Freedom, Mr Co.’

He addressed himself to Mark; because he saw that Martin, who wished him to go, being already half-mad with feverish irritation, which the droning voice of this new horror rendered almost insupportable, had closed his eyes, and turned on his uneasy bed.

‘A little bodily preparation wouldn’t be amiss, either, would it, sir,’ said Mark, ‘in the case of a blessed old swamp like this?’

‘Do you con-sider this a swamp, sir?’ inquired Chollop gravely.

‘Why yes, sir,’ returned Mark. ‘I haven’t a doubt about it myself.’

‘The sentiment is quite Europian,’ said the major, ‘and does not surprise me; what would your English millions say to such a swamp in England, sir?’

‘They’d say it was an uncommon nasty one, I should think, said Mark; ‘and that they would rather be inoculated for fever in some other way.’

‘Europian!’ remarked Chollop, with sardonic pity. ‘Quite Europian!’

And there he sat. Silent and cool, as if the house were his; smoking away like a factory chimney.

Mr Chollop was, of course, one of the most remarkable men in the country; but he really was a notorious person besides. He was usually described by his friends, in the South and West, as ‘a splendid sample of our na-tive raw material, sir,’ and was much esteemed for his devotion to rational Liberty; for the better propagation whereof he usually carried a brace of revolving pistols in his coat pocket, with seven barrels a-piece. He also carried, amongst other trinkets, a sword-stick, which he called his ‘Tickler.’ and a great knife, which (for he was a man of a pleasant turn of humour) he called ‘Ripper,’ in allusion to its usefulness as a means of ventilating the stomach of any adversary in a close contest. He had used these weapons with distinguished effect in several instances, all duly chronicled in the newspapers; and was greatly beloved for the gallant manner in which he had ‘jobbed out’ the eye of one gentleman, as he was in the act of knocking at his own street-door.

Mr Chollop was a man of a roving disposition; and, in any less advanced community, might have been mistaken for a violent vagabond. But his fine qualities being perfectly understood and appreciated in those regions where his lot was cast, and where he had many kindred spirits to consort with, he may be regarded as having been born under a fortunate star, which is not always the case with a man so much before the age in which he lives. Preferring, with a view to the gratification of his tickling and ripping fancies, to dwell upon the outskirts of society, and in the more remote towns and cities, he was in the habit of emigrating from place to place, and establishing in each some business—usually a newspaper—which he presently sold; for the most part closing the bargain by challenging, stabbing, pistolling, or gouging the new editor, before he had quite taken possession of the property.

He had come to Eden on a speculation of this kind, but had abandoned it, and was about to leave. He always introduced himself to strangers as a worshipper of Freedom; was the consistent advocate of Lynch law, and slavery; and invariably recommended, both in print and speech, the ‘tarring and feathering’ of any unpopular person who differed from himself. He called this ‘planting the standard of civilization in the wilder gardens of My country.’

There is little doubt that Chollop would have planted this standard in Eden at Mark’s expense, in return for his plainness of speech (for the genuine Freedom is dumb, save when she vaunts herself), but for the utter desolation and decay prevailing in the settlement, and his own approaching departure from it. As it was, he contented himself with showing Mark one of the revolving-pistols, and asking him what he thought of that weapon.

‘It ain’t long since I shot a man down with that, sir, in the State of Illinoy,’ observed Chollop.

‘Did you, indeed!’ said Mark, without the smallest agitation. ‘Very free of you. And very independent!’

‘I shot him down, sir,’ pursued Chollop, ‘for asserting in the Spartan Portico, a tri-weekly journal, that the ancient Athenians went a-head of the present Locofoco Ticket.’

‘And what’s that?’ asked Mark.

‘Europian not to know,’ said Chollop, smoking placidly. ‘Europian quite!’

After a short devotion to the interests of the magic circle, he resumed the conversation by observing:

‘You won’t half feel yourself at home in Eden, now?’

‘No,’ said Mark, ‘I don’t.’

‘You miss the imposts of your country. You miss the house dues?’ observed Chollop.

‘And the houses—rather,’ said Mark.

‘No window dues here, sir,’ observed Chollop.

‘And no windows to put ‘em on,’ said Mark.

‘No stakes, no dungeons, no blocks, no racks, no scaffolds, no thumbscrews, no pikes, no pillories,’ said Chollop.

‘Nothing but rewolwers and bowie-knives,’ returned Mark. ‘And what are they? Not worth mentioning!’

The man who had met them on the night of their arrival came crawling up at this juncture, and looked in at the door.

‘Well, sir,’ said Chollop. ‘How do you git along?’

He had considerable difficulty in getting along at all, and said as much in reply.

‘Mr Co. And me, sir,’ observed Chollop, ‘are disputating a piece. He ought to be slicked up pretty smart to disputate between the Old World and the New, I do expect?’

‘Well!’ returned the miserable shadow. ‘So he had.’

‘I was merely observing, sir,’ said Mark, addressing this new visitor, ‘that I looked upon the city in which we have the honour to live, as being swampy. What’s your sentiments?’

‘I opinionate it’s moist perhaps, at certain times,’ returned the man.

‘But not as moist as England, sir?’ cried Chollop, with a fierce expression in his face.

‘Oh! Not as moist as England; let alone its Institutions,’ said the man.

‘I should hope there ain’t a swamp in all Americay, as don’t whip that small island into mush and molasses,’ observed Chollop, decisively. ‘You bought slick, straight, and right away, of Scadder, sir?’ to Mark.

He answered in the affirmative. Mr Chollop winked at the other citizen.

‘Scadder is a smart man, sir? He is a rising man? He is a man as will come up’ards, right side up, sir?’ Mr Chollop winked again at the other citizen.

‘He should have his right side very high up, if I had my way,’ said Mark. ‘As high up as the top of a good tall gallows, perhaps.’

Mr Chollop was so delighted at the smartness of his excellent countryman having been too much for the Britisher, and at the Britisher’s resenting it, that he could contain himself no longer, and broke forth in a shout of delight. But the strangest exposition of this ruling passion was in the other—the pestilence-stricken, broken, miserable shadow of a man—who derived so much entertainment from the circumstance that he seemed to forget his own ruin in thinking of it, and laughed outright when he said ‘that Scadder was a smart man, and had draw’d a lot of British capital that way, as sure as sun-up.’

After a full enjoyment of this joke, Mr Hannibal Chollop sat smoking and improving the circle, without making any attempts either to converse or to take leave; apparently labouring under the not uncommon delusion that for a free and enlightened citizen of the United States to convert another man’s house into a spittoon for two or three hours together, was a delicate attention, full of interest and politeness, of which nobody could ever tire. At last he rose.

‘I am a-going easy,’ he observed.

Mark entreated him to take particular care of himself.

‘Afore I go,’ he said sternly, ‘I have got a leetle word to say to you. You are darnation ‘cute, you are.’

Mark thanked him for the compliment.

‘But you are much too ‘cute to last. I can’t con-ceive of any spotted Painter in the bush, as ever was so riddled through and through as you will be, I bet.’

‘What for?’ asked Mark.

‘We must be cracked up, sir,’ retorted Chollop, in a tone of menace. ‘You are not now in A despotic land. We are a model to the airth, and must be jist cracked-up, I tell you.’

‘What! I speak too free, do I?’ cried Mark.

‘I have draw’d upon A man, and fired upon A man for less,’ said Chollop, frowning. ‘I have know’d strong men obleeged to make themselves uncommon skase for less. I have know’d men Lynched for less, and beaten into punkin’-sarse for less, by an enlightened people. We are the intellect and virtue of the airth, the cream of human natur’, and the flower Of moral force. Our backs is easy ris. We must be cracked-up, or they rises, and we snarls. We shows our teeth, I tell you, fierce. You’d better crack us up, you had!’

After the delivery of this caution, Mr Chollop departed; with Ripper, Tickler, and the revolvers, all ready for action on the shortest notice.

‘Come out from under the blanket, sir,’ said Mark, ‘he’s gone. What’s this!’ he added softly; kneeling down to look into his partner’s face, and taking his hot hand. ‘What’s come of all that chattering and swaggering? He’s wandering in his mind to-night, and don’t know me!’

Martin indeed was dangerously ill; very near his death. He lay in that state many days, during which time Mark’s poor friends, regardless of themselves, attended him. Mark, fatigued in mind and body; working all the day and sitting up at night; worn with hard living and the unaccustomed toil of his new life; surrounded by dismal and discouraging circumstances of every kind; never complained or yielded in the least degree. If ever he had thought Martin selfish or inconsiderate, or had deemed him energetic only by fits and starts, and then too passive for their desperate fortunes, he now forgot it all. He remembered nothing but the better qualities of his fellow-wanderer, and was devoted to him, heart and hand.

