Charles Dickens.

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day long broke out into a cheerful smile 5 the birds
began to chirp and twitter on the naked boughs, as
though the hopeful creatures half believed that
winter had gone by and spring had come already.
The vane upon the tapering spire of the old church
glistened from its lofty station in sympathy with
the general gladness j and from the ivy -shaded win-


dovs such gleams of light shone back upon the
glowing sky, that it seemed as if the quiet buildings
were the hoarding-place of twenty summers, and
all their ruddiness and warmth were stored within.
Even those tokens of the season which emphati-
cally whispered of the coming winter, graced the
landscape, and, for the moment, tinged its livelier
features with no oppressive air of sadness. The
fallen leaves, with which the ground was strewn,
gave forth a pleasant fragrance, and subduing all
harsh sounds of distant feet and wheels, created a
repose in gentle unison with the light scattering
of seed hither and thither by the distant husband-
man, and with the noiseless passage of the plough
as it turned up the rich brown earth, and wrought a
graceful pattern in the stubbled fields. On the
motionless branches of some trees, autumn berries
hung like clusters of coral beads, as in those fabled
orchards where the fruits were jewels ; others,
stripped of all their garniture, stood, each the
centre of its little heap of bright red leaves, watch-
ing their slow decay; others again, still wearing
theirs, had them all crunched and crackled up, as
though they had been burned ; about the stems of
some were piled, in ruddy mounds, the apples they
had borne that year ; while others (hardy evergreens
this class) showed somewhat stern and gloomy in
their vigor, as charged by nature with the admoni-
tion that it is not to her more sensitive and joyous
favorites, she grants the longest term of life. Still
athwart their darker boughs, the sunbeams struck
out paths of deeper gold ; and the red light, man-
tling in among their swarthy branches, used them
as foils to set its brightness off, and aid the lustre
of the dying day.


A moment, and its glory was no more. The sun
went down beneath the long dark lines of hill and
cloud which piled up in the west an airy city, wall
heaped on wall, and battlement on battlement ; the
light was all withdrawn ; the shining church turned
cold and dark ; the stream forgot to smile ; the birds
were silent; and the gloom of winter dwelt on

An evening wind uprose too, and the slighter
branches cracked and rattled as they moved, in
skeleton dances, to its moaning music. The wither-
ing leaves, no longer quiet, hurried to and fro in
search of shelter from its chill pursuit ; the laborer
unyoked his horses, and with head bent down,
trudged briskly home beside them ; and from the
cottage windows lights began to glance and wink
upon the darkening fields.

Then the village forge came out in all its bright
importance. The lusty bellows roared Ha, ha ! to
the clear fire which roared in turn, and bade the
shining sparks dance gayly to the merry clinking of
the hammers on the anvil. The gleaming iron, in
its emulation, sparkled too, and shed its red-hot
gems around profusely. The strong smith and his
men dealt such strokes upon their work as made
even the melancholy night rejoice, and brought a
glow into its dark face as it hovered about the door
and windows, peeping curiously in above the shoul-
ders of a dozen loungers. As to this idle company,
there they stood, spellbound by the place, and,
casting now and then a glance upon the darkness in
their rear, settled their lazy elbows more at ease
upon the sill, and leaned a little further in : no
more disposed to tear themselves away, than if they


had been born to cluster round tbe blazing hearth
like so many crickets.

Out upon the angry wind ! how from sighing, it
began to bluster round the merry forge, banging at
the wicket, and grumbling in the chimney, as if it
bullied the jolly bellows for doing anything to order.
And what an impotent swaggerer it was too, for all
its noise : for if it had any influence on that hoarse
companion, it was but to make hira roar his cheerful
song the louder, and by consequence to make the
fire burn the brighter, and the sparks to dance
more gayly yet : at length they whizzed so madly
round and round, that it was too much for such a
surly wind to bear : so off it flew with a howl : giv-
ing the old sign before the alehouse door such a cuff
as it went, that the Blue Dragon was more rampant
than usual ever afterwards, and indeed, before
Christmas, reared clean out of his crazy frame.

