Martin Chuzzlewit

by Charles Dickens




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The office of the Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company being near at hand, and Mr Montague driving Jonas straight there, they had very little way to go. But the journey might have been one of several hours’ duration, without provoking a remark from either; for it was clear that Jonas did not mean to break the silence which prevailed between them, and that it was not, as yet, his dear friend’s cue to tempt them into conversation.

He had thrown aside his cloak, as having now no motive for concealment, and with that garment huddled on his knees, sat as far removed from his companion as the limited space in such a carriage would allow. There was a striking difference in his manner, compared with what it had been, within a few minutes, when Tom encountered him so unexpectedly on board the packet, or when the ugly change had fallen on him in Mr Montague’s dressing-room. He had the aspect of a man found out and held at bay; of being baffled, hunted, and beset; but there was now a dawning and increasing purpose in his face, which changed it very much. It was gloomy, distrustful, lowering; pale with anger and defeat; it still was humbled, abject, cowardly and mean; but, let the conflict go on as it would, there was one strong purpose wrestling with every emotion of his mind, and casting the whole series down as they arose.

Not prepossessing in appearance at the best of times, it may be readily supposed that he was not so now. He had left deep marks of his front teeth in his nether lip; and those tokens of the agitation he had lately undergone improved his looks as little as the heavy corrugations in his forehead. But he was self-possessed now; unnaturally self-possessed, indeed, as men quite otherwise than brave are known to be in desperate extremities; and when the carriage stopped, he waited for no invitation, but leapt hardily out, and went upstairs.

The chairman followed him; and closing the board-room door as soon as they had entered, threw himself upon a sofa. Jonas stood before the window, looking down into the street; and leaned against the sash, resting his head upon his arms.

‘This is not handsome, Chuzzlewit!’ said Montague at length. ‘Not handsome upon my soul!’

‘What would you have me do?’ he answered, looking round abruptly; ‘What do you expect?’

‘Confidence, my good fellow. Some confidence!’ said Montague in an injured tone.

‘Ecod! You show great confidence in me,’ retorted Jonas. ‘Don’t you?’

‘Do I not?’ said his companion, raising his head, and looking at him, but he had turned again. ‘Do I not? Have I not confided to you the easy schemes I have formed for our advantage; our advantage, mind; not mine alone; and what is my return? Attempted flight!’

‘How do you know that? Who said I meant to fly?’

‘Who said? Come, come. A foreign boat, my friend, an early hour, a figure wrapped up for disguise! Who said? If you didn’t mean to jilt me, why were you there? If you didn’t mean to jilt me, why did you come back?’

‘I came back,’ said Jonas, ‘to avoid disturbance.’

‘You were wise,’ rejoined his friend.

Jonas stood quite silent; still looking down into the street, and resting his head upon his arms.

‘Now, Chuzzlewit,’ said Montague, ‘notwithstanding what has passed I will be plain with you. Are you attending to me there? I only see your back.’

‘I hear you. Go on!’

‘I say that notwithstanding what has passed, I will be plain with you.’

‘You said that before. And I have told you once I heard you say it. Go on.’

‘You are a little chafed, but I can make allowance for that, and am, fortunately, myself in the very best of tempers. Now, let us see how circumstances stand. A day or two ago, I mentioned to you, my dear fellow, that I thought I had discovered—’

‘Will you hold your tongue?’ said Jonas, looking fiercely round, and glancing at the door.

‘Well, well!’ said Montague. ‘Judicious! Quite correct! My discoveries being published, would be like many other men’s discoveries in this honest world; of no further use to me. You see, Chuzzlewit, how ingenuous and frank I am in showing you the weakness of my own position! To return. I make, or think I make, a certain discovery which I take an early opportunity of mentioning in your ear, in that spirit of confidence which I really hoped did prevail between us, and was reciprocated by you. Perhaps there is something in it; perhaps there is nothing. I have my knowledge and opinion on the subject. You have yours. We will not discuss the question. But, my good fellow, you have been weak; what I wish to point out to you is, that you have been weak. I may desire to turn this little incident to my account (indeed, I do—I’ll not deny it), but my account does not lie in probing it, or using it against you.’

‘What do you call using it against me?’ asked Jonas, who had not yet changed his attitude.

‘Oh!’ said Montague, with a laugh. ‘We’ll not enter into that.’

‘Using it to make a beggar of me. Is that the use you mean?’


‘Ecod,’ muttered Jonas, bitterly. ‘That’s the use in which your account does lie. You speak the truth there.’

‘I wish you to venture (it’s a very safe venture) a little more with us, certainly, and to keep quiet,’ said Montague. ‘You promised me you would; and you must. I say it plainly, Chuzzlewit, you must. Reason the matter. If you don’t, my secret is worthless to me: and being so, it may as well become the public property as mine; better, for I shall gain some credit, bringing it to light. I want you, besides, to act as a decoy in a case I have already told you of. You don’t mind that, I know. You care nothing for the man (you care nothing for any man; you are too sharp; so am I, I hope); and could bear any loss of his with pious fortitude. Ha, ha, ha! You have tried to escape from the first consequence. You cannot escape it, I assure you. I have shown you that to-day. Now, I am not a moral man, you know. I am not the least in the world affected by anything you may have done; by any little indiscretion you may have committed; but I wish to profit by it if I can; and to a man of your intelligence I make that free confession. I am not at all singular in that infirmity. Everybody profits by the indiscretion of his neighbour; and the people in the best repute, the most. Why do you give me this trouble? It must come to a friendly agreement, or an unfriendly crash. It must. If the former, you are very little hurt. If the latter—well! you know best what is likely to happen then.’

Jonas left the window, and walked up close to him. He did not look him in the face; it was not his habit to do that; but he kept his eyes towards him—on his breast, or thereabouts—and was at great pains to speak slowly and distinctly in reply. Just as a man in a state of conscious drunkenness might be.

‘Lying is of no use now,’ he said. ‘I did think of getting away this morning, and making better terms with you from a distance.’

‘To be sure! to be sure!’ replied Montague. ‘Nothing more natural. I foresaw that, and provided against it. But I am afraid I am interrupting you.’

‘How the devil,’ pursued Jonas, with a still greater effort, ‘you made choice of your messenger, and where you found him, I’ll not ask you. I owed him one good turn before to-day. If you are so careless of men in general, as you said you were just now, you are quite indifferent to what becomes of such a crop-tailed cur as that, and will leave me to settle my account with him in my own manner.’

If he had raised his eyes to his companion’s face, he would have seen that Montague was evidently unable to comprehend his meaning. But continuing to stand before him, with his furtive gaze directed as before, and pausing here only to moisten his dry lips with his tongue, the fact was lost upon him. It might have struck a close observer that this fixed and steady glance of Jonas’s was a part of the alteration which had taken place in his demeanour. He kept it riveted on one spot, with which his thoughts had manifestly nothing to do; like as a juggler walking on a cord or wire to any dangerous end, holds some object in his sight to steady him, and never wanders from it, lest he trip.

Montague was quick in his rejoinder, though he made it at a venture. There was no difference of opinion between him and his friend on that point. Not the least.

‘Your great discovery,’ Jonas proceeded, with a savage sneer that got the better of him for the moment, ‘may be true, and may be false. Whichever it is, I dare say I’m no worse than other men.’

‘Not a bit,’ said Tigg. ‘Not a bit. We’re all alike—or nearly so.’

‘I want to know this,’ Jonas went on to say; ‘is it your own? You’ll not wonder at my asking the question.’

‘My own!’ repeated Montague.

‘Aye!’ returned the other, gruffly. ‘Is it known to anybody else? Come! Don’t waver about that.’

‘No!’ said Montague, without the smallest hesitation. ‘What would it be worth, do you think, unless I had the keeping of it?’

Now, for the first time, Jonas looked at him. After a pause, he put out his hand, and said, with a laugh:

‘Come! make things easy to me, and I’m yours. I don’t know that I may not be better off here, after all, than if I had gone away this morning. But here I am, and here I’ll stay now. Take your oath!’

He cleared his throat, for he was speaking hoarsely and said in a lighter tone:

‘Shall I go to Pecksniff? When? Say when!’

‘Immediately!’ cried Montague. ‘He cannot be enticed too soon.’

‘Ecod!’ cried Jonas, with a wild laugh. ‘There’s some fun in catching that old hypocrite. I hate him. Shall I go to-night?’

‘Aye! This,’ said Montague, ecstatically, ‘is like business! We understand each other now! To-night, my good fellow, by all means.’

‘Come with me,’ cried Jonas. ‘We must make a dash; go down in state, and carry documents, for he’s a deep file to deal with, and must be drawn on with an artful hand, or he’ll not follow. I know him. As I can’t take your lodgings or your dinners down, I must take you. Will you come to-night?’

His friend appeared to hesitate; and neither to have anticipated this proposal, nor to relish it very much.

‘We can concert our plans upon the road,’ said Jonas. ‘We must not go direct to him, but cross over from some other place, and turn out of our way to see him. I may not want to introduce you, but I must have you on the spot. I know the man, I tell you.’

‘But what if the man knows me?’ said Montague, shrugging his shoulders.

‘He know!’ cried Jonas. ‘Don’t you run that risk with fifty men a day! Would your father know you? Did I know you? Ecod! You were another figure when I saw you first. Ha, ha, ha! I see the rents and patches now! No false hair then, no black dye! You were another sort of joker in those days, you were! You even spoke different then. You’ve acted the gentleman so seriously since, that you’ve taken in yourself. If he should know you, what does it matter? Such a change is a proof of your success. You know that, or you would not have made yourself known to me. Will you come?’

‘My good fellow,’ said Montague, still hesitating, ‘I can trust you alone.’

‘Trust me! Ecod, you may trust me now, far enough. I’ll try to go away no more—no more!’ He stopped, and added in a more sober tone, ‘I can’t get on without you. Will you come?’

‘I will,’ said Montague, ‘if that’s your opinion.’ And they shook hands upon it.

The boisterous manner which Jonas had exhibited during the latter part of this conversation, and which had gone on rapidly increasing with almost every word he had spoken, from the time when he looked his honourable friend in the face until now, did not now subside, but, remaining at its height, abided by him. Most unusual with him at any period; most inconsistent with his temper and constitution; especially unnatural it would appear in one so darkly circumstanced; it abided by him. It was not like the effect of wine, or any ardent drink, for he was perfectly coherent. It even made him proof against the usual influence of such means of excitement; for, although he drank deeply several times that day, with no reserve or caution, he remained exactly the same man, and his spirits neither rose nor fell in the least observable degree.

Deciding, after some discussion, to travel at night, in order that the day’s business might not be broken in upon, they took counsel together in reference to the means. Mr Montague being of opinion that four horses were advisable, at all events for the first stage, as throwing a great deal of dust into people’s eyes, in more senses than one, a travelling chariot and four lay under orders for nine o’clock. Jonas did not go home; observing, that his being obliged to leave town on business in so great a hurry, would be a good excuse for having turned back so unexpectedly in the morning. So he wrote a note for his portmanteau, and sent it by a messenger, who duly brought his luggage back, with a short note from that other piece of luggage, his wife, expressive of her wish to be allowed to come and see him for a moment. To this request he sent for answer, ‘she had better;’ and one such threatening affirmative being sufficient, in defiance of the English grammar, to express a negative, she kept away.

Mr Montague being much engaged in the course of the day, Jonas bestowed his spirits chiefly on the doctor, with whom he lunched in the medical officer’s own room. On his way thither, encountering Mr Nadgett in the outer room, he bantered that stealthy gentleman on always appearing anxious to avoid him, and inquired if he were afraid of him. Mr Nadgett slyly answered, ‘No, but he believed it must be his way as he had been charged with much the same kind of thing before.’

Mr Montague was listening to, or, to speak with greater elegance, he overheard, this dialogue. As soon as Jonas was gone he beckoned Nadgett to him with the feather of his pen, and whispered in his ear.

‘Who gave him my letter this morning?’

‘My lodger, sir,’ said Nadgett, behind the palm of his hand.

‘How came that about?’

‘I found him on the wharf, sir. Being so much hurried, and you not arrived, it was necessary to do something. It fortunately occurred to me, that if I gave it him myself I could be of no further use. I should have been blown upon immediately.’

‘Mr Nadgett, you are a jewel,’ said Montague, patting him on the back. ‘What’s your lodger’s name?’

‘Pinch, sir. Thomas Pinch.’

Montague reflected for a little while, and then asked:

‘From the country, do you know?’

‘From Wiltshire, sir, he told me.’

They parted without another word. To see Mr Nadgett’s bow when Montague and he next met, and to see Mr Montague acknowledge it, anybody might have undertaken to swear that they had never spoken to each other confidentially in all their lives.

In the meanwhile, Mr Jonas and the doctor made themselves very comfortable upstairs, over a bottle of the old Madeira and some sandwiches; for the doctor having been already invited to dine below at six o’clock, preferred a light repast for lunch. It was advisable, he said, in two points of view: First, as being healthy in itself. Secondly as being the better preparation for dinner.

‘And you are bound for all our sakes to take particular care of your digestion, Mr Chuzzlewit, my dear sir,’ said the doctor smacking his lips after a glass of wine; ‘for depend upon it, it is worth preserving. It must be in admirable condition, sir; perfect chronometer-work. Otherwise your spirits could not be so remarkable. Your bosom’s lord sits lightly on its throne, Mr Chuzzlewit, as what’s-his-name says in the play. I wish he said it in a play which did anything like common justice to our profession, by the bye. There is an apothecary in that drama, sir, which is a low thing; vulgar, sir; out of nature altogether.’

Mr Jobling pulled out his shirt-frill of fine linen, as though he would have said, ‘This is what I call nature in a medical man, sir;’ and looked at Jonas for an observation.

Jonas not being in a condition to pursue the subject, took up a case of lancets that was lying on the table, and opened it.

‘Ah!’ said the doctor, leaning back in his chair, ‘I always take ‘em out of my pocket before I eat. My pockets are rather tight. Ha, ha, ha!’

Jonas had opened one of the shining little instruments; and was scrutinizing it with a look as sharp and eager as its own bright edge.

‘Good steel, doctor. Good steel! Eh!’

‘Ye-es,’ replied the doctor, with the faltering modesty of ownership. ‘One might open a vein pretty dexterously with that, Mr Chuzzlewit.’

‘It has opened a good many in its time, I suppose?’ said Jonas looking at it with a growing interest.

‘Not a few, my dear sir, not a few. It has been engaged in a—in a pretty good practice, I believe I may say,’ replied the doctor, coughing as if the matter-of-fact were so very dry and literal that he couldn’t help it. ‘In a pretty good practice,’ repeated the doctor, putting another glass of wine to his lips.

‘Now, could you cut a man’s throat with such a thing as this?’ demanded Jonas.

‘Oh certainly, certainly, if you took him in the right place,’ returned the doctor. ‘It all depends upon that.’

‘Where you have your hand now, hey?’ cried Jonas, bending forward to look at it.

‘Yes,’ said the doctor; ‘that’s the jugular.’

Jonas, in his vivacity, made a sudden sawing in the air, so close behind the doctor’s jugular that he turned quite red. Then Jonas (in the same strange spirit of vivacity) burst into a loud discordant laugh.

‘No, no,’ said the doctor, shaking his head; ‘edge tools, edge tools; never play with ‘em. A very remarkable instance of the skillful use of edge-tools, by the way, occurs to me at this moment. It was a case of murder. I am afraid it was a case of murder, committed by a member of our profession; it was so artistically done.’

‘Aye!’ said Jonas. ‘How was that?’

‘Why, sir,’ returned Jobling, ‘the thing lies in a nutshell. A certain gentleman was found, one morning, in an obscure street, lying in an angle of a doorway—I should rather say, leaning, in an upright position, in the angle of a doorway, and supported consequently by the doorway. Upon his waistcoat there was one solitary drop of blood. He was dead and cold; and had been murdered, sir.’

‘Only one drop of blood!’ said Jonas.

‘Sir, that man,’ replied the doctor, ‘had been stabbed to the heart. Had been stabbed to the heart with such dexterity, sir, that he had died instantly, and had bled internally. It was supposed that a medical friend of his (to whom suspicion attached) had engaged him in conversation on some pretence; had taken him, very likely, by the button in a conversational manner; had examined his ground at leisure with his other hand; had marked the exact spot; drawn out the instrument, whatever it was, when he was quite prepared; and—’

‘And done the trick,’ suggested Jonas.

‘Exactly so,’ replied the doctor. ‘It was quite an operation in its way, and very neat. The medical friend never turned up; and, as I tell you, he had the credit of it. Whether he did it or not I can’t say. But, having had the honour to be called in with two or three of my professional brethren on the occasion, and having assisted to make a careful examination of the wound, I have no hesitation in saying that it would have reflected credit on any medical man; and that in an unprofessional person it could not but be considered, either as an extraordinary work of art, or the result of a still more extraordinary, happy, and favourable conjunction of circumstances.’

His hearer was so much interested in this case, that the doctor went on to elucidate it with the assistance of his own finger and thumb and waistcoat; and at Jonas’s request, he took the further trouble of going into a corner of the room, and alternately representing the murdered man and the murderer; which he did with great effect. The bottle being emptied and the story done, Jonas was in precisely the same boisterous and unusual state as when they had sat down. If, as Jobling theorized, his good digestion were the cause, he must have been a very ostrich.

At dinner it was just the same; and after dinner too; though wine was drunk in abundance, and various rich meats eaten. At nine o’clock it was still the same. There being a lamp in the carriage, he swore they would take a pack of cards, and a bottle of wine; and with these things under his cloak, went down to the door.

‘Out of the way, Tom Thumb, and get to bed!’

This was the salutation he bestowed on Mr Bailey, who, booted and wrapped up, stood at the carriage door to help him in.

‘To bed, sir! I’m a-going, too,’ said Bailey.

He alighted quickly, and walked back into the hall, where Montague was lighting a cigar; conducting Mr Bailey with him, by the collar.

‘You are not a-going to take this monkey of a boy, are you?’

‘Yes,’ said Montague.

He gave the boy a shake, and threw him roughly aside. There was more of his familiar self in the action, than in anything he had done that day; but he broke out laughing immediately afterwards, and making a thrust at the doctor with his hand, in imitation of his representation of the medical friend, went out to the carriage again, and took his seat. His companion followed immediately. Mr Bailey climbed into the rumble. ‘It will be a stormy night!’ exclaimed the doctor, as they started.


The doctor’s prognostication in reference to the weather was speedily verified. Although the weather was not a patient of his, and no third party had required him to give an opinion on the case, the quick fulfilment of his prophecy may be taken as an instance of his professional tact; for, unless the threatening aspect of the night had been perfectly plain and unmistakable, Mr Jobling would never have compromised his reputation by delivering any sentiments on the subject. He used this principle in Medicine with too much success to be unmindful of it in his commonest transactions.

It was one of those hot, silent nights, when people sit at windows listening for the thunder which they know will shortly break; when they recall dismal tales of hurricanes and earthquakes; and of lonely travellers on open plains, and lonely ships at sea, struck by lightning. Lightning flashed and quivered on the black horizon even now; and hollow murmurings were in the wind, as though it had been blowing where the thunder rolled, and still was charged with its exhausted echoes. But the storm, though gathering swiftly, had not yet come up; and the prevailing stillness was the more solemn, from the dull intelligence that seemed to hover in the air, of noise and conflict afar off.

It was very dark; but in the murky sky there were masses of cloud which shone with a lurid light, like monstrous heaps of copper that had been heated in a furnace, and were growing cold. These had been advancing steadily and slowly, but they were now motionless, or nearly so. As the carriage clattered round the corners of the streets, it passed at every one a knot of persons who had come there—many from their houses close at hand, without hats—to look up at that quarter of the sky. And now a very few large drops of rain began to fall, and thunder rumbled in the distance.

Jonas sat in a corner of the carriage with his bottle resting on his knee, and gripped as tightly in his hand as if he would have ground its neck to powder if he could. Instinctively attracted by the night, he had laid aside the pack of cards upon the cushion; and with the same involuntary impulse, so intelligible to both of them as not to occasion a remark on either side, his companion had extinguished the lamp. The front glasses were down; and they sat looking silently out upon the gloomy scene before them.

They were clear of London, or as clear of it as travellers can be whose way lies on the Western Road, within a stage of that enormous city. Occasionally they encountered a foot-passenger, hurrying to the nearest place of shelter; or some unwieldy cart proceeding onward at a heavy trot, with the same end in view. Little clusters of such vehicles were gathered round the stable-yard or baiting-place of every wayside tavern; while their drivers watched the weather from the doors and open windows, or made merry within. Everywhere the people were disposed to bear each other company rather than sit alone; so that groups of watchful faces seemed to be looking out upon the night and them, from almost every house they passed.

It may appear strange that this should have disturbed Jonas, or rendered him uneasy; but it did. After muttering to himself, and often changing his position, he drew up the blind on his side of the carriage, and turned his shoulder sulkily towards it. But he neither looked at his companion, nor broke the silence which prevailed between them, and which had fallen so suddenly upon himself, by addressing a word to him.

The thunder rolled, the lightning flashed; the rain poured down like Heaven’s wrath. Surrounded at one moment by intolerable light, and at the next by pitchy darkness, they still pressed forward on their journey. Even when they arrived at the end of the stage, and might have tarried, they did not; but ordered horses out immediately. Nor had this any reference to some five minutes’ lull, which at that time seemed to promise a cessation of the storm. They held their course as if they were impelled and driven by its fury. Although they had not exchanged a dozen words, and might have tarried very well, they seemed to feel, by joint consent, that onward they must go.

Louder and louder the deep thunder rolled, as through the myriad halls of some vast temple in the sky; fiercer and brighter became the lightning, more and more heavily the rain poured down. The horses (they were travelling now with a single pair) plunged and started from the rills of quivering fire that seemed to wind along the ground before them; but there these two men sat, and forward they went as if they were led on by an invisible attraction.

The eye, partaking of the quickness of the flashing light, saw in its every gleam a multitude of objects which it could not see at steady noon in fifty times that period. Bells in steeples, with the rope and wheel that moved them; ragged nests of birds in cornices and nooks; faces full of consternation in the tilted waggons that came tearing past; their frightened teams ringing out a warning which the thunder drowned; harrows and ploughs left out in fields; miles upon miles of hedge-divided country, with the distant fringe of trees as obvious as the scarecrow in the bean-field close at hand; in a trembling, vivid, flickering instant, everything was clear and plain; then came a flush of red into the yellow light; a change to blue; a brightness so intense that there was nothing else but light; and then the deepest and profoundest darkness.

The lightning being very crooked and very dazzling may have presented or assisted a curious optical illusion, which suddenly rose before the startled eyes of Montague in the carriage, and as rapidly disappeared. He thought he saw Jonas with his hand lifted, and the bottle clenched in it like a hammer, making as if he would aim a blow at his head. At the same time he observed (or so believed) an expression in his face—a combination of the unnatural excitement he had shown all day, with a wild hatred and fear—which might have rendered a wolf a less terrible companion.

He uttered an involuntary exclamation, and called to the driver, who brought his horses to a stop with all speed.

It could hardly have been as he supposed, for although he had not taken his eyes off his companion, and had not seen him move, he sat reclining in his corner as before.

‘What’s the matter?’ said Jonas. ‘Is that your general way of waking out of your sleep?’

‘I could swear,’ returned the other, ‘that I have not closed my eyes!’

‘When you have sworn it,’ said Jonas, composedly, ‘we had better go on again, if you have only stopped for that.’

He uncorked the bottle with the help of his teeth; and putting it to his lips, took a long draught.

‘I wish we had never started on this journey. This is not,’ said Montague, recoiling instinctively, and speaking in a voice that betrayed his agitation; ‘this is not a night to travel in.’

‘Ecod! you’re right there,’ returned Jonas, ‘and we shouldn’t be out in it but for you. If you hadn’t kept me waiting all day, we might have been at Salisbury by this time; snug abed and fast asleep. What are we stopping for?’

His companion put his head out of window for a moment, and drawing it in again, observed (as if that were his cause of anxiety), that the boy was drenched to the skin.

‘Serve him right,’ said Jonas. ‘I’m glad of it. What the devil are we stopping for? Are you going to spread him out to dry?’

‘I have half a mind to take him inside,’ observed the other with some hesitation.

‘Oh! thankee!’ said Jonas. ‘We don’t want any damp boys here; especially a young imp like him. Let him be where he is. He ain’t afraid of a little thunder and lightning, I dare say; whoever else is. Go on, driver. We had better have him inside perhaps,’ he muttered with a laugh; ‘and the horses!’

‘Don’t go too fast,’ cried Montague to the postillion; ‘and take care how you go. You were nearly in the ditch when I called to you.’

This was not true; and Jonas bluntly said so, as they moved forward again. Montague took little or no heed of what he said, but repeated that it was not a night for travelling, and showed himself, both then and afterwards, unusually anxious.

From this time Jonas recovered his former spirits, if such a term may be employed to express the state in which he had left the city. He had his bottle often at his mouth; roared out snatches of songs, without the least regard to time or tune or voice, or anything but loud discordance; and urged his silent friend to be merry with him.

‘You’re the best company in the world, my good fellow,’ said Montague with an effort, ‘and in general irresistible; but to-night—do you hear it?’

‘Ecod! I hear and see it too,’ cried Jonas, shading his eyes, for the moment, from the lightning which was flashing, not in any one direction, but all around them. ‘What of that? It don’t change you, nor me, nor our affairs. Chorus, chorus,

It may lighten and storm,
Till it hunt the red worm
From the grass where the gibbet is driven;
But it can’t hurt the dead,
And it won’t save the head
That is doom’d to be rifled and riven.

That must be a precious old song,’ he added with an oath, as he stopped short in a kind of wonder at himself. ‘I haven’t heard it since I was a boy, and how it comes into my head now, unless the lightning put it there, I don’t know. “Can’t hurt the dead”! No, no. “And won’t save the head”! No, no. No! Ha, ha, ha!’

His mirth was of such a savage and extraordinary character, and was, in an inexplicable way, at once so suited to the night, and yet such a coarse intrusion on its terrors, that his fellow-traveller, always a coward, shrunk from him in positive fear. Instead of Jonas being his tool and instrument, their places seemed to be reversed. But there was reason for this too, Montague thought; since the sense of his debasement might naturally inspire such a man with the wish to assert a noisy independence, and in that licence to forget his real condition. Being quick enough, in reference to such subjects of contemplation, he was not long in taking this argument into account and giving it its full weight. But still, he felt a vague sense of alarm, and was depressed and uneasy.

He was certain he had not been asleep; but his eyes might have deceived him; for, looking at Jonas now in any interval of darkness, he could represent his figure to himself in any attitude his state of mind suggested. On the other hand, he knew full well that Jonas had no reason to love him; and even taking the piece of pantomime which had so impressed his mind to be a real gesture, and not the working of his fancy, the most that could be said of it was, that it was quite in keeping with the rest of his diabolical fun, and had the same impotent expression of truth in it. ‘If he could kill me with a wish,’ thought the swindler, ‘I should not live long.’

He resolved that when he should have had his use of Jonas, he would restrain him with an iron curb; in the meantime, that he could not do better than leave him to take his own way, and preserve his own peculiar description of good-humour, after his own uncommon manner. It was no great sacrifice to bear with him; ‘for when all is got that can be got,’ thought Montague, ‘I shall decamp across the water, and have the laugh on my side—and the gains.’

Such were his reflections from hour to hour; his state of mind being one in which the same thoughts constantly present themselves over and over again in wearisome repetition; while Jonas, who appeared to have dismissed reflection altogether, entertained himself as before. They agreed that they would go to Salisbury, and would cross to Mr Pecksniff’s in the morning; and at the prospect of deluding that worthy gentleman, the spirits of his amiable son-in-law became more boisterous than ever.

As the night wore on, the thunder died away, but still rolled gloomily and mournfully in the distance. The lightning too, though now comparatively harmless, was yet bright and frequent. The rain was quite as violent as it had ever been.

It was their ill-fortune, at about the time of dawn and in the last stage of their journey, to have a restive pair of horses. These animals had been greatly terrified in their stable by the tempest; and coming out into the dreary interval between night and morning, when the glare of the lightning was yet unsubdued by day, and the various objects in their view were presented in indistinct and exaggerated shapes which they would not have worn by night, they gradually became less and less capable of control; until, taking a sudden fright at something by the roadside, they dashed off wildly down a steep hill, flung the driver from his saddle, drew the carriage to the brink of a ditch, stumbled headlong down, and threw it crashing over.

The travellers had opened the carriage door, and had either jumped or fallen out. Jonas was the first to stagger to his feet. He felt sick and weak, and very giddy, and reeling to a five-barred gate, stood holding by it; looking drowsily about as the whole landscape swam before his eyes. But, by degrees, he grew more conscious, and presently observed that Montague was lying senseless in the road, within a few feet of the horses.

In an instant, as if his own faint body were suddenly animated by a demon, he ran to the horses’ heads; and pulling at their bridles with all his force, set them struggling and plunging with such mad violence as brought their hoofs at every effort nearer to the skull of the prostrate man; and must have led in half a minute to his brains being dashed out on the highway.

As he did this, he fought and contended with them like a man possessed, making them wilder by his cries.

‘Whoop!’ cried Jonas. ‘Whoop! again! another! A little more, a little more! Up, ye devils! Hillo!’

As he heard the driver, who had risen and was hurrying up, crying to him to desist, his violence increased.

‘Hiilo! Hillo!’ cried Jonas.

‘For God’s sake!’ cried the driver. ‘The gentleman—in the road—he’ll be killed!’

The same shouts and the same struggles were his only answer. But the man darting in at the peril of his own life, saved Montague’s, by dragging him through the mire and water out of the reach of present harm. That done, he ran to Jonas; and with the aid of his knife they very shortly disengaged the horses from the broken chariot, and got them, cut and bleeding, on their legs again. The postillion and Jonas had now leisure to look at each other, which they had not had yet.

‘Presence of mind, presence of mind!’ cried Jonas, throwing up his hands wildly. ‘What would you have done without me?’

‘The other gentleman would have done badly without me,’ returned the man, shaking his head. ‘You should have moved him first. I gave him up for dead.’

‘Presence of mind, you croaker, presence of mind’ cried Jonas with a harsh loud laugh. ‘Was he struck, do you think?’

They both turned to look at him. Jonas muttered something to himself, when he saw him sitting up beneath the hedge, looking vacantly around.

‘What’s the matter?’ asked Montague. ‘Is anybody hurt?’

‘Ecod!’ said Jonas, ‘it don’t seem so. There are no bones broken, after all.’

They raised him, and he tried to walk. He was a good deal shaken, and trembled very much. But with the exception of a few cuts and bruises this was all the damage he had sustained.

‘Cuts and bruises, eh?’ said Jonas. ‘We’ve all got them. Only cuts and bruises, eh?’

‘I wouldn’t have given sixpence for the gentleman’s head in half-a-dozen seconds more, for all he’s only cut and bruised,’ observed the post-boy. ‘If ever you’re in an accident of this sort again, sir; which I hope you won’t be; never you pull at the bridle of a horse that’s down, when there’s a man’s head in the way. That can’t be done twice without there being a dead man in the case; it would have ended in that, this time, as sure as ever you were born, if I hadn’t come up just when I did.’

Jonas replied by advising him with a curse to hold his tongue, and to go somewhere, whither he was not very likely to go of his own accord. But Montague, who had listened eagerly to every word, himself diverted the subject, by exclaiming: ‘Where’s the boy?’

‘Ecod! I forgot that monkey,’ said Jonas. ‘What’s become of him?’ A very brief search settled that question. The unfortunate Mr Bailey had been thrown sheer over the hedge or the five-barred gate; and was lying in the neighbouring field, to all appearance dead.

‘When I said to-night, that I wished I had never started on this journey,’ cried his master, ‘I knew it was an ill-fated one. Look at this boy!’

‘Is that all?’ growled Jonas. ‘If you call that a sign of it—’

‘Why, what should I call a sign of it?’ asked Montague, hurriedly. ‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean,’ said Jonas, stooping down over the body, ‘that I never heard you were his father, or had any particular reason to care much about him. Halloa. Hold up there!’

But the boy was past holding up, or being held up, or giving any other sign of life than a faint and fitful beating of the heart. After some discussion the driver mounted the horse which had been least injured, and took the lad in his arms as well as he could; while Montague and Jonas, leading the other horse, and carrying a trunk between them, walked by his side towards Salisbury.

‘You’d get there in a few minutes, and be able to send assistance to meet us, if you went forward, post-boy,’ said Jonas. ‘Trot on!’

‘No, no,’ cried Montague; ‘we’ll keep together.’

‘Why, what a chicken you are! You are not afraid of being robbed; are you?’ said Jonas.

‘I am not afraid of anything,’ replied the other, whose looks and manner were in flat contradiction to his words. ‘But we’ll keep together.’

‘You were mighty anxious about the boy, a minute ago,’ said Jonas. ‘I suppose you know that he may die in the meantime?’

‘Aye, aye. I know. But we’ll keep together.’

As it was clear that he was not to be moved from this determination, Jonas made no other rejoinder than such as his face expressed; and they proceeded in company. They had three or four good miles to travel; and the way was not made easier by the state of the road, the burden by which they were embarrassed, or their own stiff and sore condition. After a sufficiently long and painful walk, they arrived at the Inn; and having knocked the people up (it being yet very early in the morning), sent out messengers to see to the carriage and its contents, and roused a surgeon from his bed to tend the chief sufferer. All the service he could render, he rendered promptly and skillfully. But he gave it as his opinion that the boy was labouring under a severe concussion of the brain, and that Mr Bailey’s mortal course was run.

If Montague’s strong interest in the announcement could have been considered as unselfish in any degree, it might have been a redeeming trait in a character that had no such lineaments to spare. But it was not difficult to see that, for some unexpressed reason best appreciated by himself, he attached a strange value to the company and presence of this mere child. When, after receiving some assistance from the surgeon himself, he retired to the bedroom prepared for him, and it was broad day, his mind was still dwelling on this theme.

‘I would rather have lost,’ he said, ‘a thousand pounds than lost the boy just now. But I’ll return home alone. I am resolved upon that. Chuzzlewit shall go forward first, and I will follow in my own time. I’ll have no more of this,’ he added, wiping his damp forehead. ‘Twenty-four hours of this would turn my hair grey!’

After examining his chamber, and looking under the bed, and in the cupboards, and even behind the curtains, with unusual caution (although it was, as has been said, broad day), he double-locked the door by which he had entered, and retired to rest. There was another door in the room, but it was locked on the outer side; and with what place it communicated, he knew not.

His fears or evil conscience reproduced this door in all his dreams. He dreamed that a dreadful secret was connected with it; a secret which he knew, and yet did not know, for although he was heavily responsible for it, and a party to it, he was harassed even in his vision by a distracting uncertainty in reference to its import. Incoherently entwined with this dream was another, which represented it as the hiding-place of an enemy, a shadow, a phantom; and made it the business of his life to keep the terrible creature closed up, and prevent it from forcing its way in upon him. With this view Nadgett, and he, and a strange man with a bloody smear upon his head (who told him that he had been his playfellow, and told him, too, the real name of an old schoolmate, forgotten until then), worked with iron plates and nails to make the door secure; but though they worked never so hard, it was all in vain, for the nails broke, or changed to soft twigs, or what was worse, to worms, between their fingers; the wood of the door splintered and crumbled, so that even nails would not remain in it; and the iron plates curled up like hot paper. All this time the creature on the other side—whether it was in the shape of man, or beast, he neither knew nor sought to know—was gaining on them. But his greatest terror was when the man with the bloody smear upon his head demanded of him if he knew this creatures name, and said that he would whisper it. At this the dreamer fell upon his knees, his whole blood thrilling with inexplicable fear, and held his ears. But looking at the speaker’s lips, he saw that they formed the utterance of the letter ‘J’; and crying out aloud that the secret was discovered, and they were all lost, he awoke.

Awoke to find Jonas standing at his bedside watching him. And that very door wide open.

As their eyes met, Jonas retreated a few paces, and Montague sprang out of bed.

‘Heyday!’ said Jonas. ‘You’re all alive this morning.’

‘Alive!’ the other stammered, as he pulled the bell-rope violently. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘It’s your room to be sure,’ said Jonas; ‘but I’m almost inclined to ask you what you are doing here? My room is on the other side of that door. No one told me last night not to open it. I thought it led into a passage, and was coming out to order breakfast. There’s—there’s no bell in my room.’

Montague had in the meantime admitted the man with his hot water and boots, who hearing this, said, yes, there was; and passed into the adjoining room to point it out, at the head of the bed.

‘I couldn’t find it, then,’ said Jonas; ‘it’s all the same. Shall I order breakfast?’

Montague answered in the affirmative. When Jonas had retired, whistling, through his own room, he opened the door of communication, to take out the key and fasten it on the inner side. But it was taken out already.

He dragged a table against the door, and sat down to collect himself, as if his dreams still had some influence upon his mind.

‘An evil journey,’ he repeated several times. ‘An evil journey. But I’ll travel home alone. I’ll have no more of this.’

His presentiment, or superstition, that it was an evil journey, did not at all deter him from doing the evil for which the journey was undertaken. With this in view, he dressed himself more carefully than usual to make a favourable impression on Mr Pecksniff; and, reassured by his own appearance, the beauty of the morning, and the flashing of the wet boughs outside his window in the merry sunshine, was soon sufficiently inspirited to swear a few round oaths, and hum the fag-end of a song.

But he still muttered to himself at intervals, for all that: ‘I’ll travel home alone!’



On the night of the storm, Mrs Lupin, hostess of the Blue Dragon, sat by herself in her little bar. Her solitary condition, or the bad weather, or both united, made Mrs Lupin thoughtful, not to say sorrowful. As she sat with her chin upon her hand, looking out through a low back lattice, rendered dim in the brightest day-time by clustering vine-leaves, she shook her head very often, and said, ‘Dear me! Oh, dear, dear me!’

It was a melancholy time, even in the snugness of the Dragon bar. The rich expanse of corn-field, pasture-land, green slope, and gentle undulation, with its sparkling brooks, its many hedgerows, and its clumps of beautiful trees, was black and dreary, from the diamond panes of the lattice away to the far horizon, where the thunder seemed to roll along the hills. The heavy rain beat down the tender branches of vine and jessamine, and trampled on them in its fury; and when the lightning gleamed it showed the tearful leaves shivering and cowering together at the window, and tapping at it urgently, as if beseeching to be sheltered from the dismal night.

As a mark of her respect for the lightning, Mrs Lupin had removed her candle to the chimney-piece. Her basket of needle-work stood unheeded at her elbow; her supper, spread on a round table not far off, was untasted; and the knives had been removed for fear of attraction. She had sat for a long time with her chin upon her hand, saying to herself at intervals, ‘Dear me! Ah, dear, dear me!’

She was on the eve of saying so, once more, when the latch of the house-door (closed to keep the rain out), rattled on its well-worn catch, and a traveller came in, who, shutting it after him, and walking straight up to the half-door of the bar, said, rather gruffly:

‘A pint of the best old beer here.’

He had some reason to be gruff, for if he had passed the day in a waterfall, he could scarcely have been wetter than he was. He was wrapped up to the eyes in a rough blue sailor’s coat, and had an oil-skin hat on, from the capacious brim of which the rain fell trickling down upon his breast, and back, and shoulders. Judging from a certain liveliness of chin—he had so pulled down his hat, and pulled up his collar, to defend himself from the weather, that she could only see his chin, and even across that he drew the wet sleeve of his shaggy coat, as she looked at him—Mrs Lupin set him down for a good-natured fellow, too.

‘A bad night!’ observed the hostess cheerfully.

The traveller shook himself like a Newfoundland dog, and said it was, rather.

‘There’s a fire in the kitchen,’ said Mrs Lupin, ‘and very good company there. Hadn’t you better go and dry yourself?’

‘No, thankee,’ said the man, glancing towards the kitchen as he spoke; he seemed to know the way.

‘It’s enough to give you your death of cold,’ observed the hostess.

‘I don’t take my death easy,’ returned the traveller; ‘or I should most likely have took it afore to-night. Your health, ma’am!’

Mrs Lupin thanked him; but in the act of lifting the tankard to his mouth, he changed his mind, and put it down again. Throwing his body back, and looking about him stiffly, as a man does who is wrapped up, and has his hat low down over his eyes, he said:

‘What do you call this house? Not the Dragon, do you?’

Mrs Lupin complacently made answer, ‘Yes, the Dragon.’

‘Why, then, you’ve got a sort of a relation of mine here, ma’am,’ said the traveller; ‘a young man of the name of Tapley. What! Mark, my boy!’ apostrophizing the premises, ‘have I come upon you at last, old buck!’

This was touching Mrs Lupin on a tender point. She turned to trim the candle on the chimney-piece, and said, with her back towards the traveller:

‘Nobody should be made more welcome at the Dragon, master, than any one who brought me news of Mark. But it’s many and many a long day and month since he left here and England. And whether he’s alive or dead, poor fellow, Heaven above us only knows!’

She shook her head, and her voice trembled; her hand must have done so too, for the light required a deal of trimming.

‘Where did he go, ma’am?’ asked the traveller, in a gentler voice.

‘He went,’ said Mrs Lupin, with increased distress, ‘to America. He was always tender-hearted and kind, and perhaps at this moment may be lying in prison under sentence of death, for taking pity on some miserable black, and helping the poor runaway creetur to escape. How could he ever go to America! Why didn’t he go to some of those countries where the savages eat each other fairly, and give an equal chance to every one!’

Quite subdued by this time, Mrs Lupin sobbed, and was retiring to a chair to give her grief free vent, when the traveller caught her in his arms, and she uttered a glad cry of recognition.

‘Yes, I will!’ cried Mark, ‘another—one more—twenty more! You didn’t know me in that hat and coat? I thought you would have known me anywheres! Ten more!’

‘So I should have known you, if I could have seen you; but I couldn’t, and you spoke so gruff. I didn’t think you could speak gruff to me, Mark, at first coming back.’

‘Fifteen more!’ said Mr Tapley. ‘How handsome and how young you look! Six more! The last half-dozen warn’t a fair one, and must be done over again. Lord bless you, what a treat it is to see you! One more! Well, I never was so jolly. Just a few more, on account of there not being any credit in it!’

When Mr Tapley stopped in these calculations in simple addition, he did it, not because he was at all tired of the exercise, but because he was out of breath. The pause reminded him of other duties.

‘Mr Martin Chuzzlewit’s outside,’ he said. ‘I left him under the cartshed, while I came on to see if there was anybody here. We want to keep quiet to-night, till we know the news from you, and what it’s best for us to do.’

‘There’s not a soul in the house, except the kitchen company,’ returned the hostess. ‘If they were to know you had come back, Mark, they’d have a bonfire in the street, late as it is.’

‘But they mustn’t know it to-night, my precious soul,’ said Mark; ‘so have the house shut, and the kitchen fire made up; and when it’s all ready, put a light in the winder, and we’ll come in. One more! I long to hear about old friends. You’ll tell me all about ‘em, won’t you; Mr Pinch, and the butcher’s dog down the street, and the terrier over the way, and the wheelwright’s, and every one of ‘em. When I first caught sight of the church to-night, I thought the steeple would have choked me, I did. One more! Won’t you? Not a very little one to finish off with?’

‘You have had plenty, I am sure,’ said the hostess. ‘Go along with your foreign manners!’

‘That ain’t foreign, bless you!’ cried Mark. ‘Native as oysters, that is! One more, because it’s native! As a mark of respect for the land we live in! This don’t count as between you and me, you understand,’ said Mr Tapley. ‘I ain’t a-kissing you now, you’ll observe. I have been among the patriots; I’m a-kissin’ my country.’

It would have been very unreasonable to complain of the exhibition of his patriotism with which he followed up this explanation, that it was at all lukewarm or indifferent. When he had given full expression to his nationality, he hurried off to Martin; while Mrs Lupin, in a state of great agitation and excitement, prepared for their reception.

The company soon came tumbling out; insisting to each other that the Dragon clock was half an hour too fast, and that the thunder must have affected it. Impatient, wet, and weary though they were, Martin and Mark were overjoyed to see these old faces, and watched them with delighted interest as they departed from the house, and passed close by them.

‘There’s the old tailor, Mark!’ whispered Martin.

‘There he goes, sir! A little bandier than he was, I think, sir, ain’t he? His figure’s so far altered, as it seems to me, that you might wheel a rather larger barrow between his legs as he walks, than you could have done conveniently when we know’d him. There’s Sam a-coming out, sir.’

‘Ah, to be sure!’ cried Martin; ‘Sam, the hostler. I wonder whether that horse of Pecksniff’s is alive still?’

‘Not a doubt on it, sir,’ returned Mark. ‘That’s a description of animal, sir, as will go on in a bony way peculiar to himself for a long time, and get into the newspapers at last under the title of “Sing’lar Tenacity of Life in a Quadruped.” As if he had ever been alive in all his life, worth mentioning! There’s the clerk, sir—wery drunk, as usual.’

‘I see him!’ said Martin, laughing. ‘But, my life, how wet you are, Mark!’

‘I am! What do you consider yourself, sir?’

‘Oh, not half as bad,’ said his fellow-traveller, with an air of great vexation. ‘I told you not to keep on the windy side, Mark, but to let us change and change about. The rain has been beating on you ever since it began.’

‘You don’t know how it pleases me, sir,’ said Mark, after a short silence, ‘if I may make so bold as say so, to hear you a-going on in that there uncommon considerate way of yours; which I don’t mean to attend to, never, but which, ever since that time when I was floored in Eden, you have showed.’

‘Ah, Mark!’ sighed Martin, ‘the less we say of that the better. Do I see the light yonder?’

‘That’s the light!’ cried Mark. ‘Lord bless her, what briskness she possesses! Now for it, sir. Neat wines, good beds, and first-rate entertainment for man or beast.’

The kitchen fire burnt clear and red, the table was spread out, the kettle boiled; the slippers were there, the boot-jack too, sheets of ham were there, cooking on the gridiron; half-a-dozen eggs were there, poaching in the frying-pan; a plethoric cherry-brandy bottle was there, winking at a foaming jug of beer upon the table; rare provisions were there, dangling from the rafters as if you had only to open your mouth, and something exquisitely ripe and good would be glad of the excuse for tumbling into it. Mrs Lupin, who for their sakes had dislodged the very cook, high priestess of the temple, with her own genial hands was dressing their repast.

It was impossible to help it—a ghost must have hugged her. The Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea being, in that respect, all one, Martin hugged her instantly. Mr Tapley (as if the idea were quite novel, and had never occurred to him before), followed, with much gravity, on the same side.

‘Little did I ever think,’ said Mrs Lupin, adjusting her cap and laughing heartily; yes, and blushing too; ‘often as I have said that Mr Pecksniff’s young gentlemen were the life and soul of the Dragon, and that without them it would be too dull to live in—little did I ever think I am sure, that any one of them would ever make so free as you, Mr Martin! And still less that I shouldn’t be angry with him, but should be glad with all my heart to be the first to welcome him home from America, with Mark Tapley for his—’

‘For his friend, Mrs Lupin,’ interposed Martin.

‘For his friend,’ said the hostess, evidently gratified by this distinction, but at the same time admonishing Mr Tapley with a fork to remain at a respectful distance. ‘Little did I ever think that! But still less, that I should ever have the changes to relate that I shall have to tell you of, when you have done your supper!’

‘Good Heaven!’ cried Martin, changing colour, ‘what changes?’

She,’ said the hostess, ‘is quite well, and now at Mr Pecksniff’s. Don’t be at all alarmed about her. She is everything you could wish. It’s of no use mincing matters, or making secrets, is it?’ added Mrs Lupin. ‘I know all about it, you see!’

‘My good creature,’ returned Martin, ‘you are exactly the person who ought to know all about it. I am delighted to think you do know about that! But what changes do you hint at? Has any death occurred?’

‘No, no!’ said the hostess. ‘Not as bad as that. But I declare now that I will not be drawn into saying another word till you have had your supper. If you ask me fifty questions in the meantime, I won’t answer one.’

