Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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Jinkins by any means. Far from it. I could Avisli 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 him. 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 l)ecame the injured
party, and he was understood to be the injurer; but in a com-
plimentary, not in an offensive sense ; his cruel conduct being
attributable to his exalted nature, and to that alone. So, in the
end, the young gentleman 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 hou.se like this ! You must have heard most of what
has just passed. Now did you ever hear the like 1 "

" Never ! " said the two Miss Pecksniff's.

"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 imich !
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 wlien she
had concluded, said in a solemn voice :

" Pray, Mrs. Todgers, if I may inquire, what does that young
gentleman contribute towards the support of these premises ''. "



164 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

" Why, Sir, for what he has, he pays about eighteen shillings a
week," said Mrs. Todgers.

" Eighteen shillings a week ! " repeated Mr. Pecksniff.

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

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

"And do you mean to say, ma'am — is it possible, Mrs. Todgers
— that for such a miserable consideration as eighteen shillings a
Aveek, 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 preserve peace among them, and
keep my connection 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 dis-
simulation ! To worship the golden calf of Baal, for eighteen
shillings a week ! "

" Don't in your own goodness be too hard upon me, Mr. Peck-
sniff," 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
shillings 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 !



I



MAKTIX CHUZZLEWIT. 165



CHAPTER XI.

WHEREIN A CERTAIN GENTLEMAN BECOMES PARTICULAR IN HIS
ATTENTIONS TO A CERTAIN LADY ; AND MORE COMING EVENTS
THAN ONE, CAST THEIR SHADOWS BEFORE.

The family were within two or three days of their dei^arture
from Mrs. Todgers's, aud the commercial gentlemen were to a man
desiDondent and not to be comforted, because of the approaching
separation, wlien Bailey junior, at the jocund time of noon, pre-
sented himself before Miss Charity Peeksnitf, then sitting with her
sister in the banquet chamber, hemming sLx 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 visitor attended to pay his respects to her,
and was at that moment waiting in the drawing-room. Perhaps
this last announcement showed in a more striking point of view
than many lengthened speeches could have done, the trustfulness
aud 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 up-stairs, he had left him to the guidance of
his own sagacity. Hence it was at least au even chance that the
visitor 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 j^lace where he least
expects and least desires to be.

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

"Ah!" said Bailey. "It /*• my gracious, a'nt if? Wouldn't
I be gracious neither, not if I wos him ! "

The remark was rendered somewhat obscure iu itself, liy reason
(as the reader may have observed) of a redundancy of negatives ;
but accompanied by action expressive of a faithful couple walking
arm-in-arm towards a parochial church, mutually exchanging looks
of love, it clearly signified this youth's conviction that the caller's
purpose was of an amorous tendenc3^ Miss Charity affected to
reprove so great a liberty ; but she could not help smiling. He
was a strange boy to be sure. There was always some ground of
probability aud likelihood mingled with his absurd behaviour.
That was the best of it I



166 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

" But I don't know any gentleman, Bailey," said Miss Peck-
sniff. " I think you must have made a mistake."

Mr. Bailey smiled at the extreme wildness of such a supposition,
and regarded the young ladies with unimpaired affability.

" My dear Merry," said Charity, " who can it be 1 Isn't it odd ?
I have a great mind not to go to him really. So very strange you
know ! "

The younger sister plainly considered that this appeal had its
origin in the pride of being called upon and asked for ; and that it
■was intended as an assertion of superiority, and a retaliation upon
her for having captured the commercial gentlemen. Therefore, she
replied, with great affection and politeness, that it was, no doubt,
very strange indeed ; and that she was totally at a loss to conceive
what the ridiculous person unknown could mean by it.

" Quite impossible to divine ! " said Charity, with some sharp-
ness, " though still, at the same time, you needn't be angiy, my
dear."

" Thank you," retorted Merry, singing at her needle. " I am
quite aware of that, my love."

"I am afraid your head is turned, you silly thing," said
Cherry.

" Do you know, my dear," said Merry, with engaging candour,
" that I have been afraid of that, myself, all along ! So much
incense and nonsense, and all the rest of it, is enough to turn a
stronger head than mine. What a relief it must be to you, my
dear, to be so very comfortable in that respect, and not to be
worried by those odious men ! How do you do it. Cherry 1 "

This artless inquiry might have led to turbulent results, but
for the strong emotions of delight evinced by Bailey junior, whose
relish in the turn the conversation had lately taken was so acute,
that it impelled and forced him to the instantaneous performance
of a dancing steji, extremely difficult in its nature, and only to be
achieved in a moment of ecstacy, which is commonly called The
Frog's Hornpipe. A manifestation so lively, brought to their
immediate recollection the great virtuous precept, " Keep up
ap2)earances whatever you do," in which they had been educated.
They forbore at once, and jointly signilied to Mr. Bailey that if he
should presume to practise that figure any more in their presence,
they would instantly acquaint Mrs. Todgers with the fact, and
would demand his condign punishment at the hands of that lady.
The young gentleman having expressed the bitterness of his con-
trition by affecting to wipe away his scalding tears with his apron,
and afterwards feigning to wring a vast amount of water from
that garment, held the door open while Miss Charity passed



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 167

out ; and so that damsel went in state up-stairs to receive her
mysterious adorer.

