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come to my knowledge, opened my eyes. You spoke
to me, disinterestedly, on behalf of — I needn't
name him. You know whom I mean."

Trouble was expressed in Mr. Pecksniff's visage,
as he pressed his hot hands together, and replied,
with humility, "Quite disinterestedly, sir, I assure

" I know it," said old Martin, in his quiet way.
" I am sure of it. I said so. It Avas disinterested


too, in you, to draw that herd of harpies off from
me, and be their victim yourself ; most other men
would have suffered them to display themselves in
all their rapacity, and would have striven to rise, by
contrast, in my estimation. You felt for me, and
drew them off, for which I owe you many thanks.
Although I left the place, I know what passed
behind my back, you see ! "

" You amaze me, sir ! " cried Mr. Pecksniff : which
was true enough.

" My knowledge of your proceedings," said the
old man, " does not stop at this. You have a new
inmate in your house — "

"Yes, sir," rejoined the architect, "I have."

" He must quit it," said Martin.

" For — for yours ? " asked Mr. Pecksniff, with a
quavering mildness.

" For any shelter he can find," the old man
answered. "He has deceived you."

" I hope not," said Mr, Pecksniff eagerly. " I
trust not. I have been extremely well disposed
towards that young man. I hope it cannot be
shown that he has forfeited all claim to my protec-
tion. Deceit — deceit, my dear Mr. Chuzzlewit,
would be final. I should hold myself bound, on
proof of deceit, to renounce him instantly."

The old man glanced at both his fair supporters,
but especially at Miss Mercy, whom, indeed, he
looked full in the face, with a greater demonstration
of interest than had yet appeared in his features.
His gaze again encountered Mr. Pecksniff, as he
said composedly, —

" Of course you know that he has made his
matrimonial choice ? "


" Oh, dear ! " cried Mr. Pecksniff, rubbing his hair
up very stiff upon his head, and staring wildly at
his daughters. " This is becoming tremendous ! "

" You know the fact ? " repeated Martin.

''Surely not without his grandfather's consent
and approbation, my dear sir ! " cried Mr. Pecksniff.
"Don't tell me that. For the honor of human
nature, say you're not about to tell me that."

" I thought he had suppressed it," said the old

The indignation felt by Mr. Pecksniff at this
terrible disclosure was only to be equalled by the
kindling anger of his daughters. What ! Had they
taken to their hearth and home a secretly con-
tracted serpent ; a crocodile who had made a furtive
offer of his hand ; an imposition on society ; a
bankrupt bachelor with no effects, trading with the
spinster world on false pretences ? And oh, to think
that he should have disobeyed and practised on that
sweet, that venerable gentleman, Avhose name he
bore ; that kind and tender guardian ; his more than
father — to say nothing at all of mother — horrible,
horrible ! To turn him out with ignominy would be
treatment much too good. Was there nothing else
that could be done to him ? Had he incurred no
legal pains and penalties ? Could it be that the
statutes of the land were so remiss as to have affixed
no punishment to such delinquency ? Monster ;
how basely had they been deceived !

" I am glad to find you second me so warmly,"
said the old man, holding up his hand to stay the
torrent of their wrath. " I will not deny that it is
a pleasure to me to find you so full of zeal. We
will consider that topic as disposed of."


" No, my dear sir," cried Mr. Pecksniff, " not as
disposed of, until I have purged my house of this

" That will follow," said the old man, " in its own
time. I look upon that as done."

" You are very good, sir," answered Mr. Pecksniff,
shaking his hand. " You do me honor. You mat/
look upon it as done, I assure you."

" There is another topic," said Martin, " on which
I hope you will assist me. You remember Mary,
cousin ? "

"The young lady that I mentioned to you, ray
dears, as having interested me so very much,"
remarked Mr. Pecksniff. "Excuse me interrupting
you, sir."

" I told you her history," said the old man.

" Which I also mentioned, you will recollect, my
dears," cried Mr. Pecksniff. "Silly girls, Mr.
Chuzzlewit — quite moved by it, they were ! "

" Why, look now," said Martin, evidently pleased.
" I feared I should have had to urge her case upon
you, and ask you to regard her favorably for my
sake. But I find you have no jealousies ! Well !
You have no cause for any, to be sure. She has
nothing to gain from me, my dears, and she knows

The two Miss Pecksniffs murmured their approval
of this wise arrangement, and their cordial sym-
pathy with its interesting object,

" If I could have anticipated what has come to
pass between us four," said the old man thought-
fully : " but it is too late to think of that. You
would receive her courteously, young ladies, and be
kind to her, if need were ? "


Where was the orphan whom the two Miss Peck-
sniffs would not have cherished in their sisterly-
bosom ? But when that orphan was commended to
their care by one on whom the dammed-up love of
years was gushing forth, what exhaustless stores of
pure affection yearned to expend themselves upon
her !

