Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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Nor was this a A'aiii-glorious boast, for it commanded at a per-
spective of two feet, a brown wall with a black cistern on the top.
The sleeping apartment designed for the young ladies was
approached from this chamber by a mightily convenient little door,
which would only open when fallen against by a strong person.
It commanded from a similar point of sight another angle of the
wall, and another side of the cistern. " Not the damp side," said
Mrs. Todgers. " That is Mr. Jinkins's."

In the first of these sanctuaries a fire was speedily kindled by
the youthful porter, who, Avhistling at his work in tlie absence of
Mrs. Todgers (not to mention his sketching figures on his corduroys
witii burnt firewood), and being afterwards taken by that lady in
the fact, was dismissed with a box on his ears. Having prepared
breakfast for the young ladies with her own hands, she withdrew
to preside in the other room ; where the joke at Mr. Jinkins's
expense, seemed to be proceeding rather noisily.

"I Won't ask you yet, my dears," said Mr. Pecksnilf, looking
in at the door, "how you like London. Shall 11"

" We haven't seen much of it. Pa ! " cried ]\Ierry.

"Nothing, I hope," said Cherry. (Both very miserably.)

"Indeed," said Mr. Pecksnift", "that's true. We have our
pleasure, and our business too, before us. All in good time. All
iu good time ! "

W^hether Mr. Pecksnifl''s business in London was as strictly
profes-sional as he had given his new pupil to understand, we shall
see, to adopt that worthy man's phraseology, "all in good time."




Surely there never was, iu any other borough, city, or hamlet
in the world, such a singular sort of a place as Todgers's. And
surely London, to judge from that i^art of it which hemmed
Todgers's round, and hustled it, and crushed it, and stuck its
brick-and-mortar elbows into it, and kept the air from it, and stood
perpetually between it and the light, was worthy of Todgers's, and
qualified to be on terms of close relationship and alliance with
hundreds and thousands of the odd family to Avhich Todgers's

You couldn't walk about in Todgers's neighbourhood, as you
coidd in any other neighbourhood. You groped your way for an
hour through lanes and bye-ways, and comi-yards and passages ;
and never once emerged upon anything that might be reasonably
called a street. A kind of resigned distraction came over the
stranger as he trod those devious mazes, and, giving himself up
for lost, went in and out and round about, and quietly turned
back again when he came to a dead wall or was stopped by an iron
railing, and felt that the means of escape might possibly present
themselves in their own good time, but that to anticipate them
was hopeless. Instances were known of people who, being asked
to dine at Todgers's, had travelled round and round it for a weary
time, Avith its very chimney-pots in view ; and finding it, at last,
impossible of attainment., had gone home again with a gentle
melancholy on their spirits, tranquil and uncomplaining. Nobody
had ever found Todgers's on a verbal direction, though given within
a minute's walk of it. Cautious emigrants from Scotland or the
North of England had been known to reach it safely by impressing
a charity-boy, town-bred, and bringing him along with them ; or
by clinging tenaciously to the postman ; but these were rare ex-
ceptions, and only Avent to prove the rule that Todgers's was in a
labyrinth, whereof the mystery was known but to a chosen few.

Several fruit-brokers had their marts near Todgers's ; and one of
the first impressions wrought upon the stranger's senses was of
oranges — of damaged oranges, with blue and green bruises on them,
festering in boxes, or mouldering awny in cellars. All day long, a
stream of porters from the wharves beside the river, each bearing
on his back a bursting cliest.of oranges, poured slowly through
the narrow ]jassages ; while underneath the archway by the public-



hduse, tlic knuts of those who rostod and ic.naliMl within, were pilcil
fivmi morning tnitil night. Stange solitary i)uniiis were tbnnd near
Tinlgers's, hiding tlieniselves for tlie most part in blind alloys, and
keeping company with tircdadders. There were churches also by
iln/.eus, with many a ghostly little clnirchyard, all overgrown witli
su.h straggling vegetation as springs up spontaneously from damii,
and graves, and rubbish. In some of these dingy resting-places,
wiiich bore much the same analogy to green churchyards, as the
pots of earth for mignonette and wall-flower in the windows over-
1. Miking them, did to rustic gardens, there were trees; tall trees;
still putting forth their leaves in each succeeding year, with such
a languishing remembrance of their kind (so one might fancy,
looking on their sickly boughs) as birds in cages have of theirs.
Here, jxiralysed old -svatchmen guarded the bodies of the dead at
night, year after year, until at last they joined that solemn
brotherhood ; and, saving that they slept below the ground a
Bounder sleep than even they had ever known above it, and were
shut up in another kind of box, their condition can hardly l)e said
to have undergone any material change when they, in turn, were
watched themselves.

