Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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with his share.

Martin and his friend followed them to the door below, and
were about to pursue their walk, when the latter stopped, and
asked, with some hesitation, whether that young man was to be
trusted.

"Mark! Oh certainly ! with anything."

" You don't understand me, — I think he had better go Avith u.'^.
He is an honest fellow, and speaks his mind so very plainly."

" Why, the fact is," said Martin, smiling, " that being un-
accustomed to a free republic, he is used to do so."

"I think he had better go with us," returned the other. "He
may get into some trouble otherwise. This is uot a slave State ;
but I am ashamed to say that the spirit of Tolerance is uot so
common anywhere in these latitudes as the form. "We are not
remarkable for behaving veiy temperately to each other when we
differ : but to strangers ! Is"o, I really think he had better go
with us."

Martin called to him immediately to be of their party ; so
Cicero and the truck went one way ; and they three went another.

They walked about the city for two or three hours ; seeing it
from the best points of view, and pausing in the principal streets,
and before such public buildings as Mr. Bevan pointed out.
Night then coming on apace, Martin proposed that they should
adjourn to Mrs. Pawkius's establishment for coffee ; but in this
he was overruled by his new acquaintance, who seemed to have
set his heart on carrying him, though it were only for an hour, to
the house of a friend of his who lived hard by. Feeling (however
disinclined he was, being weary) that it would be in bad taste,
and not very gracious, to object that he was unintroduced, when
this open-hearted gentleman was so ready to be his sjionsor,
Martin — for once in his life, at all events — sacrificed his own will
and pleasure to the wishes of another, and consented with a fair
grace. So travelling had done him tliat much good, already.

Mr. Bevan knocked at the door of a very neat house of moderate
size, from the parlour windows of which, lights were shining
brightly into the now dark street. It was quickly opened by a
man with such a thoroughly Irish face, that it seemed as if he
ought, as a matter of right and princijDle, to be in rags, and could
have no sort of business to be looking cheerfully at anybody out
of a whole suit of clothes.

Commending Mark to the care of this phenomenon — for such



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 27f.

he may be said to have been in jMartin's eyes — Mr. Bevan led the
way into the room which had shed its clieerfuhiess upon the street,
to whose occupants he introduced Mr. Chuzzlewit as a gentleman
from England, whose acquaintance he had recently had the
pleasure to make. They gave him welcome in all courtesy and
politeness; and in less than five minutes' time he found himself
sitting very much at his ease, by the fireside, and beconuiig vastly
well acquainted with the whole family.

There were two young ladies — one eighteen ; the other twenty
— both very slender, but very pretty ; their mother, who looked,
as Martin thought, much older and more faded than she ought to
have looked ; and their grandmother, a little sharp-eyed, quick
old woman, who seemed to have got past that stage, and to have
come all right again. Besides these, there were the young ladies'
father, and the young ladies' brother ; the first engaged in
mercantile affairs ; the second, a student at college — both, in a
certain cordiality of manner, like his own friend ; and not unlike
him in face, which was no great wonder, for it soon appeared that
he was their near relation. Martin could not help tracing the
fomily pedigree from the two young ladies, because they were
foremost in his thoughts ; not only from being, as aforesaid, very
pretty, but by reason of their wearing miraculously small shoes,
and the thinnest possible silk stockings : the which their rocking-
chairs developed to a distracting extent.

There is no doubt that it was a monstrous comfortable
circumstance to be sitting in a snug well-furnished room, warmed
by a cheerful fire, and full of various pleasant decorations, includ-
ing four small shoes, and the like amount of silk stockings, and

yes, why nof? — the feet and legs therein enshrined. And

there is no doubt that Martin was monstrous well-disposed to
regard his position in that light, after his recent experience of the
Screw, and of Mrs. Pawkins's boarding-house. The consequence
was, that he made himself very agreeable indeed ; and l)y the
time the tea and coftee arrived (with sweet preserves, and cunning
j tea-cakes in its train), was in a highly genial state, and much

esteemed by the whole family.

I Another delightful circumstance turned up before the first cup

I of tea was drunk. The whole family had been in England.

I There was a pleasant thing ! But Martin was not quite so glad

! of this, when he found that they knew all the great dukes, lords,

; viscounts, marquesses, duchesses, knights, and baronets, quite

affectionately, and were beyond everytliing interested in the least

particular concerning them. However, when tlicy asked after the

wearer of this or that coronet, and said "Was he quite well?"



