Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

. (page 17 of 80)
Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 17 of 80)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

account of its dimensions, as there were materials in the house for
the concoction of half-a-dozen more of the same size. Good
gracious, how they laughed ! How they coughed when they
sipped it, because it was so strong ; and how they laughed again,



wlien somebody vowed that but lor its colour it iui<;lit liave been
mistaken, in regard of its innocuous qualities, for new milk !
AVhat a shout of "No!" biu'st from the gontlcmen when they
pathetic-ally implored ]\Ir. Jinkins to suft'er them to qualify it
with hot water ; and how blushingly, by little and little, did
each of them drink her whole glassful, down to its very dregs !

Now ctimes the ti-ying time. The sun, as Mr. Jinkins says
(gentlemanly creature, Jinkins — never at a loss!), i.s about to
leave the firmament. " J\Iiss Pecksnitf ! " say Mrs. Todgers,
softly, "will you — V "Oh dear, no more, Mrs. Todgers.''
Mrs. Todgers rises ; the two j\Iiss Pecksniffs rise ; all rise. Miss
Mercy Pecksniff looks downward for her scarf. Where is it ?
Dear me, where r<i>i it be? Sweet girl, she has it on — not on
her fiiir neck, but loose upon her flowing figure. A dozen hands
assist her. She is all confusion. The youngest gentleman in
company thirsts to murder Jinkins. She skips and joins her
sister at the door. Her sister has her arm about the waist of
Mrs. Todgers. She winds her arm around her sister. Diana,
what a picture ! The last things visible are a shape and a ski]).
" Cientlemen, let us drink the ladies ! "

The enthusiasm is tremendous. The gentleman of a debating
turn rises in the midst, and suddenly lets loose a tide of eloquence
which bears down everything before it. He is reminded of a
toast — a toast to which they will respond. There is an individual
present ; he has him in his eye ; to whom they owe a debt of
gratitude. He repeats it — a debt of gratitude. Their rugged
natures have been softened and ameliorated that day by the
society of lovely woman. There is a gentleman in company whom
two accomplished and delightful females regard with veneration,
as the fountain of their existence. Yes, when yet the two Miss
Pecksniffs lisped in language scarce intelligible, they called that
individual " Father ! " There is great applause. He gives them
" Mr. Pecksniff, and God bless him ! " They all shake hands
with Mr. Pecksniff" as they drink the toast. The youngest
gentleman in company does so with a thi-ill ; for he feels that a
mysterious influence pervades the man wlio claims that being in
the pink scarf for his daughter.

What saith Mr. Pecksniff in reply 1 Or rather let the question
be, What leaves he unsaid? Nothing. More punch is called for,
and produced, and drunk. Enthusiasm mounts still higher. Every
man comes out freely in his own character. The gentleman of a
theatrical turn recites. The vocal gentleman regales them w ith a
song. Gander leaves the Gander of all former feasts whole leagues
behind. J/e rises to propose a toast. It is, The Father of


Todgers's. It is tlieir comniuii friend Jink — it is Old Jink, if
lie may call him by that familiar and endearing appellation. The
youngest gentleman in company utters a frantic negative. He
won't have it — he can't bear it — it mustn't be. But his depth
of feeling is misunderstood. He is supposed to be a little elevated ;
and nobody heeds him.

Mr. Jinkins thanks them from his heart. It is, by many
degrees, the proudest day in his humble career. When he looks
around him on the present occasion, he feels that he wants words
in which to express his gratitude. One thing he will say. He
hopes it has been shown that Todgers's can be true to itself; and,
an opportunity arising, that it can come out quite as strong as its
neighbours — perhaps stronger. He reminds them, amidst thunders
of encouragement, that they have heard of a somewhat similar
establishment in Cannon Street ; and that they have heard it
praised. He wishes to draw no invidious comparisons ; he would
be the last man to do it ; but when that Cannon Street establish-
ment shall be able to produce such a combination of wit and
beauty as has graced that board that day, and shall be able to
serve up (all things considered) such a dinner as that of which
tliey have just jjartaken, he will be happy to talk to it. Until
then, gentlemen, he will stick to Todgers's.

Llore punch, more enthusiasm, more speeches. Everybody's
health is drunk, saving the youngest gentleman's in company.
He sits apart, with his elbow on the back of a vacant chair, and
glares disdainfully at Jinkins. Gander, in a convulsing speech,
gives them the health of Bailey junior ; hiccups are heard ; and
a glass is broken. Mr. Jinkins feels that it is time to join the
ladies. He proposes, as a final sentiment, Mrs. Todgers. She is
worthy to be remembered separately. Hear, hear. So she is :
no doubt of it. They all find favdt with her at other times ; but
every man feels, now, that he could die in her defence.

