Charles Dickens.

Dicken's works (Volume 27) online

. (page 20 of 28)
Online LibraryCharles DickensDicken's works (Volume 27) → online text (page 20 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


very comfortable in the Pecksniffian halls, and im-
proved their friendship daily. Martin's facility,
both of invention and execution, being remarkable,
the grammar-school proceeded with great vigor ; and
Tom repeatedly declared, that if there were any-
thing like certainty in human affairs, or impartial-
ity in human judges, a design so new and full of
merit could not fail to carry off the first prize when
the time of competition arrived. Without being
quite so sanguine himself, Martin had his hopeful
anticipations too ; and they served to make him
brisk and eager at his task.

"If I should turn out a great architect, Tom,"
said the new pupil one day, as he stood at a little
distance from his drawing, and eyed it with much
complacency, " I'll tell you what should be one of
the things I'd build."



292 MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT.

" Ay ! " cried Tom. " What ? "

" Why, your fortune."

" No ! " said Tom Pinch, quite as much delighted
as if the thing were done. " Would you, though ?
How kind of you to say so."

"I'd build it up, Tom," returned Martin, "on
such a strong foundation, that it should last your
life — ay, and your children's lives too, and their
children's after them. I'd be your patron, Tom.
I'd take you under my protection. Let me see the
man who should give the cold shoulder to anybody
I chose to protect and patronize, if I were at the
top of the tree, Tom ! "

" Now, I don't think," said Mr. Pinch, " upon my
word, that I was ever more gratified than by this.
I really don't."

" Oh ! I mean what I say," retorted Martin with
a manner as free and easy in its condescension to,
not to say in its compassion for, the other, as if he
were already First Architect in Ordinary to all the
Crowned Heads in Europe. "I'd do it — I'd pro-
vide for you."

" I am afraid," said Tom, shaking his head, " that
I should be a mighty awkward person to provide
for."

"Pooh, pooh!" rejoined Martin, "Never mind
that. If I took it in my head to say, 'Pinch is a
clever fellow ; I approve of Pinch ; ' I should like
to know the man who would venture to put himself
in opposition to me. Besides, confound it, Tom, you
could be useful to me in a hundred ways."

" If I were not useful in one or two it shouldn't
be for want of trying," said Tom.

"For instance," pursued Martin, after a short



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 293

reflection, "you'd be a capital fellow, now, to see
that my ideas were properly carried out ; and to
overlook the works in their progress before they
were sufficiently advanced to be very interesting to
me ; and to take all that sort of plain sailing. Then
you'd be a splendid fellow to show people over my
studio, and to talk about Art to 'em, when I couldn't
be bored myself, and all that kind of thing. For
it would be devilish creditable, Tom (I'm quite in
earnest, I give you my word), to have a man of
your information about one, instead of some ordi-
nary blockhead. Oh, I'd take care of you. You'd
be useful, rely upon it ! "

To say that Tom had no idea of playing first
fiddle in any social orchestra, but was always quite
satisfied to be set down for the hundred and fiftieth
violin in the band, or thereabouts, is to express his
modesty in very inadequate terms. He was much
delighted, therefore, by these observations.

" I should be married to her then, Tom, of course,"
said Martin.

What was that which checked Tom Pinch so
suddenly in the high flow of his gladness : bringing
the blood into his honest cheeks, and a remorseful
feeling to his honest heart, as if he were unworthy
of his friend's regard ?

" I should be married to her then," said Martin,
looking with a smile towards the light: "and we
should have, I hope, children about us. They'd be
very fond of you, Tom."

But not a word said Mr. Pinch. The words he
would have uttered died upon his lips, and found a
life more spiritual in self-denying thoughts.

"All the children hereabouts are fond of you,



294 ]MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT.

Tom, and mine would be, of course," pursued Martin.
" Perhaps I might name one of them after you, Tom,
eh ? Well, I don't know, Tom's not a bad name.
Thomas Pinch Chuzzlewit. T. P. C. on his pina-
fores — no objection to that, I should say ?"

Tom cleared his throat, and smiled.

" She would like you, Tom, I know," said Martin.

" Ay ! " cried Tom Pinch faintly.

" I can tell exactly what she would think of you,"
said Martin, leaning his chin upon his hand, and
looking through the window-glass as if he read
there what he said; "I know her so well. She
would smile, Tom, often at first when you spoke to
her, or when she looked at you — merrily too — but
you wouldn't mind that. A brighter smile you
never saw ! "

" No, no," said Tom, " I wouldn't mind that."

