Charles Dickens.

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and tossed it towards him. Mr. Tigg caught it,
looked at it to assure himself of its goodness, spun
it in the air after the manner of a pieman, and but-
toned it up. Finally, he raised his hat an inch or
two from his head with a military air, and, after
pausing a moment with deep gravity, as to decide in
which direction he should go, and to what Earl or
Marquis among his friends he should give the pref-
erence in his next call, stuck his hands in his skirt-
pockets and swaggered round the corner. Martin
took the directly opposite course ; and so, to his
great content, they parted company.

It was with a bitter sense of humiliation that he


cursed, again and again, the mischance of having
encountered this man in the pawnbroker's shop.
The only comfort he had in the recollection was,
Mr. Tigg's voluntary avowal of a separation between
himself and Slyme, that would at least prevent his
circumstances (so Martin argued) from being known
to any member of his family, the bare possibility of
which filled him with shame and wounded pride.
Abstractedly, there was greater reason, perhaps, for
supposing any declaration of Mr. Tigg's to be false,
than for attaching the least credence to it ; but
remembering the terms on which the intimacy be-
tween that gentleman and his bosom friend had
subsisted, and the strong probability of Mr. Tigg's
having established an independent business of his
own on Mr. Slyme's connection, it had a reasonable
appearance of probability : at all events, Martin
hoped so ; and that went a long way.

His first step, now that he had a supply of ready
money for his present necessities, was, to retain his
bed at the public-house until further notice, and to
write a formal note to Tom Pinch (for he knew
Pecksniff would see it) requesting to have his
clothes forwarded to London by coach, with a direc-
tion to be left at the office until called for. These
measures taken, he passed the interval before the
box arrived — three days — in making inquiries rela-
tive to American vessels, at the offices of various
shipping agents in the City ; and in lingering about
the docks and wharves, with the faint hope of stum-
bling upon some engagement for the voyage, as clerk
or supercargo, or custodian of something or some-
body, which would enable him to procure a free
passage. But, finding soon that no such means of


employment were likely to present themselves, and
dreading the consequences of delay, he drew up a
short advertisement, stating what he wanted, and
inserted it in the leading newspapers. Pending the
receipt of the twenty or thirty answers which he
vaguely expected, he reduced his wardrobe to the
narrowest limits consistent with decent respectabil-
ity, and carried the overplus at different times to
the pawnbroker's shop, for conversion into money.

And it was strange, very strange, even to himself,
to find, how by quick though almost imperceptible
degrees he lost his delicacy and self-respect, and
gradually came to do that as a matter of course
without the least compunction, which but a few
short days before had galled him to the quick. The
first time he visited the pawnbroker's, he felt on his
way there as if every person whom he passed sus-
pected whither he was going ; and on his way back
again, as if the whole human tide he stemmed, knew
well where he had come from. When did he care
to think of their discernment now? In his first
wanderings up and down the weary streets, he coun-
terfeited the walk of one who had an object in his
view ; but, soon there came upon him the sauntering
slipshod gait of listless idleness, and the lounging at
street corners, and plucking and biting of stray bits
of straw, and strolling up and down the same place,
and looking into the same shop-windows, with a
miserable indifference, fifty times a day. At first,
he came out from his lodging with an uneasy sense
of being observed — even by those chance passers-by,
on whom he had never looked before, and hundreds
to one would never see again — issuing in the morn-
ing from a public-house ; but now, in his comings-


out and goings-in he did not mind to lounge about
the door, or to stand sunning himself in careless
thought beside the wooden stem, studded from head
to heel with pegs, on which the beer-pots dangled
like so many boughs upon a pewter-tree. And yet
it took but five weeks to reach the lowest round of
this tall ladder !