They go up-stairs, where they are not expected so soon ; for
Mrs. Todgers is asleep, Miss Charity is adjusting her hair, and
]\Iercy, who has made a sofa of one of the window-seats, is in a
gracefully recumbent attitude. She is rising hastily, wiien Mr.
Jinkins implores her, for all their sakes, not to stir ; she looks too
graceful and too lovely, he remarks, to be disturbed. She laughs,
and yields, and fans herself, and drops her fan, and there is a rush
to pick it up. Being now installed, by one consent, as the beauty
of the party, she is cruel and capricious, and sends gentlemen on
messages to other gentlemen, and forgets all about them before
they can return with the answer, and invents a thousand tortures,
rending tlieir hearts to pieces. Bailey brings up the tea and coffee.


There is a small cluster of atliuirers round Cliarity ; but they are
only those who cannot get near her sister. The youngest gentle-
iiiau in company is pale, but collected, and still sits apart ; for his
spirit loves to hold communion with itself, and his soul recoils
from noisy revellers. She has a consciousness of his presence and
his adoration. He sees it Hashing sometimes in the corner of her
eye. Have a care, Jinkins, ere you provoke a desperate man to
frenzy !

i\Ir. Pecksnift" had followed his younger friends up-stairs, and
taken a chair at the side of Mrs. Todgers. He had also spilt a
cup of coffee over his legs without appearing to be aware of the
cireumstauce ; nor diil he seem to know that there was muffin on
lii.-s knee.

"And how have they used you down-stairs, Sir ? " asked the

'' Their conduct has been such, my dear madam," said Mr.
reeksnitf, "as I can never think of without emotion, or remember
without a tear. Oh, Mrs. Todgers ! "

"My goodness!" exclaimed that lady. "How low you are
in your spirits, Sir ! "

" I am a man, my dear Madam," said Mr. Pecksniff", shedding
tears, and speaking with an imperfect articulation, " but I am also
a lather. I am also a widower. My feelings, Mrs. Todgers, will
not consent to be entirely smothered, like the young children in
the Tower. They are grown up, and the more I press the bolster
on them, the more they look round the corner of it."

He suddenly became conscious of the bit of nuiffin, and stared
at it intently : shaking his head the while, in a forlorn and imbecile
manner, as if he regarded it as his evil genius, and mildly re-
IH'iached it.

"She was beautiful, Mrs. Todgers," he said, turning his glazed
eye again upon her, without the least preliminary notice. " She
had a small property."

" So I have heard," cried IMrs. Todgers with great sympathy.

"Those are her daughters," said Mr. Pecksniff, pointing out
the young ladies, with increased emotion.

Mrs. Todgers had no doubt of it.

"Mercy and Charity," said Mr. Pecksniff, " Charity and Mercy.
Not unholy names, I hope 1 "

"Mr. Pecksniff !" cried Mrs. Todgers, " what a gliastly smile !
Are you ill. Sir ? "

He pressed his hand upon her arm, and answered in a solemn
manner, and a faint voice, " Chronic."

" Cholic 1 " cried the frightened Mrs. Todgers.


" Chron-ic," he repeated with some clifRculty. " Clironic. A
chronic disorder. I have been its victim from childhood. It is
carrying me to my grave."

" Heaven forbid ! " cried JMrs. Todgers.

"Yes it is," said Mr. Peclisnifi', reckless with despair. "I am
rather glad of it, upon the whole. You are like her, Mrs. Todgers."

" Don't squeeze me so tight, pray, Mr. Pecksniff". If any of the
gentlemen should notice us."

" For her sake," said Mr. Pecksniff. " Permit me — in honour
of her memory. For the sake of a voice from the tomb. You are
very like her, Mrs. Todgers ! What a world this is ! "

" Ah ! Indeed you may say that ! " cried IMrs. Todgers.

" I'm afraid it's a vain and thoughtless world," said Mr. Peck-
snift', overflowing with despondency. " Tliese young people about
us. Oh ! what sense have tiiey of their responsibilities % None.
Give me your other hand, Mrs. Todgers."

That lady hesitated, and said "she didn't like."

" Has a voice from the grave no influence ? " said Mr. Pecksniff,
with dismal tenderness. " This is irreligious ! My dear ci-eatui-c."

" Hush ! " urged Mrs. Todgers. " Really you mustn't."

"It's not me," said Mr. Pccksnift*. "Don't suppose it's me;
it's the voice ; it's her voice."