She was so positive, that there was nothing for it but to get the supper over as quickly as possible; and as they had been walking a great many miles, and had fasted since the middle of the day, they did no great violence to their own inclinations in falling on it tooth and nail. It took rather longer to get through than might have been expected; for, half-a-dozen times, when they thought they had finished, Mrs Lupin exposed the fallacy of that impression triumphantly. But at last, in the course of time and nature, they gave in. Then, sitting with their slippered feet stretched out upon the kitchen hearth (which was wonderfully comforting, for the night had grown by this time raw and chilly), and looking with involuntary admiration at their dimpled, buxom, blooming hostess, as the firelight sparkled in her eyes and glimmered in her raven hair, they composed themselves to listen to her news.

Many were the exclamations of surprise which interrupted her, when she told them of the separation between Mr Pecksniff and his daughters, and between the same good gentleman and Mr Pinch. But these were nothing to the indignant demonstrations of Martin, when she related, as the common talk of the neighbourhood, what entire possession he had obtained over the mind and person of old Mr Chuzzlewit, and what high honour he designed for Mary. On receipt of this intelligence, Martin’s slippers flew off in a twinkling, and he began pulling on his wet boots with that indefinite intention of going somewhere instantly, and doing something to somebody, which is the first safety-valve of a hot temper.

‘He!’ said Martin, ‘smooth-tongued villain that he is! He! Give me that other boot, Mark?’

‘Where was you a-thinking of going to, sir?’ inquired Mr Tapley drying the sole at the fire, and looking coolly at it as he spoke, as if it were a slice of toast.

‘Where!’ repeated Martin. ‘You don’t suppose I am going to remain here, do you?’

The imperturbable Mark confessed that he did.

You do!’ retorted Martin angrily. ‘I am much obliged to you. What do you take me for?’

‘I take you for what you are, sir,’ said Mark; ‘and, consequently, am quite sure that whatever you do will be right and sensible. The boot, sir.’

Martin darted an impatient look at him, without taking it, and walked rapidly up and down the kitchen several times, with one boot and a stocking on. But, mindful of his Eden resolution, he had already gained many victories over himself when Mark was in the case, and he resolved to conquer now. So he came back to the book-jack, laid his hand on Mark’s shoulder to steady himself, pulled the boot off, picked up his slippers, put them on, and sat down again. He could not help thrusting his hands to the very bottom of his pockets, and muttering at intervals, ‘Pecksniff too! That fellow! Upon my soul! In-deed! What next?’ and so forth; nor could he help occasionally shaking his fist at the chimney, with a very threatening countenance; but this did not last long; and he heard Mrs Lupin out, if not with composure, at all events in silence.

‘As to Mr Pecksniff himself,’ observed the hostess in conclusion, spreading out the skirts of her gown with both hands, and nodding her head a great many times as she did so, ‘I don’t know what to say. Somebody must have poisoned his mind, or influenced him in some extraordinary way. I cannot believe that such a noble-spoken gentleman would go and do wrong of his own accord!’

A noble-spoken gentleman! How many people are there in the world, who, for no better reason, uphold their Pecksniffs to the last and abandon virtuous men, when Pecksniffs breathe upon them!

‘As to Mr Pinch,’ pursued the landlady, ‘if ever there was a dear, good, pleasant, worthy soul alive, Pinch, and no other, is his name. But how do we know that old Mr Chuzzlewit himself was not the cause of difference arising between him and Mr Pecksniff? No one but themselves can tell; for Mr Pinch has a proud spirit, though he has such a quiet way; and when he left us, and was so sorry to go, he scorned to make his story good, even to me.’

‘Poor old Tom!’ said Martin, in a tone that sounded like remorse.

‘It’s a comfort to know,’ resumed the landlady, ‘that he has his sister living with him, and is doing well. Only yesterday he sent me back, by post, a little’—here the colour came into her cheeks—‘a little trifle I was bold enough to lend him when he went away; saying, with many thanks, that he had good employment, and didn’t want it. It was the same note; he hadn’t broken it. I never thought I could have been so little pleased to see a bank-note come back to me as I was to see that.’

‘Kindly said, and heartily!’ said Martin. ‘Is it not, Mark?’

‘She can’t say anything as does not possess them qualities,’ returned Mr Tapley; ‘which as much belongs to the Dragon as its licence. And now that we have got quite cool and fresh, to the subject again, sir; what will you do? If you’re not proud, and can make up your mind to go through with what you spoke of, coming along, that’s the course for you to take. If you started wrong with your grandfather (which, you’ll excuse my taking the liberty of saying, appears to have been the case), up with you, sir, and tell him so, and make an appeal to his affections. Don’t stand out. He’s a great deal older than you, and if he was hasty, you was hasty too. Give way, sir, give way.’

The eloquence of Mr Tapley was not without its effect on Martin but he still hesitated, and expressed his reason thus:

‘That’s all very true, and perfectly correct, Mark; and if it were a mere question of humbling myself before him, I would not consider it twice. But don’t you see, that being wholly under this hypocrite’s government, and having (if what we hear be true) no mind or will of his own, I throw myself, in fact, not at his feet, but at the feet of Mr Pecksniff? And when I am rejected and spurned away,’ said Martin, turning crimson at the thought, ‘it is not by him; my own blood stirred against me; but by Pecksniff—Pecksniff, Mark!’

‘Well, but we know beforehand,’ returned the politic Mr Tapley, ‘that Pecksniff is a wagabond, a scoundrel, and a willain.’

‘A most pernicious villain!’ said Martin.

‘A most pernicious willain. We know that beforehand, sir; and, consequently, it’s no shame to be defeated by Pecksniff. Blow Pecksniff!’ cried Mr Tapley, in the fervour of his eloquence. ‘Who’s he! It’s not in the natur of Pecksniff to shame us, unless he agreed with us, or done us a service; and, in case he offered any audacity of that description, we could express our sentiments in the English language, I hope. Pecksniff!’ repeated Mr Tapley, with ineffable disdain. ‘What’s Pecksniff, who’s Pecksniff, where’s Pecksniff, that he’s to be so much considered? We’re not a-calculating for ourselves;’ he laid uncommon emphasis on the last syllable of that word, and looked full in Martin’s face; ‘we’re making a effort for a young lady likewise as has undergone her share; and whatever little hope we have, this here Pecksniff is not to stand in its way, I expect. I never heard of any act of Parliament, as was made by Pecksniff. Pecksniff! Why, I wouldn’t see the man myself; I wouldn’t hear him; I wouldn’t choose to know he was in company. I’d scrape my shoes on the scraper of the door, and call that Pecksniff, if you liked; but I wouldn’t condescend no further.’

The amazement of Mrs Lupin, and indeed of Mr Tapley himself for that matter, at this impassioned flow of language, was immense. But Martin, after looking thoughtfully at the fire for a short time, said:

‘You are right, Mark. Right or wrong, it shall be done. I’ll do it.’

‘One word more, sir,’ returned Mark. ‘Only think of him so far as not to give him a handle against you. Don’t you do anything secret that he can report before you get there. Don’t you even see Miss Mary in the morning, but let this here dear friend of ours’—Mr Tapley bestowed a smile upon the hostess—‘prepare her for what’s a-going to happen, and carry any little message as may be agreeable. She knows how. Don’t you?’ Mrs Lupin laughed and tossed her head. ‘Then you go in, bold and free as a gentleman should. “I haven’t done nothing under-handed,” says you. “I haven’t been skulking about the premises, here I am, for-give me, I ask your pardon, God Bless You!”’

Martin smiled, but felt that it was good advice notwithstanding, and resolved to act upon it. When they had ascertained from Mrs Lupin that Pecksniff had already returned from the great ceremonial at which they had beheld him in his glory; and when they had fully arranged the order of their proceedings; they went to bed, intent upon the morrow.

In pursuance of their project as agreed upon at this discussion, Mr Tapley issued forth next morning, after breakfast, charged with a letter from Martin to his grandfather, requesting leave to wait upon him for a few minutes. And postponing as he went along the congratulations of his numerous friends until a more convenient season, he soon arrived at Mr Pecksniff’s house. At that gentleman’s door; with a face so immovable that it would have been next to an impossibility for the most acute physiognomist to determine what he was thinking about, or whether he was thinking at all; he straightway knocked.

A person of Mr Tapley’s observation could not long remain insensible to the fact that Mr Pecksniff was making the end of his nose very blunt against the glass of the parlour window, in an angular attempt to discover who had knocked at the door. Nor was Mr Tapley slow to baffle this movement on the part of the enemy, by perching himself on the top step, and presenting the crown of his hat in that direction. But possibly Mr Pecksniff had already seen him, for Mark soon heard his shoes creaking, as he advanced to open the door with his own hands.

Mr Pecksniff was as cheerful as ever, and sang a little song in the passage.

‘How d’ye do, sir?’ said Mark.

‘Oh!’ cried Mr Pecksniff. ‘Tapley, I believe? The Prodigal returned! We don’t want any beer, my friend.’

‘Thankee, sir,’ said Mark. ‘I couldn’t accommodate you if you did. A letter, sir. Wait for an answer.’

‘For me?’ cried Mr Pecksniff. ‘And an answer, eh?’

‘Not for you, I think, sir,’ said Mark, pointing out the direction. ‘Chuzzlewit, I believe the name is, sir.’

‘Oh!’ returned Mr Pecksniff. ‘Thank you. Yes. Who’s it from, my good young man?’

‘The gentleman it comes from wrote his name inside, sir,’ returned Mr Tapley with extreme politeness. ‘I see him a-signing of it at the end, while I was a-waitin’.’

‘And he said he wanted an answer, did he?’ asked Mr Pecksniff in his most persuasive manner.

Mark replied in the affirmative.

‘He shall have an answer. Certainly,’ said Mr Pecksniff, tearing the letter into small pieces, as mildly as if that were the most flattering attention a correspondent could receive. ‘Have the goodness to give him that, with my compliments, if you please. Good morning!’ Whereupon he handed Mark the scraps; retired, and shut the door.

Mark thought it prudent to subdue his personal emotions, and return to Martin at the Dragon. They were not unprepared for such a reception, and suffered an hour or so to elapse before making another attempt. When this interval had gone by, they returned to Mr Pecksniff’s house in company. Martin knocked this time, while Mr Tapley prepared himself to keep the door open with his foot and shoulder, when anybody came, and by that means secure an enforced parley. But this precaution was needless, for the servant-girl appeared almost immediately. Brushing quickly past her as he had resolved in such a case to do, Martin (closely followed by his faithful ally) opened the door of that parlour in which he knew a visitor was most likely to be found; passed at once into the room; and stood, without a word of notice or announcement, in the presence of his grandfather.

Mr Pecksniff also was in the room; and Mary. In the swift instant of their mutual recognition, Martin saw the old man droop his grey head, and hide his face in his hands.

It smote him to the heart. In his most selfish and most careless day, this lingering remnant of the old man’s ancient love, this buttress of a ruined tower he had built up in the time gone by, with so much pride and hope, would have caused a pang in Martin’s heart. But now, changed for the better in his worst respect; looking through an altered medium on his former friend, the guardian of his childhood, so broken and bowed down; resentment, sullenness, self-confidence, and pride, were all swept away, before the starting tears upon the withered cheeks. He could not bear to see them. He could not bear to think they fell at sight of him. He could not bear to view reflected in them, the reproachful and irrevocable Past.

He hurriedly advanced to seize the old man’s hand in his, when Mr Pecksniff interposed himself between them.

‘No, young man!’ said Mr Pecksniff, striking himself upon the breast, and stretching out his other arm towards his guest as if it were a wing to shelter him. ‘No, sir. None of that. Strike here, sir, here! Launch your arrows at me, sir, if you’ll have the goodness; not at Him!’

‘Grandfather!’ cried Martin. ‘Hear me! I implore you, let me speak!’

‘Would you, sir? Would you?’ said Mr Pecksniff, dodging about, so as to keep himself always between them. ‘Is it not enough, sir, that you come into my house like a thief in the night, or I should rather say, for we can never be too particular on the subject of Truth, like a thief in the day-time; bringing your dissolute companions with you, to plant themselves with their backs against the insides of parlour doors, and prevent the entrance or issuing forth of any of my household’—Mark had taken up this position, and held it quite unmoved—‘but would you also strike at venerable Virtue? Would you? Know that it is not defenceless. I will be its shield, young man. Assail me. Come on, sir. Fire away!’

‘Pecksniff,’ said the old man, in a feeble voice. ‘Calm yourself. Be quiet.’

‘I can’t be calm,’ cried Mr Pecksniff, ‘and I won’t be quiet. My benefactor and my friend! Shall even my house be no refuge for your hoary pillow!’

‘Stand aside!’ said the old man, stretching out his hand; ‘and let me see what it is I used to love so dearly.’

‘It is right that you should see it, my friend,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘It is well that you should see it, my noble sir. It is desirable that you should contemplate it in its true proportions. Behold it! There it is, sir. There it is!’

Martin could hardly be a mortal man, and not express in his face something of the anger and disdain with which Mr Pecksniff inspired him. But beyond this he evinced no knowledge whatever of that gentleman’s presence or existence. True, he had once, and that at first, glanced at him involuntarily, and with supreme contempt; but for any other heed he took of him, there might have been nothing in his place save empty air.

As Mr Pecksniff withdrew from between them, agreeably to the wish just now expressed (which he did during the delivery of the observations last recorded), old Martin, who had taken Mary Graham’s hand in his, and whispered kindly to her, as telling her she had no cause to be alarmed, gently pushed her from him, behind his chair; and looked steadily at his grandson.

‘And that,’ he said, ‘is he. Ah! that is he! Say what you wish to say. But come no nearer,’

‘His sense of justice is so fine,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘that he will hear even him, although he knows beforehand that nothing can come of it. Ingenuous mind!’ Mr Pecksniff did not address himself immediately to any person in saying this, but assuming the position of the Chorus in a Greek Tragedy, delivered his opinion as a commentary on the proceedings.

‘Grandfather!’ said Martin, with great earnestness. ‘From a painful journey, from a hard life, from a sick-bed, from privation and distress, from gloom and disappointment, from almost hopelessness and despair, I have come back to you.’

‘Rovers of this sort,’ observed Mr Pecksniff, as Chorus, ‘very commonly come back when they find they don’t meet with the success they expected in their marauding ravages.’

‘But for this faithful man,’ said Martin, turning towards Mark, ‘whom I first knew in this place, and who went away with me voluntarily, as a servant, but has been, throughout, my zealous and devoted friend; but for him, I must have died abroad. Far from home, far from any help or consolation; far from the probability even of my wretched fate being ever known to any one who cared to hear it—oh, that you would let me say, of being known to you!’

The old man looked at Mr Pecksniff. Mr Pecksniff looked at him. ‘Did you speak, my worthy sir?’ said Mr Pecksniff, with a smile. The old man answered in the negative. ‘I know what you thought,’ said Mr Pecksniff, with another smile. ‘Let him go on my friend. The development of self-interest in the human mind is always a curious study. Let him go on, sir.’

‘Go on!’ observed the old man; in a mechanical obedience, it appeared, to Mr Pecksniff’s suggestion.

‘I have been so wretched and so poor,’ said Martin, ‘that I am indebted to the charitable help of a stranger, in a land of strangers, for the means of returning here. All this tells against me in your mind, I know. I have given you cause to think I have been driven here wholly by want, and have not been led on, in any degree, by affection or regret. When I parted from you, Grandfather, I deserved that suspicion, but I do not now. I do not now.’

The Chorus put its hand in its waistcoat, and smiled. ‘Let him go on, my worthy sir,’ it said. ‘I know what you are thinking of, but don’t express it prematurely.’

Old Martin raised his eyes to Mr Pecksniff’s face, and appearing to derive renewed instruction from his looks and words, said, once again:

‘Go on!’

‘I have little more to say,’ returned Martin. ‘And as I say it now, with little or no hope, Grandfather; whatever dawn of hope I had on entering the room; believe it to be true. At least, believe it to be true.’

‘Beautiful Truth!’ exclaimed the Chorus, looking upward. ‘How is your name profaned by vicious persons! You don’t live in a well, my holy principle, but on the lips of false mankind. It is hard to bear with mankind, dear sir’—addressing the elder Mr Chuzzlewit; ‘but let us do so meekly. It is our duty so to do. Let us be among the Few who do their duty. If,’ pursued the Chorus, soaring up into a lofty flight, ‘as the poet informs us, England expects Every man to do his duty, England is the most sanguine country on the face of the earth, and will find itself continually disappointed.’

‘Upon that subject,’ said Martin, looking calmly at the old man as he spoke, but glancing once at Mary, whose face was now buried in her hands, upon the back of his easy-chair; ‘upon that subject which first occasioned a division between us, my mind and heart are incapable of change. Whatever influence they have undergone, since that unhappy time, has not been one to weaken but to strengthen me. I cannot profess sorrow for that, nor irresolution in that, nor shame in that. Nor would you wish me, I know. But that I might have trusted to your love, if I had thrown myself manfully upon it; that I might have won you over with ease, if I had been more yielding and more considerate; that I should have best remembered myself in forgetting myself, and recollecting you; reflection, solitude, and misery, have taught me. I came resolved to say this, and to ask your forgiveness; not so much in hope for the future, as in regret for the past; for all that I would ask of you is, that you would aid me to live. Help me to get honest work to do, and I would do it. My condition places me at the disadvantage of seeming to have only my selfish ends to serve, but try if that be so or not. Try if I be self-willed, obdurate, and haughty, as I was; or have been disciplined in a rough school. Let the voice of nature and association plead between us, Grandfather; and do not, for one fault, however thankless, quite reject me!’

As he ceased, the grey head of the old man drooped again; and he concealed his face behind his outspread fingers.

‘My dear sir,’ cried Mr Pecksniff, bending over him, ‘you must not give way to this. It is very natural, and very amiable, but you must not allow the shameless conduct of one whom you long ago cast off, to move you so far. Rouse yourself. Think,’ said Pecksniff, ‘think of Me, my friend.’

‘I will,’ returned old Martin, looking up into his face. ‘You recall me to myself. I will.’

‘Why, what,’ said Mr Pecksniff, sitting down beside him in a chair which he drew up for the purpose, and tapping him playfully on the arm, ‘what is the matter with my strong-minded compatriot, if I may venture to take the liberty of calling him by that endearing expression? Shall I have to scold my coadjutor, or to reason with an intellect like this? I think not.’

‘No, no. There is no occasion,’ said the old man. ‘A momentary feeling. Nothing more.’

‘Indignation,’ observed Mr Pecksniff, ‘will bring the scalding tear into the honest eye, I know’—he wiped his own elaborately. ‘But we have highest duties to perform than that. Rouse yourself, Mr Chuzzlewit. Shall I give expression to your thoughts, my friend?’

‘Yes,’ said old Martin, leaning back in his chair, and looking at him, half in vacancy and half in admiration, as if he were fascinated by the man. ‘Speak for me, Pecksniff, Thank you. You are true to me. Thank you!’

‘Do not unman me, sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff, shaking his hand vigorously, ‘or I shall be unequal to the task. It is not agreeable to my feelings, my good sir, to address the person who is now before us, for when I ejected him from this house, after hearing of his unnatural conduct from your lips, I renounced communication with him for ever. But you desire it; and that is sufficient. Young man! The door is immediately behind the companion of your infamy. Blush if you can; begone without a blush, if you can’t.’

Martin looked as steadily at his grandfather as if there had been a dead silence all this time. The old man looked no less steadily at Mr Pecksniff.

‘When I ordered you to leave this house upon the last occasion of your being dismissed from it with disgrace,’ said Mr Pecksniff; ‘when, stung and stimulated beyond endurance by your shameless conduct to this extraordinarily noble-minded individual, I exclaimed “Go forth!” I told you that I wept for your depravity. Do not suppose that the tear which stands in my eye at this moment, is shed for you. It is shed for him, sir. It is shed for him.’

Here Mr Pecksniff, accidentally dropping the tear in question on a bald part of Mr Chuzzlewit’s head, wiped the place with his pocket-handkerchief, and begged pardon.

‘It is shed for him, sir, whom you seek to make the victim of your arts,’ said Mr Pecksniff; ‘whom you seek to plunder, to deceive, and to mislead. It is shed in sympathy with him, and admiration of him; not in pity for him, for happily he knows what you are. You shall not wrong him further, sir, in any way,’ said Mr Pecksniff, quite transported with enthusiasm, ‘while I have life. You may bestride my senseless corse, sir. That is very likely. I can imagine a mind like yours deriving great satisfaction from any measure of that kind. But while I continue to be called upon to exist, sir, you must strike at him through me. Awe!’ said Mr Pecksniff, shaking his head at Martin with indignant jocularity; ‘and in such a cause you will find me, my young sir, an Ugly Customer!’

Still Martin looked steadily and mildly at his grandfather. ‘Will you give me no answer,’ he said, at length, ‘not a word?’

‘You hear what has been said,’ replied the old man, without averting his eyes from the face of Mr Pecksniff; who nodded encouragingly.

‘I have not heard your voice. I have not heard your spirit,’ returned Martin.

‘Tell him again,’ said the old man, still gazing up in Mr Pecksniff’s face.

‘I only hear,’ replied Martin, strong in his purpose from the first, and stronger in it as he felt how Pecksniff winced and shrunk beneath his contempt; ‘I only hear what you say to me, grandfather.’

Perhaps it was well for Mr Pecksniff that his venerable friend found in his (Mr Pecksniff’s) features an exclusive and engrossing object of contemplation, for if his eyes had gone astray, and he had compared young Martin’s bearing with that of his zealous defender, the latter disinterested gentleman would scarcely have shown to greater advantage than on the memorable afternoon when he took Tom Pinch’s last receipt in full of all demands. One really might have thought there was some quality in Mr Pecksniff—an emanation from the brightness and purity within him perhaps—which set off and adorned his foes; they looked so gallant and so manly beside him.

‘Not a word?’ said Martin, for the second time.

‘I remember that I have a word to say, Pecksniff,’ observed the old man. ‘But a word. You spoke of being indebted to the charitable help of some stranger for the means of returning to England. Who is he? And what help in money did he render you?’

Although he asked this question of Martin, he did not look towards him, but kept his eyes on Mr Pecksniff as before. It appeared to have become a habit with him, both in a literal and figurative sense, to look to Mr Pecksniff alone.

Martin took out his pencil, tore a leaf from his pocket-book, and hastily wrote down the particulars of his debt to Mr Bevan. The old man stretched out his hand for the paper, and took it; but his eyes did not wander from Mr Pecksniff’s face.

‘It would be a poor pride and a false humility,’ said Martin, in a low voice, ‘to say, I do not wish that to be paid, or that I have any present hope of being able to pay it. But I never felt my poverty so deeply as I feel it now.’

‘Read it to me, Pecksniff,’ said the old man.

Mr Pecksniff, after approaching the perusal of the paper as if it were a manuscript confession of a murder, complied.

‘I think, Pecksniff,’ said old Martin, ‘I could wish that to be discharged. I should not like the lender, who was abroad, who had no opportunity of making inquiry, and who did (as he thought) a kind action, to suffer.’

‘An honourable sentiment, my dear sir. Your own entirely. But a dangerous precedent,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘permit me to suggest.’

‘It shall not be a precedent,’ returned the old man. ‘It is the only recognition of him. But we will talk of it again. You shall advise me. There is nothing else?’

‘Nothing else,’ said Mr Pecksniff buoyantly, ‘but for you to recover this intrusion—this cowardly and indefensible outrage on your feelings—with all possible dispatch, and smile again.’

‘You have nothing more to say?’ inquired the old man, laying his hand with unusual earnestness on Mr Pecksniff’s sleeve.

Mr Pecksniff would not say what rose to his lips. For reproaches he observed, were useless.

‘You have nothing at all to urge? You are sure of that! If you have, no matter what it is, speak freely. I will oppose nothing that you ask of me,’ said the old man.

The tears rose in such abundance to Mr Pecksniff’s eyes at this proof of unlimited confidence on the part of his friend, that he was fain to clasp the bridge of his nose convulsively before he could at all compose himself. When he had the power of utterance again, he said with great emotion, that he hoped he should live to deserve this; and added, that he had no other observation whatever to make.

For a few moments the old man sat looking at him, with that blank and motionless expression which is not uncommon in the faces of those whose faculties are on the wane, in age. But he rose up firmly too, and walked towards the door, from which Mark withdrew to make way for him.

The obsequious Mr Pecksniff proffered his arm. The old man took it. Turning at the door, he said to Martin, waving him off with his hand,

‘You have heard him. Go away. It is all over. Go!’

Mr Pecksniff murmured certain cheering expressions of sympathy and encouragement as they retired; and Martin, awakening from the stupor into which the closing portion of this scene had plunged him, to the opportunity afforded by their departure, caught the innocent cause of all in his embrace, and pressed her to his heart.

‘Dear girl!’ said Martin. ‘He has not changed you. Why, what an impotent and harmless knave the fellow is!’

‘You have restrained yourself so nobly! You have borne so much!’

‘Restrained myself!’ cried Martin, cheerfully. ‘You were by, and were unchanged, I knew. What more advantage did I want? The sight of me was such a bitterness to the dog, that I had my triumph in his being forced to endure it. But tell me, love—for the few hasty words we can exchange now are precious—what is this which has been rumoured to me? Is it true that you are persecuted by this knave’s addresses?’

‘I was, dear Martin, and to some extent am now; but my chief source of unhappiness has been anxiety for you. Why did you leave us in such terrible suspense?’

‘Sickness, distance; the dread of hinting at our real condition, the impossibility of concealing it except in perfect silence; the knowledge that the truth would have pained you infinitely more than uncertainty and doubt,’ said Martin, hurriedly; as indeed everything else was done and said, in those few hurried moments, ‘were the causes of my writing only once. But Pecksniff? You needn’t fear to tell me the whole tale; for you saw me with him face to face, hearing him speak, and not taking him by the throat; what is the history of his pursuit of you? Is it known to my grandfather?’


‘And he assists him in it?’

‘No,’ she answered eagerly.

‘Thank Heaven!’ cried Martin, ‘that it leaves his mind unclouded in that one respect!’

‘I do not think,’ said Mary, ‘it was known to him at first. When this man had sufficiently prepared his mind, he revealed it to him by degrees. I think so, but I only know it from my own impression: now from anything they told me. Then he spoke to me alone.’

‘My grandfather did?’ said Martin.

‘Yes—spoke to me alone, and told me—’

‘What the hound had said,’ cried Martin. ‘Don’t repeat it.’

‘And said I knew well what qualities he possessed; that he was moderately rich; in good repute; and high in his favour and confidence. But seeing me very much distressed, he said that he would not control or force my inclinations, but would content himself with telling me the fact. He would not pain me by dwelling on it, or reverting to it; nor has he ever done so since, but has truly kept his word.’

‘The man himself?—’ asked Martin.

‘He has had few opportunities of pursuing his suit. I have never walked out alone, or remained alone an instant in his presence. Dear Martin, I must tell you,’ she continued, ‘that the kindness of your grandfather to me remains unchanged. I am his companion still. An indescribable tenderness and compassion seem to have mingled themselves with his old regard; and if I were his only child, I could not have a gentler father. What former fancy or old habit survives in this, when his heart has turned so cold to you, is a mystery I cannot penetrate; but it has been, and it is, a happiness to me, that I remained true to him; that if he should wake from his delusion, even at the point of death, I am here, love, to recall you to his thoughts.’

Martin looked with admiration on her glowing face, and pressed his lips to hers.

‘I have sometimes heard, and read,’ she said, ‘that those whose powers had been enfeebled long ago, and whose lives had faded, as it were, into a dream, have been known to rouse themselves before death, and inquire for familiar faces once very dear to them; but forgotten, unrecognized, hated even, in the meantime. Think, if with his old impressions of this man, he should suddenly resume his former self, and find in him his only friend!’

‘I would not urge you to abandon him, dearest,’ said Martin, ‘though I could count the years we are to wear out asunder. But the influence this fellow exercises over him has steadily increased, I fear.’

She could not help admitting that. Steadily, imperceptibly, and surely, until it was paramount and supreme. She herself had none; and yet he treated her with more affection than at any previous time. Martin thought the inconsistency a part of his weakness and decay.

‘Does the influence extend to fear?’ said Martin. ‘Is he timid of asserting his own opinion in the presence of this infatuation? I fancied so just now.’

‘I have thought so, often. Often when we are sitting alone, almost as we used to do, and I have been reading a favourite book to him or he has been talking quite cheerfully, I have observed that the entrance of Mr Pecksniff has changed his whole demeanour. He has broken off immediately, and become what you have seen to-day. When we first came here he had his impetuous outbreaks, in which it was not easy for Mr Pecksniff with his utmost plausibility to appease him. But these have long since dwindled away. He defers to him in everything, and has no opinion upon any question, but that which is forced upon him by this treacherous man.’

Such was the account, rapidly furnished in whispers, and interrupted, brief as it was, by many false alarms of Mr Pecksniff’s return; which Martin received of his grandfather’s decline, and of that good gentleman’s ascendancy. He heard of Tom Pinch too, and Jonas too, with not a little about himself into the bargain; for though lovers are remarkable for leaving a great deal unsaid on all occasions, and very properly desiring to come back and say it, they are remarkable also for a wonderful power of condensation, and can, in one way or other, give utterance to more language—eloquent language—in any given short space of time, than all the six hundred and fifty-eight members in the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; who are strong lovers no doubt, but of their country only, which makes all the difference; for in a passion of that kind (which is not always returned), it is the custom to use as many words as possible, and express nothing whatever.

A caution from Mr Tapley; a hasty interchange of farewells, and of something else which the proverb says must not be told of afterwards; a white hand held out to Mr Tapley himself, which he kissed with the devotion of a knight-errant; more farewells, more something else’s; a parting word from Martin that he would write from London and would do great things there yet (Heaven knows what, but he quite believed it); and Mark and he stood on the outside of the Pecksniffian halls.

‘A short interview after such an absence!’ said Martin, sorrowfully. ‘But we are well out of the house. We might have placed ourselves in a false position by remaining there, even so long, Mark.’

‘I don’t know about ourselves, sir,’ he returned; ‘but somebody else would have got into a false position, if he had happened to come back again, while we was there. I had the door all ready, sir. If Pecksniff had showed his head, or had only so much as listened behind it, I would have caught him like a walnut. He’s the sort of man,’ added Mr Tapley, musing, ‘as would squeeze soft, I know.’

A person who was evidently going to Mr Pecksniff’s house, passed them at this moment. He raised his eyes at the mention of the architect’s name; and when he had gone on a few yards, stopped and gazed at them. Mr Tapley, also, looked over his shoulder, and so did Martin; for the stranger, as he passed, had looked very sharply at them.

‘Who may that be, I wonder!’ said Martin. ‘The face seems familiar to me, but I don’t know the man.’

‘He seems to have a amiable desire that his face should be tolerable familiar to us,’ said Mr Tapley, ‘for he’s a-staring pretty hard. He’d better not waste his beauty, for he ain’t got much to spare.’

Coming in sight of the Dragon, they saw a travelling carriage at the door.

‘And a Salisbury carriage, eh?’ said Mr Tapley. ‘That’s what he came in depend upon it. What’s in the wind now? A new pupil, I shouldn’t wonder. P’raps it’s a order for another grammar-school, of the same pattern as the last.’

Before they could enter at the door, Mrs Lupin came running out; and beckoning them to the carriage showed them a portmanteau with the name of Chuzzlewit upon it.

‘Miss Pecksniff’s husband that was,’ said the good woman to Martin. ‘I didn’t know what terms you might be on, and was quite in a worry till you came back.’

‘He and I have never interchanged a word yet,’ observed Martin; ‘and as I have no wish to be better or worse acquainted with him, I will not put myself in his way. We passed him on the road, I have no doubt. I am glad he timed his coming as he did. Upon my word! Miss Pecksniff’s husband travels gayly!’

‘A very fine-looking gentleman with him—in the best room now,’ whispered Mrs Lupin, glancing up at the window as they went into the house. ‘He has ordered everything that can be got for dinner; and has the glossiest moustaches and whiskers ever you saw.’

‘Has he?’ cried Martin, ‘why then we’ll endeavour to avoid him too, in the hope that our self-denial may be strong enough for the sacrifice. It is only for a few hours,’ said Martin, dropping wearily into a chair behind the little screen in the bar. ‘Our visit has met with no success, my dear Mrs Lupin, and I must go to London.’

‘Dear, dear!’ cried the hostess.

‘Yes, one foul wind no more makes a winter, than one swallow makes a summer. I’ll try it again. Tom Pinch has succeeded. With his advice to guide me, I may do the same. I took Tom under my protection once, God save the mark!’ said Martin, with a melancholy smile; ‘and promised I would make his fortune. Perhaps Tom will take me under his protection now, and teach me how to earn my bread.’


It was a special quality, among the many admirable qualities possessed by Mr Pecksniff, that the more he was found out, the more hypocrisy he practised. Let him be discomfited in one quarter, and he refreshed and recompensed himself by carrying the war into another. If his workings and windings were detected by A, so much the greater reason was there for practicing without loss of time on B, if it were only to keep his hand in. He had never been such a saintly and improving spectacle to all about him, as after his detection by Thomas Pinch. He had scarcely ever been at once so tender in his humanity, and so dignified and exalted in his virtue, as when young Martin’s scorn was fresh and hot upon him.

Having this large stock of superfluous sentiment and morality on hand which must positively be cleared off at any sacrifice, Mr Pecksniff no sooner heard his son-in-law announced, than he regarded him as a kind of wholesale or general order, to be immediately executed. Descending, therefore, swiftly to the parlour, and clasping the young man in his arms, he exclaimed, with looks and gestures that denoted the perturbation of his spirit:

‘Jonas. My child—she is well! There is nothing the matter?’

‘What, you’re at it again, are you?’ replied his son-in-law. ‘Even with me? Get away with you, will you?’

‘Tell me she is well then,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Tell me she is well my boy!’

‘She’s well enough,’ retorted Jonas, disengaging himself. ‘There’s nothing the matter with her.’

‘There is nothing the matter with her!’ cried Mr Pecksniff, sitting down in the nearest chair, and rubbing up his hair. ‘Fie upon my weakness! I cannot help it, Jonas. Thank you. I am better now. How is my other child; my eldest; my Cherrywerrychigo?’ said Mr Pecksniff, inventing a playful little name for her, in the restored lightness of his heart.

‘She’s much about the same as usual,’ returned Jonas. ‘She sticks pretty close to the vinegar-bottle. You know she’s got a sweetheart, I suppose?’

‘I have heard of it,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘from headquarters; from my child herself I will not deny that it moved me to contemplate the loss of my remaining daughter, Jonas—I am afraid we parents are selfish, I am afraid we are—but it has ever been the study of my life to qualify them for the domestic hearth; and it is a sphere which Cherry will adorn.’

‘She need adorn some sphere or other,’ observed the son-in-law, for she ain’t very ornamental in general.’

‘My girls are now provided for,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘They are now happily provided for, and I have not laboured in vain!’

This is exactly what Mr Pecksniff would have said, if one of his daughters had drawn a prize of thirty thousand pounds in the lottery, or if the other had picked up a valuable purse in the street, which nobody appeared to claim. In either of these cases he would have invoked a patriarchal blessing on the fortunate head, with great solemnity, and would have taken immense credit to himself, as having meant it from the infant’s cradle.

‘Suppose we talk about something else, now,’ observed Jonas, drily. ‘just for a change. Are you quite agreeable?’

‘Quite,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Ah, you wag, you naughty wag! You laugh at poor old fond papa. Well! He deserves it. And he don’t mind it either, for his feelings are their own reward. You have come to stay with me, Jonas?’

‘No. I’ve got a friend with me,’ said Jonas.

‘Bring your friend!’ cried Mr Pecksniff, in a gush of hospitality. ‘Bring any number of your friends!’

‘This ain’t the sort of man to be brought,’ said Jonas, contemptuously. ‘I think I see myself “bringing” him to your house, for a treat! Thank’ee all the same; but he’s a little too near the top of the tree for that, Pecksniff.’

The good man pricked up his ears; his interest was awakened. A position near the top of the tree was greatness, virtue, goodness, sense, genius; or, it should rather be said, a dispensation from all, and in itself something immeasurably better than all; with Mr Pecksniff. A man who was able to look down upon Mr Pecksniff could not be looked up at, by that gentleman, with too great an amount of deference, or from a position of too much humility. So it always is with great spirits.

‘I’ll tell you what you may do, if you like,’ said Jonas; ‘you may come and dine with us at the Dragon. We were forced to come down to Salisbury last night, on some business, and I got him to bring me over here this morning, in his carriage; at least, not his own carriage, for we had a breakdown in the night, but one we hired instead; it’s all the same. Mind what you’re about, you know. He’s not used to all sorts; he only mixes with the best!’

‘Some young nobleman who has been borrowing money of you at good interest, eh?’ said Mr Pecksniff, shaking his forefinger facetiously. ‘I shall be delighted to know the gay sprig.’

‘Borrowing!’ echoed Jonas. ‘Borrowing! When you’re a twentieth part as rich as he is, you may shut up shop! We should be pretty well off if we could buy his furniture, and plate, and pictures, by clubbing together. A likely man to borrow: Mr Montague! Why since I was lucky enough (come! and I’ll say, sharp enough, too) to get a share in the Assurance office that he’s President of, I’ve made—never mind what I’ve made,’ said Jonas, seeming to recover all at once his usual caution. ‘You know me pretty well, and I don’t blab about such things. But, Ecod, I’ve made a trifle.’

‘Really, my dear Jonas,’ cried Mr Pecksniff, with much warmth, ‘a gentleman like this should receive some attention. Would he like to see the church? or if he has a taste for the fine arts—which I have no doubt he has, from the description you give of his circumstances—I can send him down a few portfolios. Salisbury Cathedral, my dear Jonas,’ said Mr Pecksniff; the mention of the portfolios and his anxiety to display himself to advantage, suggesting his usual phraseology in that regard, ‘is an edifice replete with venerable associations, and strikingly suggestive of the loftiest emotions. It is here we contemplate the work of bygone ages. It is here we listen to the swelling organ, as we stroll through the reverberating aisles. We have drawings of this celebrated structure from the North, from the South, from the East, from the West, from the South-East, from the Nor’West—’

During this digression, and indeed during the whole dialogue, Jonas had been rocking on his chair, with his hands in his pockets and his head thrown cunningly on one side. He looked at Mr Pecksniff now with such shrewd meaning twinkling in his eyes, that Mr Pecksniff stopped, and asked him what he was going to say.

‘Ecod!’ he answered. ‘Pecksniff if I knew how you meant to leave your money, I could put you in the way of doubling it in no time. It wouldn’t be bad to keep a chance like this snug in the family. But you’re such a deep one!’

‘Jonas!’ cried Mr Pecksniff, much affected, ‘I am not a diplomatical character; my heart is in my hand. By far the greater part of the inconsiderable savings I have accumulated in the course of—I hope—a not dishonourable or useless career, is already given, devised, and bequeathed (correct me, my dear Jonas, if I am technically wrong), with expressions of confidence, which I will not repeat; and in securities which it is unnecessary to mention to a person whom I cannot, whom I will not, whom I need not, name.’ Here he gave the hand of his son-in-law a fervent squeeze, as if he would have added, ‘God bless you; be very careful of it when you get it!’

Mr Jonas only shook his head and laughed, and, seeming to think better of what he had had in his mind, said, ‘No. He would keep his own counsel.’ But as he observed that he would take a walk, Mr Pecksniff insisted on accompanying him, remarking that he could leave a card for Mr Montague, as they went along, by way of gentleman-usher to himself at dinner-time. Which he did.

In the course of their walk, Mr Jonas affected to maintain that close reserve which had operated as a timely check upon him during the foregoing dialogue. And as he made no attempt to conciliate Mr Pecksniff, but, on the contrary, was more boorish and rude to him than usual, that gentleman, so far from suspecting his real design, laid himself out to be attacked with advantage. For it is in the nature of a knave to think the tools with which he works indispensable to knavery; and knowing what he would do himself in such a case, Mr Pecksniff argued, ‘if this young man wanted anything of me for his own ends, he would be polite and deferential.’

The more Jonas repelled him in his hints and inquiries, the more solicitous, therefore, Mr Pecksniff became to be initiated into the golden mysteries at which he had obscurely glanced. Why should there be cold and worldly secrets, he observed, between relations? What was life without confidence? If the chosen husband of his daughter, the man to whom he had delivered her with so much pride and hope, such bounding and such beaming joy; if he were not a green spot in the barren waste of life, where was that oasis to be bound?

Little did Mr Pecksniff think on what a very green spot he planted one foot at that moment! Little did he foresee when he said, ‘All is but dust!’ how very shortly he would come down with his own!

Inch by inch, in his grudging and ill-conditioned way; sustained to the life, for the hope of making Mr Pecksniff suffer in that tender place, the pocket, where Jonas smarted so terribly himself, gave him an additional and malicious interest in the wiles he was set on to practise; inch by inch, and bit by bit, Jonas rather allowed the dazzling prospects of the Anglo-Bengalee establishment to escape him, than paraded them before his greedy listener. And in the same niggardly spirit, he left Mr Pecksniff to infer, if he chose (which he did choose, of course), that a consciousness of not having any great natural gifts of speech and manner himself, rendered him desirous to have the credit of introducing to Mr Montague some one who was well endowed in those respects, and so atone for his own deficiencies. Otherwise, he muttered discontentedly, he would have seen his beloved father-in-law ‘far enough off,’ before he would have taken him into his confidence.

Primed in this artful manner, Mr Pecksniff presented himself at dinner-time in such a state of suavity, benevolence, cheerfulness, politeness, and cordiality, as even he had perhaps never attained before. The frankness of the country gentleman, the refinement of the artist, the good-humoured allowance of the man of the world; philanthropy, forbearance, piety, toleration, all blended together in a flexible adaptability to anything and everything; were expressed in Mr Pecksniff, as he shook hands with the great speculator and capitalist.

‘Welcome, respected sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘to our humble village! We are a simple people; primitive clods, Mr Montague; but we can appreciate the honour of your visit, as my dear son-in-law can testify. It is very strange,’ said Mr Pecksniff, pressing his hand almost reverentially, ‘but I seem to know you. That towering forehead, my dear Jonas,’ said Mr Pecksniff aside, ‘and those clustering masses of rich hair—I must have seen you, my dear sir, in the sparkling throng.’

Nothing was more probable, they all agreed.

‘I could have wished,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘to have had the honour of introducing you to an elderly inmate of our house: to the uncle of our friend. Mr Chuzzlewit, sir, would have been proud indeed to have taken you by the hand.’

‘Is the gentleman here now?’ asked Montague, turning deeply red. ‘He is,’ said Mr Pecksniff.

‘You said nothing about that, Chuzzlewit.’

‘I didn’t suppose you’d care to hear of it,’ returned Jonas. ‘You wouldn’t care to know him, I can promise you.’

‘Jonas! my dear Jonas!’ remonstrated Mr Pecksniff. ‘Really!’

‘Oh! it’s all very well for you to speak up for him,’ said Jonas. ‘You have nailed him. You’ll get a fortune by him.’

‘Oho! Is the wind in that quarter?’ cried Montague. ‘Ha, ha, ha!’ and here they all laughed—especially Mr Pecksniff.

‘No, no!’ said that gentleman, clapping his son-in-law playfully upon the shoulder. ‘You must not believe all that my young relative says, Mr Montague. You may believe him in official business, and trust him in official business, but you must not attach importance to his flights of fancy.’

‘Upon my life, Mr Pecksniff,’ cried Montague, ‘I attach the greatest importance to that last observation of his. I trust and hope it’s true. Money cannot be turned and turned again quickly enough in the ordinary course, Mr Pecksniff. There is nothing like building our fortune on the weaknesses of mankind.’

‘Oh fie! oh fie, for shame!’ cried Mr Pecksniff. But they all laughed again—especially Mr Pecksniff.

‘I give you my honour that we do it,’ said Montague.

‘Oh fie, fie!’ cried Mr Pecksniff. ‘You are very pleasant. That I am sure you don’t! That I am sure you don’t! How can you, you know?’

Again they all laughed in concert; and again Mr Pecksniff laughed especially.

This was very agreeable indeed. It was confidential, easy, straight-forward; and still left Mr Pecksniff in the position of being in a gentle way the Mentor of the party. The greatest achievements in the article of cookery that the Dragon had ever performed, were set before them; the oldest and best wines in the Dragon’s cellar saw the light on that occasion; a thousand bubbles, indicative of the wealth and station of Mr Montague in the depths of his pursuits, were constantly rising to the surface of the conversation; and they were as frank and merry as three honest men could be. Mr Pecksniff thought it a pity (he said so) that Mr Montague should think lightly of mankind and their weaknesses. He was anxious upon this subject; his mind ran upon it; in one way or another he was constantly coming back to it; he must make a convert of him, he said. And as often as Mr Montague repeated his sentiment about building fortunes on the weaknesses of mankind, and added frankly, ‘we do it!’ just as often Mr Pecksniff repeated ‘Oh fie! oh fie, for shame! I am sure you don’t. How can you, you know?’ laying a greater stress each time on those last words.

The frequent repetition of this playful inquiry on the part of Mr Pecksniff, led at last to playful answers on the part of Mr Montague; but after some little sharp-shooting on both sides, Mr Pecksniff became grave, almost to tears; observing that if Mr Montague would give him leave, he would drink the health of his young kinsman, Mr Jonas; congratulating him upon the valuable and distinguished friendship he had formed, but envying him, he would confess, his usefulness to his fellow-creatures. For, if he understood the objects of that Institution with which he was newly and advantageously connected—knowing them but imperfectly—they were calculated to do Good; and for his (Mr Pecksniff’s) part, if he could in any way promote them, he thought he would be able to lay his head upon his pillow every night, with an absolute certainty of going to sleep at once.

The transition from this accidental remark (for it was quite accidental and had fallen from Mr Pecksniff in the openness of his soul), to the discussion of the subject as a matter of business, was easy. Books, papers, statements, tables, calculations of various kinds, were soon spread out before them; and as they were all framed with one object, it is not surprising that they should all have tended to one end. But still, whenever Montague enlarged upon the profits of the office, and said that as long as there were gulls upon the wing it must succeed, Mr Pecksniff mildly said ‘Oh fie!’—and might indeed have remonstrated with him, but that he knew he was joking. Mr Pecksniff did know he was joking; because he said so.

There never had been before, and there never would be again, such an opportunity for the investment of a considerable sum (the rate of advantage increased in proportion to the amount invested), as at that moment. The only time that had at all approached it, was the time when Jonas had come into the concern; which made him ill-natured now, and inclined him to pick out a doubt in this place, and a flaw in that, and grumbling to advise Mr Pecksniff to think better of it. The sum which would complete the proprietorship in this snug concern, was nearly equal to Mr Pecksniff’s whole hoard; not counting Mr Chuzzlewit, that is to say, whom he looked upon as money in the Bank, the possession of which inclined him the more to make a dash with his own private sprats for the capture of such a whale as Mr Montague described. The returns began almost immediately, and were immense. The end of it was, that Mr Pecksniff agreed to become the last partner and proprietor in the Anglo-Bengalee, and made an appointment to dine with Mr Montague, at Salisbury, on the next day but one, then and there to complete the negotiation.

It took so long to bring the subject to this head, that it was nearly midnight when they parted. When Mr Pecksniff walked downstairs to the door, he found Mrs Lupin standing there, looking out.

‘Ah, my good friend!’ he said; ‘not a-bed yet! Contemplating the stars, Mrs Lupin?’

‘It’s a beautiful starlight night, sir.’

‘A beautiful starlight night,’ said Mr Pecksniff, looking up. ‘Behold the planets, how they shine! Behold the—those two persons who were here this morning have left your house, I hope, Mrs Lupin?’

‘Yes, sir. They are gone.’

