Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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coach at the end of the lane, they found it empty, which wa.s a



great comfort ; partieularly as the outside was quite full and the
passengers looked very frosty. For as Mr. Pecksniff justly observed
— -when he and his daughters had burrowed their feet deep in the
straw, wrapped themselves to the chin, and pulled up both
windows — it is always satisfactory to feel, in keen weather, that
many other people are not as warm as you are. And this, he said,
was quite natural, and a very beautiful arrangement ; not confined
to coaches, but extending itself into many social ramifications.
" For " (he observed), " if every one were warm and well-fed, we
should lose the satisfaction of admiring the fortitude with which
certain conditions of men bear cold and hunger. And if we were
no better oft" than anybody else, what would become of our sense of
gratitude; which," said Mr. Pecksniff with tears in his eyes, as he
shook his fist at a beggar who wanted to get up behind, "is one of .
the holiest feelings of our common nature."

His children heard with becoming reference these moral precepts
from the lips of their father, and signified their acquiescence in the
same, by smiles. That he might the better feed and cherish that
sacred flame of gratitude in his breast, ]Mr. Pecksniff" remarked that
he would trouble his eldest daughter, even in this early stage of
their journey, for the brandy-bottle. And from the narrow neck of
that stone vessel, he imbibed a copious refreshment.

"What are weV said Mr. Pecksnift", "but coaches'? Some of
us are slow coaches " —

" Goodness, Pa ! " cried Charity.

" Some of us, I say," resumed her parent with increased em-
phasis, " are slow coaches ; some of us are fast coaches. Our
I)assions are the horses ; and rampant animals too ! " — ■

" Really, Pa ! " cried both the daughters at once. " How very ,

"And rampant animals too!" repeated IMr. Pecksnift", with so
much determination, that he may be said to have exhibited, at the ;
moment, a sort of moral rampancy himself : "and Virtue is the ,
drag. We start from The J\[other's Arms, and we run to The Dust
Shovel." ■

AVhen he had said this, ]\Ir. Pecksniff, being exhausted, took
some further refreshment. When he had done that, he corked the 1
bottle tight, with the air of a man who had effectually corked the :
subject also ; and went to sleep for three stages.
^' The tendency of mankind when it falls asleep in coaches, is to '
wake up cross ; to find its legs in its way ; and its corns an i
aggravation. Mr. Pecksnift" not being exempt fronr the common ■
lot of humanity, found himself, at the end of his nap, so decidedly
the victim of these infirmities, that he had an irresistible inclination ■

MAirrix cHuzzLKwrr. iir>

to visit them upon liis daughters ; wliirii he iiad already begun to
do iu the shape of divers random kicks, and other unexpected
motions of his slioes, when the coaeli stopped, and after a short
delaj', tlie door was opened.

"Now mind,"' sai(l a tliin sharp voice in the dark. " I and my
son go inside, because the roof is full, but you agree only to cliarge
us outside prices. It's quite untlerstood that we won't pay
more. Is it 1 "

"All right. Sir,"' rejJied the guard.

" Is tliere anybody inside now 1 " inquired the voice.

"Three passengers," returned the guard.

" Then I ask the three passengers to witness this bargain, if
they will be so good," said the voice. " IMy boy, I think we may
safely get in."

In pursuance of which opinion, two people took their scats in
the vehicle, which was solemnly licensed by Act of Parliament to
carry any six persons who could be got in at the door.

"That was lucky !" whispered the old man, when they moved
on again. "And a great stroke of policy in you to observe it.
He, he, he ! We couldn't have gone outside. I should have died
of the rheumatism ! "

"Whether it occurred to the dutiful son that he had in some
degree over-reached himself by contributing to the prolongation of
his father's days ; or whether the cold had affected his temper ; is
doubtful. But he gave his father such a nudge in reply, that that
good old gentleman was taken with a cough which lasted for full five
minutes, without intermission, and goaded Mr. Pecksniti" to that
pitch of irritation, that he said at last — and very suddenly —

"There is no room ! There is really no room in tliis coach for
any gentleman with a cold in his head ! "'

" Mine," said the ohl man, after a moment's pause, " is \ipon
my chest, Pecksnitf."

The voice and manner, together, now that he spoke out ; the
composure of the speaker ; the presence of his son : and his
knowledge of Mr. Pecksnitf; afforded a clue to his identity which
it was impossible to mistake.