By some stranj^^e concurrence of favourable circumstances he
had found out the drawing-room, and was sitting there alone.

"Ah, cousin !" he said. "Here I am, you see. You thought
I was lost, I'll be bound. Well ! how do you find yourself by
this time 1 "

Miss Charity replied that she was (pute well ; and gave ]\Ir.
Jonas Chuzzlewit her hand.

"That's right," said Mr. Jonas, "and you've got over the
fatigues of the journey, have you 1 I say — how's the other one ? "

" My sister is very well, I believe," returned the young lady.
"I have not heard her complain of any indisposition. Sir. Per-
haps you would like to see her, and ask her yourself?"

"No, no, cousin ! " said Mr. Jonas, sitting down beside her on
the window-seat. "Don't be in a hurry. There's no occasion for
that, you know. What a cruel girl you are ! "

" It's impossible for t/ou to know," said Cherry, " whether I am
or not."

"Well, perhaps it is," said Mr. Jona.s. "I say — did you think
I was lost 1 You haven't told me that."

" I didn't think at all about it," answered Cherry.

"Didn't you, though?" said Jonas, pondering upon this strange
reply. " Did the other one 1 "

" I am sure it's impossible for me to say what my sister may,
or may not have thought on such a subject," cried Cherry. "She
never said anything to me about it, one way or other."

"Didn't she laugh about it?" inquired .Jonas.

" No. She didn't even laugh about it," answered Charity.

" She's a terrible one to laugh, an't she 1 " said Jonas, lowering
his voice.

" She is very lively," said Cherry.

" Liveliness is a pleasant thing — when it don't lead to spending
money. An't it 1 " asked Mr. Jonas.

" Very much so, indeed," said Cherry, with a demureness of
manner that gave a very disinterested character to her assent.

"Such liveliness as yours I mean, you know," observed Mr.
Jonas, as he nudged her with his elbow. " I should have come to
see you before, but I didn't know where you was. How quick
you hurried off, that morning ! "

"I was amenable to my Papa's directions," said Miss Charity.

"I wish he had given me his direction, ' returned her cousin,
"and then I should have found you out before Why, I shouldn't
have found you even now, if I hadn't met him in the street this



168 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

morning. What a sleek, sly chap he is I Just like a tom-cat,
an't he ? "

" I must trouble you to have the goodness to speak more
respectfully of my Papa, Mr. Jonas," said Charity. " I can't
allow such a tone as that, even in jest."

" Ecod, you may say what you like of my father, then, and so
I give you leave," said Jonas. "I think it's liquid aggravation
that circulates through his veins, and not regular blood. How
old should you think my father was, cousin % "

" Old, no doubt," replied Miss Charity; "but a fine old gentle-
man."

" A fine old gentleman ! " repeated Jonas, giving the crown of
his hat an angry knock. "Ah! It's time he was thinking of
being drawn out a little finer too. Why, he's eighty ! "

"Is he, indeed?" said the young lady.

"And ecod," cried Jonas, "now he's gone so far without giving
in, I don't see much to prevent his being ninety ; no, nor even a
hundred. Why, a man with any feeling ought to be ashamed of
being eighty — let alone more. Where's his religion I should like
to know, when he goes flying in the face of the Bible like that !
Three-score-and-ten's the mark ; and no ]nan with a conscience,
and a proper sense of what's expected of him, has any business to
live longer."

Is any one surprised at Mr. Jonas making such a reference Jo
such a book for such a purpose 1 Does any one doubt the md
saw, that the Devil (being a layman) quotes Scripture for his own
ends % If he will take the trouble to look about him, he may find
a greater number of confirmations of the fixct, in the occurrences
of any single day, than the steam-gun can discharge balls in a
minute,

" But there's enough of my fiither," said Jonas; "it's of no use
to go putting oue's-self out of the way by talking about him. I
called to ask you to come and take a walk, cousin, and see some
of the sights ; and to come to our house afterwards, and have a
bit of something. Pecksnift" will most likely look in in the even-
ing, he says, and bring you home. See, here's his writing ; I
made him put it down this morning, when he told me he shouldn't
be back before I came here ; in case you wouldn't believe me.
There's nothing like jiroof, is there? Ha, ha! I say — you'll
bring the other one, you know ! "

Miss Charity cast her eyes upon her father's autograph, which
merely said : " Go, my children, witli your cousin. Let there be
union among us Avhen it is possible ; " and after enough of hesita-
tion to impart a proper value to her consent, withdrew, to prepare



MARTIN CHUZZLEAVIT. 169

licr sister and herself for the excursion. She soon returnee!,
aiiompanied by Miss Mercy, who was by no means pleased to
U:ive the brilliant triumphs of Todgers's for the society of Mr.
Jonas and his respected father.

