Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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to be."

" Oh very well. Miss Pinch ! " thought the pupil again. " Got
a grateful brother, living on other people's kindness ! "

" It was very kind of you," said Tom Pinch's sister, with Tom's
own simplicity, and Tom's own smile, " to come here : very kind
indeed : though how great a kindness you have done me in
gratifying my wish to see you, and to thank you with my own lips,
you, who make so light of benefits conferred, can scarcely think."

" Very grateful ; very i:)leasant ; very proper," numnured Mr.

"It makes me hapijy too," said Ruth Piiirli, wlio now that her
first surprise was over, had a chatty, cheerful way with her, and a
single-hearted desire to look ujion tlie best side of evcrytliing,
which was the very moral and image of Tom; "very happy to
think that you will be able to tell him how more than comfortably


I am situated here, antl how unnecessary it is that he should ever
Avaste a regret ou my being cast upon my own resources. Dear
me ! So long as I heard that he was happy, and he heard that I
was," said Tom's sister, "we could both bear, without one
impatient or complaining thought, a great deal more than ever we
have had to endure, I am very certain."' And if ever the plain
truth were spoken on this occasionally false earth, Tom's sister
spoke it when she said that.

" Ah ! " cried ]\Ir. Pecksniff, whose eyes had in the meantime
wandered to the pupil; "certainly. And how do you do, my
very interesting child % "

" Quite well, I thank you, Sir," replied that frosty innocent.

"A sweet face this, my dears," said Mr. Pecksniff, turning to
his daughters. " A charming manner ! "

Both young ladies had been in ecstacies with tlie scion of a
Avealthy house (through whom the neaiest road and shortest cut to
her parents might be supposed to lie) from the first. Mrs. Todgers
vowed that anything one quarter so angelic she had never seen.
" She wanted but a pair of wings, a dear," said that good woman,
" to be a young syrup," — meaning, possibly, young sylph, or seraph.

" If you will give that to your distinguished parents, my
amiable little friend," said INIr. Pecksniff, producing one of his pro-
fessional cards, " and will say that I and my daughters — "

"And ]\Irs. Todgers, i:)a," said Merry.

"And Mrs. Todgers, of London," added Mr. Pecksniff; "that
I, and my daughters, and Mrs. Todgers, of London, did not
intrude ni)on them, as our olyect simply was to take some notice
of Miss Pinch, wliose brother is a young man in my emi^loyinent ;
but that I could not leave this very chaste mansion, without
adding my humble tribute, as an Arcliitect, to the correctness and
elegance of the owner's taste, and to his just appreciation of tliat
l)cautiful art, to the cultivation of Avliicli I have devoted a life,
and to the in-omotiou of whose glory and advancement I have
sacrificed a — a f u'tune — I shall be very much obliged to you."

"Missis's compliments to Miss Pinch," said the footman,
suddenly appearing, and speaking in exactly the same key as
before, "and begs to know wot my young lady is a learning of
just now."

"Oh!'' said Mr. Pccksiiifi', "here is the young man. He
will take the card. "Witli my comijliments, if you please, young
man. My dears, Ave are interrupting the studies. Let us go."

Some confusion was occasioned for an instant by ]\Irs. Todgers's
unstrapping her little flat liand-basket, and hurriedly entrusting
the "young man'' with one of her own cards, Avhich. in addition


to certain iletuiknl iiilbrinatit)ii relative to the terms of tlie
couiniereial establishment, bore a foot-note to the efieet that I\I. T.
took that opportunity of thanking those gentlemen who had
honoured her Avith their fovours, and begged that they would
have the goodness, if satisfied with the table, to recommend her to
their friends. But Mr. Pecksniff, Avith admirable presence of
mind, recovered this document, and buttoned it up in his own

y/Then he said to Miss Pinch — with more condescension and
klidness than ever, for it was •desirable the footman should
expressly understand that they were not friends of hers, but
patrons :

"Good morning. Good bye. God liless you! You may
depend upon my continued protection of your brother Thomas.
Keep your mind quite at ease, Miss Pinch ! "

"Thank you,"' said Tom's sister heartily: "a thousand times."

" Not at all," he retorted, patting her gently on the head.
" Don't mention it. You will make me angry if you do. My
sweet child" — to the pupil, "farewell! That fairy creature,"
said Mr. Pecksniff, looking in his pensive mood hard at the foot-
man, as if he meant him, "has shed a vision on my path, refulgent
in its nature, and not easily to be obliterated. ]\Iy deai's, are you
ready ? "

They were not quite ready yet, for they were still caressing the
pupil. But they tore themselves away at length ; and sweeping
past Miss Pinch with each a haughty inclination of the head and
a curtsey strangled in its birth, flounced into the passage.

