Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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you good night. We will discuss your projects in the morning.
You cannot but feel already that it is useless staying here, with
any hope of advancing them. You will have to go farther."

" And to fare worse ? " said Martin, pursuing the old adage.

" Well, I hope not. But sufficient for the day, you know —
Good night ! "

They shook hands heartily, and separated. As soon as ]\Iartin
was left alone, the excitement of novelty and change which had
sustained him through all the fatigues of the day, departed ; and
he felt so thoroughly dejected and worn out, tliat he even lacked
the energy to crawl up stairs to bed.

In twelve or fifteen hours, how great a change had fallen on
his hopes aiul sanguine plans ! New and strange as he wa.s to the
ground on which he stood, and to the air he breathed, he could
not — recalling all that he had crowded into that one day but
entertain a strong misgiving that his enterprise was doomed.
Rash and ill-considered as it had often looked on shijjboard, but
had never seemed on shore, it wore a dismal aspect now that
frightened him. Whatever thoughts he called up to his aid, they
came upon him in depressing and discouraging shapes, and gave



I'



284 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

him no relief. Even the diamonds on his finger sparkled with the
brightness of tears, and had no ray of hope in all their brilliant Instre.

He continued to sit in gloomy rumination by the stove —
unmindful of the boarders who dropped in one by one from their
stores and counting-houses, or the neighbouring bar-rooms, and
after taking long pulls from a great white water-jug upon the
sideboard, and lingering with a kind of hideous fliscination near
tlie brass spittoons, lounged heavily to bed — until at length Mark
Tapley came and shook him by the arm, supposing him asleep.

"Mark!" he cried, starting.

" All right. Sir," said that cheerful follower, snuffing with
his fingers the candle he bore. " It ain't a very large bed, your'n.
Sir • and a man as wasn't thirsty might drink, before breakfast, all
the water you've got to wash m, and afterwards eat the towel.
But you'll sleep without rocking to-night, Sir."

" I feel as if the house were on the sea," said Martin, staggering
when he rose ; "and am utterly wretched."

"I'm as jolly as a sandboy, myself. Sir," said Mark. "But,
Lord, I have reason to be ! I ought to have been born here ;
tliat's my opinion. Take care how you go " — for they were now
ascending the stairs. "You recollect the gentleman aboard the
Screw as had the very small trunk. Sir ? "

"The valise? Yes."

" Well, Sir, there's been a delivery of clean clothes from the
wash to-night, and they're put outside the bed-room doors here.
If you take notice as we go up, what a very few shirts there are,
and what a many fronts, you'll penetrate the mystery of his
packing."

But Martin was too weary and despondent to take heed of
anything, so had no interest in this discovery. Mr. Tapley,
nothing dashed by his indifference, conducted him to the top of
the house, and into the bed-chamber prepared for his reception :
which was a very little narrow room, with half a window in it ;
a bedstead like a chest without a lid ; two chairs ; a piece of
carpet, such as shoes are commonly tried upon at a ready-made
establishment in England ; a little looking-glass nailed against the
wall ; and a washing-table, with a jug and ewer, that might have
been mistaken for a milk-pot and slop-basin.

" I suppose they polish themselves with a dry cloth in this
country," said Mark. " They've certainly got a touch of the 'phoby,
Sir."

" I wish you would pull oft' my boots for me," said Martin,
dropping into one of the chairs. "I am quite knocked up — dead
beat, Mark."



i



MARTIX CHUZZLEWIT. 285

"You won't say tliat to-morrow morning, Sir,"' returned Mr.
Tapley ; "nor even to-night, Sir, when you've made a trial of
this." With wdiicli he produced a very large tumbler, piled up
to the brim wdth li^le blocks of clear transparent ice, through
which one or two thin slices of lemon, and a golden liquid of
delicious appearance, appealed from the still depths below, to the
loving eye of the spectator.

"What do you call this?" said Martin.

But Mr. Tapley made no answer : merely plunging a reed into
the mixture — wiiich caused a pleasant commotion among the i)ieces
of ice — and signifying by an expressive gesture that it was to be
pumped up through that agency by the enraptured drinker.

Martin took the glass, with an astonished look ; applied his
lips to the reed ; and cast up his eyes once in ecstacy. He paused
no more until the goblet was drained to the last drop.

" There, Sir ! " said Mark, taking it from him with a triumphant
face ; " If ever you should happen to be dead beat again, when I
ain't in the way, all you've got to do is, to ask the nearest man to
go and fetch a cobbler."

" To go and fetch a cobbler ! " repeated Martin.

