Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

. (page 7 of 80)
Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 7 of 80)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


and very jaunty ; very bold and very mean ; very swaggering and
very slinking ; very nnich like a man who might have been some-
thing better, and unspeakably like a man who deserved to be
something worse.

" You were eaves-dropping at that door, you vagabond ! " said
this gentleman.



44 LIFE AXD ADVENTURES OF

Mr. Pecksniff cast Iiim off, as Saint George miglit liave repudi-
ated the Dragon in that animal's last moments, and said :

*' Where is ]\Irs. Lupin, I wonder ! can tlie good woman possibly
be aware that there is a person here who — "

" Stay ! " said the gentleman. " Wait a bit. She does know.
What then?"

"What then, Sir?" cried Mr. Pecksniff. "What then? Do
you know. Sir, that I am tlie friend and relative of that sick
gentleman ? That I am his protector, his guardian, his — "

"Not his niece's husband," interposed the stranger, "I'll be
sworn ; for he was there before you."

" What do you mean ? " said Mr. Pecksniff, witli indignant
surprise. "What do you tell me. Sir?"

" Wait a bit ! " cried the other. " Perhaps you are a cousin —
the cousin who lives in this place?"

" I am the cousin who lives in this place," replied the man of
worth.

"Your name is Pecksniff?" said the gentleman.

"It is."

"I am proud to know you, and I ask your jmrdon," said the
gentleman toucliing his hat, and subsequently diving behind his
cravat for a shirt-collar, which however he did not succeed in
bringing to the surface. " You behold in me. Sir, one who has
also an interest in that gentleman up-stairs. Wait a bit."

As he said this, he touched the tip of his high nose, by way of
intimation that he would let Mr. Pecksniff into a secret presently ;
and pulling off his hat, began to search inside the crown among a
mass of crumpled documents and small pieces of what may be
called the bark of broken cigars : whence he presently selected
the cover of an old letter, begrimed with dirt and redolent of
tobacco.

" Read that," he cried, giving it to Mr. Pecksniff.

" This is addressed to Chevy Slyme, Esquire," said that gentle-
man.

"You know Chevy Slyme, Esquire, I believe?" returned the
stranger.

Mr. Pecksniff shrugged his shoulders as though he would say
" I know there is such a person, and I am sorry for it."

" Very good," remarked the gentleman. " That is my interest
and business here." With that he made another dive for his
shirt-collar, and brought up a string.

" Now this is very distressing, my friend," said Mr. Pecksniff,
shaking his head and smiling composedly. " It is very distressing
to me, to be compelled to say that you are not the person you



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 45

claim to be. I know Mr. Slyiiie, my frioiid : tliis will not do :
hoiR'sty is the best jioliey : you had better not ; you had iudec(l.''

"Stop!" cried tlie gentleman, stretching forth his right arm,
which was so tightly wedged into his threadbare sleeve that it
looked like a cloth sausage. " Wait a bit ! "

He paused to establish himself immediately in front of the fire,
witli his back towards it. Then gathering the skirts of his coat
under his left arm, and smoothing his moustache with his right
thumb and forefinger, he resumed :

" I understand your mistake, and I am not offended. Why ?
Because it's complimentarj\ You suppose I would set myself up
for Chevy Slyme. Sir, if there is a man on earth whonr a gentle-
man would feel proud and honoured to be mistaken for, that man
is my friend Slyme, For he is, without an exception, the highest-
minded, the most independent-spirited, most original, spiritual,
classical, talented, the most tlioroughly Shakspearian, if not
Miltonic, and at the same time the most disgustingly-unappreciated
dog I know. But, Sir, I have not the vanity to attempt to pass for
Slyme. Any other man in the wide world, I am equal to ; but
Slyme is, I frankly confess, a great many cuts above me. There-
fore you are wrong."

" I judged from this," said Mr. Pecksnitt" holding out the cover
of the letter.

