Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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him not to mention it ; " and to lielp me to visit the consequences
of the very worst species of meanness, dissinuUation, and subtlety,
on tlie right heads."

" My noble Sir ! " cried Mr. Pecksniff", catching at his outstretched
hand. "And ^ou regret tlie having harboured unjust thoughts of
me ! 3/o« with those gray hairs ! "

" Regrets," said Martin, " are the natural property of gray hairs ;
and I enjoy, in common with all other men, at least my share of
such inheritance. And so enough of that. I regret having been
severed from you so long. If I had known you sooner, and sooner
used you as you well deserve, I might have been a happier man."

Mr. Pecksniff looked up to the ceiling, and clasped his hands in
rapture. .

" Your daughters," said Martin, after a short silence. " I don't
know them. Are they like you 1 "

" In the nose of my eldest and the chin of my youngest, Mr.
Chuzzlewit," leturned the widower, " their sainted parent — not
myself, their mother — lives again."

"I don't mean in person," said the old man. "Morally —

" "lis not for me to say," retorted Mr. Pecksniff' with a gentle
smile. "I have done my best. Sir."

"I could wish to see them," said Martin ; "are they near at
hand ? "

They were, very near ; for they had, in fact, been listening at



the door, from the beginning of this conversation imtil imw, when
they precipitately retired. Having wiped tiie signs of weakness
tVnm his eyes, and so given them fime to get up stairs, Sir. Peck-
.-iiitf opened tlic door, and miklly cried in the i)assage,

" My own (hirlings, where are yoti I "

" Here, my dear pa ! " replied the distant voice of (.'harity.

'' Come down into the back parlour, if you i)lease, my love," said
Mr. Pecksniff, "and bring your sister with you.''

'' Yes, my dear pa," cried Merry ; and down they came directly
(being all obedience), singing as they came.

]S^othing coidd exceed the astonishment of the two Miss Peck-
sniffs when they found a stranger with their dear papa. Nothing
could surpass their mute amazement when he said, "My children,
Mr. Chuzzlewit ! " But when he told them that Mr. L'huzzlcwit
and he were friends, and that Mr. Chuzzlewit had said such kind
and tender words as pierced his very heart, the two Miss Pecksniffs
cried with one accord, " Thank Heaven for this ! " and fell upon the
■.)U1 man's neck. And when they had embraced him with such fer-
\ ( jur of affection that no words can describe it, they grouped them-
selves about liis chair, and hung over him : as figuring to themselves
no earthly joy like that of ministering to his wants, and crow'ding
into the remainder of his life the love they would have diffused over
their whole existence, from infancy, if he — dear obdurate ! — had
but consented to receive the precious offering.

The old man looked attentively from one to the other, and then
at Mr. Pecksniff", several times.

" What," he asked of Mr. Pecksniff", happening to catch his eye
in its descent : for until now it had been piously upraised, with
something of that expression wdiich the poetry of ages has attributed
to a domestic bird, when breathing its last amid the ravages of an
electric storm : "What are their names'?"

Mr. Pecksniff' told him, and added, rather hastily — his calum-
niators w'ould have said, with a view to any testamentary thoughts
that might be flitting through old Martin's mind — "Pcrhai)s, my
dears, you had better write them down. Your humble autograjjhs
are of no value in themselves, but affection may prize them."

"Affection," said the old man, "will ex])end itself on the living
originals. Do not trouble yourselves, my girls. I shall not so
easily forget you. Charity and Mercy, as to need such tokens of
remembrance. Cousin ! "

" Sir ! " said Mr. Pecksniff", with alacrity.

" Do you never sit down 1 "

"Why — yes — occasionally. Sir," said I\lr. Pecksnilf, wiio iiad
been standing all this time.

l1;UT11 I'ilKVAll-ii AMI YIllTUii la TlUUMi'llAM


" Will you do yo now ? "'

"Can you ask me," returned Mr. Pecksnifl", slipping into a cliair
immediately, ''whether I will do anything that you desire?"

" You talk confidently,'' said Martin, "and you mean well ; Imt
I fear you don't know what an old man's humours are. Yuu don't
know what it is to be required to court his likings and dislikings ;
adapt yourself to his prejudices ; do his bidding, be it what it may;
bear witli his distrusts and jealousies ; and always still be zealous
iti his service. When I remember how numerous these failings are
in me, and judge of their occasional enormity by the injurious
thoughts I lately entertained of you, I liardly dare to claim you for
my friend."

