Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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I most part, indeed, it w^ore, at that season of the day, a scraped
I and frosty look, as if it had been rasped ; while a similar
[ phenomenon developed itself in her humour, which was then
I observed to be of a sharp and acid quality, as though an extra
' lemon (figuratively speaking) had been squeezed into the nectar of
her disposition, and had rather damaged its flavour.

This additional pungency on the part of the fair young creature
\. led, on ordinary occasions, to such slight consequences as the
copious dilution of Mr. Pinch'.s tea, or to his coming off un-
commoidy short in respect of butter, or to other the like results.
But on the morning after the Installation Banquet, she suffered
him to wander to and fro among the eatables and drinkables, a
perfectly free and unchecked man ; so utterly to Mr. Pinch's
wonder and confusion, that like the wretched captive who re-
covered his liberty in his old age, he could make but little use
of his enlargement, and fell into a strange kind of flutter for want
of some kind hand to scrape his bread, and cut him oft" in the
article of sugar with a lump, and pay him those other little
attentions to wdiich he was accustomed. There was something
almost awful, too, about the self-possession of the new pupil ; who
" troubled " ^Ir. Pecksniff" for the loaf, and helped himself to a
rasher of that gentleman's own particular and private bacon, with
all the coolness in life. He even seemed to tliink that he was
doing quite a regular thing, and to expect that Mr. Pinch would
follow his example, since he took occasion to observe of that young
man " that he didn't get on : " a speech of so tremendous a char-
acter, that Ton) cast down his eyes involuntarily, and felt as if he
himself had committed some horrible deed and heinous breach of


Mr. Pecksniff's confidence. Indeed, tlie agony of having such an
indiscreet remark adchessed to him before the assembled fiimily,
was breakfast enough in itself, and would, without any other
matter of reflection, have settled Mr. Pinch's business and
quenched his appetite, for one meal, though he had been never
so hungry.

The young ladies, however, and Mr. Pecksniff likewise, remained
in the very best of spirits in spite of tliese severe trials, though
with something of a mysterious understanding among themselves.
When the meal was nearly over, Mr. Pecksniff smilingly explained
the cause of their common satisfaction.

"It is not often," he said, "Martin, that my daughters and I
desert our quiet home to pursue the giddy round of pleasures that
revolves abroad. But we think of doing so to-day."

" Indeed, Sir ! " cried the new pupil.

" Yes," said Mr. Pecksniff, tapping his left hand with a letter
which he held in his right. " I have a summons here to repair to
London ; on professional business, my dear Martin ; strictly on
professional business ; and I promised my girls, long ago, that
whenever that happened again, they should accompany me. We
shall go forth to-night by the heavy coach — like the dove of old,
my dear Martin — and it will be a week before we again deposit
our olive-branches in the passage. When I say olive-branches,"
observed Mr. Pecksniff, in explanation, "I mean, our unpretending

" I hope the young ladies will enjoy their trip," said Martin.

"Oh! that I'm sure we shall!" cried Mercy, clapping her
hands. " Good gracious. Cherry, my darling, the idea of London !"

" Ardent child ! " said Mr. Pecksniff, gazing on her in a dreamy
way. "And yet there is a melancholy sweetness in these youthful
hopes ! It is pleasant to know that they never can be realised.
I remember thinking once myself, in the days of my childhood,
that pickled onions grew on trees, and that every elephant was
born with an impregnal)le castle on his back. I have not found
the fact to be so ; far from it ; and yet those visions have com-
forted me under circumstances of trial. Even when I have had
the anguish of discovering that I have nourished in my breast an
ostrich, and not a human pupil — even in that hour of agony, tliey
have soothed me."

At this dread alhisinn to John Westlock,Mr, Pinch precipitately
choked in his tea ; for he had that very morning received a letter
from him, as Mr. Pecksniff very well knew.

"You will take care, my dear Martin," said Mr. Pecksniff,
resuming his former cheerfulness, "that the house does not run


away in our absence. We leave you in cliart,^c of everything.
There is no mystery ; all is free and open. Unlike the young
man in the Eastern tale — who is described as a one-eyed almanack,
if I am not mistaken, ]\Ir. Pinch ? "

"A one-eyed caleiuler, I think, Sir," faltered Tom.

" They are pretty nearly the same thing, I believe," said ]\lr.