‘I am glad to hear it,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Behold the wonders of the firmament, Mrs Lupin! how glorious is the scene! When I look up at those shining orbs, I think that each of them is winking to the other to take notice of the vanity of men’s pursuits. My fellow-men!’ cried Mr Pecksniff, shaking his head in pity; ‘you are much mistaken; my wormy relatives, you are much deceived! The stars are perfectly contented (I suppose so) in their several spheres. Why are not you? Oh! do not strive and struggle to enrich yourselves, or to get the better of each other, my deluded friends, but look up there, with me!’

Mrs Lupin shook her head, and heaved a sigh. It was very affecting.

‘Look up there, with me!’ repeated Mr Pecksniff, stretching out his hand; ‘With me, a humble individual who is also an insect like yourselves. Can silver, gold, or precious stones, sparkle like those constellations! I think not. Then do not thirst for silver, gold, or precious stones; but look up there, with me!’

With those words, the good man patted Mrs Lupin’s hand between his own, as if he would have added ‘think of this, my good woman!’ and walked away in a sort of ecstasy or rapture, with his hat under his arm.

Jonas sat in the attitude in which Mr Pecksniff had left him, gazing moodily at his friend; who, surrounded by a heap of documents, was writing something on an oblong slip of paper.

‘You mean to wait at Salisbury over the day after to-morrow, do you, then?’ said Jonas.

‘You heard our appointment,’ returned Montague, without raising his eyes. ‘In any case I should have waited to see after the boy.’

They appeared to have changed places again; Montague being in high spirits; Jonas gloomy and lowering.

‘You don’t want me, I suppose?’ said Jonas.

‘I want you to put your name here,’ he returned, glancing at him with a smile, ‘as soon as I have filled up the stamp. I may as well have your note of hand for that extra capital. That’s all I want. If you wish to go home, I can manage Mr Pecksniff now, alone. There is a perfect understanding between us.’

Jonas sat scowling at him as he wrote, in silence. When he had finished his writing, and had dried it on the blotting paper in his travelling-desk; he looked up, and tossed the pen towards him.

‘What, not a day’s grace, not a day’s trust, eh?’ said Jonas bitterly. ‘Not after the pains I have taken with to-night’s work?’

‘To night’s work was a part of our bargain,’ replied Montague; ‘and so was this.’

‘You drive a hard bargain,’ said Jonas, advancing to the table. ‘You know best. Give it here!’

Montague gave him the paper. After pausing as if he could not make up his mind to put his name to it, Jonas dipped his pen hastily in the nearest inkstand, and began to write. But he had scarcely marked the paper when he started back, in a panic.

‘Why, what the devil’s this?’ he said. ‘It’s bloody!’

He had dipped the pen, as another moment showed, into red ink. But he attached a strange degree of importance to the mistake. He asked how it had come there, who had brought it, why it had been brought; and looked at Montague, at first, as if he thought he had put a trick upon him. Even when he used a different pen, and the right ink, he made some scratches on another paper first, as half believing they would turn red also.

‘Black enough, this time,’ he said, handing the note to Montague. ‘Good-bye.’

‘Going now! how do you mean to get away from here?’

‘I shall cross early in the morning to the high road, before you are out of bed; and catch the day-coach, going up. Good-bye!’

‘You are in a hurry!’

‘I have something to do,’ said Jonas. ‘Good-bye!’

His friend looked after him as he went out, in surprise, which gradually gave place to an air of satisfaction and relief.

‘It happens all the better. It brings about what I wanted, without any difficulty. I shall travel home alone.’



Tom Pinch and his sister having to part, for the dispatch of the morning’s business, immediately after the dispersion of the other actors in the scene upon the wharf with which the reader has been already made acquainted, had no opportunity of discussing the subject at that time. But Tom, in his solitary office, and Ruth, in the triangular parlour, thought about nothing else all day; and, when their hour of meeting in the afternoon approached, they were very full of it, to be sure.

There was a little plot between them, that Tom should always come out of the Temple by one way; and that was past the fountain. Coming through Fountain Court, he was just to glance down the steps leading into Garden Court, and to look once all round him; and if Ruth had come to meet him, there he would see her; not sauntering, you understand (on account of the clerks), but coming briskly up, with the best little laugh upon her face that ever played in opposition to the fountain, and beat it all to nothing. For, fifty to one, Tom had been looking for her in the wrong direction, and had quite given her up, while she had been tripping towards him from the first; jingling that little reticule of hers (with all the keys in it) to attract his wandering observation.

Whether there was life enough left in the slow vegetation of Fountain Court for the smoky shrubs to have any consciousness of the brightest and purest-hearted little woman in the world, is a question for gardeners, and those who are learned in the loves of plants. But, that it was a good thing for that same paved yard to have such a delicate little figure flitting through it; that it passed like a smile from the grimy old houses, and the worn flagstones, and left them duller, darker, sterner than before; there is no sort of doubt. The Temple fountain might have leaped up twenty feet to greet the spring of hopeful maidenhood, that in her person stole on, sparkling, through the dry and dusty channels of the Law; the chirping sparrows, bred in Temple chinks and crannies, might have held their peace to listen to imaginary skylarks, as so fresh a little creature passed; the dingy boughs, unused to droop, otherwise than in their puny growth, might have bent down in a kindred gracefulness to shed their benedictions on her graceful head; old love letters, shut up in iron boxes in the neighbouring offices, and made of no account among the heaps of family papers into which they had strayed, and of which, in their degeneracy, they formed a part, might have stirred and fluttered with a moment’s recollection of their ancient tenderness, as she went lightly by. Anything might have happened that did not happen, and never will, for the love of Ruth.

Something happened, too, upon the afternoon of which the history treats. Not for her love. Oh no! quite by accident, and without the least reference to her at all.

Either she was a little too soon, or Tom was a little too late—she was so precise in general, that she timed it to half a minute—but no Tom was there. Well! But was anybody else there, that she blushed so deeply, after looking round, and tripped off down the steps with such unusual expedition?

Why, the fact is, that Mr Westlock was passing at that moment. The Temple is a public thoroughfare; they may write up on the gates that it is not, but so long as the gates are left open it is, and will be; and Mr Westlock had as good a right to be there as anybody else. But why did she run away, then? Not being ill dressed, for she was much too neat for that, why did she run away? The brown hair that had fallen down beneath her bonnet, and had one impertinent imp of a false flower clinging to it, boastful of its licence before all men, that could not have been the cause, for it looked charming. Oh! foolish, panting, frightened little heart, why did she run away!

Merrily the tiny fountain played, and merrily the dimples sparkled on its sunny face. John Westlock hurried after her. Softly the whispering water broke and fell; as roguishly the dimples twinkled, as he stole upon her footsteps.

Oh, foolish, panting, timid little heart, why did she feign to be unconscious of his coming! Why wish herself so far away, yet be so flutteringly happy there!

‘I felt sure it was you,’ said John, when he overtook her in the sanctuary of Garden Court. ‘I knew I couldn’t be mistaken.’

She was so surprised.

‘You are waiting for your brother,’ said John. ‘Let me bear you company.’

So light was the touch of the coy little hand, that he glanced down to assure himself he had it on his arm. But his glance, stopping for an instant at the bright eyes, forgot its first design, and went no farther.

They walked up and down three or four times, speaking about Tom and his mysterious employment. Now that was a very natural and innocent subject, surely. Then why, whenever Ruth lifted up her eyes, did she let them fall again immediately, and seek the uncongenial pavement of the court? They were not such eyes as shun the light; they were not such eyes as require to be hoarded to enhance their value. They were much too precious and too genuine to stand in need of arts like those. Somebody must have been looking at them!

They found out Tom, though, quickly enough. This pair of eyes descried him in the distance, the moment he appeared. He was staring about him, as usual, in all directions but the right one; and was as obstinate in not looking towards them, as if he had intended it. As it was plain that, being left to himself, he would walk away home, John Westlock darted off to stop him.

This made the approach of poor little Ruth, by herself, one of the most embarrassing of circumstances. There was Tom, manifesting extreme surprise (he had no presence of mind, that Tom, on small occasions); there was John, making as light of it as he could, but explaining at the same time with most unnecessary elaboration; and here was she, coming towards them, with both of them looking at her, conscious of blushing to a terrible extent, but trying to throw up her eyebrows carelessly, and pout her rosy lips, as if she were the coolest and most unconcerned of little women.

Merrily the fountain plashed and plashed, until the dimples, merging into one another, swelled into a general smile, that covered the whole surface of the basin.

‘What an extraordinary meeting!’ said Tom. ‘I should never have dreamed of seeing you two together here.’

‘Quite accidental,’ John was heard to murmur.

‘Exactly,’ cried Tom; ‘that’s what I mean, you know. If it wasn’t accidental, there would be nothing remarkable in it.’

‘To be sure,’ said John.

‘Such an out-of-the-way place for you to have met in,’ pursued Tom, quite delighted. ‘Such an unlikely spot!’

John rather disputed that. On the contrary, he considered it a very likely spot, indeed. He was constantly passing to and fro there, he said. He shouldn’t wonder if it were to happen again. His only wonder was, that it had never happened before.

By this time Ruth had got round on the farther side of her brother, and had taken his arm. She was squeezing it now, as much as to say ‘Are you going to stop here all day, you dear, old, blundering Tom?’

Tom answered the squeeze as if it had been a speech. ‘John,’ he said, ‘if you’ll give my sister your arm, we’ll take her between us, and walk on. I have a curious circumstance to relate to you. Our meeting could not have happened better.’

Merrily the fountain leaped and danced, and merrily the smiling dimples twinkled and expanded more and more, until they broke into a laugh against the basin’s rim, and vanished.

‘Tom,’ said his friend, as they turned into the noisy street, ‘I have a proposition to make. It is, that you and your sister—if she will so far honour a poor bachelor’s dwelling—give me a great pleasure, and come and dine with me.’

‘What, to-day?’ cried Tom.

‘Yes, to-day. It’s close by, you know. Pray, Miss Pinch, insist upon it. It will be very disinterested, for I have nothing to give you.’

‘Oh! you must not believe that, Ruth,’ said Tom. ‘He is the most tremendous fellow, in his housekeeping, that I ever heard of, for a single man. He ought to be Lord Mayor. Well! what do you say? Shall we go?’

‘If you please, Tom,’ rejoined his dutiful little sister.

‘But I mean,’ said Tom, regarding her with smiling admiration; ‘is there anything you ought to wear, and haven’t got? I am sure I don’t know, John; she may not be able to take her bonnet off, for anything I can tell.’

There was a great deal of laughing at this, and there were divers compliments from John Westlock—not compliments he said at least (and really he was right), but good, plain, honest truths, which no one could deny. Ruth laughed, and all that, but she made no objection; so it was an engagement.

‘If I had known it a little sooner,’ said John, ‘I would have tried another pudding. Not in rivalry; but merely to exalt that famous one. I wouldn’t on any account have had it made with suet.’

‘Why not?’ asked Tom.

‘Because that cookery-book advises suet,’ said John Westlock; ‘and ours was made with flour and eggs.’

‘Oh good gracious!’ cried Tom. ‘Ours was made with flour and eggs, was it? Ha, ha, ha! A beefsteak pudding made with flour and eggs! Why anybody knows better than that. I know better than that! Ha, ha, ha!’

It is unnecessary to say that Tom had been present at the making of the pudding, and had been a devoted believer in it all through. But he was so delighted to have this joke against his busy little sister and was tickled to that degree at having found her out, that he stopped in Temple Bar to laugh; and it was no more to Tom, that he was anathematized and knocked about by the surly passengers, than it would have been to a post; for he continued to exclaim with unabated good humour, ‘flour and eggs! A beefsteak pudding made with flour and eggs!’ until John Westlock and his sister fairly ran away from him, and left him to have his laugh out by himself; which he had, and then came dodging across the crowded street to them, with such sweet temper and tenderness (it was quite a tender joke of Tom’s) beaming in his face, God bless it, that it might have purified the air, though Temple Bar had been, as in the golden days gone by, embellished with a row of rotting human heads.

There are snug chambers in those Inns where the bachelors live, and, for the desolate fellows they pretend to be, it is quite surprising how well they get on. John was very pathetic on the subject of his dreary life, and the deplorable makeshifts and apologetic contrivances it involved, but he really seemed to make himself pretty comfortable. His rooms were the perfection of neatness and convenience at any rate; and if he were anything but comfortable, the fault was certainly not theirs.

He had no sooner ushered Tom and his sister into his best room (where there was a beautiful little vase of fresh flowers on the table, all ready for Ruth. Just as if he had expected her, Tom said), than, seizing his hat, he bustled out again, in his most energetically bustling, way; and presently came hurrying back, as they saw through the half-opened door, attended by a fiery-faced matron attired in a crunched bonnet, with particularly long strings to it hanging down her back; in conjunction with whom he instantly began to lay the cloth for dinner, polishing up the wine-glasses with his own hands, brightening the silver top of the pepper-caster on his coat-sleeve, drawing corks and filling decanters, with a skill and expedition that were quite dazzling. And as if, in the course of this rubbing and polishing, he had rubbed an enchanted lamp or a magic ring, obedient to which there were twenty thousand supernatural slaves at least, suddenly there appeared a being in a white waistcoat, carrying under his arm a napkin, and attended by another being with an oblong box upon his head, from which a banquet, piping hot, was taken out and set upon the table.

Salmon, lamb, peas, innocent young potatoes, a cool salad, sliced cucumber, a tender duckling, and a tart—all there. They all came at the right time. Where they came from, didn’t appear; but the oblong box was constantly going and coming, and making its arrival known to the man in the white waistcoat by bumping modestly against the outside of the door; for, after its first appearance, it entered the room no more. He was never surprised, this man; he never seemed to wonder at the extraordinary things he found in the box, but took them out with a face expressive of a steady purpose and impenetrable character, and put them on the table. He was a kind man; gentle in his manners, and much interested in what they ate and drank. He was a learned man, and knew the flavour of John Westlock’s private sauces, which he softly and feelingly described, as he handed the little bottles round. He was a grave man, and a noiseless; for dinner being done, and wine and fruit arranged upon the board, he vanished, box and all, like something that had never been.

‘Didn’t I say he was a tremendous fellow in his housekeeping?’ cried Tom. ‘Bless my soul! It’s wonderful.’

‘Ah, Miss Pinch,’ said John. ‘This is the bright side of the life we lead in such a place. It would be a dismal life, indeed, if it didn’t brighten up to-day’

‘Don’t believe a word he says,’ cried Tom. ‘He lives here like a monarch, and wouldn’t change his mode of life for any consideration. He only pretends to grumble.’

No, John really did not appear to pretend; for he was uncommonly earnest in his desire to have it understood that he was as dull, solitary, and uncomfortable on ordinary occasions as an unfortunate young man could, in reason, be. It was a wretched life, he said, a miserable life. He thought of getting rid of the chambers as soon as possible; and meant, in fact, to put a bill up very shortly.

‘Well’ said Tom Pinch, ‘I don’t know where you can go, John, to be more comfortable. That’s all I can say. What do you say, Ruth?’

Ruth trifled with the cherries on her plate, and said that she thought Mr Westlock ought to be quite happy, and that she had no doubt he was.

Ah, foolish, panting, frightened little heart, how timidly she said it!

‘But you are forgetting what you had to tell, Tom; what occurred this morning,’ she added in the same breath.

‘So I am,’ said Tom. ‘We have been so talkative on other topics that I declare I have not had time to think of it. I’ll tell it you at once, John, in case I should forget it altogether.’

On Tom’s relating what had passed upon the wharf, his friend was very much surprised, and took such a great interest in the narrative as Tom could not quite understand. He believed he knew the old lady whose acquaintance they had made, he said; and that he might venture to say, from their description of her, that her name was Gamp. But of what nature the communication could have been which Tom had borne so unexpectedly; why its delivery had been entrusted to him; how it happened that the parties were involved together; and what secret lay at the bottom of the whole affair; perplexed him very much. Tom had been sure of his taking some interest in the matter; but was not prepared for the strong interest he showed. It held John Westlock to the subject even after Ruth had left the room; and evidently made him anxious to pursue it further than as a mere subject of conversation.

‘I shall remonstrate with my landlord, of course,’ said Tom; ‘though he is a very singular secret sort of man, and not likely to afford me much satisfaction; even if he knew what was in the letter.’

‘Which you may swear he did,’ John interposed.

‘You think so?’

‘I am certain of it.’

‘Well!’ said Tom, ‘I shall remonstrate with him when I see him (he goes in and out in a strange way, but I will try to catch him tomorrow morning), on his having asked me to execute such an unpleasant commission. And I have been thinking, John, that if I went down to Mrs What’s-her-name’s in the City, where I was before, you know—Mrs Todgers’s—to-morrow morning, I might find poor Mercy Pecksniff there, perhaps, and be able to explain to her how I came to have any hand in the business.’

‘You are perfectly right, Tom,’ returned his friend, after a short interval of reflection. ‘You cannot do better. It is quite clear to me that whatever the business is, there is little good in it; and it is so desirable for you to disentangle yourself from any appearance of willful connection with it, that I would counsel you to see her husband, if you can, and wash your hands of it by a plain statement of the facts. I have a misgiving that there is something dark at work here, Tom. I will tell you why, at another time; when I have made an inquiry or two myself.’

All this sounded very mysterious to Tom Pinch. But as he knew he could rely upon his friend, he resolved to follow this advice.

Ah, but it would have been a good thing to have had a coat of invisibility, wherein to have watched little Ruth, when she was left to herself in John Westlock’s chambers, and John and her brother were talking thus, over their wine! The gentle way in which she tried to get up a little conversation with the fiery-faced matron in the crunched bonnet, who was waiting to attend her; after making a desperate rally in regard of her dress, and attiring herself in a washed-out yellow gown with sprigs of the same upon it, so that it looked like a tesselated work of pats of butter. That would have been pleasant. The grim and griffin-like inflexibility with which the fiery-faced matron repelled these engaging advances, as proceeding from a hostile and dangerous power, who could have no business there, unless it were to deprive her of a customer, or suggest what became of the self-consuming tea and sugar, and other general trifles. That would have been agreeable. The bashful, winning, glorious curiosity, with which little Ruth, when fiery-face was gone, peeped into the books and nick-nacks that were lying about, and had a particular interest in some delicate paper-matches on the chimney-piece; wondering who could have made them. That would have been worth seeing. The faltering hand with which she tied those flowers together; with which, almost blushing at her own fair self as imaged in the glass, she arranged them in her breast, and looking at them with her head aside, now half resolved to take them out again, now half resolved to leave them where they were. That would have been delightful!

John seemed to think it all delightful; for coming in with Tom to tea, he took his seat beside her like a man enchanted. And when the tea-service had been removed, and Tom, sitting down at the piano, became absorbed in some of his old organ tunes, he was still beside her at the open window, looking out upon the twilight.

There is little enough to see in Furnival’s Inn. It is a shady, quiet place, echoing to the footsteps of the stragglers who have business there; and rather monotonous and gloomy on summer evenings. What gave it such a charm to them, that they remained at the window as unconscious of the flight of time as Tom himself, the dreamer, while the melodies which had so often soothed his spirit were hovering again about him! What power infused into the fading light, the gathering darkness; the stars that here and there appeared; the evening air, the City’s hum and stir, the very chiming of the old church clocks; such exquisite enthrallment, that the divinest regions of the earth spread out before their eyes could not have held them captive in a stronger chain?

The shadows deepened, deepened, and the room became quite dark. Still Tom’s fingers wandered over the keys of the piano, and still the window had its pair of tenants. At length, her hand upon his shoulder, and her breath upon his forehead, roused Tom from his reverie.

‘Dear me!’ he cried, desisting with a start. ‘I am afraid I have been very inconsiderate and unpolite.’

Tom little thought how much consideration and politeness he had shown!

‘Sing something to us, my dear,’ said Tom, ‘let us hear your voice. Come!’

John Westlock added his entreaties with such earnestness that a flinty heart alone could have resisted them. Hers was not a flinty heart. Oh, dear no! Quite another thing.

So down she sat, and in a pleasant voice began to sing the ballads Tom loved well. Old rhyming stories, with here and there a pause for a few simple chords, such as a harper might have sounded in the ancient time while looking upward for the current of some half-remembered legend; words of old poets, wedded to such measures that the strain of music might have been the poet’s breath, giving utterance and expression to his thoughts; and now a melody so joyous and light-hearted, that the singer seemed incapable of sadness, until in her inconstancy (oh wicked little singer!) she relapsed, and broke the listeners’ hearts again; these were the simple means she used to please them. And that these simple means prevailed, and she did please them, let the still darkened chamber, and its long-deferred illumination witness.

The candles came at last, and it was time for moving homeward. Cutting paper carefully, and rolling it about the stalks of those same flowers, occasioned some delay; but even this was done in time, and Ruth was ready.

‘Good night!’ said Tom. ‘A memorable and delightful visit, John! Good night!’

John thought he would walk with them.

‘No, no. Don’t!’ said Tom. ‘What nonsense! We can get home very well alone. I couldn’t think of taking you out.’

But John said he would rather.

‘Are you sure you would rather?’ said Tom. ‘I am afraid you only say so out of politeness.’

John being quite sure, gave his arm to Ruth, and led her out. Fiery-face, who was again in attendance, acknowledged her departure with so cold a curtsey that it was hardly visible; and cut Tom, dead.

Their host was bent on walking the whole distance, and would not listen to Tom’s dissuasions. Happy time, happy walk, happy parting, happy dreams! But there are some sweet day-dreams, so there are that put the visions of the night to shame.

Busily the Temple fountain murmured in the moonlight, while Ruth lay sleeping, with her flowers beside her; and John Westlock sketched a portrait—whose?—from memory.



On the next day’s official duties coming to a close, Tom hurried home without losing any time by the way; and after dinner and a short rest sallied out again, accompanied by Ruth, to pay his projected visit to Todgers’s. Tom took Ruth with him, not only because it was a great pleasure to him to have her for his companion whenever he could, but because he wished her to cherish and comfort poor Merry; which she, for her own part (having heard the wretched history of that young wife from Tom), was all eagerness to do.

‘She was so glad to see me,’ said Tom, ‘that I am sure she will be glad to see you. Your sympathy is certain to be much more delicate and acceptable than mine.’

‘I am very far from being certain of that, Tom,’ she replied; ‘and indeed you do yourself an injustice. Indeed you do. But I hope she may like me, Tom.’

‘Oh, she is sure to do that!’ cried Tom, confidently.

‘What a number of friends I should have, if everybody was of your way of thinking. Shouldn’t I, Tom, dear?’ said his little sister pinching him upon the cheek.

Tom laughed, and said that with reference to this particular case he had no doubt at all of finding a disciple in Merry. ‘For you women,’ said Tom, ‘you women, my dear, are so kind, and in your kindness have such nice perception; you know so well how to be affectionate and full of solicitude without appearing to be; your gentleness of feeling is like your touch so light and easy, that the one enables you to deal with wounds of the mind as tenderly as the other enables you to deal with wounds of the body. You are such—’

‘My goodness, Tom!’ his sister interposed. ‘You ought to fall in love immediately.’

Tom put this observation off good humouredly, but somewhat gravely too; and they were soon very chatty again on some other subject.

As they were passing through a street in the City, not very far from Mrs Todgers’s place of residence, Ruth checked Tom before the window of a large Upholstery and Furniture Warehouse, to call his attention to something very magnificent and ingenious, displayed there to the best advantage, for the admiration and temptation of the public. Tom had hazarded some most erroneous and extravagantly wrong guess in relation to the price of this article, and had joined his sister in laughing heartily at his mistake, when he pressed her arm in his, and pointed to two persons at a little distance, who were looking in at the same window with a deep interest in the chests of drawers and tables.

‘Hush!’ Tom whispered. ‘Miss Pecksniff, and the young gentleman to whom she is going to be married.’

‘Why does he look as if he was going to be buried, Tom?’ inquired his little sister.

‘Why, he is naturally a dismal young gentleman, I believe,’ said Tom ‘but he is very civil and inoffensive.’

‘I suppose they are furnishing their house,’ whispered Ruth.

‘Yes, I suppose they are,’ replied Tom. ‘We had better avoid speaking to them.’

They could not very well avoid looking at them, however, especially as some obstruction on the pavement, at a little distance, happened to detain them where they were for a few moments. Miss Pecksniff had quite the air of having taken the unhappy Moddle captive, and brought him up to the contemplation of the furniture like a lamb to the altar. He offered no resistance, but was perfectly resigned and quiet. The melancholy depicted in the turn of his languishing head, and in his dejected attitude, was extreme; and though there was a full-sized four-post bedstead in the window, such a tear stood trembling in his eye as seemed to blot it out.

‘Augustus, my love,’ said Miss Pecksniff, ‘ask the price of the eight rosewood chairs, and the loo table.’

‘Perhaps they are ordered already,’ said Augustus. ‘Perhaps they are Another’s.’

‘They can make more like them, if they are,’ rejoined Miss Pecksniff.

‘No, no, they can’t,’ said Moddle. ‘It’s impossible!’

He appeared, for the moment, to be quite overwhelmed and stupefied by the prospect of his approaching happiness; but recovering, entered the shop. He returned immediately, saying in a tone of despair

‘Twenty-four pound ten!’

Miss Pecksniff, turning to receive this announcement, became conscious of the observation of Tom Pinch and his sister.

‘Oh, really!’ cried Miss Pecksniff, glancing about her, as if for some convenient means of sinking into the earth. ‘Upon my word, I—there never was such a—to think that one should be so very—Mr Augustus Moddle, Miss Pinch!’

Miss Pecksniff was quite gracious to Miss Pinch in this triumphant introduction; exceedingly gracious. She was more than gracious; she was kind and cordial. Whether the recollection of the old service Tom had rendered her in knocking Mr Jonas on the head had wrought this change in her opinions; or whether her separation from her parent had reconciled her to all human-kind, or to all that interesting portion of human-kind which was not friendly to him; or whether the delight of having some new female acquaintance to whom to communicate her interesting prospects was paramount to every other consideration; cordial and kind Miss Pecksniff was. And twice Miss Pecksniff kissed Miss Pinch upon the cheek.

‘Augustus—Mr Pinch, you know. My dear girl!’ said Miss Pecksniff, aside. ‘I never was so ashamed in my life.’

Ruth begged her not to think of it.

‘I mind your brother less than anybody else,’ simpered Miss Pecksniff. ‘But the indelicacy of meeting any gentleman under such circumstances! Augustus, my child, did you—’

Here Miss Pecksniff whispered in his ear. The suffering Moddle repeated:

‘Twenty-four pound ten!’

‘Oh, you silly man! I don’t mean them,’ said Miss Pecksniff. ‘I am speaking of the—’

Here she whispered him again.

‘If it’s the same patterned chintz as that in the window; thirty-two, twelve, six,’ said Moddle, with a sigh. ‘And very dear.’

Miss Pecksniff stopped him from giving any further explanation by laying her hand upon his lips, and betraying a soft embarrassment. She then asked Tom Pinch which way he was going.

‘I was going to see if I could find your sister,’ answered Tom, ‘to whom I wished to say a few words. We were going to Mrs Todgers’s, where I had the pleasure of seeing her before.’

‘It’s of no use your going on, then,’ said Cherry, ‘for we have not long left there; and I know she is not at home. But I’ll take you to my sister’s house, if you please. Augustus—Mr Moddle, I mean—and myself, are on our way to tea there, now. You needn’t think of him,’ she added, nodding her head as she observed some hesitation on Tom’s part. ‘He is not at home.’

‘Are you sure?’ asked Tom.

‘Oh, I am quite sure of that. I don’t want any more revenge,’ said Miss Pecksniff, expressively. ‘But, really, I must beg you two gentlemen to walk on, and allow me to follow with Miss Pinch. My dear, I never was so taken by surprise!’

In furtherance of this bashful arrangement, Moddle gave his arm to Tom; and Miss Pecksniff linked her own in Ruth’s.

‘Of course, my love,’ said Miss Pecksniff, ‘it would be useless for me to disguise, after what you have seen, that I am about to be united to the gentleman who is walking with your brother. It would be in vain to conceal it. What do you think of him? Pray, let me have your candid opinion.’

Ruth intimated that, as far as she could judge, he was a very eligible swain.

‘I am curious to know,’ said Miss Pecksniff, with loquacious frankness, ‘whether you have observed, or fancied, in this very short space of time, that he is of a rather melancholy turn?’

‘So very short a time,’ Ruth pleaded.

‘No, no; but don’t let that interfere with your answer,’ returned Miss Pecksniff. ‘I am curious to hear what you say.’

Ruth acknowledged that he had impressed her at first sight as looking ‘rather low.’

‘No, really?’ said Miss Pecksniff. ‘Well! that is quite remarkable! Everybody says the same. Mrs Todgers says the same; and Augustus informs me that it is quite a joke among the gentlemen in the house. Indeed, but for the positive commands I have laid upon him, I believe it would have been the occasion of loaded fire-arms being resorted to more than once. What do you think is the cause of his appearance of depression?’

Ruth thought of several things; such as his digestion, his tailor, his mother, and the like. But hesitating to give utterance to any one of them, she refrained from expressing an opinion.

‘My dear,’ said Miss Pecksniff; ‘I shouldn’t wish it to be known, but I don’t mind mentioning it to you, having known your brother for so many years—I refused Augustus three times. He is of a most amiable and sensitive nature, always ready to shed tears if you look at him, which is extremely charming; and he has never recovered the effect of that cruelty. For it was cruel,’ said Miss Pecksniff, with a self-conviction candour that might have adorned the diadem of her own papa. ‘There is no doubt of it. I look back upon my conduct now with blushes. I always liked him. I felt that he was not to me what the crowd of young men who had made proposals had been, but something very different. Then what right had I to refuse him three times?’

‘It was a severe trial of his fidelity, no doubt,’ said Ruth.

‘My dear,’ returned Miss Pecksniff. ‘It was wrong. But such is the caprice and thoughtlessness of our sex! Let me be a warning to you. Don’t try the feelings of any one who makes you an offer, as I have tried the feelings of Augustus; but if you ever feel towards a person as I really felt towards him, at the very time when I was driving him to distraction, let that feeling find expression, if that person throws himself at your feet, as Augustus Moddle did at mine. Think,’ said Miss Pecksniff, ‘what my feelings would have been, if I had goaded him to suicide, and it had got into the papers!’

Ruth observed that she would have been full of remorse, no doubt.

‘Remorse!’ cried Miss Pecksniff, in a sort of snug and comfortable penitence. ‘What my remorse is at this moment, even after making reparation by accepting him, it would be impossible to tell you! Looking back upon my giddy self, my dear, now that I am sobered down and made thoughtful, by treading on the very brink of matrimony; and contemplating myself as I was when I was like what you are now; I shudder. I shudder. What is the consequence of my past conduct? Until Augustus leads me to the altar he is not sure of me. I have blighted and withered the affections of his heart to that extent that he is not sure of me. I see that preying on his mind and feeding on his vitals. What are the reproaches of my conscience, when I see this in the man I love!’

Ruth endeavoured to express some sense of her unbounded and flattering confidence; and presumed that she was going to be married soon.

‘Very soon indeed,’ returned Miss Pecksniff. ‘As soon as our house is ready. We are furnishing now as fast as we can.’

In the same vein of confidence Miss Pecksniff ran through a general inventory of the articles that were already bought with the articles that remained to be purchased; what garments she intended to be married in, and where the ceremony was to be performed; and gave Miss Pinch, in short (as she told her), early and exclusive information on all points of interest connected with the event.

While this was going forward in the rear, Tom and Mr Moddle walked on, arm in arm, in the front, in a state of profound silence, which Tom at last broke; after thinking for a long time what he could say that should refer to an indifferent topic, in respect of which he might rely, with some degree of certainty, on Mr Moddle’s bosom being unruffled.

‘I wonder,’ said Tom, ‘that in these crowded streets the foot-passengers are not oftener run over.’

Mr Moddle, with a dark look, replied:

‘The drivers won’t do it.’

‘Do you mean?’ Tom began—

‘That there are some men,’ interrupted Moddle, with a hollow laugh, ‘who can’t get run over. They live a charmed life. Coal waggons recoil from them, and even cabs refuse to run them down. Ah!’ said Augustus, marking Tom’s astonishment. ‘There are such men. One of ‘em is a friend of mine.’

‘Upon my word and honour,’ thought Tom, ‘this young gentleman is in a state of mind which is very serious indeed!’ Abandoning all idea of conversation, he did not venture to say another word, but he was careful to keep a tight hold upon Augustus’s arm, lest he should fly into the road, and making another and a more successful attempt, should get up a private little Juggernaut before the eyes of his betrothed. Tom was so afraid of his committing this rash act, that he had scarcely ever experienced such mental relief as when they arrived in safety at Mrs Jonas Chuzzlewit’s house.

‘Walk up, pray, Mr Pinch,’ said Miss Pecksniff. For Tom halted, irresolutely, at the door.

‘I am doubtful whether I should be welcome,’ replied Tom, ‘or, I ought rather to say, I have no doubt about it. I will send up a message, I think.’

‘But what nonsense that is!’ returned Miss Pecksniff, speaking apart to Tom. ‘He is not at home, I am certain. I know he is not; and Merry hasn’t the least idea that you ever—’

‘No,’ interrupted Tom. ‘Nor would I have her know it, on any account. I am not so proud of that scuffle, I assure you.’

‘Ah, but then you are so modest, you see,’ returned Miss Pecksniff, with a smile. ‘But pray walk up. If you don’t wish her to know it, and do wish to speak to her, pray walk up. Pray walk up, Miss Pinch. Don’t stand here.’

Tom still hesitated for he felt that he was in an awkward position. But Cherry passing him at this juncture, and leading his sister upstairs, and the house-door being at the same time shut behind them, he followed without quite knowing whether it was well or ill-judged so to do.

‘Merry, my darling!’ said the fair Miss Pecksniff, opening the door of the usual sitting-room. ‘Here are Mr Pinch and his sister come to see you! I thought we should find you here, Mrs Todgers! How do you do, Mrs Gamp? And how do you do, Mr Chuffey, though it’s of no use asking you the question, I am well aware.’

Honouring each of these parties, as she severally addressed them, with an acid smile, Miss Charity presented ‘Mr Moddle.’

‘I believe you have seen him before,’ she pleasantly observed. ‘Augustus, my sweet child, bring me a chair.’

The sweet child did as he was told; and was then about to retire into a corner to mourn in secret, when Miss Charity, calling him in an audible whisper a ‘little pet,’ gave him leave to come and sit beside her. It is to be hoped, for the general cheerfulness of mankind, that such a doleful little pet was never seen as Mr Moddle looked when he complied. So despondent was his temper, that he showed no outward thrill of ecstasy when Miss Pecksniff placed her lily hand in his, and concealed this mark of her favour from the vulgar gaze by covering it with a corner of her shawl. Indeed, he was infinitely more rueful then than he had been before; and, sitting uncomfortably upright in his chair, surveyed the company with watery eyes, which seemed to say, without the aid of language, ‘Oh, good gracious! look here! Won’t some kind Christian help me!’

But the ecstasies of Mrs Gamp were sufficient to have furnished forth a score of young lovers; and they were chiefly awakened by the sight of Tom Pinch and his sister. Mrs Gamp was a lady of that happy temperament which can be ecstatic without any other stimulating cause than a general desire to establish a large and profitable connection. She added daily so many strings to her bow, that she made a perfect harp of it; and upon that instrument she now began to perform an extemporaneous concerto.

‘Why, goodness me!’ she said, ‘Mrs Chuzzlewit! To think as I should see beneath this blessed ‘ouse, which well I know it, Miss Pecksniff, my sweet young lady, to be a ‘ouse as there is not a many like, worse luck, and wishin’ it were not so, which then this tearful walley would be changed into a flowerin’ guardian, Mr Chuffey; to think as I should see beneath this indiwidgle roof, identically comin’, Mr Pinch (I take the liberty, though almost unbeknown), and do assure you of it, sir, the smilinest and sweetest face as ever, Mrs Chuzzlewit, I see exceptin’ yourn, my dear good lady, and your good lady’s too, sir, Mr Moddle, if I may make so bold as speak so plain of what is plain enough to them as needn’t look through millstones, Mrs Todgers, to find out wot is wrote upon the wall behind. Which no offence is meant, ladies and gentlemen; none bein’ took, I hope. To think as I should see that smilinest and sweetest face which me and another friend of mine, took notice of among the packages down London Bridge, in this promiscous place, is a surprige in-deed!’

Having contrived, in this happy manner, to invest every member of her audience with an individual share and immediate personal interest in her address, Mrs Gamp dropped several curtseys to Ruth, and smilingly shaking her head a great many times, pursued the thread of her discourse:

‘Now, ain’t we rich in beauty this here joyful arternoon, I’m sure. I knows a lady, which her name, I’ll not deceive you, Mrs Chuzzlewit, is Harris, her husband’s brother bein’ six foot three, and marked with a mad bull in Wellington boots upon his left arm, on account of his precious mother havin’ been worrited by one into a shoemaker’s shop, when in a sitiwation which blessed is the man as has his quiver full of sech, as many times I’ve said to Gamp when words has roge betwixt us on account of the expense—and often have I said to Mrs Harris, “Oh, Mrs Harris, ma’am! your countenance is quite a angel’s!” Which, but for Pimples, it would be. “No, Sairey Gamp,” says she, “you best of hard-working and industrious creeturs as ever was underpaid at any price, which underpaid you are, quite diff’rent. Harris had it done afore marriage at ten and six,” she says, “and wore it faithful next his heart till the colour run, when the money was declined to be give back, and no arrangement could be come to. But he never said it was a angel’s, Sairey, wotever he might have thought.” If Mrs Harris’s husband was here now,’ said Mrs Gamp, looking round, and chuckling as she dropped a general curtsey, ‘he’d speak out plain, he would, and his dear wife would be the last to blame him! For if ever a woman lived as know’d not wot it was to form a wish to pizon them as had good looks, and had no reagion give her by the best of husbands, Mrs Harris is that ev’nly dispogician!’

With these words the worthy woman, who appeared to have dropped in to take tea as a delicate little attention, rather than to have any engagement on the premises in an official capacity, crossed to Mr Chuffey, who was seated in the same corner as of old, and shook him by the shoulder.

‘Rouge yourself, and look up! Come!’ said Mrs Gamp. ‘Here’s company, Mr Chuffey.’

‘I am sorry for it,’ cried the old man, looking humbly round the room. ‘I know I’m in the way. I ask pardon, but I’ve nowhere else to go to. Where is she?’

Merry went to him.

‘Ah!’ said the old man, patting her on the check. ‘Here she is. Here she is! She’s never hard on poor old Chuffey. Poor old Chuff!’

As she took her seat upon a low chair by the old man’s side, and put herself within the reach of his hand, she looked up once at Tom. It was a sad look that she cast upon him, though there was a faint smile trembling on her face. It was a speaking look, and Tom knew what it said. ‘You see how misery has changed me. I can feel for a dependant now, and set some value on his attachment.’

‘Aye, aye!’ cried Chuffey in a soothing tone. ‘Aye, aye, aye! Never mind him. It’s hard to hear, but never mind him. He’ll die one day. There are three hundred and sixty-five days in the year—three hundred and sixty-six in leap year—and he may die on any one of ‘em.’

‘You’re a wearing old soul, and that’s the sacred truth,’ said Mrs Gamp, contemplating him from a little distance with anything but favour, as he continued to mutter to himself. ‘It’s a pity that you don’t know wot you say, for you’d tire your own patience out if you did, and fret yourself into a happy releage for all as knows you.’

‘His son,’ murmured the old man, lifting up his hand. ‘His son!’

‘Well, I’m sure!’ said Mrs Gamp, ‘you’re a-settlin’ of it, Mr Chuffey. To your satigefaction, sir, I hope. But I wouldn’t lay a new pincushion on it myself, sir, though you are so well informed. Drat the old creetur, he’s a-layin’ down the law tolerable confident, too! A deal he knows of sons! or darters either! Suppose you was to favour us with some remarks on twins, sir, would you be so good!’

The bitter and indignant sarcasm which Mrs Gamp conveyed into these taunts was altogether lost on the unconscious Chuffey, who appeared to be as little cognizant of their delivery as of his having given Mrs Gamp offence. But that high-minded woman being sensitively alive to any invasion of her professional province, and imagining that Mr Chuffey had given utterance to some prediction on the subject of sons, which ought to have emanated in the first instance from herself as the only lawful authority, or which should at least have been on no account proclaimed without her sanction and concurrence, was not so easily appeased. She continued to sidle at Mr Chuffey with looks of sharp hostility, and to defy him with many other ironical remarks, uttered in that low key which commonly denotes suppressed indignation; until the entrance of the teaboard, and a request from Mrs Jonas that she would make tea at a side-table for the party that had unexpectedly assembled, restored her to herself. She smiled again, and entered on her ministration with her own particular urbanity.

‘And quite a family it is to make tea for,’ said Mrs Gamp; ‘and wot a happiness to do it! My good young ‘ooman’—to the servant-girl—‘p’raps somebody would like to try a new-laid egg or two, not biled too hard. Likeways, a few rounds o’ buttered toast, first cuttin’ off the crust, in consequence of tender teeth, and not too many of ‘em; which Gamp himself, Mrs Chuzzlewit, at one blow, being in liquor, struck out four, two single, and two double, as was took by Mrs Harris for a keepsake, and is carried in her pocket at this present hour, along with two cramp-bones, a bit o’ ginger, and a grater like a blessed infant’s shoe, in tin, with a little heel to put the nutmeg in; as many times I’ve seen and said, and used for candle when required, within the month.’

As the privileges of the side-table—besides including the small prerogatives of sitting next the toast, and taking two cups of tea to other people’s one, and always taking them at a crisis, that is to say, before putting fresh water into the tea-pot, and after it had been standing for some time—also comprehended a full view of the company, and an opportunity of addressing them as from a rostrum, Mrs Gamp discharged the functions entrusted to her with extreme good-humour and affability. Sometimes resting her saucer on the palm of her outspread hand, and supporting her elbow on the table, she stopped between her sips of tea to favour the circle with a smile, a wink, a roll of the head, or some other mark of notice; and at those periods her countenance was lighted up with a degree of intelligence and vivacity, which it was almost impossible to separate from the benignant influence of distilled waters.

But for Mrs Gamp, it would have been a curiously silent party. Miss Pecksniff only spoke to her Augustus, and to him in whispers. Augustus spoke to nobody, but sighed for every one, and occasionally gave himself such a sounding slap upon the forehead as would make Mrs Todgers, who was rather nervous, start in her chair with an involuntary exclamation. Mrs Todgers was occupied in knitting, and seldom spoke. Poor Merry held the hand of cheerful little Ruth between her own, and listening with evident pleasure to all she said, but rarely speaking herself, sometimes smiled, and sometimes kissed her on the cheek, and sometimes turned aside to hide the tears that trembled in her eyes. Tom felt this change in her so much, and was so glad to see how tenderly Ruth dealt with her, and how she knew and answered to it, that he had not the heart to make any movement towards their departure, although he had long since given utterance to all he came to say.

The old clerk, subsiding into his usual state, remained profoundly silent, while the rest of the little assembly were thus occupied, intent upon the dreams, whatever they might be, which hardly seemed to stir the surface of his sluggish thoughts. The bent of these dull fancies combining probably with the silent feasting that was going on about him, and some struggling recollection of the last approach to revelry he had witnessed, suggested a strange question to his mind. He looked round upon a sudden, and said:

‘Who’s lying dead upstairs?’

‘No one,’ said Merry, turning to him. ‘What is the matter? We are all here.’

‘All here!’ cried the old man. ‘All here! Where is he then—my old master, Mr Chuzzlewit, who had the only son? Where is he?’

‘Hush! Hush!’ said Merry, speaking kindly to him. ‘That happened long ago. Don’t you recollect?’

‘Recollect!’ rejoined the old man, with a cry of grief. ‘As if I could forget! As if I ever could forget!’

He put his hand up to his face for a moment; and then repeated turning round exactly as before:

‘Who’s lying dead upstairs?’

‘No one!’ said Merry.

At first he gazed angrily upon her, as upon a stranger who endeavoured to deceive him; but peering into her face, and seeing that it was indeed she, he shook his head in sorrowful compassion.

‘You think not. But they don’t tell you. No, no, poor thing! They don’t tell you. Who are these, and why are they merry-making here, if there is no one dead? Foul play! Go see who it is!’

She made a sign to them not to speak to him, which indeed they had little inclination to do; and remained silent herself. So did he for a short time; but then he repeated the same question with an eagerness that had a peculiar terror in it.

‘There’s some one dead,’ he said, ‘or dying; and I want to knows who it is. Go see, go see! Where’s Jonas?’

‘In the country,’ she replied.

The old man gazed at her as if he doubted what she said, or had not heard her; and, rising from his chair, walked across the room and upstairs, whispering as he went, ‘Foul play!’ They heard his footsteps overhead, going up into that corner of the room in which the bed stood (it was there old Anthony had died); and then they heard him coming down again immediately. His fancy was not so strong or wild that it pictured to him anything in the deserted bedchamber which was not there; for he returned much calmer, and appeared to have satisfied himself.

‘They don’t tell you,’ he said to Merry in his quavering voice, as he sat down again, and patted her upon the head. ‘They don’t tell me either; but I’ll watch, I’ll watch. They shall not hurt you; don’t be frightened. When you have sat up watching, I have sat up watching too. Aye, aye, I have!’ he piped out, clenching his weak, shrivelled hand. ‘Many a night I have been ready!’

He said this with such trembling gaps and pauses in his want of breath, and said it in his jealous secrecy so closely in her ear, that little or nothing of it was understood by the visitors. But they had heard and seen enough of the old man to be disquieted, and to have left their seats and gathered about him; thereby affording Mrs Gamp, whose professional coolness was not so easily disturbed, an eligible opportunity for concentrating the whole resources of her powerful mind and appetite upon the toast and butter, tea and eggs. She had brought them to bear upon those viands with such vigour that her face was in the highest state of inflammation, when she now (there being nothing left to eat or drink) saw fit to interpose.

‘Why, highty tighty, sir!’ cried Mrs Gamp, ‘is these your manners? You want a pitcher of cold water throw’d over you to bring you round; that’s my belief, and if you was under Betsey Prig you’d have it, too, I do assure you, Mr Chuffey. Spanish Flies is the only thing to draw this nonsense out of you; and if anybody wanted to do you a kindness, they’d clap a blister of ‘em on your head, and put a mustard poultige on your back. ‘Who’s dead, indeed! It wouldn’t be no grievous loss if some one was, I think!’

‘He’s quiet now, Mrs Gamp,’ said Merry. ‘Don’t disturb him.’

‘Oh, bother the old wictim, Mrs Chuzzlewit,’ replied that zealous lady, ‘I ain’t no patience with him. You give him his own way too much by half. A worritin’ wexagious creetur!’

No doubt with the view of carrying out the precepts she enforced, and ‘bothering the old wictim’ in practice as well as in theory, Mrs Gamp took him by the collar of his coat, and gave him some dozen or two of hearty shakes backward and forward in his chair; that exercise being considered by the disciples of the Prig school of nursing (who are very numerous among professional ladies) as exceedingly conducive to repose, and highly beneficial to the performance of the nervous functions. Its effect in this instance was to render the patient so giddy and addle-headed, that he could say nothing more; which Mrs Gamp regarded as the triumph of her art.

‘There!’ she said, loosening the old man’s cravat, in consequence of his being rather black in the face, after this scientific treatment. ‘Now, I hope, you’re easy in your mind. If you should turn at all faint we can soon rewive you, sir, I promige you. Bite a person’s thumbs, or turn their fingers the wrong way,’ said Mrs Gamp, smiling with the consciousness of at once imparting pleasure and instruction to her auditors, ‘and they comes to, wonderful, Lord bless you!’

As this excellent woman had been formerly entrusted with the care of Mr Chuffey on a previous occasion, neither Mrs Jonas nor anybody else had the resolution to interfere directly with her mode of treatment; though all present (Tom Pinch and his sister especially) appeared to be disposed to differ from her views. For such is the rash boldness of the uninitiated, that they will frequently set up some monstrous abstract principle, such as humanity, or tenderness, or the like idle folly, in obstinate defiance of all precedent and usage; and will even venture to maintain the same against the persons who have made the precedents and established the usage, and who must therefore be the best and most impartial judges of the subject.