It was small tyranny for a respectable wind to go
wreaking its vengeance on such poor creatures as
the fallen leaves, but this wind happening to come
up with a great heap of them just after venting its
humor on the insulted Dragon, did so disperse and
scatter them that they fled away, pell-mell, some
here, some there, rolling over each other, whirling
round and round upon their thin edges, taking
frantic flights into the air, and playing all manner
of extraordinary gambols in the extremity of their
distress. Nor was this enough for its malicious
fury : for not content with driving them abroad, it
charged small parties of them, and hunted them
into the wheelwright's saw pit, and below the
planks and timbers in the yard, and, scattering the
sawdust in the air, it looked for them underneath,


and when it did meet with any, whew ! how it drove
them on and followed at their heels !

The scared leaves only flew the faster for all this,
and a giddy chase it was : for they got into unfre-
quented places, where there was no outlet, and where
their pursuer kept them eddying round and round
at his pleasure ; and they crept under the eaves of
houses, and clung tightly to the sides of hayricks,
like bats ; and tore in at open chamber windows,
and cowered close to hedges ; and in short went any-
where for safety. Bvit the oddest feat they achieved
was, to take advantage of the sudden opening of
Mr. Pecksniff's front door, to dash wildly into his
passage ; whither the wind following close upon
them, and finding the back-door open, incontinently
blew out the lighted candle held by Miss Pecksniff,
and slammed the front door against Mr. Pecksniff,
who was at that moment entering, with such
violence, that in the twinkling of an eye he lay on
his back at the bottom of the steps. Being by
this time weary of such trifling performances, the
boisterous rover hurried away rejoicing, roaring
over moor and meadow, hill and flat, until it got
out to sea, where it met with other winds similarly
disposed, and made a night of it.

In the meantime Mr. Pecksniff, having received,
from a sharp angle in the bottom step but one, that
sort of knock on the head which lights up, for the
patient's entertainment, an imaginary general illu-
mination of very bright short-sixes, lay placidly
staring at his own street-door. And it would seem
to have been more suggestive in its aspect than
street-doors usually are ; for he continued to lie
there rather a lengthy and unreasonable time, with-


out so much as wondering whether he was hurt or
no : neither when Miss Pecksniff inquired through
the keyhole in a shrill voice, which might have
belonged to a wind in its teens, " Who's there ? "
did he make any reply : nor, when Miss Pecksniff
opened the door again, and shading the candle with
her hand, peered out, and looked provokingly round
him, and about him, and over him, and everywhere
but at him, did he offer any remark, or indicate in
any manner the least hint of a desire to be
picked up.

" / see you," cried Miss Pecksniff, to the ideal in-
flicter of a runaway knock. " You'll catch it, sir ! "

Still, Mr. Pecksniff, perhaps from having caught
it already, said nothing.

" You're round the corner now," cried Miss
Pecksniff. She said it at a venture, but there was
appropriate matter in it too ; for Mr. Pecksniff,
being in the act of extinguishing the candles before
mentioned pretty rapidly, and of reducing the num-
ber of brass knobs on his street-door from four or
five hundred (which had previously been juggling
of their own accord before his eyes in a very novel
manner) to a dozen or so, might in one sense have
been said to be coming round the corner, and just
turning it.

With a sharply delivered warning relative to the
cage and the constable, and the stocks and the gal-
lows, Miss Pecksniff was about to close the door
again, when Mr. Pecksniff (being still at the bottom
of the steps) raised himself on one elbow, and

" That voice ! " cried Miss Pecksniff. " My
parent ! "


At this exclamation, another Miss Pecksniff
bounced out of the parlor : and the two Miss
Pecksniffs, with many incoherent expressions,
dragged Mr. Pecksniff into an upright posture.

" Pa ! " they cried in concert. " Pa ! Speak, pa !
Do not look so wild, my dearest pa ! "

But as a gentleman's looks, in such a case of all
others, are by no means under his own control, Mr.
Pecksniff continued to keep his mouth and his eyes
very wide open, and to drop his lower jaw, some-
what after the manner of a toy nut-cracker : and
as his hat had fallen off, and his face was pale, and
his hair erect, and his coat muddy, the spectacle
he presented was so very doleful, that neither of
the Miss Pecksniffs could repress an involuntary

" That'll do," said Mr. Pecksniff. " I'm better."

'' He's come to himself ! " cried the youngest Miss

'* He speaks again ! " exclaimed the eldest.