276 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

Martin answered "Yes, oh yes. ' iS^ever better;" a '1 when they
said " his Lordship's mother, the Due, ss, was she m\ changed 1 "
Martin said, "Oh dear no, they woull know her 'where if
they saw her to-morrow ; " and so got on pretty In like

manner wdien the young hidies questioned him touchi ^ the Gold
Fish in that Grecian fountain in such and such a nobleman's con-
servatory, and whether there were as many as there used to be,
he gravely reported, after mature consideration, that there must
be at least twice as many : and as to the exotics, " Oh ! well ! it
was of no use talking about them; they must be seen to be
believed ; " which improved state of circumstances reminded the
family of the splendour of that brilliant festival (comprehending
the whole British Peerage and Court Calendar) to which they
were specially invited, and which indeed had been partly given in
their honour : and recollections of what Mr. Norris the father had
said to the Marquess, and of what Mrs. Norris the mother had said
to the Marchioness, and of what the Marquess and Marchioness
had both said, when they said that upon their w^ords and honours
they wished Mr. Norris the father and Mrs. Norris the mother,
and the Misses Norris tlie daughters, and Mr. Norris Junior, the
son, would only take up their permanent residence in England,
and give them the pleasure of their everlasting friendship, occupied
a very considerable time.

Martin thought it rather strange, and in some sort inconsistent,
that during the whole of these narrations, and in the very meridian
of their enjoyment thereof, both Mr. Norris the father, and Mr.
Norris Junior, the son (who corresponded, every post, with four
members of the English Peerage), enlarged upon the inestimable
advantage of having no such arbitrary distinctions iu that
enlightened land, where there were no noblemen but nature's
noblemen, and all society was based on one broad level of brotherly
love and natural equality. Indeed Mr. Norris the father gradually
exijanding into an oration on this swelling theme was becoming
tedious, when Mr. Bevan diverted his thoughts, by happening to
make some casual inquiry relative to the occupier of the next
house ; in reply to which, this same Mr. Norris the father observed,
that " that person entertained religious opinions of which he
couldn't approve ; and therefore he hadn't the honour of knowing
the gentleman." Mrs. Norris the mother added another reason of
her own, the same in eifect, but varying in words ; to wit, that
she believed the people were well enough in their way, but they
were not genteel.

Another little trait came out, which impressed itself on Martin
forcibly. Mr. Bevan told them about Mark and the negro, and



JIARTIX CHUZZLEWIT. 277

then it appeared tliat all the I rrises were abolitionists. It was
a great relief to hear this, p' |,1 Martin was so much encoiiraged on
finding himself in such C9mpany, that he expressed his synii)athy
with the ^ ■ ' 4i^;essed and wretched blacks. Now, one of the young
ladies — i ^, prettiest and most delicate one — was mightily amused
at the earnestness with which he spoke ; and on his craving leave to
oisk her why, was quite unable for a time to speak for laughing.
As soon however as she could, she told him tliat the negroes were
such a funny people ; so excessively ludicrous in their manners and
^appearance ; that it was wholly impossible for those who knew
them well, to associate any serious ideas with such a very absurd
part of the creation. Mr. Norris the father, and Mrs. Norris the
mother, and Miss Norris the sister, and Mr. Norris Junior the
brother, and even I\Irs. Norris Senior the grandmother, were all of
this opinion, and laid it down as an absolute matter of foct — as if
there were nothing in suffering and slavery grim enough to cast a
solemn air on any human animal ; though it were as ridiculous,
physically, as the most grotesque of apes, or, morally, as the
mildest Nimrod among tuft-hunting republicans !

"In short," said Mr. Norris the father, settling the question
comfortably, " there is a natural antipathy between the races."

"Extending," said Martin's friend, in a low voice, "to tlie
cruellest of tortures, and the bargain and sale of unborn generations."

Mr. Norris the son said nothing, but he made a wry face, and
dusted his fingers as Hamlet might after getting rid of Yorick's
skull : just as though he had that moment touched a negro, and
some of the black had come off upon his hands.