" This wonderful invention, Sir*," said Mark, tenderly patting
the empty glass, " is called a cobbler. Sherry cobbler when you
name it long ; cobbler, when you name it short. Now you're equal
to having your boots took off, and are, in every particular worth
mentioning, another man."

Having delivered himself of this solemn preface, he brought the
boot-jack.

" Mind ! I am not going to relapse, Mark," said Martin ; " but,
good Heaven, if we should be left in some wild part of this country
without goods or money ! "

"Well, Sir!" replied the imperturbable Tapley; "from what
we've seen already, I don't know whether, under those circum-
stances, we shouldn't do better in the wild parts than in the tame
ones."

" Oh, Tom Pinch, Tom Pinch ! " said Martin, in a thoughtful
tone ; " what would I give to be again beside you, and able to
hear your voice, though it were even in the old bed -room at
Pecksniff's ! "

"Oh, Dragon, Dragon!" eclioed Mark, cheerfully, "if there
waru't any water between you and me, and nothing faint-hearted-
like in going back, I don't know that I mightn't say the same.
But here am I, Dragon, in New York, America ; and there are
you in Wiltshire, Europe ; and there's a fortune to make. Dragon,
and a beautiful young lady to make it fn- ; and whenever you go



286 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF '

to see the Monument, Dragon, you mustn't give in on the door-
steps, or you'll never get up to the top ! "

" Wisely said, Mark," cried Martin. "We must look forward."

" In all the story-books as ever I read, Sir, the people as looked
backward was turned into stones," replied Mark ; " and my opinion
always was, that they brought it on themselves, and it served 'em
right. I wish you good night, Sir, and pleasant dreams ! "

" They must be of home, then," said Martin, as he lay down
in bed.

" So I say, too," whispered Mark Taj^ley, when he was out of
hearing and in his own room; "for if there don't come a time
afore we're well out of this, when there'll be a little more credit
in keeping up one's jollity, I'm a United Statesman ! "

Leaving them to blend and mingle in their sleep the shadows
of objects afar off, as they take fantastic shapes upon the wall in
the dim light of thought without control, be it the part of this
slight chronicle — a dream witliin a dream — as rapidly to change
the scene, and cross the ocean to the English shore.



CHAPTER XYIII.

DOES BUSINESS WITH THE HOUSE OF ANTHONY CHUZZLEWIT AND
SON, FROM WHICH ONE OF THE PARTNERS RETIRES UNEX-
FECTEDLY.

Change begets change. Nothing propagates so fast. If a
man habituated to a narrow circle of cares and pleasures, out of
which he seldom travels, step beyond it, though for never so brief
a space, his departure from the monotonous scene on which he has
been an actor of importance, Avould seem to be the signal for
instant confusion. As if, in the gap he had left, the wedge of
change were driven to the head, rending what was a solid mass to
fragments ; things cemented and held together by the usages of
years, burst asunder in as many weeks. The mine which Time
has slowly dug beneath familiar objects, is sprung in an instant ;
and what was rock before, becomes but sand and dust.

Most men at one time or other have proved this in some degree.
The extent to which the natural laws of change asserted their
supremacy in that limited sphere of action which Martin had
deserted, shall be faithfully set down in these pages.

" What a cold spring it is ! " wliimpered old Anthony, drawing



MARTIX f'HUZZLEWIT. 287

near the evening fire. '' It was .1 warmer season, sure, wlien I
was young ! "

" You needn't go scorching your clothes into holes, whether it
was or not," observed tlie amiable Jonas, raising his eyes from
yesterday's newspa])er. " Broadcloth ain't so cheap as that comes
to."

" A good lad ! " cried the father, breathing on his cold hands,
and feebly chafing them against each other. "A prudent lad!
He never delivered himself up to the vanities of dress. No, no I "

" I don't know but I would though, mind you, if I could do it
for nothing," said his son, as he resumed the paper.

"Ah I" chuckled the old man. " //, indeed! — But it's very
cold."

" Let the fire be ! " cried Mr. Jonas, stopping his honoured
parent's hand in the use of the poker. "Do you mean to come
to want in your old age, tliat you take to wasting now 1 "

"There's not time for that, Jonas," said the old man.

" Not time for wdiat 1 " bawled his heir.