"She would be as tender with you, Tom," said
Martin, " as if you were a child yourself. So you
are almost, in some things, ain't you, Tom ? "

Mr. Pinch nodded his entire assent.

"She would always be kind and good-humored,
and glad to see you," said Martin ; " and when she
found out exactly what sort of fellow you were
(which she'd do very soon), she would pretend to
give you little commissions to execute, and to ask
little services of you, which she knew you were
burning to render ; so that when she really pleased
you most, she would try to make you think you
most pleased her. She would take to you uncom-
monly, Tom ; and would understand you far more
delicately than I ever shall ; and would often say, I
know, that you were a harmless, gentle, well-inten-
tioned, good fellow."



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 295

How silent Tom Pinch was !

" In honor of old times," said Martin, " and of
her having heard you play the organ in this damp
little church down here — for nothing too — we will
have one in the house. I shall build an architec-
tural music-room on a plan of my own, and it'll
look rather knowing in a recess at one end. There
you shall play away, Tom, till you tire yourself;
and, as you like to do so in the dark, it shall be
dark; and many's the summer evening she and I
will sit and listen to you, Tom ; be sure of that."

It may have required a stronger effort on Tom
Pinch's part to leave the seat on which he sat, and
shake his friend by both hands, with nothing but
serenity and grateful feeling painted on his face;
it may have required a stronger effort to perform
this simple act with a pure heart, than to achieve
many and many a deed to which the doubtful
trumpet blown by Fame has lustily resounded.
Doubtful, because from its long hovering over scenes
of violence, the smoke and steam of death have
clogged the keys of that brave instrument ; and it is
not always that its notes are either true or tuneful.

" It's a proof of the kindness of human nature,"
said Tom, characteristically putting himself quite
out of sight in the matter, "that everybody who
comes here, as you have done, is more considerate
and affectionate to me than I should have any right
to hope, if I were the most sanguine creature in the
world; or should have any power to express, if I
were the most eloquent. It really overpowers me.
But trust me," said Tom, " that I am not ungrateful
— that I never forget — and that, if I can ever prove
the truth of my words to you, I will."



296 MAETIN CHUZZLEWIT.

" That's all right," observed Martin, leaning back
in his chair with a hand in each pocket, and yawn-
ing drearily. " Very fine talking, Tom ; but I'm at
Pecksniff's, I remember, and perhaps a mile or so
out of the highroad to fortune just at this minute.
So you've heard again this morning from what's-his-
name, eh ? "

" Who may that be ? " asked Tom, seeming to
enter a mild protest on behalf of the dignity of an
absent person.

" You know. What is it ? Northkey."

"Westlock," rejoined Tom, in rather a louder
tone than usual.

"Ah! to be sure," said Martin, "Westlock. I
knew it was something connected with a point of
the compass and a door. Well! and what says
Westlock ? "

" Oh ! he has come into his property," answered
Tom, nodding his head and smiling.

"He's a lucky dog," said Martin. "I wish it
were mine instead. Is that all the mystery you
were to tell me ? "

"No," said Tom, "not all."

" What's the rest ? " asked Martin.

"For the matter of that," said Tom, "it's no
mystery, and you won't think much of it ; but it's
very pleasant to me. John always used to say
when he was here, ' Mark my words. Pinch. When
my father's executors cash up' — he used strange
expressions now and then, but that was his way."

"Cash-up's a very good expression," observed
Martin, " when other people don't apply it to you.
Well ! What a slow fellow you are. Pinch ! "

" Yes, I am, I know," said Tom ; " but you'll make



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 297

me nervous if you tell me so. I'm afraid you have
put me out a little now, for I forget what I was
going to say."

" When John's father's executors cashed up," said
Martin impatiently.

" Oh, yes, to be sure," cried Tom ; " yes. ' Then,'
says John, ' I'll give you a dinner, Pinch, and come
down to Salisbury on purpose.' Now, when John
wrote the other day — the morning Pecksniff left,
you know — he said his business was on the point
of being immediately settled, and as he was to
receive his money directly, when could I meet him
at Salisbury ? I wrote and said, any day this
week ; and I told him, besides, that there was a new
pupil here, and what a fine fellow you were, and
what friends we had become. Upon which John
writes back this letter " — Tom produced it — " fixes
to-morrow ; sends his compliments to you ; and begs
that we three may have the pleasure of dining
together — not at the house where you and I were,
either ; but at the very first hotel in the town.
Read what he says."

