Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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Jonas, carelessly. " You don't consider him so, do you, father ? "

" Certainly not," replied Anthony.

" What is he then ? "



kA ""Why^ rU toll you what he is," said Mr. Jonas, ajiart to tlio

roung ladies, " he's precious old, for one thing ; and I an"t best

■ "^)leased with him for that, for I think my father must have caught

r of him. He's a strange old chap, for another,"' he added in a

■Miller voice, "and don't understand any one hardly, hut /ihn/"

:lv pointed to his honoured parent with the carving-fork, in order

hat they might know whom he meant.

" How very strange ! " cried the sisters.

"Why, you see," said Mr. Jonas, "he's been addling his old

' trains with figures and book-keeping all his life ; and twenty year

i cir so he Avent and took a fever. All the time he was out of

head (which was three weeks) he never left off casting up ; and

ir i^ut to so many million at last that I don't believe he's ever

l)een quite right since. We don't do much business now though,

' ' aud he an't a bad clerk."

m "A very good one," said Anthony.

iv] " Well ! He an't a dear one at all events," observed Jonas ;

' •''and he earns his salt, which is enough for our look-out. I was

telling you that he hardly understands any one except my father ;

'''■' lie always understands him, though, and wakes up quite wonderful.

He's been used to his ways so long, you see ! Why, I've seen

him play whist, with my father for a partner ; and a good rubber

:too ; when he had no more notion what sort of peoj)le he was

; playing against, than you have."

!i|j " Has he no appetite 1 " asked Merry.

m "Oh yes," said Jonas, plying his own knife and fork very fast.
iJfr'He eats — when he's helped. But he don't care whether he waits
(ja minute or an hour, as long as father's here ; so when I'm at all
i: isharp set, as I am to-day, I come to him after I've taken the edge
''- I off my own hunger, you know. Now, Chuftey, stupid, are you
I! ready?"

4 Chuffey remained immoveable.

M "Always a perverse old file, he was," said I\Ii-. Jonas, coolly
helping himself to another slice. "Ask him, father."

■'Are you ready for your dinner, Chuff'ey'?" asked the old man.
"Yes, yes," said Chuftey, lighting up into a sentient human
t\ creature at the first sound of the voice, so that it was at once a
I; curious and quite a moving sight to see him. "Yes, yes. Quite
' i ready, Mr. Chuzzlewit. Quite ready. Sir. All ready, all ready,
; all ready." With that he stopped, smilingly, and listened for
• some further address ; but being spoken to no more, the light for-
sook his face by little and little, until he was nothing again.
|j "He'll be very disagreeable, mind," said Jonas, addressing his
1 1 coixsins as he handed the old man's portion to his father, "lie





always chokes himself when it an't broth. Look at him, now
Did you ever see a horse with such a wall-eyed expression as he'
got 1 If it hadn't been for the joke of it, I wouldn't have let h
come in to-day ; but I thought he'd amuse you."

The poor old subject of this humane speech, was, happily for
himself, as unconscious of its purport, as of most other remarks
that were made in his presence. But the mutton being tough, and
his gums weak, he quickly verified the statement relative to his
choking propensities, and underwent so much in his attempts to
dine, that Mr. Jonas was infinitely amused : protesting that he
had seldom seen him better company in all his life, and that he
was enough to make a man split his sides with laughing. Indeed,
he went so far as to assure the sisters, that in this point of view he
considered Chuflfey superior to his own father ; which, as he signi-
ficantly added, was saying a great deal.

It was strange enough that Anthony Chuzzlewit, himself so old
a man, should take a pleasure in these gibings of his estimable son,
at the expense of the poor shadow at their table. But he did,
unquestionably : though not so much — to do him justice — with
reference to their ancient clerk, as in exultation at the sharpness
of Jonas. For the same reason, that young man's coarse allusions,
even to himself, filled him with a stealthy glee : causing him to
rub his hands and chuckle covertly, as if he said in his sleeve, " /
taught him. / trained him. This is the heir of my bringing-up.
Sly, cunning, and covetous, he'll not squander my money. I
worked for this ; I hoped for this ; it has been the great end and
aim of my life."

What a noble end and aim it was to contemplate in the attain-
ment, truly ! But there be some who manufocture idols after the
fashion of themselves, and fail to worship them when they are
made ; charging their deformity on outraged nature. Anthony was
better than these at any rate.