" Hem ! I thought," said Mr. Pecksniff, returning to his usual
mildness, " that I addressed a stranger. I find that I address a
relative. Mr. Anthony Chuzzlewit and his son Mr. Jonas — for
they, my dear children, are our travelling companions— will excuse
me for an apparently harsh remark. It is not m>/ desire to wound
the feelings of any person with whom I am connected in family
bonds. I may be a Hypocrite," said Mr. Pecksniff, cuttingly,
"but I am not a Brute."


"Pooli, pooh !" said the old man. "What sigiiities that word,
Pecksnitf ? Hypocrite ! why, we are all hypocrites. We were all
hypocrites t'other day. I am sure I felt that to be agreed upon
among us, or I shouldn't have called you one. We should not
have been there at all, if we had not been hypocrites. Tlie only
difference between you and the rest was — shall I tell you the differ-
ence between you and tlie rest now, Pecksniff?"

" If you please, my good Sir ; if you please."

" Why, the annoying quality in you, is," said the old man,
" that you never have a confederate or partner in your juggling ;
you would deceive everybody, even those who practise the same
art ; and have a way with you, as if you — he, he, he ! — as if you
really believed yourself I'd lay a handsome wager now," said the
old man, "if I laid Avagers, which I don't and never did, that you
keep up appearances by a tacit understanding, even before your
own daughters here. Now I, when I have a business scheme in
hand, tell Jonas what it is, and we discuss it openly. You're not
offended, Pecksniff?"

"Offended, my good Sir!" cried that gentleman, as if he had
received the highest compliments that language could convey.
-J " Are you travelling to London, Mr. Pecksniff' 1 " asked the son.

" Yes, Mr. Jonas, we are travelling to London. We shall have
the pleasure of your company all the way, I trust % "

" Oh ! ecod, you had better ask Mher that," said Jonas.
"I am not a going to commit myself

Mr. Pecksniff was, as a matter of course, greatly entertained by
this retort. His mirtli having subsided, Mr. Jonas gave him to
understand that himself and parent were in fact travelling to
their home in the metropolis : and that, since the memorable day
of the great family gathering, they had been tarrying in that part
of the country, watching the sale of certain eligible investments,
which they had had in their copartnership eye when they came
down ; for it was their custom, Mr. Jonas said, Avhenever such a
thing was practicable, to kill two birds with one stone, and never
to throw away sprats, but as bait for whales. When he had
communicated, to Mr. Pecksniff, these pithy scraps of intelligence,
he said " That if it was all the same to him, he would turn him
over to ftither, and have a chat with the gals ; " and in furtherance
of this polite scheme, he vacated his seat adjoining that gentleman,
and established himself in the opposite corner, next to the fair
Miss Mercy.

The education of Mr. Jonas had been conducted from his cradle

n the strictest principles of the main chance. The very first

Word he learnt to spell was "gain," and the second (when he got


into tAvo syllables), " mouey.'' But for two results, which were

I not clearly foreseen perhaps by his watchful parent in the begin-

i ning, his training may be said to have been unexceptionable. One

I of these flaws was, tliat having been long taught by his father to

j over-reach everybody, he had imperceptibly acquired a love of over-

j reaching that venerable monitor himself. The other, that from his

early habits of considering everything as a question of property, he

had gradually come to look, with imjxatience, on his parent as a

certain amount of personal estate, which had no riglit whatever to

be going at large, but ought to be secured in that particular

description of iron safe which is commonly called a coffin, and

banked in the grave.

"Well, cousin!'' said Mr. Jonas — "Because we arc cousins,
you know, a few times removed — so you're going to London ? "

Miss IMercy replied in the aflirmative, pinching her sister's arm
at the same time, and giggling excessively.

" Lots of beaux in London, cousin ! " said Mr. Jonas, slightly
advancing his elbow.

" Lideed, Sir ! " cried the young lady. " They won't hurt us.
Sir, I dare say." And having given him this answer with great
demureness, she was so overcome by her own humour, that she
was fain to stifle her merriment in her sister's shawl.

"Merry," cried that more prudent damsel, "really I am
ashamed of you. How can you go on so ? You wild thing ! "
At wliich ]\Iiss Merry only laughed the more, of course.

" I saw- a wiklness in her eye, t'other day," said Mr. Jonas,
addressing Charity. " But you're the one to sit solemn ! I say —
you were regidarly prim, cousin ! "

" Oh ! The old-feshioned fright ! " cried Merry, in a whisper.
" Cherry, my dear, upon my word you must sit next him. I sliall
die outi-ight if he talks to me any more ; I shall positively ! " To
prevent which fatal consequence, the buoyant creature skipped out
of her seat as she spoke, and squeezed her sister into the place
from which slie had risen.