" Aha ! " cried Jonas. " There you ai-e, are you I "

"Yes, fright," said Mercy, '"here I am; and I would much
rather be anywhere else, I assure you."

"You don't mean that," cried Mr. Jonas. "You can't, you
know. It isn't possible."

"You can have Avhat opinion you like, fright," retorted JMercy.
'• I am content to keep mine ; and mine is that you are a very
unpleasant, odious, disagreeable person." Here she laughed
heartily, and seemed to enjoy herself very much.

"Oh, you're a sharp gal!" said Mr. Jonas. " iShe's a regular
teazer, an't she, cousin '? "

iliss Charity replied in effect, that she was unable to say what
the habits and propensities of a regular teazer might be ; and that
even if she possessed such information, it would ill become her to
admit the existence of any creature with such an unceremonious
name in her family ; far less in the person of a beloved sister,
•■whatever," added Cherry with an angry glance, "whatever her
ru-al nature may be."

" Well, my dear," said Merry, " the only observation I have to
make, is, that if we don't go out at once, I shall certainly take my
bonnet off again, and stay at home."

This threat had the desired efiect of preventing any farther
altercation, for Mr. Jonas immediately i^roposed an adjournment,
and the same being carried unanimously, they departed from the
house straightway. On the door-step, Mr. Jonas gave an arm to
each cousin ; which act of gallantry being observed by Bailey
junior, from the garret window, was by him saluted with a lond
and violent fit of coughing, to which jjaroxysm he was still the
victim when they turned the corner.

^Ir. Jonas inquired in the first instance if they were good
walkers, and being answered "Yes," submitted their pedestrian
powers to a pretty severe test ; for he showed them as many
sights, in the way of bfidges, churches, streets, outsides of theatres,
and other free spectacles, in that one forenoon, as most people sec
in a twelvemonth. It was observable in this gentleman that he
had an insurmountable distaste to the insides of buildings ; and
that he was perfectly acquainted with the merits of all shows, in
respect of which there was any charge for admission, whidi it
seemed were every one detestable, and of tiie very lowest grade of
merit. He was so thoroughly possessed with this oi)inion, that



170 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

when Miss Chanty haiDi^ened to mention the circumstance of their
having been twice or thrice to the theatre with Mr. Jinkins and
party, he inquired, as a matter of course, " where the orders carae
from ? "' and being told that Mr. Jinkins and party paid, was be-
yond description entertained, observing that " they must be nice
flats, certainly ; " and often in the course of the walk, bursting out
again into a perfect convulsion of laughter at the surpassing silli-
ness of those gentlemen, and (doubtless) at his own superior
wisdom.

When they had been out for some hours and were thoroughly
fatigued, it being by that time twilight, Mr. Jonas intimated that
he would show them one of the best pieces of fun with which he
was acquainted. This joke was of a practical kind, and its humour
lay in taking a hackney-coach to the extreme limits of possibility
for a shilling. Haj^pily it brought them to the place where Mr.
Jonas dwelt, or the young ladies might have rather missed the
point and cream of the jest.

The old-established firm of Anthony Chuzzlewit and Son, Man-
chester Warehousemen, and so forth, had its place of business in a
very narrow street somewhere behind the Post Otfice ; where every
house was in the brightest summer morning very gloomy ; and
where light porters watered the pavement, each before his own
emijloyer's premises, in fantastic patterns, in the dog-days ; and
where spruce gentlemen with their hands in the pockets of sym-
metrical trousers, were always to be seen in warm weather contem-
plating their undeniable boots in dusty warehouse doorways, which
appeared to be the hardest work they did, except now and tlien
carrying pens behind their ears. A dim, dirty, smoky, ttunble-
down, rotten old house it was, as anybody would desire to see ; but
there the firm of Anthony Chuzzlewit and Son transacted all their
business and their pleasure too, such as it was ; for neither the
young man nor the old had any otlier residence, or any care or
thought beyond its narrow limits.

