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care, Jinkins, ere you provoke a desperate man to
frenzy !

Mr. Pecksniff had followed his younger friends
upstairs, and taken a chair at the side of Mrs.
Todgers. He had also spilled a cup of coffee over
his legs without appearing to be aware of the cir-
cumstance ; nor did he seem to know that there was
muffin on his knee.

"■ And how have they used you downstairs, sir ? "
asked the hostess.

" Their conduct has been such, my dear madam,"
said Mr. Pecksniff, "as I can never think of with-
out emotion, or remember without a tear. Oh, Mrs.
Todgers ! "

" My goodness ! " exclaimed that lady. " How
low you are in your spirits, sir ! "

"I am a man, my dear madam," said Mr. Peck-
sniff, shedding tears, and speaking with an imper-
fect articulation, "but I am also a father. I am
also a widower. My feelings, Mrs. Todgers, will not
consent to be entirely smothered, like the young
children in the Tower. They are grown up, and the
more I press the bolster on them, the more they
look round the corner of it."

He suddenly became conscious of the bit of muffin,
and stared at it intently : shaking his head the while,
in a forlorn and imbecile manner, as if he regarded
it as his evil genius, and mildly reproached it.

" She was beautiful, Mrs. Todgers," he said, turn-
ing his glazed eye again upon her, without the least
preliminary notice. " She had a small property."

" So I have heard," cried Mrs. Todgers with great


"Those are her daughters," said Mr. Pecksniff,
pointing out the young ladies, with increased

Mrs. Todgers had no doubt of it.

"Mercy and Charity," said Mr. Pecksniff, "Charity
and Mercy. Not unholy names, I hope ? "

"Mr. Pecksnitf!" cried Mrs. Todgers, "what a
ghastly smile ! Are you ill, sir ? "

He pressed his hand upon her arm, and answered
in a solemn manner, and a faint voice, "Chronic."

" Colic ? " cried the frightened Mrs. Todgers.

" Chron-ic," he repeated with some difficulty.
"Chronic. A chronic disorder. I have been its
victim from childhood. It is carrying me to my

" Heaven forbid ! " cried Mrs. Todgers.

"Yes, it is," said Mr. Pecksniff, reckless with
despair. " I am rather glad of it, upon the whole.
You are like her, Mrs. Todgers."

"Don't squeeze me so tight, pray, Mr. Pecksniff.
If any of the gentlemen should notice us."

" For her sake," said Mr. Pecksniff. " Permit
me — in honor of her memory. For the sake of a
voice from the tomb. You are very like her, Mrs.
Todgers ! What a world is this ! "

" Ah ! Indeed you may say that ! " cried Mrs.

'■•I'm afraid it's a vain and thoughtless world,"
said Mr. Pecksniff, overflowing with despondency,
" These young people about us. Oh ! what sense
have they of their responsibilities ? None. Give
me 5'our other hand, Mrs. Todgers."

That lady hesitated, and said " she didn't like."

" Has a voice from the grave no influence ? " said


Mr. Pecksniff, with dismal tenderness. " This is
irreligious ! My dear creature."

" Hush ! " urged Mrs. Todgers. " Eeally you

"It's not me," said Mr. Pecksniff. "Don't sup-
pose it's me ; it's the voice ; it's her voice."

Mrs. Pecksniff deceased must have had an unusu-
ally thick and husky voice for a lady, and rather a
stuttering voice, and to say the truth somewhat of
a drunken voice, if it had ever borne much resem-
blance to that in which Mr. Pecksniff spoke just
then. But perhaps this was delusion on his

" It has been a day of enjoyment, Mrs. Todgers,
but still it has been a day of torture. It has re-
minded me of my loneliness. What am I in the
world ? "

"An excellent gentleman, Mr. Pecksniff," said
Mrs. Todgers.

"There is consolation in that too," cried Mr.
Pecksniff. "Am I?"

" There is no better man living," said Mrs.
Todgers, "I am sure."

Mr. Pecksniff smiled through his tears, and
slightly shook his head. " You are very good," he
said, "thank you. It is a great happiness to me,
Mrs. Todgers, to make young people happy. The
happiness of my pupils is my chief object. I dote
upon 'em. They dote upon me too — sometimes."

" Always," said Mrs. Todgers.

" When they say they haven't improved, ma'am,"
whispered Mr. Pecksniff, looking at her with pro-
found mystery, and motioning to her to advance her
ear a little closer to his mouth. " When they say


they haven't improved, ma'am, and the premium
was too high, they lie ! I shouldn't wish it to be
mentioned ; you will understand me ; but I say to
you as to an old friend, they lie."