Oh, moralists, who treat of happiness and self-
respect, innate in every sphere of life, and shedding
light on every grain of dust in God's highway, so
smooth below your carriage wheels, so rough beneath
the tread of naked feet, — bethink yourselves in
looking on the swift descent of men who have lived
in their own esteem, that there are scores of thou-
sands breathing now, and breathing thick with pain-
ful toil, who in that high respect have never lived
at all, nor had a chance of life ! Go ye, who rest so
placidly upon the sacred Bard who had been young,
and when he strung his harp was old, and had never
seen the righteous forsaken, or his seed begging
their bread ; go. Teachers of content and honest
pride, into the mine, the mill, the forge, the squalid
depths of deepest ignorance, and uttermost abyss of
man's neglect, and say can any hopeful plant spring
up in air so foul that it extinguishes the soul's bright
torch as fast as it is kindled ? And, oh ! ye Pharisees
of the nineteen-hundredth year of Christian Knowl-
edge, who soundingly appeal to human nature, see
that it be human first. Take heed that it has not
been transformed, during your slumber and the sleep
of generations, into the nature of the Beasts !

Five weeks ! Of all the twenty or thirty answers,
not one had come. His money — even the additional
stock he had raised from the disposal of his spare


clothes (and that was not much, for clothes, though
dear to buy, are cheap to pawn) — was fast dimin-
ishing. Yet what could he do ? At times an agony
came over him in which he darted forth again, though
he was but newly home, and, returning to some place
where he had been already twenty times, made some
new attempt to gain his end, but always unsuccess-
fully. He was years and years too old for a cabin-
boy, and years upon years too inexperienced to be
accepted as a common seaman. His dress and man-
ner, too, militated fatally against any such proposal
as the latter ; and yet he was reduced to making it ;
for, even if he could have contemplated the being
set down in America, totally without money, he had
not enough left now for a steerage passage and the
poorest provisions upon the voyage.

It is an illustration of a very common tendency
in the mind of man, that all this time he never once
doubted, one may almost say the certainty of doing
great things in the Kew World, if he could only get
there. In proportion as he became more and more
dejected by his present circumstances, and the means
of gaining America receded from his grasp, the more
he fretted himself with the conviction that that was
the only place in which he could hope to achieve
any high end, and worried his brain with the thought
that men going there in the meanwhile might antici-
pate him in the attainment of those objects which
were dearest to his heart. He often thought of
John Westlock, and besides looking out for him on
all occasions, actually walked about London for
three daj's together, for the express purpose of
meeting with him. But, although he failed in this ;
and although he would not have scrupled to borrow


money of him ; and although he believed that John
would have lent it ; yet still he could not bring his
mind to write to Pinch and inquire where he was
to be found. For although, as we have seen, he
was fond of Tom after his own fashion, he could
not endure the thought (feeling so superior to Tom)
of making him the stepping-stone to his fortune, or
being anything to him but a patron ; and his pride
so revolted from the idea, that it restrained him,
even now.

It might have yielded, however; and no doubt
must have yielded soon, but for a very strange and
unlooked-for occurrence.

The five weeks had quite run out, and he was in
a truly desperate plight, when one evening, having
just returned to his lodging, and being in the act of
lighting his candle at the gas-jet in the bar before
stalking moodily upstairs to his own room, his land-
lord called him by his name. Now, as he had never
told it to the man, but had scrupulously kept it to
himself, he was not a little startled by this ; and so
plainly showed his agitation, that the landlord, to
reassure him, said " it was only a letter."

" A letter ! " cried Martin.

" For Mr. Martin Chuzzlewit," said the landlord,
reading the superscription of one he held in his
hand. ''Noon. Chief Office. Paid."

Martin took it from him, thanked him, and walked
upstairs. It was not sealed, but pasted close ; the
handwriting was quite unknown to him. He opened
it, and found enclosed, without any name, address,
or other inscription or explanation of any kind what-
ever, a Bank-of-England note for Twenty Pounds.

To say that he was perfectly stunned with aston-


ishment and delight ; that he looked again and again
at the note and the wrapper ; that he hurried below-
stairs to make quite certain that the note was a
good one ; and then hurried up again to satisfy him-
self for the fiftieth time that he had not overlooked
some scrap of writing on the wrapper ; that he
exhausted and bewildered himself with conjectures ;
and could make nothing of it but that there the
note was, and he was suddenly enriched ; would be
only to relate so many matters of course, to no
purpose. The final upshot of the business at that
time was, that he resolved to treat himself to a
comfortable but frugal meal, in his own chamber;
and having ordered a fire to be kindled, went out to
purchase it forthwith.