Pecksniff, smiling compassionately ; " or they used to be in my

time. Unlike that young man, my dear Martin, you are forbidden

'j to enter no corner of this house; but are requested to make your-

I self perfectly at home in every part of it. You will be jovial, my

dear ]\Iartin, and will kill the fatted calf if you please ! "

There was not the least objection, doubtless, to the young
man's slaughtering and appropriating to his own use any calf, fat
or lean, that he might happen to find upon the premises ; but as
no such animal chanced at that time to be grazing on Mr. Peck-
sniff's estate, this i-equest must be considered rather as a polite
compliment than a substantial hospitality. It Avas the finishing
ornament of the conversation ; for when he had delivered it, Mr.
Pecksniff' rose, and led the way to that hotbed of architectural
genius, the two-i)air front.

" Let me see," he said, searching among the papers, " how you
can best employ yourself, Martin, while I am absent. Suppose
you "were to give me your idea of a monument to a Lord JMayor of
London; or a tomb for a sheriff; or your notion of a cow-house
to be erected in a noblcnuiu's park. Do you know, now," said
Mr. Pecksnifi' folding his hands, and luoking at his young relation
with an air of pensive interest, " that I should very much like to
see your notion of a cow-house ? "

But ]\Iartin by no means appeared to relish this suggestion.

"A pump," said Mr. Pecksnifi", "is very chaste practice. I
have found that a lamp-post is calculated to refine the mind and
give it a classical tendency. An ornamental turnpike has a
remarkable efi'ect upon the imagination. What do you say to
beginning with an ornamental turnpike ? "

" AVhatever i\Ir. Pecksnifi' pleased," said Martin, doubtfully.

"Stay," said that gentleman, "Come! as you're ambitious,
and are a very neat draughtsman, you shall — ha ha ! — you shall
try your hand on these proposals for a grammar-school : regulating
your plan, of course, by the printed particulars. Upon my word,
now," said ]\Ir. Pecksnifi", merrily, " I shall be very curious to see
what you make of the grammar-school. Who knows but a young
man of your taste might hit upon something, impracticable and
unlikely in itself, but which I could put into shape ? For it really
is, my dear Martin, it really is in the finishing touches alone, that


great experience and long study in these matters tell. Ha, ha,
ha ! Now it really will be," continued Mr. Pecksniff, clapping
his young friend on the back in his droll humour, "an amusement
to me, to see what you make of the grammar-school."

Martin readily undertook this task, and Mv. Pecksniff forthwith
proceeded to entrust him with the materials necessary for its
execution : dwelling meanwhile on the magical effect of a few
finishing touches from the hand of a master ; Avhich, indeed, as
some people said (and these were the old enemies again !) was
unquestionably very surprising, and almost miraculous ; as there
were cases on record in which the masterly introduction of an
additional back window, or a kitchen door, or half-a-dozen steps,
or even a water spout, had made the design of a pupil Mr. Peck-
snift''s own work, and had brought substantial rewards into that
gentleman's pocket. But such is the magic of genius, which
changes all it handles into gold !

"When your mind requires to be refreshed, by change of
occupation," said Mr. Pecksniff, " Thomas Pinch Avill instruct you
in the art of sm-veying the back garden, or in ascertaining the
dead level of the road between this house and the finger-post, or
in any other practical and pleasing pursuit. There are a cartload
of loose bricks, and a score or two of old flower-pots, in the back
yard. If you could pile them up, my dear Martin, into any form
which would remind me on my return — say of St. Peter's at Rome,
or the Mosque of St. Sophia at Constantinople — it would be at once
improving to you and agreeable to my feelings. And now," said
Mr. Pecksniff", in conclusion, "to drop, for the present, our pro-
fessional relations and advert to private matters, I shall be glad
to talk with you in my own room, while I pack up my portmanteau."

Martin attended him ; and they remained in seciet conference
together for an hour or more ; leaving Tom Pinch alone. When
the young man returned, he was very taciturn and dull, in Avhich
state he remained all day ; so that Tom, after trying him once or
twice with indifterent conversation, felt a delicacy in obtruding
liimself upon his thoughts, and said no more.