Many weeks elapsed before Martin was strong enough to move about with the help of a stick and Mark’s arm; and even then his recovery, for want of wholesome air and proper nourishment, was very slow. He was yet in a feeble and weak condition, when the misfourtune he had so much dreaded fell upon them. Mark was taken ill.

Mark fought against it; but the malady fought harder, and his efforts were in vain.

‘Floored for the present, sir,’ he said one morning, sinking back upon his bed; ‘but jolly!’

Floored indeed, and by a heavy blow! As any one but Martin might have known beforehand.

If Mark’s friends had been kind to Martin (and they had been very), they were twenty times kinder to Mark. And now it was Martin’s turn to work, and sit beside the bed and watch, and listen through the long, long nights, to every sound in the gloomy wilderness; and hear poor Mr Tapley, in his wandering fancy, playing at skittles in the Dragon, making love-remonstrances to Mrs Lupin, getting his sea-legs on board the Screw, travelling with old Tom Pinch on English roads, and burning stumps of trees in Eden, all at once.

But whenever Martin gave him drink or medicine, or tended him in any way, or came into the house returning from some drudgery without, the patient Mr Tapley brightened up and cried: ‘I’m jolly, sir; ‘I’m jolly!’

Now, when Martin began to think of this, and to look at Mark as he lay there; never reproaching him by so much as an expression of regret; never murmuring; always striving to be manful and staunch; he began to think, how was it that this man who had had so few advantages, was so much better than he who had had so many? And attendance upon a sick bed, but especially the sick bed of one whom we have been accustomed to see in full activity and vigour, being a great breeder of reflection, he began to ask himself in what they differed.

He was assisted in coming to a conclusion on this head by the frequent presence of Mark’s friend, their fellow-passenger across the ocean, which suggested to him that in regard to having aided her, for example, they had differed very much. Somehow he coupled Tom Pinch with this train of reflection; and thinking that Tom would be very likely to have struck up the same sort of acquaintance under similar circumstances, began to think in what respects two people so extremely different were like each other, and were unlike him. At first sight there was nothing very distressing in these meditations, but they did undoubtedly distress him for all that.

Martin’s nature was a frank and generous one; but he had been bred up in his grandfather’s house; and it will usually be found that the meaner domestic vices propagate themselves to be their own antagonists. Selfishness does this especially; so do suspicion, cunning, stealth, and covetous propensities. Martin had unconsciously reasoned as a child, ‘My guardian takes so much thought of himself, that unless I do the like by myself, I shall be forgotten.’ So he had grown selfish.

But he had never known it. If any one had taxed him with the vice, he would have indignantly repelled the accusation, and conceived himself unworthily aspersed. He never would have known it, but that being newly risen from a bed of dangerous sickness, to watch by such another couch, he felt how nearly Self had dropped into the grave, and what a poor dependent, miserable thing it was.

It was natural for him to reflect—he had months to do it in—upon his own escape, and Mark’s extremity. This led him to consider which of them could be the better spared, and why? Then the curtain slowly rose a very little way; and Self, Self, Self, was shown below.

He asked himself, besides, when dreading Mark’s decease (as all men do and must, at such a time), whether he had done his duty by him, and had deserved and made a good response to his fidelity and zeal. No. Short as their companionship had been, he felt in many, many instances, that there was blame against himself; and still inquiring why, the curtain slowly rose a little more, and Self, Self, Self, dilated on the scene.

It was long before he fixed the knowledge of himself so firmly in his mind that he could thoroughly discern the truth; but in the hideous solitude of that most hideous place, with Hope so far removed, Ambition quenched, and Death beside him rattling at the very door, reflection came, as in a plague-beleaguered town; and so he felt and knew the failing of his life, and saw distinctly what an ugly spot it was.

Eden was a hard school to learn so hard a lesson in; but there were teachers in the swamp and thicket, and the pestilential air, who had a searching method of their own.

He made a solemn resolution that when his strength returned he would not dispute the point or resist the conviction, but would look upon it as an established fact, that selfishness was in his breast, and must be rooted out. He was so doubtful (and with justice) of his own character, that he determined not to say one word of vain regret or good resolve to Mark, but steadily to keep his purpose before his own eyes solely; and there was not a jot of pride in this; nothing but humility and steadfastness; the best armour he could wear. So low had Eden brought him down. So high had Eden raised him up.

After a long and lingering illness (in certain forlorn stages of which, when too far gone to speak, he had feebly written ‘jolly!’ on a slate), Mark showed some symptoms of returning health. They came and went, and flickered for a time; but he began to mend at last decidedly; and after that continued to improve from day to day.

As soon as he was well enough to talk without fatigue, Martin consulted him upon a project he had in his mind, and which a few months back he would have carried into execution without troubling anybody’s head but his own.

‘Ours is a desperate case,’ said Martin. ‘Plainly. The place is deserted; its failure must have become known; and selling what we have bought to any one, for anything, is hopeless, even if it were honest. We left home on a mad enterprise, and have failed. The only hope left us, the only one end for which we have now to try, is to quit this settlement for ever, and get back to England. Anyhow! by any means! only to get back there, Mark.’

‘That’s all, sir,’ returned Mr Tapley, with a significant stress upon the words; ‘only that!’

‘Now, upon this side of the water,’ said Martin, ‘we have but one friend who can help us, and that is Mr Bevan.’

‘I thought of him when you was ill,’ said Mark.

‘But for the time that would be lost, I would even write to my grandfather,’ Martin went on to say, ‘and implore him for money to free us from this trap into which we were so cruelly decoyed. Shall I try Mr Bevan first?’

‘He’s a very pleasant sort of a gentleman,’ said Mark. ‘I think so.’

‘The few goods we brought here, and in which we spent our money, would produce something if sold,’ resumed Martin; ‘and whatever they realise shall be paid him instantly. But they can’t be sold here.’

‘There’s nobody but corpses to buy ‘em,’ said Mr Tapley, shaking his head with a rueful air, ‘and pigs.’

‘Shall I tell him so, and only ask him for money enough to enable us by the cheapest means to reach New York, or any port from which we may hope to get a passage home, by serving in any capacity? Explaining to him at the same time how I am connected, and that I will endeavour to repay him, even through my grandfather, immediately on our arrival in England?’

‘Why to be sure,’ said Mark: ‘he can only say no, and he may say yes. If you don’t mind trying him, sir—’

‘Mind!’ exclaimed Martin. ‘I am to blame for coming here, and I would do anything to get away. I grieve to think of the past. If I had taken your opinion sooner, Mark, we never should have been here, I am certain.’

Mr Tapley was very much surprised at this admission, but protested, with great vehemence, that they would have been there all the same; and that he had set his heart upon coming to Eden, from the first word he had ever heard of it.

Martin then read him a letter to Mr Bevan, which he had already prepared. It was frankly and ingenuously written, and described their situation without the least concealment; plainly stated the miseries they had undergone; and preferred their request in modest but straightforward terms. Mark highly commended it; and they determined to dispatch it by the next steamboat going the right way, that might call to take in wood at Eden—where there was plenty of wood to spare. Not knowing how to address Mr Bevan at his own place of abode, Martin superscribed it to the care of the memorable Mr Norris of New York, and wrote upon the cover an entreaty that it might be forwarded without delay.

More than a week elapsed before a boat appeared; but at length they were awakened very early one morning by the high-pressure snorting of the ‘Esau Slodge;’ named after one of the most remarkable men in the country, who had been very eminent somewhere. Hurrying down to the landing-place, they got it safe on board; and waiting anxiously to see the boat depart, stopped up the gangway; an instance of neglect which caused the ‘Capting’ of the Esau Slodge to ‘wish he might be sifted fine as flour, and whittled small as chips; that if they didn’t come off that there fixing right smart too, he’d spill ‘em in the drink;’ whereby the Capting metaphorically said he’d throw them in the river.

They were not likely to receive an answer for eight or ten weeks at the earliest. In the meantime they devoted such strength as they had to the attempted improvement of their land; to clearing some of it, and preparing it for useful purposes. Monstrously defective as their farming was, still it was better than their neighbours’; for Mark had some practical knowledge of such matters, and Martin learned of him; whereas the other settlers who remained upon the putrid swamp (a mere handful, and those withered by disease), appeared to have wandered there with the idea that husbandry was the natural gift of all mankind. They helped each other after their own manner in these struggles, and in all others; but they worked as hopelessly and sadly as a gang of convicts in a penal settlement.