"Very well," said Martin, glancing over it with
his customary coolness ; " much obliged to him.
I'm agreeable."

Tom could have wished him to be a little more
astonished, a little more pleased, or in some form
or other a little more interested in such a great
event. But he was perfectly self-possessed : and
falling into his favorite solace of whistling, took
another turn at the grammar-school, as if nothing at
all had happened.

Mr. Pecksniff's horse being regarded in the light
of a sacred animal, only to be driven by him, the



298 MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT.

chief priest of that temple, or by some person dis-
tinctly nominated for the time being to that high
office by himself, the two young men agreed to walk
to Salisbury ; and so, when the time came, they set
off on foot ; which was, after all, a better mode of
travelling than in the gig, as the weather was very
cold and very dry.

Better ! a rare, strong, hearty, healthy walk —
four statute miles an hour — preferable to that
rumbling, tumbling, jolting, shaking, scraping,
creaking, villainous old gig ? Why, the two things
will not admit of comparison. It is an insult to the
walk, to set them side by side. Where is an in-
stance of a gig having ever circulated a man's blood,
unless when, putting him in danger of his neck, it
awakened in his veins and in his ears, and all along
his spine, a tingling heat, much more peculiar than
agreeable ? When did a gig ever sharpen anybody's
wits and energies, unless it was when the horse
bolted, and, crashing madly down a steep hill with
a stone wall at the bottom, his desperate circum-
stances suggested to the only gentleman left inside,
some novel and unheard-of mode of dropping out
behind ? Better than the gig !

The air was cold, Tom ; so it was, there was no
denying it ; but would it have been more genial in
the gig ? The blacksmith's fire burned very bright,
and leaped up high, as though it wanted men to
warm ; but would it have been less tempting, looked
at from the clammy cushions of a gig ? The wind
blew keenly, nipping the features of the hardy wight
who fought his way along; blinding him with his
own hair if he had enough of it, and wintry dust if
he hadn't ; stopping his breath as though he had been



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 299

soused in a cold bath ; tearing aside his wrappings-
up, and whistling in the very marrow of his bones ;
but it would have done all this a hundred times
more fiercely to a man in a gig, wouldn't it ? A fig
for gigs !

Better than the gig ! When were travellers by
wheels and hoofs seen with such red-hot cheeks as
those ? when were they so good-humoredly and mer-
rily blowzed ? when did their laughter ring upon
the air, as they turned them round, what time the
stronger gusts came sweeping up ; and, facing round
again as they passed by, dashed on, in such a glow
of ruddy health as nothing could keep pace with,
but the high spirits it engendered ? Better than
the gig ! Why, here is a man in a gig coming the
same way now. Look at him as he passes the whip
into his left hand, chafes his numbed right fingers
on his granite leg, and beats those marble toes of
his upon the footboard. Ha, ha, ha ! Who would
exchange this rapid hurry of the blood for yonder
stagnant misery, though its pace were twenty miles
for one ?

Better than the gig ! No man in a gig could have
such interest in the milestones. No man in a gig
could see, or feel, or think, like merry users of their
legs. How, as the wind sweeps on, upon these
breezy downs, it tracks its flight in darkening rip-
ples on the grass, and smoothest shadows on the
hills ! Look round and round upon this bare bleak
plain, and see even here, upon a winter's day, how
beautiful the shadows are ! Alas ! it is the nature
of their kind to be so. The loveliest things in life,
Tom, are but shadows ; and they come and go, and
change and fade away, as rapidly as these !



300 MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT.

Another mile, and then begins a fall of snow,
making the crow, who skims away so close above
the ground to shirk the wind, a blot of ink upon
the landscape. But though it drives and drifts
against them as they walk, stiffening on their skirts,
and freezing in the lashes of their eyes, they
wouldn't have it fall more sparingly, no, not so
much as by a single flake, although they had to go
a score of miles. And, lo ! the towers of the Old
Cathedral rise before them, even now ! and by and
by they come into the sheltered streets, made
strangely silent by their white carpet ; and so to
the Inn for which they are bound ; where they pre-
sent such flushed and burning faces to the cold
waiter, and are so brimful of vigor, that he almost
feels assaulted by their presence ; and, having noth-
ing to oppose to the attack (being fresh, or rather
stale, from the blazing fire in the coffee-room), is
quite put out of his pale countenance.