In order that their talk might fall again into its former
pleasant channel, Martin dropped the subject, with a shrewd
suspicion that it would be a dangerous theme to revive under the
best of (drcumstances : and again addressed himself to the young
ladies, who were very gorgeously attired in very beautiful colours,
and had every article of dress on the same extensive scale as the
little shoes and the thiu silk stockings. Tliis suggested to iiiin
that they were great proficients in the French fiisliions, wliich
soon turned out to be the case, for though their information
appeared to be none of the newest, it was very extensive : and
the eldest sister in particular, who was distinguislied by a talent
for metaphysics, the laws of hydraulic pressure, and the rights of
human kind, had a novel way of combining these acquirements and
bringing them to bear on any suljject from Millinery to the
Millennium, both inclusive : which was at once improving aiul
remarkable, — so much so, in short, that it was usually observed to
reduce foreigners to a state of temporary insanity in five minutes.



278 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

Martin felt his reason going ; and as a means of saving himself,
besought the other sister (seeing a piano in the room) to sing.
Witli this request she willingly complied ; and a bravura concert,
solely sustained by the Misses Norris, presently began. They
sang in all languages except their own. German, French, Italian,
Spanish, Portuguese, Swiss ; but nothing native ; nothing so low
as native. For in this respect languages are like many other
travellers — ordinary and commonplace enough at home, but
'specially genteel abroad.

There is little doubt that in course of time the Misses Norris
Avould have come to Hebrew, if they had not been interrupted by
an announcement from the Irishman, who flinging open the door,
cried in a loud voice :

" Jiniral Fladdock ! "

"My!" cried the sisters, desisting suddenly. "The general
come back ! "

As they made the exclamation, the general, attired in full
uniform for a ball, came darting in with such precipitancy that,
hitching his boot in the carpet, and getting his sword between his
legs, he came down headlong, and presented a curious little bald
place on the crown of his head to the eyes of the astonished
company. Nor was this the worst of it ; for being rather
corpulent and very tight, the general, being down, could not get
up again, but lay there, writhing and doing such things with his
boots, as there is no other instance of in military history.

Of course there was an immediate rush to his assistance ; and
the general was promptly raised. But his uniform was so fearfully
and wonderfully made that he came up stiff and without a bend
in him, like a dead clown, and had no command whatever of
himself until he was put quite flat upon the soles of Ids feet, when
he became animated as by a miracle, and moving edgewise that he
might go in a narrower compass and be in less danger of fraying
the gold lace on his epaulettes by brushing them against any-
thing, advanced with a smiling visage to salute tlie lady of the
house.

To be sure, it would have been impossible for the family to
testify purer delight and joy than at this unlooked-for appearance
of General Fladdock ! The general was as warmly received as if
New York had been in a state of siege and no other general was
to be got, for love or money. He shook liands with the Norrises
three times all round, and then reviewed them from a little
distance as a brave commander might, with his ample cloak
drawn forward over the right shoulder and thrown back upon the
left side to reveal his manly breast.



MARTIX CHUZZLEWIT. 279

"And do I then,'' cried the general, " once again behold the
clioicest spirits of my country ! "

"Yes,'' said Mr. Norris the father. " Here we are, generah"'

Then all the Norrises pressed round the general, inquiring how
and where he had been since the date of his last letter, and how
he had enjoyed himself in foreign parts, and, particularly and
above all, to what extent he had become acquainted with the
great dukes, lords, viscounts, marquesses, duchesses, knights, and
baronets, in whom the people of those benighted countries had
delight.

" Well then, don't ask me," said the general, holding up his
hand. "I was among 'em all the time, and have got public
journals in my trunk with my name printed " — he lowered his
voice and was very impressive here — "among the fashionable
news. But, oh the conventionalities of that a-mazing Europe ! "

" Ah ! " cried Mr. Norris the father, giving his head a melan-
choly shake, and looking towards Martin as though he would say,
" I can't deny it. Sir. I would if I could."

" The limited diffusion of a moral sense in that country ! "
exclaimed the general. " The absence of a moral dignity in man ! "

"Ah!" sighed all the Norrises, quite overwhelmed with
despondency.

"I couldn't have realised it,'' pursued the general, "without
being located on the spot. Norris, your imagination is the
imagination of a strong man, but you couldn't have realised it,
without being located on the spot ! "

" Never,'' said Mr. Norris.