Often at night when Mark and Martin were alone, and lying down to sleep, they spoke of home, familiar places, houses, roads, and people whom they knew; sometimes in the lively hope of seeing them again, and sometimes with a sorrowful tranquillity, as if that hope were dead. It was a source of great amazement to Mark Tapley to find, pervading all these conversations, a singular alteration in Martin.

‘I don’t know what to make of him,’ he thought one night, ‘he ain’t what I supposed. He don’t think of himself half as much. I’ll try him again. Asleep, sir?’

‘No, Mark.’

‘Thinking of home, sir?’

‘Yes, Mark.’

‘So was I, sir. I was wondering how Mr Pinch and Mr Pecksniff gets on now.’

‘Poor Tom!’ said Martin, thoughtfully.

‘Weak-minded man, sir,’ observed Mr Tapley. ‘Plays the organ for nothing, sir. Takes no care of himself?’

‘I wish he took a little more, indeed,’ said Martin. ‘Though I don’t know why I should. We shouldn’t like him half as well, perhaps.’

‘He gets put upon, sir,’ hinted Mark.

‘Yes!’ said Martin, after a short silence. ‘I know that, Mark.’

He spoke so regretfully that his partner abandoned the theme, and was silent for a short time until he had thought of another.

‘Ah, sir!’ said Mark, with a sigh. ‘Dear me! You’ve ventured a good deal for a young lady’s love!’

‘I tell you what. I’m not so sure of that, Mark,’ was the reply; so hastily and energetically spoken, that Martin sat up in his bed to give it. ‘I begin to be far from clear upon it. You may depend upon it she is very unhappy. She has sacrificed her peace of mind; she has endangered her interests very much; she can’t run away from those who are jealous of her, and opposed to her, as I have done. She has to endure, Mark; to endure without the possibility of action, poor girl! I begin to think that she has more to bear than ever I had. Upon my soul I do!’

Mr Tapley opened his eyes wide in the dark; but did not interrupt.

‘And I’ll tell you a secret, Mark,’ said Martin, ‘since we are upon this subject. That ring—’

‘Which ring, sir?’ Mark inquired, opening his eyes still wider.

‘That ring she gave me when we parted, Mark. She bought it; bought it; knowing I was poor and proud (Heaven help me! Proud!) and wanted money.’

‘Who says so, sir?’ asked Mark.

‘I say so. I know it. I thought of it, my good fellow, hundreds of times, while you were lying ill. And like a beast, I took it from her hand, and wore it on my own, and never dreamed of this even at the moment when I parted with it, when some faint glimmering of the truth might surely have possessed me! But it’s late,’ said Martin, checking himself, ‘and you are weak and tired, I know. You only talk to cheer me up. Good night! God bless you, Mark!’

‘God bless you, sir! But I’m reg’larly defrauded,’ thought Mr Tapley, turning round with a happy face. ‘It’s a swindle. I never entered for this sort of service. There’ll be no credit in being jolly with him!’

The time wore on, and other steamboats coming from the point on which their hopes were fixed, arrived to take in wood; but still no answer to the letter. Rain, heat, foul slime, and noxious vapour, with all the ills and filthy things they bred, prevailed. The earth, the air, the vegetation, and the water that they drank, all teemed with deadly properties. Their fellow-passenger had lost two children long before; and buried now her last. Such things are much too common to be widely known or cared for. Smart citizens grow rich, and friendless victims smart and die, and are forgotten. That is all.

At last a boat came panting up the ugly river, and stopped at Eden. Mark was waiting at the wood hut when it came, and had a letter handed to him from on board. He bore it off to Martin. They looked at one another, trembling.

‘It feels heavy,’ faltered Martin. And opening it a little roll of dollar-notes fell out upon the ground.

What either of them said, or did, or felt, at first, neither of them knew. All Mark could ever tell was, that he was at the river’s bank again out of breath, before the boat had gone, inquiring when it would retrace its track and put in there.

The answer was, in ten or twelve days; notwithstanding which they began to get their goods together and to tie them up that very night. When this stage of excitement was passed, each of them believed (they found this out, in talking of it afterwards) that he would surely die before the boat returned.

They lived, however, and it came, after the lapse of three long crawling weeks. At sunrise, on an autumn day, they stood upon her deck.

‘Courage! We shall meet again!’ cried Martin, waving his hand to two thin figures on the bank. ‘In the Old World!’

‘Or in the next one,’ added Mark below his breath. ‘To see them standing side by side, so quiet, is a’most the worst of all!’

They looked at one another as the vessel moved away, and then looked backward at the spot from which it hurried fast. The log-house, with the open door, and drooping trees about it; the stagnant morning mist, and red sun, dimly seen beyond; the vapour rising up from land and river; the quick stream making the loathsome banks it washed more flat and dull; how often they returned in dreams! How often it was happiness to wake and find them Shadows that had vanished!






CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR. IN WHICH THE TRAVELLERS MOVE HOMEWARD, AND ENCOUNTER SOME DISTINGUISHED CHARACTERS UPON THE WAY


Among the passengers on board the steamboat, there was a faint gentleman sitting on a low camp-stool, with his legs on a high barrel of flour, as if he were looking at the prospect with his ankles, who attracted their attention speedily.

He had straight black hair, parted up the middle of his head and hanging down upon his coat; a little fringe of hair upon his chin; wore no neckcloth; a white hat; a suit of black, long in the sleeves and short in the legs; soiled brown stockings and laced shoes. His complexion, naturally muddy, was rendered muddier by too strict an economy of soap and water; and the same observation will apply to the washable part of his attire, which he might have changed with comfort to himself and gratification to his friends. He was about five and thirty; was crushed and jammed up in a heap, under the shade of a large green cotton umbrella; and ruminated over his tobacco-plug like a cow.

He was not singular, to be sure, in these respects; for every gentleman on board appeared to have had a difference with his laundress and to have left off washing himself in early youth. Every gentleman, too, was perfectly stopped up with tight plugging, and was dislocated in the greater part of his joints. But about this gentleman there was a peculiar air of sagacity and wisdom, which convinced Martin that he was no common character; and this turned out to be the case.

‘How do you do sir?’ said a voice in Martin’s ear

‘How do you do sir?’ said Martin.

It was a tall thin gentleman who spoke to him, with a carpet-cap on, and a long loose coat of green baize, ornamented about the pockets with black velvet.

‘You air from Europe, sir?’

‘I am,’ said Martin.

‘You air fortunate, sir.’

Martin thought so too; but he soon discovered that the gentleman and he attached different meanings to this remark.

‘You air fortunate, sir, in having an opportunity of beholding our Elijah Pogram, sir.’

‘Your Elijahpogram!’ said Martin, thinking it was all one word, and a building of some sort.

‘Yes sir.’

Martin tried to look as if he understood him, but he couldn’t make it out.

‘Yes, sir,’ repeated the gentleman, ‘our Elijah Pogram, sir, is, at this minute, identically settin’ by the engine biler.’

The gentleman under the umbrella put his right forefinger to his eyebrow, as if he were revolving schemes of state.

‘That is Elijah Pogram, is it?’ said Martin.

‘Yes, sir,’ replied the other. ‘That is Elijah Pogram.’

‘Dear me!’ said Martin. ‘I am astonished.’ But he had not the least idea who this Elijah Pogram was; having never heard the name in all his life.

‘If the biler of this vessel was Toe bust, sir,’ said his new acquaintance, ‘and Toe bust now, this would be a festival day in the calendar of despotism; pretty nigh equallin’, sir, in its effects upon the human race, our Fourth of glorious July. Yes, sir, that is the Honourable Elijah Pogram, Member of Congress; one of the master-minds of our country, sir. There is a brow, sir, there!’

‘Quite remarkable,’ said Martin.

‘Yes, sir. Our own immortal Chiggle, sir, is said to have observed, when he made the celebrated Pogram statter in marble, which rose so much con-test and preju-dice in Europe, that the brow was more than mortal. This was before the Pogram Defiance, and was, therefore, a pre-diction, cruel smart.’

‘What is the Pogram Defiance?’ asked Martin, thinking, perhaps, it was the sign of a public-house.

‘An o-ration, sir,’ returned his friend.

‘Oh! to be sure,’ cried Martin. ‘What am I thinking of! It defied—’

‘It defied the world, sir,’ said the other, gravely. ‘Defied the world in general to com-pete with our country upon any hook; and devellop’d our internal resources for making war upon the universal airth. You would like to know Elijah Pogram, sir?’

‘If you please,’ said Martin.

‘Mr Pogram,’ said the stranger—Mr Pogram having overheard every word of the dialogue—‘this is a gentleman from Europe, sir; from England, sir. But gen’rous ene-mies may meet upon the neutral sile of private life, I think.’