" No doubt you did," returned the gentleman. " But, Mr.
Pecksniff, the whole thing resolves itself into an instance of the
peculiarities of genius. Every man of true genius has his
peculiarity. Sir, the peculiarity of my friend Slyme is, that he is
always waiting round the corner. He is perpetually round the
corner, Sir. He is round the corner at this instant. Now," said
the gentleman, shaking his forefinger before his nose, and planting
his legs wider apart as he looked attentively in Mr. Pecksniit's face,
" that is a remarkably curious and interesting trait in Slyme's
character; and whenever Slyme's life comes to be written, that
trait must be thoroughly w^orked out by his biographer, or society
will not be satisfied. Observe me, society will not be satisfied ! "

Mr. Pecksni ft' coughed.

" Slyme's biographer. Sir, whoever he may be," resumed the
gentleman, " must apply to me ; or if I am gone to that what's-
hisname from which no thingumbob comes back, he nmst apply
to my executors for leave to search among my papers. I have
taken a few notes in my poor way, of some of that man's proceed-
ings — my adopted brother. Sir, — which would amaze you. He
made use of an expression. Sir, only on tlie fifteenth of last month
when he couldn't meet u little bill and the other jxirty wouldn't



46 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

renew, -wliicli would have done honour to Napoleon Bonaparte in
addressing the French army."

"And pray," asked Mr. Pecksniff, obviously not Cjuite at his
ease, " what may be Mr. Slyme's business here, if I may be per-
mitted to inquire, who am compelled by a regard for my own
character to disavow all interest in his proceedings 1 "

"In the first place," returned the gentleman, "you will permit
me to say, that I object to that remark, and that I strongly ami
indignantly protest against it on behalf of my friend Slyme. In
the next place, you will give me leave to introduce myself
My name, Sir, is Tigg. The name of Montague Tigg will perhaps
be familiar to you, in connexion with the most remarkable events
of the Peninsular War 1 "

Mr. Pecksnift' gently shook his head.

" No matter," said the gentleman. " That man was my father,
and I bear his name. I am consequently proud — proud as Lucifer.
Excuse me one moment : I desire my friend Slyme to be present
at the remainder of this conference."

AVith this announcement he hurried away to the outer door of
the Blue Dragon, and almost immediately returned with a com-
panion shorter than himself, who was wrapped in an old blue
camlet cloak with a lining of faded scarlet. His sharp features
being much pinched and nipped by long waiting in the cold, and
his straggling red Avhiskers and frowzy hair being more than
usually dishevelled from the same cause, he certainly looked rather
unwholesome and uncomfortable than Shakspearian or Miltonie.

"Now," said Mr. Tigg, clapping one hand on the shoulder of
his prepo.ssessing friend, and calling Mr. Pecksniff's attention to
him with the other, "you two are related; and relations never did
agree, and never will ; which is a wise dispensation and an
inevitable thing, or there would be none but family parties, and
everybody in the world would bore everybody else to death. If
you were on good terms, I should consider you a most confoundedly
unnatural pair ; but standing towards each other as you do, I
look upon you as a couple of devilish deep-thoughted fellows, who
may be reasoned with to any extent."

Here Mr. Chevy Slyme, whose great abilities seemed one and
all to point towards the sneaking quarter of the moral compass,
nudged his friend stealthily with his elbow, and whispered in his
ear.

" Chiv," said ]\Ir. Tigg aloud, in the high tone of one who was
not to be tampered with. " I shall come to that, presently. I
act upon my own resironsibility, or not at all. To the extent of
su(^h a trifling loan as a crownpiece to a man of your talents, I



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 47

look upon ]\Ir. Pecksniff us oeitain : '"' and seeing- at tliis juncture
that tlie expression of Mr. Pecksniff's face by no means betokened
that he shared this certainty, Mr. Tigg hiid his finger on his nose
again for that gentleman's private and especial behoof: calling
upon him thereby to take notice, that the requisition of small
loans was another instance of the peculiarities of genius as
developed in his friend Slyme ; that he, Tigg, Avinked at the
same, because of the strong metaphysical interest Avhich these
weaknesses possessed ; and that in reference to his own personal
advocacy of such small advances, he merely consulted the humour
of his friend, without the least regard to his own advantage or
necessities.