‘Ah, Mr Pinch!’ said Miss Pecksniff. ‘It all comes of this unfortunate marriage. If my sister had not been so precipitate, and had not united herself to a Wretch, there would have been no Mr Chuffey in the house.’

‘Hush!’ cried Tom. ‘She’ll hear you.’

‘I should be very sorry if she did hear me, Mr Pinch,’ said Cherry, raising her voice a little; ‘for it is not in my nature to add to the uneasiness of any person; far less of my own sister. I know what a sister’s duties are, Mr Pinch, and I hope I always showed it in my practice. Augustus, my dear child, find my pocket-handkerchief, and give it to me.’

Augustus obeyed, and took Mrs Todgers aside to pour his griefs into her friendly bosom.

‘I am sure, Mr Pinch,’ said Charity, looking after her betrothed and glancing at her sister, ‘that I ought to be very grateful for the blessings I enjoy, and those which are yet in store for me. When I contrast Augustus’—here she was modest and embarrased—‘who, I don’t mind saying to you, is all softness, mildness, and devotion, with the detestable man who is my sister’s husband; and when I think, Mr Pinch, that in the dispensations of this world, our cases might have been reversed; I have much to be thankful for, indeed, and much to make me humble and contented.’

Contented she might have been, but humble she assuredly was not. Her face and manner experienced something so widely different from humility, that Tom could not help understanding and despising the base motives that were working in her breast. He turned away, and said to Ruth, that it was time for them to go.

‘I will write to your husband,’ said Tom to Merry, ‘and explain to him, as I would have done if I had met him here, that if he has sustained any inconvenience through my means, it is not my fault; a postman not being more innocent of the news he brings, than I was when I handed him that letter.’

‘I thank you!’ said Merry. ‘It may do some good.’

She parted tenderly from Ruth, who with her brother was in the act of leaving the room, when a key was heard in the lock of the door below, and immediately afterwards a quick footstep in the passage. Tom stopped, and looked at Merry.

It was Jonas, she said timidly.

‘I had better not meet him on the stairs, perhaps,’ said Tom, drawing his sister’s arm through his, and coming back a step or two. ‘I’ll wait for him here, a moment.’

He had scarcely said it when the door opened, and Jonas entered. His wife came forward to receive him; but he put her aside with his hand, and said in a surly tone:

‘I didn’t know you’d got a party.’

As he looked, at the same time, either by accident or design, towards Miss Pecksniff; and as Miss Pecksniff was only too delighted to quarrel with him, she instantly resented it.

‘Oh dear!’ she said, rising. ‘Pray don’t let us intrude upon your domestic happiness! That would be a pity. We have taken tea here, sir, in your absence; but if you will have the goodness to send us a note of the expense, receipted, we shall be happy to pay it. Augustus, my love, we will go, if you please. Mrs Todgers, unless you wish to remain here, we shall be happy to take you with us. It would be a pity, indeed, to spoil the bliss which this gentleman always brings with him, especially into his own home.’

‘Charity! Charity!’ remonstrated her sister, in such a heartfelt tone that she might have been imploring her to show the cardinal virtue whose name she bore.

‘Merry, my dear, I am much obliged to you for your advice,’ returned Miss Pecksniff, with a stately scorn—by the way, she had not been offered any—‘but I am not his slave—’

‘No, nor wouldn’t have been if you could,’ interrupted Jonas. ‘We know all about it.’

What did you say, sir?’ cried Miss Pecksniff, sharply.

‘Didn’t you hear?’ retorted Jonas, lounging down upon a chair. ‘I am not a-going to say it again. If you like to stay, you may stay. If you like to go, you may go. But if you stay, please to be civil.’

‘Beast!’ cried Miss Pecksniff, sweeping past him. ‘Augustus! He is beneath your notice!’ Augustus had been making some faint and sickly demonstration of shaking his fist. ‘Come away, child,’ screamed Miss Pecksniff, ‘I command you!’

The scream was elicited from her by Augustus manifesting an intention to return and grapple with him. But Miss Pecksniff giving the fiery youth a pull, and Mrs Todgers giving him a push they all three tumbled out of the room together, to the music of Miss Pecksniff’s shrill remonstrances.

All this time Jonas had seen nothing of Tom and his sister; for they were almost behind the door when he opened it, and he had sat down with his back towards them, and had purposely kept his eyes upon the opposite side of the street during his altercation with Miss Pecksniff, in order that his seeming carelessness might increase the exasperation of that wronged young damsel. His wife now faltered out that Tom had been waiting to see him; and Tom advanced.

The instant he presented himself, Jonas got up from his chair, and swearing a great oath, caught it in his grasp, as if he would have felled Tom to the ground with it. As he most unquestionably would have done, but that his very passion and surprise made him irresolute, and gave Tom, in his calmness, an opportunity of being heard.

‘You have no cause to be violent, sir,’ said Tom. ‘Though what I wish to say relates to your own affairs, I know nothing of them, and desire to know nothing of them.’

Jonas was too enraged to speak. He held the door open; and stamping his foot upon the ground, motioned Tom away.

‘As you cannot suppose,’ said Tom, ‘that I am here with any view of conciliating you or pleasing myself, I am quite indifferent to your reception of me, or your dismissal of me. Hear what I have to say, if you are not a madman! I gave you a letter the other day, when you were about to go abroad.’

‘You Thief, you did!’ retorted Jonas. ‘I’ll pay you for the carriage of it one day, and settle an old score besides. I will!’

‘Tut, tut,’ said Tom, ‘you needn’t waste words or threats. I wish you to understand—plainly because I would rather keep clear of you and everything that concerns you: not because I have the least apprehension of your doing me any injury: which would be weak indeed—that I am no party to the contents of that letter. That I know nothing of it. That I was not even aware that it was to be delivered to you; and that I had it from—’

‘By the Lord!’ cried Jonas, fiercely catching up the chair, ‘I’ll knock your brains out, if you speak another word.’

Tom, nevertheless, persisting in his intention, and opening his lips to speak again, Jonas set upon him like a savage; and in the quickness and ferocity of his attack would have surely done him some grievous injury, defenceless as he was, and embarrassed by having his frightened sister clinging to his arm, if Merry had not run between them, crying to Tom for the love of Heaven to leave the house. The agony of this poor creature, the terror of his sister, the impossibility of making himself audible, and the equal impossibility of bearing up against Mrs Gamp, who threw herself upon him like a feather-bed, and forced him backwards down the stairs by the mere oppression of her dead weight, prevailed. Tom shook the dust of that house off his feet, without having mentioned Nadgett’s name.

If the name could have passed his lips; if Jonas, in the insolence of his vile nature, had never roused him to do that old act of manliness, for which (and not for his last offence) he hated him with such malignity; if Jonas could have learned, as then he could and would have learned, through Tom’s means, what unsuspected spy there was upon him; he would have been saved from the commission of a Guilty Deed, then drawing on towards its black accomplishment. But the fatality was of his own working; the pit was of his own digging; the gloom that gathered round him was the shadow of his own life.

His wife had closed the door, and thrown herself before it, on the ground, upon her knees. She held up her hands to him now, and besought him not to be harsh with her, for she had interposed in fear of bloodshed.

‘So, so!’ said Jonas, looking down upon her, as he fetched his breath. ‘These are your friends, are they, when I am away? You plot and tamper with this sort of people, do you?’

‘No, indeed! I have no knowledge of these secrets, and no clue to their meaning. I have never seen him since I left home but once—but twice—before to-day.’

‘Oh!’ sneered Jonas, catching at this correction. ‘But once, but twice, eh? Which do you mean? Twice and once, perhaps. Three times! How many more, you lying jade?’

As he made an angry motion with his hand, she shrunk down hastily. A suggestive action! Full of a cruel truth!

‘How many more times?’ he repeated.

‘No more. The other morning, and to-day, and once besides.’

He was about to retort upon her, when the clock struck. He started stopped, and listened; appearing to revert to some engagement, or to some other subject, a secret within his own breast, recalled to him by this record of the progress of the hours.

‘Don’t lie there! Get up!’

Having helped her to rise, or rather hauled her up by the arm, he went on to say:

‘Listen to me, young lady; and don’t whine when you have no occasion, or I may make some for you. If I find him in my house again, or find that you have seen him in anybody else’s house, you’ll repent it. If you are not deaf and dumb to everything that concerns me, unless you have my leave to hear and speak, you’ll repent it. If you don’t obey exactly what I order, you’ll repent it. Now, attend. What’s the time?’

‘It struck eight a minute ago.’

He looked towards her intently; and said, with a laboured distinctness, as if he had got the words off by heart:

‘I have been travelling day and night, and am tired. I have lost some money, and that don’t improve me. Put my supper in the little off-room below, and have the truckle-bed made. I shall sleep there to-night, and maybe to-morrow night; and if I can sleep all day to-morrow, so much the better, for I’ve got trouble to sleep off, if I can. Keep the house quiet, and don’t call me. Mind! Don’t call me. Don’t let anybody call me. Let me lie there.’

She said it should be done. Was that all?

‘All what? You must be prying and questioning!’ he angrily retorted. ‘What more do you want to know?’

‘I want to know nothing, Jonas, but what you tell me. All hope of confidence between us has long deserted me!’

‘Ecod, I should hope so!’ he muttered.

‘But if you will tell me what you wish, I will be obedient and will try to please you. I make no merit of that, for I have no friend in my father or my sister, but am quite alone. I am very humble and submissive. You told me you would break my spirit, and you have done so. Do not break my heart too!’

She ventured, as she said these words, to lay her hand upon his shoulder. He suffered it to rest there, in his exultation; and the whole mean, abject, sordid, pitiful soul of the man, looked at her, for the moment, through his wicked eyes.

For the moment only; for, with the same hurried return to something within himself, he bade her, in a surly tone, show her obedience by executing his commands without delay. When she had withdrawn he paced up and down the room several times; but always with his right hand clenched, as if it held something; which it did not, being empty. When he was tired of this, he threw himself into a chair, and thoughtfully turned up the sleeve of his right arm, as if he were rather musing about its strength than examining it; but, even then, he kept the hand clenched.

He was brooding in this chair, with his eyes cast down upon the ground, when Mrs Gamp came in to tell him that the little room was ready. Not being quite sure of her reception after interfering in the quarrel, Mrs Gamp, as a means of interesting and propitiating her patron, affected a deep solicitude in Mr Chuffey.

‘How is he now, sir?’ she said.

‘Who?’ cried Jonas, raising his head, and staring at her.

‘To be sure!’ returned the matron with a smile and a curtsey. ‘What am I thinking of! You wasn’t here, sir, when he was took so strange. I never see a poor dear creetur took so strange in all my life, except a patient much about the same age, as I once nussed, which his calling was the custom-’us, and his name was Mrs Harris’s own father, as pleasant a singer, Mr Chuzzlewit, as ever you heerd, with a voice like a Jew’s-harp in the bass notes, that it took six men to hold at sech times, foaming frightful.’

‘Chuffey, eh?’ said Jonas carelessly, seeing that she went up to the old, clerk, and looked at him. ‘Ha!’

‘The creetur’s head’s so hot,’ said Mrs Gamp, ‘that you might heat a flat-iron at it. And no wonder I am sure, considerin’ the things he said!’

‘Said!’ cried Jonas. ‘What did he say?’

Mrs Gamp laid her hand upon her heart, to put some check upon its palpitations, and turning up her eyes replied in a faint voice:

‘The awfulest things, Mr Chuzzlewit, as ever I heerd! Which Mrs Harris’s father never spoke a word when took so, some does and some don’t, except sayin’ when he come round, “Where is Sairey Gamp?” But raly, sir, when Mr Chuffey comes to ask who’s lyin’ dead upstairs, and—’

‘Who’s lying dead upstairs!’ repeated Jonas, standing aghast.

Mrs Gamp nodded, made as if she were swallowing, and went on.

‘Who’s lying dead upstairs; sech was his Bible language; and where was Mr Chuzzlewit as had the only son; and when he goes upstairs a-looking in the beds and wandering about the rooms, and comes down again a-whisperin’ softly to his-self about foul play and that; it gives me sech a turn, I don’t deny it, Mr Chuzzlewit, that I never could have kep myself up but for a little drain o’ spirits, which I seldom touches, but could always wish to know where to find, if so dispoged, never knowin’ wot may happen next, the world bein’ so uncertain.’

‘Why, the old fool’s mad!’ cried Jonas, much disturbed.

‘That’s my opinion, sir,’ said Mrs Gamp, ‘and I will not deceive you. I believe as Mr Chuffey, sir, rekwires attention (if I may make so bold), and should not have his liberty to wex and worrit your sweet lady as he does.’

‘Why, who minds what he says?’ retorted Jonas.

‘Still he is worritin’ sir,’ said Mrs Gamp. ‘No one don’t mind him, but he is a ill conwenience.’

‘Ecod you’re right,’ said Jonas, looking doubtfully at the subject of this conversation. ‘I have half a mind to shut him up.’

Mrs Gamp rubbed her hands, and smiled, and shook her head, and sniffed expressively, as scenting a job.

‘Could you—could you take care of such an idiot, now, in some spare room upstairs?’ asked Jonas.

‘Me and a friend of mine, one off, one on, could do it, Mr Chuzzlewit,’ replied the nurse; ‘our charges not bein’ high, but wishin’ they was lower, and allowance made considerin’ not strangers. Me and Betsey Prig, sir, would undertake Mr Chuffey reasonable,’ said Mrs Gamp, looking at him with her head on one side, as if he had been a piece of goods, for which she was driving a bargain; ‘and give every satigefaction. Betsey Prig has nussed a many lunacies, and well she knows their ways, which puttin’ ‘em right close afore the fire, when fractious, is the certainest and most compoging.’

While Mrs Gamp discoursed to this effect, Jonas was walking up and down the room again, glancing covertly at the old clerk, as he did so. He now made a stop, and said:

‘I must look after him, I suppose, or I may have him doing some mischief. What say you?’

‘Nothin’ more likely!’ Mrs Gamp replied. ‘As well I have experienged, I do assure you, sir.’

‘Well! Look after him for the present, and—let me see—three days from this time let the other woman come here, and we’ll see if we can make a bargain of it. About nine or ten o’clock at night, say. Keep your eye upon him in the meanwhile, and don’t talk about it. He’s as mad as a March hare!’

‘Madder!’ cried Mrs Gamp. ‘A deal madder!’

‘See to him, then; take care that he does no harm; and recollect what I have told you.’

Leaving Mrs Gamp in the act of repeating all she had been told, and of producing in support of her memory and trustworthiness, many commendations selected from among the most remarkable opinions of the celebrated Mrs Harris, he descended to the little room prepared for him, and pulling off his coat and his boots, put them outside the door before he locked it. In locking it, he was careful so to adjust the key as to baffle any curious person who might try to peep in through the key-hole; and when he had taken these precautions, he sat down to his supper.

‘Mr Chuff,’ he muttered, ‘it’ll be pretty easy to be even with you. It’s of no use doing things by halves, and as long as I stop here, I’ll take good care of you. When I’m off you may say what you please. But it’s a d—d strange thing,’ he added, pushing away his untouched plate, and striding moodily to and fro, ‘that his drivellings should have taken this turn just now.’

After pacing the little room from end to end several times, he sat down in another chair.

‘I say just now, but for anything I know, he may have been carrying on the same game all along. Old dog! He shall be gagged!’

He paced the room again in the same restless and unsteady way; and then sat down upon the bedstead, leaning his chin upon his hand, and looking at the table. When he had looked at it for a long time, he remembered his supper; and resuming the chair he had first occupied, began to eat with great rapacity; not like a hungry man, but as if he were determined to do it. He drank too, roundly; sometimes stopping in the middle of a draught to walk, and change his seat and walk again, and dart back to the table and fall to, in a ravenous hurry, as before.

It was now growing dark. As the gloom of evening, deepening into night, came on, another dark shade emerging from within him seemed to overspread his face, and slowly change it. Slowly, slowly; darker and darker; more and more haggard; creeping over him by little and little, until it was black night within him and without.

The room in which he had shut himself up, was on the ground floor, at the back of the house. It was lighted by a dirty skylight, and had a door in the wall, opening into a narrow covered passage or blind-alley, very little frequented after five or six o’clock in the evening, and not in much use as a thoroughfare at any hour. But it had an outlet in a neighbouring street.

The ground on which this chamber stood had, at one time, not within his recollection, been a yard; and had been converted to its present purpose for use as an office. But the occasion for it died with the man who built it; and saving that it had sometimes served as an apology for a spare bedroom, and that the old clerk had once held it (but that was years ago) as his recognized apartment, it had been little troubled by Anthony Chuzzlewit and Son. It was a blotched, stained, mouldering room, like a vault; and there were water-pipes running through it, which at unexpected times in the night, when other things were quiet, clicked and gurgled suddenly, as if they were choking.

The door into the court had not been open for a long, long time; but the key had always hung in one place, and there it hung now. He was prepared for its being rusty; for he had a little bottle of oil in his pocket and the feather of a pen, with which he lubricated the key and the lock too, carefully. All this while he had been without his coat, and had nothing on his feet but his stockings. He now got softly into bed in the same state, and tossed from side to side to tumble it. In his restless condition that was easily done.

When he arose, he took from his portmanteau, which he had caused to be carried into that place when he came home, a pair of clumsy shoes, and put them on his feet; also a pair of leather leggings, such as countrymen are used to wear, with straps to fasten them to the waistband. In these he dressed himself at leisure. Lastly, he took out a common frock of coarse dark jean, which he drew over his own under-clothing; and a felt hat—he had purposely left his own upstairs. He then sat himself down by the door, with the key in his hand, waiting.

He had no light; the time was dreary, long, and awful. The ringers were practicing in a neighbouring church, and the clashing of the bells was almost maddening. Curse the clamouring bells, they seemed to know that he was listening at the door, and to proclaim it in a crowd of voices to all the town! Would they never be still?

They ceased at last, and then the silence was so new and terrible that it seemed the prelude to some dreadful noise. Footsteps in the court! Two men. He fell back from the door on tiptoe, as if they could have seen him through its wooden panels.

They passed on, talking (he could make out) about a skeleton which had been dug up yesterday, in some work of excavation near at hand, and was supposed to be that of a murdered man. ‘So murder is not always found out, you see,’ they said to one another as they turned the corner.


He put the key into the lock, and turned it. The door resisted for a while, but soon came stiffly open; mingling with the sense of fever in his mouth, a taste of rust, and dust, and earth, and rotting wood. He looked out; passed out; locked it after him.

All was clear and quiet, as he fled away.


Did no men passing through the dim streets shrink without knowing why, when he came stealing up behind them? As he glided on, had no child in its sleep an indistinct perception of a guilty shadow falling on its bed, that troubled its innocent rest? Did no dog howl, and strive to break its rattling chain, that it might tear him; no burrowing rat, scenting the work he had in hand, essay to gnaw a passage after him, that it might hold a greedy revel at the feast of his providing? When he looked back, across his shoulder, was it to see if his quick footsteps still fell dry upon the dusty pavement, or were already moist and clogged with the red mire that stained the naked feet of Cain!

He shaped his course for the main western road, and soon reached it; riding a part of the way, then alighting and walking on again. He travelled for a considerable distance upon the roof of a stage-coach, which came up while he was afoot; and when it turned out of his road, bribed the driver of a return post-chaise to take him on with him; and then made across the country at a run, and saved a mile or two before he struck again into the road. At last, as his plan was, he came up with a certain lumbering, slow, night-coach, which stopped wherever it could, and was stopping then at a public-house, while the guard and coachman ate and drank within.

He bargained for a seat outside this coach, and took it. And he quitted it no more until it was within a few miles of its destination, but occupied the same place all night.

All night! It is a common fancy that nature seems to sleep by night. It is a false fancy, as who should know better than he?

The fishes slumbered in the cold, bright, glistening streams and rivers, perhaps; and the birds roosted on the branches of the trees; and in their stalls and pastures beasts were quiet; and human creatures slept. But what of that, when the solemn night was watching, when it never winked, when its darkness watched no less than its light! The stately trees, the moon and shining stars, the softly stirring wind, the over-shadowed lane, the broad, bright countryside, they all kept watch. There was not a blade of growing grass or corn, but watched; and the quieter it was, the more intent and fixed its watch upon him seemed to be.

And yet he slept. Riding on among those sentinels of God, he slept, and did not change the purpose of his journey. If he forgot it in his troubled dreams, it came up steadily, and woke him. But it never woke him to remorse, or to abandonment of his design.

He dreamed at one time that he was lying calmly in his bed, thinking of a moonlight night and the noise of wheels, when the old clerk put his head in at the door, and beckoned him. At this signal he arose immediately—being already dressed in the clothes he actually wore at that time—and accompanied him into a strange city, where the names of the streets were written on the walls in characters quite new to him; which gave him no surprise or uneasiness, for he remembered in his dream to have been there before. Although these streets were very precipitous, insomuch that to get from one to another it was necessary to descend great heights by ladders that were too short, and ropes that moved deep bells, and swung and swayed as they were clung to, the danger gave him little emotion beyond the first thrill of terror; his anxieties being concentrated on his dress which was quite unfitted for some festival that was about to be holden there, and in which he had come to take a part. Already, great crowds began to fill the streets, and in one direction myriads of people came rushing down an interminable perspective, strewing flowers and making way for others on white horses, when a terrible figure started from the throng, and cried out that it was the Last Day for all the world. The cry being spread, there was a wild hurrying on to Judgment; and the press became so great that he and his companion (who was constantly changing, and was never the same man two minutes together, though he never saw one man come or another go), stood aside in a porch, fearfully surveying the multitude; in which there were many faces that he knew, and many that he did not know, but dreamed he did; when all at once a struggling head rose up among the rest—livid and deadly, but the same as he had known it—and denounced him as having appointed that direful day to happen. They closed together. As he strove to free the hand in which he held a club, and strike the blow he had so often thought of, he started to the knowledge of his waking purpose and the rising of the sun.

The sun was welcome to him. There were life and motion, and a world astir, to divide the attention of Day. It was the eye of Night—of wakeful, watchful, silent, and attentive Night, with so much leisure for the observation of his wicked thoughts—that he dreaded most. There is no glare in the night. Even Glory shows to small advantage in the night, upon a crowded battle-field. How then shows Glory’s blood-relation, bastard Murder!

Aye! He made no compromise, and held no secret with himself now. Murder. He had come to do it.

‘Let me get down here’ he said

‘Short of the town, eh!’ observed the coachman.

‘I may get down where I please, I suppose?’

‘You got up to please yourself, and may get down to please yourself. It won’t break our hearts to lose you, and it wouldn’t have broken ‘em if we’d never found you. Be a little quicker. That’s all.’

The guard had alighted, and was waiting in the road to take his money. In the jealousy and distrust of what he contemplated, he thought this man looked at him with more than common curiosity.

‘What are you staring at?’ said Jonas.

‘Not at a handsome man,’ returned the guard. ‘If you want your fortune told, I’ll tell you a bit of it. You won’t be drowned. That’s a consolation for you.’

Before he could retort or turn away, the coachman put an end to the dialogue by giving him a cut with his whip, and bidding him get out for a surly dog. The guard jumped up to his seat at the same moment, and they drove off, laughing; leaving him to stand in the road and shake his fist at them. He was not displeased though, on second thoughts, to have been taken for an ill-conditioned common country fellow; but rather congratulated himself upon it as a proof that he was well disguised.

Wandering into a copse by the road-side—but not in that place; two or three miles off—he tore out from a fence a thick, hard, knotted stake; and, sitting down beneath a hayrick, spent some time in shaping it, in peeling off the bark, and fashioning its jagged head with his knife.

The day passed on. Noon, afternoon, evening. Sunset.

At that serene and peaceful time two men, riding in a gig, came out of the city by a road not much frequented. It was the day on which Mr Pecksniff had agreed to dine with Montague. He had kept his appointment, and was now going home. His host was riding with him for a short distance; meaning to return by a pleasant track, which Mr Pecksniff had engaged to show him, through some fields. Jonas knew their plans. He had hung about the inn-yard while they were at dinner and had heard their orders given.

They were loud and merry in their conversation, and might have been heard at some distance; far above the sound of their carriage wheels or horses’ hoofs. They came on noisily, to where a stile and footpath indicated their point of separation. Here they stopped.

‘It’s too soon. Much too soon,’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘But this is the place, my dear sir. Keep the path, and go straight through the little wood you’ll come to. The path is narrower there, but you can’t miss it. When shall I see you again? Soon I hope?’

‘I hope so,’ replied Montague.

‘Good night!’

‘Good night. And a pleasant ride!’

So long as Mr Pecksniff was in sight, and turned his head at intervals to salute him, Montague stood in the road smiling, and waving his hand. But when his new partner had disappeared, and this show was no longer necessary, he sat down on the stile with looks so altered, that he might have grown ten years older in the meantime.

He was flushed with wine, but not gay. His scheme had succeeded, but he showed no triumph. The effort of sustaining his difficult part before his late companion had fatigued him, perhaps, or it may be that the evening whispered to his conscience, or it may be (as it has been) that a shadowy veil was dropping round him, closing out all thoughts but the presentiment and vague foreknowledge of impending doom.

If there be fluids, as we know there are, which, conscious of a coming wind, or rain, or frost, will shrink and strive to hide themselves in their glass arteries; may not that subtle liquor of the blood perceive, by properties within itself, that hands are raised to waste and spill it; and in the veins of men run cold and dull as his did, in that hour!

So cold, although the air was warm; so dull, although the sky was bright; that he rose up shivering from his seat, and hastily resumed his walk. He checked himself as hastily; undecided whether to pursue the footpath, which was lonely and retired, or to go back by the road.

He took the footpath.

The glory of the departing sun was on his face. The music of the birds was in his ears. Sweet wild flowers bloomed about him. Thatched roofs of poor men’s homes were in the distance; and an old grey spire, surmounted by a Cross, rose up between him and the coming night.

He had never read the lesson which these things conveyed; he had ever mocked and turned away from it; but, before going down into a hollow place, he looked round, once, upon the evening prospect, sorrowfully. Then he went down, down, down, into the dell.

It brought him to the wood; a close, thick, shadowy wood, through which the path went winding on, dwindling away into a slender sheep-track. He paused before entering; for the stillness of this spot almost daunted him.

The last rays of the sun were shining in, aslant, making a path of golden light along the stems and branches in its range, which, even as he looked, began to die away, yielding gently to the twilight that came creeping on. It was so very quiet that the soft and stealthy moss about the trunks of some old trees, seemed to have grown out of the silence, and to be its proper offspring. Those other trees which were subdued by blasts of wind in winter time, had not quite tumbled down, but being caught by others, lay all bare and scathed across their leafy arms, as if unwilling to disturb the general repose by the crash of their fall. Vistas of silence opened everywhere, into the heart and innermost recesses of the wood; beginning with the likeness of an aisle, a cloister, or a ruin open to the sky; then tangling off into a deep green rustling mystery, through which gnarled trunks, and twisted boughs, and ivy-covered stems, and trembling leaves, and bark-stripped bodies of old trees stretched out at length, were faintly seen in beautiful confusion.

As the sunlight died away, and evening fell upon the wood, he entered it. Moving, here and there a bramble or a drooping bough which stretched across his path, he slowly disappeared. At intervals a narrow opening showed him passing on, or the sharp cracking of some tender branch denoted where he went; then, he was seen or heard no more.

Never more beheld by mortal eye or heard by mortal ear; one man excepted. That man, parting the leaves and branches on the other side, near where the path emerged again, came leaping out soon afterwards.

What had he left within the wood, that he sprang out of it as if it were a hell!

The body of a murdered man. In one thick solitary spot, it lay among the last year’s leaves of oak and beech, just as it had fallen headlong down. Sopping and soaking in among the leaves that formed its pillow; oozing down into the boggy ground, as if to cover itself from human sight; forcing its way between and through the curling leaves, as if those senseless things rejected and forswore it and were coiled up in abhorrence; went a dark, dark stain that dyed the whole summer night from earth to heaven.

The doer of this deed came leaping from the wood so fiercely, that he cast into the air a shower of fragments of young boughs, torn away in his passage, and fell with violence upon the grass. But he quickly gained his feet again, and keeping underneath a hedge with his body bent, went running on towards the road. The road once reached, he fell into a rapid walk, and set on toward London.

And he was not sorry for what he had done. He was frightened when he thought of it—when did he not think of it!—but he was not sorry. He had had a terror and dread of the wood when he was in it; but being out of it, and having committed the crime, his fears were now diverted, strangely, to the dark room he had left shut up at home. He had a greater horror, infinitely greater, of that room than of the wood. Now that he was on his return to it, it seemed beyond comparison more dismal and more dreadful than the wood. His hideous secret was shut up in the room, and all its terrors were there; to his thinking it was not in the wood at all.

He walked on for ten miles; and then stopped at an ale-house for a coach, which he knew would pass through, on its way to London, before long; and which he also knew was not the coach he had travelled down by, for it came from another place. He sat down outside the door here, on a bench, beside a man who was smoking his pipe. Having called for some beer, and drunk, he offered it to this companion, who thanked him, and took a draught. He could not help thinking that, if the man had known all, he might scarcely have relished drinking out of the same cup with him.

‘A fine night, master!’ said this person. ‘And a rare sunset.’

‘I didn’t see it,’ was his hasty answer.

‘Didn’t see it?’ returned the man.

‘How the devil could I see it, if I was asleep?’

‘Asleep! Aye, aye.’ The man appeared surprised by his unexpected irritability, and saying no more, smoked his pipe in silence. They had not sat very long, when there was a knocking within.

‘What’s that?’ cried Jonas.

‘Can’t say, I’m sure,’ replied the man.

He made no further inquiry, for the last question had escaped him in spite of himself. But he was thinking, at the moment, of the closed-up room; of the possibility of their knocking at the door on some special occasion; of their being alarmed at receiving no answer; of their bursting it open; of their finding the room empty; of their fastening the door into the court, and rendering it impossible for him to get into the house without showing himself in the garb he wore, which would lead to rumour, rumour to detection, detection to death. At that instant, as if by some design and order of circumstances, the knocking had come.

It still continued; like a warning echo of the dread reality he had conjured up. As he could not sit and hear it, he paid for his beer and walked on again. And having slunk about, in places unknown to him all day; and being out at night, in a lonely road, in an unusual dress and in that wandering and unsettled frame of mind; he stopped more than once to look about him, hoping he might be in a dream.

Still he was not sorry. No. He had hated the man too much, and had been bent, too desperately and too long, on setting himself free. If the thing could have come over again, he would have done it again. His malignant and revengeful passions were not so easily laid. There was no more penitence or remorse within him now than there had been while the deed was brewing.

Dread and fear were upon him, to an extent he had never counted on, and could not manage in the least degree. He was so horribly afraid of that infernal room at home. This made him, in a gloomy murderous, mad way, not only fearful for himself, but of himself; for being, as it were, a part of the room: a something supposed to be there, yet missing from it: he invested himself with its mysterious terrors; and when he pictured in his mind the ugly chamber, false and quiet, false and quiet, through the dark hours of two nights; and the tumbled bed, and he not in it, though believed to be; he became in a manner his own ghost and phantom, and was at once the haunting spirit and the haunted man.

When the coach came up, which it soon did, he got a place outside and was carried briskly onward towards home. Now, in taking his seat among the people behind, who were chiefly country people, he conceived a fear that they knew of the murder, and would tell him that the body had been found; which, considering the time and place of the commission of the crime, were events almost impossible to have happened yet, as he very well knew. But although he did know it, and had therefore no reason to regard their ignorance as anything but the natural sequence to the facts, still this very ignorance of theirs encouraged him. So far encouraged him, that he began to believe the body never would be found, and began to speculate on that probability. Setting off from this point, and measuring time by the rapid hurry of his guilty thoughts, and what had gone before the bloodshed, and the troops of incoherent and disordered images of which he was the constant prey; he came by daylight to regard the murder as an old murder, and to think himself comparatively safe because it had not been discovered yet. Yet! When the sun which looked into the wood, and gilded with its rising light a dead man’s lace, had seen that man alive, and sought to win him to a thought of Heaven, on its going down last night!

But here were London streets again. Hush!

It was but five o’clock. He had time enough to reach his own house unobserved, and before there were many people in the streets, if nothing had happened so far, tending to his discovery. He slipped down from the coach without troubling the driver to stop his horses; and hurrying across the road, and in and out of every by-way that lay near his course, at length approached his own dwelling. He used additional caution in his immediate neighbourhood; halting first to look all down the street before him; then gliding swiftly through that one, and stopping to survey the next, and so on.

The passage-way was empty when his murderer’s face looked into it. He stole on, to the door on tiptoe, as if he dreaded to disturb his own imaginary rest.

He listened. Not a sound. As he turned the key with a trembling hand, and pushed the door softly open with his knee, a monstrous fear beset his mind.

What if the murdered man were there before him!

He cast a fearful glance all round. But there was nothing there.

He went in, locked the door, drew the key through and through the dust and damp in the fire-place to sully it again, and hung it up as of old. He took off his disguise, tied it up in a bundle ready for carrying away and sinking in the river before night, and locked it up in a cupboard. These precautions taken, he undressed and went to bed.

The raging thirst, the fire that burnt within him as he lay beneath the clothes, the augmented horror of the room when they shut it out from his view; the agony of listening, in which he paid enforced regard to every sound, and thought the most unlikely one the prelude to that knocking which should bring the news; the starts with which he left his couch, and looking in the glass, imagined that his deed was broadly written in his face, and lying down and burying himself once more beneath the blankets, heard his own heart beating Murder, Murder, Murder, in the bed; what words can paint tremendous truths like these!

The morning advanced. There were footsteps in the house. He heard the blinds drawn up, and shutters opened; and now and then a stealthy tread outside his own door. He tried to call out, more than once, but his mouth was dry as if it had been filled with sand. At last he sat up in his bed, and cried:

‘Who’s there?’

It was his wife.

He asked her what it was o’clock? Nine.

‘Did—did no one knock at my door yesterday?’ he faltered. ‘Something disturbed me; but unless you had knocked the door down, you would have got no notice from me.’

‘No one,’ she replied. That was well. He had waited, almost breathless, for her answer. It was a relief to him, if anything could be.

‘Mr Nadgett wanted to see you,’ she said, ‘but I told him you were tired, and had requested not to be disturbed. He said it was of little consequence, and went away. As I was opening my window to let in the cool air, I saw him passing through the street this morning, very early; but he hasn’t been again.’

Passing through the street that morning? Very early! Jonas trembled at the thought of having had a narrow chance of seeing him himself; even him, who had no object but to avoid people, and sneak on unobserved, and keep his own secrets; and who saw nothing.

He called to her to get his breakfast ready, and prepared to go upstairs; attiring himself in the clothes he had taken off when he came into that room, which had been, ever since, outside the door. In his secret dread of meeting the household for the first time, after what he had done, he lingered at the door on slight pretexts that they might see him without looking in his face; and left it ajar while he dressed; and called out to have the windows opened, and the pavement watered, that they might become accustomed to his voice. Even when he had put off the time, by one means or other, so that he had seen or spoken to them all, he could not muster courage for a long while to go in among them, but stood at his own door listening to the murmur of their distant conversation.

He could not stop there for ever, and so joined them. His last glance at the glass had seen a tell-tale face, but that might have been because of his anxious looking in it. He dared not look at them to see if they observed him, but he thought them very silent.

And whatsoever guard he kept upon himself, he could not help listening, and showing that he listened. Whether he attended to their talk, or tried to think of other things, or talked himself, or held his peace, or resolutely counted the dull tickings of a hoarse clock at his back, he always lapsed, as if a spell were on him, into eager listening. For he knew it must come. And his present punishment, and torture and distraction, were, to listen for its coming.




Tom Pinch and Ruth were sitting at their early breakfast, with the window open, and a row of the freshest little plants ranged before it on the inside by Ruth’s own hands; and Ruth had fastened a sprig of geranium in Tom’s button-hole, to make him very smart and summer-like for the day (it was obliged to be fastened in, or that dear old Tom was certain to lose it); and people were crying flowers up and down the street; and a blundering bee, who had got himself in between the two sashes of the window, was bruising his head against the glass, endeavouring to force himself out into the fine morning, and considering himself enchanted because he couldn’t do it; and the morning was as fine a morning as ever was seen; and the fragrant air was kissing Ruth and rustling about Tom, as if it said, ‘how are you, my dears; I came all this way on purpose to salute you;’ and it was one of those glad times when we form, or ought to form, the wish that every one on earth were able to be happy, and catching glimpses of the summer of the heart, to feel the beauty of the summer of the year.

It was even a pleasanter breakfast than usual; and it was always a pleasant one. For little Ruth had now two pupils to attend, each three times a week; and each two hours at a time; and besides this, she had painted some screens and card-racks, and, unknown to Tom (was there ever anything so delightful!), had walked into a certain shop which dealt in such articles, after often peeping through the window; and had taken courage to ask the Mistress of that shop whether she would buy them. And the mistress had not only bought them, but had ordered more, and that very morning Ruth had made confession of these facts to Tom, and had handed him the money in a little purse she had worked expressly for the purpose. They had been in a flutter about this, and perhaps had shed a happy tear or two for anything the history knows to the contrary; but it was all over now; and a brighter face than Tom’s, or a brighter face than Ruth’s, the bright sun had not looked on since he went to bed last night.

‘My dear girl,’ said Tom, coming so abruptly on the subject, that he interrupted himself in the act of cutting a slice of bread, and left the knife sticking in the loaf, ‘what a queer fellow our landlord is! I don’t believe he has been home once since he got me into that unsatisfactory scrape. I begin to think he will never come home again. What a mysterious life that man does lead, to be sure!’

‘Very strange. Is it not, Tom?’

‘Really,’ said Tom, ‘I hope it is only strange. I hope there may be nothing wrong in it. Sometimes I begin to be doubtful of that. I must have an explanation with him,’ said Tom, shaking his head as if this were a most tremendous threat, ‘when I can catch him!’

A short double knock at the door put Tom’s menacing looks to flight, and awakened an expression of surprise instead.

‘Heyday!’ said Tom. ‘An early hour for visitors! It must be John, I suppose.’

‘I—I—don’t think it was his knock, Tom,’ observed his little sister.

‘No?’ said Tom. ‘It surely can’t be my employer suddenly arrived in town; directed here by Mr Fips; and come for the key of the office. It’s somebody inquiring for me, I declare! Come in, if you please!’

But when the person came in, Tom Pinch, instead of saying, ‘Did you wish to speak with me, sir?’ or, ‘My name is Pinch, sir; what is your business, may I ask?’ or addressing him in any such distant terms; cried out, ‘Good gracious Heaven!’ and seized him by both hands, with the liveliest manifestations of astonishment and pleasure.

The visitor was not less moved than Tom himself, and they shook hands a great many times, without another word being spoken on either side. Tom was the first to find his voice.

‘Mark Tapley, too!’ said Tom, running towards the door, and shaking hands with somebody else. ‘My dear Mark, come in. How are you, Mark? He don’t look a day older than he used to do at the Dragon. How are you, Mark?’

‘Uncommonly jolly, sir, thank’ee,’ returned Mr Tapley, all smiles and bows. ‘I hope I see you well, sir.’

‘Good gracious me!’ cried Tom, patting him tenderly on the back. ‘How delightful it is to hear his old voice again! My dear Martin, sit down. My sister, Martin. Mr Chuzzlewit, my love. Mark Tapley from the Dragon, my dear. Good gracious me, what a surprise this is! Sit down. Lord, bless me!’

Tom was in such a state of excitement that he couldn’t keep himself still for a moment, but was constantly running between Mark and Martin, shaking hands with them alternately, and presenting them over and over again to his sister.

‘I remember the day we parted, Martin, as well as if it were yesterday,’ said Tom. ‘What a day it was! and what a passion you were in! And don’t you remember my overtaking you in the road that morning, Mark, when I was going to Salisbury in the gig to fetch him, and you were looking out for a situation? And don’t you recollect the dinner we had at Salisbury, Martin, with John Westlock, eh! Good gracious me! Ruth, my dear, Mr Chuzzlewit. Mark Tapley, my love, from the Dragon. More cups and saucers, if you please. Bless my soul, how glad I am to see you both!’

And then Tom (as John Westlock had done on his arrival) ran off to the loaf to cut some bread and butter for them; and before he had spread a single slice, remembered something else, and came running back again to tell it; and then he shook hands with them again; and then he introduced his sister again; and then he did everything he had done already all over again; and nothing Tom could do, and nothing Tom could say, was half sufficient to express his joy at their safe return.

Mr Tapley was the first to resume his composure. In a very short space of time he was discovered to have somehow installed himself in office as waiter, or attendant upon the party; a fact which was first suggested to them by his temporary absence in the kitchen, and speedy return with a kettle of boiling water, from which he replenished the tea-pot with a self-possession that was quite his own.

‘Sit down, and take your breakfast, Mark,’ said Tom. ‘Make him sit down and take his breakfast, Martin.’

‘Oh! I gave him up, long ago, as incorrigible,’ Martin replied. ‘He takes his own way, Tom. You would excuse him, Miss Pinch, if you knew his value.’

‘She knows it, bless you!’ said Tom. ‘I have told her all about Mark Tapley. Have I not, Ruth?’

‘Yes, Tom.’

‘Not all,’ returned Martin, in a low voice. ‘The best of Mark Tapley is only known to one man, Tom; and but for Mark he would hardly be alive to tell it!’

‘Mark!’ said Tom Pinch energetically; ‘if you don’t sit down this minute, I’ll swear at you!’

‘Well, sir,’ returned Mr Tapley, ‘sooner than you should do that, I’ll com-ply. It’s a considerable invasion of a man’s jollity to be made so partickler welcome, but a Werb is a word as signifies to be, to do, or to suffer (which is all the grammar, and enough too, as ever I wos taught); and if there’s a Werb alive, I’m it. For I’m always a-bein’, sometimes a-doin’, and continually a-sufferin’.’

‘Not jolly yet?’ asked Tom, with a smile.

‘Why, I was rather so, over the water, sir,’ returned Mr Tapley; ‘and not entirely without credit. But Human Natur’ is in a conspiracy again’ me; I can’t get on. I shall have to leave it in my will, sir, to be wrote upon my tomb: “He was a man as might have come out strong if he could have got a chance. But it was denied him.”’

Mr Tapley took this occasion of looking about him with a grin, and subsequently attacking the breakfast, with an appetite not at all expressive of blighted hopes, or insurmountable despondency.

In the meanwhile, Martin drew his chair a little nearer to Tom and his sister, and related to them what had passed at Mr Pecksniff’s house; adding in few words a general summary of the distresses and disappointments he had undergone since he left England.

‘For your faithful stewardship in the trust I left with you, Tom,’ he said, ‘and for all your goodness and disinterestedness, I can never thank you enough. When I add Mary’s thanks to mine—’

Ah, Tom! The blood retreated from his cheeks, and came rushing back, so violently, that it was pain to feel it; ease though, ease, compared with the aching of his wounded heart.

‘When I add Mary’s thanks to mine,’ said Martin, ‘I have made the only poor acknowledgment it is in our power to offer; but if you knew how much we feel, Tom, you would set some store by it, I am sure.’

And if they had known how much Tom felt—but that no human creature ever knew—they would have set some store by him. Indeed they would.

Tom changed the topic of discourse. He was sorry he could not pursue it, as it gave Martin pleasure; but he was unable, at that moment. No drop of envy or bitterness was in his soul; but he could not master the firm utterance of her name.

He inquired what Martin’s projects were.

‘No longer to make your fortune, Tom,’ said Martin, ‘but to try to live. I tried that once in London, Tom; and failed. If you will give me the benefit of your advice and friendly counsel, I may succeed better under your guidance. I will do anything Tom, anything, to gain a livelihood by my own exertions. My hopes do not soar above that, now.’

High-hearted, noble Tom! Sorry to find the pride of his old companion humbled, and to hear him speaking in this altered strain at once, at once, he drove from his breast the inability to contend with its deep emotions, and spoke out bravely.

‘Your hopes do not soar above that!’ cried Tom. ‘Yes they do. How can you talk so! They soar up to the time when you will be happy with her, Martin. They soar up to the time when you will be able to claim her, Martin. They soar up to the time when you will not be able to believe that you were ever cast down in spirit, or poor in pocket, Martin. Advice, and friendly counsel! Why, of course. But you shall have better advice and counsel (though you cannot have more friendly) than mine. You shall consult John Westlock. We’ll go there immediately. It is yet so early that I shall have time to take you to his chambers before I go to business; they are in my way; and I can leave you there, to talk over your affairs with him. So come along. Come along. I am a man of occupation now, you know,’ said Tom, with his pleasantest smile; ‘and have no time to lose. Your hopes don’t soar higher than that? I dare say they don’t. I know you, pretty well. They’ll be soaring out of sight soon, Martin, and leaving all the rest of us leagues behind.’

‘Aye! But I may be a little changed,’ said Martin, ‘since you knew me pretty well, Tom.’

‘What nonsense!’ exclaimed Tom. ‘Why should you be changed? You talk as if you were an old man. I never heard such a fellow! Come to John Westlock’s, come. Come along, Mark Tapley. It’s Mark’s doing, I have no doubt; and it serves you right for having such a grumbler for your companion.’

‘There’s no credit to be got through being jolly with you, Mr Pinch, anyways,’ said Mark, with his face all wrinkled up with grins. ‘A parish doctor might be jolly with you. There’s nothing short of goin’ to the U-nited States for a second trip, as would make it at all creditable to be jolly, arter seein’ you again!’

Tom laughed, and taking leave of his sister, hurried Mark and Martin out into the street, and away to John Westlock’s by the nearest road; for his hour of business was very near at hand, and he prided himself on always being exact to his time.

John Westlock was at home, but, strange to say, was rather embarrassed to see them; and when Tom was about to go into the room where he was breakfasting, said he had a stranger there. It appeared to be a mysterious stranger, for John shut that door as he said it, and led them into the next room.

He was very much delighted, though, to see Mark Tapley; and received Martin with his own frank courtesy. But Martin felt that he did not inspire John Westlock with any unusual interest; and twice or thrice observed that he looked at Tom Pinch doubtfully; not to say compassionately. He thought, and blushed to think, that he knew the cause of this.

‘I apprehend you are engaged,’ said Martin, when Tom had announced the purport of their visit. ‘If you will allow me to come again at your own time, I shall be glad to do so.’

‘I am engaged,’ replied John, with some reluctance; ‘but the matter on which I am engaged is one, to say the truth, more immediately demanding your knowledge than mine.’

‘Indeed!’ cried Martin.

‘It relates to a member of your family, and is of a serious nature. If you will have the kindness to remain here, it will be a satisfaction to me to have it privately communicated to you, in order that you may judge of its importance for yourself.’

‘And in the meantime,’ said Tom, ‘I must really take myself off, without any further ceremony.’

‘Is your business so very particular,’ asked Martin, ‘that you cannot remain with us for half an hour? I wish you could. What is your business, Tom?’

It was Tom’s turn to be embarrassed now; but he plainly said, after a little hesitation:

‘Why, I am not at liberty to say what it is, Martin; though I hope soon to be in a condition to do so, and am aware of no other reason to prevent my doing so now, than the request of my employer. It’s an awkward position to be placed in,’ said Tom, with an uneasy sense of seeming to doubt his friend, ‘as I feel every day; but I really cannot help it, can I, John?’

John Westlock replied in the negative; and Martin, expressing himself perfectly satisfied, begged them not to say another word; though he could not help wondering very much what curious office Tom held, and why he was so secret, and embarrassed, and unlike himself, in reference to it. Nor could he help reverting to it, in his own mind, several times after Tom went away, which he did as soon as this conversation was ended, taking Mr Tapley with him, who, as he laughingly said, might accompany him as far as Fleet Street without injury.

‘And what do you mean to do, Mark?’ asked Tom, as they walked on together.