The languid Mr Pogram shook hands with Martin, like a clock-work figure that was just running down. But he made amends by chewing like one that was just wound up.

‘Mr Pogram,’ said the introducer, ‘is a public servant, sir. When Congress is recessed, he makes himself acquainted with those free United States, of which he is the gifted son.’

It occurred to Martin that if the Honourable Elijah Pogram had stayed at home, and sent his shoes upon a tour, they would have answered the same purpose; for they were the only part of him in a situation to see anything.

In course of time, however, Mr Pogram rose; and having ejected certain plugging consequences which would have impeded his articulation, took up a position where there was something to lean against, and began to talk to Martin; shading himself with the green umbrella all the time.

As he began with the words, ‘How do you like—?’ Martin took him up and said:

‘The country, I presume?’

‘Yes, sir,’ said Elijah Pogram. A knot of passengers gathered round to hear what followed; and Martin heard his friend say, as he whispered to another friend, and rubbed his hands, ‘Pogram will smash him into sky-blue fits, I know!’

‘Why,’ said Martin, after a moment’s hesitation, ‘I have learned by experience, that you take an unfair advantage of a stranger, when you ask that question. You don’t mean it to be answered, except in one way. Now, I don’t choose to answer it in that way, for I cannot honestly answer it in that way. And therefore, I would rather not answer it at all.’

But Mr Pogram was going to make a great speech in the next session about foreign relations, and was going to write strong articles on the subject; and as he greatly favoured the free and independent custom (a very harmless and agreeable one) of procuring information of any sort in any kind of confidence, and afterwards perverting it publicly in any manner that happened to suit him, he had determined to get at Martin’s opinions somehow or other. For if he could have got nothing out of him, he would have had to invent it for him, and that would have been laborious. He made a mental note of his answer, and went in again.

‘You are from Eden, sir? How did you like Eden?’

Martin said what he thought of that part of the country, in pretty strong terms.

‘It is strange,’ said Pogram, looking round upon the group, ‘this hatred of our country, and her Institutions! This national antipathy is deeply rooted in the British mind!’

‘Good Heaven, sir,’ cried Martin. ‘Is the Eden Land Corporation, with Mr Scadder at its head, and all the misery it has worked, at its door, an Institution of America? A part of any form of government that ever was known or heard of?’

‘I con-sider the cause of this to be,’ said Pogram, looking round again and taking himself up where Martin had interrupted him, ‘partly jealousy and pre-judice, and partly the nat’ral unfitness of the British people to appreciate the ex-alted Institutions of our native land. I expect, sir,’ turning to Martin again, ‘that a gentleman named Chollop happened in upon you during your lo-cation in the town of Eden?’

‘Yes,’ answered Martin; ‘but my friend can answer this better than I can, for I was very ill at the time. Mark! The gentleman is speaking of Mr Chollop.’

‘Oh. Yes, sir. Yes. I see him,’ observed Mark.

‘A splendid example of our na-tive raw material, sir?’ said Pogram, interrogatively.

‘Indeed, sir!’ cried Mark.

The Honourable Elijah Pogram glanced at his friends as though he would have said, ‘Observe this! See what follows!’ and they rendered tribute to the Pogram genius by a gentle murmur.

‘Our fellow-countryman is a model of a man, quite fresh from Natur’s mould!’ said Pogram, with enthusiasm. ‘He is a true-born child of this free hemisphere! Verdant as the mountains of our country; bright and flowing as our mineral Licks; unspiled by withering conventionalities as air our broad and boundless Perearers! Rough he may be. So air our Barrs. Wild he may be. So air our Buffalers. But he is a child of Natur’, and a child of Freedom; and his boastful answer to the Despot and the Tyrant is, that his bright home is in the Settin Sun.’

Part of this referred to Chollop, and part to a Western postmaster, who, being a public defaulter not very long before (a character not at all uncommon in America), had been removed from office; and on whose behalf Mr Pogram (he voted for Pogram) had thundered the last sentence from his seat in Congress, at the head of an unpopular President. It told brilliantly; for the bystanders were delighted, and one of them said to Martin, ‘that he guessed he had now seen something of the eloquential aspect of our country, and was chawed up pritty small.’

Mr Pogram waited until his hearers were calm again, before he said to Mark:

‘You do not seem to coincide, sir?’

‘Why,’ said Mark, ‘I didn’t like him much; and that’s the truth, sir. I thought he was a bully; and I didn’t admire his carryin’ them murderous little persuaders, and being so ready to use ‘em.’

‘It’s singler!’ said Pogram, lifting his umbrella high enough to look all round from under it. ‘It’s strange! You observe the settled opposition to our Institutions which pervades the British mind!’

‘What an extraordinary people you are!’ cried Martin. ‘Are Mr Chollop and the class he represents, an Institution here? Are pistols with revolving barrels, sword-sticks, bowie-knives, and such things, Institutions on which you pride yourselves? Are bloody duels, brutal combats, savage assaults, shooting down and stabbing in the streets, your Institutions! Why, I shall hear next that Dishonour and Fraud are among the Institutions of the great republic!’

The moment the words passed his lips, the Honourable Elijah Pogram looked round again.

‘This morbid hatred of our Institutions,’ he observed, ‘is quite a study for the psychological observer. He’s alludin’ to Repudiation now!’

‘Oh! you may make anything an Institution if you like,’ said Martin, laughing, ‘and I confess you had me there, for you certainly have made that one. But the greater part of these things are one Institution with us, and we call it by the generic name of Old Bailey!’

The bell being rung for dinner at this moment, everybody ran away into the cabin, whither the Honourable Elijah Pogram fled with such precipitation that he forgot his umbrella was up, and fixed it so tightly in the cabin door that it could neither be let down nor got out. For a minute or so this accident created a perfect rebellion among the hungry passengers behind, who, seeing the dishes, and hearing the knives and forks at work, well knew what would happen unless they got there instantly, and were nearly mad; while several virtuous citizens at the table were in deadly peril of choking themselves in their unnatural efforts to get rid of all the meat before these others came.

They carried the umbrella by storm, however, and rushed in at the breach. The Honourable Elijah Pogram and Martin found themselves, after a severe struggle, side by side, as they might have come together in the pit of a London theatre; and for four whole minutes afterwards, Pogram was snapping up great blocks of everything he could get hold of, like a raven. When he had taken this unusually protracted dinner, he began to talk to Martin; and begged him not to have the least delicacy in speaking with perfect freedom to him, for he was a calm philosopher. Which Martin was extremely glad to hear; for he had begun to speculate on Elijah being a disciple of that other school of republican philosophy, whose noble sentiments are carved with knives upon a pupil’s body, and written, not with pen and ink, but tar and feathers.

‘What do you think of my countrymen who are present, sir?’ inquired Elijah Pogram.

‘Oh! very pleasant,’ said Martin.

They were a very pleasant party. No man had spoken a word; every one had been intent, as usual, on his own private gorging; and the greater part of the company were decidedly dirty feeders.

The Honourable Elijah Pogram looked at Martin as if he thought ‘You don’t mean that, I know!’ and he was soon confirmed in this opinion.

Sitting opposite to them was a gentleman in a high state of tobacco, who wore quite a little beard, composed of the overflowing of that weed, as they had dried about his mouth and chin; so common an ornament that it would scarcely have attracted Martin’s observation, but that this good citizen, burning to assert his equality against all comers, sucked his knife for some moments, and made a cut with it at the butter, just as Martin was in the act of taking some. There was a juiciness about the deed that might have sickened a scavenger.

When Elijah Pogram (to whom this was an every-day incident) saw that Martin put the plate away, and took no butter, he was quite delighted, and said,

‘Well! The morbid hatred of you British to the Institutions of our country is as-tonishing!’

‘Upon my life!’ cried Martin, in his turn. ‘This is the most wonderful community that ever existed. A man deliberately makes a hog of himself, and that’s an Institution!’

‘We have no time to ac-quire forms, sir,’ said Elijah Pogram.

‘Acquire!’ cried Martin. ‘But it’s not a question of acquiring anything. It’s a question of losing the natural politeness of a savage, and that instinctive good breeding which admonishes one man not to offend and disgust another. Don’t you think that man over the way, for instance, naturally knows better, but considers it a very fine and independent thing to be a brute in small matters?’

‘He is a na-tive of our country, and is nat’rally bright and spry, of course,’ said Mr Pogram.

‘Now, observe what this comes to, Mr Pogram,’ pursued Martin. ‘The mass of your countrymen begin by stubbornly neglecting little social observances, which have nothing to do with gentility, custom, usage, government, or country, but are acts of common, decent, natural, human politeness. You abet them in this, by resenting all attacks upon their social offences as if they were a beautiful national feature. From disregarding small obligations they come in regular course to disregard great ones; and so refuse to pay their debts. What they may do, or what they may refuse to do next, I don’t know; but any man may see if he will, that it will be something following in natural succession, and a part of one great growth, which is rotten at the root.’