The " young man " had rather a long job in showing them
out ; for Mr. Pecksniff's delight in the tastefulness of the house
was such that he could not help often stopping (particularly wlien
they were near the parlour door) and giving it expression, in a
loud voice and very learned terms. Indeed, he delivered, between
the study and the hall, a familiar exposition of the whole science
of architecture as applied to dwelling-houses, and was yet in the
freshness of his eloquence when they reached the garden.

" If you look," said Mr. Pecksniff, backing from the stejis,
with his head on one side and his eyes half-shut that he might
the better take in the proportions of the exterior : " If you look,
my dears, at the cornice which supports the roof, and observe the
airiness of its construction, especially where it sweeps the southern
angle of the building, you will feel with me — How do you do,
Sir ? I hope you're well ! "

Interrupting himself with these words, he very politely bowe<l
to a middle-aged gentleman at an uj)per window, to whom he


spoke, not because the gentleman could hear him (for he certainly
could not), but as an appropriate accompaniment to his salutation.

" I have no doubt, my dears," said Mr. Pecksnift", feigning to
point out other beauties with his hand, " that that is the proprietor.
I should be glad to know him. It might lead to something. Is
he looking this way, Charity 1 "

" He is opening the window, pa ! "

"Ha, ha!" cried Mr. Pecksniff, softly. "All right ! He has
found I'm professional. He heard me inside just now, I have no
doubt. Don't look ! "With regard to the fluted pillars in the
portico, my dears — "

" Hallo ! " cried the gentleman.

" Sir, youi" servant ! " said Mr. Pecksnift", taking ott' his hat.
" I am proud to make your acquaintance."

" Come off the grass, will you ! " roared the gentleman.

" I beg your pardon, Sir," said Mr. Pecksniff, doubtful of liis
having heard aright. " Did you — ? "

" Come off the grass I " repeated the gentleman, warmly.

" We are imwilling to intrude. Sir," Mr. Pecksniff smilingly

"But you are intruding," returned the other, "unwarrantably
intruding — trespassing. You see a gravel walk, don't youi
What do you think it's meant for? Open the gate there ! Show
that party out ! "

With that, he clapped down the window again, and disappeared.

Mr. Pecksniff put on his hat, and walked with great delibera-
tion and in profound silence to the fly, gazing at the clouds as he
went, with great interest. After helping his daughters and Mrs.
Todgers into that conveyance, he stood looking at it for some
moments, as if he were not quite certain whether it was a carriage
or a temple ; but, having settled this point in his mind, he got
into his jilace, spread his hands out on his knees, and smiled upon
the three beholders.

But his daughters, less tranquil-minded, burst into a torrent of
indignation. This came, they said, of cherishing such creatures
as the Pinches. This came of lowering themselves to their level.
This came of putting themselves in the humiliating position of
seeming to know such bold, audacious, cunning, dreadful girls as
that. They had expected this. They had predicted it to Mrs.
Todgers, as she (Todgers) could depone, that very morning. To
this, they added, that the owner of the house, supposing them to
be Pinch's friends, had acted, in their opinion, quite correctly,
and had done no more than, under such circumstances, might
reasonably have been expected. To that they added (with a


trilling inoonsistciu'v), that he was a brute and a bear ; and tlien
they merged into a Hood of tears, wliicli swei>t away all wandering
epithets before it.

Perhaps Miss Pincli was scarcely so much to blame in the
matter as the Seraph, who, immediately on the withdrawal of the
visitors, had hastened to report them at head-(piartcrs, with a full
account of tlieir having presumptuously charged her Avith the
delivery of a message afterwards consigned to the footman ; which
outrage, taken in conjunction with Mr. Pecksnift"s unobtrusive
remarks on the establishment, uiight possibly have had some sliare
iu their dismissal. Poor IMiss Pinch, however, had to bear the
brunt of it with both parties : being so severely taken to task by
the Seraph's mother for having such vulgar acquaintances, that she
was fain to retire to her own room iu tears, which her natural
cheerfulness and submission, and the delight of having seen Mr.
Pecksnift', and having received a letter from lier brother, were at
first insutticient to repress.