"Don't mind crowding me," cried Mr. Jonas. "I like to be
crowded by gals. Come a little closer, cousin."

" No, thank you, Sir," said Charity.

"There's that other one a laughing again," said Mr. Jonas;
" she's a laughing at my father, I shouldn't wonder. If he puts
on that old flannel nightcap of his, I don't know what she'll do !
Is tliat my father a snoring, Pecksnift'?"

" Yes, Mr. Jonas."

"Tread upon his foot, will you be so good?" said the young
gentleman. "The foot next you's the gouty one."'


Mr. Pecksiiitt' hesitating to perforin this friendly office, Mr.
Jonas did it himself; at the same time crying —

" Come, wake up, father, or you'll be having the nightmare, and
screecliing out, / know. — Do you ever have tlie nightmare,
cousin ? " he asked his neighbour, with characteristic gallantry, as
he dropped his voice again.

"Sometimes," answered Charity. "Not often.''

"The other one," said Mr. Jonas, after a jmuse. "Does she
ever have the nightmare ? "

"I don't know," replied Charity. "You had better ask her."

"She laughs so;" said Jonas; "there's no talking to her.
Only hark how she's a going on now ! You're the sensible one,
cousin ! "

" Tut, tut ! " cried Charity.

" Oh ! But you are ! You know you are ! "

"Mercy is a little giddy," said Miss Charity. "But she'll
sober down in time."

"It'll be a very long time, then, if she does at all," rejoined
her cousin. " Take a little more room."

" I am afraid of crowding you,'S(said Charity. But she took it
notwithstanding ; and after one or two remarks on the extreme
heaviness of the coach, and the number of places it stopped at,
they fell into a silence which remained unbroken by any member
of the party until supper-time.

Although Mr. Jonas conducted Charity to the hotel and sat

himself beside her at the board, it was pretty clear that he had

an eye to "the other one" also, for he often glanced across at

Mercy, and seemed to draw comparisons between the personal

appearance of the two, which were not unfavourable to the

superior plumpness of the younger sister. He allowed himself no

great leisure for this kind of observation, however, being busily

^ngaged with the supper, which, as he whispered in his fair

' companion's ear, was a contract business, and therefore the more

- she ate, the better the bargain was. His father and Mr. Pecksniff,

probably acting on the same wise principle, demolished everything

that came within their reach, and by that means accpured a

greasy expression of countenance, indicating contentment, if not

re2)letion, which it was very pleasant to contemplate.

When they could eat no more, Mr. Pecksniff and Mr. Jonas

subscribed for two sixpennyworths of hot brandy-and-water, which

the latter gentleman considered a more politic order than one

shillingsworth ; there being a chance of their getting more spirit

I out of the innkeeper under this arrangement than if it were all in

li one glass. Having swallowed his share of the enlivening fluid,


'II Mr. Pecksniff, under pretence uf going to
' ready, -went secretly to the bar, and had his

I ant
I (

see if tlie coacii were
own little bottle filled,
ill order that he might refresh himself at leisure in the dark coacli
without being observed.

These arrangements concluded, and the coach being ready,
they got into their old places and jogged on again. But before he
composed himself fur a nap, Mr. Pecksniff delivered a kind of grace
after meat, in these words :

The process of digestion, as I have been infurmed by
anatomical friends, is one of the most wonderful works of nature.
do not know how it may be with others, but it is a great
satisfaction to me to know, when regaling on my humble fare, that
I .am putting in motion the most beautiful machinery with which
we have any acquaintance. I really feel at such times as if I w^as
doing a jjublic service. When I have wound myself up, if I may
employ such a term," said Mr. Pecksniff" ^\•ith excpiisite tenderness,
"and know that I am Going, I feel that in the lesson afforded
by the Avorks within me, I am a Benefactor to my Kind ! "

As nothing could be added to this, nothing was said ; and ]\[r.
Pecksniff" e.^ulting, it may be presumed, in his moral utility, went
to sleep again.

The rest of the night wore aM-ay in the usual manner. Mv.
Pecksniff and old Anthony kept tumbling against each other and
waking up much territied ; or crushed their heads in opposite corners
of the coach and strangely tattooed the surfoce of their ftices — Heaven
knows how — in their sleep. The coach stopped and went on, and
went on and stopped, times out of number. Passengers got up and
passengere got down, and fresh horses came and went and came
again, with scarcely any interval between each team as it seemed
to those who were dozing, and with a gap of a whole night between
every one as it seemed to those who were broad awake. At length
they began to jolt and rumble over horribly uneven stones, and Mr.
Pecksniff looking out of window said it was to-morrow mnrning,
and they were theie.