Chuffey boggled over his plate so long, that Mr. Jonas, losing
patience, took it from him at last with his own liands, and re-
(|uested his father to signify to that venerable person that he had
better " peg away at his bread : " which Anthony did.

" Ay, ay ! " cried the old man, brightening up as before, when
this was communicated to him in the same voice ; " quite right,
quite right. He's your own son, Mr. Chuzzlewit ! Bless him for
a sharp lad ! Bless him, bless him ! "

Mr. Jonas considered this so particularly childish — perhaps
with some reason — that he only laughed the more, and told his
cousins that he was afraid one of these fine days, Chuffey would be
the deatli of him. The cloth was then removed, and the bottle of


ine set iiiion tlie table, from whioli Mr. Jonas filled tlie young
ladies' glasses, calling on them not to spare it, as they might be
certain there was plenty more where that came from. But, he
added witli some haste after this sally, that it was only his joke,
and they wouldn't suppose him to be in earnest, he was sure.

"I shall drink," said Anthony, "to Pecksnift'. Your fiither,
y dears. A clever man, Pecksniff. A wary man ! A hypocrite,
though, eh 1 A hypocrite, girls, eh 1 Ha, ha, ha ! Well, so he
is. Now, among friends— he is. I don't think the worse of him
for that, unless it is that he overdoes it. You may overdo any-
thing, my darlings. You may overdo even hypocrisy. Ask


"You can't overdo taking care of yourself,'' observed that
hopeful gentleman with his mouth full.

" Do you hear that, my dears ? " cried Anthony, quite en-
raptured, " Wisdom, wisdom ! A good exception, Jonas. No.
It's not easy to overdo that."

" Except," whispered Mr. Jonas to his flivourite cousin, " except
when one lives too long. Ha, ha ! Tell the other one that — I
say ! "

" Good gracious me ! " said Cherry, in a petulant manner,
"You can tell her yourself, if you wish, can't j-ou?"

" She seems to make such game of one," replied Mr, Jonas,

" Then why need you trouble yourself about her 1 " said Charity.
"I am sure she doesn't trouble herself much about you."

" Don't she though 1 " asked Jonas.

"Good gracious me, need I tell you that she don't?" returned
the young lady.

Mr. Jonas made no verbal rejoinder, but he glanced at Mercy
with an odd expression in his face ; and said that Avouldn't break
his heart, she might depend upon it. Then he looked on Charity
with even greater favour than before, and besought her, us his
polite manner was, to "come a little closer."
**- "There's another thing that's not easily overdone, father,"

(remarked Jonas, after a short silence.
"What's that*?" asked the father; grinning already iii'>
anticipation. !

''^ "A bargain," said the son. "Here's the rule for bargains — '
■'Do other men, for they would do you.' That's the true business
precept. All others are counterfeits."

- The delighted father applauded this sentiment to the echo ; and
was so much tickled by it, that he was at the pains of imi)artiiig
the same to his ancient clerk, who rubbed his hands, nodded his
palsied head, winked his watery eyes, and cried in his whistling


tones, "Good! good! Your own sou, Mr. Chuzzlewit ! " with
every feeble demonstration of deliglit tliat he was capable of
making. But this old man's enthusiasm had the redeeming
quality of being felt in sympathy with the only creature to whom
lie was linked by ties of long association, and by his present
helplessness. And if there had been anybody there, who cared to
think about it, some dregs of a better nature unawakened, might
perhaps have been descried through that very medium, melancholy
though it was, yet lingering at the bottom of the worn-out cask,
called Chuffey.

As matters stood, nobody thought or said anything upon the
subject ; so Chuffey fell back into a dark corner on one side of the
fire-place, where he always spent his evenings, and was neither
seen nor heard again that night ; save once, when a cup of tea was
given him, in which he was seen to soak his bread mechanically.
There was no reason to suppose that he went to sleep at these
seasons, or that he heard, or saw, or felt, or thought. He re-
mained, as it were, frozen up — if any term expressive of such a
vigorous process can be applied to him— until he Avas again
thawed for the moment by a word or touch from Anthony.

Miss Charity made tea by desire of Mr. Jonas, and felt and
looked so like the lady of the house, that she was in the prettiest
confusion imaginable ; the more so, from Mr. Jonas sitting close
beside her, and whispering a variety of admiring expressions in
her ear. Miss Mercy, for her part, felt the entertainment of the
evening to be so distinctly and exclusively theirs, that she silently
deplored the commercial gentlemen — at that moment, no doubt,
wearying for her return — and yawned over yesterday's newspaper.
As to Anthony, he went to sleep outright, so Jonas and Cherry
had a clear stage to themselves as long as tliey chose to keep
possession of it.