Among the narrow thoroughfares at hand, there lingered, here
and there, an ancient doorway of carved oak, from wdiich, of old,
the sounds of revelry and feasting often came ; but now these
mansions, only used for storehouses, were dark and dull, and,
being filled with wool, and cotton, and the like — such heavy mer-
chandise as stifles sound and stiijjs tlie throat of echo — had an air
of palpable deadness about them which, added to their silence and
desertion, made them very grim. In like manner, there were
gloomy court-yards in these parts, into wdiich few but belated
wayfarers ever strayed, and where vast bags and packs of goods,
upward or downward bound, were for ever dangling between
heaven and earth from lofty cranes. There were more trucks near
Todgers's than you M'ould suppose a whole city could ever need ;
not active trucks, but a vagabond race, for ever lounging in the
narrow lanes before their masters' doors and stopping up the i)ass ;
so that wdien a stray hackney-coach or lumbering waggon came
that way, they were the cause of such an uproar as enlivened the
whole neighbourhood, and made the very bells in the next church-
tower vibrate again. In the throats and maw^s of dark no-thorough-
fares near Todgers's, individual wine-merchants and wholesale dealers
in grocery-ware had perfect little towns of their own ; and, deep
among the very foundations of these buildings, the ground was
undermined and burrowed out into stables, where cart-horses,
troubled by rats, might be heard on a (^uict Sunday rattling their


halters, as disturbed sjiirits in tales of haunted houses are said to
clank their chains.

To tell of half the queer old taverns that had a drowsj' and
secret existence near Todgers's, would fill a goodly book ; while a
second volume no less capacious might be devoted to an account of
the quaint olil guests who frequented their dimly-lighted parlours.
These were, in general, ancient inhabitants of that region ; born,
and bred there from boyhood ; who had long since become wheezy
and asthmatical, and short of breath, except in the article of story-
telling : in which respect they were still marvellously long-winded.
These gentry were much opposed to steam and all new-fangled
ways, and held ballooning to be sinful, and deplored the degeneracy
of the times ; which that particular member of each little club
who kept the keys of the nearest church, professionally, always
attributed to the prevalence of dissent and irreligion ; though the
major part of the company inclined to the belief that virtue went
out with hair-powder, and that Old England's greatnes.s had
decayed amain with barbers.

As to Todgers's itself — .speaking of it only as a house in that
neighbourhood, and making no reference to its merits as a com-
mercial boarding establishment — it was worthy to stand where it
did. There was one staircase-window in it : at the side of the
house, on the ground-floor : which tradition said had not been
opened for a hundred years at least, and which, abutting on an
always dirty lane, was so begrimed and coated with a century's mud,
that no one pane of glass could possibly fall out, though all were
cracked and broken twenty times. But the grand mystery of
Todgers's was the cellarage, approachable only by a little back
door and a rusty grating : which cellarage within the memory of
man had had no connexion with the house, but had always been
the freehold property of somebody else, and was reported to be
full of wealth : though in what shape — whether in silver, brass,
or gold, or butts of wine, or casks of gunpowder — was matter of
profound uncertainty and supreme indifference to Todgers's, and all
its inmates.

The top of the house was worthy of notice. There was a sort
of terrace on the roof, Avith posts and fragments of rotten lines,
once intended to dry clothes upon ; and there were two or three
tea-chests out there, full of earth, with forgotten plants in them,
like old walking-sticks. Whoever climbed to this observatory,
was stunned at first from having knocked his head against the
little door in coming out ; and after that, was for the moment
choked from having looked, perforce, straight down the kitchen
chimney : but these two stages over, there were things to gaze at


froiu the top of Todgers's, well worth your .seeing too. For lirst
ami foremost, if the clay were briglit, you observed upou the
liouse-tops, stretching far away, a long dark path : the shadow of
the JNIonument : and turning round, the tall original was close
heside you, with every hair erect upon his golden head, as if the
doings of the city frightened him. Then there were steeples,
t'lwers, belfries, shining vanes, and masts of shii^s : a very forest,
(iables, housetops, garret-windows, wilderness upon wilderness.
Smoke and noise enougli for all the world at once.