An interval ensued, during which Mr. Chuzzlewit,
in an absent frame of mind, sat gazing at the ground,
without uttering a word : and as it was plain that he
had no desire to be interrupted in his meditations,
Mr. Pecksniff and his daughters were profoundly
silent also. During the whole of the foregoing
dialogue he had borne his part with a cold, passion-
less promptitude, as though he had learned and
painfully rehearsed it all a hundred times. Even
when his expressions were warmest and his language
most encouraging, he had retained the same man-
ner, without the least abatement. But now there
was a keener brightness in his eye, and more expres-
sion in his voice, as he said, awakening from his
thoughtful mood, —

" You know what will be said of this ? Have you
reflected ? "

" Said of what, my dear sir ? " Mr. Pecksniff asked.

" Of this new understanding between us."

Mr. Pecksniff looked benevolently sagacious, and
at the same time far above all earthly misconstruc-
tion, as he shook his head, and observed that a great
many things would be said of it, no doubt.

" A great many," rejoined the old man. " Some
will say that I dote in my old age ; that illness has
shaken me ; that I have lost all strength of mind ;
and have grown childish. You can bear that ? "


Mr. Pecksniff answered that it would be dread-
fully hard to bear, but he thought he could, if he
made a great effort.

" Others will say — I speak of disappointed, angry
people only — that you have lied and fawned, and
wormed yourself through dirty ways into my favor ;
by such concessions and such crooked deeds, such
meannesses and vile endurances, as nothing could
repay : no, not the legacy of half the world we live
in. You can bear that ? "

Mr. Pecksniff made reply that this would be also
very hard to bear, as reflecting, in some degree, on
the discernment of Mr. Chuzzlewit. Still he had a
modest confidence that he could sustain the calumny,
with the help of a good conscience, and that gentle-
man's friendship.

"With the great mass of slanderers," said old
Martin, leaning back in his chair, "the tale, as I
clearly foresee, will run thus : That, to mark my
contempt for the rabble whom I despised, I chose-
from among them the very worst, and made him do
my will, and pampered and enriched him at the cost
of all the rest. That, after casting about for the
means of a punishment which should rankle in the
bosoms of these kites the most, and strike into their
gall, I devised this scheme at a time when the last
link in the chain of grateful love and duty that held
me to my race, was roughly snapped asunder :
roughly, for I loved him well ; roughly, for I had
ever put my trust in his affection ; roughly, for that
he broke it when I loved him most — God help me !
— and he without a pang could throw me off, while
I clung about his heart ! Now," said the old man,
dismissing this passionate outburst, as suddenly as


he had yielded to it, " is your mind made up to bear
this likewise ? Lay your account with having it to
bear, and put no trust in being set right by me."

" My dear Mr. Chuzzlewit," cried Pecksniif in an
ecstasy, " for such a man as you have shown yourself
to be this day ; for a man so injured, yet so very
humane ; for a man so — I am at a loss what precise
term to use — yet at the same time so remarkably —
I don't know how to express my meaning ; for such
a man as I have described, I hope it is no presump-
tion to say that I, and I am sure I may add my
children also (my dears, we perfectly agree in this,
I think ?), would bear anything whatever ! "

"Enough," said Martin. "You can charge no
consequences on me. When do you return home ? "

" Whenever you please, my dear sir. To-night, if
you desire it."

" I desire nothing," returned the old man, " that
is unreasonable. Such a request would be. Will
you be ready to return at the end of this week ? "

The very time of all others that Mr. Pecksniff
would have suggested if it had been left to him to
make his own choice. As to his daughters — the
words, " Let us be at home on Saturday, dear pa,"
were actually upon their lips.

"Your expenses, cousin," said Martin, taking a
folded slip of paper from his pocket-book, "may
possibly exceed that amount. If so, let me know
the balance that I owe you when we next meet. It
would be useless if I told you where I live just
now ; indeed, I have no fixed abode. When I have,
you shall know it. You and your daughters may
expect to see me before long : in the meantime I
need not tell you, that we keep our own confidence.