" JMy worthy Sir," returned his relative, '• how can you talk in
such a i)ainful strain ! "What was more natural than that you
should make one slight mistake, when in all other respects you
were so very correct, and have had such reason — such very sad and
undeniable reason — to judge of every one about you in the worst
light : "

"True," replied the other. "You are very lenient with me."

'• We always said — my girls and I," cried Mr. Pecksniff ^\■ith
increasing obsequiousness, " that while we mourned the heaviness
of our misfortune in being confounded with the base and mercenary,
still we could not wonder at it. My dears, you remember 1 "

Oh vividly ! A thousand times !

" AVe uttered no complaint," said Mr. Pecksniff. " Occasionally
we had the presumption to console ourselves with the remark that
Truth would in the end prevail, and Virtue be triumphant ; but
not often. My loves, you recollect?"

Recollect ! Could he doubt it ? Dearest pa, what strange,
unnecessary questions !

"And when I saw you," resumed Mr. Pecksniff, with still
greater deference, " in the little, unassuming village where we take
the liberty of dwelling, I said you were mistaken in me, my dear
Sir: tliat was all, I think?"

"No — not all," said Martin, who had been sitting with his haml
upon his brow for some time past, and now looked up again : "you
sjiid uuich more, which, added to other circumstances that have
come to my knowledge, opened my eyes. Y^ou spoke to me, di.s-
interestedl}', on behalf of — I needn't name him. You know whom
I mean."

Trouble was expressed in Mr. Pecksniffs visage, as he i)ressed
his hot hands together, and replied, with humility, " Quite dis-
interestedly, Sir, I assure you."

"I know it," said old Martin, in hi.; quiet way. " 1 am sure of


it. I said so. It was disinterested too, in j'ou, to draw tliat herd
of har^jies off from nie, and be their victim yourself; most other
men would liave suftered them to display themselves in all their
rapacity, and would have striven to rise, by contrast, in my
estimation. You felt for me, and drew them off, for which I owe
you many thanks. Although I left the place, I know what passed
behind my back, you see ! "

" You amaze me. Sir ! " cried Mr. Pecksniff : which was true

"My knowledge of your proceedings," said the old man, " does
not stop at this. You have a new inmate in your house — "

"Yes, Sir," rejoined the architect, "I have."

"He must quit it," said Martin.

" For — for yours ? " asked IMr. Pecksniff, with a quavering

"For any shelter he can find," the old man answered. "He
has deceived you."

" I hope not," said Mr. Pecksniff', eagerly. " I trust not. I
have been extremely well disposed towards that young man. I
hope it cannot be shown that he has forfeited all claim to my
protection. Deceit — deceit, my dear Mr. Chuzzlewit, would be
final. I should hold myself bound, on proof of deceit, to renounce
him instantly."

The old man glanced at both his fair supporters, but especially
at Miss Mercy, whom, indeed, he looked fidl in the face, with a
greater demonstration of interest than had yet appeared in his
features. His gaze again encountered Mr. Pecksniff, as he said,
composedly :

" Of course you know that he has made his matrimonial
choice 1 "

"Oh dear ! " cried Mr. Pecksniff, rubbing his hair up very stiff
upon his head, and staring wildly at his daughters. "This is
becoming tremendous ! "

" You know the fact 1" repeated Martin.

" Surely not without his grandfiither's consent and approbation,
my dear Sir ! " cried Mr. Pecksuitt". " Don't tell me that. For
the honour of human nature, say you're not about to tell me that ! "

" I thought he had suppressed it," said the old man.

The indignation felt by Mr. Pecksniff at this terrible disclosure,
was only to be equalled by the kindling anger of his daughters.
What ! Had they taken to their hearth and home a secretly con-
tracted serpent ; a crocodile, who had made a furtive offer of his
hand ; an imposition on society : a bankrupt bachelor with no
effects, trading with the siuuster world on false pretences ! And


oh, to think tliat he should have disolicyed and practised on that
sweet, that venerable gentleman, whose name he bore ; that kind
and tender guardian ; his more than father — to say nothing at all
of mother — horrible, horrible ! To turn him out witli ignominy
would be treatment, much too good. Was there nothing else that
could be done to him 1 Had he incurred no legal pains and {)en-
alties ? Could it be that the statutes of the land were so remiss as
to have attixed no punishment to such delinquency'? Monster;
how basely had they been deceived !

" I am glad to find you second me so warmly," said tiie old man,
holding up his hand to stay the torrent of their wrath. " I will
not deny that it is a pleasure to me to find you so full of zeal. We
will consider that topic as disposed of."

