Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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Mark turned it over and over ; held it near his eyes ; held it
away from him at arm's length ; held it with the superscription
ipwards, and with the superscription downwards ; and shook his
dead with such a genuine expression of astonishment at being
Eisked the question, that Martin said, as he took it from him again:

"No, I see you don't. How should you? Though, indeed,
your knowing about it would not be more extraordinary than its
being here. Come, Tapley," he added, after a moment's thought,
" I'll trust j'ou with my history, such as it is, and then you'll see,
more clearly, what sort of fortunes you would link yourself to, if
you followed me."

" I beg your pardon. Sir," said Mark ; " but afore you enter
upon it, will you take me if I choose to go 1 Will you turn off
me — -Mark Tapley — formerly of the Blue Dragon, as can be well
ji'ecommended by Mr. Pinch, and as wants a gentleman of your
Istrength of mind to look up to ; or will you, in climbing the ladder

you're certain to get to the top of, take me along with you at

espectful distance 1 Now, Sir," said Mark, " it's of very little
importance to you, I know — there's the difficulty ; but it's of very
great importance to me, and will you be so good as to consider
of it?"

If this were meant as a second appeal to Martin's weak side,
founded on his observation of the effect of the first, Mr. Tapley
was a skilful and shrewd observer. Whether an intentional or
an accidental shot, it hit the mark full ; for IMartin, relenting
more and more, said, with a condescension which was inex]nessib]y
delicious to him, after his recent humiliation :


" We'll see about it, Tapley. You shall tell me in what disposi-
tion you find yourself to-morrow."

" Then, Sir," said Mark, rubbing his hands, " the job's done.
Go on, Sir, if you please. I'm all attention."

Throwing himself back in his arm-chair, and looking at the fire,
with now and then a glance at Mark, who at such times nodded
his head sagely, to express his profound interest and attention ;
Martin ran over the chief points in his history, to the same eff"ect
as he had related them, weeks before, to Mr. Pinch. But he
adapted them, according to the best of his judgment, to Mr.
Tapley's comprehension ; and with that view made as light of his
love affair as he could, and referred to it in very few words. But
here he reckoned without his host ; for Mark's interest was keenest
in this part of the business, and prompted him to ask sundry
questions in relation to it ; for which he apologised as one in some
measure privileged to do so, from having seen (as Martin explained
to him) the young lady at the Blue Dragon.

" And a young lady as any gentleman ought to feel more proud
of being in love with," said Mark, energetically, " don't draw

" Ay ! You saw her when she was not happy," said jNIartin,
gazing at the fire again. " If you had seen her in the old times,
indeed — "

" Why, she certainly was a little down-hearted, Sir, and some-
thing paler in her colour than I could have wished," said Mark,
" but none the worse in her looks for that. I think she seemed
better. Sir, after she come to London."

Martin withdrew his eyes from the fire ; stared at Mark as if
he thought he had suddenly gone mad ; and asked him what he

•' Ko offence intended. Sir," urged ]Mark. " I don't mean to say
she was any the happier without you ; but I thought she was a
looking better, Su-."

" Do you mean to tell me she has been in London ? " asked
Martin, rising hurriedly, and pushing back his chair.

" Of course I do," said I\Iark, rising too, in great amazement,
from the bed-stead.

" Do you mean to tell me she's in London now ? "

"Most likely. Sir. I mean to say she was, a week ago."

" And you know where 1 "

" Yes ! " cried Mark. " What 1 Don't you ? "

" My good fellow ' " exclaimed Martin, clutching him by both
arms, "I have never seen her since I left my grandfather's house."