" For me to come to want. I wish there was ! "

"You always were as selfish an old blade as need be," said
Jonas, in a voice too low for him to hear, and looking at him
with an angry frown. " You act up to your character. You
wouldn't mind coming to want, wouldn't you 1 I dare say you
wouldn't. And your own flesh and blood might come to want
too, might they, for anything you cared 1 Oh you i)recious old
flint ! "

After this dutiful address, he took his tea-cup in his hand — for
that meal was in jKogress, and the father and son and Chuftey
were partakers of it. Then, looking steadfastly at his father, and
stopping now and then to carry a spoonful of tea to his lips, he
proceeded in the same tone, thus :

" Want, indeed ! You're a nice old man to be talking of want
nt this time of day. Beginning to talk of want, are you 1 Well,
\ declare ! There isn't time ? No, I should hope not. But you'd
live to be a couple of hundred if you could ; and after all be dis-
contented. / know you ! "

The old man sighed, and still sat cowering before the fire.
Mr. Jonas shook his Britannia-metal teaspoon at him, and taking
a loftier po.sition went on to argue the point on high moral ground.s.

"If you're in such a state of mind as that," he grumbled, but
in the same subdued key, " why don't you make over your pro-
perty? Buy an annuity cheap, and make your life interesting to
younself and everybody else that watches the s])eculation. But
no, that wouldn't suit vou. Tliat would be natural conduct to



288 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

your own son, and you like to be unnatural, and to keep him out
of his rights. Wliy, I should be ashamed of myself if I was you,
and glad to hide my head in the what you may call it."

Possibly this general phrase supplied the place of grave, or
tomb, or sepulchre^ or cemetery, or mausoleum, or other such
word which the filial tenderness of Mr. Jonas made him delicate
of pronouncing. He pursued the theme no further ; for Chufiey,
somehow discovering, from his old corner by the fireside, that
Anthony was in the attitude of a listener, and that Jonas appeared
to be speaking, suddenly cried out, like one inspired :

" He is your own son, Mr. Chuzzlewit. Your own son, Sir ! "

Old Chuffey little suspected what depth of application these
words had, or that, in the bitter satire which they bore, they
might have sunk into the old man's very soul, could he have
known what words were hanging on his own son's lips, or what
was passing in his thoughts. But the voice diverted the current
of Anthony's reflections, and roused him.

" Yes, yes, Chuffey, Jonas is a chip of the old block. It's a
very old block now, Chuffey," said the old man, with a strange
look of discomposure.

" Precious old," assented Jonas.

" No, no, no," said Chuffey. " No, Mr. Chuzzlewit. Not old
at all, Sir."

" Oh ! He's worse than ever, you know ! " cried Jonas, quite
disgusted. " Upon my soul, father, he's getting too bad. Hold
your tongue, will you ? "

" He says you're wrong ! " cried Anthony to the old clerk.

"Tut, tut!" was Chuffey's answer. "I know better. I say
hes wrong. I say Ae's wrong. He's a boy. That's what he is.
So are you, Mr. Chuzzlewit — a kind of boy. Ha ! ha ! ha !
You're quite a boy to many I have known ; you're a boy to me ;
you're a boy to hundreds of us. Don't mind him ! "

With which extraordinary speech — for in the case of Chuffey
this was a burst of eloquence without a parallel — the poor old
shadow drew through his palsied arm his master's hand, and held
it there, with his own folded upon it, as if he would defend him.

" I grow deafer every day, Chuff," said Anthony, with as much
softness of manner, or, to describe it more correctly, with as little
hardness as he was capable of expressing.

"No, no," cried Chuffey. "No you don't. What if you did?
I've been deaf this twenty year."

"I grow blinder, too," said the old man, shaking his head. i

" That's a good sign ! " cried Chuffey. " Ha ! ha ! The best J
sign in the world ! You saw too well before." I



JIARTIX CHUZZLEWIT. 289

He patted Antlioiiy upon the liand as one iiii^iit comfort a
lild, and drawing the old man's arm still further tlirough liis
vn, shook his trembling fingers towards the spot where Jonas
.t, as though he would wave him off. But Anthony remaining
lite still and silent, he relaxed his hold by slow degrees and
psed into his usual niche in the corner ; merely putting forth his
md at intervals and touching his old employer gently on the
)at, as with the design of assuring himself that he was yet
?side him.

]\Ii-. Jonas was so very nuich amazed by these proceedings that
3 could do nothing but stare at the two old men, until Chuffey
id fallen into his usual state, and Anthony had sunk into a doze ;
hen he gave some vent to his emotions by going close up to the
irnier personage, and making as though he would, in vulgar
irlance, "punch his head."

" They've been carrying on this game," thought Jonas in a
rown study, " for the last two or three weeks. I never saw my
,ther take so much notice of him as he has in that time. What !
ou're legacy hunting are you. Mister Chuftl Eh?"