"Xo, my dear Sir," cried Mr. Pecksniff, "not as disposed of,
until I have purged my house of this pollution."

" That will follow," said the old man, " in its own time. I
look upon that as done."

" You are very good, Sir," answered Mr. Pecksniff, shaking his
hand. " You do me honour. You mai/ look upon it as done, I
assure you."

"There is another topic," said Martin, "on wliich I hope you
will assist me. You remember Mary, cousin ? "

" The young lady that I mentioned to you, my dears, as having
interested me so very much," remarked Mr. Pecksnift'. " Excuse
ray interrupting you, Sir."

" I told you her history ;" said the old man.

" Which I also mentioned, you will recollect, my dears," cried
Mr. Pecksniff. " Silly girls, Mr. Chuzzlewit — quite moved by it,
they were ! "

"Why, look now ! " said Martin, evidently pleased : "I feared
I should have had to urge her case upon you, and ask you to
regard her favourably for my sake. But I find you have no
jealousies ! Well ! You have no cause for any, to be sure. She
has nothing to gain from me, my dears, and she knows it."

The two Miss Pecksniffs murmured their approval of this wise
arrangement, and tlieir cordial sympathy with its interesting

" If I could have anticipated what has come to pass between
us four," said the old man, thouglitfully : "but it is too late to
think of that. You would receive her courteously, young ladies,
and be kind to her, if need were 1 "

Wjiere was the orphan whom the two Miss Pecksniffs would
not liave cherished in their sisterly bosom ! But when tliat
orphan was commended to their care by one on whom tiic


(lammed-up love of years was gushing forth, what exhaustless
stores of pure affection yearned to expend themselves upon her !

An interval ensued, during which Mr. Chuzzlewit, in an absent
frame of mind, sat gazing at the ground, without uttering a word ;
and as it was plain that he had no desire to be interrupted in his
meditations, Mr. Pecksniff and his daughters were profoundly
silent also. During the whole of the foregoing dialogue, he had
borne his part with a cold, passionless promptitude, as though he
had learned and painfully rehearsed it all, a hundred times. Even
when his expressions were warmest and his language most
encouraging, he had retained the same manner, without the
least abatement. But now there was a keener brightness in his
eye, and more expression in his voice, as he said, awakening from
his thoughtful mood :

" You know what will be said of this 1 Have you reflected ? "

" Said of what, my dear Sir ? " Mi". Pecksniff asked.

" Of this new understanding between us."

Mr. Pecksniff looked benevolently sagacious, and at the same
time far above all earthly misconstruction, as he shook his head,
and observed that a great many things would be said of it,
no doubt.

"A great manj'," rejoined the old man. "Some will say that
I dote in my old age ; that illness has shaken me ; that I have
lost all strength of mind ; and have grown childish. You can
bear that?"

Mr. Pecksniff answered that it would be dreadfully hard to
bear, but he thought he could, if he made a great effort.

" Others will say — I speak of disappointed, angry people only —
that you have lied, and fawned, and wormed yourself through
dirty ways into my favour ; by such concessions and such crooked
deeds, such meannesses and vile endurances, as nothing could
repay ; no, not the legacy of half the world we live in. You can
bear that 1 "

Mr. Pecksniff made reply that this would be also very hard to
bear, as reflecting, in some degree, on the discernment of Mr.
Chuzzlewit. Still he had a modest confidence that he could
sustain the calumny, with the help of a good conscience, and that
gentleman's friendship.

" With the great mass of slanderers," said old Martin, leaning
back in his chair, "the tale, as I clearly foresee, will run thus:
That to mark my contempt for the rabble whom I despised, I
chose from among tliem the very worst, and made him do my
will, and pampered and enriched him at the cost of all the rest.
That, after casting about for the means of a punislunent which


>hnul(l ninklc in the bosoms of tliesc kites the most, uiul strike
into their gall, I devised tliis scheme at a time when the hist link
in the chain of grateful love and duty, that held me to my race,
w as roughly snapped asunder : roughly, for I loved him well ;
iMughly, for I had ever put my trust in his aftection ; roughly,
I'm- that he broke it when I loved him most — God help me ! — and
he without a pang could throw me otf, the while I clung about
his heart ! Now," said the old man, dismissing this jiassionate
outburst, as suddenly as he had yielded to it, "is your mind made
up to bear this likewise 1 Lay your account with having it to
liear, and put no trust in being set right by me."