" Oh, Chiv, Chiv ! " added Mr. Tigg, surveying his adopted
brother with an air of profound contemplation after dismissing
this i)iece of pantomime. "You are, upon my life, a strange
instance of the little frailties that beset a mighty mind. If there
had never been a telescope in the world, I should have been c^uite
certain from my observation of you, Chiv, that there were sjjots
on the sun ! I wish I may die, if this isn't the queerest state of
existence that we find ourselves forced into, without knowing why
or wherefore, Mr. Pecksnift' ! Well, never mind ! Moralise as we
will, the world goes on. As Hamlet says, Heicules may lay
about him with his club in every possible direction, but he can't
prevent the cats from making a most intolerable row on the roofs
of the houses, or the dogs from being shot in the hot weather if
they run about the streets unmuzzled. Life's a riddle : a most
infernally hard riddle to guess, Mr. Pecksniff. My own opinion is,
that like that celebrated conundrum, ' Why's a man in jail like a
man out of jail ? ' there's no answer to it. Upon my soul and
body, it's the queerest sort of thing altogether — but there's no use
in talking about it. Ha ! ha ! "

With which consolatory deduction from the gloomy premises
recited, Mr. Tigg roused himself by a great eftbrt, and proceeded
in his former strain.

"Now ril tell you what it is. I'm a most confoundedly soft-
hearted kind of fellow in my way, and I cannot stand by, and see
you two blades cutting each other's throats when there's nothing
to be got by it. IMr. Pecksniff, you're the cousin of the testator
up-stairs and M'e're the nej)hew— I say we, meaning Chiv. Per-
haps in all essential points, you are more nearly related to him
than we aie. Very good. If so, so be it. But you can't get at
him, neither can we. I give you my brightest honour, Sir, that
I've been looking through that keyhole, with short intervals of
rest, ever since nine o'clock this morning, in expectation of receiv-



48 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

ing an answer to one of the most moderate and gentlemanly
applications for a little temporary assistance — only fifteen pound,
and my security — that the mind of man can conceive. In the i
mean time, Sir, he is perpetually closeted with, and pouring his ■
whole confidence into the bosom of, a stranger. Now, I say
decisively, with regard to this state of circumstances, that it won't
do ; that it won't act ; that it can't be ; and that it nuist not be
suffered to continue."

"Every man," said Mr. Pecksniff, "has a right, an undouljted
right (which I, for one, would not call in question for any earthly
consideration : oh no !) to regulate his own proceedings by his
own likings and dislikings, supposing they are not immoral and
not irreligious. I may feel in my own breast, that Mr. Chuzzlewit
does not regard — me, for instance: say me — with exactly that
amount of Christian love which should subsist between us ; I may
feel grieved and hurt at the circumstance ; still, I may not rush
to the conclusion that I\Ir. Chuzzlewit is wholly without a justifi-
cation in all his coldnesses : Heaven forbid ! Besides ; how, Mr.
Tigg," continued Pecksnift' even more gravely and impressively
than he had spoken yet, " how could Mr. Chuzzlewit be prevented
from having these peculiar and most extraordinary confidences of
which you speak ; the existence of which I must admit ; and
which I cannot but dei^lore — for his sake? Consider, my good
Sir — " and here Mr. Pecksniff eyed him wistfully — " how very
much at random you are talking."

"Why as to that," rejoined Tigg, "it certainly is a difficult
question."