‘Mean to do, sir?’ returned Mr Tapley.

‘Aye. What course of life do you mean to pursue?’

‘Well, sir,’ said Mr Tapley. ‘The fact is, that I have been a-thinking rather of the matrimonial line, sir.’

‘You don’t say so, Mark!’ cried Tom.

‘Yes, sir. I’ve been a-turnin’ of it over.’

‘And who is the lady, Mark?’

‘The which, sir?’ said Mr Tapley.

‘The lady. Come! You know what I said,’ replied Tom, laughing, ‘as well as I do!’

Mr Tapley suppressed his own inclination to laugh; and with one of his most whimsically-twisted looks, replied:

‘You couldn’t guess, I suppose, Mr Pinch?’

‘How is it possible?’ said Tom. ‘I don’t know any of your flames, Mark. Except Mrs Lupin, indeed.’

‘Well, sir!’ retorted Mr Tapley. ‘And supposing it was her!’

Tom stopping in the street to look at him, Mr Tapley for a moment presented to his view an utterly stolid and expressionless face; a perfect dead wall of countenance. But opening window after window in it with astonishing rapidity, and lighting them all up as for a general illumination, he repeated:

‘Supposin’, for the sake of argument, as it was her, sir!’

‘Why I thought such a connection wouldn’t suit you, Mark, on any terms!’ cried Tom.

‘Well, sir! I used to think so myself, once,’ said Mark. ‘But I ain’t so clear about it now. A dear, sweet creetur, sir!’

‘A dear, sweet creature? To be sure she is,’ cried Tom. ‘But she always was a dear, sweet creature, was she not?’

Was she not!’ assented Mr Tapley.

‘Then why on earth didn’t you marry her at first, Mark, instead of wandering abroad, and losing all this time, and leaving her alone by herself, liable to be courted by other people?’

‘Why, sir,’ retorted Mr Tapley, in a spirit of unbounded confidence, ‘I’ll tell you how it come about. You know me, Mr Pinch, sir; there ain’t a gentleman alive as knows me better. You’re acquainted with my constitution, and you’re acquainted with my weakness. My constitution is, to be jolly; and my weakness is, to wish to find a credit in it. Wery good, sir. In this state of mind, I gets a notion in my head that she looks on me with a eye of—with what you may call a favourable sort of a eye in fact,’ said Mr Tapley, with modest hesitation.

‘No doubt,’ replied Tom. ‘We knew that perfectly well when we spoke on this subject long ago; before you left the Dragon.’

Mr Tapley nodded assent. ‘Well, sir! But bein’ at that time full of hopeful wisions, I arrives at the conclusion that no credit is to be got out of such a way of life as that, where everything agreeable would be ready to one’s hand. Lookin’ on the bright side of human life in short, one of my hopeful wisions is, that there’s a deal of misery awaitin’ for me; in the midst of which I may come out tolerable strong, and be jolly under circumstances as reflects some credit. I goes into the world, sir, wery boyant, and I tries this. I goes aboard ship first, and wery soon discovers (by the ease with which I’m jolly, mind you) as there’s no credit to be got there. I might have took warning by this, and gave it up; but I didn’t. I gets to the U-nited States; and then I do begin, I won’t deny it, to feel some little credit in sustaining my spirits. What follows? Jest as I’m a-beginning to come out, and am a-treadin’ on the werge, my master deceives me.’

‘Deceives you!’ cried Tom.

‘Swindles me,’ retorted Mr Tapley with a beaming face. ‘Turns his back on everything as made his service a creditable one, and leaves me high and dry, without a leg to stand upon. In which state I returns home. Wery good. Then all my hopeful wisions bein’ crushed; and findin’ that there ain’t no credit for me nowhere; I abandons myself to despair, and says, “Let me do that as has the least credit in it of all; marry a dear, sweet creetur, as is wery fond of me; me bein’, at the same time, wery fond of her; lead a happy life, and struggle no more again’ the blight which settles on my prospects.”’

‘If your philosophy, Mark,’ said Tom, who laughed heartily at this speech, ‘be the oddest I ever heard of, it is not the least wise. Mrs Lupin has said “yes,” of course?’

‘Why, no, sir,’ replied Mr Tapley; ‘she hasn’t gone so far as that yet. Which I attribute principally to my not havin’ asked her. But we was wery agreeable together—comfortable, I may say—the night I come home. It’s all right, sir.’

‘Well!’ said Tom, stopping at the Temple Gate. ‘I wish you joy, Mark, with all my heart. I shall see you again to-day, I dare say. Good-bye for the present.’

‘Good-bye, sir! Good-bye, Mr Pinch!’ he added by way of soliloquy, as he stood looking after him. ‘Although you are a damper to a honourable ambition. You little think it, but you was the first to dash my hopes. Pecksniff would have built me up for life, but your sweet temper pulled me down. Good-bye, Mr Pinch!’

While these confidences were interchanged between Tom Pinch and Mark, Martin and John Westlock were very differently engaged. They were no sooner left alone together than Martin said, with an effort he could not disguise:

‘Mr Westlock, we have met only once before, but you have known Tom a long while, and that seems to render you familiar to me. I cannot talk freely with you on any subject unless I relieve my mind of what oppresses it just now. I see with pain that you so far mistrust me that you think me likely to impose on Tom’s regardlessness of himself, or on his kind nature, or some of his good qualities.’

‘I had no intention,’ replied John, ‘of conveying any such impression to you, and am exceedingly sorry to have done so.’

‘But you entertain it?’ said Martin.

‘You ask me so pointedly and directly,’ returned the other, ‘that I cannot deny the having accustomed myself to regard you as one who, not in wantonness but in mere thoughtlessness of character, did not sufficiently consider his nature and did not quite treat it as it deserves to be treated. It is much easier to slight than to appreciate Tom Pinch.’

This was not said warmly, but was energetically spoken too; for there was no subject in the world (but one) on which the speaker felt so strongly.

‘I grew into the knowledge of Tom,’ he pursued, ‘as I grew towards manhood; and I have learned to love him as something, infinitely better than myself. I did not think that you understood him when we met before. I did not think that you greatly cared to understand him. The instances of this which I observed in you were, like my opportunities for observation, very trivial—and were very harmless, I dare say. But they were not agreeable to me, and they forced themselves upon me; for I was not upon the watch for them, believe me. You will say,’ added John, with a smile, as he subsided into more of his accustomed manner, ‘that I am not by any means agreeable to you. I can only assure you, in reply, that I would not have originated this topic on any account.’

‘I originated it,’ said Martin; ‘and so far from having any complaint to make against you, highly esteem the friendship you entertain for Tom, and the very many proofs you have given him of it. Why should I endeavour to conceal from you’—he coloured deeply though—‘that I neither understood him nor cared to understand him when I was his companion; and that I am very truly sorry for it now!’

It was so sincerely said, at once so modestly and manfully, that John offered him his hand as if he had not done so before; and Martin giving his in the same open spirit, all constraint between the young men vanished.

‘Now pray,’ said John, ‘when I tire your patience very much in what I am going to say, recollect that it has an end to it, and that the end is the point of the story.’

With this preface, he related all the circumstances connected with his having presided over the illness and slow recovery of the patient at the Bull; and tacked on to the skirts of that narrative Tom’s own account of the business on the wharf. Martin was not a little puzzled when he came to an end, for the two stories seemed to have no connection with each other, and to leave him, as the phrase is, all abroad.

‘If you will excuse me for one moment,’ said John, rising, ‘I will beg you almost immediately to come into the next room.’

Upon that, he left Martin to himself, in a state of considerable astonishment; and soon came back again to fulfil his promise. Accompanying him into the next room, Martin found there a third person; no doubt the stranger of whom his host had spoken when Tom Pinch introduced him.

He was a young man; with deep black hair and eyes. He was gaunt and pale; and evidently had not long recovered from a severe illness. He stood as Martin entered, but sat again at John’s desire. His eyes were cast downward; and but for one glance at them both, half in humiliation and half in entreaty, he kept them so, and sat quite still and silent.

‘This person’s name is Lewsome,’ said John Westlock, ‘whom I have mentioned to you as having been seized with an illness at the inn near here, and undergone so much. He has had a very hard time of it, ever since he began to recover; but, as you see, he is now doing well.’

As he did not move or speak, and John Westlock made a pause, Martin, not knowing what to say, said that he was glad to hear it.

‘The short statement that I wish you to hear from his own lips, Mr Chuzzlewit,’ John pursued—looking attentively at him, and not at Martin—‘he made to me for the first time yesterday, and repeated to me this morning, without the least variation of any essential particular. I have already told you that he informed me before he was removed from the Inn, that he had a secret to disclose to me which lay heavy on his mind. But, fluctuating between sickness and health and between his desire to relieve himself of it, and his dread of involving himself by revealing it, he has, until yesterday, avoided the disclosure. I never pressed him for it (having no idea of its weight or import, or of my right to do so), until within a few days past; when, understanding from him, on his own voluntary avowal, in a letter from the country, that it related to a person whose name was Jonas Chuzzlewit; and thinking that it might throw some light on that little mystery which made Tom anxious now and then; I urged the point upon him, and heard his statement, as you will now, from his own lips. It is due to him to say, that in the apprehension of death, he committed it to writing sometime since, and folded it in a sealed paper, addressed to me; which he could not resolve, however, to place of his own act in my hands. He has the paper in his breast, I believe, at this moment.’

The young man touched it hastily; in corroboration of the fact.

‘It will be well to leave that in our charge, perhaps,’ said John. ‘But do not mind it now.’

As he said this, he held up his hand to bespeak Martin’s attention. It was already fixed upon the man before him, who, after a short silence said, in a low, weak, hollow voice:

‘What relation was Mr Anthony Chuzzlewit, who—’

‘—Who died—to me?’ said Martin. ‘He was my grandfather’s brother.’

‘I fear he was made away with. Murdered!’

‘My God!’ said Martin. ‘By whom?’

The young man, Lewsome, looked up in his face, and casting down his eyes again, replied:

‘I fear, by me.’

‘By you?’ cried Martin.

‘Not by my act, but I fear by my means.’

‘Speak out!’ said Martin, ‘and speak the truth.’

‘I fear this is the truth.’

Martin was about to interrupt him again, but John Westlock saying softly, ‘Let him tell his story in his own way,’ Lewsome went on thus:

‘I have been bred a surgeon, and for the last few years have served a general practitioner in the City, as his assistant. While I was in his employment I became acquainted with Jonas Chuzzlewit. He is the principal in this deed.’

‘What do you mean?’ demanded Martin, sternly. ‘Do you know he is the son of the old man of whom you have spoken?’

‘I do,’ he answered.

He remained silent for some moments, when he resumed at the point where he had left off.

‘I have reason to know it; for I have often heard him wish his old father dead, and complain of his being wearisome to him, and a drag upon him. He was in the habit of doing so, at a place of meeting we had—three or four of us—at night. There was no good in the place you may suppose, when you hear that he was the chief of the party. I wish I had died myself, and never seen it!’

He stopped again; and again resumed as before.

‘We met to drink and game; not for large sums, but for sums that were large to us. He generally won. Whether or no, he lent money at interest to those who lost; and in this way, though I think we all secretly hated him, he came to be the master of us. To propitiate him we made a jest of his father; it began with his debtors; I was one; and we used to toast a quicker journey to the old man, and a swift inheritance to the young one.’

He paused again.

‘One night he came there in a very bad humour. He had been greatly tried, he said, by the old man that day. He and I were alone together; and he angrily told me, that the old man was in his second childhood; that he was weak, imbecile, and drivelling; as unbearable to himself as he was to other people; and that it would be a charity to put him out of the way. He swore that he had often thought of mixing something with the stuff he took for his cough, which should help him to die easily. People were sometimes smothered who were bitten by mad dogs, he said; and why not help these lingering old men out of their troubles too? He looked full at me as he said so, and I looked full at him; but it went no farther that night.’

He stopped once more, and was silent for so long an interval that John Westlock said ‘Go on.’ Martin had never removed his eyes from his face, but was so absorbed in horror and astonishment that he could not speak.

‘It may have been a week after that, or it may have been less or more—the matter was in my mind all the time, but I cannot recollect the time, as I should any other period—when he spoke to me again. We were alone then, too; being there before the usual hour of assembling. There was no appointment between us; but I think I went there to meet him, and I know he came there to meet me. He was there first. He was reading a newspaper when I went in, and nodded to me without looking up, or leaving off reading. I sat down opposite and close to him. He said, immediately, that he wanted me to get him some of two sorts of drugs. One that was instantaneous in its effect; of which he wanted very little. One that was slow and not suspicious in appearance; of which he wanted more. While he was speaking to me he still read the newspaper. He said “Drugs,” and never used any other word. Neither did I.’

‘This all agrees with what I have heard before,’ observed John Westlock.

‘I asked him what he wanted the drugs for? He said for no harm; to physic cats; what did it matter to me? I was going out to a distant colony (I had recently got the appointment, which, as Mr Westlock knows, I have since lost by my sickness, and which was my only hope of salvation from ruin), and what did it matter to me? He could get them without my aid at half a hundred places, but not so easily as he could get them of me. This was true. He might not want them at all, he said, and he had no present idea of using them; but he wished to have them by him. All this time he still read the newspaper. We talked about the price. He was to forgive me a small debt—I was quite in his power—and to pay me five pounds; and there the matter dropped, through others coming in. But, next night, under exactly similar circumstances, I gave him the drugs, on his saying I was a fool to think that he should ever use them for any harm; and he gave me the money. We have never met since. I only know that the poor old father died soon afterwards, just as he would have died from this cause; and that I have undergone, and suffer now, intolerable misery. Nothing’ he added, stretching out his hands, ‘can paint my misery! It is well deserved, but nothing can paint it.’

With that he hung his head, and said no more, wasted and wretched, he was not a creature upon whom to heap reproaches that were unavailing.

‘Let him remain at hand,’ said Martin, turning from him; ‘but out of sight, in Heaven’s name!’

‘He will remain here,’ John whispered. ‘Come with me!’ Softly turning the key upon him as they went out, he conducted Martin into the adjoining room, in which they had been before.

Martin was so amazed, so shocked, and confounded by what he had heard that it was some time before he could reduce it to any order in his mind, or could sufficiently comprehend the bearing of one part upon another, to take in all the details at one view. When he, at length, had the whole narrative clearly before him, John Westlock went on to point out the great probability of the guilt of Jonas being known to other people, who traded in it for their own benefit, and who were, by such means, able to exert that control over him which Tom Pinch had accidentally witnessed, and unconsciously assisted. This appeared so plain, that they agreed upon it without difficulty; but instead of deriving the least assistance from this source, they found that it embarrassed them the more.

They knew nothing of the real parties who possessed this power. The only person before them was Tom’s landlord. They had no right to question Tom’s landlord, even if they could find him, which, according to Tom’s account, it would not be easy to do. And granting that they did question him, and he answered (which was taking a good deal for granted), he had only to say, with reference to the adventure on the wharf, that he had been sent from such and such a place to summon Jonas back on urgent business, and there was an end of it.

Besides, there was the great difficulty and responsibility of moving at all in the matter. Lewsome’s story might be false; in his wretched state it might be greatly heightened by a diseased brain; or admitting it to be entirely true, the old man might have died a natural death. Mr Pecksniff had been there at the time; as Tom immediately remembered, when he came back in the afternoon, and shared their counsels; and there had been no secrecy about it. Martin’s grandfather was of right the person to decide upon the course that should be taken; but to get at his views would be impossible, for Mr Pecksniff’s views were certain to be his. And the nature of Mr Pecksniff’s views in reference to his own son-in-law might be easily reckoned upon.

Apart from these considerations, Martin could not endure the thought of seeming to grasp at this unnatural charge against his relative, and using it as a stepping-stone to his grandfather’s favour. But that he would seem to do so, if he presented himself before his grandfather in Mr Pecksniff’s house again, for the purpose of declaring it; and that Mr Pecksniff, of all men, would represent his conduct in that despicable light, he perfectly well knew. On the other hand to be in possession of such a statement, and take no measures of further inquiry in reference to it, was tantamount to being a partner in the guilt it professed to disclose.

In a word, they were wholly unable to discover any outlet from this maze of difficulty, which did not lie through some perplexed and entangled thicket. And although Mr Tapley was promptly taken into their confidence; and the fertile imagination of that gentleman suggested many bold expedients, which, to do him justice, he was quite ready to carry into instant operation on his own personal responsibility; still ‘bating the general zeal of Mr Tapley’s nature, nothing was made particularly clearer by these offers of service.

It was in this position of affairs that Tom’s account of the strange behaviour of the decayed clerk, on the night of the tea-party, became of great moment, and finally convinced them that to arrive at a more accurate knowledge of the workings of that old man’s mind and memory, would be to take a most important stride in their pursuit of the truth. So, having first satisfied themselves that no communication had ever taken place between Lewsome and Mr Chuffey (which would have accounted at once for any suspicions the latter might entertain), they unanimously resolved that the old clerk was the man they wanted.

But, like the unanimous resolution of a public meeting, which will oftentimes declare that this or that grievance is not to be borne a moment longer, which is nevertheless borne for a century or two afterwards, without any modification, they only reached in this the conclusion that they were all of one mind. For it was one thing to want Mr Chuffey, and another thing to get at him; and to do that without alarming him, or without alarming Jonas, or without being discomfited by the difficulty of striking, in an instrument so out of tune and so unused, the note they sought, was an end as far from their reach as ever.

The question then became, who of those about the old clerk had had most influence with him that night? Tom said his young mistress clearly. But Tom and all of them shrunk from the thought of entrapping her, and making her the innocent means of bringing retribution on her cruel husband. Was there nobody else? Why yes. In a very different way, Tom said, he was influenced by Mrs Gamp, the nurse; who had once had the control of him, as he understood, for some time.

They caught at this immediately. Here was a new way out, developed in a quarter until then overlooked. John Westlock knew Mrs Gamp; he had given her employment; he was acquainted with her place of residence: for that good lady had obligingly furnished him, at parting, with a pack of her professional cards for general distribution. It was decided that Mrs Gamp should be approached with caution, but approached without delay; and that the depths of that discreet matron’s knowledge of Mr Chuffey, and means of bringing them, or one of them, into communication with him, should be carefully sounded.

On this service, Martin and John Westlock determined to proceed that night; waiting on Mrs Gamp first, at her lodgings; and taking their chance of finding her in the repose of private life, or of having to seek her out, elsewhere, in the exercise of her professional duties. Tom returned home, that he might lose no opportunity of having an interview with Nadgett, by being absent in the event of his reappearance. And Mr Tapley remained (by his own particular desire) for the time being in Furnival’s Inn, to look after Lewsome; who might safely have been left to himself, however, for any thought he seemed to entertain of giving them the slip.

Before they parted on their several errands, they caused him to read aloud, in the presence of them all, the paper which he had about him, and the declaration he had attached to it, which was to the effect that he had written it voluntarily, in the fear of death and in the torture of his mind. And when he had done so, they all signed it, and taking it from him, of his free will, locked it in a place of safety.

Martin also wrote, by John’s advice, a letter to the trustees of the famous Grammar School, boldly claiming the successful design as his, and charging Mr Pecksniff with the fraud he had committed. In this proceeding also, John was hotly interested; observing, with his usual irreverance, that Mr Pecksniff had been a successful rascal all his life through, and that it would be a lasting source of happiness to him (John) if he could help to do him justice in the smallest particular.

A busy day! But Martin had no lodgings yet; so when these matters were disposed of, he excused himself from dining with John Westlock and was fain to wander out alone, and look for some. He succeeded, after great trouble, in engaging two garrets for himself and Mark, situated in a court in the Strand, not far from Temple Bar. Their luggage, which was waiting for them at a coach-office, he conveyed to this new place of refuge; and it was with a glow of satisfaction, which as a selfish man he never could have known and never had, that, thinking how much pains and trouble he had saved Mark, and how pleased and astonished Mark would be, he afterwards walked up and down, in the Temple, eating a meat-pie for his dinner.



Mrs Gamp’s apartment in Kingsgate Street, High Holborn, wore, metaphorically speaking, a robe of state. It was swept and garnished for the reception of a visitor. That visitor was Betsey Prig; Mrs Prig, of Bartlemy’s; or as some said Barklemy’s, or as some said Bardlemy’s; for by all these endearing and familiar appellations, had the hospital of Saint Bartholomew become a household word among the sisterhood which Betsey Prig adorned.

Mrs Gamp’s apartment was not a spacious one, but, to a contented mind, a closet is a palace; and the first-floor front at Mr Sweedlepipe’s may have been, in the imagination of Mrs Gamp, a stately pile. If it were not exactly that, to restless intellects, it at least comprised as much accommodation as any person, not sanguine to insanity, could have looked for in a room of its dimensions. For only keep the bedstead always in your mind; and you were safe. That was the grand secret. Remembering the bedstead, you might even stoop to look under the little round table for anything you had dropped, without hurting yourself much against the chest of drawers, or qualifying as a patient of Saint Bartholomew, by falling into the fire.

Visitors were much assisted in their cautious efforts to preserve an unflagging recollection of this piece of furniture, by its size; which was great. It was not a turn-up bedstead, nor yet a French bedstead, nor yet a four-post bedstead, but what is poetically called a tent; the sacking whereof was low and bulgy, insomuch that Mrs Gamp’s box would not go under it, but stopped half-way, in a manner which, while it did violence to the reason, likewise endangered the legs of a stranger. The frame too, which would have supported the canopy and hangings if there had been any, was ornamented with divers pippins carved in timber, which on the slightest provocation, and frequently on none at all, came tumbling down; harassing the peaceful guest with inexplicable terrors.

The bed itself was decorated with a patchwork quilt of great antiquity; and at the upper end, upon the side nearest to the door, hung a scanty curtain of blue check, which prevented the Zephyrs that were abroad in Kingsgate Street, from visiting Mrs Gamp’s head too roughly. Some rusty gowns and other articles of that lady’s wardrobe depended from the posts; and these had so adapted themselves by long usage to her figure, that more than one impatient husband coming in precipitately, at about the time of twilight, had been for an instant stricken dumb by the supposed discovery that Mrs Gamp had hanged herself. One gentleman, coming on the usual hasty errand, had said indeed, that they looked like guardian angels ‘watching of her in her sleep.’ But that, as Mrs Gamp said, ‘was his first;’ and he never repeated the sentiment, though he often repeated his visit.

The chairs in Mrs Gamp’s apartment were extremely large and broad-backed, which was more than a sufficient reason for there being but two in number. They were both elbow-chairs, of ancient mahogany; and were chiefly valuable for the slippery nature of their seats, which had been originally horsehair, but were now covered with a shiny substance of a bluish tint, from which the visitor began to slide away with a dismayed countenance, immediately after sitting down. What Mrs Gamp wanted in chairs she made up in bandboxes; of which she had a great collection, devoted to the reception of various miscellaneous valuables, which were not, however, as well protected as the good woman, by a pleasant fiction, seemed to think; for, though every bandbox had a carefully closed lid, not one among them had a bottom; owing to which cause the property within was merely, as it were, extinguished. The chest of drawers having been originally made to stand upon the top of another chest, had a dwarfish, elfin look, alone; but in regard of its security it had a great advantage over the bandboxes, for as all the handles had been long ago pulled off, it was very difficult to get at its contents. This indeed was only to be done by one or two devices; either by tilting the whole structure forward until all the drawers fell out together, or by opening them singly with knives, like oysters.

Mrs Gamp stored all her household matters in a little cupboard by the fire-place; beginning below the surface (as in nature) with the coals, and mounting gradually upwards to the spirits, which, from motives of delicacy, she kept in a teapot. The chimney-piece was ornamented with a small almanack, marked here and there in Mrs Gamp’s own hand with a memorandum of the date at which some lady was expected to fall due. It was also embellished with three profiles: one, in colours, of Mrs Gamp herself in early life; one, in bronze, of a lady in feathers, supposed to be Mrs Harris, as she appeared when dressed for a ball; and one, in black, of Mr Gamp, deceased. The last was a full length, in order that the likeness might be rendered more obvious and forcible by the introduction of the wooden leg.

A pair of bellows, a pair of pattens, a toasting-fork, a kettle, a pap-boat, a spoon for the administration of medicine to the refractory, and lastly, Mrs Gamp’s umbrella, which as something of great price and rarity, was displayed with particular ostentation, completed the decorations of the chimney-piece and adjacent wall. Towards these objects Mrs Gamp raised her eyes in satisfaction when she had arranged the tea-board, and had concluded her arrangements for the reception of Betsey Prig, even unto the setting forth of two pounds of Newcastle salmon, intensely pickled.

‘There! Now drat you, Betsey, don’t be long!’ said Mrs Gamp, apostrophizing her absent friend. ‘For I can’t abear to wait, I do assure you. To wotever place I goes, I sticks to this one mortar, “I’m easy pleased; it is but little as I wants; but I must have that little of the best, and to the minute when the clock strikes, else we do not part as I could wish, but bearin’ malice in our arts.”’

Her own preparations were of the best, for they comprehended a delicate new loaf, a plate of fresh butter, a basin of fine white sugar, and other arrangements on the same scale. Even the snuff with which she now refreshed herself, was so choice in quality that she took a second pinch.

‘There’s the little bell a-ringing now,’ said Mrs Gamp, hurrying to the stair-head and looking over. ‘Betsey Prig, my—why it’s that there disapintin’ Sweedlepipes, I do believe.’

‘Yes, it’s me,’ said the barber in a faint voice; ‘I’ve just come in.’

‘You’re always a-comin’ in, I think,’ muttered Mrs Gamp to herself, ‘except wen you’re a-goin’ out. I ha’n’t no patience with that man!’

‘Mrs Gamp,’ said the barber. ‘I say! Mrs Gamp!’

‘Well,’ cried Mrs Gamp, impatiently, as she descended the stairs. ‘What is it? Is the Thames a-fire, and cooking its own fish, Mr Sweedlepipes? Why wot’s the man gone and been a-doin’ of to himself? He’s as white as chalk!’

She added the latter clause of inquiry, when she got downstairs, and found him seated in the shaving-chair, pale and disconsolate.

‘You recollect,’ said Poll. ‘You recollect young—’

‘Not young Wilkins!’ cried Mrs Gamp. ‘Don’t say young Wilkins, wotever you do. If young Wilkins’s wife is took—’

‘It isn’t anybody’s wife,’ exclaimed the little barber. ‘Bailey, young Bailey!’

‘Why, wot do you mean to say that chit’s been a-doin’ of?’ retorted Mrs Gamp, sharply. ‘Stuff and nonsense, Mrs Sweedlepipes!’

‘He hasn’t been a-doing anything!’ exclaimed poor Poll, quite desperate. ‘What do you catch me up so short for, when you see me put out to that extent that I can hardly speak? He’ll never do anything again. He’s done for. He’s killed. The first time I ever see that boy,’ said Poll, ‘I charged him too much for a red-poll. I asked him three-halfpence for a penny one, because I was afraid he’d beat me down. But he didn’t. And now he’s dead; and if you was to crowd all the steam-engines and electric fluids that ever was, into this shop, and set ‘em every one to work their hardest, they couldn’t square the account, though it’s only a ha’penny!’

Mr Sweedlepipe turned aside to the towel, and wiped his eyes with it.

‘And what a clever boy he was!’ he said. ‘What a surprising young chap he was! How he talked! and what a deal he know’d! Shaved in this very chair he was; only for fun; it was all his fun; he was full of it. Ah! to think that he’ll never be shaved in earnest! The birds might every one have died, and welcome,’ cried the little barber, looking round him at the cages, and again applying to the towel, ‘sooner than I’d have heard this news!’

‘How did you ever come to hear it?’ said Mrs Gamp, ‘who told you?’

‘I went out,’ returned the little barber, ‘into the City, to meet a sporting gent upon the Stock Exchange, that wanted a few slow pigeons to practice at; and when I’d done with him, I went to get a little drop of beer, and there I heard everybody a-talking about it. It’s in the papers.’

‘You are in a nice state of confugion, Mr Sweedlepipes, you are!’ said Mrs Gamp, shaking her head; ‘and my opinion is, as half-a-dudgeon fresh young lively leeches on your temples, wouldn’t be too much to clear your mind, which so I tell you. Wot were they a-talkin’ on, and wot was in the papers?’

‘All about it!’ cried the barber. ‘What else do you suppose? Him and his master were upset on a journey, and he was carried to Salisbury, and was breathing his last when the account came away. He never spoke afterwards. Not a single word. That’s the worst of it to me; but that ain’t all. His master can’t be found. The other manager of their office in the city, Crimple, David Crimple, has gone off with the money, and is advertised for, with a reward, upon the walls. Mr Montague, poor young Bailey’s master (what a boy he was!) is advertised for, too. Some say he’s slipped off, to join his friend abroad; some say he mayn’t have got away yet; and they’re looking for him high and low. Their office is a smash; a swindle altogether. But what’s a Life Assurance office to a Life! And what a Life Young Bailey’s was!’

‘He was born into a wale,’ said Mrs Gamp, with philosophical coolness. ‘and he lived in a wale; and he must take the consequences of sech a sitiwation. But don’t you hear nothink of Mr Chuzzlewit in all this?’

‘No,’ said Poll, ‘nothing to speak of. His name wasn’t printed as one of the board, though some people say it was just going to be. Some believe he was took in, and some believe he was one of the takers-in; but however that may be, they can’t prove nothing against him. This morning he went up of his own accord afore the Lord Mayor or some of them City big-wigs, and complained that he’d been swindled, and that these two persons had gone off and cheated him, and that he had just found out that Montague’s name wasn’t even Montague, but something else. And they do say that he looked like Death, owing to his losses. But, Lord forgive me,’ cried the barber, coming back again to the subject of his individual grief, ‘what’s his looks to me! He might have died and welcome, fifty times, and not been such a loss as Bailey!’

At this juncture the little bell rang, and the deep voice of Mrs Prig struck into the conversation.

‘Oh! You’re a-talkin’ about it, are you!’ observed that lady. ‘Well, I hope you’ve got it over, for I ain’t interested in it myself.’

‘My precious Betsey,’ said Mrs Gamp, ‘how late you are!’

The worthy Mrs Prig replied, with some asperity, ‘that if perwerse people went off dead, when they was least expected, it warn’t no fault of her’n.’ And further, ‘that it was quite aggrawation enough to be made late when one was dropping for one’s tea, without hearing on it again.’

Mrs Gamp, deriving from this exhibition of repartee some clue to the state of Mrs Prig’s feelings, instantly conducted her upstairs; deeming that the sight of pickled salmon might work a softening change.

But Betsey Prig expected pickled salmon. It was obvious that she did; for her first words, after glancing at the table, were:

‘I know’d she wouldn’t have a cowcumber!’

Mrs Gamp changed colour, and sat down upon the bedstead.

‘Lord bless you, Betsey Prig, your words is true. I quite forgot it!’

Mrs Prig, looking steadfastly at her friend, put her hand in her pocket, and with an air of surly triumph drew forth either the oldest of lettuces or youngest of cabbages, but at any rate, a green vegetable of an expansive nature, and of such magnificent proportions that she was obliged to shut it up like an umbrella before she could pull it out. She also produced a handful of mustard and cress, a trifle of the herb called dandelion, three bunches of radishes, an onion rather larger than an average turnip, three substantial slices of beetroot, and a short prong or antler of celery; the whole of this garden-stuff having been publicly exhibited, but a short time before, as a twopenny salad, and purchased by Mrs Prig on condition that the vendor could get it all into her pocket. Which had been happily accomplished, in High Holborn, to the breathless interest of a hackney-coach stand. And she laid so little stress on this surprising forethought, that she did not even smile, but returning her pocket into its accustomed sphere, merely recommended that these productions of nature should be sliced up, for immediate consumption, in plenty of vinegar.

‘And don’t go a-droppin’ none of your snuff in it,’ said Mrs Prig. ‘In gruel, barley-water, apple-tea, mutton-broth, and that, it don’t signify. It stimulates a patient. But I don’t relish it myself.’

‘Why, Betsey Prig!’ cried Mrs Gamp, ‘how can you talk so!’

‘Why, ain’t your patients, wotever their diseases is, always asneezin’ their wery heads off, along of your snuff?’ said Mrs Prig.

‘And wot if they are!’ said Mrs Gamp

‘Nothing if they are,’ said Mrs Prig. ‘But don’t deny it, Sairah.’

‘Who deniges of it?’ Mrs Gamp inquired.

Mrs Prig returned no answer.

Who deniges of it, Betsey?’ Mrs Gamp inquired again. Then Mrs Gamp, by reversing the question, imparted a deeper and more awful character of solemnity to the same. ‘Betsey, who deniges of it?’

It was the nearest possible approach to a very decided difference of opinion between these ladies; but Mrs Prig’s impatience for the meal being greater at the moment than her impatience of contradiction, she replied, for the present, ‘Nobody, if you don’t, Sairah,’ and prepared herself for tea. For a quarrel can be taken up at any time, but a limited quantity of salmon cannot.

Her toilet was simple. She had merely to ‘chuck’ her bonnet and shawl upon the bed; give her hair two pulls, one upon the right side and one upon the left, as if she were ringing a couple of bells; and all was done. The tea was already made, Mrs Gamp was not long over the salad, and they were soon at the height of their repast.

The temper of both parties was improved, for the time being, by the enjoyments of the table. When the meal came to a termination (which it was pretty long in doing), and Mrs Gamp having cleared away, produced the teapot from the top shelf, simultaneously with a couple of wine-glasses, they were quite amiable.

‘Betsey,’ said Mrs Gamp, filling her own glass and passing the teapot, ‘I will now propoge a toast. My frequent pardner, Betsey Prig!’

‘Which, altering the name to Sairah Gamp; I drink,’ said Mrs Prig, ‘with love and tenderness.’

From this moment symptoms of inflammation began to lurk in the nose of each lady; and perhaps, notwithstanding all appearances to the contrary, in the temper also.

‘Now, Sairah,’ said Mrs Prig, ‘joining business with pleasure, wot is this case in which you wants me?’

Mrs Gamp betraying in her face some intention of returning an evasive answer, Betsey added:

Is it Mrs Harris?’

‘No, Betsey Prig, it ain’t,’ was Mrs Gamp’s reply.

‘Well!’ said Mrs Prig, with a short laugh. ‘I’m glad of that, at any rate.’

‘Why should you be glad of that, Betsey?’ Mrs Gamp retorted, warmly. ‘She is unbeknown to you except by hearsay, why should you be glad? If you have anythink to say contrairy to the character of Mrs Harris, which well I knows behind her back, afore her face, or anywheres, is not to be impeaged, out with it, Betsey. I have know’d that sweetest and best of women,’ said Mrs Gamp, shaking her head, and shedding tears, ‘ever since afore her First, which Mr Harris who was dreadful timid went and stopped his ears in a empty dog-kennel, and never took his hands away or come out once till he was showed the baby, wen bein’ took with fits, the doctor collared him and laid him on his back upon the airy stones, and she was told to ease her mind, his owls was organs. And I have know’d her, Betsey Prig, when he has hurt her feelin’ art by sayin’ of his Ninth that it was one too many, if not two, while that dear innocent was cooin’ in his face, which thrive it did though bandy, but I have never know’d as you had occagion to be glad, Betsey, on accounts of Mrs Harris not requiring you. Require she never will, depend upon it, for her constant words in sickness is, and will be, “Send for Sairey?”’

During this touching address, Mrs Prig adroitly feigning to be the victim of that absence of mind which has its origin in excessive attention to one topic, helped herself from the teapot without appearing to observe it. Mrs Gamp observed it, however, and came to a premature close in consequence.

‘Well, it ain’t her, it seems,’ said Mrs Prig, coldly; ‘who is it then?’

‘You have heerd me mention, Betsey,’ Mrs Gamp replied, after glancing in an expressive and marked manner at the tea-pot, ‘a person as I took care on at the time as you and me was pardners off and on, in that there fever at the Bull?’

‘Old Snuffey,’ Mrs Prig observed.

Sarah Gamp looked at her with an eye of fire, for she saw in this mistake of Mrs Prig, another willful and malignant stab at that same weakness or custom of hers, an ungenerous allusion to which, on the part of Betsey, had first disturbed their harmony that evening. And she saw it still more clearly, when, politely but firmly correcting that lady by the distinct enunciation of the word ‘Chuffey,’ Mrs Prig received the correction with a diabolical laugh.

The best among us have their failings, and it must be conceded of Mrs Prig, that if there were a blemish in the goodness of her disposition, it was a habit she had of not bestowing all its sharp and acid properties upon her patients (as a thoroughly amiable woman would have done), but of keeping a considerable remainder for the service of her friends. Highly pickled salmon, and lettuces chopped up in vinegar, may, as viands possessing some acidity of their own, have encouraged and increased this failing in Mrs Prig; and every application to the teapot certainly did; for it was often remarked of her by her friends, that she was most contradictory when most elevated. It is certain that her countenance became about this time derisive and defiant, and that she sat with her arms folded, and one eye shut up, in a somewhat offensive, because obstrusively intelligent, manner.

Mrs Gamp observing this, felt it the more necessary that Mrs Prig should know her place, and be made sensible of her exact station in society, as well as of her obligations to herself. She therefore assumed an air of greater patronage and importance, as she went on to answer Mrs Prig a little more in detail.

‘Mr Chuffey, Betsey,’ said Mrs Gamp, ‘is weak in his mind. Excuge me if I makes remark, that he may neither be so weak as people thinks, nor people may not think he is so weak as they pretends, and what I knows, I knows; and what you don’t, you don’t; so do not ask me, Betsey. But Mr Chuffey’s friends has made propojals for his bein’ took care on, and has said to me, “Mrs Gamp, will you undertake it? We couldn’t think,” they says, “of trusting him to nobody but you, for, Sairey, you are gold as has passed the furnage. Will you undertake it, at your own price, day and night, and by your own self?” “No,” I says, “I will not. Do not reckon on it. There is,” I says, “but one creetur in the world as I would undertake on sech terms, and her name is Harris. But,” I says, “I am acquainted with a friend, whose name is Betsey Prig, that I can recommend, and will assist me. Betsey,” I says, “is always to be trusted under me, and will be guided as I could desire.”’

Here Mrs Prig, without any abatement of her offensive manner again counterfeited abstraction of mind, and stretched out her hand to the teapot. It was more than Mrs Gamp could bear. She stopped the hand of Mrs Prig with her own, and said, with great feeling:

‘No, Betsey! Drink fair, wotever you do!’

Mrs Prig, thus baffled, threw herself back in her chair, and closing the same eye more emphatically, and folding her arms tighter, suffered her head to roll slowly from side to side, while she surveyed her friend with a contemptuous smile.

Mrs Gamp resumed:

‘Mrs Harris, Betsey—’

‘Bother Mrs Harris!’ said Betsey Prig.

Mrs Gamp looked at her with amazement, incredulity, and indignation; when Mrs Prig, shutting her eye still closer, and folding her arms still tighter, uttered these memorable and tremendous words:

‘I don’t believe there’s no sich a person!’

After the utterance of which expressions, she leaned forward, and snapped her fingers once, twice, thrice; each time nearer to the face of Mrs Gamp, and then rose to put on her bonnet, as one who felt that there was now a gulf between them, which nothing could ever bridge across.

The shock of this blow was so violent and sudden, that Mrs Gamp sat staring at nothing with uplifted eyes, and her mouth open as if she were gasping for breath, until Betsey Prig had put on her bonnet and her shawl, and was gathering the latter about her throat. Then Mrs Gamp rose—morally and physically rose—and denounced her.

‘What!’ said Mrs Gamp, ‘you bage creetur, have I know’d Mrs Harris five and thirty year, to be told at last that there ain’t no sech a person livin’! Have I stood her friend in all her troubles, great and small, for it to come at last to sech a end as this, which her own sweet picter hanging up afore you all the time, to shame your Bragian words! But well you mayn’t believe there’s no sech a creetur, for she wouldn’t demean herself to look at you, and often has she said, when I have made mention of your name, which, to my sinful sorrow, I have done, “What, Sairey Gamp! debage yourself to her!” Go along with you!’

‘I’m a-goin’, ma’am, ain’t I?’ said Mrs Prig, stopping as she said it.

‘You had better, ma’am,’ said Mrs Gamp.

‘Do you know who you’re talking to, ma’am?’ inquired her visitor.

‘Aperiently,’ said Mrs Gamp, surveying her with scorn from head to foot, ‘to Betsey Prig. Aperiently so. I know her. No one better. Go along with you!’

‘And you was a-goin’ to take me under you!’ cried Mrs Prig, surveying Mrs Gamp from head to foot in her turn. ‘You was, was you? Oh, how kind! Why, deuce take your imperence,’ said Mrs Prig, with a rapid change from banter to ferocity, ‘what do you mean?’

‘Go along with you!’ said Mrs Gamp. ‘I blush for you.’

‘You had better blush a little for yourself, while you are about it!’ said Mrs Prig. ‘You and your Chuffeys! What, the poor old creetur isn’t mad enough, isn’t he? Aha!’

‘He’d very soon be mad enough, if you had anything to do with him,’ said Mrs Gamp.

‘And that’s what I was wanted for, is it?’ cried Mrs Prig, triumphantly. ‘Yes. But you’ll find yourself deceived. I won’t go near him. We shall see how you get on without me. I won’t have nothink to do with him.’

‘You never spoke a truer word than that!’ said Mrs Gamp. ‘Go along with you!’

She was prevented from witnessing the actual retirement of Mrs Prig from the room, notwithstanding the great desire she had expressed to behold it, by that lady, in her angry withdrawal, coming into contact with the bedstead, and bringing down the previously mentioned pippins; three or four of which came rattling on the head of Mrs Gamp so smartly, that when she recovered from this wooden shower-bath, Mrs Prig was gone.

She had the satisfaction, however, of hearing the deep voice of Betsey, proclaiming her injuries and her determination to have nothing to do with Mr Chuffey, down the stairs, and along the passage, and even out in Kingsgate Street. Likewise of seeing in her own apartment, in the place of Mrs Prig, Mr Sweedlepipe and two gentlemen.

‘Why, bless my life!’ exclaimed the little barber, ‘what’s amiss? The noise you ladies have been making, Mrs Gamp! Why, these two gentlemen have been standing on the stairs, outside the door, nearly all the time, trying to make you hear, while you were pelting away, hammer and tongs! It’ll be the death of the little bullfinch in the shop, that draws his own water. In his fright, he’s been a-straining himself all to bits, drawing more water than he could drink in a twelvemonth. He must have thought it was Fire!’

Mrs Gamp had in the meanwhile sunk into her chair, from whence, turning up her overflowing eyes, and clasping her hands, she delivered the following lamentation:

‘Oh, Mr Sweedlepipes, which Mr Westlock also, if my eyes do not deceive, and a friend not havin’ the pleasure of bein’ beknown, wot I have took from Betsey Prig this blessed night, no mortial creetur knows! If she had abuged me, bein’ in liquor, which I thought I smelt her wen she come, but could not so believe, not bein’ used myself’—Mrs Gamp, by the way, was pretty far gone, and the fragrance of the teapot was strong in the room—‘I could have bore it with a thankful art. But the words she spoke of Mrs Harris, lambs could not forgive. No, Betsey!’ said Mrs Gamp, in a violent burst of feeling, ‘nor worms forget!’

The little barber scratched his head, and shook it, and looked at the teapot, and gradually got out of the room. John Westlock, taking a chair, sat down on one side of Mrs Gamp. Martin, taking the foot of the bed, supported her on the other.

‘You wonder what we want, I daresay,’ observed John. ‘I’ll tell you presently, when you have recovered. It’s not pressing, for a few minutes or so. How do you find yourself? Better?’

Mrs Gamp shed more tears, shook her head and feebly pronounced Mrs Harris’s name.

‘Have a little—’ John was at a loss what to call it.

‘Tea,’ suggested Martin.

‘It ain’t tea,’ said Mrs Gamp.

‘Physic of some sort, I suppose,’ cried John. ‘Have a little.’

Mrs Gamp was prevailed upon to take a glassful. ‘On condition,’ she passionately observed, ‘as Betsey never has another stroke of work from me.’

‘Certainly not,’ said John. ‘She shall never help to nurse me.’

‘To think,’ said Mrs Gamp, ‘as she should ever have helped to nuss that friend of yourn, and been so near of hearing things that—Ah!’

John looked at Martin.

‘Yes,’ he said. ‘That was a narrow escape, Mrs Gamp.’

‘Narrer, in-deed!’ she returned. ‘It was only my having the night, and hearin’ of him in his wanderins; and her the day, that saved it. Wot would she have said and done, if she had know’d what I know; that perfeejus wretch! Yet, oh good gracious me!’ cried Mrs Gamp, trampling on the floor, in the absence of Mrs Prig, ‘that I should hear from that same woman’s lips what I have heerd her speak of Mrs Harris!’

‘Never mind,’ said John. ‘You know it is not true.’

‘Isn’t true!’ cried Mrs Gamp. ‘True! Don’t I know as that dear woman is expecting of me at this minnit, Mr Westlock, and is a-lookin’ out of window down the street, with little Tommy Harris in her arms, as calls me his own Gammy, and truly calls, for bless the mottled little legs of that there precious child (like Canterbury Brawn his own dear father says, which so they are) his own I have been, ever since I found him, Mr Westlock, with his small red worsted shoe a-gurglin’ in his throat, where he had put it in his play, a chick, wile they was leavin’ of him on the floor a-lookin’ for it through the ouse and him a-choakin’ sweetly in the parlour! Oh, Betsey Prig, what wickedness you’ve showed this night, but never shall you darken Sairey’s doors agen, you twining serpiant!’

‘You were always so kind to her, too!’ said John, consolingly.

‘That’s the cutting part. That’s where it hurts me, Mr Westlock,’ Mrs Gamp replied; holding out her glass unconsciously, while Martin filled it.

‘Chosen to help you with Mr Lewsome!’ said John. ‘Chosen to help you with Mr Chuffey!’

‘Chose once, but chose no more,’ cried Mrs Gamp. ‘No pardnership with Betsey Prig agen, sir!’

‘No, no,’ said John. ‘That would never do.’

‘I don’t know as it ever would have done, sir,’ Mrs Gamp replied, with a solemnity peculiar to a certain stage of intoxication. ‘Now that the marks,’ by which Mrs Gamp is supposed to have meant mask, ‘is off that creetur’s face, I do not think it ever would have done. There are reagions in families for keeping things a secret, Mr Westlock, and havin’ only them about you as you knows you can repoge in. Who could repoge in Betsey Prig, arter her words of Mrs Harris, setting in that chair afore my eyes!’

‘Quite true,’ said John; ‘quite. I hope you have time to find another assistant, Mrs Gamp?’

Between her indignation and the teapot, her powers of comprehending what was said to her began to fail. She looked at John with tearful eyes, and murmuring the well-remembered name which Mrs Prig had challenged—as if it were a talisman against all earthly sorrows—seemed to wander in her mind.

‘I hope,’ repeated John, ‘that you have time to find another assistant?’

‘Which short it is, indeed,’ cried Mrs Gamp, turning up her languid eyes, and clasping Mr Westlock’s wrist with matronly affection. ‘To-morrow evenin’, sir, I waits upon his friends. Mr Chuzzlewit apinted it from nine to ten.’

‘From nine to ten,’ said John, with a significant glance at Martin. ‘and then Mr Chuffey retires into safe keeping, does he?’

‘He needs to be kep safe, I do assure you,’ Mrs Gamp replied with a mysterious air. ‘Other people besides me has had a happy deliverance from Betsey Prig. I little know’d that woman. She’d have let it out!’

‘Let him out, you mean,’ said John.

‘Do I!’ retorted Mrs Gamp. ‘Oh!’

The severely ironical character of this reply was strengthened by a very slow nod, and a still slower drawing down of the corners of Mrs Gamp’s mouth. She added with extreme stateliness of manner after indulging in a short doze:

‘But I am a-keepin’ of you gentlemen, and time is precious.’