After the first glance, there were slight features in the midst
I'f this crowd of objects, which sprang out from the mass without
any reason, as it were, and took hold of the attention whether the
spectator would or no. Thus, the revolving chimney-pots on one
-reat stack of buildings, seemed to be turning gravely to each
other every now and then, and whispering the result of their
separate observation of what was going on below. Others, of a
crook-backed shape, appeared to be maliciously holding themselves
askew, that they might shut the prospect out and baffle Todgers's.
Tlie man who was mending a pen at an up2:)er window over the
way, became of paramount importance in the scene, and made a
blank in it, ridiculously disproportionate in its extent, when he
retired. The gambols of a piece of cloth upon the dyer's pole
had far more interest for the moment than all the changing motion
of the crowd. Yet even while the looker-on felt angry with him-
self for this, and wondered how it was, the tumult swelled into a
roar ; the host of objects seemed to thicken and expand a hundred-
fold ; and after gazing round him, cpiite scared, he turned into
Todgers's again, much more rapidly than he came out ; and ten to
one he told M. Todgers afterwards that if he hadn't done so, he
wouhl certaiidy have come into the street by the shortest cut :
that is to say, headforemost.

So said the two Miss Pecksniffs, when they retired with Mrs.
Todgers from this place of espial, leaving the youthful porter to
lose the dour and follow them down stairs : who being of a playful
;>iiiperament, and conterajilating with a delight peculiar to his
MX and time of life, any chance of dashing himself into small
fragments, lingered behind to walk upon the parapet.

It being the second day of their stay in London, the Miss
Pecksnirts and Mrs. Todgers were by this time highly confidential,
insomuch that the last-named lady had already comnnmicatcd the
jiarticulars of three early disajjpointments of a tender natin-e ; and
liad furthermore possessed her young friends with a general
summary of tlie life, comluct, and character of !^[r. Todgers : who,
it seemed, had rut liis matrimonial career rather short, by unlaw-


fully running away from his haiDpiness, and establishing liirasclf in
foreign countries as a bachelor.

"Your pa was once a little particular in his attentions, my
dears," said Mrs. Todgers : "but to be your ma was too nuich
happiness denied me. You'd hardly know who this was done for,
perhaps 1 ''

She called their attention to an oval miniature, like a little
blister, which was tacked up over the kettle-holder, and in which
there was a dreamy shadowing forth of her own visage.

" It's a speaking likeness ! " cried the two Miss Pecksniffs.

" It was considered so once," said Mrs. Todgers, warming
herself in a gentlemanly manner at the fire : " but I hardly
thought you would have known it, my loves."

They would have known it anywhere. If they could have met
with it in the street, or seen it in a shop window, they Avould have
cried : " Grood gracious ! ]\Irs. Todgers ! "

" Presiding over an establishment like this, makes sad havoc
with the features, my dear Miss Pecksnifts," said Mrs. Todgers.
" The gravy alone, is enough to add twenty years to one's age, T
do assure you."

" Lor ! " cried the two Miss Pecksniffs.

"Tlie anxiety of that one item, my dears," said Mrs. Todgers,
" keeps the mind continually upon the stretch. There is no such
passion in human nature, as the passion for gravy among com-
mercial gentlemen. It's nothing to say a joint won't yield — a
whole animal wouldn't yield — the amount of gravy they expect
each day at dinner. And what I have undergone in consequence,"
cried Mrs. Todgers, raising her eyes and shaking her head, "no
one would believe ! "

"Just like Mr. Pinch, Merry!" said C'iiarity. "We have
always noticed it in him, you remember '\ "

"Yes, my dear," giggled Merry, "but we have never given it
him, you know."

"You, my dears, having to deal with your pa's pupils who
can't help themselves, are able to take your own way," said Mrs.
Todgers, " but in a commercial establishuient, where any gentleman
may say, any Saturday evening, ' Mrs. Todgers, this day week ^\ e
part, in consequence of the cheese,' it is not so easy to preserve a
pleasant understanding. Your pa was kind enough," added the
good lady, " to invite me to take a ride with you to-day ; and I
think he mentioned that you were going to call upon Miss Pinch.
Any relation to the gentleman you were sjieaking of just now.
Miss Pecksniff r'

" For goodness sake, Mrs. Todgers," interposed the lively


Merry, "don't call him a gentleman. My dear Cherry, Pinch a
gentleman ! The idea ! ''