He would not have had leisure to say much, had his new friend
been ever so loquacious : for first of all Mr. Pecksniff" called him
down to stand upon the top of his portmanteau and represent
ancient statues there, until such time as it would consent to be
locked ; and then Miss Charity called him to come and cord her
trunk ; and then Miss Mercy sent for him to come and mend her
box ; and then he wrote the fullest possible cards for all the
luggage ; and then he voluntered to carry it all down stairs ; and
after that to see it safely carried on a couple of barrows to the old



finger-post at the end of tlie lane ; and then to miiul it till the
coach came up. lu short, his clay's work would have been a
pretty heavy one for a porter, but his thorough good -will made
nothing of it ; and as lie sat upon the luggage at last, waiting
for the Pecksniffs, escorted by the new pupil, to come down the
lane, his heart was light with the hope of having pleased his bene-

"I was almost afraid," saitl Tom, taking a letter from his
pocket, and wiping his face, for he was hot with bustling about
though it was a cold day, " that I shouldn't Imve had time to write
it, and that Mould have been a thousand pities : postage from such
a distance being a serious consideration, wdien one's not rich.
She will be glad to see my hand, poor girl, and to hear that
Pecksniff is as kind as ever. I would have asked John Westlock
to call and see her, and tell her all about me by word of mouth,
but I was afraid he might speak against Pecksniff to her, and
make her uneasy. Besides, they are particular people where she
is, and it might have rendered her situation uncomfortable if she
had had a visit from a young man like John. Poor Ruth ! "

Tom Pinch seemed a little disposed to be melancholy for half a
minute or so, but he found comfort very soon, and i)uisued his
rununations thus :

" I'm a nice man, I don't think, as John used to say (John was
a kind, merry -hearted fellow : I wish he had liked Pecksniff
better), to be feeling low, on account of the distance between us,
when I ought to be thinking, instead, of my extraordinary good-
luck in having ever got here. I must have been born with a silver
spoon in my mouth, I am sure, to have ever come across Pecksniff".
And here have I fallen again into my usual good-luck with the
new pupil ! Such an affable, generous, free fellow, as he is, I
never saw. Why, we were companions directly ! and he a relation
of Pecksniff's too, and a clever, dashing youth who might cut his
way through the world as if it were a cheese ! Here he comes
while the words are on my lips," said Tom: "walking dow-n the
lane as if the lane belonged to hhn."

In truth, tlie new pupil, not at all disconcerted by the honour
of having Miss Mercy Pecksniff on his arm, or by the affectionate
adieu.x of that young lady, approached as Mr. Pinch spoke,
followed by Miss Charity and Mr. Pecksniff. As the coach
appeared at the same moment, Tom lost no time in entreating
the gentleman last mentioned, to undertake the delivery of his

" Oh ! " said j\Ir. Pecksniff, glancing at the superscription.
" For your sister, Thomas. Yes, oh yes, it shall be delivered, ]\Ir.


Pinch. ]\Iake your niiud easy upon that score. She shall
certainly have it, Mr. Pinch."

He made the promise Avith so much condescension and
patronage, that Tom felt he had asked a great deal (this had not
occurred to his mind before), and thanked him earnestly. The
Miss Pecksniffs, according to a custom they had, were amused
beyond desci-iption, at the mention of ]\Ir. Pinch's sister. Oh the
fright ! The bare idea of a IMiss Pinch ! Good heavens !

Tom was greatly pleased to see tliem so merry, for he took it
as a token of their favour, and good-humoured regard. Therefore
he laughed too and rubbed his hands, and wished them a pleasant
journey and safe return, and was quite brisk. Even when the
coach had rolled away with the olive-branches in the boot and the
family of doves inside, he stood waving his hand and bowing : so
much gratified by the unusually courteous demeanour of the young
ladies, that he was quite regardless, for the moment, of Martin
Chuzzlewit, who stood leaning thoughtfully against the finger-post,
and who after disposing of his foir charge had hardly lifted his eyes
from the ground.

The perfect silence which ensued upon the bustle and departure
of the coach, together with the sharp air of the wintry afternoon,
roused them both at the same time. They turned, as by mutual
consent, and moved off", arm-in-arm.

" How melancholy you are ! " said Tom ; " ^hat is the matter 1 "

" Nothing worth speaking of,'' said Martin. " Very little more
than was the matter yesterday, and much more, I hope, tlian will
be the matter to-morrow. Fm out of spirits. Pinch."

"Well," cried Tom, "now do you know I am in capital spirits
to-day, and scarcely ever felt more disposed to be good company.
It was a very kind thing in your predecessor, John, to A^rite to
me, was it not .' "

"AVhy, yes,"' said I\Iartin carelessly: '"I should have thought
he would have had enough to do to enjoy himself, without tliiuking
of you. Pinch."