What you will do when you get home is understood
between us. Give me no account of it at any time ;
and never refer to it in any way. I ask that as a
favor. I am commonly a man of few words, cousin ;
and all that need be said just now is said, I think."

" One glass of wine — one morsel of this homely
cake ? " cried Mr. Pecksniff, venturing to detain
him. " My dears ! "

The sisters flew to wait upon him.

'' Poor girls ! " said Mr. Pecksniff. " You will
excuse their agitation, my dear sir. They are made
up of feeling. A bad commodity to go through the
world with, Mr. Chuzzlewit ! My youngest daugh-
ter is almost as much of a woman as my eldest, is
she not, sir ? "

" Which is the youngest ? " asked the old man.

" Mercy, by five years," said Mr. Pecksniff. " We
sometimes venture to consider her rather a fine
figure, sir. Speaking as an artist, I may perhaps be
permitted to suggest, that its outline is graceful and
correct. I am naturally," said Mr. Pecksniff, drying
his hands upon his handkerchief, and looking anx-
iously in his cousin's face at almost every word,
"proud, if I may use the expression, to have a
daughter who is constructed upon the best models."

" She seems to have a lively disposition," observed

<' Dear me ! " said Mr. Pecksniff, " that is quite
remarkable. You have defined her character, my
dear sir, as correctly as if you had known her from
her birth. She has a lively disposition. I assure
you, my dear sir, that in our unpretending home
her gayety is delightful."

" No doubt," returned the old man.


"Charity, upon tlie other hand," said Mr. Peck-
sniff, '^ is remarkable for strong sense, and for rather
a deep tone of sentiment, if the partiality of a father
may be excused in saying so. A wonderful affection
between them, my dear sir! Allow me to drink
your health. Bless you ! "

" I little thought," retorted Martin, " but a month
ago, that I should be breaking bread and pouring
wine with you. I drink to you."

Not at all abashed by the extraordinary abrupt-
ness with which these latter words were spoken,
Mr. Pecksniff thanked him devoutly.

" Now let me go," said Martin, putting down the
wine when he had merely touched it with his lips.
" My dears, good-morning ! "

But this distant form of farewell was by no means
tender enough for the yearnings of the young ladies,
who again embraced him with all their hearts —
with all their arms at any rate — to which parting
caresses their new-found friend submitted with a
better grace than might have been expected from
one who, not a moment before, had pledged their
parent in such a very uncomfortable manner. These
endearments terminated, he took a hasty leave of
Mr. Pecksniff, and withdrew, followed to the door
by both father and daughters, who stood there,
kissing their hands, and beaming with affection
until he disappeared : though, by the way, he never
once looked back, after he had crossed the threshold.

When they returned into the house, and were
again alone in Mrs. Todgers's room, the two young
ladies exhibited an unusual amount of gayety ; inso-
much that they clapped their hands, and laughed,
and looked with roguish aspects and a bantering air


upon their dear papa. This conduct was so very
unaccountable, that Mr. Pecksniff (being singularly
grave himself) could scarcely choose but ask them
what it meant ; and took them to task, in his gentle
manner, for yielding to such light emotions.

" If it was possible to divine any cause for this
merriment, even the most remote," he said, *'I
should not reprove you. But when you can have
none whatever — oh, really, really ! "

This admonition had so little effect on Mercy,
that she was obliged to hold her handkerchief before
her rosy lips, and to throw herself back in her chair,
with every demonstration of extreme amusement;
which want of duty so offended Mr. Pecksniff that
he reproved her in set terms, and gave her his
parental advice to correct herself in solitude and
contemplation. But at that juncture they were dis-
turbed by the sound of voices in dispute ; and as it
proceeded from the next room, the subject-matter
of the altercation quickly reached their ears.

" I don't care that ! Mrs. Todgers," said the young
gentleman who had been the youngest gentleman in
company on the day of the festival ; " I don't care
that, ma'am," said he, snapping his fingers, "for
Jinkins. Don't suppose I do."

" I am quite certain you don't, sir," replied Mrs.
Todgers. '<You have too independent a spirit, I
know, to yield to anybody. And quite right. There
is no reason why you should give way to any gentle-
man. Everybody must be well aware of that."

" I should think no more of admitting daylight
into the fellow," said the youngest gentleman, in a
desperate voice, " than if he was a bulldog."