" Why then ! " cried ]\Iark, giving the little table such a blow



with his clenched list tliat the slices of beef and ham danced upon
it, while all his features seemed, with delight, to be going up into
his forehead, and never coming back again any more, "if I an't
your nat'ral born servant, hired by Fate, there an't such a thing
in natur' as a Blue Dragon. What ! when I was a rambling up
and down a old churchyard in the City, getting myself into a jolly
state, didn't I see your grandfather a toddling to and fro for
pretty nigli a mortal hour ! Didn't I watch him into Codgers's
commercial boarding-house, and watch him out, nnd Avatch him
home to his hotel, and go and tell him as his was the service for
my money, and I had said so, afore I left the Dragon ! Wasn't
the young lady a sitting with him then, and didn't slie fall a
laughing in a manner as was beautiful to see ! Didn't your grand-
father say, 'Come back again next week,' and didn't T go next
week; and didn't he. say that he couldn't make up his mind to
trust nobody no more, and therefore wouldn't engage me ; but at
the same time stood something to drink as was handsome ! Why,"
cried Mr. Tapley, with a comical mixture of delight and chagrin,
'" Where's the credit of a man's being jolly under such circumstances !
iWho could help it, when things come about like this ! "
I For some moments, Martin stood gazing at him, as if he really
doubted the evidence of his senses, and could not believe that
]\Iavk stood there, in the body, before him. At length he asked
him whether, if the young lady w^ere still in London, he thought
hr could contrive to deliver a letter to her secretly.

■• Do I thiidc I can ! " cried Mark. " Thinlc I can ! Here, sit

luwii, Sir. Write it out. Sir ! "

AVith that he cleared the table by the summary process of
[jtilting everything upon it into the fireplace ; snatched some writing

naterials from the mantel-shelf ; set Martin's chair before them;

breed him down into it ; dipped a pen into the ink ; and put it in

lis hand.

"Cutaway, Sir!" cried Mark. "Make it strong. Sir. Let

t be wery pointed, Sir. Do I flunk so 1 I should think so. Go

bo work. Sir ! "

Martin required no further adjuration, but went to work at a

Treat rate ; while Mr. Tapley, installing himself without any more

T)rmalitios into the functions of his valet and general attendant,

livested himself of his coat, and went on to clear the fireplace and

irrange the room : talking to himself in a low voice the whole


"Jolly sort of lodgings,"" said Mark, rnbliing his ikisc with the

fnob at the end of the fire-shovel, and looking round the poor

hamber : " that's a comfort. The rain's come through the roof



too. That an't bad. A lively old bedstead, I'll be bound ;
popilated by lots of wampires, uo doubt. Come ! my spirits is a
getting up again. An uncommon ragged nightcap this. A very
good sign. We shall do yet ! Here Jane, my dear," calling down
the stairs, " bring up that there hot tumbler for my master, as was
a mixing when I come in. That's right. Sir," to Martin. " Go at
it as if you meant it. Sir. Be very tender, Sir, if you please. You
can't make it too strong. Sir ! "



The letter being duly signed, sealed, and delivered, was handed
to Mark Tapley, for immediate conveyance if possible. And he
succeeded so well in his embassy as to be enabled to return that
same night, just as the house was closing : with the welcome
intelligence that he had sent it up stairs to the young lady, enclosed
in a small manuscript of his own, purporting to contain his further
petition to be engaged in Mr. Chuzzlewit's service ; and that she
had herself come down and told him, in great haste and agitation,
that she would meet the gentleman at eight o'clock to-morrow
morning in St. James's Park. It was then agreed between the
new master and the new man, that Mark should be in waiting near
the hotel in good time, to escort the young lady to the place of
appointment ; and when they had parted for the night with this
understanding, Martin took up his pen again ; and before he went
to bed wn-ote another letter, whereof more will lie seen presently.

He was up before day-break, and came upon the Park with the
morning, which was clad in the least engaging of the three hmidred
and sixty-five dresses in the wardrobe of the year. It was raw,
damp, dark, and dismal ; the clouds were as muddy as the ground :
and the short perspective of every street and avenue, was closed
up by the mist as by a filthy curtain.

" Fine weather indeed," Martin bitterly soliloquized, " to be
wandering up and down here in, like a thief! Fine weathei;
indeed, for a meeting of lovers in the open air, and in a public
walk ! I need be departing, witli all speed, for another country
for I have come to a pretty pass in this ! "


Uv iniglit iierliai^s have y-one on to reflect that of ail mornings
in tlie year, it was not the best calcuhited for a young lady's com-
ing forth on such an errand, either. But he was stopped on the
road to this reflection, if his thoughts tended that way, by her
appearance at a short distance, on which he hurried forward to
meet her. Her squire, Mr. Tapley, at the same time fell dis-
creetly back, and surveyed the fog above him with an appearance
of attentive interest.

" I\Iy dear IMartin ! " said Mary.

"My dear Mary," said Martin ; and lovers are such a singular
kind of people that this is all they did say just then, though
Martin took her arm, and her hand too, and they paced up and
down a short walk that was least exposed to observation, half-a-
dozen times.