When the tea-tray was taken away, as it was at last, Mr.
Jonas produced a dirty pack of cards, and entertained the sisters
with divers small feats of dexterity : whereof the main purpose of
every one was, that you were to decoy somebody into laying a
wager with you that you couldn't do it ; and were then immedi-
ately to win and pocket his money. Mr. Jonas informed them
that these accomplishments were in high vogue in the most
intellectual circles, and that large amounts were constantly
changing hands on such hazards. And it may be remarked that
he fully believed this ; for there is a simplicity of cunning no less
than a simplicity of innocence ; and in all matters where a lively
faith in knavery and meanness was required as the groundwork of
belief, Mr. Jonas was one of the most credulous of men. His



ignorance, which was stupendous, may be taken into account, if
the reader pleases, separately.

This fine young man had all the inclination to be a profligate
of the first water, and only lacked the one good trait in the
common catalogue of debauched vices — open-handedness — to be a
notable vagabond. But there his griping and penurious habits
stepped in ; and as one poison will sometimes neutralize another,
when Avholesorae remedies would not avail, so he was restrained
by a bad passion from quaffing his full measure of evil, when
virtue might have sought to hold him back in vain.

By the time he had unfolded all the ijeddling schemes he knew
upon the cards, it was growing late in the evening; and Mr.
Pecksniff not making his appearance, the young ladies expressed a
wish to return home. But this, Mr. Jonas, in his gallantry,
would by no means allow, until they had partaken of some bread
and cheese and porter ; and even then he was excessively unwilling
to allow them to depart ; often beseeching Miss Charity to come a
little closer, or to stop a little longer, and preferring many other
complimentary petitions of that nature, in his own hospitable and
earnest way. When all his efforts to detain them were fruitless,
he put on his hat and great coat ijreparatory to escorting them to
Todgers's ; remarking that he knew they would rather walk
thither than ride ; and that for his part he was quite of their

" Good night," said Anthony. "Good night ; remember me to
— ha, ha, ha ! — to Pecksniff. Take care of your cousin, my dears j
beware of Jonas ; he's a dangerous fellow. Don't quarrel for him,
in any case ! "

"Oh, the creature!" cried Mercy. "The idea of quarrelling
for him ! You may take him, Cherry, my love, all to yourself.
I make you a present of my share."

" What ! I'm a sour grape, am I, cousin ?" said Jonas.

Miss Charity was more entertained by this repartee than one
would have supposed likely, considering its advanced age and
simple character. But in her sisterly affection she took Mr. Jonas
to task for leaning so very hard upon a broken reed, and said that
he must not be so cruel to poor Merry any more, or she (Charity)
would positively be obliged to hate him. Mercy, who really had
her share of good humour, only retorted with a laugh ; and they
walked home in consequence without any angry passages of words
upon the way. Mr. Jonas being in the middle, and having a
cousin on each arm, sometimes squeezed the wrong one ; so tightly
too, as to cause her not a little inconvenience ; but as he talked to
Charity in whispers the whole time, and paid her great attention,


no doubt this was an accidental circumstance. "When they arrived
at Todgers's, and the door was opened, Mercy broke hastily from
them, and ran up-stairs ; but Charity and Jonas lingered on tlie
steps talking together for more than five minutes ; so, as lira.
Todgers observed next morning, to a third party, " It was pretty
clear what was going on there, and she was glad of it, for it really
was high time Miss Pecksnift' thought of settling."

And now the day was coming on, Avhen that bright vision
which had burst on Todgers's so suddenly, and made a sunshine in
the shady breast of Jinkins, was to be seen no more ; when it was
to be packed like a brown-paper parcel, or a fish-basket, or an
oyster-barrel, or a fat gentleman, or any other dull reality of life,
in a stage-coach, and carried down into the country !

"Xever, my dear Miss Pecksnifts," said Mrs. Todgers, when
they retired to rest on the last night of their stay ; " never have I
seen an establishment so perfectly broken-hearted as mine is at
this present moment of time. I don't believe the gentlemen will
be the gentlemen they were, or anything like it — no, not for weeks
to come. You have a great deal to answer for ; both of you."

They modestly disclaimed any wilful agency in this disastrous
state of things, and regretted it very much.

" Your pious Pa, too ! " said Mrs. Todgers. " There's a loss !
My dear ]\Iiss Pecksnifts, your Pa is a perfect missionary of peace
and love."