Mrs. Todgers did not stop to inquire whether, as


a matter of principle, there was any particular rea-
son for admitting daylight even into a bulldog other-
wise than by the natural channel of his eyes : but
she seemed to wring her hands : and she moaned.

" Let him be careful," said the youngest gentle-
man. "I give him warning. No man shall step
between me and the current of my vengeance. I
know a Cove" — he used that familiar epithet in
his agitation, but corrected himself, by adding, "a
gentleman of property, I mean — who practises
with a pair of pistols (fellows too) of his own. If
I am driven to borrow 'em, and to send a friend to
Jinkins, a tragedy will get into the paj)ers. That's

Again Mrs. Todgers moaned.

" I have borne this long enough," said the young-
est gentleman, " but now my soul rebels against it,
and I won't stand it any longer. I left home origin-
ally, because I had that within me which wouldn't
be domineered over by a sister ; and do you think
I'm going to be put down by him ? No."

" It is very wrong in Mr. Jinkins ; I know it is
perfectly inexcusable in Mr. Jinkins, if he intends
it," observed Mrs. Todgers.

"If he intends it!" cried the youngest gentle-
man. " Don't he interrupt and contradict me on
every occasion ? Does he ever fail to interpose
himself between me and anything or anybody that
he sees I have set my mind upon ? Does he make
a point of always pretending to forget me, when
he's pouring out the beer ? Does he make bragging
remarks about his razors, and insulting allusions to
people who have no necessity to shave more than
once a week? But let him look out; he'll find


himself shaved, pretty close, before long; and so
I tell him ! "

The young gentleman was mistaken in this closing
sentence, inasmuch as he never told it to Jinkins,
but always to Mrs. Todgers.

" However," he said, " these are not proper sub-
jects for ladies' ears. All I've got to say to you,
Mrs. Todgers, is, — a week's notice from next Sat-
urday. The same house can't contain that miscreant
and me any longer. If we get over the intermedi-
ate time without bloodshed, you may think yourself
pretty fortunate. I don't myself expect we shall."

" Dear, dear ! " cried Mrs. Todgers, " what would
I have given to have prevented this ? To lose you,
sir, would be like losing the house's right hand.
So popular as you are among the gentlemen; so
generally looked up to ; and so much liked ! I do
hope you'll think better of it ; if on nobody else's
account, on mine."

"There's Jinkins," said the youngest gentleman
moodily. " Your favorite. He'll console you, and
the gentlemen too, for the loss of twenty such as
me. I'm not understood in this house. I never
have been."

'' Don't run away with that opinion, sir ! " cried
Mrs. Todgers, with a show of honest indignation.
''Don't make such a charge as that against the
establishment, I must beg of you. It is not so bad
as that comes to, sir. Make any remark you please
against the gentlemen, or against me ; but don't say
you're not understood in this house."

" I'm not treated as if I was," said the youngest

'' There you make a great mistake, sir," returned


Mrs. Todgers, in the same strain. "As many of
the gentlemen and I have often said, you are too
sensitive. That's where it is. You are of too sus-
ceptible a nature ; it's in your spirit."

The young gentleman coughed.

" And as," said Mrs. Todgers, " as to Mr. Jinkins,
I must beg of you, if we are to part, to understand
that I don't abet Mr. Jinkins by any means. Far
from it. I could wish that Mr. Jinkins would take
a lower tone in this establishment ; and would not
be the means of raising differences between me and
gentlemen that I can much less bear to part with
than I could with Mr. Jinkins. Mr. Jinkins is not
such a boarder, sir," added Mrs. Todgers, " that all
considerations of private feeling and respect give
way before him. Quite the contrary, I assure you."

The young gentleman was so much mollified by
these and similar speeches on the part of Mrs.
Todgers, that he and that lady gradually changed
positions ; so that she became the injured party,
and he was understood to be the injurer; but in a
complimentary, not in an offensive sense ; his cruel
conduct being attributable to his exalted nature,
and to that alone. So, in the end, the young gentle-
man withdrew his notice, and assured Mrs. Todgers
of his unalterable regard : and having done so, went
back to business.

" Goodness me. Miss Pecksniffs ! " cried that lady,
as she came into the back-room, and sat wearily
down, with her basket on her knees, and her hands
folded upon it, " what a trial of temper it is to keep
a house like this ! You must have heard most of
what has just passed. Now did you ever hear the
like ? "


" Never ! " said the two Miss Pecksniffs.