" Undoubtedly it is a difficult question," Mr. Pecksnift' answered :
and as he spoke he drew himself aloof, and seemed to grow more
mindful, suddenly, of the moral gulf between himself and the
creature he addressed. " Undoubtedly it is a very difficult
question. And I am far from feeling sure that it is a question
any one is authorised to discuss. Good evening to you."

"You don't know that the Spottletoes are here, I suppose?"
said Mr. Tigg.

" What do you mean. Sir ? what Spottletoes % " asked Pecksniff,
stopping abruptly on his Avay to the door.

"Mr. and Mrs Spottletoe," said Chevy Slyme, Esquire, speak-
ing aloud for the first time, and speaking very sulkily : shambling
with his legs the while. " Spottletoe married my f;ither's brother's
child, didn't he ? And Mrs. Spottletoe is Chuzzlewit's own niece,
isn't she? She was his favourite once. You may well ask what
Spottletoes."

" Now, upon niy sacred word ! " cried i\Ir. Pecksnift', looking



MARTIX CHUZZLEWIT. 49

upwards. "This is (Ireadful. The rapacity of these people is

absolutely friglitfiil ! ''

"It's not only the Spottletoes cither, Tigg," said Slyme, look-
■ ing at that gentleman and speaking at Mr. Pecksuift". " Anthony

Chiizzlewit and his son have got wind of it, and have come down
ithis afternoon. I saw 'em not five minutes ago, when I was

t raiting round the corner."
"Oh, Mammon, M^^mmon ! " cried Mr. Pecksniff, smiting his
orehead.

"So there," said Slyme, regardless of the interruption, "are
his brother and another nephew for you, already,"

" This is the whole thing. Sir," said Mr. Tigg ; " this is the

point and purpose at which I was gradually arriving, when my

friend Slyme here, with six words, hit it full. Mr. Pecksniff, now

I that your cousin (and Chiv's uncle) has turned up, some steps

(must be taken to prevent his disappearing again ; and, if possible,
to counteract the intluence which is exercised over him now, by
this designing favourite. Everybody who is interested feels it.
Sir. The whole ftxmily is jDOuring down to this place. The time
. has come when individual jealousies and interests must be for-
<i gotten for a time. Sir, and union must be made against the
i common enemy. When the common enemy is routed, you will
|i all set up for yoiu'selves again ; every lady and gentleman who
t, has a part in the game, will go in on their own account and bowl
|{ away, to the best of their ability, at the testator's wicket ; and
h nobody will be in a worse position than before. Think of it.
i Don't commit yourself now. You'll find us at the Half Moon and
; Seven Stars in this village, at any time, and open to any reason-
' able proposition. Hem ! Chiv, my dear fellow, go out and see
what sort of a night it is."

Mr. Slyme lost no time in disappearing, and, it is to be pro-
; sumed, in going round the corner. Mr. Tigg, planting his legs
' as wide apart as he could be reasonably expected by the most
■ sanguine man to keep them, shook his head at I\Ir. Pecksuift" and
' smiled.

"We must not be too hard," he said, "upon the little
tvrcMtricities of our friend Slyme. You saw him whisper me ■? "
-Mr. Pecksuift" had seen him.
"You heard my answer, I think?'
:\[r. Pecksuift" had iicard it.

"Five shillings, ciir' said Mr. Tigg, thoughtfully. "Ah!
what an extraordinary fellow ! Very moderate too ! "
^Ir. Pecksuift" made no answer.

" Five shillings ! " pursued Mr. Tigg, musing : " and to be
E



r.O LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

punctually repaid next week ; that's the best of it. You heard;
that ? "

Mr. Pecksniff had not heard tiiat. |

"No! You surprise me!" cried Tigg. "That's the cream of j
the thing, Sir. I never knew that man fail to redeem a promise,
in my life. You're not in want of change, are you ? "

"No," said Mr. Pecksniff, "thank you. Not at all."