" If you have changed at all, my love, since w^e parted," said
Martin at length, as he looked upon her with a proud delight, " it
is only to be more beautiful than ever ! "

Had she been of the common metal of love-worn young ladies,
she would have denied this in her most interesting manner ; and
would have told him that she knew she had become a perfect
fright ; or that she had wasted away with weeping and anxiety ;
or that slie was dwindling gently into an early grave ; or that her
mental sufterings were unspeakable ; or would either by tears or
words, or a mixture of both, have furnished him with some other
information to that effect, and made him as miserable as po!-sible.
But she had been reared up in a sterner school than the minds oi'
most young girls are formed in ; she had had her nature strength-
ened by the hands of hard endurance and necessity ; had come out
from her young trials constant, self-denying, earnest, and devoted ;
had acquired in her maidenhood — whether happily in the end, for
herself or him, is foreign to our present to inquire— some-
thing of that nobler quality of gentle hearts which is developed
often by the sorrows and struggles of matronly years, but often by
their lessons only. Unspoiled, unpampered in her joys or griefs ;
with frank, and full, and deep aff"ection for the object of her early
love ; she saw in him one who for her sake was an outcast from
his home and fortune, and she had no more idea of bestowing
that love upon him in other than cheerful and sustaining words,
full of high hope and grateful trustfulness, than she had of being
unworthy of it, in her lightest thought or deed, for any base
temi)tation that the world could offei-.

" Wiiat change is there in i/ou, Martin," she replied ; " for that
concerns me nearest ? You look more anxious and more thoughtful
than vou used."





"Why as to that, my love," said Martin, as he drew her waist
within liis arm, first looking round to see that there were no
observers near, and beholding Mr. Tapley more intent than ever
ou the fog; "it would be strange if I did not; for my life —
especially of late — has been a hard one."

"I know it must have been," she answered. "When have I
forgotten to think of it and you 1 "

"Not often, I hope," said Martin. "Not often, I am sure.
Not often, I have some right to expect, Mary ; for I have under-
gone a great deal of vexation and privation, and I naturally look
for that return, you know."

"A very, very poor return," she answered with a fainter smile.
" But you have it, and will have it always. You have paid a
; dear price for a poor heart, Martin ; but it is at least your own,
and a true one."

"Of course I feel quite certain of that," said Martin, "or I
; shouldn't have put myself in my present position. And don't say
a poor heart, Mary, for I say a rich one. Now, I am about to
break a design to you, dearest, which will startle you at first, but
which is undertaken for your sake. I am going," he added slowly,
looking far into the deep wonder of her bright dark eyes, " abroad."

" Abroad, Martin ! "

" Only to America. See now — how you droop directly 1 "

" If I do, or, I hope I may say, if I did," she answered, raising
her head after a short silence, and looking once more into his face,
" it was for grief to think of what you are resolved to undergo for
me. I would not ventme to dissuade you, Martin ; but it is a
long, long distance ; there is a wide ocean to be crossed ; illness
and want are sad calamities in any place, but in a foreign country
dreadful to endure. Have you thought of all this ? "

" Thought of it ! " cried Martin, abating, in his fondness — and
he was very fond of her — hardly an iota of his usual impetuosity.
"What am I to do? It's very well to say. Have I thought of it?
my love ; but you should ask me in the same breath, have I
thought of starving at home ; have I thought of doing porter's
work for a living ; have I thought of holding horses in the streets
to earn my roll of bread from day to day? Come, come," he
added, in a gentler tone, " do not hang down your head, my dear,
for I need the encouragement that your sweet face alone can give
me. Why, that's well ! Now you are brave again."

"I am endeavouring to be," she answered, .'^iiiiling tlirough lier

"Endeavouring to lie aiiything that's good, and being it, is,
with you, all one. Don't I know that of old ? " cried Martin,


gaily. " So ! Tliat's famous ! Now I can tell you all my plans
as cheerfully as if you were my little wife already, Mary."'

She hung more closely on his arm, and looking upward in his
face, bade him speak on.

" You see," said Martin, playing with the little hand upon his
wrist, " that my attempts to advance myself at home have been
baffled and rendered abortive. I will not say by whom, Mary, for
that would give pain to us both. But so it is. Have you heard
him speak of late of any relative of mine or his, called Pecksniff?
Only tell me what I ask you, no more. "

" I have heard, to my surprise, that he is a better man than
was supposed."