" Of all the ridiculous young fellows that ever I
had to deal with," resumed Mrs. Todgers, " that is
the most ridiculous and unreasonable. Mr. Jinkins
is hard upon him sometimes, but not half as hard
as he deserves. To mention such a gentleman as
Mr. Jinkins in the same breath with him — you
know it's too much ! and yet he's as jealous of him,
bless you, as if he was his equal."

The young ladies were greatly entertained by
Mrs. Todgers's account, no less than with certain
anecdotes illustrative of the youngest gentleman's
character, which she went on to tell them. But Mr.
Pecksniff looked quite stern and angry : and when
she had concluded, said in a solemn voice, —

*' Pray, Mrs. Todgers, if I may inquire, what does
that young gentleman contribute towards the sup-
port of these premises ? "

" Why, sir, for what he has, he pays about eigh-
teen shillings a week," said Mrs. Todgers.

" Eighteen shillings a week ! " repeated Mr. Peck-

" Taking one week with another ; as near that as
possible," said Mrs. Todgers.

Mr. Pecksniff rose from his chair, folded his arms,
looked at her, and shook his head.

" And do you mean to say, ma'am — is it possible,
Mrs. Todgers — that for such a miserable considera-
tion as eighteen shillings a week, a female of your
understanding can so far demean herself as to wear
a double face, even for an instant ? "

" I am forced to keep things on the square if I
can, sir," faltered Mrs. Todgers. *•' I must pre-
serve peace among them, and keep my connection
VOL. I. -17.


together, if possible, Mr. Pecksniff. The profit is
very small."

" The profit ! " cried that gentleman, laying great
stress upon the word. " The profit, Mrs. Todgers !
You amaze me ! "

He was so severe, that Mrs. Todgers shed tears.

"The profit!" repeated Mr. Pecksniff. "The
profit of dissimulation ! To worship the golden
calf of Baal for eighteen shillings a week ! "

" Don't in your own goodness be too hard upon
me, Mr. Pecksniff," cried Mrs. Todgers, taking out
her handkerchief.

" Oh, Calf, Calf ! " cried Mr. Pecksniff mournfully.
"Oh, Baal, Baal! Oh, my friend Mrs. Todgers!
To barter away that precious jewel, self-esteem, and
cringe to any mortal creature — for eighteen shil-
lings a week ! "

He was so subdued and overcome by the reflection,
that he immediately took down his hat from its peg
in the passage, and went out for a walk to compose his
feelings. Anybody passing him in the street might
have known him for a good man at first sight ; for
his whole figure teemed with a consciousness of the
moral homily he had read to Mrs. Todgers.

Eighteen shillings a week ! Just, most just, thy
censure, upright Pecksniff ! Had it been for the
sake of a ribbon, star, or garter ; sleeves of lawn, a
great man's smile, a seat in parliament, a tap upon
the shoulder from a courtly sword ; a place, a party,
or a thriving lie, or eighteen thousand pounds, or
even eighteen hundred ; — but to worship the golden
calf for eighteen shillings a week ! Oh, pitiful,
pitiful !



The family were within two or three days of
their departure from Mrs. Todgers's, and the com-
mercial gentlemen were to a man despondent and
not to be comforted, because of the approaching
separation, when Bailey junior, at the jocund time
of noon, presented himself before Miss Charity
Pecksniff, then sitting with her sister in the ban-
quet chamber, hemming six new pocket-handker-
chiefs for Mr. Jinkins ; and having expressed a hope,
preliminary and pious, that he might be blest, gave
her, in his pleasant way, to understand that a vis-
itor attended to pay his respects to her, and was at
that moment waiting in the drawing-room. Per-
haps this last announcement showed in a more
striking point of view than many lengthened
speeches could have done, the trustfulness and faith
of Bailey's nature ; since he had, in fact, last seen
the visitor upon the door-mat, where, after signifying
to him that he would do well to go upstairs, he had
left him to the guidance of his own sagacity.


Hence it was at least an even chance that the vis-
itor was then wandering on the roof of the house,
or vainly seeking to extricate himself from a maze
of bedrooms ; Todgers's being precisely that kind
of establishment in which an unpiloted stranger is
pretty sure to find himself in some place where he
least expects and least desires to be.

" A gentleman for me ! " cried Charity, pausing in
her work ; *' my gracious, Bailey ! "

'* Ah ! " said Bailey. " It is my gracious, ain't it ?

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Online LibraryCharles DickensDicken's works (Volume 27) → online text (page 17 of 28)