With these joyful words they kissed Mr. Peck-
sniff on either cheek ; and bore him into the house.
Presently, the youngest Miss Pecksniff ran out again
to pick up his hat, his brown-paper parcel, his um-
brella, his gloves, and other small articles ; and that
done, and the door closed, both young ladies applied
themselves to tending Mr. Pecksniff's wounds in the

They were not very serious in their nature : being
limited to abrasions on what the eldest Miss Peck-
sniff called "the knobby parts" of her parent's
anatomy, such as his knees and elbows, and to the
development of an entirely new organ, unknown to
phrenologists, on the back of his head. These inju-

VOL. I.-2.


ries having been comforted externally, with patches
of pickled brown paper, and Mr. Pecksniff having
been comforted internally, with some stiff brandy
and water, the eldest Miss Pecksniff sat down to
make the tea, which was all ready. In the mean-
time the youngest Miss Pecksniff brought from the
kitchen a smoking dish of ham and eggs, and, set-
ting the same before her father, took up her station
on a low stool at his feet : thereby bringing her
eyes on a level with the teaboard.

It must not be inferred from this position of
humility, that the youngest Miss Pecksniff was so
young as to be, as one may say, forced to sit upon a
stool, by reason of the shortness of her legs. Miss
Pecksniff sat upon a stool, because of her simplicity
and innocence, which were very great : very great.
Miss Pecksniff sat upon a stool, because she was all
girlishness, and playfulness, and wildness, and kit-
tenish buoyancy. She was the most arch and at
the same time the most artless creature, was the
youngest Miss Pecksniff, that you can possibly
imagine. It was her great charm. She was too
fresh and guileless, and too full of childlike viva-
city, was the youngest Miss Pecksniff, to wear combs
in her hair, or to turn it up, or to frizzle it, or braid
it. She wore it in a crop, a loosely flowing crop,
which had so many rows of curls in it, that the top
row was only one curl. Moderately buxom was her
shape, and quite womanly too ; but sometimes —
yes, sometimes — she even wore a pinafore ; and
how charming that was! Oh! she was indeed ''a
gushing thing " (as a young gentleman had observed
in verse, in the Poet's Corner of a provincial news-
paper), was the youngest Miss Pecksniff !


Mr. Pecksniff was a moral man : a grave man, a
man of noble sentiments, and speech : and he had
had her christened Mercy. Mercy ! oh, what a
charming name for such a pure-souled being as
the youngest Miss Pecksniff ! Her sister's name
was Charity. There was a good thing ! Mercy
and Charity ! And Charity, with her fine strong
sense, and her mild, yet not reproachful gravity,
was so well named, and did so well set off and
illustrate her sister ! What a pleasant sight was
that, the contrast they presented : to see each loved
and loving one sympathizing with, and devoted to,
and leaning on, and yet correcting and counter-
checking, and, as it were, antidoting, the other !
To behold each damsel, in her very admiration of
her sister, setting up in business for herself on an
entirely different principle, and announcing no con-
nection with over-the-way, and if the quality of
goods at that establishment don't please you, you
are respectfully invited to favor me with a call !
And the crowning circumstance of the old delight-
ful catalogue was, that both the fair creatures were
so utterly unconscious of all this ! They had no
idea of it. They no more thought or dreamed of it,
than Mr. Pecksniff did. Nature played them off
against each other : they had no hand in it, the two
Miss Pecksniffs.

It has been remarked that Mr. Pecksniff was a
moral man. So he was. Perhaps there never was
a more moral man than Mr. Pecksniff : especially in
his conversation and correspondence. It was once
said of him by a homely admirer, that he had a
Portunatus's purse of good sentiments in his inside.
In this particular he was like the girl in the fairy


tale, except that if they were not actual diamonds
which fell from his lips, they were the very brightest
paste, and shone prodigiously. He was a most ex-
emplary man : fuller of virtuous precept than a copy-
book. Some people likened him to a direction-post,
which is always telling the way to a place, and never
goes there : but these were his enemies ; the shadows
cast by his brightness ; that was all. His very throat
was moral. You saw a good deal of it. You looked
over a very low fence of white cravat (whereof no
man had ever beheld the tie, for he fastened it be-
hind), and there it lay, a valley between two jutting
heights of collar, serene and whiskerless before you.
It seemed to say, on the part of Mr. Pecksniff,
" There is no deception, ladies and gentlemen, all is
peace, a holy calm pervades me." So did his hair,
just grizzled with an iron-gray, which was all
brushed off his forehead, and stood bolt-upright
or slightly drooped in kindred action with his
heavy eyelids. So did his person, which was sleek
though free from corpulency. So did his manner,
which was soft and oily. In a word, even his plain
black suit, and state of widower, and dangling
double eyeglass, all tended to the same purpose,
and cried aloud, " Behold the moral Pecksniff ! "