"The ex-clusiveness, the pride, the form, the ceremony,"
exclaimed the general, emphasizing the article more vigorously at
every repetition. " The artificial barriers set up between man and
man ; the division of the human race into court cards and plain
cards, of every denomination, into clubs, diamonds, spades —
anything but hearts ! "

""Ah ! " cried the whole family. " Too true, general ! "

" But stay ! " cried Mr. Norris the father, taking him by the
arm. " Surely you crossed in the Screw, general ? "

"Well ! so T did," was the reply.

" Possible ! " cried the young ladies. " Only think ! ''

The general seemed at a loss to understand why his having
come home in the Screw should occasion such a sensation, nor did
he seem at all clearer on the subject when Mr, Norris, introducing
him to Martin, said —

" A fellow-passenger of yours, I think ? "

" Of mine ! " exclaimed the general ; " No ! "



280 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

He had never seen Martin, but Martin had seen liim, and
recognised him, now that they stood face to face, as the gentleman
who had stuck his hands in his pockets towards the end of the
voyage, and walked the deck with his nostrils dilated.

Everybody looked at Martin. There was no helj) for it. The
truth must out.

" I came over in the same ship as the general," said Martin,
" but not in the same cabin. It being necessary for me to observe
strict economy, I took my passage in the steerage."

If the general had been carried up bodily to a loaded cannon,
and required to let it off that moment, he could not have been
in a state of greater consternation than when he heard these words.
He, Fladdock, — Fladdock in full militia uniform, Fladdock the
General, Fladdock the caressed of foreign noblemen, — expected to
know a fellow who had come over in the steerage of a line-of-packet
ship, at the cost of four pound ten ! And meeting that fellow in
the very sanctuary of New York fashion, and nestling in the bosom
of the New York aristocracy ! He almost laid his hand upon his
sword.

A death-like stillness fell ujwn the Norrises. If this stnry
should get wind, their country relation had, by his imprudence, for
ever disgraced them. They were the bright particular stars of an
exalted New York sphere. There were other fashionable spheres
above them, and other fashionable spheres below, and none of
the stars in any one of these spheres had anything to say to the stars
in any other of these spheres. But, through all the spheres it
would go forth, that the Norrises, deceived by gentlemanly
manners and appearances, had, falling from their high estate,
" received " a dollarless and unknown man. guardian eagle of
the pure Republic, had they lived for this !

"You will allow me," said Martin, after a terrible silence, "to
take my leave. I feel that I am the cause of at least as much
embarrassment here, as I have brought upon myself But I am
bound, before I go, to exonerate this gentleman, who, in introducing
me to such society, was quite ignorant of my un worthiness, I
assure you."

AVith that he made his bow to the Norrises, and walked out
like a man of snow, very cool externally, but i^retty hot within.

" Come, come," said Mr. Norris the father, looking with a i)ale
face on the assembled circle as Martin closed the door, " the young
man has this night beheld a refinement of social manner, and an
easy magnificence of social decoration, to which he is a stranger
in his own country. Let us hope it may awake a moral sense
within him."



I



MARTIN CIIUZZLEWIT. 281

If that peculiarly transatlantic article, a moral sense, — for if
native statesmen, orators, and paniplileteers, are to be believed,
America quite monopolizes the commodity, — if that peculiarly
transatlantic article be supposed to include a benevolent love of
all mankind, certainly Martin's would have borne just then a deal
of waking : for as he strode along the street, with Mark at his
heels, his immoral sense was in active operation ; prompting liim
to the utterance of some rather sanguinary remarks, Avhicli it was
well for his own credit that nobody overheard. He had so far
cooled down however, that he had begun to laugh at the
recollection of these incidents, when he heard another step behind
liim, and turning round encountered his friend Bevan, quite out of
breath.

He drew his arm through Martin's, and entreating him to walk
slowly, was silent for some minutes. At length he said :

"I hope you exonerate me in another sense?"

" How do you mean*?" asked Martin.

"I hope you acquit me of intending or foreseeing the
termination of our visit. But I scarcely need ask you that."

" Scarcely indeed," said Martin. "I am the more beholden to
you for your kindness, when I find what kind of stuff the good
citizens here are made of."

" I reckon," his friend returned, " that they arc made of pretty
much the same stuff as other folks, if they would but own it, and
not set up on false pretences."

" In good fiiith, that's true," said ]\Iartin.