" Base wretches they must be ! " said Mrs. Todgers.

" Madam," said Mr. Pecksniff, '' you are right. I
respect you for that observation. A word in your
ear. To Parents and Guardians. This is in confi-
dence, Mrs. Todgers ? "

" The strictest, of course ! " cried that lady.

" To Parents and Guardians," repeated Mr. Peck-
sniff. " An eligible opportunity now offers, which
unites the advantages of the best practical archi-
tectural education with the comforts of a home,
and the constant association with some, who, how-
ever humble their sphere and limited their capacity
— observe! — are not unmindful of their moral re-

Mrs. Todgers looked a little puzzled to know what
this might mean, as well she might ; for it was, as
the reader may perchance remember, Mr. Peck-
sniff's usual form of advertisement when he wanted
a pupil ; and seemed to have no particular reference,
at present, to anything. But Mr. Pecksniff held
up his finger as a caution to her not to interrupt

" Do you know any parent or guardian, Mrs.
Todgers," said Mr. Pecksniff, "who desires to avail
himself of such an opportunity for a young gentle-
man ? An orphan would be preferred. Do you
know of any orphan with three or four hundred
pound ? "

Mrs. Todgers reflected, and shook her head.

" When you hear of an orphan with three or four


hundred pound," said Mr. Pecksniff, "let that dear
orphan's friends apply, by letter post-paid, to S. P.,
Post-office, Salisbury. I don't know who he is,
exactly. Don't be alarmed, Mrs. Todgers," said
Mr. Pecksniff, falling heavily against her : " chronic
— chronic ! Let's have a little drop of something to

" Bless my life. Miss Pecksniff ! " cried Mrs.
Todgers aloud, " your dear pa's took very poorly ! "

Mr. Pecksniff straightened himself by a surpris-
ing effort, as every one turned hastily towards him ;
and standing on his feet, regarded the assembly
with a look of ineffable wisdom. Gradually it gave
place to a smile ; a feeble, helpless, melancholy smile ;
bland, almost to sickliness. " Do not repine, my
friends," said Mr. Pecksniff tenderly. " Do not
weep for me. It is chronic." And with these
words, after making a futile attempt to pull off his
shoes, he fell into the fireplace.

The youngest gentleman in company had him out
in a second. Yes, before a hair upon his head was
singed, he had him on the hearth-rug — her father !

She was almost beside herself. So was her sister.
Jinkins consoled them both. They all consoled
them. Everybody had something to say except the
youngest gentleman in company, who with a noble
self-devotion did the heavy work, and held up Mr.
Pecksniff's head without being taken any notice of
by anybody. At last they gathered round, and
agreed to carry him upstairs to bed. The youngest
gentleman in company was rebuked by Jinkins for
tearing Mr. Pecksniff's coat ! Ha, ha ! But no

They carried him upstairs, and crushed the


youngest gentleman at every step. His bedroom
was at the top of the house, and it was a long way ;
but they got him there in course of time. He asked
them frequently upon the road for a little drop of
something to drink. It seemed an idiosyncrasy.
The youngest gentleman in company proposed a
draught of water. Mr. Pecksniff called him oppro-
brious names for the suggestion.

Jinkins and Gander took the rest upon them-
selves, and made him as comfortable as they could,
on the outside of his bed; and when he seemed
disposed to sleep, they left him. But before they
had all gained the bottom of the staircase, a vision
of Mr. Pecksniff, strangely attired, was seen to flut-
ter on the top landing. He desired to collect their
sentiments, it seemed, upon the nature of human

"My friends," cried Mr. Pecksniff, looking over
the banisters, " let us improve our minds by mutual
inquiry and discussion. Let us be moral. Let us
contemplate existence. Where is Jinkins ? "

" Here," cried that gentleman. " Go to bed
again ! "

" To bed ! " said Mr. Pecksniff. " Bed ! 'Tis the
voice of the sluggard ; I hear him complain ; you
have woke me too soon ; I must slumber again. If
any young orphan will repeat the remainder of that
simple piece from Dr. Watts's collection, an eligible
opportunity now offers."

Nobody volunteered.

" This is very soothing," said Mr. Pecksniff, after
a pause. " Extremely so. Cool and refreshing ;
particularly to the legs ! The legs of the human
subject, my friends, are a beautiful production.