" I thought so," interrupted Martin.

" And that it is likely we may come to know him, if not to
visit and reside with him and— I think — his daughters. He has
daughters, has he, love 1 "

"A pair of them," Martin answered. "A precious pair!
Gems of the first water ! "

"Ah ! You are jesting ! "

" There is a sort of jesting which is very much in earnest, and
includes some pretty serious disgust," said Martin. "I jest in
reference to Mr. Pecksniff (at whose house I have been living as
his assistant, and at whose hands I have received insult and
injury), in that vein. Whatever betides, or however closely you
may be brought into communication with his family, never forget
that, Mary ; and never for an instant, whatever appearances may
seem to contradict me, lose sight of this assurance — Pecksniff is a

" Indeed ! "

" In thought, and in deed, and in everything else. A scoundrel
from the topmost hair of his head, to the nethermost atom of his
heel. Of his daughters I will only say that, to the best of my
knowledge and belief, they are dutiful young ladies, and take after
their father closely. This is a digression from the main point, and
yet it brings me to what I was going to say."

He stopped to look into her eyes again, and seeing, in a hasty
glance over his shoulder, that there was no one near, and that
Mark was still intent upon the fog, not only looked at her lips too,
but kissed them into the bargain.

" Now, I am going to America, with great prospects of doing
well, and of returning home myself very soon ; it may be to take
you there for a fcAV years, but, at all events, to claim you for my
wife ; which, after such trials, I should do with no fear of your
still thinking it a duty to cleave to him who will not sufter me to


live (for this is true), if he cau help it, in my own laud. How
]>mg I may be absent is, of course, uncertain ; but it shall not be
\ erv long. Trust me for that."

" In the meantime, dear Martin — "

'' That's the very thing I am coming to. In the meantime you
shall hear, constantly, of all my goings-on. Thus."

He jjuused to take from his jwcket the letter he had written
nveniight, and then resumed:

" In this fellow's employment, and living in this fellow's house
(l\v fellow, I mean Mr. Pecksniff, of course), there is a certain
person of the name of Pinch— don't forget it; a poor, strange,
-imple oddity, Mary; but thoroughly honest and sincere; full of
/.ral ; and with a cordial regard for me ; which I mean to return
iiie of these days, by setting him up in life in some way or other."

" Your old kind nature, Martin ! "

" Oh ! " said Martin, " that's not worth speaking of, my love,
fle's very grateful and desirous to serve me ; and I am more than
repaid. Now one night I told this Pinch my history, and all
about myself and you ; in which he was not a little interested, I
• an tell you, for he knows you ! Ay, you may look surprised —
and the longer the better, for it becomes you — but you have heard
liini play the organ in the church of that village before now ; and
he has seen you listening to his music ; and has caught his inspira-
tion from you, too !"

"Was he the organist?" cried Mary. "I thank liim from my

" Yes he was," said Martin, " and is, and gets nothing for it
cither. There never was such a simple fellow ! Quite an infant !
But a very good sort of creature, I assure you.''

"I am sure of that," she said, with great earnestness. "He
must be!"

" Oh, yes, no doubt at all about it," rejoined Martin, in his
usual careless way. " He is. Well ! It has occurred to me—
but stay, if I read you what I have written and intend sending to
him by post to-night, it will explain itself. ' My dear Tom Pinch.'
That's rather familiar, perhaps," said Martin, suddenly remember-
ing that he was proud when they had last met, " but I call him
my dear Tom Pinch, because he likes it, and it pleases him."

"Very right, and very kind," said Mary.

" Exactly so ! " cried Martin. " It's as well to be kind wiien-
iver one can ; and, as I said before, he really is an excellent fellow.
■ My dear Tom Pinch, — I address this under cover to Mrs. Lupin,
at the Blue Dragon, and have begged her in a short note to deliver
it to you without saying anything about it elsewhere : and to do


the same with all future letters she may receive from me. My
reason for so doing will be at once apparent to you.' I don't know
that it will be, by the bye," said Martin, breaking off, "for he's
slow of comprehension, poor fellow ; but he'll fiud it out in time.
My reason simply is, that I don't want my letters to be read by
other people ; and particularly by the scoundrel whom he thinks
an angel."