He bought some cold beef, and ham, and French
bread and butter, and came back with his pockets
pretty heavily laden. It was somewhat of a damp-
ing circumstance to find the room full of smoke,
which was attributable to two causes ; firstly to the
flue being naturally vicious and a smoker; and
secondly, to their having forgotten, in lighting the
fire, an odd sack or two and some other trifles,
which had been put up the chimney to keep the
rain out. They had already remedied this oversight,
however ; and propped up the window-sash with a
bundle of firewood to keep it open ; so that, except
in being rather inflammatory to the eyes and
choking to the lungs, the apartment was quite

Martin was in no vein to quarrel with it, if it
had been in less tolerable order, especially when a
gleaming pint of porter was set upon the table, and
the servant-girl withdrew, bearing with her particu-


lar instructions relative to the production of some-
thing hot, when he should ring the bell. The cold
meat being wrapped in a playbill, Martin laid the
cloth by spreading that document on the little round
table with the print downwards ; and arranging the
collation upon it. The foot of the bed, which was
very close to the fire, answered for a sideboard ; and
when he had completed these preparations, he
squeezed an old armchair into the warmest corner,
and sat dowu to enjoy himself.

He had begun to eat with great appetite, glancing
round the room meanwhile with a triumphant antici-
pation of quitting it forever on the morrow, when
his attention was arrested by a stealthy footstep on
the stairs, and presently by a knock at his chamber
door, which, although it was a gentle knock enough,
communicated such a start to the bundle of firewood
that it instantly leaped out of window, and plunged
into the street.

"More coals, I suppose," said Martin. "Come

" It ain't a liberty, sir, though it seems so,"
rejoined a man's voice. " Your servant, sir. Hope
you're pretty well, sir."

Martin stared at the face that was bowing in the
doorway : perfectly remembering the features and
expression, but quite forgetting to whom they

" Tapley, sir," said his visitor. " Him as formerly
lived at the Dragon, sir, and was forced to leave in
consequence of a want of jollity, sir."

" To be sure ! " cried Martin. " Why, how did
you come here ? "

" Right through the passage, and up the stairs,
sir," said Mark.


" How did you find me out, I mean ? " asked

" Why, sir," said Mark, " I've passed you once or
twice in the street if I'm not mistaken ; and when I
was a-looking in at the beef-and-ham shop just now,
along with a hungry sweep, as was very much cal-
culated to make a man jolly, sir — I see you a-buying

Martin reddened as he pointed to the table, and
said somewhat hastily, —

"Well! what then?"

"Why, then, sir," said Mark, "I made bold to
foller; and as I told 'em downstairs that you
expected me, I was let up."

"Are you charged with any message, that you
told them you were expected ? " inquired Martin.

"No, sir, I ain't," said Mark. "That was what
you may call a pious fraud, sir, that was."

Martin cast an angry look at him : but there was
something in the fellow's merry face, and in his
manner — which with all its cheerfulness was far
from being obtrusive or familiar — that quite dis-
armed him. He had lived a solitary life, too, for
many weeks, and the voice was pleasant in his ear.

" Tapley," he said, " I'll deal openly with you.
From all I can judge, and from all I have heard of
you through Pinch, you are not a likely kind of
fellow to have been brought here by impertinent
curiosity or any other offensive motive. Sit down.
I'm glad to see you."

" Thankee, sir," said Mark. " I'd as lieve stand."

" If you don't sit down," retorted Martin, " I'll
not talk to you."

" Very good, sir," observed Mark. " Your will's a


law, sir. Down it is ; " and he sat down accord-
ingly upon the bedstead.

" Help yourself," said Martin, handing him the
only knife.

"Thankee, sir," rejoined Mark. "After you've

" If you don't take it now, you'll not have any,"
said Martin.

"Very good, sir," rejoined Mark. "That being
your desire — now it is." With which reply he
gravely helped himself, and went on eating. Martin,
having done the like for a short time in silence,
said abruptly, —

" What are you doing in London ? "

"Nothing at all, sir," rejoined Mark.

" How's that ? " asked Martin.

" I want a place," said Mark.

" I'm sorry for you," said Martin.

" — To attend upon a single gentleman," resumed
Mark. "If from the country the more desirable.
Makeshifts would be preferred. Wages no object."

He said this so pointedly, that Martin stopped in
his eating, and said, —

" If you mean me — "

" Yes, I do, sir," interposed Mark.