Veiy soon afterwards the coach stopped at the office in the
City ; and the street in which it was situated was already in a
bustle, that fully bore out Mr. Pecksniff''s words about its being
morning, though for any signs of day yet appearing in the sky it
might have been midnight. There was a dense fog too — as if it
were a city in the clouds, which they had been travelling to all
night up a magic beanstalk — and a thick crust upon the pavement
like oil-cake; which, one of the outsides (mad, no doubt) said to
another (his keeper, of course), was snow.

Taking a confused leave of Anthony and iiis sun, and leaving the


luggage of liimself and daughters at the office to be called for
afterwards, Mr. Pecksniff, with one of the young ladies under each
arm, dived across the street, and then across other streets, and so
up the queerest courts, and down the sti-angest alleys and under the
blindest archways, in a kind of frenzy : now skipping over a
kennel, now running for his life from a coach and horses ; now
thinking he had lost his way, now thinking he had found it ; now
in a state of the highest confidence, now despondent to the last
degree, but always in a great perspiration and flurry ; until
at length they stopped in a kind of paved yard near the
Monument. That is to say, ]\Ir. Pecksniff told them so ; for as
to anything they could see of the jMonument, or anything else but
the buildings close at hand, they might as well have been playing
blindman's buff at Salisbuiy.

]\Ir. Pecksniff looked about him for a moment, and then
knocked at the door of a very dingy edifice, even among the choice
collection of dingy edifices at hand ; on the front of which Avas a
little oval board like a tea-tray, with this inscription — " Commercial
Boarding-House. M. Todgers."

It seemed that M. Todgers was not up yet, for Mr. Pecksniff
knocked twice and rang thrice, without making any impression on
anything but a dog over the way. At last a chain and some bolts
were withdrawn Avitli a rusty noise, as if the weather had made
the very fastenings hoarse, and a small boy witli a large red head,
and no nose to speak of, and a very dirty Wellington boot on his
left arm, appeared ; who (being surpi-ised) rubbed the nose just
mentioned with the back of his shoe-brush, and said nothing.

" Still a-bed, my man 1 " asked Mr. Pecksniff.

"Still a-bed ! " replied the boy. "I wish they wos still a-bed.
They're very noisy a-bed ; all calling for their boots at once. I
thought you was the Paper, and wondered why you didn't shove
yourself through the grating as usual. What do you Avanf?"

Considering his years, which were tender, the youtii may be
said to have preferred this question sternly, and in something of a
defiant manner. Put Mr. Pccksnifi', Avithout taking umbrage at
his bearing, j)ut a card in his hand, and bade him take that up-
stairs, and show them in the meanwhile into a room where there
was a fire.

"Or if there's one in the eating parlour," said Mr. Pecksnift",
" I can find it myself." So he led his daugliters, without waiting
for any further introduction, into a room on the ground-fioor, where
a table-cloth (rather a tight and scanty fit in reference to the table
it covered) was already spread for breakfast : displaying a mighty
dish of pink boiled beef; an instance of that particular style of


loaf ■\vhith is known to liousekeepers as a sluck-bakod, i-niiiuiiy
quartern; a liberal ])rovi.sion of cups and saucers; and the usual

Inside the fender uere some half-dozen pairs of shoes and boots,
of various sizes, just cleaned and turned with the soles uj)wards to
dry ; and a p)air of short black gaiters, on one of which was chalked
— in sport, it would appear, by some gentleman who had slipped
down for the jiurpose, pending his toilet, and gone up again —
"Jinkins's Particular," wiiile the other exhibited a sketch in
l^rofile, claiming to be the portrait of Jiukins himself.