Mrs. Pecksniff" deceased, must have had an unusually thick and
husky voice for a lady, and rather a stuttering voice, and to say
the truth somewhat of a drunken voice, if it had ever borne much
resemblance to that in which Mr. Pecksniff" spoke just then. But
perhaps this was delusion on his part.

" It has been a day of enjoyment, Mrs. Todgers, but still it has
been a day of torture. It has reminded me of my loneliness.
What am I in the world % "

"An excellent gentleman, Mr. Pecksniff"," said Mrs. Todgers.

"There is consolation in that too," cried Mr. Pecksniff". "Am

" There is no better man living," said Mrs. Todgers, " I am

Mr. Pecksniff' smiled through his tears, and slightly shook his
head. "You are very good," he said, "thank you. It is a great
happiness to me, Mrs. Todgers, to make young people happy. The
happiness of my pupils is my chief object. I dote upon 'em. They
dote upon me too— sometimes."

"Always," said JMrs. Todgers.

"When they say they haven't improved, ma'am," whispered
Mr. Pecksniff, looking at her with profound mystery, and motion-
ing to her to advance her ear a little closer to his mouth. " When



! thej- say they haven t im{irove(l, niaani, and the pieniiiiiii was ton
I high, they lie! I shouldn't wish it to be mentioned; you will
i understand me ; but I say to you as to an old friend, they lie."
, " Base wretches they must be ! " said Mrs. Todgers.

"Madam," said Mr. Pecksnitf, "j^ou are right. I respect you
j for that observation. A word in your ear. To Parents and
I Guardians — This is in contidenee, j\Irs. Todgers 1 "

" The strictest, of course ! " cried that lady.

"To Parents and Guardians," repeated Mr. PeeksnifK "An

[ eligible opportunity now offer.«i, which unites the advantages of

the best practical architectural education with the comforts of a,

home, and the constant association with some, who, however

i humble their sphere and limited their capacity — observe! — are

not unmindful of their moral responsibilities."

Mrs. Todgers looked a little puzzled to know what this might
mean, as well she might ; for it was, as the reader may perchance
remember, ]\Ir. Pecksniff's usual form of advertisement when he
wanted a pupil ; and seemed to have no particular reference, at
present, to anything. But Mr. Pecksniff held up his finger as a
caution to her not to interrupt him.

" Do you know any parent or guardian, jMrs. Todgers," said
'Sir. Pecksniff, "who desires to avail himself of such an opportunity
for a young gentleman 1 An orphan would be preferred. Do you
know of any orphan with three or four hundred pound ? '"

]\Irs. Todgers reflected, and shook her head.

" When you hear of an orphan with three or fom- hundred
pound," said Mi-. Pecksniff, " let that dear orphan's friends apply,
by letter post-paid, to 8. P., Post-office, Salisbury. I don't know
who lie is, exactly. Don't be alarmed, ]\Irs. Todgers," said Mr.
Pecksnift", falling heavily against her : " Chronic— chronic ! Let's
have a httle drop of something to drink."

" Bless my life. Miss Pecksnifts ! " cried Mrs. Todgers, aloud,
" your dear pa's took very poorly ! "

Mr. Pecksniff" straightened himself by a surprising effort, as
every one turned hastily towards him ; and standing on his feet,
regarded the assembly with a look of ineffable wisdom. Gradually
it gave place to a smile ; a feeble, helpless, melancholy smile ;
bland, almost to sickliness. " Do not repine, my friends," said
Mr. Pecksniff", tenderly. "Do not weep for me. It is chronic."
And with these words, after making a futile attempt to pull off'
his shoes, he fell into tl;e fire-place.

The youngest gentleman in company had him (nit in a second.
Yes, before a hair upon his head was singed, lif had him on the
hearth-rug. — Her father !


She was almost beside herself. So was her sister. Jiiikins
consoled them both. They all consoled them. Everybody had
something to say except the youngest gentleman in the company,
who with a noble self-devotion did the heavy work, and held up
Mr. Pecksniff's head without being taken any notice of by anybody.
At last they gathered round, and agreed to carry him up-stairs to
bed. The youngest gentleman in company was rebuked by Jinkius
for tearing Mr. Pecksniif 's coat ! Ha, ha ! But no matter.

They carried him up-stairs, and crushed the youngest gentleman
at every step. His bedroom was at the top of the house, and it
was a long way ; but they got him there in course of time. He
asked them frequently upon the road for a little drop of something
to drink. It seemed an idiosyncrasy. The youngest gentleman
in company proposed a draught of water. Mr. Pecksniff called
him opprobrious names for the suggestion.