"Just what I felt to be so very likely," Tom rejoined : "but
no, he keeps liis Avord, and says, * ]\Iy dear Pinch, I often think of
you,' and all sorts of kind and considerate things of that

"He must he a devilish good-natured fellow," said i\Iartin,
somewhat peevishly : " because he can't mean that, you know."

" I don't suppose he can, eh ■? " said Tom, looking wistfully in
his companion's face. "He says so to {jlease me, you think 1"

"Why, is it likely," rejoined Martin, with greater earnestness,
"that a young man newly escaped from this kennel of a place,


aud fresh to all the delights uf being his own master in London,
can have much leisure or iiu-linatiou to think favourably of
anything or anybody he has left behind him here ? I put it to
you, Pineh, is it natural V

After a short retlection, Mr. Pinch replied, in a more subdued
tone, that to be sure it Avas unreasonable to exj^ect any such thing,
and that he had no doubt Martin knew best.

"Of course I know best," Martin observed.

" Yes, I feel that," said Mr. Pinch, mildly. " I said so."
And when he had made this rejoinder, they fell into a blank silence
again, which lasted until they reached home : by which time it
was dark.

Xow, INIiss Charity Pecksnit!", in consideration of the inconveni-
ence of carrying tliem with her in the coach, and the impossibility
of preserving them by artificial means until the family's return,
had set forth, in a couple of plates, the fragments of yesterday's
feast. In virtue of which liberal arrangement, they had the
happiness to find awaiting them in the parlour two chaotic heaps
of the remains of last night's pleasure, consisting of certain filmy
bits of oranges, some mummied sandwiches, various disrupted
masses of the geological cake, and several entire captain's biscuits.
That choice liquor in wdiich to steep these dainties might not be
wanting, the remains of the two bottles of currant wine had
been poured together and corked with a curl-pajjer ; so that every
material was at hand for making quite a heavy night of it.

Martin Chuzzlewit beheld these roystering preparations with
infinite contempt, and stirring the fire into a blaze (to the great
destruction of Mr. Pecksniff's coals), sat moodily down before it,
in the most comfortable chair he could find. That he nu'ght the
better squeeze himself into the small corner that was left for him,
Mr. Pinch took up his position on Miss Mercy Pecksniff's stool, and
setting his glass down upon the hearth-rug and putting his plate
upon his knees, began to enjoy himself.

If Diogenes coming to life again could have rolled himself, tub
and all, into Mr. Pecksniff's parlour, and could have seen Tom
Pinch as lie sat on Mercy Pecksniff's stool, with his plate and
glass before him, he could not have faced it out, though in his
surliest mood, but must have smiled goodtemperedly. The
perfect and entire satisfaction of Tom ; his surpassing appreciation
of the husky sandwiches, which crumi)led in his mouth like
sawdust ; the un-speakable relish with which he swallowed the thin
wine by drops, and smacked his lips, as though it were so rich and
geneious that to lose an atom of its fruity flavour were a sin :
the look with which he paused sometimes, with his glass in his



hand, proposing silent toasts to himself ; and the anxious shade
that came upon his contented face wlien after wandering round the
room, exulting in its uninvaded snugness, his glance encountered
the dull brow of his companion ; no cynic in the world, though in
his hatred of its men a very grittin, could have withstood these
things in Tiiomas Pinch.

Some men would have slapped him on the back, and pledged
him in a bumper of the currant wine, though it had been the
shai-pest vinegar — ay, and liked its flavour too ; some would have
seized him by his honest hand, and thanked him for the lesson'
that his simple nature taught them. Some would have laughedl
with, and others would have laughed at him; of which last class]
was ]\Iartin Chuzzlewit, who, unable to restrain himself at last,
laughed loud and long.

" That's right," said Tom, nodding approvingly. " Cheer up !
That's capital ! "

At which encouragement, young Martin laughed again ; and j
said, as soon as he had breath and gravity enough :

" I never saw such a fellow as you are. Pinch."

"Didn't you though T' said Tom. "Well, it's very likely you
do find me strange, because I have hardly seen anything of the
world, and you have seen a good deal I dare say 1 "

"Pretty Avell for my time of life," rejoined Martin, drawing
his chair still nearer to the fire, and spreading his feet out on the
fender. " Deuce take it, I nmst talk openly to somebody. I'll
talk openly to you, Pinch."

" Do ! " said Tom. " I shall take it as being very friendly of


" Pm not in your way, am 1 1 " inquired JMartin, glancing down
at Mr. Pinch, who was by this time looking at the fii"e over
his leg.