The mind of Mr Pogram was too philosophical to see this; so they went on deck again, where, resuming his former post, he chewed until he was in a lethargic state, amounting to insensibility.

After a weary voyage of several days, they came again to that same wharf where Mark had been so nearly left behind, on the night of starting for Eden. Captain Kedgick, the landlord, was standing there, and was greatly surprised to see them coming from the boat.

‘Why, what the ‘tarnal!’ cried the Captain. ‘Well! I do admire at this, I do!’

‘We can stay at your house until to-morrow, Captain, I suppose?’ said Martin.

‘I reckon you can stay there for a twelvemonth if you like,’ retorted Kedgick coolly. ‘But our people won’t best like your coming back.’

‘Won’t like it, Captain Kedgick!’ said Martin.

‘They did expect you was a-going to settle,’ Kedgick answered, as he shook his head. ‘They’ve been took in, you can’t deny!’

‘What do you mean?’ cried Martin.

‘You didn’t ought to have received ‘em,’ said the Captain. ‘No you didn’t!’

‘My good friend,’ returned Martin, ‘did I want to receive them? Was it any act of mine? Didn’t you tell me they would rile up, and that I should be flayed like a wild cat—and threaten all kinds of vengeance, if I didn’t receive them?’

‘I don’t know about that,’ returned the Captain. ‘But when our people’s frills is out, they’re starched up pretty stiff, I tell you!’

With that, he fell into the rear to walk with Mark, while Martin and Elijah Pogram went on to the National.

‘We’ve come back alive, you see!’ said Mark.

‘It ain’t the thing I did expect,’ the Captain grumbled. ‘A man ain’t got no right to be a public man, unless he meets the public views. Our fashionable people wouldn’t have attended his le-vee, if they had know’d it.’

Nothing mollified the Captain, who persisted in taking it very ill that they had not both died in Eden. The boarders at the National felt strongly on the subject too; but it happened by good fortune that they had not much time to think about this grievance, for it was suddenly determined to pounce upon the Honourable Elijah Pogram, and give him a le-vee forthwith.

As the general evening meal of the house was over before the arrival of the boat, Martin, Mark, and Pogram were taking tea and fixings at the public table by themselves, when the deputation entered to announce this honour; consisting of six gentlemen boarders and a very shrill boy.

‘Sir!’ said the spokesman.

‘Mr Pogram!’ cried the shrill boy.

The spokesman thus reminded of the shrill boy’s presence, introduced him. ‘Doctor Ginery Dunkle, sir. A gentleman of great poetical elements. He has recently jined us here, sir, and is an acquisition to us, sir, I do assure you. Yes, sir. Mr Jodd, sir. Mr Izzard, sir. Mr Julius Bib, sir.’

‘Julius Washington Merryweather Bib,’ said the gentleman himself to himself.

‘I beg your pardon, sir. Excuse me. Mr Julius Washington Merryweather Bib, sir; a gentleman in the lumber line, sir, and much esteemed. Colonel Groper, sir. Pro-fessor Piper, sir. My own name, sir, is Oscar Buffum.’

Each man took one slide forward as he was named; butted at the Honourable Elijah Pogram with his head; shook hands, and slid back again. The introductions being completed, the spokesman resumed.

‘Sir!’

‘Mr Pogram!’ cried the shrill boy.

‘Perhaps,’ said the spokesman, with a hopeless look, ‘you will be so good, Dr. Ginery Dunkle, as to charge yourself with the execution of our little office, sir?’

As there was nothing the shrill boy desired more, he immediately stepped forward.

‘Mr Pogram! Sir! A handful of your fellow-citizens, sir, hearing of your arrival at the National Hotel, and feeling the patriotic character of your public services, wish, sir, to have the gratification of beholding you, and mixing with you, sir; and unbending with you, sir, in those moments which—’

‘Air,’ suggested Buffum.

‘Which air so peculiarly the lot, sir, of our great and happy country.’

‘Hear!’ cried Colonel Grouper, in a loud voice. ‘Good! Hear him! Good!’

‘And therefore, sir,’ pursued the Doctor, ‘they request; as A mark Of their respect; the honour of your company at a little le-Vee, sir, in the ladies’ ordinary, at eight o’clock.’

Mr Pogram bowed, and said:

‘Fellow countrymen!’

‘Good!’ cried the Colonel. ‘Hear, him! Good!’

Mr Pogram bowed to the Colonel individually, and then resumed.

‘Your approbation of My labours in the common cause goes to My heart. At all times and in all places; in the ladies’ ordinary, My friends, and in the Battle Field—’

‘Good, very good! Hear him! Hear him!’ said the Colonel.

‘The name of Pogram will be proud to jine you. And may it, My friends, be written on My tomb, “He was a member of the Congress of our common country, and was ac-Tive in his trust.”’

‘The Com-mittee, sir,’ said the shrill boy, ‘will wait upon you at five minutes afore eight. I take My leave, sir!’

Mr Pogram shook hands with him, and everybody else, once more; and when they came back again at five minutes before eight, they said, one by one, in a melancholy voice, ‘How do you do, sir?’ and shook hands with Mr Pogram all over again, as if he had been abroad for a twelvemonth in the meantime, and they met, now, at a funeral.

But by this time Mr Pogram had freshened himself up, and had composed his hair and features after the Pogram statue, so that any one with half an eye might cry out, ‘There he is! as he delivered the Defiance!’ The Committee were embellished also; and when they entered the ladies’ ordinary in a body, there was much clapping of hands from ladies and gentlemen, accompanied by cries of ‘Pogram! Pogram!’ and some standing up on chairs to see him.

The object of the popular caress looked round the room as he walked up it, and smiled; at the same time observing to the shrill boy, that he knew something of the beauty of the daughters of their common country, but had never seen it in such lustre and perfection as at that moment. Which the shrill boy put in the paper next day; to Elijah Pogram’s great surprise.

‘We will re-quest you, sir, if you please,’ said Buffum, laying hands on Mr Pogram as if he were taking his measure for a coat, ‘to stand up with your back agin the wall right in the furthest corner, that there may be more room for our fellow citizens. If you could set your back right slap agin that curtain-peg, sir, keeping your left leg everlastingly behind the stove, we should be fixed quite slick.’

Mr Pogram did as he was told, and wedged himself into such a little corner that the Pogram statue wouldn’t have known him.

The entertainments of the evening then began. Gentlemen brought ladies up, and brought themselves up, and brought each other up; and asked Elijah Pogram what he thought of this political question, and what he thought of that; and looked at him, and looked at one another, and seemed very unhappy indeed. The ladies on the chairs looked at Elijah Pogram through their glasses, and said audibly, ‘I wish he’d speak. Why don’t he speak? Oh, do ask him to speak!’ And Elijah Pogram looked sometimes at the ladies and sometimes elsewhere, delivering senatorial opinions, as he was asked for them. But the great end and object of the meeting seemed to be, not to let Elijah Pogram out of the corner on any account; so there they kept him, hard and fast.

A great bustle at the door, in the course of the evening, announced the arrival of some remarkable person; and immediately afterwards an elderly gentleman, much excited, was seen to precipitate himself upon the crowd, and battle his way towards the Honourable Elijah Pogram. Martin, who had found a snug place of observation in a distant corner, where he stood with Mark beside him (for he did not so often forget him now as formerly, though he still did sometimes), thought he knew this gentleman, but had no doubt of it, when he cried as loud as he could, with his eyes starting out of his head:

‘Sir, Mrs Hominy!’

‘Lord bless that woman, Mark. She has turned up again!’

‘Here she comes, sir,’ answered Mr Tapley. ‘Pogram knows her. A public character! Always got her eye upon her country, sir! If that there lady’s husband is of my opinion, what a jolly old gentleman he must be!’

A lane was made; and Mrs Hominy, with the aristocratic stalk, the pocket handkerchief, the clasped hands, and the classical cap, came slowly up it, in a procession of one. Mr Pogram testified emotions of delight on seeing her, and a general hush prevailed. For it was known that when a woman like Mrs Hominy encountered a man like Pogram, something interesting must be said.

Their first salutations were exchanged in a voice too low to reach the impatient ears of the throng; but they soon became audible, for Mrs Hominy felt her position, and knew what was expected of her.