"Just so," returned Mr. Tigg. "If you had been, I'd have
got it for you." With that he began to whistle; but a dozen:
seconds had not elapsed when he stopped short, and, looking'
earnestly at Mr. Pecksniff, said : !

" Perhaps you'd rather not lend Slyme five shillings ? " \

"I would much rather not," Mr. Pecksnift" nyoined.

"Egad!" cried Tigg, gravely nodding his head as if .some
ground of objection occurred to him at that moment for the first
time, "it's very possible you may be right. Would you entertain ji
the same sort of objection to lending vie five shillings, now ? "

"Yes, I coiddu't do it, indeed," said Mr. Pecksnift". ii

" Not even half-a-crown, perhaps 1 " urged Mr. Tigg. ! '

" Not even half-a-crown."

"Why then we come," said Mr. Tigg, "to the ridiculously
small amount of eighteenpence. Ha ! ha ! " i

" And that," said Mr. Pecksniff, " would be equally objection-
able."

On receipt of this assurance, Mr. Tigg shook him heartily by
both hands, protesting with much earnestness, that he was one of
the most consistent and remarkable men he had ever met, and
that he desired the honour of his better acquaintance. He further
observed that there Avere many little characteristics about his
friend Slyme, of which he could by no means, as a man of strict
honour, approve ; but that he was prepared to forgive him all
these slight drawbacks, and much more, in consideration of the
great ^jleasure he himself had that day enjoyed in his social inter-
course with ]Mr. Pecksniff, which had given him a far higher and
more enduring delight than the successful negotiation of any small
loan on the part of his friend could possibly have imparted. AVith
which remarks he would beg leave, he said, to wish ]\Ir. Pecksnifi"
a very good evening. And so he took himself off": as little
jibashed by his recent failure as any gentleman would desire to be.

The meditations of Mr. Pecksnift' that evening at the bar of the
Dragon, and that night in his own house, were very serious and
grave indeed ; the more especially as the intelligence he had re-
ceived from Messrs. Tigg and Slyme touching the arrival of other
niembers of the family, was fully confirmed on more particular



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 61

inquiry. For the Spottletocs had actually gone straight to the
Dragon, where they were at that niomeut housed and mounting
"uard, and where their appearance had occasioned such a vast
sensation, that ]\Irs. Lupin, scenting tlieir errand before they had
been under her roof half-an-hour, carried the news herself with all
possible secrecy straight to Mr. Pecksniff's house : indeed it was
her great caution in doing so wdiich occasioned her to miss that
gentleman, who entered at tlie front door of the Dragon, just as
she emerged from the back one. I\Ioreover, Mr. Anthony Ciiuzzlc-
wit and his son Jonas were economically cpiartered at the Half
Moon and Seven Stars, which was an obscure alehouse ; and by
the very ne.vt coach there came posting to the scene of action,
so many other affectionate members of the family (who quarrelled
with each other, inside and out, all the way down, to tlie utter
distraction of the coachman) that in less than four -and -twenty
hours the scanty tavern accommodation was at a premium, and
all tlie private lodgings in the place, amounting to full four beds
and a sofa, rose cent, per cent, in the market.

Ill a word, things came to that pass that nearly the whole
family sat down before the Blue Dragon, and formally invested it :
and Martin Chuzzlewit was in a state of siege. But he resisted
bravely ; refusing to receive all letters, messages, and parcels ;
obstinately declining to treat with anybody ; and holding out uo
hope or promise of capitulation. j\Ieantime the ftnnily forces w^ere
perpetually encountering each other in divers parts of the neigh-
bourhood : and, as uo one branch of the Chuzzlewit tree had ever
been known to agree with another within the memory of man,
there was such a skirmishing, and flouting, and snapping off' of
heads, in the metaphorical sense of that expression ; such a
bandying of words and calling of names ; such an upturning of
noses and wrinkling of brows ; such a formal interment of good
feelings and violent lesurrection of ancient grievances ; as had
never been known in those quiet parts since the earliest record of
their civilized existence.