M. Todgers's Commercial Boarding-House was a house of that
sort which is likely to be dark at any time ; but that morning it
was especially dark. There was an odd smell in the passage, as
if the concentrated essence of all the dinners that had been cooked
in the kitchen since the house was built, lingered at the top of the
kitchen stairs to that hour, and, like the Black Fiiar in Don Jmm,
"wouldn't be driven away." In particular, there was a sensation
of cabbage ; as if all the greens that had ever been boiled there,
were evergreens, and flourished in immortal strength. The jiarloiu'
was wainscoted, and commvmicated to strangers a magnetic and
instinctive consciousness of rats and mice. The staircase was very
gloomy and very broad, with balustrades so thick and heavy that
they would have served for a bi'idge. In a sombre corner on the
first landing, stood a gruff old giant of a clock, with a preposterous
coronet of three lirass balls on his head ; Avhom few had ever seen
— none ever looked in the face — and who seemed to continue his
heavy tick for no other reason than to w\arn heedless people from
nmning into him accidentally. It had not been papered or painted,
hadn't Todgers's, within the memory of man. It was very black,
begrimed, and mouldy. And, at the top of the staircase, Avas an
old, disjointed, rickety, ill-favoured skylight, patched and mended
in all kinds of ways, which looked distrustfully down at every-
thing that passed below, and covered Todgers's up as if it were
a sort of human cucumber-frame, and only people of a jiecidiar
growth were reared there.

Mr. Pecksniff and his fair daughters had not stood warming
themselves at the fire ten minutes, when the sound of feet w^as
heard upon the stairs, and the presiding deity of the establishment
came hurrying in.

M. Todgers was a lady, lather a bony and hard-featured lady,
with a row of curls in front of her head, sliapcd like little banels
of beer; and on the top of it sometliing made of net— you coiddn't
call it a cap exactly — which looked like a black cobweb. She
had a little basket on her arm, and in it a bunch of keys that


jingled as she came. In lier other hand she bore a llaniing- tallow
candle, which, after surveying Mr. Pecksniff for one instant by its
light, she put down upon the table, to the end that she might
receive him with the greater cordiality.

"Mr. Pecksniff," cried Mrs. Todgers. "Welcome to London!
Who would have thought of such a visit as this, after so — dear,
dear ! — so many years ! How do you do, Mr. Pecksniff T'

"As well as ever; and as glad to see you, as ever;" Mr.
Pecksniff made response. " Why, you are younger than you used
to be ! "

" You are, I am sure ! " said Mrs. Todgers. " You're not a
bit changed."

" What do you say to this 1 " cried Mr. Pecksniff, stretching
out his hand towards tlie young ladies. " Does this make me no

" Not your daughters ! " exclaimed the lady, raising her hands
and clasping them. "Oh, no, Mr. Pecksniff! Your second, and
her bridesmaid ! "

Mr. Pecksniff" smiled complacently ; shook liis head ; and said,
" My daughters, ]\Irs. Todgers : merely my daughters."

"Ah !" sighed the good lady, "I must believe you, for now I
look at 'em I think I should have known 'em anywhere. My
dear Miss Pecksniffs, how happy your Pa has made me ! "

She hugged them both ; and being by this time overjjowered
by her feelings or the inclemency of the morning, jerked a little
pocket-handkerchief out of the little basket, and applied the same
to her face.

"Now, my good madam," said Mr. Pecksniff, "I know the
rules of your establishment, and that you only receive gentlemen
boarders. But it occurred to me, when I left home, that perhaps
you would give my daughters house-room, and make an exception
in their favour."

"Perhaps?" cried Mrs. Todgers ecstatically. "Perhaps?"

"I may say then, that I was sure you would," said Mr. Peck-
sniff". " I know that you have a little room of your own, and that
they can be comfortable there, without appearing at the general

"Dear girls!" said Mrs. Todgers. "I must take that liberty
once more."

Mrs. Todgers meant by this that she nuist embrace them once
more, wliich she accordingly did, Avith great ardour. But the
truth was, that, the house being full with the exception of one
bed, which would now l>e occu)}icd by Mr. Pecksniff, she wanted
time for consideration : and so nuich time too (for it was a knotty


jioiiit how to dispose of tlicin), that even when this secoud nubiace
was over, she stood for some moments gaziuy at the sisters, witli
att'eetion beaming in one eye, and calcuhition sliining out of the

" I think I know how to arrange it," said Mrs. Todgers, at
length. " A sofa bedstead in the little third room which opens from
my own parlour — Oh, you dear girls ! "

Thereupon she embraced them once more, observing that she
could not decide which was most like their ])Oor mother (which
was highly probable : seeing that she had never beheld that lady),
but that she rather thouglit the youngest was ; and then she said
that as the gentlemen would be down directly, and the ladies were
fatigued Avith travelling, would they step into her room at once 1

It was on the same floor ; being, in fact, the back parlour • and
had, as Mrs. Todgers said, the great advantage {in London) of not
being overlooked ; as they Avould see when the fog cleared off.

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 14 of 80)