As to J\Ir. Pecksniff, he told them in the Hy, that a good action
was its own reward ; and rather gave them to understand, that if
he could have been kicked in such a cause, he would have liked it
all the better. But this was no comfort to the young ladies, who
scolded violently the whole way back, and even exhibited, more
than once, a keen desire to attack the devoted Mrs. Todgers : on
whose personal appearance, but particularly on whose offending
card and hand-basket, they Avere secretly inclined to lay the blame
of half their failure.

Todgers's was in a great bustle that evening, partly OAving to
some additional domestic preparations for the morrow, and i)artly
to the excitement always insei)arable in that house from Saturday
night, when eA'ery gentleman's linen arrived at a different hour in
its own little bundle, with his private account pinned on the out-
side. There was always a great clinking of pattens down stairs,
too, until midnight or so, on Saturdays ; together with a frequent
gleaming of mysterious lights in the area; much working at the
pump ; and a constant jangling of the iron handle of the pail.
Shrill altercations from time to time arose betAveen JMrs. Todgers
and unknown females in remote back kitchens ; and sounds Avere
occasionally heard, indicative of small articles of ironmongery and
hardware being throAvn at the boy. It Avas the custom of tiiat
youth ou Saturdays, to roll up his shirt sleeves to his shoulders,
and pervade all jiarts of the house in an apron of coarse green
baize ; moreover, he Avas more strongly tempted on Saturdays than
on other days (it being a busy time), to make excursive bolts into
the neighbouring alleys Avhcu he answered the door, and there to


play at leajj-frog and otlier sports with vagrant lads, until pursued
and brought back by the hair of his head, or the lobe of his ear ;
so that he was quite a conspicuous feature among tlie ])eculiar
incidents of the last day in the week at Todgers's.

He was especially so on this particular Saturday evening, and
honoured the Miss Pecksnitt's with a deal of notice ; seldom passing
the door of Mrs. Todgers's private room, where they sat alone
before the fire, working by the light of a solitary caudle, without
putting in his head and greeting them with some such compli-
ments as, "There you are agin!" "An't it nice?" — and similar
humorous attentions.

"I say," he whispered, stopping in one of his journeys to and
fro, "young ladies, there's soup to-morrow. She's a making it
now. An't she a putting in the water ? Oh ! not at all neither ! "

In the course of answering another knock, he thrust in his
head again.

"I say — there's fowls to-morrow. Not skinny ones. Oh no !"

Presently he called through the key-hole :

"There's a fish to-morrow — ^just come. Don't eat none of
him ! " And, with this special warning, vanished again.

By-and-bye, he returned to lay the cloth for supper : it having
been arranged between Mrs. Todgers and the young ladies, that
they should partake of an exclusive veal-cutlet together in the
privacy of that apartment. He entertained them on this occasion
by thrusting the lighted candle into his mouth, and exhibiting his
face in a state of transparency ; after the performance of which
feat, he Avent on with his professional duties ; brightening every
knife as he laid it on the table, by breathing on the blade and
afterwards jwlishing the same on the apron already mentioned.
When he had completed his preparations, he grinned at the sisters,
and expressed his belief that the approaching collation would be
of " rather a spicy sort."

" Will it be long before it's ready, Bailey 1 "' asked Mercy.

"No," said Bailey, "it /*■ cooked. When I come up, she was
dodging among the tender \nece^ with a fork, and eating of 'em."

But he had scarcely achieved the utterance of these words,
when he received a manual compliment on the head, which sent
him staggering against the wall ; and Mrs. Todgers, dish in hand,
stood indignantly before him.

" Oh you little villain ! " said that lady. " Oh you bad, false
boy ! " . ^

"No Avorso than yerself," retorted Bailey, guarding his head,
on a piinciple invented by Mr. Thomas Cribb. "Ah ! Come now !
Do that adn, will yer ! "


" He's the most dreadi'ul oliiltl,'' said Mrs. Toilgcrs, scttiiiy
■luwn the dish, " I ever had to ch'al with. The gentlemen spoil
iiim to that extent, and teach him such things, that I'm afraid
nothing but hanging will ever do him any good."

"Won't it ?" cried Bailey. "Oh! Yes! Wot do you go a
lowerin the table-beer for then, and destroying my constitooslum 1 "
"Go down stairs, you vicious boy," said Mrs. Todgers, holding
the door open. " Do you hear me 1 Go along ! "

After two or three dexterous feints, he went, and was seen no
more that night, save once, Avhen he brought up some tumblers
and hot water, and much disturbed the two Miss Pecksnifts by
S4uinting hideously behind the back of the unconscious ]\Irs.
Todgers. Having done this justice to his wounded feelings, he
it'tired underground ; where, in company with a swarm of black
lieetles and a kitchen candle, he employed his faculties in cleaning
boots and brushing clothes until the night was far advanced.