" Not at all ! " cried Tom. ^

" You must know then, to make short of a long story," said
Martin, beginning with a kind of effort, as if the revelation were
not agreeable to him : " that I have been bred up from childhood
with great expectations, and have always been taught to believe
that I should be, one day, very rich. So I should have been, but
for certain brief reasons which I am going to tell you, and which
have led to my being disinherited."

"By your father?" incpiired Mr. Pinch, with ojjen eyes.

" By my grandfather. I have had no parents these many years.
Scarcely within my remembrance."

"Xeither have I," said Tom, touching the young man's hand
with his own and timidly withdrawing it again. " Dear me ! "


"Why as to that you know, Pinch," pursued the other, stirring
tlie fire again, and speaking in his rapid, oft-hand way : "it's all
very right and proper to be fond of parents when we have them,
and to bear tlieni in remembrance after they're dead, if you have
ever known anything, of them. But as I never did know anytliing
about mine personally, you know, why I can't be expected to be
very sentimental about 'em. And I am not : that's the trutli."

Mr. Pinch was just then looking thoughtfully at the bars. But
on his companion i^ausing in this place, he started, and said "Oh !
of course " — and composed himself to listen again.

"In a word," said Martin, "I have been bred and reared all
my life by this grandfather of whom I have just spoken. Now,
he has a great many good ])oints ; there is no doubt about that ;
I'll not disguise the fact from you ; but he has two very great
faults, which are the staple of his bad side. In the first place, he
has the most confirmed obstinacy of character you ever met with
in any human creature. In the second, he is most abominably
• "Is he indeed?" cried Tom.

"In these two respects," returned the other, "there never was
such a man. I have often lieard from those who know, that they
have been, time out of mind, the failings of our family ; and I be-
lieve there's some truth in it. But I can't say of my own know-
ledge. All I have to do, you know, is to be very thankful that
they haven't descended to me, and to be very careful that I don't
contract 'em."

"To be sure," said Mr. Pinch. " Yerj'- proper."

" Well, Sir," resumed Martin, stirring the fire once more, and
drawing his chair still closer to it, " his selfishness makes him
exacting, you see ; and his obstinacy makes him resolute in his
exactions. The consequence is that he has always exacted a great
deal from me in the way of respect, and submission, and self-denial
when his wishes were in question, and so forth. I have borne a
great deal from him, because I have been under obligations to him
(if one can ever be said to be under obligations to one's own grand-
father), and because I have been really attached to him ; but we
have had a great many quarrels for all that, for I could not
accommodate myself to his ways very often — not out of the least

reference to myself you understand, but because " he stammered

here, and was rather at a loss.

Mr. Pinch being about the worst man in the world to help any-
body out of a ditticulty of this sort, said nothing.

"Well! as you understand me," resumed Martin quickly, "I
needn't hunt for the precise expression I want. Kow, I come to


the cream of my stoiy, ami the occasion of my lieiii.Ef here. I am
in love, Pinch."

Mr. Pinch looked np into his face with increased interest.

" I say I am in love. I am in love with one of the most
beautiful girls the sun ever shone upon. But she is wholly and
entirely dependent upon the i^leasure of my grandfather; and if he
were to know that she favoured my passion, siie would lose her
home and every thing she possesses in the world. There is nothing
very selfish in that love, I think ? "

" Selfish ! " cried Tom. " You have acted nobly. To love her
as I am sure you do, and yet in consideration for lier state of
dependence, not even to disclose "

"AVhat are you talking about. Pinch 1" said IMartin i)ettishly :
" don't make yourself ridiculous, my good fellow ! What do you
mean by not disclosing "? "

"I beg your pardon," answered Tom. "I tliought you meant
that, or I wouldn't have said it."

" If I didn't tell her I loved her, where would be the use of my
being in loveT' said Martin: "uidess to keep myself in a per-
petual state of worry and vexation 1 "

" That's true," Tom answered. "Well! I can guess what s/^e
said when you told her," he added, glancing at Martin's handsome

"Why, not exactly. Pinch," he rejoined, with a slight frown:
" because she has some girlish notions about duty and gratitude,
and all the rest of it, which are rather hard to fathom ; but in the
main you are right. Her heart was mine, I found."

"Just what I supposed," said Tom. "Quite natural !" and,
in his great satisfaction, he took a long sip out of his wine-glass.

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 11 of 80)