Jinkins and Gander took the rest upon themselves, and made him
as comfortable as they could, on the outside of his bed ; and when
he seemed disposed to sleep, they left liim. But before they had
all gained the bottom of the staircase, a vision of j\Ir. Pecksniff,
strangely attired, was seen to flutter on the top landing. He
desired to collect their sentiments, it seemed, upon the nature of
human life.

"My friends," cried Mr. Pecksniff, looking over the banisters,
" let us improve our minds by mutual inquiry and discussion. Let
us be moral. Let us contemplate existence. Where is Jinkins 1 "

" Here," cried that gentleman. .":€ro to bed again ! "

"To bed ! " said Mr. Pecksniff. ■ " Bed ! 'Tis the voice of the
sluggard ; I hear him complain ; you have woke me too soon ; I
must slumber again. If any young orphan will repeat the remainder
of that simjjle piece from Doctor Watts's collection, an eligible
oijportunity now offers."

Nobody volunteered.

"This is very soothing," said Mr. Pecksniff, after a jjause.
" Extremely so. Cool and refreshing ; particularly to the legs !
The legs of the human subject, my friends, are a beautiful pro-
duction. Compare them with wooden legs, and observe the
difference between the anatomy of nature and the anatomy of art.
Do you know," said Mr. Pecksniff, leaning over the banisters, with
an odd recollection of his familiar manner among new pupils at
home, " that I should very much like to see Mrs. Todgers's notion
of a wooden leg, if perfectly agreeable to herself ! "

As it appeared impossible to entertain any reasonable hopes of
him after this speech, Mr. Jinkins and Mr. Grander went up-stairs
again, and once more got him into bed. But they had not



descended to the second floor before he was out again ; nor, when
they had repeated the process, had they descended the first tiight,
before he was out again. In a word, as often as he was sliut uj)
in his own room, he darted out atVesh, c-harged with some new
moral sentiment, which lie continually repeated over the banisters,
with extraordinary relish, and an irrepressible desire for the
improvement of liis fellow-creatures that nothing could subdue.

Under these circumstances, when they had got him into bed
for the thirtieth time or so, Mr. Jinkins held him, while his
companion went down stairs in search of Bailey junior, with whom
he presently returned. That youth, having been apprised of the
service required of him, was in great spirits, and brought up a
stool, a candle, and his supper ; to the end that he might keep
watch outside the bedroom door with tolerable comfort.

^Vhen he had completed his arrangements, they locked Mr.
Pecksniff in, and left the key on the outside ; charging the young
page to listen attentively for symptoms of an apoplectic nature, with
which the patient might be troubled, and, in case of any such
presenting themselves, to summon them without delay : to which
Mr. Bailey modestly replied that " he hoped he knowed wot o'clock
it wos in gineral, and didn't date his letters to his friends, from
Todgers's, for nothing."



But Mr. Pecksniff came to town on business. Had he forgotten
that ? Was he always taking his pleasure with Todgers's jovial
: brood, unmindful of the serious demands, whatever they miglit be,
; upon his calm consideration ? No.

Time and tide will wait for no man, saith the adage. But all
■ men have to wait for time and tide. That tide which, taken at
' the flood, would lead Seth Pecksniff' on to fortune, was marked
■I, down in the table, and about to flow. No idle Pecksnirt" lingered
; far inland, unmindful of the changes of tlie stream ; but there,
. upon the water's edge, over his shoes already, stood the wortiiy
creature, prepared to wallow in the very mud, so that it slid towards
the quarter of his hope.

The trustfulness of his two fair dauffhters was beautiful indeed.


They had that tinu reliance ou their parent's nature, which taught
them to feel certain that in all he did, he had his purpose straiglit
and full before him. And that its noble end and object was
liimself, which almost of necessity included them, they knew.
The devotion of tliese maids was perfect.

Their filial confidence was rendered the more touching, by their
having no knowledge of their parent's real designs, in the jjresent
instance. All that they knew of his proceedings, was, that every
morning, after the early breakfast, he repaired to the post-office
and inquired for letters. That task performed, his business for
the day was over ; and he again relaxed, until the rising of another
sun proclaimed the advent of another post.