" Mr. Pecksniff again 1 " asked Mary.

" The same," said Martin : " ' — will be at once apparent to
you. I have completed my arrangements for going to America ;
and you will be surprised to hear that I am to be accompanied by
Mark Tapley, upon whom I have stumbled strangely in London,
and who insists on putting himself under my protection ' — mean-
ing, my love," said Martin, breaking off again, " our friend in the
rear, of course."

She was delighted to hear this, and bestowed a kind glance
upon Mark, which he brought his eyes down from the fog to en-
counter, and received with immense satisfaction. She said in his
hearing, too, that he was a good soul and a merry creature, and
would be faithful, she was certain ; commendations which Mr.
Tapley inwardly resolved to deserve, from such lips, if he died
for it.

" ' Now, my dear Pinch,' " resumed Martin, proceeding with his
letter ; " ' I am going to repose great trust in you, knowing that I
may do so with perfect reliance on your honour and secrecy, and
having nobody else just now to trust in.' "

" I don't think I would say that, Martin."

'•Wouldn't you? Weill I'll take that out. It's perfectly
true, though."

"But it might seem ungracious, perhaps.''

" Oh, I don't mind Pinch," said Martin. " There's no occasion
to stand on any ceremony with him. However, I'll take it out, as
you wish it, and make the full stop at ' secrecy.' Very well !
' I shall not only ' — this is the letter again, you know."

"I understand."

" ' I shall not only enclose my letters to the young lady of whom
I have told j^ou, to your charge, to be forwarded as she may
request ; but I most earnestly commit her, the young lady herself,
to your care and regard, in the event of your meeting in my
absence. I have reason to think that the probabilities of your en-
countering each other — perhaps very frequently — are now neither
remote nor few ; and although in your position you can do very :
little to lessen the uneasiness of hers, I trust to you implicitly to >
do that much, and so deserve the confidence I have reposed in .


you.' You see, my dear Mary," said Martin, " it will be a great
consolatiou to you to have anybody, no matter how simple, with
whom you eaii speak about me ; and the very first time you talk
to Pinch, you'll feel at once, that there is no more occasion for
any embarrassment or hesitation in talking to him, than if he were
an old woman."

"However that may be," she retiu'ned, smiling, "he is your
friend, and that is enough."

"Oh, yes, he's my friend," said Martin, "certainly. In fact,
I have told him in so many words that we'll always take notice of
him, and protect him : and it's a good trait in his character that
he's grateful — very grateful indeed. You'll like him of all things,
my love, I know. You'll observe very much that's comical and
old-fashioned about Pinch, but you needn't mind laugliing at him ;
for he'll not care about it. He'll rather like it, indeed ! "

" I don't think I shall put that to the test, Martin."

" You won't if you can help it, of course," he said, " but I think
you'll find him a little too much for your gravity. However that'.s
neither here nor there, and it certainly is not the letter ; which
ends thus : ' Knowing that I need not impress the nature and
extent of that confidence upon you at any greater length, as it is
already sutticieutly established in your mind, I will only say in
bidding you farewell, and looking forward to our next meeting,
that I shall charge myself from this time, through all changes for
the better, with your advancement and happiness, as if they were
my own. You may rely upon that. And always believe me, my
dear Tom Pinch, faithfully your friend, JMartin Chuzzlewit. P.S.
I enclose the amount wliich you so kindly' — Oh," said Martin,
checking himself, and folding up the letter, " that's nothing ! "

At this ciisis Mark Tapley interposed, with an apology for
remarking that the clock at the Horse Guards Avas striking.

"Which I shouldn't have said nothing about. Sir," added
Mark, " if the young lady hadn't begged me to be particular in
mentioning it."

"I did," said Mary. "Thank you. You are quite right.
In another minute I shall be ready to return. We have time for
a very few words more, dear Martin, and although I had much to
say, it must remain unsaid until the hai)py time of our next
meeting. Heaven send it may come speeilily and prosperously !
But I have no fear of that."

" Fear ! " cried Martin. " Why. who has 1 What are a few
months? AVhat is a whole year ? When I come gaily l>ack, with
a road through life hewn out before me, tlien indeed, looking back
upon this partuig, it may seem a dismal one. But now ! 1 swear

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 25 of 80)