But Chutiey was as little conscious of the thought as of the
adily advance of Mr. Jonas's clenched fist, which hovered fondly
bout his ear. When he had scowled at him to his heart's con-
int, Jonas took the candle from the table, and walking into the
lass office, produced a bunch of keys from his pocket. With one
F these he opened a secret drawer in the desk : peeping stealthily
lit, as he did so, to be certain that the two old men were still
efore the fire.

"All as right as ever," said Jonas, propping the lid of the desk
pen with his forehead, and unfolding a paper. " Here's the will,
lister Chuff". Thirty pound a year for your maintenance, old boy,
nd all the rest to his only son, Jonas. You needn't trouble your-
jlf to be too affectionate. You won't get anything bv it. What's
bat?"

It was startling, certainly. A face on the other side of the
lass partition looking curiously in : and not at him but at the
aper in his hand. For the eyes were attentively cast down njjon
he writing, and were swiftly raised when he cried out. Then
hey met his own, and were as the eyes of Mr. Pecksniff".

Suffering the lid of the desk to fall with a loud noise, but not
orgetting even then to lock it, Jonas, pale and breathless, gazed
ipon this phantom. It moved, opened the door, and walked
n.

"What's the matter?" cried Jonas, falling back. "Who is it?
iVhere do you come from ? What do you want ? '
u



290 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

" ]\Iatter ! " cried the voice of Mr. Pecksniff, as Pecksniff in
the flesh smiled amiably upon him. " The matter, Mr. Jonas ! "

"What are you prying and peering about here for?" said
Jonas, angrily. " What do you mean by coming up to town in
tins way, and taking one unawares ? It's precious odd a man
can't read the — the newspaper in his own office without being
startled out of his wits by people coming in without notice. Why
didn't you knock at the door 1 "

"So I did, Mr. Jonas," answ^ered Pecksniff, "but no one heard
me. I was curious," he added in his gentle way as he laid his
hand upon the young man's shoulder, " to find out what part of
the newspaper interested you so much ; but the glass was too dim
and dirty."

Jonas glanced in haste at the partition. Well. It wasn't very
clean. So far he spoke the truth.

" AVas it poetry now ? " said Mr. Pecksniff, shaking the fore-
finger of his right hand with an air of cheerful banter. " Or was
it politics 1 Or was it the price of stocks ? The main chance,
Mr. Jonas, the main chance, I suspect."

"You ain't far from the truth," answered Jonas, recovering
himself and snuffing the candle : "but how the deuce do you come
to be in London again ? Ecod ! it's enough to make a man stare,
to see a fellow looking at him all of a sudden, who he thought was
sixty or seventy miles away."

"So it is," said Mr. Pecksniff. "No doubt of it, my dear Mr.
Jonas. For while the human mind is constituted as it is — "

"Oh bother the human mind," interrupted Jonas with im-
patience, "what have you come up for?"

" A little matter of business," said Mr. Pecksniff", " wliich has
arisen quite unexpectedly."

"Oh!" cried Jonas, "is that all? AVell ! Here's father in
the next room. Hallo father, here's Pecksnift'! He gets more
addle-pated every day he lives, I do believe," muttered Jonas,
shaking his honoured parent roundly. " Don't I tell you Pecksniff's
here, stupid head 1 "

The combined effects of the shaking and this loving remonstrance *
soon awoke the old man, who gave Mr. Pecksniff a chuckling :
welcome, which w'as attributable in part to his being glad to see i
that gentleman, and in part to his unfading delight in the recol-
lection of having called him a hypocrite. As Mr. Pecksniff had I
not yet taken tea (indeed he had but an hour before arrived in i
London) the remains of the late collation, with a rasher of bacon, ,
were served up for his entertainment ; and as JNIr. Jonas had a i
business appointment in the next street, he stepped out to keep^



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 291

ir : promising to return before ^Ir. Pccksiiitt" could finish lii.s
repast.

"And now, my good Sir," said Mr. Pecksniff to Antliony :
'• now that we are alone, pray tell me what I can do for you. I
say alone, because I believe that our dear friend Mr. Chuttey is,
metaphysically speaking, a — shall I say a dummy 1 " asked Mr.
Pecksnitf with his sweetest smile, and his head very much on one
side.

'' He neither hears us,"' replied Anthonj^, " nor sees us."

" Why then," said Mr. Pecksniff, " I will be bold to say, with
the utmost sympathy for his afflictions, and the greatest admiration
of those excellent qualities which do equal honour to his head and
to his heart, that he is what is playfully termed a dummy. You
were going to observe, my dear Sir — "

" I was not going to make any observation that I know of,"
replied the old man.

" / was," said Mr. Pecksniff, mildly.