" "What a wicked girl you are ! " cried I\Irs. Todgers, embracing
her with great affection. " You are ciuite a quiz I do declare !
My dear Miss Pecksniff, what a happiness your sister's spirits
must be to your pn and self ! "

" He's the most hideous, goggle-eyed creature, ]\Irs. Todgers,
in existence," resumed Merry : " quite an ogre. The ugliest,
awkwardest, fiightfullest being, you can imagine. This is his sister,
so I leave you to suppose what she is. I shall be obliged to laugh
outright, I know I shall ! " cried the charming girl, " I never shall
be able to keep my countenance. The notion of a Miss Pinch
presuming to exist at all is sufficient to kill one, but to see her —
oh my stars ! "

Mrs. Todgers laughed immensely at the dear love's humour,
and declared she -svas quite afraid of her, that she was. She was
so very severe.

" Who is severe 1 " cried a voice at the door. " There is no
such thing as severity in our family, I hope ! " And then Mr.
Pecksniff peeped smilingly into the room, and said, " May I come
in, Jlrs. Todgers 1 "

Mrs. Todgers almost screamed, for the little door of communica-
tion between that room and the inner one being wide open, there
was a full disclosure of the sofa bedstead in all its monstrous
impropriety. But she had the presence of mind to close this
portal in the twinkling of an eye ; and having done so, said,
though not without confusion, " Oh yes, Mr. Pecksniff, you can
come in, if you please."

"How are we to-day," said Mr. Pecksniff, jocosely; "and
what are our plans 1 Are we ready to go and see Tom Pinch's
sister 1 Ha, ha, ha ! Poor Thomas Pinch ! "

" Are we ready," returned Mrs. Todgers, nodding her head
with mysterious intelligence, " to send a favourable reply to Sir.
Jinkins's round-robin 1 That's the first question, Mr. Pecksniff."

" Why Mr. Jinkins's robin, my dear madam ? " asked ]\Ir.
Pecksniff, putting one arm round Mercy, and the other round Mrs.
Todgers, wdiora he seemed, in the abstraction of the moment, to
mistake for Charity. " Why Mr. Jinkins's 1 "

" Because he began to get it up, and indeed always takes the
lead in the house," said Mrs. Todgers, playfully. " That's why. Sir."

"Jinkins is a man of superior talents," observed Mr. Pecksniff.
"I have conceived a great regard for Jinkins. I take Jinkins's
desire to pay polite attention to my daughters, as an additional proof
of the friendly feeling of Jinkins, Mrs. Todgers."



"Well now," returned that lady, "having said so much, you
must say tlie rest, Mr. Pecksniti" : so tell the dear young ladies all
about it."

With these words, she gently eluded Mr. Pecksniff's grasp, and
took Miss Charity into her own embrace ; though whether she was
impelled to this proceeding solely by the irrepressible affection she
had conceived for that young lady, or whether it had any reference
to a lowering, not to say distinctly spiteful expression which had
been visible in her face for some moments, has never been exactly
ascertained. Be this as it may, Mr. Pecksniff went on to inform
his daughters of the purport and history of the round-robin afore-
said, which was in brief, that the commercial gentlemen who
helped to make up the sum and substance of that noun of multi-
tude or signifying many, called Todgers's, desired the honour of
their presence at the general table, so long as they remained in
the house, and besought that they would grace the board at
dinner-time next day, the same being Sunday, He further said,
that Mrs. Todgers being a consenting party to this invitation, he
was willing, for his part, to accept it ; and so left them that he
might write his gracious answer, the while they armed themselves
with their best bonnets for the utter defeat and overthrow of
Miss Pinch.

Tom Pinch's sister was governess in a fiimily, a lofty family;
perhaps the wealthiest brass and copper founders' fomily known to
mankind. They lived at Camberwell ; in a house so big and
fierce that its mere outside, like the outside of a giant's castle,
struck terror into vulgar minds and made bold persons quail.
There was a great front gate ; with a great bell, whose liandle was
in itself a note of admiration ; and a great lodge ; which being
close to the house, rather spoilt the look-out certainly, but made
the look-in tremendous. At this entry, a great ])orter kept
constant watch and ward; and when he gave the visitor high
leave to pass, he rang a second great bell, responsive to whose
note a great footman appeared in due time at the great hall-
door, with such great tags upon his liveried slioulder that he
was perpetually entangling and hooking himself among the chairs
and tables, and led a life of torment which could scarcely have
been surpassed, if he had been a blue-bottle in a world of cobwebs.

