Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

. (page 33 of 80)
Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 33 of 80)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

that remained of Anthony Chuzzlewit lay covered up, with but
one loving heart, and that a halting one, to mourn it, left the
latter free to enter the darkened room below, and rejoin Mr.
Jonas, from whom he had now been absent nearly two hours.


lit' t'niniil tliat exanipli^ tn lioreavetl snn,^ and pattern in tlio
ryrs of all performers of funerals, musing- over a fragment of
writing-paper on the desk, and scratching figures on it with a
pru. The old man's chair, and hat, and walking-stick, were
rriinn'ed from their accustomed places, and put out of sight; the
wiuilow-blinds, as yellow as November fogs, were drawn down
close ; Jonas himself was so subdued, that he could scarcely be
heard to speak, and only seen to walk across the room.

" Peeksnitt'," he said, in a whisper, " you shall have the
reo^ilation of it all, mind. You shall be able to tell anybody who
talks about it that everything was correctly and freely done.
There isn't any one you'd like to ask to the funeral, is there ? "
" No, Mr. Jonas, I think not."

"Because if there is, you know," said Jonas, "ask him. We
don't want to make a secret of it."

"No," repeated Mr. Pecksniff, after a little reflection. "I am
not the less obliged to you on that account, Mr. Jonas, for your
liberal hospitality ; but there really is no one."

" Very well," said Jonas ; " then you, and I, and Chuffey, and
the doctor, will be just a coach ful. We'll have the doctor,
I Pecksniff, because he knows what was the matter with him, and
; that it couldn't be helped."

I "Where /s our dear friend, Mr. Chuffey?" asked Pecksniff,
I looking round the chamber, and winking both his eyes at once —
for he was overcome by his feelings.

But here he was interrupted by Mrs. Gamp, who, divested of
her bonnet and shawl, came sidling and bridling into the room ;
and, with some sharpness, demanded a conference outside the
door with Mr. Pecksniff.

" You may say whatever you wish to say here, Mrs. Gamp,"

j said that gentleman, shaking his head with a melancholy expression.

"It is not much as I have to say, when people is a mourning

1 for the dead and gone," said ]\Irs. Gamp ; " but what I have to

1 say is to the pint and purpose, and no ofience intended, must be

[so considered. I have been at a many places in my time,

gentlemen, and I hope I knows what my duties is, and how the

; same should be performed : in course, if I did not, it would be

: very strange, and very wrong in sich a gentleman as Mr. Mould,

which has undertook the highest families in this land, and given

! every satisfaction, so to recommend me as he does. I have seen

a deal of trouble my own self," said Mrs. Gamp, laying greater

and greater stress upon her words, "and I can feel for them as

has their feelings tried : but I am not a Rooshan or a Prooshan,

and consequently cannot suffer spies to be set over me."


Before it was possible tliat an answer could be retiu-ued, Mrs.
Gamp, now growing redder in the face, went on to say :

" It is not a easy matter, gentlemen, to live when you are left
a widder woman ; particular when your feelings works upon you
to that extent that you often find yourself a going out on terms
which is a certain loss, and never can repay. But, in whatever
way you earns your bread, you may have rules and regulations of
your own, which cannot be broke through. Some people," said
Mrs. Gamp, again entrenching herself behind her strong point, as
if it were not assailable by human ingenuity, " may be Ilooshans,
and some may be Prooshans ; they are born so, and will please
themselves. Them which is of other naturs thinks different."

" If I understand this good lady," said Mr. Pecksniff, turning
to Jonas, " Mr. Chuffey is troublesome to her. Shall I fetch
him down 1 "

"Do," said Jonas. "I was going to tell you he was up there,
when slie came in. I'd go myself and bring him down, only —
only I'd rather you went, if you don't mind it."

Mr. Pecksniff promptly departed, followed by Mrs. Gamp, who,
seeing that he took a bottle and glass from the cupboard, and
carried it in his hand, was much softened.

"I am sure," she said, "that if it wasn't for his own happiness,
I should no more mind his being there, poor dear, than if he was
a fly. But them as isn't used to these things, thinks so much of
'em afterwards, that it's a kindness to 'em not to let 'em have
their wish. And even," said Mrs. Gamp, probably in reference to
some flowers of speech she had already strewn on Mr. Chuftey,
" even if one calls 'em names, it's only done to rouse 'em."

Whatever epithets she had bestowed upon the old clerk, they
had not roused kim. He sat beside the bed, in the chair he had
occupied all the previous night, with his hands folded before him,
and his head bowed down ; and neither looked up, on their
entrance, nor gave any sign of consciousness, until Mr. Pecksniff
took him by tlie arm, when he meekly rose.