This went on for four or five days. At length, one morning,
Mr. Pecksnift' returned with a breathless rapidity, strange to
obserA^e in him, at other times so calm ; and, seeking immediate
speech with his daughters, shut himself uj) with them in private
conference, for two whole hours. Of all that passed in this period,
only the following words of j\Ir. Pecksnift's utterance are known :

" How he has come to change so very much (if it should turn
out as I expect, that he has), we needn't stop to inquire. I\Iy
dears, I have my thoughts upon the subject, Init I will not impart
them. It is enough that we will not be proud, resentful, or
unforgiving. If he wants our friendship, he shall have it. "We
know om* duty, I hope ! "

Tliat same day at noon, an old gentleman alighted from a
hackney-coach at the post-office, and, giving his name, inquired for
a letter addressed to himself, and directed to be left till called
for. It had been lying there, some days. The superscription
was in Mr. Pecksniff's hand, and it was sealed Avith Mr. Peck-
sniff's seal.

It was very short, containing indeed nothing more than an
address " with Mv. Pecksniffs respectful, and (notwithstanding
what has passed) sincerely affectionate regards." The old gentle-
man tore off" the direction — scattering the rest in fragments to the
winds — and giving it to the coachman, bade him drive as near
that place as he could. In jnu-suance of these instructions he was
driven to the Monument ; where he again alighted, dismissed the
vehicle, and walked towards Todgers's.

Though the face, and form, and gait of this old man, and even
his grip of the stout stick on which he leaned, Avere all expressive
of a resolution not easily shaken, and a purpose (it matters little
whether right or wrong, just now) such as in other days might
have survived the rack, and had its strongest life in weakest death ;
still tliere were grains of hesitation in his mind, which made him


uiiw avoid the huii^ii' ho sought, and h:)iti'r to and IVo in a gleam of
sunlight, that brightened the little churchyard hard by. There
may have been, in the presence of those idle heaps of dust among
the busiest stir of life, something to increase his wavering ; but
tliere he walked, awakening the echoes as he ])aced up and down,
until the church clock, striking the quarters for the second time
since he had been there, roused him from his meditation. Shaking
utf his incertitude as the air parted with the sound of the bells, he
walked rajjidly to the house, and knocked at the door.

i\Ir. Pecksniff was seated in the landlady's little room, and his
visitor found him reading — by an accident : he apologised for it —
an excellent theological work. There were cake and wine upon a
little table — by another accident, for which he also apologised.
Indeed he said, he had given his visitor up, and was about to par-
take of that simple refreshment with his children, when he knocked
at the door.

"Your daughters are welH "' said old Martin, laying down his
hat and stick.

Tilr. Pecksniff endeavoured to conceal his agitation as a father,
wlien he answered, Yes, they were. They wei'e good girls, he said,
very good. He would not venture to recommend Mr. Chuzzlewit
tu take the easy-chair, or to keep out of the draught from the door.
If lie made any such suggestion, he would expose himself, he feared,
to most unjust suspicion. He would, therefore, content himself
with remarking that there was an easy-chair in the room ; and that
tlie door was far from being air-tight. This latter imperfection,
he might perhaps venture to add, was not uncommonly to be met
V ith in old houses.

The old man sat down in the easy-chair, and after a few
moments' silence, said :

" In the first place, let me tliank you for coming to London so
promptly, at my almost unexplained re(|uest : I need scarcely add,
at, my cost."

"At your cost, my good Sir ! " cried Mr. Pecksuitf, in a tone of
;^reat surjirise.

" It is not," said Martin, waving his hand impatiently, " my
habit to put my — well ! my relatives — to any jjersonal expense to
gratify my caj)rices."

" Caprices, my good Sir ! " cried I\Ir. Pecksniff.

"That is scarcely the proper word either, in this instance," said
the old man. "No. You are right."

Mr. Pecksniff" was inwardly A'cry much relieved to hear it,
though he didn't at all know why.

" You are right," rejieated Martin. " It is not a caprice. It is


built up on reason, proof, and cool comparison. Caprices never are.
Moreover, I am not a capricious man. I never was."

"Most assuredly not," said Mr. Pecksniff.

" How do you know 1 " returned the other quickly. " You are
to begin to know it now. You are to test and prove it, in time to
come. You and yours are to find that I can be constant, and am
not to be diverted from my end. Do you hear 1 "

" Perfectly," said Mr. Pecksniff.

" I very much regret," Martin resumed, looking steadily at him,
and speaking in a slow and measured tune : "I very much regret
that you and I held such a conversation together, as that which
passed between us, at our last meeting. I very much regret that
I laid open to you what were then my thoughts of you, so freely
as I did. The intentions tliat I bear towards you, now, are of
another kind ; and, deserted by all in whom I have ever trusted,
hoodwinked and beset by all who should help and sustain me ; I
fly to you for refuge. I confide in you to be my ally ; to attach
yourself to me by ties of Interest and Expectation " — he laid great
stress upon these words, tliough Mr. Pecksniff' particularly begged

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 17 of 80)