To this mansion, Mr. Pecksniff, accompanied by his daughters :
and Mrs. Todgers, drove gallantly in a one-horse fly. The fore-
going cei'emonies having been all jDerformed, they were ushered
into the house ; and so, by degrees, they got at last into a small
room with books in it, where Mr. Pincli's sister was at that
moment, instructing her eldest pu{)il : to wit, a premature little'


woman of thirteen years old, who had already arrived at siu-h a
pitch of whalebone and education that she had nothing girlish
about lier, which was a source of great rejoicing to all her relations
and friends.

"Visitors for Miss Pinch !" said the footman. He must have
been an ingenious young man, for he said it very cleverly : with a
nice discrimination between the cold respect with which he would
have announced visitors to the fomily, and the waiin personal
interest with which he would have announced visitors to the cook.

" Visitors for INIiss Pinch I '

Miss Pinch rose hastily ; -w ith such tokens of agitation as
plainly declared that her list of callers was not numerous. At
the same time, the little pupil became alarmingly upright, and
prepared herself to take mental notes of all that might be said
and done. For the lady of the establishment was curious in the
natural history and habits of the animal called Governess, and
encouraged her daughters to report thereon whenever occasion
served ; which was, in reference to all parties concerned, very
laudable, improving, and pleasant.

It is a melancholy fact ; but it nuist be related, that Mr.
Pinch's sister was not at all ugly. On the contrary, she had a good
face ; a very mild and prepossessing face ; and a pretty little figure
— slight and short, but remarkable for its neatness. There was
something of her brother, much of him indeed, in a certain gentle-
ness of manner, and in her look of timid trustfulness ; but she
was so far from being a fright, or a dowdy, or a horror, or anything
else, predicted by the two Miss Pecksniffs, that those young ladies
naturally regarded her with great indignation, feeling that this
was by no means what they had come to see.

]\Iiss Mercy, as having the larger share of gaiety, bore up the
best against this disappointment, and carried it off, in outward
show at least, with a titter; but her sister, not caring to hide her
disdain, expressed it pretty oi)eidy in her looks. As to Mrs.
Todgers, she leaned on Mr. Pecksniff's arm and preserved a kind
of genteel grimness, suitable to any state of mind, and involving
any shade of opinion.

"Don't be alarmed. Miss Pinch," said Mr. Pecksniff' taking
her liand condescendingly in one of his, and patting it with the
other. " I have called to see you, in pursuance of a promise given
to your brother, Thomas Pinch. i\Iy name — compose yourself,
Miss Pinch — is Pecksniff"."

The good man emphasized these words as though he would
have said, " You see in me, young person, tlie benefactor of your
race ; the patron of your house ; the preserver of your brother,



who is fed with iiianua daily from my table ; and in right uf
1 whom there is a considerable balance in my favour at present
i standing in the books beyond the sky. But I have no pride, for I
[ can afford to do without it ! "

The poor girl felt it all as if it had been Clospel Trutii. Her
brother writing in the fulness of his simple heart, had often told
I her so, aud how much more ! As Mr. Pecksniff ceased to sjjcak,
I she hung her head, and dropped a tear upon his hand.

"Oh very well, j\Iiss Pinch ! " thought the sharp pupil, "crying
before strangers, as if you didn't like the situation ! "

"Thomas is well," said Mr. Pecksniff; "and sends his love
and this letter. I cannot say, poor fellow, that he will ever be
distinguished in our profession ; but he has the will to do well,
which is the next thing to having the power ; and, therefore, we
must bear with him. Eh 1 "

" I know^ he has the will. Sir," said Tom Pinch's sister, " and I
know how kindly and considerately you cherish it, for which
neither he nor I can ever be grateful enough, as we very often say
in writing to each other. The young ladies too," she added,
glancing gratefully at his two daughters, "I know how much we
owe to them."

"j\Iy dears," said Mr. Pecksniff, turning to them with a smile :
"Thomas's sister is saying something you will l)c glad to hear, I

"We can't take any merit to ourselves, papa!" cried Cherry,
as they both apprised Tom Pinch's sister, with a curtsey, that they
would feel obliged if she would keep her distance. " Mr. Pinch's
being so well provided for is owing to you alone, and we can only
say how glad we are to hear that he is as grateful as he ought

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 15 of 80)