Mrs H. was hard upon him at first; and put him through a rigid catechism in reference to a certain vote he had given, which she had found it necessary, as the mother of the modern Gracchi, to deprecate in a line by itself, set up expressly for the purpose in German text. But Mr Pogram evading it by a well-timed allusion to the star-spangled banner, which, it appeared, had the remarkable peculiarity of flouting the breeze whenever it was hoisted where the wind blew, she forgave him. They now enlarged on certain questions of tariff, commercial treaty, boundary, importation and exportation with great effect. And Mrs Hominy not only talked, as the saying is, like a book, but actually did talk her own books, word for word.

‘My! what is this!’ cried Mrs Hominy, opening a little note which was handed her by her excited gentleman-usher. ‘Do tell! oh, well, now! on’y think!’

And then she read aloud, as follows:

‘Two literary ladies present their compliments to the mother of the modern Gracchi, and claim her kind introduction, as their talented countrywoman, to the honourable (and distinguished) Elijah Pogram, whom the two L. L.‘s have often contemplated in the speaking marble of the soul-subduing Chiggle. On a verbal intimation from the mother of the M. G., that she will comply with the request of the two L. L.‘s, they will have the immediate pleasure of joining the galaxy assembled to do honour to the patriotic conduct of a Pogram. It may be another bond of union between the two L. L.‘s and the mother of the M. G. to observe, that the two L. L.‘s are Transcendental.’

Mrs Hominy promptly rose, and proceeded to the door, whence she returned, after a minute’s interval, with the two L. L.‘s, whom she led, through the lane in the crowd, with all that stateliness of deportment which was so remarkably her own, up to the great Elijah Pogram. It was (as the shrill boy cried out in an ecstasy) quite the Last Scene from Coriolanus. One of the L. L.‘s wore a brown wig of uncommon size. Sticking on the forehead of the other, by invisible means, was a massive cameo, in size and shape like the raspberry tart which is ordinarily sold for a penny, representing on its front the Capitol at Washington.

‘Miss Toppit, and Miss Codger!’ said Mrs Hominy.

‘Codger’s the lady so often mentioned in the English newspapers I should think, sir,’ whispered Mark. ‘The oldest inhabitant as never remembers anything.’

‘To be presented to a Pogram,’ said Miss Codger, ‘by a Hominy, indeed, a thrilling moment is it in its impressiveness on what we call our feelings. But why we call them so, or why impressed they are, or if impressed they are at all, or if at all we are, or if there really is, oh gasping one! a Pogram or a Hominy, or any active principle to which we give those titles, is a topic, Spirit searching, light abandoned, much too vast to enter on, at this unlooked-for crisis.’

‘Mind and matter,’ said the lady in the wig, ‘glide swift into the vortex of immensity. Howls the sublime, and softly sleeps the calm Ideal, in the whispering chambers of Imagination. To hear it, sweet it is. But then, outlaughs the stern philosopher, and saith to the Grotesque, “What ho! arrest for me that Agency. Go, bring it here!” And so the vision fadeth.’

After this, they both took Mr Pogram by the hand, and pressed it to their lips, as a patriotic palm. That homage paid, the mother of the modern Gracchi called for chairs, and the three literary ladies went to work in earnest, to bring poor Pogram out, and make him show himself in all his brilliant colours.

How Pogram got out of his depth instantly, and how the three L. L.‘s were never in theirs, is a piece of history not worth recording. Suffice it, that being all four out of their depths, and all unable to swim, they splashed up words in all directions, and floundered about famously. On the whole, it was considered to have been the severest mental exercise ever heard in the National Hotel. Tears stood in the shrill boy’s eyes several times; and the whole company observed that their heads ached with the effort—as well they might.

When it at last became necessary to release Elijah Pogram from the corner, and the Committee saw him safely back again to the next room, they were fervent in their admiration.

‘Which,’ said Mr Buffum, ‘must have vent, or it will bust. Toe you, Mr Pogram, I am grateful. Toe-wards you, sir, I am inspired with lofty veneration, and with deep e-mo-tion. The sentiment Toe which I would propose to give ex-pression, sir, is this: “May you ever be as firm, sir, as your marble statter! May it ever be as great a terror Toe its ene-mies as you.”’

There is some reason to suppose that it was rather terrible to its friends; being a statue of the Elevated or Goblin School, in which the Honourable Elijah Pogram was represented as in a very high wind, with his hair all standing on end, and his nostrils blown wide open. But Mr Pogram thanked his friend and countryman for the aspiration to which he had given utterance, and the Committee, after another solemn shaking of hands, retired to bed, except the Doctor; who immediately repaired to the newspaper-office, and there wrote a short poem suggested by the events of the evening, beginning with fourteen stars, and headed, ‘A Fragment. Suggested by witnessing the Honourable Elijah Pogram engaged in a philosophical disputation with three of Columbia’s fairest daughters. By Doctor Ginery Dunkle. Of Troy.’

If Pogram was as glad to get to bed as Martin was, he must have been well rewarded for his labours. They started off again next day (Martin and Mark previously disposing of their goods to the storekeepers of whom they had purchased them, for anything they would bring), and were fellow travellers to within a short distance of New York. When Pogram was about to leave them he grew thoughtful, and after pondering for some time, took Martin aside.

‘We air going to part, sir,’ said Pogram.

‘Pray don’t distress yourself,’ said Martin; ‘we must bear it.’

‘It ain’t that, sir,’ returned Pogram, ‘not at all. But I should wish you to accept a copy of My oration.’

‘Thank you,’ said Martin, ‘you are very good. I shall be most happy.’

‘It ain’t quite that, sir, neither,’ resumed Pogram; ‘air you bold enough to introduce a copy into your country?’

‘Certainly,’ said Martin. ‘Why not?’

‘Its sentiments air strong, sir,’ hinted Pogram, darkly.

‘That makes no difference,’ said Martin. ‘I’ll take a dozen if you like.’

‘No, sir,’ retorted Pogram. ‘Not A dozen. That is more than I require. If you are content to run the hazard, sir, here is one for your Lord Chancellor,’ producing it, ‘and one for Your principal Secretary of State. I should wish them to see it, sir, as expressing what my opinions air. That they may not plead ignorance at a future time. But don’t get into danger, sir, on my account!’

‘There is not the least danger, I assure you,’ said Martin. So he put the pamphlets in his pocket, and they parted.

Mr Bevan had written in his letter that, at a certain time, which fell out happily just then, he would be at a certain hotel in the city, anxiously expecting to see them. To this place they repaired without a moment’s delay. They had the satisfaction of finding him within; and of being received by their good friend, with his own warmth and heartiness.

‘I am truly sorry and ashamed,’ said Martin, ‘to have begged of you. But look at us. See what we are, and judge to what we are reduced!’

‘So far from claiming to have done you any service,’ returned the other, ‘I reproach myself with having been, unwittingly, the original cause of your misfortunes. I no more supposed you would go to Eden on such representations as you received; or, indeed, that you would do anything but be dispossessed, by the readiest means, of your idea that fortunes were so easily made here; than I thought of going to Eden myself.’

‘The fact is, I closed with the thing in a mad and sanguine manner,’ said Martin, ‘and the less said about it the better for me. Mark, here, hadn’t a voice in the matter.’

‘Well! but he hadn’t a voice in any other matter, had he?’ returned Mr Bevan; laughing with an air that showed his understanding of Mark and Martin too.

‘Not a very powerful one, I am afraid,’ said Martin with a blush. ‘But live and learn, Mr Bevan! Nearly die and learn; we learn the quicker.’

‘Now,’ said their friend, ‘about your plans. You mean to return home at once?’

‘Oh, I think so,’ returned Martin hastily, for he turned pale at the thought of any other suggestion. ‘That is your opinion too, I hope?’

‘Unquestionably. For I don’t know why you ever came here; though it’s not such an unusual case, I am sorry to say, that we need go any farther into that. You don’t know that the ship in which you came over with our friend General Fladdock, is in port, of course?’

‘Indeed!’ said Martin.

‘Yes. And is advertised to sail to-morrow.’

This was tempting news, but tantalising too; for Martin knew that his getting any employment on board a ship of that class was hopeless. The money in his pocket would not pay one-fourth of the sum he had already borrowed, and if it had been enough for their passage-money, he could hardly have resolved to spend it. He explained this to Mr Bevan, and stated what their project was.

‘Why, that’s as wild as Eden every bit,’ returned his friend. ‘You must take your passage like a Christian; at least, as like a Christian as a fore-cabin passenger can; and owe me a few more dollars than you intend. If Mark will go down to the ship and see what passengers there are, and finds that you can go in her without being actually suffocated, my advice is, go! You and I will look about us in the meantime (we won’t call at the Norris’s unless you like), and we will all three dine together in the afternoon.’