"]\Iy dear Mr. Chuzzlewit," cried Pecksnitt* in an ecstary, "for
such a man as you have shown yourself to be this day ; for a man
so injured, yet so very humane; for a man so — I am at a loss
\\hat precise term to use — yet at the same time so remarkably — I
(hm't know how to express my meaning; for such a man as I
have described, I hope it is no presumption to say that I, and
I am sure I may add my children also (my dears, Ave perfectly
a-roe in this, I think ?), would bear anything whatever ! "

" Enough," said ]\Iartin. " You can charge no consequences
nil me. When do you return home?"

"Whenever you jjlease, my dear Sir. To-night, if ymi
I h -sire it."

" I desire nothing," returned the old man, "that is unreason-
able. Such a request would be. Will you be ready to return at
the end of this Aveek 1 "

The very time of all others that j\Ir. Pecksniff would have
suggested if it had been left to liini to make his own choice. As
to his daughters — the words, "Let us be at home on Satunlay,
dear pa," were actually upon their lips.

" Your expenses, cousin," said JMartin, taking a folded slip of
liaper from his pocket-book, "may possibly exceed that amount.
If so, let me know the balance that I, owe you, when we next meet.
It would be useless if I told you where I live just now : indeed,
I have no fixed aT)ode. When I have, you shall know it. You
ai]il yom- daughters may expect to see me before long : in the
mean time I need not tell you, that we keep our own confidence.
What you will do when you get home, is understood between us.
<iivc me no account of it at any time; and never refer to it in
any way. I a,sk that, as a favour. I am conmionly a man of
tt'W words, cousin ; and all that need be said just now is said,
I think."

"One glass of wine one morsel of this homely caki; ?" cried
>Ir. Pecksnitt" venturing to detain him. " .My dears !"


The sisters flew to wait upon him.

" Poor girls ! " said Mr. PecliSuifl". " You will excuse their
agitation, my dear Sir. Tliey are made up of feeling. A bad
commodity to go through the world with, Mr. Chuzzlewit ! My
youngest daughter is almost as much of a woman as my eldest, is
she not, Sirl"

"Which is the youngest?" asked the old man.

"Mercy, by five years," said Mr. Pecksniff. "We sometimes
venture to consider her rather a fine figure, Sir. Speaking as an
artist, I may perhaps be permitted to suggest, that its outline is
graceful and correct. I am naturally," said ]\Ir. Pecksniff, drying
his hands upon his handkerchief, and looking anxiously in his
cousin's face at almost every word, "proud, if I may use the
expression, to have a daughter who is constructed upon the
best models."

"She seems to have a lively disposition," observed Martin.

"Dear me!" said Mr. Pecksniff", "that is quite remarkable.
You have defined her character, my dear Sir, as correctly as if you
had known her from her birth. She has a lively disposition. I
assure you, my dear Sir, that in our unpretending home, her
gaiety is deliglitful."

"No doubt," returned the old man.

" Charity, upon the other hand," said Mr. Pecksniff", " is
remarkable for strong sense, and for rather a deep tone of
sentiment, if tlie partiality of a fatlier may be excused in saying
so. A wonderful aft'ection between them, my dear Sir ! Allow
me to drink your health. Bless you ! "

" I little thought," retorted Martin, " but a month ago, that I
should be breaking bread and pouring wine with you. I drink
to you."

Not at all abashed by the extraordinary abruptness witli which
these latter words were spoken, Mr. Pecksniff" thanked liim

"Now let me go," said Martin, putting down tlie wine wiien
he had merely touched it with his lips. " My dears, good
morning ! "

But this distant form of farewell was by no means tender
enough for the yearnings of the young ladies, who again embraced
him with all their hearts — with all their arms at any rate — to
which parting caresses their new-found friend submitted with a
better grace than might have been expected from one wlio, not
a moment before, Iiad pledged their parent in such a very
uncomfortable manner. These endearments terminated, he took a
hasty leave of I\Ir. Pecksniff", and withdrew, followed to the door

^rARTix rnrzzLEWiT. ir.i

by both lather ami daughters, who stood there, kissing tlieir
hands, and beaming witli attection until lie disappeared : though,
by the way, he never onee looked back, after he had crossed
the threshold.

When they returned into the house, and were again alone in
Mrs. Todgers's.rooni, the two young ladies exhibited an unusual
amount of gaiety ; insomuch that they clapped their hands, and
laughed, and looked with roguish aspects and a bantering air
upon their dear papa. This conduct was so very unaccountable,
that Mr. Pecksniff (being singularly grave himself) could scarcely
choose but ask them what it meant ; and took them to task, in
his gentle manner, for yielding to such light emotions.