"Then you may judge from my style of living
here, of my means of keeping a man-servant.
Besides, I am going to America immediately."

" Well, sir," returned Mark, quite unmoved by
this intelligence, " from all that ever I heard about
it, I should say America is a very likely sort of
place for me to be jolly in ! "

Again Martin looked at him angrily; and again
his anger melted away in spite of himself.


"Lord bless you, sir," said Mark, "what is the
use of us a-going round and round, and hiding
behind the corner, and dodging up and down, when
we can come straight to the point in six words ?
I've had my eye upon you any time this fortnight.
I see well enough that there's a screw loose in your
affairs. I know'd well enough the first time I see
you down at the Dragon that it must be so, sooner
or later. Now, sir, here am I, without a sitiwation ;
without any want of wages for a year to come : for
I have saved up (I didn't mean to do it, but I
couldn't help it) at the Dragon — here am I with a
liking for what's wentersome, and a liking for you,
and a wish to come out strong under circumstances
as would keep other men down : and will you take
me, or will you leave me ? "

"How can I take you ? " cried Martin.

"When I say take," rejoined Mark, "I mean will
you let me go ? and when I say will you let me go,
I mean will you let me go along with you ? for go I
will, somehow or another. Now that you've said
America, I see clear at once, that that's the place
for me to be jolly in. Therefore, if I don't pay my
own passage in the ship you go in, sir, I'll pay my
own passage in another. And mark my words, if I
go alone, it shall be, to carry out the principle, in
the rottenest, craziest, leakingest tub of a wessel
that a place can be got in for love or money. So if
I'm lost upon the way, sir, there'll be a drowned
man at your door — and always a-knocking double
knocks at it, too, or never trust me ! "

" This is mere folly," said Martin.

" Very good, sir," returned Mark. " I'm glad to
hear it, because if you don't mean to let me go,


you'll be more comfortable, perhaps, on account of
thinking so. Therefore I contradict no gentleman.
But all I say is, that if I don't emigrate to America
in that case, in the beastliest old cockle-shell as goes
out of port, I'm — "

"You don't mean what you say, I'm sure," said

" Yes, I do," cried Mark.
"I tell you I know better," rejoined Martin.
"Very good, sir," said Mark, with the same air
of perfect satisfaction. " Let it stand that way at
present, sir, and wait and see how it turns out.
Why, love my heart alive ! the only doubt I have
is, whether there's any credit in going with a gen-
tleman like you, that's as certain to make his way
there as a gimlet is to go through soft deal."

This was touching Martin on his weak point, and
having him at a great advantage. He could not
help thinking, either, what a brisk fellow this Mark
was, and how great a change he had wrought in the
atmosphere of the dismal little room already.

" Why, certainly, Mark," he said, " I have hopes
of doing well there, or I shouldn't go. I may have
the qualifications for doing well, perhaps."

" Of course you have, sir," returned Mark Tapley.
" Everybody knows that."

"You see," said Martin, leaning his chin upon
his hand, and looking at the fire, "ornamental archi-
tecture applied to domestic purposes, can hardly
fail to be in great request in that country ; for men
are constantly changing their residences there, and
moving further off; and it's clear they must have
houses to live in."

" I should say, sir," observed Mark, " that that's


a state of things as opens one of the jolliest look-
outs for domestic architecture that ever I heerd tell

Martin glanced at him hastily, not feeling quite
free from a suspicion that this remark implied a
doubt of the successful issue of his plans. But
Mr. Tapley was eating the boiled beef and bread
with such entire good faith and singleness of pur-
pose expressed in his visage that he could not but
be satisfied. Another doubt arose in his mind,
however, as this one disappeared. He produced the
blank cover in which the note had been enclosed,
and fixing his eyes on Mark as he put it in his
hands, said, —

" Now tell me the truth. Do you know anything
about that ? "

Mark turned it over and over : held it near his
eyes ; held it away from him at arm's length ; held
it with the superscription upwards, and with the
superscription downwards ; and shook his head with
such a genuine expression of astonishment at being
asked the question, that Martin said, as he took it
from him again, —

" 'No, I see you don't. How should you ? Though,
indeed, your knowing about it would not be more
extraordinary than its being here. Come, Tapley,"
he added, after a moment's thought, " I'll trust you
with my history, such as it is, and then you'll see,
more clearly, what sort of fortunes you would link
yourself to if you followed me."