Compare them with wooden legs, and observe the
difference between the anatomy of natiire and the
anatomy of art. Do you know," said Mr. Pecksniff,
leaning over the banisters, with an odd recollection
of his familiar manner among new pupils at home,
"that I should very much like to see Mrs. Todgers's
notion of a wooden leg, if perfectly agreeable to
herself ! "

As it appeared impossible to entertain any rea-
sonable hopes of him after this speech, Mr. Jinkins
and Mr. Gander went upstairs again, and once more
got him into bed. But they had not descended to
the second floor before he was out again ; nor,
when they had repeated the process, had they
descended the first flight, before he was out again.
In a word, as often as he was shut up in his own
room, he darted out afresh, charged with some new
moral sentiment, which he continually repeated
over the banisters, with extraordinary relish, and
an irrepressible desire for the improvement of his
fellow-creatures that nothing could subdue.

Under these circumstances, when they had got
him into bed for the thirtieth time or so, Mr. Jinkins
held him, while his companion went downstairs in
search of Bailey junior, with whom he presently
returned. That youth, having been apprised of the
service required of him, was in great spirits, and
brought up a stool, a candle, and his supper ; to the
end that he might keep watch outside the bedroom
door with tolerable comfort.

When he had completed his arrangements, they
locked Mr. Pecksniff in, and left the key on the
outside ; charging the young page to listen atten-
tively for symptoms of an apoplectic nature, with


whicli the patient might be troubled, and, in case
of any such presenting themselves, to summon them
without delay : to which Mr. Bailey modestly re-
plied that he hoped he knowed wot o'clock it was
in gineral, and didn't date his letters to his friends,
from Todgers's, for nothing.




But Mr. Pecksniff came to town on business.
Had he forgotten that ? Was he always taking
his pleasure with Todgers's jovial brood, unmindful
of the serious demands, whatever they might be,
upon his calm consideration ? No.

Time and tide will wait for no man, saith the
adage. But all men have to wait for time and tide.
That tide which, taken at the flood, would lead
Seth Pecksniff on to fortune, was marked down
in the table, and about to flow. No idle Pecksniff
lingered far inland, unmindful of the changes of
the stream ; but there, upon the water's edge, over
his shoes already, stood the worthy creature, pre-
pared to wallow in the very mud, so that it slid
towards the quarter of his hope.

The trustfulness of his two fair daughters was
beautiful indeed. They had that firm reliance on
their parent's nature, which taught them to feel
certain that in all he did, he had his purpose
straight and full before him. And that its noble
end and object was himself, which almost of neces-


sity included them, they knew. The devotion of
these maids was perfect.

Their filial confidence was rendered the more
touching by their having no knowledge of their
parent's real designs, in the present instance. All
that they knew of his proceedings was, that every
morning, after the early breakfast, he repaired to
the Post Office and inquired for letters. That task
performed, his business for the day was over ; and
he again relaxed, until the rising of another sun
proclaimed the advent of another post.

This went on for four or five days. At length,
one morning, Mr. Pecksniff returned with a breath-
less rapidity, strange to observe in him, at other
times so calm ; and, seeking immediate speech with
his daughters, shut himself up with them in private
conference for two whole hours. Of all that passed
in this period only the following words of Mr.
Pecksniff's utterance are known.

" How he has come to change so very much (if it
should turn out as I expect, that he has), we needn't
stop to inquire. My dears, I have my thoughts
upon the subject, but I will not impart them. It
is enough that we will not be proud, resentful, or
unforgiving. If he wants our friendship, he shall
have it. We know our duty, I hope ! "

That same day at noon, an old gentleman alighted
from a hackney coach at the Post Office, and, giving
his name, inquired for a letter addressed to himself,
and directed to be left till called for. It had been
lying there some days. The superscription was in
Mr. Pecksniff's hand, and it was sealed with Mr.
Pecksniff's seal.

It was very short, containing indeed nothing more


than an address " with Mr, Pecksniff's respectful,
and (notwithstanding what has passed) sincerely
aiJectionate regards." The old gentleman tore off
the direction — scattering the rest in fragments to
the winds — and giving it to the coachman, bade
him drive as near that place as he could. In pur-
suance of these instructions he was driven to the
Monument ; where he again alighted, dismissed the
vehicle, and walked towards Todgers's.