A famous Inn ! the hall a very grove of dead
game, and dangling joints of mutton ; and in one
corner an illustrious larder, with glass doors, devel-
oping cold fowls and noble joints, and tarts wherein
the raspberry jam coyly withdrew itself, as such a
precious creature should, behind a lattice-work of
pastry. And behold, on the first floor, at the court-
end of the house, in a room with all the window-
curtains drawn, a fire piled half-way up the chimney,
plates warming before it, wax candles gleaming
everywhere, and a table spread for three, with silver
and glass enough for thirty — John Westlock : not
the old John of Pecksniff's, but a proper gentleman :
looking another and a grander person, with the con-
sciousness of being his own master and having



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 301

money in the bank : and yet in some respects the
old John too, for he seized Tom Pinch by both his
hands the instant he appeared, and fairly hugged
him, in his cordial welcome.

"And this," said John, "is Mr. Chuzzlewit. I
am very glad to see him ! " John had an offhand
manner of his own ; so they shook hands warmly,
and were friends in no time.

"Stand off a moment, Tom," cried the old pupil,
laying one hand on each of Mr. Pinch's shoulders,
and holding him out at arm's length. "Let me
look at you ! Just the same ! Not a bit changed ! "

" Why, it's not so very long ago, you know," said
Tom Pinch, " after all."

" It seems an age to me," cried John ; " and so it
ought to seem to you, you dog." And then he
pushed Tom down into the easiest chair, and clapped
him on the back so heartily, and so like his old self
in their old bedroom at old Pecksniff's, that it was a
toss-up with Tom Pinch whether he should laugh or
cry. Laughter won it ; and they all three laughed
together.

"I have ordered everything for dinner that we
used to say we'd have, Tom," observed John West-
lock.

" No ! " said Tom Pinch. " Have you ? "

"Everything. Don't laugh, if you can help it,
before the waiters. / couldn't when I was ordering
it. It's like a dream."

John was wrong there, because nobody ever
dreamed such soup as was put upon the table
directly afterwards ; or such fish ; or such side-
dishes ; or such a top and bottom : or such a course
of birds and sweets ; or in short anything approach-



302 MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT.

ing the reality of that entertainment at ten and
sixpence a head, exclusive of wines. As to them,
the man who can dream such iced champagne, such
claret, port, or sherry, had better go to bed and stop
there.

But perhaps the jBnest feature of the banquet
was, that nobody was half so much amazed by
everything as John himself, who, in his high
delight, was constantly bursting into fits of laugh-
ter, and then endeavoring to appear preternaturally
solemn, lest the waiters should conceive he wasn't
used to it. Some of the things they brought him to
carve were such outrageous practical jokes, though,
that it was impossible to stand it ; and when Tom
Pinch insisted, in spite of the deferential advice of
an attendant, not only on breaking down the outer
wall of a raised pie with a tablespoon, but on trying
to eat it afterwards, John lost all dignity, and sat
behind the gorgeous dish-cover at the head of the
table, roaring to that extent that he was audible in
the kitchen. Nor had he the least objection to
laugh at himself, as he demonstrated when they
had all three gathered round the fire, and the
dessert was on the table ; at which period the head
waiter inquired with respectful solicitude whether
that port, being a light and tawny wine, was suited
to his taste, or whether he would wish to try a fruity
port with greater body. To this John gravely
answered, that he was well satisfied with what he
had, which he esteemed, as one might say, a pretty
tidy vintage ; for which the waiter thanked him and
withdrew. And then John told his friends, with a
broad grin, that he supposed it was all right, but he
didn't know ; and went off into a perfect shout.



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 303

They were very merry and full of enjoyment the
whole time, but not the least pleasant part of the
festival was, when they all three sat about the fire,
cracking nuts, drinking wine, and talking cheer-
fully. It happened that Tom Pinch had a word to
say to his friend, the organist's assistant, and so
deserted his warm corner for a few minutes at this
season, lest it should grow too late ; leaving the
other two young men together.

They drank his health in his absence, of course ;
and John Westlock took that opportunity of saying,
that he had never had even a peevish word with
Tom during the whole term of their residence in
Mr. Pecksniff's house. This naturally led him to
dwell on Tom's character, and to hint that Mr.
Pecksniff understood it pretty well. He only hinted
this, and very distantly : knowing that it pained
Tom Pinch to have that gentleman disparaged, and
thinking it would be as well to leave the new pupil
to his own discoveries.

" Yes ! " said Martin. " It's impossible to like
Pinch better than I do, or to do greater justice to
his good qualities. He's the most willing fellow I
ever saw."