" Three score and ten," said Chuftey, " ought and carry seven.
Some men are so strong that they live to fourscore — four times
ought's an ought, four times two's eight — eighty. Oh ! why —
why — why — didn't he live to four times ought's an ought, and
four times two's eight — eighty T'

"Ah! what a wale of grief!" cried Mrs. Gamp, possessing
herself of tlie bottle and glass.

"Why did he die before his poor old, crazy servant!" said
Chuffey, clasping his hands and looking up in anguish. " Take
liim from me, and what remains 1 "



" j\[r. Jonas," returneil Pecksniff", " Mr. Jonas, my good

" I loved liiiu," cried tlie old man, weeping. " He was good
;o me. We learnt Tare and Tret together, at school. I took
lim down once, six boys, in the arithmetic class. God forgive
lie ! Had I the heart to take him down ! "

"Come, Mr. Chuftey," said Pecksniff", "come with me.
Summon up your fortitude, Mr. Chuft"ey."

"Yes, I will," returned the old clerk. "Yes. I'll sum up
iiy forty — How many times forty — Oh, Chuzzlewit and Son —
i^our own son, Mr. Chuzzlewit ; your own son. Sir ! "

He yielded to the hand that guided him, as he lapsed into this
^imiliar expression, and submitted to be led away. Mrs. Gamp,
ft'ith the bottle on one knee, and the glass in the other, sat upon
I stool, shaking her head for a long time, until, in a moment of
ibstraction, she poured out a dram of spirits, and raised it to her
ips. It was succeeded by a second, and by a third, and then her
?yes — either in tlie sadness of her reflections upon life and death,
)r in her admiration of the liquor — were so turned up as to be
luite invisible. But she shook her head still.

Poor Chuff"ey was conducted to his accustomed corner, and
;here he remained, silent and quiet, save at long intervals, when
le would rise, and walk about the room, and wring his hands, or
raise some strange and sudden cry. For a whole week they all
three sat about the hearth and never stirred abroad. Mr. Peck-
sniff" would have walked out in the evening time, but Jonas was so
iverse to his being absent for a minute, that he abandoned the
idea, and so, from morning until night, they brooded together in
the dark room, without relief or occupation.

The weight of that which was stretched out stiff" and stark, in
the awful chamber above-stairs, so crushed and bore down Jonas,
that he bent beneath the load. During the whole long seven
lays and nights, he was always oppressed and haunted by a
Jreadful sense of its presence in the house. Did the door move,
;ie looked towards it with a livid face and starting eye, as if he
5"ully believed that ghostly fingers clutched the handle. Did the
rire flicker in a draught of air, he glanced over his shoulder, a.s
ilmost dreading to behold some shrouded figure fanning and
lapping at it with its fearful dress. The lightest noise disturbed
lim ; and once, in the night, at the sound of a footstep over-head,
le cried out that the dead man was walking — tramp, tramp,
ramp — about his coffin.

He lay at night upon a mattress on the floor of the sitting-
oom ; his own chamber having been assigned to Mrs. Gamp ; and


Mr. Pecksniff was similarly accommodated. The howling of a
dog before the house, filled him with a terror he could not disguise.
He avoided the reflection in the opposite windows of the light that
burned above, ^ though it had been an angry eye. He often, in
every night, rose up from his fitful sleep, and looked and longed
for dawn ; all directions and arrangements, even to the ordering of
their daily meals, he abandoned to Mr. Pecksniff. That excellent
gentleman, deeming that the mourner wanted comfort, and that
high feeding was likely to do him infinite service, availed himself
of these opportunities to such good purpose that they kept quite a
dainty table during this melancholy season ; with sweetbreads,
stewed kidneys, oysters, and other such light viands for supper
every night ; over which, and sundry jorums of hot punch, Mr.
Pecksniff delivered such moral reflections and spiritual consolation
as might have converted a Heathen — especially if he had had but
an imperfect acquaintance with the English tongue.

Nor did Mr. Pecksniff alone indulge iu the creature comforts
during this sad time. Mrs. Gamp proved to be very choice in her
eating, and repudiated hashed mutton with scorn. In her drinking
too, she was very punctual and particular, requiring a pint of mild
porter at lunch, a pint at dinner, half-a-pint as a species of stay or
holdfast between dinner and tea, and a pint of the celebrated
staggering ale, or Real Old Brighton Tipper, at supper ; besides
the bottle on the chimney-piece, and such casual invitations to
refresh herself with wine as the good breeding of her employers
might prompt them to offer. In like manner, Mr. Mould s men
found it necessary to drown their grief, like a young kitten in the
morning of its existence ; for which reason they generally fuddled
themselves before they began to do anything, lest it should make
head and get the better of them. In short, the whole of that
strange week was a round of dismal joviality and grim enjoyment :
and every one, except poor Chuffey, who came within the shadow
of Anthony Chuzzlewit's grave, feasted like a Ghoule.