The brazen plate upon the door (which, being Mr.
Pecksniff's, could not lie) bore this inscription,
"Pecksniff, Architect," to which Mr. Pecksniff,
on his cards of business, added "and Land Sur-
veyor." In one sense, and one only, he may be
said to have been a Land Surveyor on a pretty large
scale, as an extensive prospect lay stretched out
before the windows of his house. Of his archi-
tectural doings, nothing was clearly known, except


that he had never designed or built anything ; but
it was generally understood that his knowledge of
the science was almost awful in its profundity.

Mr. Pecksniff's professional engagements, indeed,
were almost, if not entirely, confined to the recep-
tion of pupils; for the collection of rents, with
which pursuit he occasionally varied and relieved
his graver toils, can hardly be said to be a strictly
architectural employment. His genius lay in
ensnaring parents and guardians, and pocketing pre-
miums. A young gentleman's premium being paid,
and the young gentleman come to Mr. Pecksniff's
house, Mr. Pecksniff borrowed his case of mathe-
matical instruments (if silver-mounted or otherwise
valuable) ; entreated him, from that moment, to
consider himself one of the family ; complimented
him highly on his parents or guardians, as the case
might be ; and turned him loose in a spacious room
on the two-pair front ; where, in the company of
certain drawing-boards, parallel rulers, very stiff-
legged compasses, and two, or perhaps three, other
young gentlemen, he improved himself, for three or
five years, according to his articles, in making ele-
vations of Salisbury Cathedral from every possible
point of sight ; and in constructing in the air a vast
quantity of Castles, Houses of Parliament, and other
public buildings. Perhaps in no place in the world
were so many gorgeous edifices of this class erected
as under Mr. Pecksniff's auspices ; and if but one-
twentieth part of the churches which were built in
that front room, with one or other of the Miss
Pecksniffs at the altar in the act of marrying the
architect, could only be made available by the par-
liamentary commissioners, no more churches would
be Avanted for at least five centuries.


" Even the worldly goods of which we have just
disposed," said Mr. Pecksniff, glancing round the
table when he had finished, " even cream, sugar, tea,
toast, ham — "

" And eggs," suggested Charity in a low voice.

" And eggs," said Mr. Pecksniff, " even they have
their moral. See how they come and go ! Every
pleasure is transitory. We can't even eat, long. If
we indulge in harmless fluids, we get the dropsy ;
if in exciting liquids, we get drunk. What a sooth-
ing reflection is that ! "

" Don't say we get drunk, pa," urged the eldest
Miss Pecksniff.

"•When I say, we, my dear," returned her father,
" I mean mankind in general ; the human race, con-
sidered as a body, and not as individuals. There is
nothing personal in morality, my love. Even such
a thing as this," said Mr. Pecksniff, laying the fore-
finger of his left hand upon the brown-paper patch
on the top of his head, "slight casual baldness
though it be, reminds us that we are but " — he was
going to say " worms," but recollecting that worms
were not remarkable for heads of hair, he substi-
tuted " flesh and blood."

<' Which," cried Mr. Pecksniff after a pause, dur-
ing which he seemed to have been casting about for
a new moral, and not quite successfully, " which is
also very soothing. Mercy, my dear, stir the fire
and throw up the cinders."

The young lady obeyed, and having done so,
resumed her stool, reposed one arm upon her
father's knee, and laid her blooming cheek upon it.
Miss Charity drew her chair nearer the fire, as one
prepared for conversation, and looked towards her


" Yes," said Mr. Pecksniff, after a short pause,
during which he had been silently smiling, and
shaking his head at the fire — "I have again been
fortunate in the attainment of my object. A new-
inmate will very shortly come among us."

" A youth, papa ? " asked Charity.

" Ye-es, a youth," said Mr. Pecksniff. " He will
avail himself of the eligible opportunity which now
offers, for uniting the advantages of the best practi-
cal architectural education, with the comforts of a
home, and the constant association with some who
(however humble their sphere, and limited their
capacity) are not unmindful of their moral respon-

" Oh, pa ! " cried Mercy, holding up her finger
archly. " See advertisement ! "

*' Playful — playful warbler," said Mr. Pecksniff.
It may be observed, in connection with his calling
his daughter "a warbler," that she was not at all
vocal, but that Mr. Pecksniff was in the frequent
habit of using any word that occurred to him as
having a good sound, and rounding a sentence well,
without much care for its meaning. And he did this
so boldly, and in such an imposing manner, that he
would sometimes stagger the wisest people with his
eloquence, and make them gasp again.