Business, as may be readily supposed, was the main thing in
this establishment ; insomuch indeed that it shouldered comfort
out of doors, and jostled the domestic arrangements at every turn.
Thus in the miserable bedrooms there were files of moth-eaten
letters hanging up against the walls ; and linen rollers, and frag-
ments of old patterns, and odds and ends of spoiled goods, strewn
upon the ground ; wliile the meagre bedsteads, washing-stands,
and scraps of carpet, were huddled away into corners as objects of
secondary consideration, not to be thought of but as disagreeable
necessities, furnishing no profit, and intruding on the one aftair of
life. The single sitting-room was on the same principle, a chaos of



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 171

boxes and old papers, aud had more countiug-honse stools in it
'" than chairs : not to mention a great monster of a desk straddling
over the middle of the floor, and an iron safe sunk into tlie wall
above the fire-place. The solitary little table for purposes of refec-
tion and social enjoyment, bore as fair a proportion to the desk
and other business furniture, as the graces and harmless relaxations
of life had ever done, in the persons of the old man and his son, to
their pursuit of -wealth. It was meanly laid out, now, for dinner ;
and in a chair before the fire, sat Anthony himself, who rose to
greet his son and his fair cousins as they entered.

An ancient proverb warns us that we should not expect to find
uld heads upon young shoulders ; to which it may be added that
N\e seldom meet with that unnatural combination, but we feel a
-ti'ijug desire to knock them oft"; merely from an inherent love we
liave of seeing things in their right places. It is not improbable
that many men, in no wise choleric by nature, felt this impulse
rising up within them, when they first made the acquaintance of
^Ir. Jonas ; but if they had known him more Intimately in his
nwu house, aud had sat Avith him at his own board, it would
assuredly have been paramount to all other considerations.

'• Well, ghost ! " said Mr. Jonas, dutifully addressing his parent
Viy that title. " Is dinner nearly ready 1 "

" I should think it was," rejoined the old man.
'• What's the good of thaf?" rejoined the son. ''/should think
it was. I want to know."

"Ah ! I don't know for certam," said Anthony.
'■ You don't know for certain," rejoined his son in a lower tone.
•• No. You don't know anything for certain, i/ou don't. Give me
your candle here. I want it for the gals."
! I Anthony handed him a battered old office candlestick, with
' j which Mr. Jonas preceded the young ladies to the nearest bedroom,
I [where he left them to take oft" their shawls and bonnets; and re-
turning, occupied himself in opening a bottle of wine, sharpening
• the carving-knife, and muttering compliments to his father, until
i they and the dinner appeared together. The repast consisted of a
hot leg of mutton with greens and potatoes; and the dishes having
been set upon the table by a slipshod old woman, they were left to
, enjoy it after their own manner.

I j " Bachelor's Hall you know, cousin," said Mr. Jonas to Charity,

1 1 " I say — the otlier one will be having a laugh at this when she

•gets home, won't she? Here; you sit on the right side of me,

and I'll have her upon the left. Other one, Avill you come here 1 "

" You're such a fright," replied Mercy, " that I know I shall

have no appetite if I sit so near you ; but I suppose I must."



172 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

"Au't she lively?" whispered Mr. Jonas to the elder siste
with his favourite elbow emi^hasis.

"Oh I really dou't know ! " replied Miss Pecksniflf, tartly. "
am tired of being asked such ridiculous questions."

"What's that precious old father of mine about now?" sai
Mr. Jonas, seeing that his parent was travelling up and down th
room, instead of taking his seat at table. " What are vou lookin
for ? "

" I've Tost my glasses, Jonas," said old Anthony.

" Sit down without your glasses, can't you ? " returned his sor
" You don't eat or drink out of 'em, I think ; and where's tha
sleepy-headed old Chuffey got to ! Xow, stupid. Oh ! you kno\
your name, do you 1 "

It would seem that he didn't, for he didn't come until th
father called. As he spoke, the door of a small glass office, whic:
was partitioned off from the rest of the room, was slowly opened
and a little blear-eyed, weazen-faced, ancient man came creepin,
out. He was of a remote fashion, and dusty, like the rest of th
furniture; he was dressed in a decayed suit of black; with breeche
garnished at the knees with rusty wisps of ribbon, the very pauper
of shoe-strings; on the lower portion of his spindle legs were ding;
worsted stockings of the same colour. He looked as if he ha(
been put away and forgotten half a century before, and somebod;
had just found him in a lumber-closet.

Such as he was, he came slowly creeping on towards the table
iintil at last he crept into the vacant chair, from which, as his din
faculties became conscious of the presence of strangers, and thos-
strangers ladies, he rose again, apparently intending to make il
bow. But he sat down once more, without having made it, am'
breathing on his shrivelled hands to warm them, remained with hi
poor blue nose immoveable above his plate, looking at nothing
with eyes that saw nothing, and a face that meant nothingi
Take him in that state, and he was an embodiment of nothingi
Nothing else.

" Our clerk," said Mr. Jonas, as host and master of the cere
monies : " Old Chuffey."

"Is he deaf? " inquired one of the young ladies.

"IS'o, I don't know that he is. He an't deaf, is he, father?"

" I never heard him say he was," replied the old man.

" Blind ? " inquired the young ladies.

"N — no. I never understood that he was at all blind," sai(



Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 19 of 80)