At length the day of the funeral, pious and truthful ceremoii}
that it was, arrived. ]\Ir. Mould, with a glass of generous port
between his eye and the light, leaned against the desk in the littk
glass office with his gold watch in his unoccupied hand, and con^
versed with Mrs. Gamp ; two mutes were at the house-door,
looking as mournful as could be reasonably expected of men with
such a thriving job in hand ; the wdiole of Mr. Mould's establish-!
ment were on duty within the house or without ; feathers waved;
horses snorted, silks and velvets fluttered ; in a word, as Mr,
Mould emphatically said, "everything that money could do was
done." '


"And what can do more, Mrs. Gamp?" exclaimed the under-
taker, as he emi)tied his glass, and smacked his lips.
" Nothing in the world, Sir."

'• Xothing in the world," repeated Mr. Mould. "You are
right, Mrs. Gamp. Why do people spend more money" — here he
filled his glass again — "upon a death, IMrs. Gamp, than upon a
birth ] Come, that's in your way ; you ought to know. How do
you account for that now 1 "

•■ Perhaps it is because an undertaker's charges comes dearer
than a nurse's charges, Sir," said Mrs. Gamp, tittering, and
smoothing down her new black dress with her hands.

" Ha, ha ! " laughed Mr. Mould. " You have been break-
fasting at somebody's expense this morning, Mrs. Gamp." But
seeing, by the aid of a little shaving-glass which hung opposite, that
he looked merry, he composed his features and became sorrowful.

" Many's the time that I've not breakfasted at my own expense
along of your kind recommending, Sir ; and many's the time I
hope to do the same in time to come," said Mrs. Gamp, with an
apologetic curtsey.

"So be it," replied ]\Ir. Mould, "please Providence. No, Mrs.
Gamp ; Pll tell you why it is. It's because the laying out of
money with a well-conducted establishment, where the thing is
performed upon the very best scale, binds the broken heart, and
sheds balm upon the wounded spirit. Hearts want binding, and
spirits want balming when people die : not when people are born.
Look at this gentleman to-day ; look at him."

" An open - handed gentleman ! " cried Mrs. Gamp, with

"No, no," said the undertaker; "not an open-handed gentle-
man in general, by any means. There you mistake him : but an
'afflicted gentleman, an affectionate gentleman, who knows what
it is in the power of money to do, in giving him relief, and in
[testifying his love and veneration for the departed. It can give
|him," said Mr. Mould, Avaving his watch-chain slowly round and
round, so that he described one circle after every item; "it can
give liim four horses to each vehicle ; it can give him velvet
trappings ; it can give him drivers in cloth cloaks and top-boots ;
it can give him the plumage of tlie ostrich, dyed black ; it can
give him any number of walking attendants, dressed in tlie first
style of funeral fashion, and carrying batons tipped with bra-ss ; it
can give him a handsome tomb ; it can give him a place in
AVestminster Abbey itself, if he choose to invest it in such a
purchase. Oli ! do not let us say that gold is dross, when it can
buy such things as these, IMrs. Gamp."


" But wliat a blessing, Sir," said Mrs. Gamp, " tliat tliere are
such as you, to sell or let 'em out on hire ! "

"Ay, Mrs. Gamp, you are right," rejoined the undertaker.
" We should be an honoured calling. We do good by stealth, and
blush to have it mentioned in our little bills. How much con-
solation may I — even I" — cried Mr. Mould, "have dift'used
among my fellow -creatures by means of my four long-tailed
prancers, never harnessed under ten pund ten ! "

Mrs. Gamp had begun to make a suitable reply, when she was
interrupted by the appearance of one of Mr. Mould's assistants —
his chief mourner in fact — an obese person, with his waistcoat in
closer connection with his legs than is quite reconcilable with the
established ideas of grace ; with that cast of feature which is
figuratively called a bottle-nose ; and with a face covered all over
with pimples. He had been a tender plant once upon a time, but
from constant blowing in the fat atmosphere of funerals, had run
to seed.

"Well, Tacker," said Mr. Mould, "is all ready below?"