Though the face, and form, and gait of this old
man, and even his grip of the stout stick on which
he leaned, were all expressive of a resolution not
easily shaken, and a purpose (it matters little
whether right or wrong, just now) such as in other
days might have survived the rack, and had its
strongest life in weakest death ; still there were
grains of hesitation in his mind, which made him
now avoid the house he sought, and loiter to and
fro in a gleam of sunlight, that brightened the
little churchyard hard by. There may have been,
in the presence of those idle heaps of dust among
the busiest stir of life, something to increase his
wavering; but there he walked, awakening the
echoes as he paced up and down, until the church
clock, striking the quarters for the second time
since he had been there, roused him from his medi-
tation. Shaking off his incertitude as the air parted
with the sound of the bells, he walked rapidly to
the house, and knocked at the door.

Mr. Pecksniff was seated in the landlady's little
room, and his visitor found him reading — by an
accident : he apologized for it — an excellent theo-
logical work. There were cake and wine upon a
little table — by another accident, for which he also


apologized. Indeed, he said he had given his visit-
or up, and was about to partake of that simple
refreshment with his children, when he knocked at
the door.

''Your daughters are well?" said old Martin,
laying down his hat and stick.

Mr. Pecksniff endeavored to conceal his agitation
as a father, when he answered. Yes, they were. They
were good girls, he said, very good. He would not
venture to recommend Mr. Chuzzlewit to take the
easy-chair, or to keep out of the draught from the
door. If he made any such suggestion, he would
expose himself, he feared, to most unjust suspicion.
He would, therefore, content himself with remark-
ing that there was an easy-chair in the room ; and
that the door Avas far from being air-tight. The
latter imperfection, he might perhaps venture to
add, was not uncommonly to be met with in old

The old man sat down in the easy-chair, and after
a few moments' silence, said, —

" In the first place, let me thank you for coming
to London so promptly, at my almost unexplained
request : I need scarcely add, at my cost."

" At your cost, ray good sir ! " cried Mr. Pecksniff,
in a tone of great surprise.

" It is not," said Martin, waving his hand impa-
tiently, " my habit to put my — well ! my relatives
— to any personal expense to gratify my caprices."

" Caprices, my good sir ! " cried Mr. Pecksniff.

" That is scarcely the proper word either, in this
instance," said the old man. " No. You are right."

Mr. Pecksniff was inwardly very much relieved
to hear it, though he didn't at all know why.


" You are right," repeated Martin. " It is not a
caprice. It is built up on reason, proof, and cool
comparison. Caprices never are. Moreover, I am
not a capricious man. I never was."

"Most assuredly not," said Mr. Pecksniff.

" How do you know ? " returned the other quickly.
" You are to begin to know it now. You are to test
and prove it in time to come. You and yours are
to find that I can be constant, and am not to be
diverted from my end. Do you hear ? "

" Perfectly," said Mr. Pecksniff.

"I very much regret," Martin resumed, looking
steadily at him, and speaking in a slow and meas-
ured tone : " I very much regret that you and I
held such a conversation together as that which
passed between us at our last meeting. I very
much regret that I laid open to you Avhat were then
my thoughts of you, so freely as I did. The inten-
tions that I bear towards you, now, are of another
kind ; deserted by all in whom I have ever trusted ;
hoodwinked and beset by all who should help and
sustain me ; I fly to you for refuge. I confide in
you to be my ally ; to attach yourself to me by ties
of Interest and Expectation ; " he laid great stress
upon these words, though Mr. Pecksniff particularly
begged him not to mention it ; "and to help me to
visit the consequences of the very worst species of
meanness, dissimulation, and subtlety, on the right

" My noble sir ! " cried Mr. Pecksniff, catching at
his outstretched hand. " And you regret the hav-
ing harbored unjust thoughts of me ! you with those
gray hairs ! "

" Regrets," said Martin, " are the natural property


of gray hairs ; and I enjoy, in common with all
other men, at least my share of such inheritance.
And so enough of that. I regret having been
severed from you so long. If I had known you
sooner, and sooner used you as you well deserve, I
might have been a happier man."

Mr. Pecksniff looked up to the ceiling, and clasped
his hands in rapture.

"Your daughters," said Martin, after a short
silence. "I don't know them. Are they like
you ? "

" In the nose of my eldest and the chin of my
youngest, Mr. Chuzzlewit," returned the widower,
"their sainted parent — not myself, their mother —
lives again."

"I don't mean in person," said the old man.
" Morally — morally."

" 'Tis not for me to say," retorted Mr. Pecksniff
with a gentle smile. " I have done my best, sir."