At length, in utter despair and hopelessness, some few of the
belligerents began to speak to each other in only moderate terms
of mutual aggravation ; and nearly all addressed themselves with
a show of tolerable decency to Mr. Pecksniff, in recognition of his
high character and influential position. Thus, by little and little
they made common cause of Martin Chuzzlewit's obduracy, until
it was agreed — if such a word can be used in connexion with the
Chuzzlewits — that there should be a general council and confereiuu!
held at J\Ir. Pecksniff"s house upon a certain day at nnon : which
all members of the family who had brought themselves within reach



52 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

(if tlie summons, were forthwith bidden and invited, solemnly, to
attend.

If ever Mr. Pecksniff wore an apostolic look, he wore it on this
memorable day. If ever his unrufHed smile proclaimed the words,
" I am a messenger of peace ! " tiiat was its mission now. If ever
man combined within himself all the mild qualities of the lamb
with a considerable touch of the dove, and not a dash of the
crocodile, or the least possible suggestion of the very mildest
seasoning of the serpent, that man was he. And, Oh, the two
Rliss Pecksnitls ! Oh, the serene expression on the face of
Charity, which seemed to say, " I know that all my family have
injured me beyond the possibility of reparation, but I forgive them,
for it is my duty so to do ! " And, Oh, the gay simplicity of
Mercy : so charming, innocent, and infant-like, that if she had
gone out walking by herself, and it had been a little earlier in the
season, the robin-redbreasts might have covered her with leaves ;.
against her will, believing her to be one of the sweet children in i
the wood, come out of it, and issuing forth once more to look for :
blackberries in the young freshness of her heart ! Wliat words •
can paint the Pecksniffs in that trying hour 1 Oh, none : for
words have naughty company among them, and the Pecksniffs
were all goodness.

But when the company arrived ! That was the time. When
Mr. Pecksniff, rising from his seat at the table's head, with a
daughter on either hand, received his guests in the best parlour
and motioned them to chairs, with eyes so overflowing and counten-
ance so damp with gracious perspiration, that he may be said to
have been in a kind of moist meekness ! And the company : the
jealous, stony-hearted, distrustful company, who were all shut up
in themselves, and had no faith in anybody, and wouldn't believe
anything, and would no more allow themselves to be softened or
iulled asleep by the Pecksniffs than if they had been .so many
hedgehogs or porcupines !

First, there was ]\Ir. Spottletoe, who was so bald and had such
big whiskers, that he seemed to have stopped his hair, by the
sudden application of some powerful remedy, in the very act of
falling oft' Jiis head, and to have fastene<l it irrevocably on his face.
Then there was IMrs. Spottletoe, who being much too slim for her
years, and of a poetical constitution, was accustomed to inform
her more intimate friends that the said whiskers were " the lode-
star of her existence ; " and who could now, by reason of her
strong aftection for her uncle Chuzzlewit, and the shock it gave
her to be suspected of testamentary designs upon him, do nothing
but cry — except moan. Then there were Anthony Chuzzlewit,



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 53

iJj ami his sou Jonas: the focc of the oUl man so sharpened by the
ii -wariness and cunning of liis life, that it seemed to cut him a
ijii passage througli the crowded room, as lie edged away behind the
Ij; remotest cliairs ; while tiie son had so well profited by the precept
ji! and example of tlie father that he looked a year or two the elder
ij,; of the twain, as they stood winking their red eyes, side by side,
)fil and whispering to each otiier, softly. Then there Avas tlic widow
jj'' of a deceased brother of ]\Ir. Martin Chuzzlewit, who being almost
;, siipeniaturally disagreeable, and having a dreary ftice and a bony
J j figure and a masculine voice, was, in right of these qualities, wliat
, 1 is commonly called a strong-minded woman ; and who, if she could,



Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 7 of 80)