"A beautiful show, Sir," rejoined Tacker. "The horses are
prouder and fresher than ever I see 'em ; and toss their heads,
they do, as if they knowed how much their illumes cost. One,
two, three, four," said Mr, Tacker, heaping that number of black
cloaks upon his left arm.

" Is Tom there, with the cake and wine 1 " asked Mr. Mould.

" Ready to come in at a moment's notice. Sir," said Tacker.

" Then," rejoined Mr. Mould, putting up his watch, and
glancing at himself in the little shaving-glass, that he might be
sure his face had the right expression on it : " then I think we
may iwoceed to business. Give me the paper of gloves, Tacker.
Ah what a man he was ! Ah Tacker, Tacker, what a man he
was ! "

Mr. Tacker, who from his great experience in the performance
of funerals, would have made an excellent pantomime actor,
winked at Mrs. Gamp without at all disturbing the gravity of his
countenance, and followed his master into the next room.

It was a great point with Mr. Mould, and a part of his profes-
sional tact, not to seem to know the doctor — though in reality
they were near neighbours, and very often, as in the present
instance, worked together. So he advanced to fit on his black
kid gloves as if he had never seen him in all his life ; while the
doctor, on his part, looked as distant and unconscious as if he had
heard and read of undertakers, and had passed their shops, but i;
had never before been brought into communication with one.

"Gloves, eh'?" said the doctor. "Mr. Pecksniff, after you."


"I couldn't tliiiik of it," returned Mr. Pecksniff.

"You are very good," said the doctor, taking a pair. "Well,
Sir, as I was saying — I was called up to attend that case at about
half-past one o'clock. Cake and wine, eh ? Which is port 1
Thank you."

Mr. Pecksniff took some also.

" At about half-past one o'clock in the morning, Sir," resumed
the doctor, " I was called up to attend that case. At the first
pull of the night-bell I turned out, threw up the window, and put
lout my head. Cloak, eh? Don't tie it too tight. That'll do."

Mr. Pecksniff" having been likewise inducted into a similar
garment, the doctor resumed.

"And put out ray head, — hat, eh? My good friend, that is
not mine. Mr. Pecksniff", I beg your pardon, but I think we have
unintentionally made an exchange. Thank j-ou. Well, Sir, I
1 was going to tell you " —

"We are quite ready," interrupted Mould in a low voice.

" Ready, eh ? " said the doctor. " Very good. Mr. Pecksniff,
I'll take an opportunity of relating the rest in the coach. It's
rather curious. Ready, eh ? No rain, I hope ? "

"Quite fair. Sir," returned Mould.

" I was afraid the ground would have been wet," said the
doctor, " for my glass fell yesterday. We may congratulate our-
selves upon our good fortune." But seeing by this time that Mr.
Jonas and Chuffey were going out at the door, he put a white
pocket-liandkerchief to his face as if a violent burst of grief had
suddenly come upon liim, and walked down side by side with Mr.

Mr. Mould and his men had not exaggerated the grandeur of
the arrangements. They were splendid. The four hearse-horses
especially, reared and pranced, and showed their highest action, as
if they knew a man was dead, and triumphed in it. " They break
us, drive us, ride us ; ill-treat, abuse, and maim us for their
pleasure — But they die ; Hurrah, they die ! "

So through the narrow streets and winding city ways, went
Anthony Chuzzlewit's funeral : Mr. Jonas glancing stealthily out
of the coach-window now and then, to observe its effect upon tlie
crowd; Mr. IMould as he walked along, listening with a sober
pride to the exclamations of the bystanders ; the doctor whisper-
ing his story to Mr. Pecksniff, without appearing to come any
nearer the end of it ; and poor old Chuffey soblting unregarded in
a corner. But he had greatly scandalised Mr. Mould at an early
stage of the ceremony by carrying his handkerchief in his hat in a
perfectly informal manner, and wiping his eyes with his knuckles.


And as Mr. Mould himself had said already, his behaviour was
indecent, and quite unworthy of such au occasion ; and he never
ought to have been there.

There he was, however ; and in the churchyard there he was,
also, conducting himself in a no less unbecoming manner, and
leaning for support on Tacker, who plainly told him that he was
fit for nothing better than a walking funeral. But Chuftey,
Heaven help him ! heard no sound but the echoes, lingering in his
own heart, of a voice for ever silent.

" I loved him," cried the old man, sinking down upon the grave
when all was done. " He was very good to me. Oh, my dear
old friend and master ! "

- </' Come, come, Mr. Chuffey," said the doctor, " this won't do ;
it's a clayey soil, Mr. Chufiey. You mustn't, really."'