Mingling with that delusion of the teapot which inspired her with the belief that they wanted her to go somewhere immediately, a shrewd avoidance of any further reference to the topics into which she had lately strayed, Mrs Gamp rose; and putting away the teapot in its accustomed place, and locking the cupboard with much gravity proceeded to attire herself for a professional visit.

This preparation was easily made, as it required nothing more than the snuffy black bonnet, the snuffy black shawl, the pattens and the indispensable umbrella, without which neither a lying-in nor a laying-out could by any possibility be attempted. When Mrs Gamp had invested herself with these appendages she returned to her chair, and sitting down again, declared herself quite ready.

‘It’s a ‘appiness to know as one can benefit the poor sweet creetur,’ she observed, ‘I’m sure. It isn’t all as can. The torters Betsey Prig inflicts is frightful!’

Closing her eyes as she made this remark, in the acuteness of her commiseration for Betsey’s patients, she forgot to open them again until she dropped a patten. Her nap was also broken at intervals like the fabled slumbers of Friar Bacon, by the dropping of the other patten, and of the umbrella. But when she had got rid of those incumbrances, her sleep was peaceful.

The two young men looked at each other, ludicrously enough; and Martin, stifling his disposition to laugh, whispered in John Westlock’s ear,

‘What shall we do now?’

‘Stay here,’ he replied.

Mrs Gamp was heard to murmur ‘Mrs Harris’ in her sleep.

‘Rely upon it,’ whispered John, looking cautiously towards her, ‘that you shall question this old clerk, though you go as Mrs Harris herself. We know quite enough to carry her our own way now, at all events; thanks to this quarrel, which confirms the old saying that when rogues fall out, honest people get what they want. Let Jonas Chuzzlewit look to himself; and let her sleep as long as she likes. We shall gain our end in good time.’



It was the next evening; and Tom and his sister were sitting together before tea, talking, in their usual quiet way, about a great many things, but not at all about Lewsome’s story or anything connected with it; for John Westlock—really John, for so young a man, was one of the most considerate fellows in the world—had particularly advised Tom not to mention it to his sister just yet, in case it should disquiet her. ‘And I wouldn’t, Tom,’ he said, with a little hesitation, ‘I wouldn’t have a shadow on her happy face, or an uneasy thought in her gentle heart, for all the wealth and honours of the universe!’ Really John was uncommonly kind; extraordinarily kind. If he had been her father, Tom said, he could not have taken a greater interest in her.

But although Tom and his sister were extremely conversational, they were less lively, and less cheerful, than usual. Tom had no idea that this originated with Ruth, but took it for granted that he was rather dull himself. In truth he was; for the lightest cloud upon the Heaven of her quiet mind, cast its shadow upon Tom.

And there was a cloud on little Ruth that evening. Yes, indeed. When Tom was looking in another direction, her bright eyes, stealing on towards his face, would sparkle still more brightly than their custom was, and then grow dim. When Tom was silent, looking out upon the summer weather, she would sometimes make a hasty movement, as if she were about to throw herself upon his neck; then check the impulse, and when he looked round, show a laughing face, and speak to him very merrily; when she had anything to give Tom, or had any excuse for coming near him, she would flutter about him, and lay her bashful hand upon his shoulder, and not be willing to withdraw it; and would show by all such means that there was something on her heart which in her great love she longed to say to him, but had not the courage to utter.

So they were sitting, she with her work before her, but not working, and Tom with his book beside him, but not reading, when Martin knocked at the door. Anticipating who it was, Tom went to open it; and he and Martin came back into the room together. Tom looked surprised, for in answer to his cordial greeting Martin had hardly spoken a word.

Ruth also saw that there was something strange in the manner of their visitor, and raised her eyes inquiringly to Tom’s face, as if she were seeking an explanation there. Tom shook his head, and made the same mute appeal to Martin.

Martin did not sit down but walked up to the window, and stood there looking out. He turned round after a few moments to speak, but hastily averted his head again, without doing so.

‘What has happened, Martin?’ Tom anxiously inquired. ‘My dear fellow, what bad news do you bring?’

‘Oh, Tom!’ replied Martin, in a tone of deep reproach. ‘To hear you feign that interest in anything that happens to me, hurts me even more than your ungenerous dealing.’

‘My ungenerous dealing! Martin! My—’ Tom could say no more.

‘How could you, Tom, how could you suffer me to thank you so fervently and sincerely for your friendship; and not tell me, like a man, that you had deserted me! Was it true, Tom! Was it honest! Was it worthy of what you used to be—of what I am sure you used to be—to tempt me, when you had turned against me, into pouring out my heart! Oh, Tom!’

His tone was one of such strong injury and yet of so much grief for the loss of a friend he had trusted in—it expressed such high past love for Tom, and so much sorrow and compassion for his supposed unworthiness—that Tom, for a moment, put his hand before his face, and had no more power of justifying himself, than if he had been a monster of deceit and falsehood.

‘I protest, as I must die,’ said Martin, ‘that I grieve over the loss of what I thought you; and have no anger in the recollection of my own injuries. It is only at such a time, and after such a discovery, that we know the full measure of our old regard for the subject of it. I swear, little as I showed it—little as I know I showed it—that when I had the least consideration for you, Tom, I loved you like a brother.’

Tom was composed by this time, and might have been the Spirit of Truth, in a homely dress—it very often wears a homely dress, thank God!—when he replied to him.

‘Martin,’ he said, ‘I don’t know what is in your mind, or who has abused it, or by what extraordinary means. But the means are false. There is no truth whatever in the impression under which you labour. It is a delusion from first to last; and I warn you that you will deeply regret the wrong you do me. I can honestly say that I have been true to you, and to myself. You will be very sorry for this. Indeed, you will be very sorry for it, Martin.’

‘I am sorry,’ returned Martin, shaking his head. ‘I think I never knew what it was to be sorry in my heart, until now.’

‘At least,’ said Tom, ‘if I had always been what you charge me with being now, and had never had a place in your regard, but had always been despised by you, and had always deserved it, you should tell me in what you have found me to be treacherous; and on what grounds you proceed. I do not intreat you, therefore, to give me that satisfaction as a favour, Martin, but I ask it of you as a right.’

‘My own eyes are my witnesses,’ returned Martin. ‘Am I to believe them?’

‘No,’ said Tom, calmly. ‘Not if they accuse me.’

‘Your own words. Your own manner,’ pursued Martin. ‘Am I to believe them?’

‘No,’ replied Tom, calmly. ‘Not if they accuse me. But they never have accused me. Whoever has perverted them to such a purpose, has wronged me almost as cruelly’—his calmness rather failed him here—‘as you have done.’

‘I came here,’ said Martin; ‘and I appeal to your good sister to hear me—’

‘Not to her,’ interrupted Tom. ‘Pray, do not appeal to her. She will never believe you.’

He drew her arm through his own, as he said it.

‘I believe it, Tom!’

‘No, no,’ cried Tom, ‘of course not. I said so. Why, tut, tut, tut. What a silly little thing you are!’

‘I never meant,’ said Martin, hastily, ‘to appeal to you against your brother. Do not think me so unmanly and unkind. I merely appealed to you to hear my declaration, that I came here for no purpose of reproach—I have not one reproach to vent—but in deep regret. You could not know in what bitterness of regret, unless you knew how often I have thought of Tom; how long in almost hopeless circumstances, I have looked forward to the better estimation of his friendship; and how steadfastly I have believed and trusted in him.’

‘Tut, tut,’ said Tom, stopping her as she was about to speak. ‘He is mistaken. He is deceived. Why should you mind? He is sure to be set right at last.’

‘Heaven bless the day that sets me right!’ cried Martin, ‘if it could ever come!’

‘Amen!’ said Tom. ‘And it will!’

Martin paused, and then said in a still milder voice:

‘You have chosen for yourself, Tom, and will be relieved by our parting. It is not an angry one. There is no anger on my side—’

‘There is none on mine,’ said Tom.

‘—It is merely what you have brought about, and worked to bring about. I say again, you have chosen for yourself. You have made the choice that might have been expected in most people situated as you are, but which I did not expect in you. For that, perhaps, I should blame my own judgment more than you. There is wealth and favour worth having, on one side; and there is the worthless friendship of an abandoned, struggling fellow, on the other. You were free to make your election, and you made it; and the choice was not difficult. But those who have not the courage to resist such temptations, should have the courage to avow what they have yielded to them; and I do blame you for this, Tom: that you received me with a show of warmth, encouraged me to be frank and plain-spoken, tempted me to confide in you, and professed that you were able to be mine; when you had sold yourself to others. I do not believe,’ said Martin, with emotion—‘hear me say it from my heart—I cannot believe, Tom, now that I am standing face to face with you, that it would have been in your nature to do me any serious harm, even though I had not discovered, by chance, in whose employment you were. But I should have encumbered you; I should have led you into more double-dealing; I should have hazarded your retaining the favour for which you have paid so high a price, bartering away your former self; and it is best for both of us that I have found out what you so much desired to keep secret.’

‘Be just,’ said Tom; who, had not removed his mild gaze from Martin’s face since the commencement of this last address; ‘be just even in your injustice, Martin. You forget. You have not yet told me what your accusation is!’

‘Why should I?’ returned Martin, waving his hand, and moving towards the door. ‘You could not know it the better for my dwelling on it, and though it would be really none the worse, it might seem to me to be. No, Tom. Bygones shall be bygones between us. I can take leave of you at this moment, and in this place—in which you are so amiable and so good—as heartily, if not as cheerfully, as ever I have done since we first met. All good go with you, Tom!—I—’

‘You leave me so? You can leave me so, can you?’ said Tom.

‘I—you—you have chosen for yourself, Tom! I—I hope it was a rash choice,’ Martin faltered. ‘I think it was. I am sure it was! Good-bye!’

And he was gone.

Tom led his little sister to her chair, and sat down in his own. He took his book, and read, or seemed to read. Presently he said aloud, turning a leaf as he spoke: ‘He will be very sorry for this.’ And a tear stole down his face, and dropped upon the page.

Ruth nestled down beside him on her knees, and clasped her arms about his neck.

‘No, Tom! No, no! Be comforted! Dear Tom!’

‘I am quite—comforted,’ said Tom. ‘It will be set right.’

‘Such a cruel, bad return!’ cried Ruth.

‘No, no,’ said Tom. ‘He believes it. I cannot imagine why. But it will be set right.’

More closely yet, she nestled down about him; and wept as if her heart would break.

‘Don’t. Don’t,’ said Tom. ‘Why do you hide your face, my dear!’

Then in a burst of tears, it all broke out at last.

‘Oh Tom, dear Tom, I know your secret heart. I have found it out; you couldn’t hide the truth from me. Why didn’t you tell me? I am sure I could have made you happier, if you had! You love her, Tom, so dearly!’

Tom made a motion with his hand as if he would have put his sister hurriedly away; but it clasped upon hers, and all his little history was written in the action. All its pathetic eloquence was in the silent touch.

‘In spite of that,’ said Ruth, ‘you have been so faithful and so good, dear; in spite of that, you have been so true and self-denying, and have struggled with yourself; in spite of that, you have been so gentle, and so kind, and even-tempered, that I have never seen you give a hasty look, or heard you say one irritable word. In spite of all, you have been so cruelly mistaken. Oh Tom, dear Tom, will this be set right too! Will it, Tom? Will you always have this sorrow in your breast; you who deserve to be so happy; or is there any hope?’

And still she hid her face from Tom, and clasped him round the neck, and wept for him, and poured out all her woman’s heart and soul in the relief and pain of this disclosure.

It was not very long before she and Tom were sitting side by side, and she was looking with an earnest quietness in Tom’s face. Then Tom spoke to her thus, cheerily, though gravely:

‘I am very glad, my dear, that this has passed between us. Not because it assures me of your tender affection (for I was well assured of that before), but because it relieves my mind of a great weight.’

Tom’s eyes glistened when he spoke of her affection; and he kissed her on the cheek.

‘My dear girl,’ said Tom; ‘with whatever feeling I regard her’—they seemed to avoid the name by mutual consent—‘I have long ago—I am sure I may say from the very first—looked upon it as a dream. As something that might possibly have happened under very different circumstances, but which can never be. Now, tell me. What would you have set right?’

She gave Tom such a significant little look, that he was obliged to take it for an answer whether he would or no; and to go on.

‘By her own choice and free consent, my love, she is betrothed to Martin; and was, long before either of them knew of my existence. You would have her betrothed to me?’

‘Yes,’ she said directly.

‘Yes,’ rejoined Tom, ‘but that might be setting it wrong, instead of right. Do you think,’ said Tom, with a grave smile, ‘that even if she had never seen him, it is very likely she would have fallen in love with Me?’

‘Why not, dear Tom?’

Tom shook his head, and smiled again.

‘You think of me, Ruth,’ said Tom, ‘and it is very natural that you should, as if I were a character in a book; and you make it a sort of poetical justice that I should, by some impossible means or other, come, at last, to marry the person I love. But there is a much higher justice than poetical justice, my dear, and it does not order events upon the same principle. Accordingly, people who read about heroes in books, and choose to make heroes of themselves out of books, consider it a very fine thing to be discontented and gloomy, and misanthropical, and perhaps a little blasphemous, because they cannot have everything ordered for their individual accommodation. Would you like me to become one of that sort of people?’

‘No, Tom. But still I know,’ she added timidly, ‘that this is a sorrow to you in your own better way.’

Tom thought of disputing the position. But it would have been mere folly, and he gave it up.

‘My dear,’ said Tom, ‘I will repay your affection with the Truth and all the Truth. It is a sorrow to me. I have proved it to be so sometimes, though I have always striven against it. But somebody who is precious to you may die, and you may dream that you are in heaven with the departed spirit, and you may find it a sorrow to wake to the life on earth, which is no harder to be borne than when you fell asleep. It is sorrowful to me to contemplate my dream which I always knew was a dream, even when it first presented itself; but the realities about me are not to blame. They are the same as they were. My sister, my sweet companion, who makes this place so dear, is she less devoted to me, Ruth, than she would have been, if this vision had never troubled me? My old friend John, who might so easily have treated me with coldness and neglect, is he less cordial to me? The world about me, is there less good in that? Are my words to be harsh and my looks to be sour, and is my heart to grow cold, because there has fallen in my way a good and beautiful creature, who but for the selfish regret that I cannot call her my own, would, like all other good and beautiful creatures, make me happier and better! No, my dear sister. No,’ said Tom stoutly. ‘Remembering all my means of happiness, I hardly dare to call this lurking something a sorrow; but whatever name it may justly bear, I thank Heaven that it renders me more sensible of affection and attachment, and softens me in fifty ways. Not less happy. Not less happy, Ruth!’

She could not speak to him, but she loved him, as he well deserved. Even as he deserved, she loved him.

‘She will open Martin’s eyes,’ said Tom, with a glow of pride, ‘and that (which is indeed wrong) will be set right. Nothing will persuade her, I know, that I have betrayed him. It will be set right through her, and he will be very sorry for it. Our secret, Ruth, is our own, and lives and dies with us. I don’t believe I ever could have told it you,’ said Tom, with a smile, ‘but how glad I am to think you have found it out!’

They had never taken such a pleasant walk as they took that night. Tom told her all so freely and so simply, and was so desirous to return her tenderness with his fullest confidence, that they prolonged it far beyond their usual hour, and sat up late when they came home. And when they parted for the night there was such a tranquil, beautiful expression in Tom’s face, that she could not bear to shut it out, but going back on tiptoe to his chamber-door, looked in and stood there till he saw her, and then embracing him again, withdrew. And in her prayers and in her sleep—good times to be remembered with such fervour, Tom!—his name was uppermost.

When he was left alone, Tom pondered very much on this discovery of hers, and greatly wondered what had led her to it. ‘Because,’ thought Tom, ‘I have been so very careful. It was foolish and unnecessary in me, as I clearly see now, when I am so relieved by her knowing it; but I have been so very careful to conceal it from her. Of course I knew that she was intelligent and quick, and for that reason was more upon my guard; but I was not in the least prepared for this. I am sure her discovery has been sudden too. Dear me!’ said Tom. ‘It’s a most singular instance of penetration!’

Tom could not get it out of his head. There it was, when his head was on his pillow.

‘How she trembled when she began to tell me she knew it!’ thought Tom, recalling all the little incidents and circumstances; ‘and how her face flushed! But that was natural! Oh, quite natural! That needs no accounting for.’

Tom little thought how natural it was. Tom little knew that there was that in Ruth’s own heart, but newly set there, which had helped her to the reading of his mystery. Ah, Tom! He didn’t understand the whispers of the Temple Fountain, though he passed it every day.

Who so lively and cheerful as busy Ruth next morning! Her early tap at Tom’s door, and her light foot outside, would have been music to him though she had not spoken. But she said it was the brightest morning ever seen; and so it was; and if it had been otherwise, she would have made it so to Tom.

She was ready with his neat breakfast when he went downstairs, and had her bonnet ready for the early walk, and was so full of news, that Tom was lost in wonder. She might have been up all night, collecting it for his entertainment. There was Mr Nadgett not come home yet, and there was bread down a penny a loaf, and there was twice as much strength in this tea as in the last, and the milk-woman’s husband had come out of the hospital cured, and the curly-headed child over the way had been lost all yesterday, and she was going to make all sorts of preserves in a desperate hurry, and there happened to be a saucepan in the house which was the very saucepan for the purpose; and she knew all about the last book Tom had brought home, all through, though it was a teaser to read; and she had so much to tell him that she had finished breakfast first. Then she had her little bonnet on, and the tea and sugar locked up, and the keys in her reticule, and the flower, as usual, in Tom’s coat, and was in all respects quite ready to accompany him, before Tom knew she had begun to prepare. And in short, as Tom said, with a confidence in his own assertion which amounted to a defiance of the public in general, there never was such a little woman.

She made Tom talkative. It was impossible to resist her. She put such enticing questions to him; about books, and about dates of churches, and about organs and about the Temple, and about all kinds of things. Indeed, she lightened the way (and Tom’s heart with it) to that degree, that the Temple looked quite blank and solitary when he parted from her at the gate.

‘No Mr Fips’s friend to-day, I suppose,’ thought Tom, as he ascended the stairs.

Not yet, at any rate, for the door was closed as usual, and Tom opened it with his key. He had got the books into perfect order now, and had mended the torn leaves, and had pasted up the broken backs, and substituted neat labels for the worn-out letterings. It looked a different place, it was so orderly and neat. Tom felt some pride in comtemplating the change he had wrought, though there was no one to approve or disapprove of it.

He was at present occupied in making a fair copy of his draught of the catalogue; on which, as there was no hurry, he was painfully concentrating all the ingenious and laborious neatness he had ever expended on map or plan in Mr Pecksniff’s workroom. It was a very marvel of a catalogue; for Tom sometimes thought he was really getting his money too easily, and he had determined within himself that this document should take a little of his superfluous leisure out of him.

So with pens and ruler, and compasses and india-rubber, and pencil, and black ink, and red ink, Tom worked away all the morning. He thought a good deal about Martin, and their interview of yesterday, and would have been far easier in his mind if he could have resolved to confide it to his friend John, and to have taken his opinion on the subject. But besides that he knew what John’s boiling indignation would be, he bethought himself that he was helping Martin now in a matter of great moment, and that to deprive the latter of his assistance at such a crisis of affairs, would be to inflict a serious injury upon him.

‘So I’ll keep it to myself,’ said Tom, with a sigh. ‘I’ll keep it to myself.’

And to work he went again, more assiduously than ever, with the pens, and the ruler, and the india-rubber, and the pencils, and the red ink, that he might forget it.

He had laboured away another hour or more, when he heard a footstep in the entry, down below.

‘Ah!’ said Tom, looking towards the door; ‘time was, not long ago either, when that would have set me wondering and expecting. But I have left off now.’

The footstep came on, up the stairs.

‘Thirty-six, thirty-seven, thirty-eight,’ said Tom, counting. ‘Now you’ll stop. Nobody ever comes past the thirty-eighth stair.’

The person did, certainly, but only to take breath; for up the footstep came again. Forty, forty-one, forty-two, and so on.

The door stood open. As the tread advanced, Tom looked impatiently and eagerly towards it. When a figure came upon the landing, and arriving in the doorway, stopped and gazed at him, he rose up from his chair, and half believed he saw a spirit.

Old Martin Chuzzlewit! The same whom he had left at Mr Pecksniff’s, weak and sinking!

The same? No, not the same, for this old man, though old, was strong, and leaned upon his stick with a vigorous hand, while with the other he signed to Tom to make no noise. One glance at the resolute face, the watchful eye, the vigorous hand upon the staff, the triumphant purpose in the figure, and such a light broke in on Tom as blinded him.

‘You have expected me,’ said Martin, ‘a long time.’

‘I was told that my employer would arrive soon,’ said Tom; ‘but—’

‘I know. You were ignorant who he was. It was my desire. I am glad it has been so well observed. I intended to have been with you much sooner. I thought the time had come. I thought I could know no more, and no worse, of him, than I did on that day when I saw you last. But I was wrong.’

He had by this time come up to Tom, and now he grasped his hand.

‘I have lived in his house, Pinch, and had him fawning on me days and weeks and months. You know it. I have suffered him to treat me like his tool and instrument. You know it; you have seen me there. I have undergone ten thousand times as much as I could have endured if I had been the miserable weak old man he took me for. You know it. I have seen him offer love to Mary. You know it; who better—who better, my true heart! I have had his base soul bare before me, day by day, and have not betrayed myself once. I never could have undergone such torture but for looking forward to this time.’

He stopped, even in the passion of his speech—if that can be called passion which was so resolute and steady—to press Tom’s hand again. Then he said, in great excitement:

‘Close the door, close the door. He will not be long after me, but may come too soon. The time now drawing on,’ said the old man, hurriedly—his eyes and whole face brightening as he spoke—‘will make amends for all. I wouldn’t have him die or hang himself, for millions of golden pieces! Close the door!’

Tom did so; hardly knowing yet whether he was awake or in a dream.



The night had now come, when the old clerk was to be delivered over to his keepers. In the midst of his guilty distractions, Jonas had not forgotten it.

It was a part of his guilty state of mind to remember it; for on his persistence in the scheme depended one of his precautions for his own safety. A hint, a word, from the old man, uttered at such a moment in attentive ears, might fire the train of suspicion, and destroy him. His watchfulness of every avenue by which the discovery of his guilt might be approached, sharpened with his sense of the danger by which he was encompassed. With murder on his soul, and its innumerable alarms and terrors dragging at him night and day, he would have repeated the crime, if he had seen a path of safety stretching out beyond. It was in his punishment; it was in his guilty condition. The very deed which his fears rendered insupportable, his fears would have impelled him to commit again.

But keeping the old man close, according to his design, would serve his turn. His purpose was to escape, when the first alarm and wonder had subsided; and when he could make the attempt without awakening instant suspicion. In the meanwhile these women would keep him quiet; and if the talking humour came upon him, would not be easily startled. He knew their trade.

Nor had he spoken idly when he said the old man should be gagged. He had resolved to ensure his silence; and he looked to the end, not the means. He had been rough and rude and cruel to the old man all his life; and violence was natural to his mind in connection with him. ‘He shall be gagged if he speaks, and pinioned if he writes,’ said Jonas, looking at him; for they sat alone together. ‘He is mad enough for that; I’ll go through with it!’


Still listening! To every sound. He had listened ever since, and it had not come yet. The exposure of the Assurance office; the flight of Crimple and Bullamy with the plunder, and among the rest, as he feared, with his own bill, which he had not found in the pocket-book of the murdered man, and which with Mr Pecksniff’s money had probably been remitted to one or other of those trusty friends for safe deposit at the banker’s; his immense losses, and peril of being still called to account as a partner in the broken firm; all these things rose in his mind at one time and always, but he could not contemplate them. He was aware of their presence, and of the rage, discomfiture, and despair, they brought along with them; but he thought—of his own controlling power and direction he thought—of the one dread question only. When they would find the body in the wood.

He tried—he had never left off trying—not to forget it was there, for that was impossible, but to forget to weary himself by drawing vivid pictures of it in his fancy; by going softly about it and about it among the leaves, approaching it nearer and nearer through a gap in the boughs, and startling the very flies that were thickly sprinkled all over it, like heaps of dried currants. His mind was fixed and fastened on the discovery, for intelligence of which he listened intently to every cry and shout; listened when any one came in or went out; watched from the window the people who passed up and down the street; mistrusted his own looks and words. And the more his thoughts were set upon the discovery, the stronger was the fascination which attracted them to the thing itself; lying alone in the wood. He was for ever showing and presenting it, as it were, to every creature whom he saw. ‘Look here! Do you know of this? Is it found? Do you suspect me?’ If he had been condemned to bear the body in his arms, and lay it down for recognition at the feet of every one he met, it could not have been more constantly with him, or a cause of more monotonous and dismal occupation than it was in this state of his mind.

Still he was not sorry. It was no contrition or remorse for what he had done that moved him; it was nothing but alarm for his own security. The vague consciousness he possessed of having wrecked his fortune in the murderous venture, intensified his hatred and revenge, and made him set the greater store by what he had gained The man was dead; nothing could undo that. He felt a triumph yet, in the reflection.

He had kept a jealous watch on Chuffey ever since the deed; seldom leaving him but on compulsion, and then for as short intervals as possible. They were alone together now. It was twilight, and the appointed time drew near at hand. Jonas walked up and down the room. The old man sat in his accustomed corner.

The slightest circumstance was matter of disquiet to the murderer, and he was made uneasy at this time by the absence of his wife, who had left home early in the afternoon, and had not returned yet. No tenderness for her was at the bottom of this; but he had a misgiving that she might have been waylaid, and tempted into saying something that would criminate him when the news came. For anything he knew, she might have knocked at the door of his room, while he was away, and discovered his plot. Confound her, it was like her pale face to be wandering up and down the house! Where was she now?

‘She went to her good friend, Mrs Todgers,’ said the old man, when he asked the question with an angry oath.

Aye! To be sure! Always stealing away into the company of that woman. She was no friend of his. Who could tell what devil’s mischief they might hatch together! Let her be fetched home directly.

The old man, muttering some words softly, rose as if he would have gone himself, but Jonas thrust him back into his chair with an impatient imprecation, and sent a servant-girl to fetch her. When he had charged her with her errand he walked to and fro again, and never stopped till she came back, which she did pretty soon; the way being short, and the woman having made good haste.

Well! Where was she? Had she come?

No. She had left there, full three hours.

‘Left there! Alone?’

The messenger had not asked; taking that for granted.

‘Curse you for a fool. Bring candles!’

She had scarcely left the room when the old clerk, who had been unusually observant of him ever since he had asked about his wife, came suddenly upon him.

‘Give her up!’ cried the old man. ‘Come! Give her up to me! Tell me what you have done with her. Quick! I have made no promises on that score. Tell me what you have done with her.’

He laid his hands upon his collar as he spoke, and grasped it; tightly too.

‘You shall not leave me!’ cried the old man. ‘I am strong enough to cry out to the neighbours, and I will, unless you give her up. Give her up to me!’

Jonas was so dismayed and conscience-stricken, that he had not even hardihood enough to unclench the old man’s hands with his own; but stood looking at him as well as he could in the darkness, without moving a finger. It was as much as he could do to ask him what he meant.

‘I will know what you have done with her!’ retorted Chuffey. ‘If you hurt a hair of her head, you shall answer it. Poor thing! Poor thing! Where is she?’

‘Why, you old madman!’ said Jonas, in a low voice, and with trembling lips. ‘What Bedlam fit has come upon you now?’

‘It is enough to make me mad, seeing what I have seen in this house!’ cried Chuffey. ‘Where is my dear old master! Where is his only son that I have nursed upon my knee, a child! Where is she, she who was the last; she that I’ve seen pining day by day, and heard weeping in the dead of night! She was the last, the last of all my friends! Heaven help me, she was the very last!’

Seeing that the tears were stealing down his face, Jonas mustered courage to unclench his hands, and push him off before he answered:

‘Did you hear me ask for her? Did you hear me send for her? How can I give you up what I haven’t got, idiot! Ecod, I’d give her up to you and welcome, if I could; and a precious pair you’d be!’

‘If she has come to any harm,’ cried Chuffey, ‘mind! I’m old and silly; but I have my memory sometimes; and if she has come to any harm—’

‘Devil take you,’ interrupted Jonas, but in a suppressed voice still; ‘what harm do you suppose she has come to? I know no more where she is than you do; I wish I did. Wait till she comes home, and see; she can’t be long. Will that content you?’

‘Mind!’ exclaimed the old man. ‘Not a hair of her head! not a hair of her head ill-used! I won’t bear it. I—I—have borne it too long Jonas. I am silent, but I—I—I can speak. I—I—I can speak—’ he stammered, as he crept back to his chair, and turned a threatening, though a feeble, look upon him.

‘You can speak, can you!’ thought Jonas. ‘So, so, we’ll stop your speaking. It’s well I knew of this in good time. Prevention is better than cure.’

He had made a poor show of playing the bully and evincing a desire to conciliate at the same time, but was so afraid of the old man that great drops had started out upon his brow; and they stood there yet. His unusual tone of voice and agitated manner had sufficiently expressed his fear; but his face would have done so now, without that aid, as he again walked to and fro, glancing at him by the candelight.

He stopped at the window to think. An opposite shop was lighted up; and the tradesman and a customer were reading some printed bill together across the counter. The sight brought him back, instantly, to the occupation he had forgotten. ‘Look here! Do you know of this? Is it found? Do you suspect me?’

A hand upon the door. ‘What’s that!’

‘A pleasant evenin’,’ said the voice of Mrs Gamp, ‘though warm, which, bless you, Mr Chuzzlewit, we must expect when cowcumbers is three for twopence. How does Mr Chuffey find his self to-night, sir?’

Mrs Gamp kept particularly close to the door in saying this, and curtseyed more than usual. She did not appear to be quite so much at her ease as she generally was.

‘Get him to his room,’ said Jonas, walking up to her, and speaking in her ear. ‘He has been raving to-night—stark mad. Don’t talk while he’s here, but come down again.’

‘Poor sweet dear!’ cried Mrs Gamp, with uncommon tenderness. ‘He’s all of a tremble.’

‘Well he may be,’ said Jonas, ‘after the mad fit he has had. Get him upstairs.’

She was by this time assisting him to rise.

‘There’s my blessed old chick!’ cried Mrs Gamp, in a tone that was at once soothing and encouraging. ‘There’s my darlin’ Mr Chuffey! Now come up to your own room, sir, and lay down on your bed a bit; for you’re a-shakin’ all over, as if your precious jints was hung upon wires. That’s a good creetur! Come with Sairey!’

‘Is she come home?’ inquired the old man.

‘She’ll be here directly minit,’ returned Mrs Gamp. ‘Come with Sairey, Mr Chuffey. Come with your own Sairey!’

The good woman had no reference to any female in the world in promising this speedy advent of the person for whom Mr Chuffey inquired, but merely threw it out as a means of pacifying the old man. It had its effect, for he permitted her to lead him away; and they quitted the room together.

Jonas looked out of the window again. They were still reading the printed paper in the shop opposite, and a third man had joined in the perusal. What could it be, to interest them so?’

A dispute or discussion seemed to arise among them, for they all looked up from their reading together, and one of the three, who had been glancing over the shoulder of another, stepped back to explain or illustrate some action by his gestures.

Horror! How like the blow he had struck in the wood!

It beat him from the window as if it had lighted on himself. As he staggered into a chair, he thought of the change in Mrs Gamp exhibited in her new-born tenderness to her charge. Was that because it was found?—because she knew of it?—because she suspected him?

‘Mr Chuffey is a-lyin’ down,’ said Mrs Gamp, returning, ‘and much good may it do him, Mr Chuzzlewit, which harm it can’t and good it may; be joyful!’

‘Sit down,’ said Jonas, hoarsely, ‘and let us get this business done. Where is the other woman?’

‘The other person’s with him now,’ she answered.

‘That’s right,’ said Jonas. ‘He is not fit to be left to himself. Why, he fastened on me to-night; here, upon my coat; like a savage dog. Old as he is, and feeble as he is usually, I had some trouble to shake him off. You—Hush!—It’s nothing. You told me the other woman’s name. I forget it.’

‘I mentioned Betsey Prig,’ said Mrs Gamp.

‘She is to be trusted, is she?’

‘That she ain’t!’ said Mrs Gamp; ‘nor have I brought her, Mr Chuzzlewit. I’ve brought another, which engages to give every satigefaction.’

‘What is her name?’ asked Jonas.

Mrs Gamp looked at him in an odd way without returning any answer, but appeared to understand the question too.

‘What is her name?’ repeated Jonas.

‘Her name,’ said Mrs Gamp, ‘is Harris.’

It was extraordinary how much effort it cost Mrs Gamp to pronounce the name she was commonly so ready with. She made some three or four gasps before she could get it out; and, when she had uttered it, pressed her hand upon her side, and turned up her eyes, as if she were going to faint away. But, knowing her to labour under a complication of internal disorders, which rendered a few drops of spirits indispensable at certain times to her existence, and which came on very strong when that remedy was not at hand, Jonas merely supposed her to be the victim of one of these attacks.

‘Well!’ he said, hastily, for he felt how incapable he was of confining his wandering attention to the subject. ‘You and she have arranged to take care of him, have you?’

Mrs Gamp replied in the affirmative, and softly discharged herself of her familiar phrase, ‘Turn and turn about; one off, one on.’ But she spoke so tremulously that she felt called upon to add, ‘which fiddle-strings is weakness to expredge my nerves this night!’

Jonas stopped to listen. Then said, hurriedly:

‘We shall not quarrel about terms. Let them be the same as they were before. Keep him close, and keep him quiet. He must be restrained. He has got it in his head to-night that my wife’s dead, and has been attacking me as if I had killed her. It’s—it’s common with mad people to take the worst fancies of those they like best. Isn’t it?’

Mrs Gamp assented with a short groan.

‘Keep him close, then, or in one of his fits he’ll be doing me a mischief. And don’t trust him at any time; for when he seems most rational, he’s wildest in his talk. But that you know already. Let me see the other.’

‘The t’other person, sir?’ said Mrs Gamp.

‘Aye! Go you to him and send the other. Quick! I’m busy.’

Mrs Gamp took two or three backward steps towards the door, and stopped there.

‘It is your wishes, Mr Chuzzlewit,’ she said, in a sort of quavering croak, ‘to see the t’other person. Is it?’

But the ghastly change in Jonas told her that the other person was already seen. Before she could look round towards the door, she was put aside by old Martin’s hand; and Chuffey and John Westlock entered with him.

‘Let no one leave the house,’ said Martin. ‘This man is my brother’s son. Ill-met, ill-trained, ill-begotten. If he moves from the spot on which he stands, or speaks a word above his breath to any person here, open the window, and call for help!’

‘What right have you to give such directions in this house?’ asked Jonas faintly.

‘The right of your wrong-doing. Come in there!’

An irrepressible exclamation burst from the lips of Jonas, as Lewsome entered at the door. It was not a groan, or a shriek, or a word, but was wholly unlike any sound that had ever fallen on the ears of those who heard it, while at the same time it was the most sharp and terrible expression of what was working in his guilty breast, that nature could have invented.

He had done murder for this! He had girdled himself about with perils, agonies of mind, innumerable fears, for this! He had hidden his secret in the wood; pressed and stamped it down into the bloody ground; and here it started up when least expected, miles upon miles away; known to many; proclaiming itself from the lips of an old man who had renewed his strength and vigour as by a miracle, to give it voice against him!

He leaned his hand on the back of a chair, and looked at them. It was in vain to try to do so scornfully, or with his usual insolence. He required the chair for his support. But he made a struggle for it.

‘I know that fellow,’ he said, fetching his breath at every word, and pointing his trembling finger towards Lewsome. ‘He’s the greatest liar alive. What’s his last tale? Ha, ha! You’re rare fellows, too! Why, that uncle of mine is childish; he’s even a greater child than his brother, my father, was, in his old age; or than Chuffey is. What the devil do you mean,’ he added, looking fiercely at John Westlock and Mark Tapley (the latter had entered with Lewsome), ‘by coming here, and bringing two idiots and a knave with you to take my house by storm? Hallo, there! Open the door! Turn these strangers out!’

‘I tell you what,’ cried Mr Tapley, coming forward, ‘if it wasn’t for your name, I’d drag you through the streets of my own accord, and single-handed I would! Ah, I would! Don’t try and look bold at me. You can’t do it! Now go on, sir,’ this was to old Martin. ‘Bring the murderin’ wagabond upon his knees! If he wants noise, he shall have enough of it; for as sure as he’s a shiverin’ from head to foot I’ll raise a uproar at this winder that shall bring half London in. Go on, sir! Let him try me once, and see whether I’m a man of my word or not.’

With that, Mark folded his arms, and took his seat upon the window-ledge, with an air of general preparation for anything, which seemed to imply that he was equally ready to jump out himself, or to throw Jonas out, upon receiving the slightest hint that it would be agreeable to the company.

Old Martin turned to Lewsome:

‘This is the man,’ he said, extending his hand towards Jonas. ‘Is it?’

‘You need do no more than look at him to be sure of that, or of the truth of what I have said,’ was the reply. ‘He is my witness.’

‘Oh, brother!’ cried old Martin, clasping his hands and lifting up his eyes. ‘Oh, brother, brother! Were we strangers half our lives that you might breed a wretch like this, and I make life a desert by withering every flower that grew about me! Is it the natural end of your precepts and mine, that this should be the creature of your rearing, training, teaching, hoarding, striving for; and I the means of bringing him to punishment, when nothing can repair the wasted past!’

He sat down upon a chair as he spoke, and turning away his face, was silent for a few moments. Then with recovered energy he proceeded:

‘But the accursed harvest of our mistaken lives shall be trodden down. It is not too late for that. You are confronted with this man, you monster there; not to be spared, but to be dealt with justly. Hear what he says! Reply, be silent, contradict, repeat, defy, do what you please. My course will be the same. Go on! And you,’ he said to Chuffey, ‘for the love of your old friend, speak out, good fellow!’

‘I have been silent for his love!’ cried the old man. ‘He urged me to it. He made me promise it upon his dying bed. I never would have spoken, but for your finding out so much. I have thought about it ever since; I couldn’t help that; and sometimes I have had it all before me in a dream; but in the day-time, not in sleep. Is there such a kind of dream?’ said Chuffey, looking anxiously in old Martin’s face.

As Martin made him an encouraging reply, he listened attentively to his voice, and smiled.

‘Ah, aye!’ he cried. ‘He often spoke to me like that. We were at school together, he and I. I couldn’t turn against his son, you know—his only son, Mr Chuzzlewit!’

‘I would to Heaven you had been his son!’ said Martin.

‘You speak so like my dear old master,’ cried the old man with a childish delight, ‘that I almost think I hear him. I can hear you quite as well as I used to hear him. It makes me young again. He never spoke unkindly to me, and I always understood him. I could always see him too, though my sight was dim. Well, well! He’s dead, he’s dead. He was very good to me, my dear old master!’

He shook his head mournfully over the brother’s hand. At this moment Mark, who had been glancing out of the window, left the room.

‘I couldn’t turn against his only son, you know,’ said Chuffey. ‘He has nearly driven me to do it sometimes; he very nearly did tonight. Ah!’ cried the old man, with a sudden recollection of the cause. ‘Where is she? She’s not come home!’

‘Do you mean his wife?’ said Mr Chuzzlewit.


‘I have removed her. She is in my care, and will be spared the present knowledge of what is passing here. She has known misery enough, without that addition.’

Jonas heard this with a sinking heart. He knew that they were on his heels, and felt that they were resolute to run him to destruction. Inch by inch the ground beneath him was sliding from his feet; faster and faster the encircling ruin contracted and contracted towards himself, its wicked centre, until it should close in and crush him.

And now he heard the voice of his accomplice stating to his face, with every circumstance of time and place and incident; and openly proclaiming, with no reserve, suppression, passion, or concealment; all the truth. The truth, which nothing would keep down; which blood would not smother, and earth would not hide; the truth, whose terrible inspiration seemed to change dotards into strong men; and on whose avenging wings, one whom he had supposed to be at the extremest corner of the earth came swooping down upon him.

He tried to deny it, but his tongue would not move. He conceived some desperate thought of rushing away, and tearing through the streets; but his limbs would as little answer to his will as his stark, stiff staring face. All this time the voice went slowly on, denouncing him. It was as if every drop of blood in the wood had found a voice to jeer him with.

When it ceased, another voice took up the tale, but strangely; for the old clerk, who had watched, and listened to the whole, and had wrung his hands from time to time, as if he knew its truth and could confirm it, broke in with these words:

‘No, no, no! you’re wrong; you’re wrong—all wrong together! Have patience, for the truth is only known to me!’

‘How can that be,’ said his old master’s brother, ‘after what you have heard? Besides, you said just now, above-stairs, when I told you of the accusation against him, that you knew he was his father’s murderer.’

‘Aye, yes! and so he was!’ cried Chuffey, wildly. ‘But not as you suppose—not as you suppose. Stay! Give me a moment’s time. I have it all here—all here! It was foul, foul, cruel, bad; but not as you suppose. Stay, stay!’

He put his hands up to his head, as if it throbbed or pained him. After looking about him in a wandering and vacant manner for some moments, his eyes rested upon Jonas, when they kindled up with sudden recollection and intelligence.

‘Yes!’ cried old Chuffey, ‘yes! That’s how it was. It’s all upon me now. He—he got up from his bed before he died, to be sure, to say that he forgave him; and he came down with me into this room; and when he saw him—his only son, the son he loved—his speech forsook him; he had no speech for what he knew—and no one understood him except me. But I did—I did!’

Old Martin regarded him in amazement; so did his companions. Mrs Gamp, who had said nothing yet; but had kept two-thirds of herself behind the door, ready for escape, and one-third in the room, ready for siding with the strongest party; came a little further in and remarked, with a sob, that Mr Chuffey was ‘the sweetest old creetur goin’.’

‘He bought the stuff,’ said Chuffey, stretching out his arm towards Jonas while an unwonted fire shone in his eye, and lightened up his face; ‘he bought the stuff, no doubt, as you have heard, and brought it home. He mixed the stuff—look at him!—with some sweetmeat in a jar, exactly as the medicine for his father’s cough was mixed, and put it in a drawer; in that drawer yonder in the desk; he knows which drawer I mean! He kept it there locked up. But his courage failed him or his heart was touched—my God! I hope it was his heart! He was his only son!—and he did not put it in the usual place, where my old master would have taken it twenty times a day.’

The trembling figure of the old man shook with the strong emotions that possessed him. But, with the same light in his eye, and with his arm outstretched, and with his grey hair stirring on his head, he seemed to grow in size, and was like a man inspired. Jonas shrunk from looking at him, and cowered down into the chair by which he had held. It seemed as if this tremendous Truth could make the dumb speak.

‘I know it every word now!’ cried Chuffey. ‘Every word! He put it in that drawer, as I have said. He went so often there, and was so secret, that his father took notice of it; and when he was out, had it opened. We were there together, and we found the mixture—Mr Chuzzlewit and I. He took it into his possession, and made light of it at the time; but in the night he came to my bedside, weeping, and told me that his own son had it in his mind to poison him. “Oh, Chuff,” he said, “oh, dear old Chuff! a voice came into my room to-night, and told me that this crime began with me. It began when I taught him to be too covetous of what I have to leave, and made the expectation of it his great business!” Those were his words; aye, they are his very words! If he was a hard man now and then, it was for his only son. He loved his only son, and he was always good to me!’

Jonas listened with increased attention. Hope was breaking in upon him.

‘“He shall not weary for my death, Chuff;” that was what he said next,’ pursued the old clerk, as he wiped his eyes; ‘that was what he said next, crying like a little child: “He shall not weary for my death, Chuff. He shall have it now; he shall marry where he has a fancy, Chuff, although it don’t please me; and you and I will go away and live upon a little. I always loved him; perhaps he’ll love me then. It’s a dreadful thing to have my own child thirsting for my death. But I might have known it. I have sown, and I must reap. He shall believe that I am taking this; and when I see that he is sorry, and has all he wants, I’ll tell him that I found it out, and I’ll forgive him. He’ll make a better man of his own son, and be a better man himself, perhaps, Chuff!”’

Poor Chuffey paused to dry his eyes again. Old Martin’s face was hidden in his hands. Jonas listened still more keenly, and his breast heaved like a swollen water, but with hope. With growing hope.

‘My dear old master made believe next day,’ said Chuffey, ‘that he had opened the drawer by mistake with a key from the bunch, which happened to fit it (we had one made and hung upon it); and that he had been surprised to find his fresh supply of cough medicine in such a place, but supposed it had been put there in a hurry when the drawer stood open. We burnt it; but his son believed that he was taking it—he knows he did. Once Mr Chuzzlewit, to try him, took heart to say it had a strange taste; and he got up directly, and went out.’

Jonas gave a short, dry cough; and, changing his position for an easier one, folded his arms without looking at them, though they could now see his face.

‘Mr Chuzzlewit wrote to her father; I mean the father of the poor thing who’s his wife,’ said Chuffey; ‘and got him to come up, intending to hasten on the marriage. But his mind, like mine, went a little wrong through grief, and then his heart broke. He sank and altered from the time when he came to me in the night; and never held up his head again. It was only a few days, but he had never changed so much in twice the years. “Spare him, Chuff!” he said, before he died. They were the only words he could speak. “Spare him, Chuff!” I promised him I would. I’ve tried to do it. He’s his only son.’

On his recollection of the last scene in his old friend’s life, poor Chuffey’s voice, which had grown weaker and weaker, quite deserted him. Making a motion with his hand, as if he would have said that Anthony had taken it, and had died with it in his, he retreated to the corner where he usually concealed his sorrows; and was silent.

Jonas could look at his company now, and vauntingly too. ‘Well!’ he said, after a pause. ‘Are you satisfied? or have you any more of your plots to broach? Why that fellow, Lewsome, can invent ‘em for you by the score. Is this all? Have you nothing else?’

Old Martin looked at him steadily.

‘Whether you are what you seemed to be at Pecksniff’s, or are something else and a mountebank, I don’t know and I don’t care,’ said Jonas, looking downward with a smile, ‘but I don’t want you here. You were here so often when your brother was alive, and were always so fond of him (your dear, dear brother, and you would have been cuffing one another before this, ecod!), that I am not surprised at your being attached to the place; but the place is not attached to you, and you can’t leave it too soon, though you may leave it too late. And for my wife, old man, send her home straight, or it will be the worse for her. Ha, ha! You carry it with a high hand, too! But it isn’t hanging yet for a man to keep a penn’orth of poison for his own purposes, and have it taken from him by two old crazy jolter-heads who go and act a play about it. Ha, ha! Do you see the door?’

His base triumph, struggling with his cowardice, and shame, and guilt, was so detestable, that they turned away from him, as if he were some obscene and filthy animal, repugnant to the sight. And here that last black crime was busy with him too; working within him to his perdition. But for that, the old clerk’s story might have touched him, though never so lightly; but for that, the sudden removal of so great a load might have brought about some wholesome change even in him. With that deed done, however; with that unnecessary wasteful danger haunting him; despair was in his very triumph and relief; wild, ungovernable, raging despair, for the uselessness of the peril into which he had plunged; despair that hardened him and maddened him, and set his teeth a-grinding in a moment of his exultation.

‘My good friend!’ said old Martin, laying his hand on Chuffey’s sleeve. ‘This is no place for you to remain in. Come with me.’

‘Just his old way!’ cried Chuffey, looking up into his face. ‘I almost believe it’s Mr Chuzzlewit alive again. Yes! Take me with you! Stay, though, stay.’

‘For what?’ asked old Martin.

‘I can’t leave her, poor thing!’ said Chuffey. ‘She has been very good to me. I can’t leave her, Mr Chuzzlewit. Thank you kindly. I’ll remain here. I haven’t long to remain; it’s no great matter.’

As he meekly shook his poor, grey head, and thanked old Martin in these words, Mrs Gamp, now entirely in the room, was affected to tears.

‘The mercy as it is!’ she said, ‘as sech a dear, good, reverend creetur never got into the clutches of Betsey Prig, which but for me he would have done, undoubted; facts bein’ stubborn and not easy drove!’