Martin had nothing to express but gratitude, and so it was arranged. But he went out of the room after Mark, and advised him to take their passage in the Screw, though they lay upon the bare deck; which Mr Tapley, who needed no entreaty on the subject readily promised to do.

When he and Martin met again, and were alone, he was in high spirits, and evidently had something to communicate, in which he gloried very much.

‘I’ve done Mr Bevan, sir,’ said Mark.

‘Done Mr Bevan!’ repeated Martin.

‘The cook of the Screw went and got married yesterday, sir,’ said Mr Tapley.

Martin looked at him for farther explanation.

‘And when I got on board, and the word was passed that it was me,’ said Mark, ‘the mate he comes and asks me whether I’d engage to take this said cook’s place upon the passage home. “For you’re used to it,” he says; “you were always a-cooking for everybody on your passage out.” And so I was,’ said Mark, ‘although I never cooked before, I’ll take my oath.’

‘What did you say?’ demanded Martin.

‘Say!’ cried Mark. ‘That I’d take anything I could get. “If that’s so,” says the mate, “why, bring a glass of rum;” which they brought according. And my wages, sir,’ said Mark in high glee, ‘pays your passage; and I’ve put the rolling-pin in your berth to take it (it’s the easy one up in the corner); and there we are, Rule Britannia, and Britons strike home!’

‘There never was such a good fellow as you are!’ cried Martin seizing him by the hand. ‘But what do you mean by “doing” Mr Bevan, Mark?’

‘Why, don’t you see?’ said Mark. ‘We don’t tell him, you know. We take his money, but we don’t spend it, and we don’t keep it. What we do is, write him a little note, explaining this engagement, and roll it up, and leave it at the bar, to be given to him after we are gone. Don’t you see?’

Martin’s delight in this idea was not inferior to Mark’s. It was all done as he proposed. They passed a cheerful evening; slept at the hotel; left the letter as arranged; and went off to the ship betimes next morning, with such light hearts as the weight of their past miseries engendered.

‘Good-bye! a hundred thousand times good-bye!’ said Martin to their friend. ‘How shall I remember all your kindness! How shall I ever thank you!’

‘If you ever become a rich man, or a powerful one,’ returned his friend, ‘you shall try to make your Government more careful of its subjects when they roam abroad to live. Tell it what you know of emigration in your own case, and impress upon it how much suffering may be prevented with a little pains!’

Cheerily, lads, cheerily! Anchor weighed. Ship in full sail. Her sturdy bowsprit pointing true to England. America a cloud upon the sea behind them!

‘Why, Cook! what are you thinking of so steadily?’ said Martin.

‘Why, I was a-thinking, sir,’ returned Mark, ‘that if I was a painter and was called upon to paint the American Eagle, how should I do it?’

‘Paint it as like an Eagle as you could, I suppose.’

‘No,’ said Mark. ‘That wouldn’t do for me, sir. I should want to draw it like a Bat, for its short-sightedness; like a Bantam, for its bragging; like a Magpie, for its honesty; like a Peacock, for its vanity; like a ostrich, for its putting its head in the mud, and thinking nobody sees it—’

‘And like a Phoenix, for its power of springing from the ashes of its faults and vices, and soaring up anew into the sky!’ said Martin. ‘Well, Mark. Let us hope so.’






CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE. ARRIVING IN ENGLAND, MARTIN WITNESSES A CEREMONY, FROM WHICH HE DERIVES THE CHEERING INFORMATION THAT HE HAS NOT BEEN FORGOTTEN IN HIS ABSENCE


It was mid-day, and high water in the English port for which the Screw was bound, when, borne in gallantly upon the fullness of the tide, she let go her anchor in the river.

Bright as the scene was; fresh, and full of motion; airy, free, and sparkling; it was nothing to the life and exultation in the breasts of the two travellers, at sight of the old churches, roofs, and darkened chimney stacks of Home. The distant roar that swelled up hoarsely from the busy streets, was music in their ears; the lines of people gazing from the wharves, were friends held dear; the canopy of smoke that overhung the town was brighter and more beautiful to them than if the richest silks of Persia had been waving in the air. And though the water going on its glistening track, turned, ever and again, aside to dance and sparkle round great ships, and heave them up; and leaped from off the blades of oars, a shower of diving diamonds; and wantoned with the idle boats, and swiftly passed, in many a sportive chase, through obdurate old iron rings, set deep into the stone-work of the quays; not even it was half so buoyant, and so restless, as their fluttering hearts, when yearning to set foot, once more, on native ground.

A year had passed since those same spires and roofs had faded from their eyes. It seemed to them, a dozen years. Some trifling changes, here and there, they called to mind; and wondered that they were so few and slight. In health and fortune, prospect and resource, they came back poorer men than they had gone away. But it was home. And though home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit answered to, in strongest conjuration.

Being set ashore, with very little money in their pockets, and no definite plan of operation in their heads, they sought out a cheap tavern, where they regaled upon a smoking steak, and certain flowing mugs of beer, as only men just landed from the sea can revel in the generous dainties of the earth. When they had feasted, as two grateful-tempered giants might have done, they stirred the fire, drew back the glowing curtain from the window, and making each a sofa for himself, by union of the great unwieldy chairs, gazed blissfully into the street.

Even the street was made a fairy street, by being half hidden in an atmosphere of steak, and strong, stout, stand-up English beer. For on the window-glass hung such a mist, that Mr Tapley was obliged to rise and wipe it with his handkerchief, before the passengers appeared like common mortals. And even then, a spiral little cloud went curling up from their two glasses of hot grog, which nearly hid them from each other.

It was one of those unaccountable little rooms which are never seen anywhere but in a tavern, and are supposed to have got into taverns by reason of the facilities afforded to the architect for getting drunk while engaged in their construction. It had more corners in it than the brain of an obstinate man; was full of mad closets, into which nothing could be put that was not specially invented and made for that purpose; had mysterious shelvings and bulkheads, and indications of staircases in the ceiling; and was elaborately provided with a bell that rung in the room itself, about two feet from the handle, and had no connection whatever with any other part of the establishment. It was a little below the pavement, and abutted close upon it; so that passengers grated against the window-panes with their buttons, and scraped it with their baskets; and fearful boys suddenly coming between a thoughtful guest and the light, derided him, or put out their tongues as if he were a physician; or made white knobs on the ends of their noses by flattening the same against the glass, and vanished awfully, like spectres.

Martin and Mark sat looking at the people as they passed, debating every now and then what their first step should be.

‘We want to see Miss Mary, of course,’ said Mark.

‘Of course,’ said Martin. ‘But I don’t know where she is. Not having had the heart to write in our distress—you yourself thought silence most advisable—and consequently, never having heard from her since we left New York the first time, I don’t know where she is, my good fellow.’

‘My opinion is, sir,’ returned Mark, ‘that what we’ve got to do is to travel straight to the Dragon. There’s no need for you to go there, where you’re known, unless you like. You may stop ten mile short of it. I’ll go on. Mrs Lupin will tell me all the news. Mr Pinch will give me every information that we want; and right glad Mr Pinch will be to do it. My proposal is: To set off walking this afternoon. To stop when we are tired. To get a lift when we can. To walk when we can’t. To do it at once, and do it cheap.’

‘Unless we do it cheap, we shall have some difficulty in doing it at all,’ said Martin, pulling out the bank, and telling it over in his hand.

‘The greater reason for losing no time, sir,’ replied Mark. ‘Whereas, when you’ve seen the young lady; and know what state of mind the old gentleman’s in, and all about it; then you’ll know what to do next.’

‘No doubt,’ said Martin. ‘You are quite right.’

They were raising their glasses to their lips, when their hands stopped midway, and their gaze was arrested by a figure which slowly, very slowly, and reflectively, passed the window at that moment.

Mr Pecksniff. Placid, calm, but proud. Honestly proud. Dressed with peculiar care, smiling with even more than usual blandness, pondering on the beauties of his art with a mild abstraction from all sordid thoughts, and gently travelling across the disc, as if he were a figure in a magic lantern.

As Mr Pecksniff passed, a person coming in the opposite direction stopped to look after him with great interest and respect, almost with veneration; and the landlord bouncing out of the house, as if he had seen him too, joined this person, and spoke to him, and shook his head gravely, and looked after Mr Pecksniff likewise.

Martin and Mark sat staring at each other, as if they could not believe it; but there stood the landlord, and the other man still. In spite of the indignation with which this glimpse of Mr Pecksniff had inspired him, Martin could not help laughing heartily. Neither could Mark.

‘We must inquire into this!’ said Martin. ‘Ask the landlord in, Mark.’

Mr Tapley retired for that purpose, and immediately returned with their large-headed host in safe convoy.