Benjamin was supposed to be the real name of this young
retainer, but he was known by a great variety of names.
Benjamin, for instance, had been converted into Uncle Ben, and
that again had been corrupted into Uncle ; which, by an easy
transition, had again passed into Barnwell, in memory of the
rcleljrated relative in that degree who was shot by his nephew
( Jeorge, while meditating in his garden at Caraberwell. The
giiitlemen at Todgers's had a merry habit, too, of bestowing upon
him, for the time being, the name of any notorious malefiictor or
minister ; and sometimes, when current events were flat, they even
sdught tiie i)ages of history for these distinctions; as Mr. Pitt,
Young Brownrigg, and the like. At the period of which we write,
he was generally known among the gentlemen as Bailey jimior ; a
name bestowed upon him in contradistinction, perhaps, to Old
Bailey ; and possibly as involving the recollection of an unfortunate
lady of tlic same name, who i)erislied by her own hand early in
life, and lias l)cen immortalised in a ballad.

The usual Sunday dinner-liour at Tudgers's was two o'clock,- -
a suitable time, it was considered, for all jjarties ; convenient to
I\Irs. Todgers, on account of the baker's ; and convenient to the
gentlemen, with reference to their afternoon engagements. But
on the Sunday which was to introduce the two IMiss Pecksniffs to
a full knowledge of Todgers's and its society, the dinner was post-
poned until five, in order that everything might be as genteel as
the occasion demanded.

Wiien tlie hour drew nigh, Bailey junior, testifying great
excitement, appeared in a comphtc suit of cast-otV clothes several
sizes too large for him, and in particular, mounted a clean shirt of


such extraordinary magnitude, that one of the gentlemen
(remarkable for his readj' Avit) called hira "collars" on the spot.
At about a quarter before five, a deputation, consisting of Mr.
Jiukins, and another gentleman whose name was Gander, knocked
at the door of Mrs. Todgers's room, and, being formally introduced
to the two i\Iiss Pecksniffs by their parent, Avho was in waiting,
besought the honour of conducting them up stairs.

The drawing-room at Todgers's was out of the common style ;
so much so indeed, tliat you would hardly have taken it to be a
drawing-room, unless you were told so by somebody who was in
the secret. It was floor-clothed all over ; and the ceiling, including
a great beam in the middle, was papered. Besides the three little
windows, Avith seats in them, commanding the opposite archAvaj',
there was another window looking point blank, without any
compromise at all about it, into Jiukius's bed-room ; and high up
all along one side of the wall was a strip of panes of glass, two-
deep, giving light to tlie staircase. There were the oddest closets
possible, with little casements in them like eight-day clocks,
lurking in the wainscot and taking the shape of the stairs ; and
the very door itself (which was painted black) had two great glass
eyes in its forehead, with an inquisitive green pupil in the middle
of each.

Here the gentlemen were all assembled. There was a general
cry of " Hear, hear ! " and " Bravo Jink ! " when Mr. Jinkins
appeared with Charity on his arm : which became quite rapturous
as ]\Ir. Gander followed, escorting Mercy, and ]\Ir. Pecksniff
brought up the rear with ]\Irs. Todgers.

Tlien the presentations took place. They included a gentleman
of a sporting turn, who propounded questions on jockey subjects to
the editors of Sunday pajjers, which were regarded by his friends
as rather stiff things to answer ; and they included a gentleman of
a theatrical turn, who had once entertained serious thoughts of
" coming out," but had been kept in by the wickedness of human
nature ; and they included a gentleman of a debating turn, who
was strong at speech-making ] and a gentleman of a literary turn,
who wrote squibs upon the rest, and knew the weak side of
everybody's character but his own. There was a gentleman of a
vocal turn, and a gentleman of a smoking turn, and a gentleman of
a convivial turn ; some of the gentlemen had a turn for whist, and
a large proportion of the gentlemen had a strong turn for billiards
and betting. They had all, it may be presumed, a turn for
business ; being all commercially employed in one way or other ;
and had, every one in his own way, a decided turn for pleasure to
boot. Mr. Jinkius was of a fashionable turn ; being a regular


tVtMjuenter of the Parks on Suiulays, and knowing a great many
carriages by sight. He spoke mysteriously, too, of splendid
women, and was susi)ected of having once committed himself with
;t Countess. I\Ir. Gander was of a witty turn, being indeed the
gentleman who had originated the sally about "collars;" which
.-^jiarkling pleasantry was now retailed from mouth to mouth, under
tlie title of Gander's Last, and was received in all parts of the
loom with great applause. Mr. Jinkins, it may be added, was
much the oldest of the party : being a fish-salesman's book-keeper,
aged forty. He was the oldest boarder also ; and in right of his
double seniority, took the lead in the house, as Mrs. Todgers had
already said.