‘You heard me speak to you just now, old man,’ said Jonas to his uncle. ‘I’ll have no more tampering with my people, man or woman. Do you see the door?’

‘Do you see the door?’ returned the voice of Mark, coming from that direction. ‘Look at it!’

He looked, and his gaze was nailed there. Fatal, ill-omened blighted threshold, cursed by his father’s footsteps in his dying hour, cursed by his young wife’s sorrowing tread, cursed by the daily shadow of the old clerk’s figure, cursed by the crossing of his murderer’s feet—what men were standing in the door way!

Nadgett foremost.

Hark! It came on, roaring like a sea! Hawkers burst into the street, crying it up and down; windows were thrown open that the inhabitants might hear it; people stopped to listen in the road and on the pavement; the bells, the same bells, began to ring; tumbling over one another in a dance of boisterous joy at the discovery (that was the sound they had in his distempered thoughts), and making their airy play-ground rock.

‘That is the man,’ said Nadgett. ‘By the window!’

Three others came in, laid hands upon him, and secured him. It was so quickly done, that he had not lost sight of the informer’s face for an instant when his wrists were manacled together.

‘Murder,’ said Nadgett, looking round on the astonished group. ‘Let no one interfere.’

The sounding street repeated Murder; barbarous and dreadful Murder. Murder, Murder, Murder. Rolling on from house to house, and echoing from stone to stone, until the voices died away into the distant hum, which seemed to mutter the same word!

They all stood silent: listening, and gazing in each other’s faces, as the noise passed on.

Old Martin was the first to speak. ‘What terrible history is this?’ he demanded.

‘Ask him,’ said Nadgett. ‘You’re his friend, sir. He can tell you, if he will. He knows more of it than I do, though I know much.’

‘How do you know much?’

‘I have not been watching him so long for nothing,’ returned Nadgett. ‘I never watched a man so close as I have watched him.’

Another of the phantom forms of this terrific Truth! Another of the many shapes in which it started up about him, out of vacancy. This man, of all men in the world, a spy upon him; this man, changing his identity; casting off his shrinking, purblind, unobservant character, and springing up into a watchful enemy! The dead man might have come out of his grave, and not confounded and appalled him more.

The game was up. The race was at an end; the rope was woven for his neck. If, by a miracle, he could escape from this strait, he had but to turn his face another way, no matter where, and there would rise some new avenger front to front with him; some infant in an hour grown old, or old man in an hour grown young, or blind man with his sight restored, or deaf man with his hearing given him. There was no chance. He sank down in a heap against the wall, and never hoped again from that moment.

‘I am not his friend, although I have the honour to be his relative,’ said Mr Chuzzlewit. ‘You may speak to me. Where have you watched, and what have you seen?’

‘I have watched in many places,’ returned Nadgett, ‘night and day. I have watched him lately, almost without rest or relief;’ his anxious face and bloodshot eyes confirmed it. ‘I little thought to what my watching was to lead. As little as he did when he slipped out in the night, dressed in those clothes which he afterwards sunk in a bundle at London Bridge!’

Jonas moved upon the ground like a man in bodily torture. He uttered a suppressed groan, as if he had been wounded by some cruel weapon; and plucked at the iron band upon his wrists, as though (his hands being free) he would have torn himself.

‘Steady, kinsman!’ said the chief officer of the party. ‘Don’t be violent.’

‘Whom do you call kinsman?’ asked old Martin sternly.

‘You,’ said the man, ‘among others.’

Martin turned his scrutinizing gaze upon him. He was sitting lazily across a chair with his arms resting on the back; eating nuts, and throwing the shells out of window as he cracked them, which he still continued to do while speaking.

‘Aye,’ he said, with a sulky nod. ‘You may deny your nephews till you die; but Chevy Slyme is Chevy Slyme still, all the world over. Perhaps even you may feel it some disgrace to your own blood to be employed in this way. I’m to be bought off.’

‘At every turn!’ cried Martin. ‘Self, self, self. Every one among them for himself!’

‘You had better save one or two among them the trouble then and be for them as well as yourself,’ replied his nephew. ‘Look here at me! Can you see the man of your family who has more talent in his little finger than all the rest in their united brains, dressed as a police officer without being ashamed? I took up with this trade on purpose to shame you. I didn’t think I should have to make a capture in the family, though.’

‘If your debauchery, and that of your chosen friends, has really brought you to this level,’ returned the old man, ‘keep it. You are living honestly, I hope, and that’s something.’

‘Don’t be hard upon my chosen friends,’ returned Slyme, ‘for they were sometimes your chosen friends too. Don’t say you never employed my friend Tigg, for I know better. We quarrelled upon it.’

‘I hired the fellow,’ retorted Mr Chuzzlewit, ‘and I paid him.’

‘It’s well you paid him,’ said his nephew, ‘for it would be too late to do so now. He has given his receipt in full; or had it forced from him rather.’

The old man looked at him as if he were curious to know what he meant, but scorned to prolong the conversation.

‘I have always expected that he and I would be brought together again in the course of business,’ said Slyme, taking a fresh handful of nuts from his pocket; ‘but I thought he would be wanted for some swindling job; it never entered my head that I should hold a warrant for the apprehension of his murderer.’

His murderer!’ cried Mr Chuzzlewit, looking from one to another.

‘His or Mr Montague’s,’ said Nadgett. ‘They are the same, I am told. I accuse him yonder of the murder of Mr Montague, who was found last night, killed, in a wood. You will ask me why I accuse him as you have already asked me how I know so much. I’ll tell you. It can’t remain a secret long.’

The ruling passion of the man expressed itself even then, in the tone of regret in which he deplored the approaching publicity of what he knew.

‘I told you I had watched him,’ he proceeded. ‘I was instructed to do so by Mr Montague, in whose employment I have been for some time. We had our suspicions of him; and you know what they pointed at, for you have been discussing it since we have been waiting here, outside the room. If you care to hear, now it’s all over, in what our suspicions began, I’ll tell you plainly: in a quarrel (it first came to our ears through a hint of his own) between him and another office in which his father’s life was insured, and which had so much doubt and distrust upon the subject, that he compounded with them, and took half the money; and was glad to do it. Bit by bit, I ferreted out more circumstances against him, and not a few. It required a little patience, but it’s my calling. I found the nurse—here she is to confirm me; I found the doctor, I found the undertaker, I found the undertaker’s man. I found out how the old gentleman there, Mr Chuffey, had behaved at the funeral; and I found out what this man,’ touching Lewsome on the arm, ‘had talked about in his fever. I found out how he conducted himself before his father’s death, and how since and how at the time; and writing it all down, and putting it carefully together, made case enough for Mr Montague to tax him with the crime, which (as he himself believed until to-night) he had committed. I was by when this was done. You see him now. He is only worse than he was then.’

Oh, miserable, miserable fool! oh, insupportable, excruciating torture! To find alive and active—a party to it all—the brain and right-hand of the secret he had thought to crush! In whom, though he had walled the murdered man up, by enchantment in a rock, the story would have lived and walked abroad! He tried to stop his ears with his fettered arms, that he might shut out the rest.

As he crouched upon the floor, they drew away from him as if a pestilence were in his breath. They fell off, one by one, from that part of the room, leaving him alone upon the ground. Even those who had him in their keeping shunned him, and (with the exception of Slyme, who was still occupied with his nuts) kept apart.

‘From that garret-window opposite,’ said Nadgett, pointing across the narrow street, ‘I have watched this house and him for days and nights. From that garret-window opposite I saw him return home, alone, from a journey on which he had set out with Mr Montague. That was my token that Mr Montague’s end was gained; and I might rest easy on my watch, though I was not to leave it until he dismissed me. But, standing at the door opposite, after dark that same night, I saw a countryman steal out of this house, by a side-door in the court, who had never entered it. I knew his walk, and that it was himself, disguised. I followed him immediately. I lost him on the western road, still travelling westward.’

Jonas looked up at him for an instant, and muttered an oath.

‘I could not comprehend what this meant,’ said Nadgett; ‘but, having seen so much, I resolved to see it out, and through. And I did. Learning, on inquiry at his house from his wife, that he was supposed to be sleeping in the room from which I had seen him go out, and that he had given strict orders not to be disturbed, I knew that he was coming back; and for his coming back I watched. I kept my watch in the street—in doorways, and such places—all that night; at the same window, all next day; and when night came on again, in the street once more. For I knew he would come back, as he had gone out, when this part of the town was empty. He did. Early in the morning, the same countryman came creeping, creeping, creeping home.’

‘Look sharp!’ interposed Slyme, who had now finished his nuts. ‘This is quite irregular, Mr Nadgett.’

‘I kept at the window all day,’ said Nadgett, without heeding him. ‘I think I never closed my eyes. At night, I saw him come out with a bundle. I followed him again. He went down the steps at London Bridge, and sunk it in the river. I now began to entertain some serious fears, and made a communication to the Police, which caused that bundle to be—’

‘To be fished up,’ interrupted Slyme. ‘Be alive, Mr Nadgett.’

‘It contained the dress I had seen him wear,’ said Nadgett; ‘stained with clay, and spotted with blood. Information of the murder was received in town last night. The wearer of that dress is already known to have been seen near the place; to have been lurking in that neighbourhood; and to have alighted from a coach coming from that part of the country, at a time exactly tallying with the very minute when I saw him returning home. The warrant has been out, and these officers have been with me, some hours. We chose our time; and seeing you come in, and seeing this person at the window—’

‘Beckoned to him,’ said Mark, taking up the thread of the narrative, on hearing this allusion to himself, ‘to open the door; which he did with a deal of pleasure.’

‘That’s all at present,’ said Nadgett, putting up his great pocketbook, which from mere habit he had produced when he began his revelation, and had kept in his hand all the time; ‘but there is plenty more to come. You asked me for the facts, so far I have related them, and need not detain these gentlemen any longer. Are you ready, Mr Slyme?’

‘And something more,’ replied that worthy, rising. ‘If you walk round to the office, we shall be there as soon as you. Tom! Get a coach!’

The officer to whom he spoke departed for that purpose. Old Martin lingered for a few moments, as if he would have addressed some words to Jonas; but looking round, and seeing him still seated on the floor, rocking himself in a savage manner to and fro, took Chuffey’s arm, and slowly followed Nadgett out. John Westlock and Mark Tapley accompanied them. Mrs Gamp had tottered out first, for the better display of her feelings, in a kind of walking swoon; for Mrs Gamp performed swoons of different sorts, upon a moderate notice, as Mr Mould did Funerals.

‘Ha!’ muttered Slyme, looking after them. ‘Upon my soul! As insensible of being disgraced by having such a nephew as myself, in such a situation, as he was of my being an honour and a credit to the family! That’s the return I get for having humbled my spirit—such a spirit as mine—to earn a livelihood, is it?’

He got up from his chair, and kicked it away indignantly.

‘And such a livelihood too! When there are hundreds of men, not fit to hold a candle to me, rolling in carriages and living on their fortunes. Upon my soul it’s a nice world!’

His eyes encountered Jonas, who looked earnestly towards him, and moved his lips as if he were whispering.

‘Eh?’ said Slyme.

Jonas glanced at the attendant whose back was towards him, and made a clumsy motion with his bound hands towards the door.

‘Humph!’ said Slyme, thoughtfully. ‘I couldn’t hope to disgrace him into anything when you have shot so far ahead of me though. I forgot that.’

Jonas repeated the same look and gesture.

‘Jack!’ said Slyme.

‘Hallo!’ returned his man.

‘Go down to the door, ready for the coach. Call out when it comes. I’d rather have you there. Now then,’ he added, turning hastily to Jonas, when the man was gone. ‘What’s the matter?’

Jonas essayed to rise.

‘Stop a bit,’ said Slyme. ‘It’s not so easy when your wrists are tight together. Now then! Up! What is it?’

‘Put your hand in my pocket. Here! The breast pocket, on the left!’ said Jonas.

He did so; and drew out a purse.

‘There’s a hundred pound in it,’ said Jonas, whose words were almost unintelligible; as his face, in its pallor and agony, was scarcely human.

Slyme looked at him; gave it into his hands; and shook his head.

‘I can’t. I daren’t. I couldn’t if I dared. Those fellows below—’

‘Escape’s impossible,’ said Jonas. ‘I know it. One hundred pound for only five minutes in the next room!’

‘What to do?’ he asked.

The face of his prisoner as he advanced to whisper in his ear, made him recoil involuntarily. But he stopped and listened to him. The words were few, but his own face changed as he heard them.

‘I have it about me,’ said Jonas, putting his hands to his throat, as though whatever he referred to were hidden in his neckerchief. ‘How should you know of it? How could you know? A hundred pound for only five minutes in the next room! The time’s passing. Speak!’

‘It would be more—more creditable to the family,’ observed Slyme, with trembling lips. ‘I wish you hadn’t told me half so much. Less would have served your purpose. You might have kept it to yourself.’

‘A hundred pound for only five minutes in the next room! Speak!’ cried Jonas, desperately.

He took the purse. Jonas, with a wild unsteady step, retreated to the door in the glass partition.

‘Stop!’ cried Slyme, catching at his skirts. ‘I don’t know about this. Yet it must end so at last. Are you guilty?’

‘Yes!’ said Jonas.

‘Are the proofs as they were told just now?’

‘Yes!’ said Jonas.

‘Will you—will you engage to say a—a Prayer, now, or something of that sort?’ faltered Slyme.

Jonas broke from him without replying, and closed the door between them.

Slyme listened at the keyhole. After that, he crept away on tiptoe, as far off as he could; and looked awfully towards the place. He was roused by the arrival of the coach, and their letting down the steps.

‘He’s getting a few things together,’ he said, leaning out of window, and speaking to the two men below, who stood in the full light of a street-lamp. ‘Keep your eye upon the back, one of you, for form’s sake.’

One of the men withdrew into the court. The other, seating himself self on the steps of the coach, remained in conversation with Slyme at the window who perhaps had risen to be his superior, in virtue of his old propensity (one so much lauded by the murdered man) of being always round the corner. A useful habit in his present calling.

‘Where is he?’ asked the man.

Slyme looked into the room for an instant and gave his head a jerk as much as to say, ‘Close at hand. I see him.’

‘He’s booked,’ observed the man.

‘Through,’ said Slyme.

They looked at each other, and up and down the street. The man on the coach-steps took his hat off, and put it on again, and whistled a little.

‘I say! He’s taking his time!’ he remonstrated.

‘I allowed him five minutes,’ said Slyme. ‘Time’s more than up, though. I’ll bring him down.’

He withdrew from the window accordingly, and walked on tiptoe to the door in the partition. He listened. There was not a sound within. He set the candles near it, that they might shine through the glass.

It was not easy, he found, to make up his mind to the opening of the door. But he flung it wide open suddenly, and with a noise; then retreated. After peeping in and listening again, he entered.

He started back as his eyes met those of Jonas, standing in an angle of the wall, and staring at him. His neckerchief was off; his face was ashy pale.

‘You’re too soon,’ said Jonas, with an abject whimper. ‘I’ve not had time. I have not been able to do it. I—five minutes more—two minutes more!—only one!’

Slyme gave him no reply, but thrusting the purse upon him and forcing it back into his pocket, called up his men.

He whined, and cried, and cursed, and entreated them, and struggled, and submitted, in the same breath, and had no power to stand. They got him away and into the coach, where they put him on a seat; but he soon fell moaning down among the straw at the bottom, and lay there.

The two men were with him. Slyme being on the box with the driver; and they let him lie. Happening to pass a fruiterer’s on their way; the door of which was open, though the shop was by this time shut; one of them remarked how faint the peaches smelled.

The other assented at the moment, but presently stooped down in quick alarm, and looked at the prisoner.

‘Stop the coach! He has poisoned himself! The smell comes from this bottle in his hand!’

The hand had shut upon it tight. With that rigidity of grasp with which no living man, in the full strength and energy of life, can clutch a prize he has won.

They dragged him out into the dark street; but jury, judge, and hangman, could have done no more, and could do nothing now. Dead, dead, dead.


Old Martin’s cherished projects, so long hidden in his own breast, so frequently in danger of abrupt disclosure through the bursting forth of the indignation he had hoarded up during his residence with Mr Pecksniff, were retarded, but not beyond a few hours, by the occurrences just now related. Stunned, as he had been at first by the intelligence conveyed to him through Tom Pinch and John Westlock, of the supposed manner of his brother’s death; overwhelmed as he was by the subsequent narratives of Chuffey and Nadgett, and the forging of that chain of circumstances ending in the death of Jonas, of which catastrophe he was immediately informed; scattered as his purposes and hopes were for the moment, by the crowding in of all these incidents between him and his end; still their very intensity and the tumult of their assemblage nerved him to the rapid and unyielding execution of his scheme. In every single circumstance, whether it were cruel, cowardly, or false, he saw the flowering of the same pregnant seed. Self; grasping, eager, narrow-ranging, overreaching self; with its long train of suspicions, lusts, deceits, and all their growing consequences; was the root of the vile tree. Mr Pecksniff had so presented his character before the old man’s eyes, that he—the good, the tolerant, enduring Pecksniff—had become the incarnation of all selfishness and treachery; and the more odious the shapes in which those vices ranged themselves before him now, the sterner consolation he had in his design of setting Mr Pecksniff right and Mr Pecksniff’s victims too.

To this work he brought, not only the energy and determination natural to his character (which, as the reader may have observed in the beginning of his or her acquaintance with this gentleman, was remarkable for the strong development of those qualities), but all the forced and unnaturally nurtured energy consequent upon their long suppression. And these two tides of resolution setting into one and sweeping on, became so strong and vigorous, that, to prevent themselves from being carried away before it, Heaven knows where, was as much as John Westlock and Mark Tapley together (though they were tolerably energetic too) could manage to effect.

He had sent for John Westlock immediately on his arrival; and John, under the conduct of Tom Pinch, had waited on him. Having a lively recollection of Mr Tapley, he had caused that gentleman’s attendance to be secured, through John’s means, without delay; and thus, as we have seen, they had all repaired together to the City. But his grandson he had refused to see until to-morrow, when Mr Tapley was instructed to summon him to the Temple at ten o’clock in the forenoon. Tom he would not allow to be employed in anything, lest he should be wrongfully suspected; but he was a party to all their proceedings, and was with them until late at night—until after they knew of the death of Jonas; when he went home to tell all these wonders to little Ruth, and to prepare her for accompanying him to the Temple in the morning, agreeably to Mr Chuzzlewit’s particular injunction.

It was characteristic of old Martin, and his looking on to something which he had distinctly before him, that he communicated to them nothing of his intentions, beyond such hints of reprisal on Mr Pecksniff as they gathered from the game he had played in that gentleman’s house, and the brightening of his eyes whenever his name was mentioned. Even to John Westlock, in whom he was evidently disposed to place great confidence (which may indeed be said of every one of them), he gave no explanation whatever. He merely requested him to return in the morning; and with this for their utmost satisfaction, they left him, when the night was far advanced, alone.

The events of such a day might have worn out the body and spirit of a much younger man than he, but he sat in deep and painful meditation until the morning was bright. Nor did he even then seek any prolonged repose, but merely slumbered in his chair, until seven o’clock, when Mr Tapley had appointed to come to him by his desire; and came—as fresh and clean and cheerful as the morning itself.

‘You are punctual,’ said Mr Chuzzlewit, opening the door to him in reply to his light knock, which had roused him instantly.

‘My wishes, sir,’ replied Mr Tapley, whose mind would appear from the context to have been running on the matrimonial service, ‘is to love, honour, and obey. The clock’s a-striking now, sir.’

‘Come in!’

‘Thank’ee, sir,’ rejoined Mr Tapley, ‘what could I do for you first, sir?’

‘You gave my message to Martin?’ said the old man, bending his eyes upon him.

‘I did, sir,’ returned Mark; ‘and you never see a gentleman more surprised in all your born days than he was.’

‘What more did you tell him?’ Mr Chuzzlewit inquired.

‘Why, sir,’ said Mr Tapley, smiling, ‘I should have liked to tell him a deal more, but not being able, sir, I didn’t tell it him.’

‘You told him all you knew?’

‘But it was precious little, sir,’ retorted Mr Tapley. ‘There was very little respectin’ you that I was able to tell him, sir. I only mentioned my opinion that Mr Pecksniff would find himself deceived, sir, and that you would find yourself deceived, and that he would find himself deceived, sir.’

‘In what?’ asked Mr Chuzzlewit.

‘Meaning him, sir?’

‘Meaning both him and me.’

‘Well, sir,’ said Mr Tapley. ‘In your old opinions of each other. As to him, sir, and his opinions, I know he’s a altered man. I know it. I know’d it long afore he spoke to you t’other day, and I must say it. Nobody don’t know half as much of him as I do. Nobody can’t. There was always a deal of good in him, but a little of it got crusted over, somehow. I can’t say who rolled the paste of that ‘ere crust myself, but—’

‘Go on,’ said Martin. ‘Why do you stop?’

‘But it—well! I beg your pardon, but I think it may have been you, sir. Unintentional I think it may have been you. I don’t believe that neither of you gave the other quite a fair chance. There! Now I’ve got rid on it,’ said Mr Tapley in a fit of desperation: ‘I can’t go a-carryin’ it about in my own mind, bustin’ myself with it; yesterday was quite long enough. It’s out now. I can’t help it. I’m sorry for it. Don’t wisit on him, sir, that’s all.’

It was clear that Mark expected to be ordered out immediately, and was quite prepared to go.

‘So you think,’ said Martin, ‘that his old faults are, in some degree, of my creation, do you?’

‘Well, sir,’ retorted Mr Tapley, ‘I’m werry sorry, but I can’t unsay it. It’s hardly fair of you, sir, to make a ignorant man conwict himself in this way, but I do think so. I am as respectful disposed to you, sir, as a man can be; but I do think so.’

The light of a faint smile seemed to break through the dull steadiness of Martin’s face, as he looked attentively at him, without replying.

‘Yet you are an ignorant man, you say,’ he observed after a long pause.

‘Werry much so,’ Mr Tapley replied.

‘And I a learned, well-instructed man, you think?’

‘Likewise wery much so,’ Mr Tapley answered.

The old man, with his chin resting on his hand, paced the room twice or thrice before he added:

‘You have left him this morning?’

‘Come straight from him now, sir.’

‘For what does he suppose?’

‘He don’t know what to suppose, sir, no more than myself. I told him jest wot passed yesterday, sir, and that you had said to me, “Can you be here by seven in the morning?” and that you had said to him, through me, “Can you be here by ten in the morning?” and that I had said “Yes” to both. That’s all, sir.’

His frankness was so genuine that it plainly was all.

‘Perhaps,’ said Martin, ‘he may think you are going to desert him, and to serve me?’

‘I have served him in that sort of way, sir,’ replied Mark, without the loss of any atom of his self-possession; ‘and we have been that sort of companions in misfortune, that my opinion is, he don’t believe a word on it. No more than you do, sir.’

‘Will you help me to dress, and get me some breakfast from the hotel?’ asked Martin.

‘With pleasure, sir,’ said Mark.

‘And by-and-bye,’ said Martin, ‘remaining in the room, as I wish you to do, will you attend to the door yonder—give admission to visitors, I mean, when they knock?’

‘Certainly, sir,’ said Mr Tapley.

‘You will not find it necessary to express surprise at their appearance,’ Martin suggested.

‘Oh dear no, sir!’ said Mr Tapley, ‘not at all.’

Although he pledged himself to this with perfect confidence, he was in a state of unbounded astonishment even now. Martin appeared to observe it, and to have some sense of the ludicrous bearing of Mr Tapley under these perplexing circumstances; for, in spite of the composure of his voice and the gravity of his face, the same indistinct light flickered on the latter several times. Mark bestirred himself, however, to execute the offices with which he was entrusted; and soon lost all tendency to any outward expression of his surprise, in the occupation of being brisk and busy.

But when he had put Mr Chuzzlewit’s clothes in good order for dressing, and when that gentleman was dressed and sitting at his breakfast, Mr Tapley’s feelings of wonder began to return upon him with great violence; and, standing beside the old man with a napkin under his arm (it was as natural and easy to joke to Mark to be a butler in the Temple, as it had been to volunteer as cook on board the Screw), he found it difficult to resist the temptation of casting sidelong glances at him very often. Nay, he found it impossible; and accordingly yielded to this impulse so often, that Martin caught him in the fact some fifty times. The extraordinary things Mr Tapley did with his own face when any of these detections occurred; the sudden occasions he had to rub his eyes or his nose or his chin; the look of wisdom with which he immediately plunged into the deepest thought, or became intensely interested in the habits and customs of the flies upon the ceiling, or the sparrows out of doors; or the overwhelming politeness with which he endeavoured to hide his confusion by handing the muffin; may not unreasonably be assumed to have exercised the utmost power of feature that even Martin Chuzzlewit the elder possessed.

But he sat perfectly quiet and took his breakfast at his leisure, or made a show of doing so, for he scarcely ate or drank, and frequently lapsed into long intervals of musing. When he had finished, Mark sat down to his breakfast at the same table; and Mr Chuzzlewit, quite silent still, walked up and down the room.

Mark cleared away in due course, and set a chair out for him, in which, as the time drew on towards ten o’clock, he took his seat, leaning his hands upon his stick, and clenching them upon the handle, and resting his chin on them again. All his impatience and abstraction of manner had vanished now; and as he sat there, looking, with his keen eyes, steadily towards the door, Mark could not help thinking what a firm, square, powerful face it was; or exulting in the thought that Mr Pecksniff, after playing a pretty long game of bowls with its owner, seemed to be at last in a very fair way of coming in for a rubber or two.

Mark’s uncertainty in respect of what was going to be done or said, and by whom to whom, would have excited him in itself. But knowing for a certainty besides, that young Martin was coming, and in a very few minutes must arrive, he found it by no means easy to remain quiet and silent. But, excepting that he occasionally coughed in a hollow and unnatural manner to relieve himself, he behaved with great decorum through the longest ten minutes he had ever known.

A knock at the door. Mr Westlock. Mr Tapley, in admitting him, raised his eyebrows to the highest possible pitch, implying thereby that he considered himself in an unsatisfactory position. Mr Chuzzlewit received him very courteously.

Mark waited at the door for Tom Pinch and his sister, who were coming up the stairs. The old man went to meet them; took their hands in his; and kissed her on the cheek. As this looked promising, Mr Tapley smiled benignantly.

Mr Chuzzlewit had resumed his chair before young Martin, who was close behind them, entered. The old man, scarcely looking at him, pointed to a distant seat. This was less encouraging; and Mr Tapley’s spirits fell again.

He was quickly summoned to the door by another knock. He did not start, or cry, or tumble down, at sight of Miss Graham and Mrs Lupin, but he drew a very long breath, and came back perfectly resigned, looking on them and on the rest with an expression which seemed to say that nothing could surprise him any more; and that he was rather glad to have done with that sensation for ever.

The old man received Mary no less tenderly than he had received Tom Pinch’s sister. A look of friendly recognition passed between himself and Mrs Lupin, which implied the existence of a perfect understanding between them. It engendered no astonishment in Mr Tapley; for, as he afterwards observed, he had retired from the business, and sold off the stock.

Not the least curious feature in this assemblage was, that everybody present was so much surprised and embarrassed by the sight of everybody else, that nobody ventured to speak. Mr Chuzzlewit alone broke silence.

‘Set the door open, Mark!’ he said; ‘and come here.’

Mark obeyed.

The last appointed footstep sounded now upon the stairs. They all knew it. It was Mr Pecksniff’s; and Mr Pecksniff was in a hurry too, for he came bounding up with such uncommon expedition that he stumbled twice or thrice.

‘Where is my venerable friend?’ he cried upon the upper landing; and then with open arms came darting in.

Old Martin merely looked at him; but Mr Pecksniff started back as if he had received the charge from an electric battery.

‘My venerable friend is well?’ cried Mr Pecksniff.

‘Quite well.’

It seemed to reassure the anxious inquirer. He clasped his hands and, looking upwards with a pious joy, silently expressed his gratitude. He then looked round on the assembled group, and shook his head reproachfully. For such a man severely, quite severely.

‘Oh, vermin!’ said Mr Pecksniff. ‘Oh, bloodsuckers! Is it not enough that you have embittered the existence of an individual wholly unparalleled in the biographical records of amiable persons, but must you now, even now, when he has made his election, and reposed his trust in a Numble, but at least sincere and disinterested relative; must you now, vermin and swarmers (I regret to make use of these strong expressions, my dear sir, but there are times when honest indignation will not be controlled), must you now, vermin and swarmers (for I will repeat it), take advantage of his unprotected state, assemble round him from all quarters, as wolves and vultures, and other animals of the feathered tribe assemble round—I will not say round carrion or a carcass, for Mr Chuzzlewit is quite the contrary—but round their prey; their prey; to rifle and despoil; gorging their voracious maws, and staining their offensive beaks, with every description of carnivorous enjoyment!’

As he stopped to fetch his breath, he waved them off, in a solemn manner, with his hand.

‘Horde of unnatural plunderers and robbers!’ he continued; ‘leave him! leave him, I say! Begone! Abscond! You had better be off! Wander over the face of the earth, young sirs, like vagabonds as you are, and do not presume to remain in a spot which is hallowed by the grey hairs of the patriarchal gentleman to whose tottering limbs I have the honour to act as an unworthy, but I hope an unassuming, prop and staff. And you, my tender sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff, addressing himself in a tone of gentle remonstrance to the old man, ‘how could you ever leave me, though even for this short period! You have absented yourself, I do not doubt, upon some act of kindness to me; bless you for it; but you must not do it; you must not be so venturesome. I should really be angry with you if I could, my friend!’

He advanced with outstretched arms to take the old man’s hand. But he had not seen how the hand clasped and clutched the stick within its grasp. As he came smiling on, and got within his reach, old Martin, with his burning indignation crowded into one vehement burst, and flashing out of every line and wrinkle in his face, rose up, and struck him down upon the ground.

With such a well-directed nervous blow, that down he went, as heavily and true as if the charge of a Life-Guardsman had tumbled him out of a saddle. And whether he was stunned by the shock, or only confused by the wonder and novelty of this warm reception, he did not offer to get up again; but lay there, looking about him with a disconcerted meekness in his face so enormously ridiculous, that neither Mark Tapley nor John Westlock could repress a smile, though both were actively interposing to prevent a repetition of the blow; which the old man’s gleaming eyes and vigorous attitude seemed to render one of the most probable events in the world.

‘Drag him away! Take him out of my reach!’ said Martin; ‘or I can’t help it. The strong restraint I have put upon my hands has been enough to palsy them. I am not master of myself while he is within their range. Drag him away!’

Seeing that he still did not rise, Mr Tapley, without any compromise about it, actually did drag him away, and stick him up on the floor, with his back against the opposite wall.

‘Hear me, rascal!’ said Mr Chuzzlewit. ‘I have summoned you here to witness your own work. I have summoned you here to witness it, because I know it will be gall and wormwood to you! I have summoned you here to witness it, because I know the sight of everybody here must be a dagger in your mean, false heart! What! do you know me as I am, at last!’

Mr Pecksniff had cause to stare at him, for the triumph in his face and speech and figure was a sight to stare at.

‘Look there!’ said the old man, pointing at him, and appealing to the rest. ‘Look there! And then—come hither, my dear Martin—look here! here! here!’ At every repetition of the word he pressed his grandson closer to his breast.

‘The passion I felt, Martin, when I dared not do this,’ he said, ‘was in the blow I struck just now. Why did we ever part! How could we ever part! How could you ever fly from me to him!’

Martin was about to answer, but he stopped him, and went on.

‘The fault was mine no less than yours. Mark has told me so today, and I have known it long; though not so long as I might have done. Mary, my love, come here.’

As she trembled and was very pale, he sat her in his own chair, and stood beside it with her hand in his; and Martin standing by him.

‘The curse of our house,’ said the old man, looking kindly down upon her, ‘has been the love of self; has ever been the love of self. How often have I said so, when I never knew that I had wrought it upon others.’

He drew one hand through Martin’s arm, and standing so, between them, proceeded thus:

‘You all know how I bred this orphan up, to tend me. None of you can know by what degrees I have come to regard her as a daughter; for she has won upon me, by her self-forgetfulness, her tenderness, her patience, all the goodness of her nature, when Heaven is her witness that I took but little pains to draw it forth. It blossomed without cultivation, and it ripened without heat. I cannot find it in my heart to say that I am sorry for it now, or yonder fellow might be holding up his head.’

Mr Pecksniff put his hand into his waistcoat, and slightly shook that part of him to which allusion had been made; as if to signify that it was still uppermost.

‘There is a kind of selfishness,’ said Martin—‘I have learned it in my own experience of my own breast—which is constantly upon the watch for selfishness in others; and holding others at a distance, by suspicions and distrusts, wonders why they don’t approach, and don’t confide, and calls that selfishness in them. Thus I once doubted those about me—not without reason in the beginning—and thus I once doubted you, Martin.’

‘Not without reason,’ Martin answered, ‘either.’

‘Listen, hypocrite! Listen, smooth-tongued, servile, crawling knave!’ said Martin. ‘Listen, you shallow dog. What! When I was seeking him, you had already spread your nets; you were already fishing for him, were ye? When I lay ill in this good woman’s house and your meek spirit pleaded for my grandson, you had already caught him, had ye? Counting on the restoration of the love you knew I bore him, you designed him for one of your two daughters did ye? Or failing that, you traded in him as a speculation which at any rate should blind me with the lustre of your charity, and found a claim upon me! Why, even then I knew you, and I told you so. Did I tell you that I knew you, even then?’

‘I am not angry, sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff, softly. ‘I can bear a great deal from you. I will never contradict you, Mr Chuzzlewit.’

‘Observe!’ said Martin, looking round. ‘I put myself in that man’s hands on terms as mean and base, and as degrading to himself, as I could render them in words. I stated them at length to him, before his own children, syllable by syllable, as coarsely as I could, and with as much offence, and with as plain an exposition of my contempt, as words—not looks and manner merely—could convey. If I had only called the angry blood into his face, I would have wavered in my purpose. If I had only stung him into being a man for a minute I would have abandoned it. If he had offered me one word of remonstrance, in favour of the grandson whom he supposed I had disinherited; if he had pleaded with me, though never so faintly, against my appeal to him to abandon him to misery and cast him from his house; I think I could have borne with him for ever afterwards. But not a word, not a word. Pandering to the worst of human passions was the office of his nature; and faithfully he did his work!’

‘I am not angry,’ observed Mr Pecksniff. ‘I am hurt, Mr Chuzzlewit; wounded in my feelings; but I am not angry, my good sir.’

Mr Chuzzlewit resumed.

‘Once resolved to try him, I was resolute to pursue the trial to the end; but while I was bent on fathoming the depth of his duplicity, I made a sacred compact with myself that I would give him credit on the other side for any latent spark of goodness, honour, forbearance—any virtue—that might glimmer in him. For first to last there has been no such thing. Not once. He cannot say I have not given him opportunity. He cannot say I have ever led him on. He cannot say I have not left him freely to himself in all things; or that I have not been a passive instrument in his hands, which he might have used for good as easily as evil. Or if he can, he Lies! And that’s his nature, too.’

‘Mr Chuzzlewit,’ interrupted Pecksniff, shedding tears. ‘I am not angry, sir. I cannot be angry with you. But did you never, my dear sir, express a desire that the unnatural young man who by his wicked arts has estranged your good opinion from me, for the time being; only for the time being; that your grandson, Mr Chuzzlewit, should be dismissed my house? Recollect yourself, my Christian friend.’

‘I have said so, have I not?’ retorted the old man, sternly. ‘I could not tell how far your specious hypocrisy had deceived him, knave; and knew no better way of opening his eyes than by presenting you before him in your own servile character. Yes. I did express that desire. And you leaped to meet it; and you met it; and turning in an instant on the hand you had licked and beslavered, as only such hounds can, you strengthened, and confirmed, and justified me in my scheme.’

Mr Pecksniff made a bow; a submissive, not to say a grovelling and an abject bow. If he had been complimented on his practice of the loftiest virtues, he never could have bowed as he bowed then.

‘The wretched man who has been murdered,’ Mr Chuzzlewit went on to say; ‘then passing by the name of—’

‘Tigg,’ suggested Mark.

‘Of Tigg; brought begging messages to me on behalf of a friend of his, and an unworthy relative of mine; and finding him a man well enough suited to my purpose, I employed him to glean some news of you, Martin, for me. It was from him I learned that you had taken up your abode with yonder fellow. It was he, who meeting you here in town, one evening—you remember where?’

‘At the pawnbroker’s shop,’ said Martin.

‘Yes; watched you to your lodging, and enabled me to send you a bank-note.’

‘I little thought,’ said Martin, greatly moved, ‘that it had come from you; I little thought that you were interested in my fate. If I had—’

‘If you had,’ returned the old man, sorrowfully, ‘you would have shown less knowledge of me as I seemed to be, and as I really was. I hoped to bring you back, Martin, penitent and humbled. I hoped to distress you into coming back to me. Much as I loved you, I had that to acknowledge which I could not reconcile it to myself to avow, then, unless you made submission to me first. Thus it was I lost you. If I have had, indirectly, any act or part in the fate of that unhappy man, by putting means, however small, within his reach, Heaven forgive me! I might have known, perhaps, that he would misuse money; that it was ill-bestowed upon him; and that sown by his hands it could engender mischief only. But I never thought of him at that time as having the disposition or ability to be a serious impostor, or otherwise than as a thoughtless, idle-humoured, dissipated spendthrift, sinning more against himself than others, and frequenting low haunts and indulging vicious tastes, to his own ruin only.’

‘Beggin’ your pardon, sir,’ said Mr Tapley, who had Mrs Lupin on his arm by this time, quite agreeably; ‘if I may make so bold as say so, my opinion is, as you was quite correct, and that he turned out perfectly nat’ral for all that. There’s surprisin’ number of men sir, who as long as they’ve only got their own shoes and stockings to depend upon, will walk down hill, along the gutters quiet enough and by themselves, and not do much harm. But set any on ‘em up with a coach and horses, sir; and it’s wonderful what a knowledge of drivin’ he’ll show, and how he’ll fill his wehicle with passengers, and start off in the middle of the road, neck or nothing, to the Devil! Bless your heart, sir, there’s ever so many Tiggs a-passin’ this here Temple-gate any hour in the day, that only want a chance to turn out full-blown Montagues every one!’

‘Your ignorance, as you call it, Mark,’ said Mr Chuzzlewit, ‘is wiser than some men’s enlightenment, and mine among them. You are right; not for the first time to-day. Now hear me out, my dears. And hear me, you, who, if what I have been told be accurately stated, are Bankrupt in pocket no less than in good name! And when you have heard me, leave this place, and poison my sight no more!’

Mr Pecksniff laid his hand upon his breast, and bowed again.

‘The penance I have done in this house,’ said Mr Chuzzlewit, ‘has earned this reflection with it constantly, above all others. That if it had pleased Heaven to visit such infirmity on my old age as really had reduced me to the state in which I feigned to be, I should have brought its misery upon myself. Oh, you whose wealth, like mine, has been a source of continual unhappiness, leading you to distrust the nearest and dearest, and to dig yourself a living grave of suspicion and reserve; take heed that, having cast off all whom you might have bound to you, and tenderly, you do not become in your decay the instrument of such a man as this, and waken in another world to the knowledge of such wrong as would embitter Heaven itself, if wrong or you could ever reach it!’

And then he told them how he had sometimes thought, in the beginning, that love might grow up between Mary and Martin; and how he had pleased his fancy with the picture of observing it when it was new, and taking them to task, apart, in counterfeited doubt, and then confessing to them that it had been an object dear to his heart; and by his sympathy with them, and generous provision for their young fortunes, establishing a claim on their affection and regard which nothing should wither, and which should surround his old age with means of happiness. How in the first dawn of this design, and when the pleasure of such a scheme for the happiness of others was new and indistinct within him, Martin had come to tell him that he had already chosen for himself; knowing that he, the old man, had some faint project on that head, but ignorant whom it concerned. How it was little comfort to him to know that Martin had chosen Her, because the grace of his design was lost, and because finding that she had returned his love, he tortured himself with the reflection that they, so young, to whom he had been so kind a benefactor, were already like the world, and bent on their own selfish, stealthy ends. How in the bitterness of this impression, and of his past experience, he had reproached Martin so harshly (forgetting that he had never invited his confidence on such a point, and confounding what he had meant to do with what he had done), that high words sprung up between them, and they separated in wrath. How he loved him still, and hoped he would return. How on the night of his illness at the Dragon, he had secretly written tenderly of him, and made him his heir, and sanctioned his marriage with Mary; and how, after his interview with Mr Pecksniff, he had distrusted him again, and burnt the paper to ashes, and had lain down in his bed distracted by suspicions, doubts, and regrets.

And then he told them how, resolved to probe this Pecksniff, and to prove the constancy and truth of Mary (to himself no less than Martin), he had conceived and entered on his plan; and how, beneath her gentleness and patience, he had softened more and more; still more and more beneath the goodness and simplicity, the honour and the manly faith of Tom. And when he spoke of Tom, he said God bless him; and the tears were in his eyes; for he said that Tom, mistrusted and disliked by him at first, had come like summer rain upon his heart; and had disposed it to believe in better things. And Martin took him by the hand, and Mary too, and John, his old friend, stoutly too; and Mark, and Mrs Lupin, and his sister, little Ruth. And peace of mind, deep, tranquil peace of mind, was in Tom’s heart.

The old man then related how nobly Mr Pecksniff had performed the duty in which he stood indebted to society, in the matter of Tom’s dismissal; and how, having often heard disparagement of Mr Westlock from Pecksniffian lips, and knowing him to be a friend to Tom, he had used, through his confidential agent and solicitor, that little artifice which had kept him in readiness to receive his unknown friend in London. And he called on Mr Pecksniff (by the name of Scoundrel) to remember that there again he had not trapped him to do evil, but that he had done it of his own free will and agency; nay, that he had cautioned him against it. And once again he called on Mr Pecksniff (by the name of Hang-dog) to remember that when Martin coming home at last, an altered man, had sued for the forgiveness which awaited him, he, Pecksniff, had rejected him in language of his own, and had remorsely stepped in between him and the least touch of natural tenderness. ‘For which,’ said the old man, ‘if the bending of my finger would remove a halter from your neck, I wouldn’t bend it!’

‘Martin,’ he added, ‘your rival has not been a dangerous one, but Mrs Lupin here has played duenna for some weeks; not so much to watch your love as to watch her lover. For that Ghoul’—his fertility in finding names for Mr Pecksniff was astonishing—‘would have crawled into her daily walks otherwise, and polluted the fresh air. What’s this? Her hand is trembling strangely. See if you can hold it.’

Hold it! If he clasped it half as tightly as he did her waist. Well, well!

But it was good in him that even then, in his high fortune and happiness, with her lips nearly printed on his own, and her proud young beauty in his close embrace, he had a hand still left to stretch out to Tom Pinch.

‘Oh, Tom! Dear Tom! I saw you, accidentally, coming here. Forgive me!’

‘Forgive!’ cried Tom. ‘I’ll never forgive you as long as I live, Martin, if you say another syllable about it. Joy to you both! Joy, my dear fellow, fifty thousand times.’

Joy! There is not a blessing on earth that Tom did not wish them. There is not a blessing on earth that Tom would not have bestowed upon them, if he could.

‘I beg your pardon, sir,’ said Mr Tapley, stepping forward, ‘but yow was mentionin’, just now, a lady of the name of Lupin, sir.’

‘I was,’ returned old Martin

‘Yes, sir. It’s a pretty name, sir?’

‘A very good name,’ said Martin.

‘It seems a’most a pity to change such a name into Tapley. Don’t it, sir?’ said Mark.

‘That depends upon the lady. What is her opinion?’

‘Why, sir,’ said Mr Tapley, retiring, with a bow, towards the buxom hostess, ‘her opinion is as the name ain’t a change for the better, but the indiwidual may be, and, therefore, if nobody ain’t acquainted with no jest cause or impediment, et cetrer, the Blue Dragon will be con-werted into the Jolly Tapley. A sign of my own inwention, sir. Wery new, conwivial, and expressive!’

The whole of these proceedings were so agreeable to Mr Pecksniff that he stood with his eyes fixed upon the floor and his hands clasping one another alternately, as if a host of penal sentences were being passed upon him. Not only did his figure appear to have shrunk, but his discomfiture seemed to have extended itself even to his dress. His clothes seemed to have grown shabbier, his linen to have turned yellow, his hair to have become lank and frowsy; his very boots looked villanous and dim, as if their gloss had departed with his own.

Feeling, rather than seeing, that the old man now pointed to the door, he raised his eyes, picked up his hat, and thus addressed him:

‘Mr Chuzzlewit, sir! you have partaken of my hospitality.’

‘And paid for it,’ he observed.

‘Thank you. That savours,’ said Mr Pecksniff, taking out his pocket-handkerchief, ‘of your old familiar frankness. You have paid for it. I was about to make the remark. You have deceived me, sir. Thank you again. I am glad of it. To see you in the possession of your health and faculties on any terms, is, in itself, a sufficient recompense. To have been deceived implies a trusting nature. Mine is a trusting nature. I am thankful for it. I would rather have a trusting nature, do you know, sir, than a doubting one!’

Here Mr Pecksniff, with a sad smile, bowed, and wiped his eyes.

‘There is hardly any person present, Mr Chuzzlewit,’ said Pecksniff, ‘by whom I have not been deceived. I have forgiven those persons on the spot. That was my duty; and, of course, I have done it. Whether it was worthy of you to partake of my hospitality, and to act the part you did act in my house, that, sir, is a question which I leave to your own conscience. And your conscience does not acquit you. No, sir, no!’

Pronouncing these last words in a loud and solemn voice, Mr Pecksniff was not so absolutely lost in his own fervour as to be unmindful of the expediency of getting a little nearer to the door.

‘I have been struck this day,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘with a walking stick (which I have every reason to believe has knobs upon it), on that delicate and exquisite portion of the human anatomy—the brain. Several blows have been inflicted, sir, without a walking-stick, upon that tenderer portion of my frame—my heart. You have mentioned, sir, my being bankrupt in my purse. Yes, sir, I am. By an unfortunate speculation, combined with treachery, I find myself reduced to poverty; at a time, sir, when the child of my bosom is widowed, and affliction and disgrace are in my family.’

Here Mr Pecksniff wiped his eyes again, and gave himself two or three little knocks upon the breast, as if he were answering two or three other little knocks from within, given by the tinkling hammer of his conscience, to express ‘Cheer up, my boy!’

‘I know the human mind, although I trust it. That is my weakness. Do I not know, sir’—here he became exceedingly plaintive and was observed to glance towards Tom Pinch—‘that my misfortunes bring this treatment on me? Do I not know, sir, that but for them I never should have heard what I have heard to-day? Do I not know that in the silence and the solitude of night, a little voice will whisper in your ear, Mr Chuzzlewit, “This was not well. This was not well, sir!” Think of this, sir (if you will have the goodness), remote from the impulses of passion, and apart from the specialities, if I may use that strong remark, of prejudice. And if you ever contemplate the silent tomb, sir, which you will excuse me for entertaining some doubt of your doing, after the conduct into which you have allowed yourself to be betrayed this day; if you ever contemplate the silent tomb sir, think of me. If you find yourself approaching to the silent tomb, sir, think of me. If you should wish to have anything inscribed upon your silent tomb, sir, let it be, that I—ah, my remorseful sir! that I—the humble individual who has now the honour of reproaching you, forgave you. That I forgave you when my injuries were fresh, and when my bosom was newly wrung. It may be bitterness to you to hear it now, sir, but you will live to seek a consolation in it. May you find a consolation in it when you want it, sir! Good morning!’

With this sublime address, Mr Pecksniff departed. But the effect of his departure was much impaired by his being immediately afterwards run against, and nearly knocked down, by a monstrously excited little man in velveteen shorts and a very tall hat; who came bursting up the stairs, and straight into the chambers of Mr Chuzzlewit, as if he were deranged.