‘Pray, landlord!’ said Martin, ‘who is that gentleman who passed just now, and whom you were looking after?’

The landlord poked the fire as if, in his desire to make the most of his answer, he had become indifferent even to the price of coals; and putting his hands in his pockets, said, after inflating himself to give still further effect to his reply:

‘That, gentlemen, is the great Mr Pecksniff! The celebrated architect, gentlemen!’

He looked from one to the other while he said it, as if he were ready to assist the first man who might be overcome by the intelligence.

‘The great Mr Pecksniff, the celebrated architect, gentlemen.’ said the landlord, ‘has come down here, to help to lay the first stone of a new and splendid public building.’

‘Is it to be built from his designs?’ asked Martin.

‘The great Mr Pecksniff, the celebrated architect, gentlemen,’ returned the landlord, who seemed to have an unspeakable delight in the repetition of these words, ‘carried off the First Premium, and will erect the building.’

‘Who lays the stone?’ asked Martin.

‘Our member has come down express,’ returned the landlord. ‘No scrubs would do for no such a purpose. Nothing less would satisfy our Directors than our member in the House of Commons, who is returned upon the Gentlemanly Interest.’

‘Which interest is that?’ asked Martin.

‘What, don’t you know!’ returned the landlord.

It was quite clear the landlord didn’t. They always told him at election time, that it was the Gentlemanly side, and he immediately put on his top-boots, and voted for it.

‘When does the ceremony take place?’ asked Martin.

‘This day,’ replied the landlord. Then pulling out his watch, he added, impressively, ‘almost this minute.’

Martin hastily inquired whether there was any possibility of getting in to witness it; and finding that there would be no objection to the admittance of any decent person, unless indeed the ground were full, hurried off with Mark, as hard as they could go.

They were fortunate enough to squeeze themselves into a famous corner on the ground, where they could see all that passed, without much dread of being beheld by Mr Pecksniff in return. They were not a minute too soon, for as they were in the act of congratulating each other, a great noise was heard at some distance, and everybody looked towards the gate. Several ladies prepared their pocket handkerchiefs for waving; and a stray teacher belonging to the charity school being much cheered by mistake, was immensely groaned at when detected.

‘Perhaps he has Tom Pinch with him,’ Martin whispered Mr Tapley.

‘It would be rather too much of a treat for him, wouldn’t it, sir?’ whispered Mr Tapley in return.

There was no time to discuss the probabilities either way, for the charity school, in clean linen, came filing in two and two, so much to the self-approval of all the people present who didn’t subscribe to it, that many of them shed tears. A band of music followed, led by a conscientious drummer who never left off. Then came a great many gentlemen with wands in their hands, and bows on their breasts, whose share in the proceedings did not appear to be distinctly laid down, and who trod upon each other, and blocked up the entry for a considerable period. These were followed by the Mayor and Corporation, all clustering round the member for the Gentlemanly Interest; who had the great Mr Pecksniff, the celebrated architect on his right hand, and conversed with him familiarly as they came along. Then the ladies waved their handkerchiefs, and the gentlemen their hats, and the charity children shrieked, and the member for the Gentlemanly Interest bowed.

Silence being restored, the member for the Gentlemanly Interest rubbed his hands, and wagged his head, and looked about him pleasantly; and there was nothing this member did, at which some lady or other did not burst into an ecstatic waving of her pocket handkerchief. When he looked up at the stone, they said how graceful! when he peeped into the hole, they said how condescending! when he chatted with the Mayor, they said how easy! when he folded his arms they cried with one accord, how statesman-like!

Mr Pecksniff was observed too, closely. When he talked to the Mayor, they said, Oh, really, what a courtly man he was! When he laid his hand upon the mason’s shoulder, giving him directions, how pleasant his demeanour to the working classes; just the sort of man who made their toil a pleasure to them, poor dear souls!

But now a silver trowel was brought; and when the member for the Gentlemanly Interest, tucking up his coat-sleeve, did a little sleight of hand with the mortar, the air was rent, so loud was the applause. The workman-like manner in which he did it was amazing. No one could conceive where such a gentlemanly creature could have picked the knowledge up.

When he had made a kind of dirt-pie under the direction of the mason, they brought a little vase containing coins, the which the member for the Gentlemanly Interest jingled, as if he were going to conjure. Whereat they said how droll, how cheerful, what a flow of spirits! This put into its place, an ancient scholar read the inscription, which was in Latin; not in English; that would never do. It gave great satisfaction; especially every time there was a good long substantive in the third declension, ablative case, with an adjective to match; at which periods the assembly became very tender, and were much affected.

And now the stone was lowered down into its place, amidst the shouting of the concourse. When it was firmly fixed, the member for the Gentlemanly Interest struck upon it thrice with the handle of the trowel, as if inquiring, with a touch of humour, whether anybody was at home. Mr Pecksniff then unrolled his Plans (prodigious plans they were), and people gathered round to look at and admire them.

Martin, who had been fretting himself—quite unnecessarily, as Mark thought—during the whole of these proceedings, could no longer restrain his impatience; but stepping forward among several others, looked straight over the shoulder of the unconscious Mr Pecksniff, at the designs and plans he had unrolled. He returned to Mark, boiling with rage.

‘Why, what’s the matter, sir?’ cried Mark.

‘Matter! This is my building.’

‘Your building, sir!’ said Mark.

‘My grammar-school. I invented it. I did it all. He has only put four windows in, the villain, and spoilt it!’

Mark could hardly believe it at first, but being assured that it was really so, actually held him to prevent his interference foolishly, until his temporary heat was past. In the meantime, the member addressed the company on the gratifying deed which he had just performed.

He said that since he had sat in Parliament to represent the Gentlemanly Interest of that town; and he might add, the Lady Interest, he hoped, besides (pocket handkerchiefs); it had been his pleasant duty to come among them, and to raise his voice on their behalf in Another Place (pocket handkerchiefs and laughter), often. But he had never come among them, and had never raised his voice, with half such pure, such deep, such unalloyed delight, as now. ‘The present occasion,’ he said, ‘will ever be memorable to me; not only for the reasons I have assigned, but because it has afforded me an opportunity of becoming personally known to a gentleman—’

Here he pointed the trowel at Mr Pecksniff, who was greeted with vociferous cheering, and laid his hand upon his heart.

‘To a gentleman who, I am happy to believe, will reap both distinction and profit from this field; whose fame had previously penetrated to me—as to whose ears has it not!—but whose intellectual countenance I never had the distinguished honour to behold until this day, and whose intellectual conversation I had never before the improving pleasure to enjoy.’

Everybody seemed very glad of this, and applauded more than ever.

‘But I hope my Honourable Friend,’ said the Gentlemanly member—of course he added “if he will allow me to call him so,” and of course Mr Pecksniff bowed—‘will give me many opportunities of cultivating the knowledge of him; and that I may have the extraordinary gratification of reflecting in after-time that I laid on this day two first stones, both belonging to structures which shall last my life!’

Great cheering again. All this time, Martin was cursing Mr Pecksniff up hill and down dale.

‘My friends!’ said Mr Pecksniff, in reply. ‘My duty is to build, not speak; to act, not talk; to deal with marble, stone, and brick; not language. I am very much affected. God bless you!’

This address, pumped out apparently from Mr Pecksniff’s very heart, brought the enthusiasm to its highest pitch. The pocket handkerchiefs were waved again; the charity children were admonished to grow up Pecksniffs, every boy among them; the Corporation, gentlemen with wands, member for the Gentlemanly Interest, all cheered for Mr Pecksniff. Three cheers for Mr Pecksniff! Three more for Mr Pecksniff! Three more for Mr Pecksniff, gentlemen, if you please! One more, gentlemen, for Mr Pecksniff, and let it be a good one to finish with!

In short, Mr Pecksniff was supposed to have done a great work and was very kindly, courteously, and generously rewarded. When the procession moved away, and Martin and Mark were left almost alone upon the ground, his merits and a desire to acknowledge them formed the common topic. He was only second to the Gentlemanly member.

‘Compare the fellow’s situation to-day with ours!’ said Martin bitterly.

‘Lord bless you, sir!’ cried Mark, ‘what’s the use? Some architects are clever at making foundations, and some architects are clever at building on ‘em when they’re made. But it’ll all come right in the end, sir; it’ll all come right!’

‘And in the meantime—’ began Martin.

‘In the meantime, as you say, sir, we have a deal to do, and far to go. So sharp’s the word, and Jolly!’

‘You are the best master in the world, Mark,’ said Martin, ‘and I will not be a bad scholar if I can help it, I am resolved! So come! Best foot foremost, old fellow!’