'• Oh ! yo« were 1 What was it 1 "

"That I never," said Mr. Pecksniff", previously rising to sec
that the door was shut, and arranging his chair when he came back,
si I that it could not be opened in the least without his immediately
Incoming aware of the circumstance: "that I never in my life
w as so astonished as by the receipt of your letter yesterday. That
you should do me the honour to wish to take counsel with me on
any matter, amazed me ; but that you should desire to do so to
tlie exclusion even of Mr. Jonas, showed an amount of confidence
in one to whom you had done a verbal injury — merely a verbal
injury you were anxious to repair — which gratified, which moved,
which overcame me."

He was always a glib speaker, but he delivered this short
i address very glibly ; having been at some pains to compose it out-
j side the coach.

} Although he paused for a reply, and truly said that he was

there at Anthony's request, the old man sat gazing at him in

j profound silence and with a perfectly blank face. Nor did he

j seem to have the least desire or impulse to piu'sue the conversation,

though Mr. Pecksniff" looked towards the door, and pulled out his

watch, and gave him many other hints that their time was short,

and Jonas, if he kept his word, would soon return. But the

1 strangest incident in all this strange behaviour was, that of a

sudden — in a moment — so swiftly that it was impossible to trace

how, or to observe any process of change — his features fell into

their old expression, and he cried, striking his hand passionately

upon the table as if no interval at all had taken place :



292 LIFE AND ADA^ENTURES OF

" Will you hold your tongue, Sir, and let me speak?"

Mr. PecksniflF deferred to him with a submissive bow ; and said
within himself, " I knew his hand was changed, and that his
writing staggered. I said so yesterday. Ahem ! Dear me ! "

" Jonas is sweet upon your daughter, Pecksniff," said the old
man, in his usual tone.

"We spoke of that, if you remember. Sir, at Mrs. Todgers's,"
replied the courteous architect.

"You needn't speak so loud," retorted Authonj\ "I'm not so
deaf as that."

Mr. Pecksniff had certainly raised his voice pretty high : not
so much because he thought Anthony was deaf, as because he felt
convinced that his perceptive faculties were waxing dim : but this
quick resentment of his considerate behaviour greatly disconcerted
him, and, not knowing what tack to shape his course upon, he made
another inclination of the head, yet more submissive than the
last.

" I have said," repeated the old man, " that Jonas is sweet
upon your daughter."

" A charming girl, Sir," murmured Mr. Pecksniff, seeing that
he waited for an answer. " A dear girl, Mr. Chuzzlewit, though
I say it who should not."

" You know better," cried the old man, advancing his weazen
face at least a yard, and starting forward in his chair to do it.
" You lie ! What, you ivill be a hypocrite, will you ? "

" My good Sir," Mr. Pecksniff began.

" Don't call me a good Sir," retorted Anthony, " and don't claim
to be one yourself If your daughter was what you would have '
me believe, she wouldn't do for Jonas. Being what she is, I think
she will. He might be deceived in a wife. She might run riot,
contract debts, and waste his substance. Now when I am dead — "

His face altered so horribly as he said the word, that Mr.
Pecksniff really was fain to look another way.

"It will be worse for me to know of such doings, than if I was
alive : for to be tormented for getting that together, which even
while I suffer for its acquisition is flung into the very kennels of,
the streets, would be insupportable torture. No," said the old
man, hoarsely, " let that be saved at least, let there be something
gained, and kept fast hold of, when so much is lost."

" My dear Mr. Chuzzlewit," said Pecksniff, " these are unwliole-
some fancies ; quite unnecessary. Sir, quite uncalled for, I am sure.
The truth is, my dear Sir, tliat you are not well ! "

" Not dying though ! " cried Anthony, with something like the
snarl of a wild animal. " Not yet ! There are years of life in me.



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 293

\\ hy, look at him," poiutiug to his feeble clerk. "Death has no
1 iuht to leave him staudiug, and to mow me down."

]\Ir. Pecksiiiti" was so much afraid of the old man, and so
rninpletely taken aback by the state in which he found him, tliat
he had not even presence of mind enough to call up a scrap of
morality from the great storehouse within his own breast. There-
fire he stammered out that no doubt it was, in fairness and
ileeency, Mr. Chuftey's turn to expire ; and that from all he had
heard of Mr. Chuffey, and the little he had the pleasure of knowing
nttliat gentleman, personally, he felt convinced iu his own mind that
lie would see the propriety of expiring with as little delay as possible.

" Come here ! " said the old man, beckoning him to draw nearer.
• Jonas will be my heir, Jonas will be rich, and a great catch for
.,you. You know that. Jonas is sweet upon your daughter."

"I know that too," thought Mr. Pecksniff, "for you have said
it often enough."



Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 31 of 80)