His enemies asserted, by the way, that a strong
trustfulness in sounds and forms was the master-
key to Mr. Pecksniff's character.

" Is he handsome, pa ? " inquired the younger

" Silly Merry ! " said the eldest : Merry being
fond for Mercy. " What is the premium, pa ? tell
us that."


" Oh, good gracious, Cherry ! " cried Miss Mercy,
holding up her hands with the most winning giggle
in the world, " what a mercenary girl you are !
Oh, you naughty, thoughtful, prudent thing ! "

It was perfectly charming, and worthy of the pas-
toral age, to see how the two Miss Pecksniffs slapped
each other after this, and then subsided into an
embrace expressive of their different dispositions.

" He is well-looking," said Mr. Pecksniff, slowly
and distinctly: "well-looking enough. I do not
positively expect any immediate premium with

Notwithstanding their different natures, both
Charity and Mercy concurred in opening their eyes
uncommonly wide at this announcement, and in
looking for the moment as blank as if their thoughts
had actually had a direct bearing on the main

''But what of that?" said Mr. Pecksniff, still
smiling at the fire. " There is disinterestedness in
the world, I hope ? We are not all arrayed in
two opposite ranks : the o/fensive and the (defensive.
Some few there are who walk between ; who help
the needy as they go ; and take no part with either
side. Umph ! "

There was something in these morsels of philan-
thropy which reassured the sisters. They exchanged
glances, and brightened very much.

" Oh ! let us not be forever calculating, devising,
and plotting for the future," said Mr. Pecksniff,
smiling more and more, and looking at the fire as a
man might, who was cracking a joke with it : "I am
weary of such arts. If our inclinations are but
good and open-hearted, let us gratify them boldly,


though they bring upon us Loss instead of Profit.
Eh, Charity ? "

Glancing towards his daughters for the first time
since he had begun these reflections, and seeing that
they both smiled, Mr. Pecksniff eyed them for an
instant so jocosely (though still with a kind of
saintly waggishness) that the younger one was
moved to sit upon his knee forthwith, put her fair
arms round his neck, and kiss him twenty times.
During the whole of this affectionate display she
laughed to a most immoderate extent : in which
hilarious indulgence even the prudent Cherry

" Tut, tut," said Mr. Pecksniff, pushing his latest-
born away, and running his fingers through his
hair, as he resumed his tranquil face. " What folly
is this ! Let us take heed how we laugh without
reason, lest we cry with it. What is the domestic
news since yesterday ? John Westlock is gone, I
hope ? "

" Indeed no," said Charity.

" And why not ? " returned her father. " His
term expired yesterday. And his box was packed,
I know ; for I saw it, in the morning, standing in
the hall."

" He slept last night at the Dragon," returned the
young lady, " and had Mr. Pinch to dine with him.
They spent the evening together, and Mr. Pinch
was not home till very late."

" And when I saw him on the stairs this morning,
pa," said Mercy with her usual sprightliness, "he
looked, oh, goodness, such a monster ! with his face
all manner of colors, and his eyes as dull as if they
had been boiled, and his head aching dreadfully, I


am sure from the look of it, and his clothes smell-
ing, oh, it's impossible to say how strong, of " —
here the young lady shuddered — " of smoke and

"Now I think," said Mr. Pecksniff with his
accustomed gentleness, though still with the air of
one who suffered under injury without complaint,
" I think Mr. Pinch might have done better than
choose for his companion one who, at the close of a
long intercourse, had endeavored, as he knew, to
wound my feelings. I am not quite sure that
this was delicate in Mr. Pinch. I am not quite
sure that this was kind in Mr. Pinch. I will go
further and say, I am not quite sure that this was
even ordinarily grateful in Mr. Pinch."

" But what can any one expect from Mr. Pinch ? "
cried Charity, with as strong and scornful an em-
phasis on the name as if it would have given her
unspeakable pleasure to express it, in an acted
charade, on the calf of that gentleman's leg.

Online LibraryCharles DickensDicken's works (Volume 27) → online text (page 2 of 28)