Entertaining an uncertainty as to the particular kind of love
supposed to be comprised in Mr. Pecksnift''s mission, the young
ladies received this compliment rather coldly.

"If I dared," said ]\Irs. Todgers, perceiving this, "to violate a
confidence which has been reposed in me, and to tell you why I
must beg of you to leave the little door between your room and
mine open to-night, I think you would be interested. Put I
mustn't do it, for I promised Mr. Jiidcins faithfully that 1 would
be as silent as the tomb."

" Dear Mrs. Todgers ! What can you mean ? "

"Why then, my sweet Miss Pecksnifts," said the lady of the
house; "my own loves, if you will allow me the privilege of
taking that freedom on the eve of our separation, ]\Ir. Jinkins
and the gentlemen have made up a little musical ]iarty among
themselves, and do intend in the dead of this night to perform a
serenade upon the stairs outside the door. I could have wished,
I own," said Mrs. Todgers, with her usual foresight, " that it had
been fixed to take place an hour or two earlier ; because, when
gentlemen .sit up late, they drink, and when they ilrink, they're
not so musical, perhaps, as when they don't. Put this is thf


arrangement ; and I know you will be gratified, my dear Miss
Pecksniffs, by such a mark of their attention."

The young ladies were at first so much excited by the news,
that they vowed they couldn't think of going to bed, until the
serenade was over. But half an hour of cool waiting so altered
their opinion that tliey not only went to bed, but fell asleep ; and
were moreover not ecstatically charmed to be awakened some time
afterwards by certain dulcet strains breaking in upon the silent
watches of the night.

It was very affecting — very. Nothing more dismal could have
been desired by the most fastidious taste. The gentleman of a
vocal turn was head mute, or chief mourner ; Jinkins took the
bass ; and the rest took anything they could get. The youngest
gentleman blew his melancholy into a flute. He didn't blow
much out of it, but that was all the better. If the two Miss
Pecksniffs and Mrs. Todgers had perished by spontaneous com-
bustion, and the serenade had been in honour of their ashes, it
would have been impossible to surpass the unutterable despair
expressed in that one chorus, " Go where glory waits thee!" It
was a requiem, a dirge, a moan, a howl, a wail, a lament, an
abstract of everything that is sorrowful and hideous in sound.
The flute of the youngest gentleman was wild and fitful. It came
and went in gusts, like the wind. For a long time together he
seemed to have left off, and when it was quite settled by Mrs.
Todgers and the young ladies, that, overcome by his feelings, he
had retired in tears, he unexpectedly turned up again at the very
top of the tune, gasping for breath. He was a tremendous per-
former. There was no knowing where to have him ; and exactly
when you thought he was doing nothing at all, then was he doing
the very thing that ought to astonish you most.

There were several of these concerted pieces ; perhaps two or
three too many, though that, as Mrs. Todgers said, was a fault on
the right side. But even then, even at that solemn moment, when
the thrilling sounds may be presumed to have penetrated into the
very depths of his nature, if he had any depths, Jinkins couldn't
leave the youngest gentleman alone. He asked him distinctly,
before the second song began — as a personal favour too, mark the
villain in that — not to play. Yes ; he said so ; not to play. The
breathing of the youngest gentleman was heard through the key-
liole of the door. He didn't play. What vent was a flute for the
passions swelling up within his breast ? A trombone would have
been a world too mild.

The serenade approached its close. Its crowning interest was
at hand. The gentleman of a literary turn had written a song on


the departure of the ladies, and adapted it to an old tunc. Tliey
all joined, except the youngest gentleman in company, \\hi\ lor
the reasons aforesaid, maintained a fearful silence. The song
(which Avas of a classical nature) invoked the oracle of Apollo, and
demanded to know what would become of Todgers's when C'hai;ity
and Mercy were banished from its walls. The oracle delivered
no opinion particularly worth remembering, according to tlie not
infrequent practice of oracles from the earliest ages down to the
present time. In the absence of enlightenment on that subject,
the strain deserted it, and went on to show that the ]\Iiss Peck-
sniffs were nearly related to Rule Britannia, and that if Great
Britain hadn't been an island there could have been no
Pecksniff's. And being now on a nautical tack, it closed with
this verse :

" All hail to the vessel of PecksnitF the sire !