" I dare say," resumed his friend, " you might have such a
scene as that in an English comedy, and not detect any gross
improbability or anomaly in the matter of it?"

"Yes indeed ! "

" Doubtless it is more ridiculous here tlian anywhere else,"
-aid his companion ; " but our professions are to blame for that.
So far as I myself am concerned, I may add that I was perfectly
aware from the first that you came over in the steerage, for I had
seen the list of passengers, and knew it did not comprise your
name. '

" I feel more obliged to you than before," said Martin.

"Norris is a very good fellow in his way," observed Mr. Bevan.

" Is he 1 " said Martin drily.

"Oh yes ! there are a hundred good points about him. If you
or anybody else addre.ssed liim as anotlier order of being, and sued to
him in formd pauperis, he would be all kindness and consideration."

" I needn't have travelled three thousand miles from home to
find such a character as that," said Martin. Neither he nor his



282 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

friend said anything more on the way back ; each appearing to
find sufficient occupation in his own thoughts.

The tea, or the supper, or whatever else they called the evening
meal, was over when they reached the Major's ; but the cloth,
ornamented with a few additional smears and stains, was still
upon the table. At one end of the board Mrs. Jefferson Brick
and two other ladies were drinking tea — out of the ordinary course,
evidently, for they were bonneted and shawled, and seemed to
have just come home. By the light of three flaring candles of
diftercnt lengths, in as many candlesticks of ditterent patterns, the
room showed to almost as little advantage as in broad day.

These ladies were all three talking together in a very loud tone
when Martin and his friend entered ; but, seeing those gentlemen,
they stopped directly, and became excessively genteel, not to say
frosty. As they went on to exchange some few remarks in whispers,
the very water in the tea-pot might have fallen twenty degrees in
temperature beneath their chilling coldness.

" Have you been to meeting, Mrs. Brick 1 " asked Martin's
friend, with something of a roguish twinkle in his eye.

" To lecture, Sir."

" I beg your pardon. I forgot. You don't go to meeting, I
think i "

Here the lady on the right of Mrs. Brick gave a pious cough,
as much as to say "/do!"' — As, indeed, she did, nearly every
night in the week.

"A good discourse, ma'am?" asked Mr. Bevan, addressing this lady.

The lady raised her eyes in a pious manner, and answered
" Yes." She had been much comforted by some good, strong,
peppery doctrine, which satisfactorily disposed of all her friends and
accpiaintances, and (piite settled their business. Her bonnet, too,
had far outshone every bonnet in the congregation : so she was
traiKtuil on all accounts.

■'" "What course of lectures are you attending now, ma'am?"
said Martin's friend, turning again to Mrs. Brick.

" The Philosophy of the Soul — on AVednesdays."

"On Mondays?"

" The Philosophy of Crime."

"On Fridays?"

"The Philosophy of Vegetables."

" You have forgotten Thursdays — the Philosophy of Govern-
ment, my dear," observed the third lady.

"No," said Mrs. Brick. "That's Tuesdays."

"So it is!" cried the lady. "The Philosophy of Matter on
Thursdays, of course."



JIARTIX CHUZZLEWIT. ,^ 283

" You SCO, Mr. Chuzzlcwit, our ladies arc fully cni})loyed,'
licvau.

"Indeed you have reason to say so," answered Martin.
•• I'.ctween these very grave pursuits abroad, and family duties at
liiuue, their time must be jiretty well engrossed."

^lartin stopped here, for he saw that the ladies regarded him
with no very great favour, though what he had done to deserve
the disdainful expression which appeared in their faces he was at
a loss to divine. But on their going up stairs to their bed-rooms
— ^Yhich they very soon did — Mr. Bevan informed him that
(Inincstic drudgery was far beneath the exalted range of these
riiilosophers, and that the chances were a hundred to one that
neither of the three could perform the easiest woman's work for
herself, or make the simplest article of dress for any of her
children.

''Though whether they might not be better employed with
even such blunt instruments as knitting-needles, than with these
edge-tools," he said, "is another question; but I can answer for
nne thing — they don't often cut themselves. Devotions and
lectures are our balls and concerts. They go to these places of
lesort, as an escape from monotony ; look at each other's clothes ;
and come home again."

" When you say ' home,' do you mean a house like this ? "

"Very often. But I see you are tired to death, and will wish



Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 30 of 80)