" I beg your pardon, sir," said Mark ; " but afore
you enter upon it, will you take me if I choose to
go ? Will you turn off me — Mark Tapley — for-
merly of the Blue Dragon, as can be well recom-


mended by Mr. Pinch, and as wants a gentleman of
your strength of mind to look up to ; or will you, in
climbing the ladder as you're certain to get to the
top of, take me along with you at a respectful dis-
tance ? Now, sir," said Mark, " it's of very little
importance to you, I know — there's the difficulty;
but it's of very great importance to me; and will
you be so good as to consider of it ? "

If this were meant as a second appeal to Martin's
weak side, founded on his observation of the effect
of the first, Mr. Tapley was a skilful and shrewd
observer. Whether an intentional or an accidental
shot, it hit the mark full; for Martin, relenting
more and more, said with a condescension which was
inexpressibly delicious to him, after his recent hu-
miliation, —

"We'll see about it, Tapley. You shall tell me
in what disposition you find yourself to-morrow."

"Then, sir," said Mark, rubbing his hands, "the
job's done. Go on, sir, if you please. I'm all

Throwing himself back in his armchair, and
looking at the fire, with now and then a glance at
Mark, who at such times nodded his head sagely, to
express his profound interest and attention, Martin
ran over the chief points in his history, to the same
effect as he had related them, weeks before, to Mr.
Pinch. But he adapted them, according to the best
of his judgment, to Mr. Tapley's comprehension;
and with that view made as light of his love-affair
as he could, and referred to it in very few words.
But here he reckoned without his host ; for Mark's
interest was keenest in this part of the business,
and prompted him to ask sundry questions in rela-


tion to it ; for which he apologized as one in some
measure privileged to do so, from having seen (as
Martin explained to him) the young lady at the
Blue Dragon.

"And a young lady as any gentleman ought to
feel more proud of being in love with," said Mark,
energetically, "don't draAv breath."

" Ay ! You saw her when she was not happy,"
said Martin, gazing at the fire again. " If you had
seen her in the old times, indeed — "

"Why, she certainly was a little down-hearted,
sir, and something paler in her color than I could
have wished," said Mark, " but none the worse in
her looks for that. I think she seemed better, sir,
after she came to London."

Martin withdrew his eyes from the fire ; stared at
Mark as if he thought he had suddenly gone mad ;
and asked him what he meant.

" No offence intended, sir," urged Mark. " I
don't mean to say she was any the happier without
you ; but I thought she was a-looking better, sir."

" Do you mean to tell me she has been in Lon-
don ? " asked Martin, rising hurriedly, and pushing
back his chair.

" Of course I do," said Mark, rising too, in great
amazement, from the bedstead.

" Do you mean to tell me she's in London now ? "

" Most likely, sir. I mean to say she was, a week

" And you know where ? "

« Yes ! " cried Mark. " What ! Don't you ? "

" My good fellow ! " exclaimed Martin, clutching
him by both arms, "' I have never seen her since I
left my grandfather's house."


'' Why, then ! " cried Mark, giving the little table
such a blow with his clenched fist that the slices of
beef and ham danced upon it, while all his features
seemed, with delight, to be going up into his fore-
head, and never coming back again any more, " if I
ain't your nat'ral born servant, hired by Fate,
there ain't such a thing in natur' as a Blue Dragon.
What ! when I was a-rambling up and down a old
churchyard in the City, getting myself into a jolly
state, didn't I see your grandfather a-toddling to
and fro for pretty nigh a mortal hour ? Didn't I
watch him into Codgers's commercial boarding-house,
and watch him out, and watch him home to his
hotel, and go and tell him as his was the service for
my money, and I had said so, afore I left the
Dragon ? Wasn't the young lady a-sitting with him
then, and didn't she fall a-laughing in a manner as
was beautiful to see ? Didn't your grandfather say,
' Come back again next week,' and didn't I go next
week ; and didn't he say that he couldn't make up
his mind to trust nobody no more, and therefore
wouldn't engage me ; but at the same time stood
something to drink as was handsome ? Why," cried

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Online LibraryCharles DickensDicken's works (Volume 27) → online text (page 23 of 28)