There was considerable delay in the production of dinner, and
poor J\lrs. Todgers, being rejiroached in confidence by Jinkins,
slipped in and out, at least twenty times to see about it ; always
coming back as though she had no such thing upon her mind, and
hadn't been out at all. But there was no hitch in the conversation,
nevertheless ; for one gentleman, who travelled in the perfumery
line, exhibited an interesting nick-nack, in the way of a remarkable
rake of shaving soap, which he had lately met with in Germany ;
and the gentleman of a literary turn repeated (by desire) some
sarcastic stanzas he had recently produced on the freezing of the
tank at the back of the house. These amusements, with the mis-
cfllaneous conversation arising out of them, passed the time
splendidly, until dinner was announced by Bailey junior in these
terms :

'' The wittles is ujj I "'

On which notice they immediately descended to the banquet-
liall ; some of the more facetious spirits in the rear taking down
gentlemen as if they w^ere ladies, in imitation of the fortunate
possessors of the two Miss Pecksniff's.

]\Ir. Pecksniff said grace — a short and pious grace, invoking a
l)lessing on the appetites of those present, and conmiitting all
persons who had nothing to eat, to the care of Providence : whose
liusiness (so said the grace, in effect) it clearly was, to look after
tlieni. This done, they fell to, with less ceremony than ap])etite ;
the table groaning beneath the weight, not only of the delicacies
whereof the ]\Iiss Pecksniffs had been jjreviously forewarned, but of
boiled beef, roast veal, bacon, pies, and abundance of such heavy
vegetables as are favourably known to housekeepers for their
satisfying qualities. Besides which, there were bottles of stout,
liottles of wine, bottles of ale, and divers other strong drinks,
native and foreign.

All this was highly agreeable to the two IMiss Pecksniffs, who


were in immense request ; sitting one on eitlier liund of Mr.
Jinkins at tlie bottom of tlie table ; and who were called upon to
take wine with some new admirer every minute. They had hardly
ever felt so pleasant, and so fidl of conversation, in their lives ;
Mercy, in particular, was uncommonly brilliant, and said so many
j good things in the way of lively repartee that she was looked upon
'^■'as a prodigy. "In short," as that young lady observed, "they
felt now, indeed, that they were in London, and for the first time

Their young friend Bailey sympathised in these feelings to the
fullest extent, and, abating nothing of his patronage, gave them
every encouragement in his power : favouring them, when the
general attention was diverted from his proceedings, with many
nods and winks and other tokens of recognition, and occasionally
touching his nose with a corkscrew, as if to express the Bacchanalian
character of the meeting. In truth, perhaps even the si)irits of
the two Miss Pecksniffs, and the hungry watchfulness of Mrs.
Todgers, were less worthy of note than the proceedings of this
remarkable boy, Avhom nothing disconcerted or put out of his way.
If any piece of crockery — a dish or otherwise — chanced to .slip
through his hands (which happened once or twice), he let it go
with perfect good breeding, and never added to the painful emo-
tions of the company by exhibiting the least regret. Nor did he,
by hurrying to and fro, disturb the repose of the assembly, as
many well-trained servants do ; on the contrary, feeling the hope-
lessness of waiting upon so large a party, he left the gentlemen
to help themselves to what they wanted, and seldom stirred from
behind Mr. Jinkins's chair, where, with his hands in his pockets,
and his legs planted pretty wide apart, he led the laughter, and
enjoyed the conversation.

The dessert was splendid. No waiting either. The pudding-
])lates had been washed in a little tub outside the door while
cheese was on, and though they were moist and warm with friction,
still there they were again, up to the mark, and true to time.
Quarts of almonds ; dozens of oranges ; pounds of raisins ; stacks
of biffins; soujD-plates full of nuts. — Oh, Todgers's could do it
when it chose ! Mind that.

Then more wine came on ; red wines and white wines ; and a
large china bowl of punch, brewed by the gentleman of a convivial
turn, who adjured the Miss Pecksniffs not to be despondent on

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 16 of 80)