"If it was possible to divine any cause for this merriment,
even the most remote," he said, " I should not reprove you. But
when you can have none whatever — oh, really- — really ! "

This admonition had so little effect on Mercy, that she Avas
obliged to hold her handkerchief before her rosy lips, and to
throw herself back in her chair, with every demonstration of
extreme amusement ; which want of duty so offended Mr. Peck-
sniff that he reproved her in set terms, and gave her his parental
advice to correct herself in solitude and contemplation. But at
that juncture they were disturbed by the sound of voices in
dispute ; and as it proceeded from the next room, the subject
matter of the altercation quickly reached their ears.

"I don't care that! Mrs. Todgers," said the young gentleman
who had been the youngest gentleman in company on the day of
the festival ; " I don't care that, ma'am," said he, snapping his
fingers, "for Jinkins. Don't suppose I do."

" I am quite certain you don't. Sir," replied Mrs. Todgers.
" You have too independent a spirit, I know, to yield to anybody.
And quite right. There is no reason why you should give Avay to
any gentleman. Everybody must be well aware of that."

" I should think no more of admitting daylight into the
fellow," said the youngest gentleman, in a desperate voice, " than
if he was a bull- dog."

Mrs. Todgers did not stop to inquire whether, as a matter of
principle, there was any particular reason for admitting daylight
even into a bull-dog, otherwise than by the natural channel of his
eyes ; but she seemed to wring her hands, and she moaned.

" Let him be careful," said the youngest gentleman. " I give
him warning. No man shall step between me and the current of
my vengeance. I know a cove—" he used that familiar ejMthet in
his agitation, but corrected himself, by adding, "a gentleman of
property, I mean, who practises with a pair of pistols (fellows too)



of his own. If I am driveu to borrow 'em, and to send a friend
to Jinkins — a tragedy Avill get into tlie pajDers. That's all."

Again Mrs. Todgers moaned.

" I have borne this long enough," said the youngest gentleman,
" but now my soul rebels against it, and I won't stand it any
longer. I left home originally, because I had that within me
which wouldn't be domineered over by a sister ; and do you think
I'm going to be put down by him ? No."

"It is very wrong in Mr. Jinkius; I know it is perfectly
inexcusable in Mr. Jinkins, if he intends it," observed Mrs.

"If he intends it!" cried the youngest gentleman. "Don't
he interrupt and contradict me on every -pccasion ? Does he ever
fail to interpose himself between me and anything or anybody
that he sees I have set my mind upon ? Does he make a point of
always pretending to forget me, when he's pouring out the beer ?
Does he make bragging remarks about his razors, and insulting
allusions to people who have no necessity to shave more than once
a week ? But let him look out ; he'll find himself shaved, pretty
close, before long, and so I tell him ! "

The young gentleman was mistaken in this closing sentence,
inasmuch as he never told it to Jinkins, but always to Mrs.

" However," he said, " these are not proper subjects for ladies'
ears. All I've got to say to you, Mrs. Todgers, is, — a week's
notice from next Saturday. The same house can't contain that
miscreant and me any longer. If we get over the intermediate
time without bloodshed, you may think yourself pretty fortunate.
I don't my.self expect we shall."

"Dear, dear !" cried Mrs. Todgers, "what would I have given
to have prevented this ! To lose you. Sir, would be like losing
the house's right-hand. So popular as you are among the gentle-
men ; so generally looked up to ; and so much liked ! I do hope
you'll think better of it ; if on nobody else's account, on mine."

" There's Jinkins," said the youngest gentleman, moodily.
"Your favourite. He'll console you and the gentlemen too for
the loss of twenty such as me. I'm not understood in this house.
I never have been."

" Don't run away with that opinion. Sir ! " cried Mrs. Todgers,
with a show of honest indignation. " Don't make such a charge
as that against the establishment, I must beg of you. It is not
so bad as that comes to. Sir. Make any remark you please
against the gentlemen, or against me ; but don't say you're not
understood in this house."


" I'm not treated as if I was," said the youngest gentleman.

" There you make a great mistake, Sir," retuiiied Mrs. Toilgers,
in the same strain. "As many of the gentlemen and I have
often said, you are too sensitive. That's where it is. You are
of too susceptible a nature ; it's in your spirit. "

The young gentleman coughed.

"And as," said Mrs. Todgers, "as to Mr. Jinkins, I must beg
of you, if we are to part, to understand that I don't abet Mr.

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 18 of 80)