And favouriug breezes to fan ;
While Tritons flock round it, and proudly admire

The architect, artist, and man I "

As they presented this beautiful picture to the imagination, the
gentlemen gradually withdrew to bed to give the music the effect
of distance; and so it died away, and Todgers's was left to its

Mr. Bailey reserved his vocal offering until the morning, when
he put his head into the room as the young ladies were kneeling
before their trunks, packing up, and treated them to an imitation
of the voice of a young dog, in trying circumstances : wlien that
animal is supposed by persons of a lively fancy, to relieve his
feelings by calling for pen and ink.

" Well, young ladies," said the youth, " so you're a going homo,
are you ; worse luck ? "

" Yes, Bailey, we're going home," returned ]\Iercy.

" A'nt you a going to leave none of 'em a lock of your hair ? "
inquired the youth. " It's real, an't it 1 "

They laughed at this, and told him of course it was.

" Oh is it of course though ? " said Bailey. " I know better
than that. Hers an't. Why, I see it hanging up once, on that
nail by the winder. Besides, I have gone behind her at dinner-
time and pulled it ; and she never know'd. I say, young ladies—
I'm a going to leave. I an't a going to stand being called names
by her, no longer." Mercy inquired what his plans for the future might be ;
in reply to whom, Mr. Bailey intimated that he thought of going,
either into top-boots, or into the army.

"Into the army ! " cried the young ladies, with a laugh.


"Ah!" said Bailey, " wliy not? There's a iiuuiy driuiimers
in the Tower. I'm acquainted with 'em. Don't their country
set a valley on 'em, mind you ! Not at all ! "

"You'll be shot, I see," observed Mercy.

" Well ! " cried Mr. Bailey, " wot if I am ? There's something
gamey in it, young ladies, an't there 1 I'd sooner be hit with a
cannon-ball than a rolling-pin, and she's always a catching up
something of that sort, and throwing it at me, wen the gentlemans
appetites is good. Wot," said Mr. Bailey, stung by the recollection
of his wrongs, " wot, if they do con-sume the per-vishuns. It an't
mi/ fault, is it ? "

" Surely no one says it is," said Mercy.

"Don't they though?" retorted the youth. "No. Yes. Ah !
Oh ! No one mayn't say it is ; but some one knows it is. But I
an't a going to have every rise in prices wisited on me. I an't a
going to be killed, because the markets is dear. I won't stop.
And therefore," added Mr. Bailey, relenting into a smile, " wotever
you mean to give me, you'd better give me all at once, becos if
ever you come back agin, I shan't be here ; and as to the other
boy, he won't deserve nothing, / know."

The young ladies, on behalf of Mr. Pecksniff and themselves,
acted on this thoughtful advice ; and in consideration of their
private friendship, presented Mr. Bailey with a gratuity so liberal,
that he could hardly do enough to show his gratitude ; which
found but an imperfect vent, during the remainder of the day,
in divers secret slaps upon his pocket, and other such facetious
pantomime. Nor was it confined to these ebullitions ; for besides
crushing a bandbox, with a bonnet in it, he seriously damaged
Mr. Pecksniff's luggage, by ardently hauling it down from the
top of the house ; and in short evinced, by every means in his
power, a lively sense of the favours he had received from that
gentleman and his family.

Mr. Pecksniff and Mr. Jinkins came home to dinner, arm-in-
arm ; for the latter gentleman had made half-holiday, on purpose ;
thus gaining an immense advantage over the youngest gentleman
and the rest, whose time, as it perversely chanced, Avas all bespoke,
imtil the evening. The bottle of wine was Mr. Pecksniff's treat,
and they were very sociable indeed ; though full of lamentations
on the necessity of parting. While they were in the midst of
their enjoyment, old Anthony and his son were announced ; much
to the surprise of Mr. Pecksniff, and greatly to the discomfiture
of Jiidcins.

" Come to say good bye, you see," said Anthony, in a low voice,
to Mr. Pecksniff, as tliey took their seats apart at the table, wliile


the rc!>t couvcised among themselves. '' Where's the of a
division between you and me '? We are the two halves of a pair of
scissors, when apart, Pecksniff; but together we are something. Eh !"
"Unanimity, my good sir," rejoined Mr. Pecksniff, "is ahvavs
delightful. ''

" I don't know about that,'' said the old man, " for tliere are
some people I would rather differ from than agree with. But you
know my opinion of you.''

Mr. Pecksniff", still having '' hypocrite " in his mind, only
replied by a motion of his head, which was something between
an affirmative bow, and a negative shake.

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 20 of 80)