‘Is there anybody here that knows him?’ cried the little man. ‘Is there anybody here that knows him? Oh, my stars, is there anybody here that knows him?’

They looked at each other for an explanation; but nobody knew anything more than that here was an excited little man with a very tall hat on, running in and out of the room as hard as he could go; making his single pair of bright blue stockings appear at least a dozen; and constantly repeating in a shrill voice, ‘is there anybody here that knows him?’

‘If your brains is not turned topjy turjey, Mr Sweedlepipes!’ exclaimed another voice, ‘hold that there nige of yourn, I beg you, sir.’

At the same time Mrs Gamp was seen in the doorway; out of breath from coming up so many stairs, and panting fearfully; but dropping curtseys to the last.

‘Excuge the weakness of the man,’ said Mrs Gamp, eyeing Mr Sweedlepipe with great indignation; ‘and well I might expect it, as I should have know’d, and wishin’ he was drownded in the Thames afore I had brought him here, which not a blessed hour ago he nearly shaved the noge off from the father of as lovely a family as ever, Mr Chuzzlewit, was born three sets of twins, and would have done it, only he see it a-goin’ in the glass, and dodged the rager. And never, Mr Sweedlepipes, I do assure you, sir, did I so well know what a misfortun it was to be acquainted with you, as now I do, which so I say, sir, and I don’t deceive you!’

‘I ask your pardon, ladies and gentlemen all,’ cried the little barber, taking off his hat, ‘and yours too, Mrs Gamp. But—but,’ he added this half laughing and half crying, ‘is there anybody here that knows him?’

As the barber said these words, a something in top-boots, with its head bandaged up, staggered into the room, and began going round and round and round, apparently under the impression that it was walking straight forward.

‘Look at him!’ cried the excited little barber. ‘Here he is! That’ll soon wear off, and then he’ll be all right again. He’s no more dead than I am. He’s all alive and hearty. Aint you, Bailey?’

‘R—r—reether so, Poll!’ replied that gentleman.

‘Look here!’ cried the little barber, laughing and crying in the same breath. ‘When I steady him he comes all right. There! He’s all right now. Nothing’s the matter with him now, except that he’s a little shook and rather giddy; is there, Bailey?’

‘R—r—reether shook, Poll—reether so!’ said Mr Bailey. ‘What, my lovely Sairey! There you air!’

‘What a boy he is!’ cried the tender-hearted Poll, actually sobbing over him. ‘I never see sech a boy! It’s all his fun. He’s full of it. He shall go into the business along with me. I am determined he shall. We’ll make it Sweedlepipe and Bailey. He shall have the sporting branch (what a one he’ll be for the matches!) and me the shavin’. I’ll make over the birds to him as soon as ever he’s well enough. He shall have the little bullfinch in the shop, and all. He’s sech a boy! I ask your pardon, ladies and gentlemen, but I thought there might be some one here that know’d him!’

Mrs Gamp had observed, not without jealousy and scorn, that a favourable impression appeared to exist in behalf of Mr Sweedlepipe and his young friend; and that she had fallen rather into the background in consequence. She now struggled to the front, therefore, and stated her business.

‘Which, Mr Chuzzlewit,’ she said, ‘is well beknown to Mrs Harris as has one sweet infant (though she do not wish it known) in her own family by the mother’s side, kep in spirits in a bottle; and that sweet babe she see at Greenwich Fair, a-travelling in company with a pink-eyed lady, Prooshan dwarf, and livin’ skelinton, which judge her feelings when the barrel organ played, and she was showed her own dear sister’s child, the same not bein’ expected from the outside picter, where it was painted quite contrairy in a livin’ state, a many sizes larger, and performing beautiful upon the Arp, which never did that dear child know or do; since breathe it never did, to speak on in this wale! And Mrs Harris, Mr Chuzzlewit, has knowed me many year, and can give you information that the lady which is widdered can’t do better and may do worse, than let me wait upon her, which I hope to do. Permittin’ the sweet faces as I see afore me.’

‘Oh!’ said Mr Chuzzlewit. ‘Is that your business? Was this good person paid for the trouble we gave her?’

‘I paid her, sir,’ returned Mark Tapley; ‘liberal.’

‘The young man’s words is true,’ said Mrs Gamp, ‘and thank you kindly.’

‘Then here we will close our acquaintance, Mrs Gamp,’ retorted Mr Chuzzlewit. ‘And Mr Sweedlepipe—is that your name?’

‘That is my name, sir,’ replied Poll, accepting with a profusion of gratitude, some chinking pieces which the old man slipped into his hand.

‘Mr Sweedlepipe, take as much care of your lady-lodger as you can, and give her a word or two of good advice now and then. Such,’ said old Martin, looking gravely at the astonished Mrs Gamp, ‘as hinting at the expediency of a little less liquor, and a little more humanity, and a little less regard for herself, and a little more regard for her patients, and perhaps a trifle of additional honesty. Or when Mrs Gamp gets into trouble, Mr Sweedlepipe, it had better not be at a time when I am near enough to the Old Bailey to volunteer myself as a witness to her character. Endeavour to impress that upon her at your leisure, if you please.’

Mrs Gamp clasped her hands, turned up her eyes until they were quite invisible, threw back her bonnet for the admission of fresh air to her heated brow; and in the act of saying faintly—‘Less liquor!—Sairey Gamp—Bottle on the chimney-piece, and let me put my lips to it, when I am so dispoged!’—fell into one of the walking swoons; in which pitiable state she was conducted forth by Mr Sweedlepipe, who, between his two patients, the swooning Mrs Gamp and the revolving Bailey, had enough to do, poor fellow.

The old man looked about him, with a smile, until his eyes rested on Tom Pinch’s sister; when he smiled the more.

‘We will all dine here together,’ he said; ‘and as you and Mary have enough to talk of, Martin, you shall keep house for us until the afternoon, with Mr and Mrs Tapley. I must see your lodgings in the meanwhile, Tom.’

Tom was quite delighted. So was Ruth. She would go with them.

‘Thank you, my love,’ said Mr Chuzzlewit. ‘But I am afraid I must take Tom a little out of the way, on business. Suppose you go on first, my dear?’

Pretty little Ruth was equally delighted to do that.

‘But not alone,’ said Martin, ‘not alone. Mr Westlock, I dare say, will escort you.’

Why, of course he would: what else had Mr Westlock in his mind? How dull these old men are!

‘You are sure you have no engagement?’ he persisted.

Engagement! As if he could have any engagement!

So they went off arm-in-arm. When Tom and Mr Chuzzlewit went off arm-in-arm a few minutes after them, the latter was still smiling; and really, for a gentleman of his habits, in rather a knowing manner.



Brilliantly the Temple Fountain sparkled in the sun, and laughingly its liquid music played, and merrily the idle drops of water danced and danced, and peeping out in sport among the trees, plunged lightly down to hide themselves, as little Ruth and her companion came toward it.

And why they came toward the Fountain at all is a mystery; for they had no business there. It was not in their way. It was quite out of their way. They had no more to do with the Fountain, bless you, than they had with—with Love, or any out-of-the-way thing of that sort.

It was all very well for Tom and his sister to make appointments by the Fountain, but that was quite another affair. Because, of course, when she had to wait a minute or two, it would have been very awkward for her to have had to wait in any but a tolerably quiet spot; but that was as quiet a spot, everything considered, as they could choose. But when she had John Westlock to take care of her, and was going home with her arm in his (home being in a different direction altogether), their coming anywhere near that Fountain was quite extraordinary.

However, there they found themselves. And another extraordinary part of the matter was, that they seemed to have come there, by a silent understanding. Yet when they got there, they were a little confused by being there, which was the strangest part of all; because there is nothing naturally confusing in a Fountain. We all know that.

‘What a good old place it was!’ John said. With quite an earnest affection for it.

‘A pleasant place indeed,’ said little Ruth. ‘So shady!’

Oh wicked little Ruth!

They came to a stop when John began to praise it. The day was exquisite; and stopping at all, it was quite natural—nothing could be more so—that they should glance down Garden Court; because Garden Court ends in the Garden, and the Garden ends in the River, and that glimpse is very bright and fresh and shining on a summer’s day. Then, oh, little Ruth, why not look boldly at it! Why fit that tiny, precious, blessed little foot into the cracked corner of an insensible old flagstone in the pavement; and be so very anxious to adjust it to a nicety!

If the Fiery-faced matron in the crunched bonnet could have seen them as they walked away, how many years’ purchase might Fiery Face have been disposed to take for her situation in Furnival’s Inn as laundress to Mr Westlock!

They went away, but not through London’s streets! Through some enchanted city, where the pavements were of air; where all the rough sounds of a stirring town were softened into gentle music; where everything was happy; where there was no distance, and no time. There were two good-tempered burly draymen letting down big butts of beer into a cellar, somewhere; and when John helped her—almost lifted her—the lightest, easiest, neatest thing you ever saw—across the rope, they said he owed them a good turn for giving him the chance. Celestial draymen!

Green pastures in the summer tide, deep-littered straw yards in the winter, no start of corn and clover, ever, to that noble horse who would dance on the pavement with a gig behind him, and who frightened her, and made her clasp his arm with both hands (both hands meeting one upon the another so endearingly!), and caused her to implore him to take refuge in the pastry-cook’s, and afterwards to peep out at the door so shrinkingly; and then, looking at him with those eyes, to ask him was he sure—now was he sure—they might go safely on! Oh for a string of rampant horses! For a lion, for a bear, for a mad bull, for anything to bring the little hands together on his arm again!

They talked, of course. They talked of Tom, and all these changes and the attachment Mr Chuzzlewit had conceived for him, and the bright prospects he had in such a friend, and a great deal more to the same purpose. The more they talked, the more afraid this fluttering little Ruth became of any pause; and sooner than have a pause she would say the same things over again; and if she hadn’t courage or presence of mind enough for that (to say the truth she very seldom had), she was ten thousand times more charming and irresistible than she had been before.

‘Martin will be married very soon now, I suppose?’ said John.

She supposed he would. Never did a bewitching little woman suppose anything in such a faint voice as Ruth supposed that.

But seeing that another of those alarming pauses was approaching, she remarked that he would have a beautiful wife. Didn’t Mr Westlock think so?

‘Ye—yes,’ said John, ‘oh, yes.’

She feared he was rather hard to please, he spoke so coldly.

‘Rather say already pleased,’ said John. ‘I have scarcely seen her. I had no care to see her. I had no eyes for her, this morning.’

Oh, good gracious!

It was well they had reached their destination. She never could have gone any further. It would have been impossible to walk in such a tremble.

Tom had not come in. They entered the triangular parlour together, and alone. Fiery Face, Fiery Face, how many years’ purchase now!

She sat down on the little sofa, and untied her bonnet-strings. He sat down by her side, and very near her; very, very near her. Oh rapid, swelling, bursting little heart, you knew that it would come to this, and hoped it would. Why beat so wildly, heart!

‘Dear Ruth! Sweet Ruth! If I had loved you less, I could have told you that I loved you, long ago. I have loved you from the first. There never was a creature in the world more truly loved than you, dear Ruth, by me!’

She clasped her little hands before her face. The gushing tears of joy, and pride, and hope, and innocent affection, would not be restrained. Fresh from her full young heart they came to answer him.

‘My dear love! If this is—I almost dare to hope it is, now—not painful or distressing to you, you make me happier than I can tell, or you imagine. Darling Ruth! My own good, gentle, winning Ruth! I hope I know the value of your heart, I hope I know the worth of your angel nature. Let me try and show you that I do; and you will make me happier, Ruth—’

‘Not happier,’ she sobbed, ‘than you make me. No one can be happier, John, than you make me!’

Fiery Face, provide yourself! The usual wages or the usual warning. It’s all over, Fiery Face. We needn’t trouble you any further.

The little hands could meet each other now, without a rampant horse to urge them. There was no occasion for lions, bears, or mad bulls. It could all be done, and infinitely better, without their assistance. No burly drayman or big butts of beer, were wanted for apologies. No apology at all was wanted. The soft light touch fell coyly, but quite naturally, upon the lover’s shoulder; the delicate waist, the drooping head, the blushing cheek, the beautiful eyes, the exquisite mouth itself, were all as natural as possible. If all the horses in Araby had run away at once, they couldn’t have improved upon it.

They soon began to talk of Tom again.

‘I hope he will be glad to hear of it!’ said John, with sparkling eyes.

Ruth drew the little hands a little tighter when he said it, and looked up seriously into his face.

‘I am never to leave him, am I, dear? I could never leave Tom. I am sure you know that.’

‘Do you think I would ask you?’ he returned, with a—well! Never mind with what.

‘I am sure you never would,’ she answered, the bright tears standing in her eyes.

‘And I will swear it, Ruth, my darling, if you please. Leave Tom! That would be a strange beginning. Leave Tom, dear! If Tom and we be not inseparable, and Tom (God bless him) have not all honour and all love in our home, my little wife, may that home never be! And that’s a strong oath, Ruth.’

Shall it be recorded how she thanked him? Yes, it shall. In all simplicity and innocence and purity of heart, yet with a timid, graceful, half-determined hesitation, she set a little rosy seal upon the vow, whose colour was reflected in her face, and flashed up to the braiding of her dark brown hair.

‘Tom will be so happy, and so proud, and glad,’ she said, clasping her little hands. ‘But so surprised! I am sure he had never thought of such a thing.’

Of course John asked her immediately—because you know they were in that foolish state when great allowances must be made—when she had begun to think of such a thing, and this made a little diversion in their talk; a charming diversion to them, but not so interesting to us; at the end of which, they came back to Tom again.

‘Ah! dear Tom!’ said Ruth. ‘I suppose I ought to tell you everything now. I should have no secrets from you. Should I, John, love?’

It is of no use saying how that preposterous John answered her, because he answered in a manner which is untranslatable on paper though highly satisfactory in itself. But what he conveyed was, No no no, sweet Ruth; or something to that effect.

Then she told him Tom’s great secret; not exactly saying how she had found it out, but leaving him to understand it if he liked; and John was sadly grieved to hear it, and was full of sympathy and sorrow. But they would try, he said, only the more, on this account to make him happy, and to beguile him with his favourite pursuits. And then, in all the confidence of such a time, he told her how he had a capital opportunity of establishing himself in his old profession in the country; and how he had been thinking, in the event of that happiness coming upon him which had actually come—there was another slight diversion here—how he had been thinking that it would afford occupation to Tom, and enable them to live together in the easiest manner, without any sense of dependence on Tom’s part; and to be as happy as the day was long. And Ruth receiving this with joy, they went on catering for Tom to that extent that they had already purchased him a select library and built him an organ, on which he was performing with the greatest satisfaction, when they heard him knocking at the door.

Though she longed to tell him what had happened, poor little Ruth was greatly agitated by his arrival; the more so because she knew that Mr Chuzzlewit was with him. So she said, all in a tremble:

‘What shall I do, dear John! I can’t bear that he should hear it from any one but me, and I could not tell him, unless we were alone.’

‘Do, my love,’ said John, ‘whatever is natural to you on the impulse of the moment, and I am sure it will be right.’

He had hardly time to say thus much, and Ruth had hardly time to—just to get a little farther off—upon the sofa, when Tom and Mr Chuzzlewit came in. Mr Chuzzlewit came first, and Tom was a few seconds behind him.

Now Ruth had hastily resolved that she would beckon Tom upstairs after a short time, and would tell him in his little bedroom. But when she saw his dear old face come in, her heart was so touched that she ran into his arms, and laid her head down on his breast and sobbed out, ‘Bless me, Tom! My dearest brother!’

Tom looked up, in surprise, and saw John Westlock close beside him, holding out his hand.

‘John!’ cried Tom. ‘John!’

‘Dear Tom,’ said his friend, ‘give me your hand. We are brothers, Tom.’

Tom wrung it with all his force, embraced his sister fervently, and put her in John Westlock’s arms.

‘Don’t speak to me, John. Heaven is very good to us. I—’ Tom could find no further utterance, but left the room; and Ruth went after him.

And when they came back, which they did by-and-bye, she looked more beautiful, and Tom more good and true (if that were possible) than ever. And though Tom could not speak upon the subject even now; being yet too newly glad, he put both his hands in both of John’s with emphasis sufficient for the best speech ever spoken.

‘I am glad you chose to-day,’ said Mr Chuzzlewit to John; with the same knowing smile as when they had left him. ‘I thought you would. I hoped Tom and I lingered behind a discreet time. It’s so long since I had any practical knowledge of these subjects, that I have been anxious, I assure you.’

‘Your knowledge is still pretty accurate, sir,’ returned John, laughing, ‘if it led you to foresee what would happen to-day.’

‘Why, I am not sure, Mr Westlock,’ said the old man, ‘that any great spirit of prophecy was needed, after seeing you and Ruth together. Come hither, pretty one. See what Tom and I purchased this morning, while you were dealing in exchange with that young merchant there.’

The old man’s way of seating her beside him, and humouring his voice as if she were a child, was whimsical enough, but full of tenderness, and not ill adapted, somehow, to little Ruth.

‘See here!’ he said, taking a case from his pocket, ‘what a beautiful necklace. Ah! How it glitters! Earrings, too, and bracelets, and a zone for your waist. This set is yours, and Mary has another like it. Tom couldn’t understand why I wanted two. What a short-sighted Tom! Earrings and bracelets, and a zone for your waist! Ah! Beautiful! Let us see how brave they look. Ask Mr Westlock to clasp them on.’

It was the prettiest thing to see her holding out her round, white arm; and John (oh deep, deep John!) pretending that the bracelet was very hard to fasten; it was the prettiest thing to see her girding on the precious little zone, and yet obliged to have assistance because her fingers were in such terrible perplexity; it was the prettiest thing to see her so confused and bashful, with the smiles and blushes playing brightly on her face, like the sparkling light upon the jewels; it was the prettiest thing that you would see, in the common experiences of a twelvemonth, rely upon it.

‘The set of jewels and the wearer are so well matched,’ said the old man, ‘that I don’t know which becomes the other most. Mr Westlock could tell me, I have no doubt, but I’ll not ask him, for he is bribed. Health to wear them, my dear, and happiness to make you forgetful of them, except as a remembrance from a loving friend!’

He patted her upon the cheek, and said to Tom:

‘I must play the part of a father here, Tom, also. There are not many fathers who marry two such daughters on the same day; but we will overlook the improbability for the gratification of an old man’s fancy. I may claim that much indulgence,’ he added, ‘for I have gratified few fancies enough in my life tending to the happiness of others, Heaven knows!’

These various proceedings had occupied so much time, and they fell into such a pleasant conversation now, that it was within a quarter of an hour of the time appointed for dinner before any of them thought about it. A hackney-coach soon carried them to the Temple, however; and there they found everything prepared for their reception.

Mr Tapley having been furnished with unlimited credentials relative to the ordering of dinner, had so exerted himself for the honour of the party, that a prodigious banquet was served, under the joint direction of himself and his Intended. Mr Chuzzlewit would have had them of the party, and Martin urgently seconded his wish, but Mark could by no means be persuaded to sit down at table; observing, that in having the honour of attending to their comforts, he felt himself, indeed, the landlord of the Jolly Tapley, and could almost delude himself into the belief that the entertainment was actually being held under the Jolly Tapley’s roof.

For the better encouragement of himself in this fable, Mr Tapley took it upon him to issue divers general directions to the waiters from the hotel, relative to the disposal of the dishes and so forth; and as they were usually in direct opposition to all precedent, and were always issued in his most facetious form of thought and speech, they occasioned great merriment among those attendants; in which Mr Tapley participated, with an infinite enjoyment of his own humour. He likewise entertained them with short anecdotes of his travels appropriate to the occasion; and now and then with some comic passage or other between himself and Mrs Lupin; so that explosive laughs were constantly issuing from the side-board, and from the backs of chairs; and the head-waiter (who wore powder, and knee-smalls, and was usually a grave man) got to be a bright scarlet in the face, and broke his waistcoat-strings audibly.

Young Martin sat at the head of the table, and Tom Pinch at the foot; and if there were a genial face at that board, it was Tom’s. They all took their tone from Tom. Everybody drank to him, everybody looked to him, everybody thought of him, everybody loved him. If he so much as laid down his knife and fork, somebody put out a hand to shake with him. Martin and Mary had taken him aside before dinner, and spoken to him so heartily of the time to come, laying such fervent stress upon the trust they had in his completion of their felicity, by his society and closest friendship, that Tom was positively moved to tears. He couldn’t bear it. His heart was full, he said, of happiness. And so it was. Tom spoke the honest truth. It was. Large as thy heart was, dear Tom Pinch, it had no room that day for anything but happiness and sympathy!

And there was Fips, old Fips of Austin Friars, present at the dinner, and turning out to be the jolliest old dog that ever did violence to his convivial sentiments by shutting himself up in a dark office. ‘Where is he?’ said Fips, when he came in. And then he pounced on Tom, and told him that he wanted to relieve himself of all his old constraint; and in the first place shook him by one hand, and in the second place shook him by the other, and in the third place nudged him in the waistcoat, and in the fourth place said, ‘How are you?’ and in a great many other places did a great many other things to show his friendliness and joy. And he sang songs, did Fips; and made speeches, did Fips; and knocked off his wine pretty handsomely, did Fips; and in short, he showed himself a perfect Trump, did Fips, in all respects.

But ah! the happiness of strolling home at night—obstinate little Ruth, she wouldn’t hear of riding!—as they had done on that dear night, from Furnival’s Inn! The happiness of being able to talk about it, and to confide their happiness to each other! The happiness of stating all their little plans to Tom, and seeing his bright face grow brighter as they spoke!

When they reached home, Tom left John and his sister in the parlour, and went upstairs into his own room, under pretence of seeking a book. And Tom actually winked to himself when he got upstairs; he thought it such a deep thing to have done.

‘They like to be by themselves, of course,’ said Tom; ‘and I came away so naturally, that I have no doubt they are expecting me, every moment, to return. That’s capital!’

But he had not sat reading very long, when he heard a tap at his door.

‘May I come in?’ said John.

‘Oh, surely!’ Tom replied.

‘Don’t leave us, Tom. Don’t sit by yourself. We want to make you merry; not melancholy.’

‘My dear friend,’ said Tom, with a cheerful smile.

‘Brother, Tom. Brother.’

‘My dear brother,’ said Tom; ‘there is no danger of my being melancholy, how can I be melancholy, when I know that you and Ruth are so blest in each other! I think I can find my tongue tonight, John,’ he added, after a moment’s pause. ‘But I never can tell you what unutterable joy this day has given me. It would be unjust to you to speak of your having chosen a portionless girl, for I feel that you know her worth; I am sure you know her worth. Nor will it diminish in your estimation, John, which money might.’

‘Which money would, Tom,’ he returned. ‘Her worth! Oh, who could see her here, and not love her! Who could know her, Tom, and not honour her! Who could ever stand possessed of such a heart as hers, and grow indifferent to the treasure! Who could feel the rapture that I feel to-day, and love as I love her, Tom, without knowing something of her worth! Your joy unutterable! No, no, Tom. It’s mine, it’s mine.

‘No, no, John,’ said Tom. ‘It’s mine, it’s mine.’

Their friendly contention was brought to a close by little Ruth herself, who came peeping in at the door. And oh, the look, the glorious, half-proud, half-timid look she gave Tom, when her lover drew her to his side! As much as to say, ‘Yes, indeed, Tom, he will do it. But then he has a right, you know. Because I am fond of him, Tom.’

As to Tom, he was perfectly delighted. He could have sat and looked at them, just as they were, for hours.

‘I have told Tom, love, as we agreed, that we are not going to permit him to run away, and that we cannot possibly allow it. The loss of one person, and such a person as Tom, too, out of our small household of three, is not to be endured; and so I have told him. Whether he is considerate, or whether he is only selfish, I don’t know. But he needn’t be considerate, for he is not the least restraint upon us. Is he, dearest Ruth?’

Well! He really did not seem to be any particular restraint upon them. Judging from what ensued.

Was it folly in Tom to be so pleased by their remembrance of him at such a time? Was their graceful love a folly, were their dear caresses follies, was their lengthened parting folly? Was it folly in him to watch her window from the street, and rate its scantiest gleam of light above all diamonds; folly in her to breathe his name upon her knees, and pour out her pure heart before that Being from whom such hearts and such affections come?

If these be follies, then Fiery Face go on and prosper! If they be not, then Fiery Face avaunt! But set the crunched bonnet at some other single gentleman, in any case, for one is lost to thee for ever!


Todger’s was in high feather, and mighty preparations for a late breakfast were astir in its commercial bowers. The blissful morning had arrived when Miss Pecksniff was to be united in holy matrimony, to Augustus.

Miss Pecksniff was in a frame of mind equally becoming to herself and the occasion. She was full of clemency and conciliation. She had laid in several caldrons of live coals, and was prepared to heap them on the heads of her enemies. She bore no spite nor malice in her heart. Not the least.

Quarrels, Miss Pecksniff said, were dreadful things in families; and though she never could forgive her dear papa, she was willing to receive her other relations. They had been separated, she observed, too long. It was enough to call down a judgment upon the family. She believed the death of Jonas was a judgment on them for their internal dissensions. And Miss Pecksniff was confirmed in this belief, by the lightness with which the visitation had fallen on herself.

By way of doing sacrifice—not in triumph; not, of course, in triumph, but in humiliation of spirit—this amiable young person wrote, therefore, to her kinswoman of the strong mind, and informed her that her nuptials would take place on such a day. That she had been much hurt by the unnatural conduct of herself and daughters, and hoped they might not have suffered in their consciences. That, being desirous to forgive her enemies, and make her peace with the world before entering into the most solemn of covenants with the most devoted of men, she now held out the hand of friendship. That if the strong-minded women took that hand, in the temper in which it was extended to her, she, Miss Pecksniff, did invite her to be present at the ceremony of her marriage, and did furthermore invite the three red-nosed spinsters, her daughters (but Miss Pecksniff did not particularize their noses), to attend as bridesmaids.

The strong-minded women returned for answer, that herself and daughters were, as regarded their consciences, in the enjoyment of robust health, which she knew Miss Pecksniff would be glad to hear. That she had received Miss Pecksniff’s note with unalloyed delight, because she never had attached the least importance to the paltry and insignificant jealousies with which herself and circle had been assailed; otherwise than as she had found them, in the contemplation, a harmless source of innocent mirth. That she would joyfully attend Miss Pecksniff’s bridal; and that her three dear daughters would be happy to assist, on so interesting, and so very unexpected—which the strong-minded woman underlined—so very unexpected an occasion.

On the receipt of this gracious reply, Miss Pecksniff extended her forgiveness and her invitations to Mr and Mrs Spottletoe; to Mr George Chuzzlewit the bachelor cousin; to the solitary female who usually had the toothache; and to the hairy young gentleman with the outline of a face; surviving remnants of the party that had once assembled in Mr Pecksniff’s parlour. After which Miss Pecksniff remarked that there was a sweetness in doing our duty, which neutralized the bitter in our cups.

The wedding guests had not yet assembled, and indeed it was so early that Miss Pecksniff herself was in the act of dressing at her leisure, when a carriage stopped near the Monument; and Mark, dismounting from the rumble, assisted Mr Chuzzlewit to alight. The carriage remained in waiting; so did Mr Tapley. Mr Chuzzlewit betook himself to Todger’s.

He was shown, by the degenerate successor of Mr Bailey, into the dining-parlour; where—for his visit was expected—Mrs Todgers immediately appeared.

‘You are dressed, I see, for the wedding,’ he said.

Mrs Todgers, who was greatly flurried by the preparations, replied in the affirmative.

‘It goes against my wishes to have it in progress just now, I assure you, sir,’ said Mrs Todgers; ‘but Miss Pecksniff’s mind was set upon it, and it really is time that Miss Pecksniff was married. That cannot be denied, sir.’

‘No,’ said Mr Chuzzlewit, ‘assuredly not. Her sister takes no part in the proceedings?’

‘Oh, dear no, sir. Poor thing!’ said Mrs Todgers, shaking her head, and dropping her voice. ‘Since she has known the worst, she has never left my room; the next room.’

‘Is she prepared to see me?’ he inquired.

‘Quite prepared, sir.’

‘Then let us lose no time.’

Mrs Todgers conducted him into the little back chamber commanding the prospect of the cistern; and there, sadly different from when it had first been her lodging, sat poor Merry, in mourning weeds. The room looked very dark and sorrowful; and so did she; but she had one friend beside her, faithful to the last. Old Chuffey.

When Mr Chuzzlewit sat down at her side, she took his hand and put it to her lips. She was in great grief. He too was agitated; for he had not seen her since their parting in the churchyard.

‘I judged you hastily,’ he said, in a low voice. ‘I fear I judged you cruelly. Let me know that I have your forgiveness.’

She kissed his hand again; and retaining it in hers, thanked him in a broken voice, for all his kindness to her since.

‘Tom Pinch,’ said Martin, ‘has faithfully related to me all that you desired him to convey; at a time when he deemed it very improbable that he would ever have an opportunity of delivering your message. Believe me, that if I ever deal again with an ill-advised and unawakened nature, hiding the strength it thinks its weakness, I will have long and merciful consideration for it.’

‘You had for me; even for me,’ she answered. ‘I quite believe it. I said the words you have repeated, when my distress was very sharp and hard to bear; I say them now for others; but I cannot urge them for myself. You spoke to me after you had seen and watched me day by day. There was great consideration in that. You might have spoken, perhaps, more kindly; you might have tried to invite my confidence by greater gentleness; but the end would have been the same.’

He shook his head in doubt, and not without some inward self-reproach.

‘How can I hope,’ she said, ‘that your interposition would have prevailed with me, when I know how obdurate I was! I never thought at all; dear Mr Chuzzlewit, I never thought at all; I had no thought, no heart, no care to find one; at that time. It has grown out of my trouble. I have felt it in my trouble. I wouldn’t recall my trouble such as it is and has been—and it is light in comparison with trials which hundreds of good people suffer every day, I know—I wouldn’t recall it to-morrow, if I could. It has been my friend, for without it no one could have changed me; nothing could have changed me. Do not mistrust me because of these tears; I cannot help them. I am grateful for it, in my soul. Indeed I am!’

‘Indeed she is!’ said Mrs Todgers. ‘I believe it, sir.’

‘And so do I!’ said Mr Chuzzlewit. ‘Now, attend to me, my dear. Your late husband’s estate, if not wasted by the confession of a large debt to the broken office (which document, being useless to the runaways, has been sent over to England by them; not so much for the sake of the creditors as for the gratification of their dislike to him, whom they suppose to be still living), will be seized upon by law; for it is not exempt, as I learn, from the claims of those who have suffered by the fraud in which he was engaged. Your father’s property was all, or nearly all, embarked in the same transaction. If there be any left, it will be seized on, in like manner. There is no home there.’

‘I couldn’t return to him,’ she said, with an instinctive reference to his having forced her marriage on. ‘I could not return to him.’

‘I know it,’ Mr Chuzzlewit resumed; ‘and I am here because I know it. Come with me! From all who are about me, you are certain (I have ascertained it) of a generous welcome. But until your health is re-established, and you are sufficiently composed to bear that welcome, you shall have your abode in any quiet retreat of your own choosing, near London; not so far removed but that this kind-hearted lady may still visit you as often as she pleases. You have suffered much; but you are young, and have a brighter and a better future stretching out before you. Come with me. Your sister is careless of you, I know. She hurries on and publishes her marriage, in a spirit which (to say no more of it) is barely decent, is unsisterly, and bad. Leave the house before her guests arrive. She means to give you pain. Spare her the offence, and come with me!’

Mrs Todgers, though most unwilling to part with her, added her persuasions. Even poor old Chuffey (of course included in the project) added his. She hurriedly attired herself, and was ready to depart, when Miss Pecksniff dashed into the room.

Miss Pecksniff dashed in so suddenly, that she was placed in an embarrassing position. For though she had completed her bridal toilette as to her head, on which she wore a bridal bonnet with orange flowers, she had not completed it as to her skirts, which displayed no choicer decoration than a dimity bedgown. She had dashed in, in fact, about half-way through, to console her sister, in her affliction, with a sight of the aforesaid bonnet; and being quite unconscious of the presence of a visitor, until she found Mr Chuzzlewit standing face to face with her, her surprise was an uncomfortable one.

‘So, young lady!’ said the old man, eyeing her with strong disfavour. ‘You are to be married to-day!’

‘Yes, sir,’ returned Miss Pecksniff, modestly. ‘I am. I—my dress is rather—really, Mrs Todgers!’

‘Your delicacy,’ said old Martin, ‘is troubled, I perceive. I am not surprised to find it so. You have chosen the period of your marriage unfortunately.’

‘I beg your pardon, Mr Chuzzlewit,’ retorted Cherry; very red and angry in a moment; ‘but if you have anything to say on that subject, I must beg to refer you to Augustus. You will scarcely think it manly, I hope, to force an argument on me, when Augustus is at all times ready to discuss it with you. I have nothing to do with any deceptions that may have been practiced on my parent,’ said Miss Pecksniff, pointedly; ‘and as I wish to be on good terms with everybody at such a time, I should have been glad if you would have favoured us with your company at breakfast. But I will not ask you as it is; seeing that you have been prepossessed and set against me in another quarter. I hope I have my natural affections for another quarter, and my natural pity for another quarter; but I cannot always submit to be subservient to it, Mr Chuzzlewit. That would be a little too much. I trust I have more respect for myself, as well as for the man who claims me as his Bride.’

‘Your sister, meeting—as I think; not as she says, for she has said nothing about it—with little consideration from you, is going away with me,’ said Mr Chuzzlewit.

‘I am very happy to find that she has some good fortune at last,’ returned Miss Pecksniff, tossing her head. ‘I congratulate her, I am sure. I am not surprised that this event should be painful to her—painful to her—but I can’t help that, Mr Chuzzlewit. It’s not my fault.’

‘Come, Miss Pecksniff!’ said the old man, quietly. ‘I should like to see a better parting between you. I should like to see a better parting on your side, in such circumstances. It would make me your friend. You may want a friend one day or other.’

‘Every relation of life, Mr Chuzzlewit, begging your pardon; and every friend in life,’ returned Miss Pecksniff, with dignity, ‘is now bound up and cemented in Augustus. So long as Augustus is my own, I cannot want a friend. When you speak of friends, sir, I must beg, once for all, to refer you to Augustus. That is my impression of the religious ceremony in which I am so soon to take a part at that altar to which Augustus will conduct me. I bear no malice at any time, much less in a moment of triumph, towards any one; much less towards my sister. On the contrary, I congratulate her. If you didn’t hear me say so, I am not to blame. And as I owe it to Augustus, to be punctual on an occasion when he may naturally be supposed to be—to be impatient—really, Mrs Todgers!—I must beg your leave, sir, to retire.’

After these words the bridal bonnet disappeared; with as much state as the dimity bedgown left in it.

Old Martin gave his arm to the younger sister without speaking; and led her out. Mrs Todgers, with her holiday garments fluttering in the wind, accompanied them to the carriage, clung round Merry’s neck at parting, and ran back to her own dingy house, crying the whole way. She had a lean, lank body, Mrs Todgers, but a well-conditioned soul within. Perhaps the good Samaritan was lean and lank, and found it hard to live. Who knows!

Mr Chuzzlewit followed her so closely with his eyes, that, until she had shut her own door, they did not encounter Mr Tapley’s face.

‘Why, Mark!’ he said, as soon as he observed it, ‘what’s the matter?’

‘The wonderfulest ewent, sir!’ returned Mark, pumping at his voice in a most laborious manner, and hardly able to articulate with all his efforts. ‘A coincidence as never was equalled! I’m blessed if here ain’t two old neighbours of ourn, sir!’

‘What neighbours?’ cried old Martin, looking out of window. ‘Where?’

‘I was a-walkin’ up and down not five yards from this spot,’ said Mr Tapley, breathless, ‘and they come upon me like their own ghosts, as I thought they was! It’s the wonderfulest ewent that ever happened. Bring a feather, somebody, and knock me down with it!’

‘What do you mean!’ exclaimed old Martin, quite as much excited by the spectacle of Mark’s excitement as that strange person was himself. ‘Neighbours, where?’

‘Here, sir!’ replied Mr Tapley. ‘Here in the city of London! Here upon these very stones! Here they are, sir! Don’t I know ‘em? Lord love their welcome faces, don’t I know ‘em!’

With which ejaculations Mr Tapley not only pointed to a decent-looking man and woman standing by, but commenced embracing them alternately, over and over again, in Monument Yard.

‘Neighbours, where? old Martin shouted; almost maddened by his ineffectual efforts to get out at the coach-door.

‘Neighbours in America! Neighbours in Eden!’ cried Mark. ‘Neighbours in the swamp, neighbours in the bush, neighbours in the fever. Didn’t she nurse us! Didn’t he help us! Shouldn’t we both have died without ‘em! Haven’t they come a-strugglin’ back, without a single child for their consolation! And talk to me of neighbours!’

Away he went again, in a perfectly wild state, hugging them, and skipping round them, and cutting in between them, as if he were performing some frantic and outlandish dance.

Mr Chuzzlewit no sooner gathered who these people were, than he burst open the coach-door somehow or other, and came tumbling out among them; and as if the lunacy of Mr Tapley were contagious, he immediately began to shake hands too, and exhibit every demonstration of the liveliest joy.

‘Get up, behind!’ he said. ‘Get up in the rumble. Come along with me! Go you on the box, Mark. Home! Home!’

‘Home!’ cried Mr Tapley, seizing the old man’s hand in a burst of enthusiasm. ‘Exactly my opinion, sir. Home for ever! Excuse the liberty, sir, I can’t help it. Success to the Jolly Tapley! There’s nothin’ in the house they shan’t have for the askin’ for, except a bill. Home to be sure! Hurrah!’

Home they rolled accordingly, when he had got the old man in again, as fast as they could go; Mark abating nothing of his fervour by the way, by allowing it to vent itself as unrestrainedly as if he had been on Salisbury Plain.

And now the wedding party began to assemble at Todgers’s. Mr Jinkins, the only boarder invited, was on the ground first. He wore a white favour in his button-hole, and a bran new extra super double-milled blue saxony dress coat (that was its description in the bill), with a variety of tortuous embellishments about the pockets, invented by the artist to do honour to the day. The miserable Augustus no longer felt strongly even on the subject of Jinkins. He hadn’t strength of mind enough to do it. ‘Let him come!’ he had said, in answer to Miss Pecksniff, when she urged the point. ‘Let him come! He has ever been my rock ahead through life. ‘Tis meet he should be there. Ha, ha! Oh, yes! let Jinkins come!’

Jinkins had come with all the pleasure in life, and there he was. For some few minutes he had no companion but the breakfast, which was set forth in the drawing-room, with unusual taste and ceremony. But Mrs Todgers soon joined him; and the bachelor cousin, the hairy young gentleman, and Mr and Mrs Spottletoe, arrived in quick succession.

Mr Spottletoe honoured Jinkins with an encouraging bow. ‘Glad to know you, sir,’ he said. ‘Give you joy!’ Under the impression that Jinkins was the happy man.

Mr Jinkins explained. He was merely doing the honours for his friend Moddle, who had ceased to reside in the house, and had not yet arrived.

‘Not arrived, sir!’ exclaimed Spottletoe, in a great heat.

‘Not yet,’ said Mr Jinkins.

‘Upon my soul!’ cried Spottletoe. ‘He begins well! Upon my life and honour this young man begins well! But I should very much like to know how it is that every one who comes into contact with this family is guilty of some gross insult to it. Death! Not arrived yet. Not here to receive us!’

The nephew with the outline of a countenance, suggested that perhaps he had ordered a new pair of boots, and they hadn’t come home.

‘Don’t talk to me of Boots, sir!’ retorted Spottletoe, with immense indignation. ‘He is bound to come here in his slippers then; he is bound to come here barefoot. Don’t offer such a wretched and evasive plea to me on behalf of your friend, as Boots, sir.’

‘He is not my friend,’ said the nephew. ‘I never saw him.’

‘Very well, sir,’ returned the fiery Spottletoe. ‘Then don’t talk to me!’

The door was thrown open at this juncture, and Miss Pecksniff entered, tottering, and supported by her three bridesmaids. The strong-minded woman brought up the rear; having waited outside until now, for the purpose of spoiling the effect.

‘How do you do, ma’am!’ said Spottletoe to the strong-minded woman in a tone of defiance. ‘I believe you see Mrs Spottletoe, ma’am?’

The strong-minded woman with an air of great interest in Mrs Spottletoe’s health, regretted that she was not more easily seen. Nature erring, in that lady’s case, upon the slim side.

‘Mrs Spottletoe is at least more easily seen than the bridegroom, ma’am,’ returned that lady’s husband. ‘That is, unless he has confined his attentions to any particular part or branch of this family, which would be quite in keeping with its usual proceedings.’

‘If you allude to me, sir—’ the strong-minded woman began.

‘Pray,’ interposed Miss Pecksniff, ‘do not allow Augustus, at this awful moment of his life and mine, to be the means of disturbing that harmony which it is ever Augustus’s and my wish to maintain. Augustus has not been introduced to any of my relations now present. He preferred not.’

‘Why, then, I venture to assert,’ cried Mr Spottletoe, ‘that the man who aspires to join this family, and “prefers not” to be introduced to its members, is an impertinent Puppy. That is my opinion of him!’

The strong-minded woman remarked with great suavity, that she was afraid he must be. Her three daughters observed aloud that it was ‘Shameful!’

‘You do not know Augustus,’ said Miss Pecksniff, tearfully, ‘indeed you do not know him. Augustus is all mildness and humility. Wait till you see Augustus, and I am sure he will conciliate your affections.’

‘The question arises,’ said Spottletoe, folding his arms: ‘How long we are to wait. I am not accustomed to wait; that’s the fact. And I want to know how long we are expected to wait.’

‘Mrs Todgers!’ said Charity, ‘Mr Jinkins! I am afraid there must be some mistake. I think Augustus must have gone straight to the Altar!’

As such a thing was possible, and the church was close at hand, Mr Jinkins ran off to see, accompanied by Mr George Chuzzlewit the bachelor cousin, who preferred anything to the aggravation of sitting near the breakfast, without being able to eat it. But they came back with no other tidings than a familiar message from the clerk, importing that if they wanted to be married that morning they had better look sharp, as the curate wasn’t going to wait there all day.

The bride was now alarmed; seriously alarmed. Good Heavens, what could have happened! Augustus! Dear Augustus!

Mr Jinkins volunteered to take a cab, and seek him at the newly-furnished house. The strong-minded woman administered comfort to Miss Pecksniff. ‘It was a specimen of what she had to expect. It would do her good. It would dispel the romance of the affair.’ The red-nosed daughters also administered the kindest comfort. ‘Perhaps he’d come,’ they said. The sketchy nephew hinted that he might have fallen off a bridge. The wrath of Mr Spottletoe resisted all the entreaties of his wife. Everybody spoke at once, and Miss Pecksniff, with clasped hands, sought consolation everywhere and found it nowhere, when Jinkins, having met the postman at the door, came back with a letter, which he put into her hand.

Miss Pecksniff opened it, uttered a piercing shriek, threw it down upon the ground, and fainted away.

They picked it up; and crowding round, and looking over one another’s shoulders, read, in the words and dashes following, this communication:

Off Gravesend. ‘Clipper Schooner, Cupid

‘Wednesday night

Ever Injured Miss Pecksniff—Ere this reaches you, the undersigned will be—if not a corpse—on the way to Van Dieman’s Land. Send not in pursuit. I never will be taken alive!

‘The burden—300 tons per register—forgive, if in my distraction, I allude to the ship—on my mind—has been truly dreadful. Frequently—when you have sought to soothe my brow with kisses—has self-destruction flashed across me. Frequently—incredible as it may seem—have I abandoned the idea.

‘I love another. She is Another’s. Everything appears to be somebody else’s. Nothing in the world is mine—not even my Situation—which I have forfeited—by my rash conduct—in running away.

‘If you ever loved me, hear my last appeal! The last appeal of a miserable and blighted exile. Forward the inclosed—it is the key of my desk—to the office—by hand. Please address to Bobbs and Cholberry—I mean to Chobbs and Bolberry—but my mind is totally unhinged. I left a penknife—with a buckhorn handle—in your work-box. It will repay the messenger. May it make him happier than ever it did me!

‘Oh, Miss Pecksniff, why didn’t you leave me alone! Was it not cruel, cruel! Oh, my goodness, have you not been a witness of my feelings—have you not seen them flowing from my eyes—did you not, yourself, reproach me with weeping more than usual on that dreadful night when last we met—in that house—where I once was peaceful—though blighted—in the society of Mrs Todgers!

‘But it was written—in the Talmud—that you should involve yourself in the inscrutable and gloomy Fate which it is my mission to accomplish, and which wreathes itself—e’en now—about in temples. I will not reproach, for I have wronged you. May the Furniture make some amends!

‘Farewell! Be the proud bride of a ducal coronet, and forget me! Long may it be before you know the anguish with which I now subscribe myself—amid the tempestuous howlings of the—sailors,


‘Never yours,


They thought as little of Miss Pecksniff, while they greedily perused this letter, as if she were the very last person on earth whom it concerned. But Miss Pecksniff really had fainted away. The bitterness of her mortification; the bitterness of having summoned witnesses, and such witnesses, to behold it; the bitterness of knowing that the strong-minded women and the red-nosed daughters towered triumphant in this hour of their anticipated overthrow; was too much to be borne. Miss Pecksniff had fainted away in earnest.

What sounds are these that fall so grandly on the ear! What darkening room is this!

And that mild figure seated at an organ, who is he! Ah Tom, dear Tom, old friend!

Thy head is prematurely grey, though Time has passed thee and our old association, Tom. But, in those sounds with which it is thy wont to bear the twilight company, the music of thy heart speaks out—the story of thy life relates itself.

Thy life is tranquil, calm, and happy, Tom. In the soft strain which ever and again comes stealing back upon the ear, the memory of thine old love may find a voice perhaps; but it is a pleasant, softened, whispering memory, like that in which we sometimes hold the dead, and does not pain or grieve thee, God be thanked.

Touch the notes lightly, Tom, as lightly as thou wilt, but never will thine hand fall half so lightly on that Instrument as on the head of thine old tyrant brought down very, very low; and never will it make as hollow a response to any touch of thine, as he does always.

For a drunken, begging, squalid, letter-writing man, called Pecksniff, with a shrewish daughter, haunts thee, Tom; and when he makes appeals to thee for cash, reminds thee that he built thy fortunes better than his own; and when he spends it, entertains the alehouse company with tales of thine ingratitude and his munificence towards thee once upon a time; and then he shows his elbows worn in holes, and puts his soleless shoes up on a bench, and begs his auditors look there, while thou art comfortably housed and clothed. All known to thee, and yet all borne with, Tom!

So, with a smile upon thy face, thou passest gently to another measure—to a quicker and more joyful one—and little feet are used to dance about thee at the sound, and bright young eyes to glance up into thine. And there is one slight creature, Tom—her child; not Ruth’s—whom thine eyes follow in the romp and dance; who, wondering sometimes to see thee look so thoughtful, runs to climb up on thy knee, and put her cheek to thine; who loves thee, Tom, above the rest, if that can be; and falling sick once, chose thee for her nurse, and never knew impatience, Tom, when thou wert by her side.

Thou glidest, now, into a graver air; an air devoted to old friends and bygone times; and in thy lingering touch upon the keys, and the rich swelling of the mellow harmony, they rise before thee. The spirit of that old man dead, who delighted to anticipate thy wants, and never ceased to honour thee, is there, among the rest; repeating, with a face composed and calm, the words he said to thee upon his bed, and blessing thee!

And coming from a garden, Tom, bestrewn with flowers by children’s hands, thy sister, little Ruth, as light of foot and heart as in old days, sits down beside thee. From the Present, and the Past, with which she is so tenderly entwined in all thy thoughts, thy strain soars onward to the Future. As it resounds within thee and without, the noble music, rolling round ye both, shuts out the grosser prospect of an earthly parting, and uplifts ye both to Heaven!