'' He's rather too willing," observed John, who
was quick in observation. ''It's quite a fault in
him."

" So it is," said Martin. " Very true. There was
a fellow only a week or so ago — a Mr. Tigg — who
borrowed all the money he had, on a promise to
repay it in a few days. It was bvit half a sovereign,
to be sure ; but it's well it was no more, for he'll
never see it again."

" Poor fellow ! " said John, who had been very



304 MAETIN CHUZZLEWIT.

attentive to these few words. " Perhaps you have
not had an opportunity of observing that, in his
own pecuniary transactions, Tom's proud."

" You don't say so ! No, I haven't. What do
you mean ? Won't he borrow ? "

John Westlock shook his head.

"That's very odd," said Martin, setting down his
empty glass. " He's a strange compound, to be sure."

"As to receiving money as a gift," resumed John
Westlock, " I think he'd die first."

"He's made up of simplicity," said Martin.
"Help yourself."

"You, however," pursued John, filling his own
glass, and looking at his companion with some
curiosity, "who are older than the majority of Mr.
Pecksniff's assistants, and have evidently had much
more experience, understand him, I have no doubt,
and see how liable he is to be imposed upon."

" Certainly," said Martin, stretching out his legs,
and holding his wine between his eye and the light.
" Mr. Pecksniff knows that too. So do his daugh-
ters. Eh ? "

John Westlock smiled, but made no answer.

"By the by," said Martin, "that reminds me.
What's your opinion of Pecksniff ? How did he
use you ? What do you think of him now ?
Coolly, you know, when it's all over."

"Ask Pinch," returned the old pupil. "He
knows what my sentiments used to be upon the
subject. They are not changed, I assure you."

" No, no," said Martin, " I'd rather have them
from you."

" But Pinch says they are unjust," urged John
with a smile.



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 305

" Oh, well ! Then I know what course they take
beforehand," said Martin ; ''and, therefore, you can
have no delicacy in speaking plainly. Don't mind
me, I beg. I don't like him, I tell you frankly. I
am with him because it happens from particular
circumstances to suit my convenience. I have some
ability, I believe, in that way ; and the obligation,
if any, will most likely be on his side, and not
mine. At the lowest mark, the balance will be
even, and there'll be no obligation at all. So
you may talk to me as if I had no connection with
him."

" If you press me to give my opinion — " returned
John Westlock.

"Yes, I do," said Martin. "You'll oblige me."

" — I should say," resumed the other, " that he
is the most consummate scoundrel on the face of
the earth."

" Oh ! " said Martin, as coolly as ever. " That's
rather strong."

" Not stronger than he deserves," said John ;
" and if he called upon me to express my opinion
of him to his face, I would do so in the very same
terms, without the least qualification. His treat-
ment of Pinch is in itself enough to justify them ;
but when I look back upon the five years I passed
in that house, and remember the hypocrisy, the
knavery, the meannesses, the false pretences, the
lip service of that fellow, and his trading in saintly
semblances for the very worst realities ; when I
remember how often I was the witness of all this,
and how often I was made a kind of party to it, by
the fact of being there, with him for my teacher; I
swear to you, that I almost despise myself."

VOL. I.-20.



306 MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT.

Martin drained his glass, and looked at the fire.

" I don't mean to say that is a right feeling,"
pursued John Westlock, '' because it was no fault
of mine; and I can quite understand — you, for
instance, fully appreciating him, and yet being
forced by circumstances to remain there. I tell you
simply what my feeling is : and even now, when, as
you say, it's all over ; and when I have the satis-
faction of knowing that he always hated me, and
we always quarrelled, and I always told him my
mind ; even now, I feel sorry that I didn't yield to
an impulse I often had, as a boy, of running away
from him and going abroad."

" Why abroad ? " asked Martin, turning his eyes
upon the speaker.

"In search," replied John Westlock, shrugging
his shoulders, "of the livelihood I couldn't have
earned at home. There would have^ been something
spirited in that. But, come ! Fill your glass, and
let us forget him."

"As soon as you please," said Martin. "In
reference to myself and my connection with him,
I have only to repeat what I said before. I have
taken my own way with him so far, and shall con-
tinue to do so, even more than ever ; for the fact is
— to tell you the truth — that I believe he looks to
me to supply his defects, and couldn't afford to lose
me. I had a notion of that in first going there.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Online LibraryCharles DickensDicken's works (Volume 27) → online text (page 20 of 28)