" If it had been the commonest thing we do, and Mr. Chuffey
had been a Bearer, gentlemen," said Mould, casting au imploring
glance upon them, as he helped to raise him, " he couldn't have
gone on worse than this."

" Be a man, Mr. Chuffey," said Pecksniff'.

" Be a gentleman, Mr. Cliuffey," said Mould.

"Upon my word, my good friend," murmured the doctor, in a
tone of stately reproof, as he stepped up to the old man's side,
" this is worse than weakness. This is bad, selfish, very wrong,
Mr. Chuftey. You should take example from others, my good Sir.
You forget that you were not connected by ties of blood with our
deceased friend ; and that he had a very near and very dear
relation, Mr. Chuftey."

" Ay, his own son ! " cried the old man, clasping his hands
vnih remarkable passion. " His own, own, only sou ! "

" He's not right in his head, you know," said Jonas, turning
IDale. " You're not to mind anything he says. I shouldn't wonder
if he was to talk some precious nonsense. But don't you mind
him, any of you. I don't. My father left him to my charge ;
and whatever he says or does, that's enough, i'll take care of

A hum of admiration rose from the mourners (including Mr.
Mould and liis merry men) at this new instance of magnanimity
and kind-feeling on the part of Jonas. But Chuftey put it to the
test no farther. He said not a word more, and being left to
himself for a little while, crept back again to the coach.

It has been said that Mr. Jonas turned pale when the
behaviour of the old clerk attracted general attention ; his discom-
posure, however, was but momentary, and he soon recovered. But
these were not the only changes he had exhibited that day. The


curious eyes uf Mr. Pocksuiff had observed tli:it as soon as tliey
left the house upou their mournful errand, he began to mend ; tliat
as the ceremonies jn-oceeded he gradually, by little and little,
recovered his old condition, his old looks, Ids old bearing, his old
agreeable characteristics of speech and manner, and became, in all
respects, his old pleasant self. And now that they were seated in
the coach on their return home ; and more Avhen they got there,
and found the windows open, the light and air admitted, and all
traces of the late event removed ; he felt so well convinced that
Jonas was again the Jonas he had known a week ago, and not the
Jonas of tlie intervening time, that he voluntarily gave up his
recently-acquired power without one faint attempt to exercise it,
and at once fell back into his former position of mild and defer-
ential guest.

Mrs. Gamp went home to the bird-fancier's, and was knocked
up again that very night for a birth of twins ; Mr. Mould dined
gaily in the bosom of his family, and passed the evening facetiously
at his club ; the hearse, after standing for a long time at the door
of a roysteriug public -house, repaired to its stables with the
feathers inside and twelve red-nosed undertakers on the roof, each
holding on by a dingy peg, to which, in times of state, a waving
plume was fitted ; the various trappings of sorrow were carefully
laid by in presses fur the next hirer ; the fiery steeds were quenched
and quiet in their stalls ; the doctor got merry with wine at a
wedding-dinner, and forgot the middle of the story which had no
end to it ; the pageant of a few short hours ago was written
nowhere half so legibly as in the undertaker's books.

Not in the churchyard? Not even there. The gates were
closed ; the night was dark and Avet ; and the rain fell silently,
among the stagnant Aveeds and nettles. One new mound was there
which had not been last night. Time, burrowing like a mole
below the ground, had marked his track by throwing up another
heap of earth. And that was all.



*' Pecksniff," said Jonas, taking off his hat, to sec that the
black crape band was all right ; and finding tliat it was, putting it
on again, complacently; "what do you mean to give your
daughters Avheu they marry I"


" My dear Mr. Jonas," cried the affectionate parent, with an
ingenuous smile, " what a very singular inquiry ! "

" Now, don't you mind whether it's a singular inquiry or a
plural one," retorted Jonas, eyeing Mr. Pecksniff with no great
favour, "but answer it, or let it alone. One or the other."

" Hum ! The question, my dear friend," said Mr. Pecksniff,
laying his hand tenderly upon his kinsman's knee, "is involved
with many considerations. What would I give them ? Eh ? "

"Ah ! what would you give 'em?" repeated Jonas.

"Why, that," said Mr. Pecksniff, "would naturally depend in.
a great measure upon the kind of husbands they might choose, my
dear young friend."

Mr. Jonas was evidently disconcerted, and at a loss how to
proceed. It was a good answer. It seemed a deep one, but such
is the wisdom of simplicity !

" My standard for the merits I would require in a son-in-law,"
said Mr. Pecksniff, after a short silence, "is a high one. Forgive
me, my dear Mr. Jonas," he added, greatly moved, " if I say that
you have spoiled me, and made it a fanciful one ; an imaginative

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 33 of 80)