"I could wish to see them," said Martin; "are
they near at hand ? "

They were, very near ; for they had, in fact, been
listening at the door, from the beginning of this
conversation until now, when they precipitately
retired. Having wiped the signs of weakness from
his eyes, and so given them time to get upstairs, Mr.
Pecksniff opened the door, and mildly cried in the
passage, —

" My own darlings, where are you ? "

" Here, my dear pa ! " replied the distant voice of

" Come down into the back-parlor, if you please,
my love," said Mr. Pecksniff, " and bring your sister
with you."

VOL. I.-16.


"Yes, my dear pa," cried Merr}- ; and down they
came directly (being all obedience), singing as they

Nothing could exceed the astonishment of the
two Miss Pecksniffs when they found a stranger
with their dear papa. Nothing could surpass their
mute amazement when he said, " ]\[y children,
Mr. Chuzzlewit!" But when he told them that
Mr. Chuzzlewit and he were friends, and that Mr.
Chuzzlewit had said such kind and tender words as
pierced his very heart, the two Miss Pecksniffs
cried with one accord, " Thank Heaven for this ! "
and fell upon the old man's neck. And when they
had embraced him with such fervor of affection
that no words can describe it, they grouped them-
selves about his chair, and hung over him : as figur-
ing to themselves no earthly joy like that of min-
istering to his wants, and crowding into the re-
mainder of his life, the love they would have
diffused over their whole existence, from infancy,
if he — dear obdurate! — had but consented to
receive the precious offering.

The old man looked attentively from one to the
other, and then at Mr. Pecksniff, several times.

"What," he asked of Mr. Pecksniff, happening
to catch his eye in its descent : for until now it had
been piously upraised, with something of that ex-
pression which the poetry of ages has attributed to a
domestic bird, when breathing its last amid the rav-
ages of an electric storm ; " what are their names ? "

Mr. Pecksniff told him, and added, rather hastily
— his calumniators would have said, with a view to
any testamentary thoughts that might be flitting
through old Martin's mind — " Perhaps, my dears,



you had better write them down. Your humble
autographs are of no value in themselves, but affec-
tion may prize them."

" Affection," said the old man, " will expend itself
on the living originals. Do not trouble yourselves,
my girls, I shall not so easily forget you, Charity
and Mercy, as to need such tokens of remembrance.
Cousin ! "

" Sir ! " said Mr. Pecksniff, with alacrity.

" Do you never sit down ? ''

" Why — yes — occasionally, sir," said Mr. Peck-
sniff, who had been standing all this time.

"Will you do so now ? "

" Can you ask me," returned Mr. Pecksniff, slip-
ping into a chair immediately, " whether I will do
anything that you desire ? "

"You talk confidently," said Martin, "and you
mean well ; but I fear you don't know what an old
man's humors are. You don't know what it is to be
required to court his likings and dislikings ; to
adapt yovirself to his prejudices ; to do his bidding,
be it what it may ; to bear with his distrusts and
jealousies ; and always still be zealous in his service.
When I remember how numerous these failings are
in me, and judge of their occasional enormity by
the injurious thoughts I lately entertained of you,
I hardly dare to claim you for my friend."

" My worthy sir," returned his relative, " how can
you talk in such a painful strain ? What was more
natural than that you should make one slight mis-
take, when in all other respects you were so very
correct, and have had such reason — such very sad
and undeniable reason — to judge of every one
about you in the worst light ? "


" True," replied the other. '' You are very lenient
with me."

" We always said — my girls and I," cried Mr.
Pecksniff with increasing obsequiousness, "that
while we mourned the heaviness of our misfortune
in being confounded with the 'base and mercenary,
still we could not wonder at it. My dears, you
remember ? "

Oh, vividly ! A thousand times !

"We uttered no complaint," said Mr. Pecksniff.
"Occasionally we had the presumption to console
ourselves with the remark that Truth would in the
end prevail, and Virtue be triumphant ; but not
often. My loves, you recollect ? "

Recollect ! Could he doubt it ? Dearest pa, what
strange, unnecessary questions !

" And when I saw you," resumed Mr. Pecksniff,
with still greater deference, " in the little unassum-
ing village where we take the liberty of dwelling, I
said you were mistaken in me, my dear sir ; that
was all, I think ? "

"No — not all," said Martin, who had been sit-
ting with his hand upon his brow for some time
past, and now looked up again : " you said much
more, which, added to other circumstances that have

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Online LibraryCharles DickensDicken's works (Volume 27) → online text (page 16 of 28)