Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

. (page 35 of 80)
Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 35 of 80)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

" Children ! " said Mr. Pecksniff, spreading out his hands in
wonder, but not before he had shut the door, and set his back
against it. " Girls ! Daughters ! What is this ? "

" The wretch ; the apostate ; the false, mean, odious villain ;
lias before my very face proposed to Mercy ! " was his elder
daughter's answer.

" Who has proposed to Mercy T' said Mr. Pecksniff.

" He has. That thing. Jonas, down stairs."

" Jonas proposed to Mercy ! " said Mr. Pecksniff. " Ay, ay !
Indeed ! "

"Have you nothing else to say?" cried Charity. "Am I to
be driven mad, papa ? He has proposed to Mercy, not to me."

" Oh, fie ! For shame ! " said Mr. Pecksniff, gravely. " Oh,
for shame ! Can the triumph of a sister move you to this terrible
display, my child ? Oh, really this is very sad ! I am sorry ; I
am surprised and hurt to see you so. Mercy, my girl, bless you !
See to her. Ah, envj'^, envy, what a passion you are ! "

Uttering this apostrophe in a tone full of grief and lamentation,
i\Ir. Pecksniff left the room (taking care to shut the door behind
him), and walked down stairs into the jjarlour. There he found
his intended son-in-law, whom he seized by both hands.

"Jonas!" cried Mr. Pecksniff", "Jonas! the dearest wish of
my heart is now fulfilled ! "

" Very well ; I'm glad to hear it," said Jonas. " That'll do.
I say, as it ain't the one you're so fond of, you must come down
with another thousand, Pecksniff. You must make it up five.
It's worth that to keep your treasure to yourself, you know. You
get off very cheap that way, and haven't a sacrifice to make."

The grin with which he accompanied this, set oft' his other
attractions to such unspeakable advantage, that even Mr. Pecksniff
lost his presence of mind for the moment, and looked at the young
man as if he were quite stupefied with wonder and admiration.
But he quickly regained his composure, and was in the very act
of changing the subject, when a hasty step was heard without,
and Tom Pinch, in a state of great excitement, came darting into
the room.

On seeing a stranger there, apparently engaged with Mr. Peck-
sniff in private conversation, Tom was very much abashed, though
he still looked as if he had something of great importance to
communicate, which would be a sufiicient apology for this

"Mr. Pinch," said Pecksniff, "this is hardly decent. You will
excuse my saying that I think your conduct scarcely decent, Mr.


"I beg your jmrdou, Sir," replied Tom, "for not knocking at
;he door."

"Rather beg tliis gentleman's pardon, Mr. Pinch," said Peck-
iuift". "/know you ; he does not. — My young man, Mr. Jonas."

The son-in-law tliat was to be gave him a slight m>d — not
ictively disdainful or contemptuous, only passively ; for he was
:n a good humour.

" Could I speak a word with you, Sir, if you please 1 " said
Fora. "It's rather pressing."

"It should be very pressing to justify this strange behaviour,
Mr. Pinch," returned his master. " Excuse me for a moment, my
lear friend. Non^, Sir, what is the reason of this rough intru-
sion ? "

" I am very sorry. Sir, I am sure," said Tom, standing, cap in
land, before his patron in the passage : " and I know it must
lave a very rude appearance — "

"It has a very rude ajDiiearance, Mr. Pinch."

" Yes, I feel that. Sir ; but the truth is, I was so surprised to
see them, and knew you would be too, that I ran home very fast
ndeed, and really hadn't enough command over myself to know
ivhat I was doing very well. I was in the church just now. Sir,
iouching the organ for my own amusement, when I happened to
ook round, and saw a gentleman and lady standing in the aisle
istening. They seemed to be strangers. Sir, as well as I could
iiake out in the dusk : and I thought I didn't know them : so
[presently I left off, and said, would they walk up into the organ-
loft, or take a seaf? No, they said, they wouldn't do tliat ; but
they thanked me for the music tliey had heard — in fact," observed
Pom, blushing — " they said, ' Delicious music ! ' at least, she did •.
xnd I am sure tliat was a greater pleasure and honour to me, than
my compliment I could have had. I — I — beg your pardon, Sir ; "
lie was all in a tremble, and dropped his hat for the second time ;
" but I — I'm rather flurried, and I fear I've wandered from the

"If you will come back to it, Thomas," said Mr. Pccksnilf,
with an icy look, " I shall feel obliged."

"Yes, Sir," retnrned Tom, "certainly. They had a posting
carriage at the porcli, Sir, and had stopped to hear the organ, they
said, and then they said — she said, I mean, ' I believe you live
ivith Mr. Pecksniff, Sir?' I said I had that honour, and I took
;he liberty. Sir," added Tom, raising his eyes to his benefactor's
ace, " of saying, as I always will and must, with your permission,
;hat I was under great obligations to you, and never could express
ny sense of them sufficiently."


"That," said Mr. Pecksniff, "was very, very wroug. Take
your time, Mr. Pinch."

" Thank you. Sir," cried Tom. " On that they asked me — she
asked, I mean — ' Wasn't there a bridle road to Mr. Pecksniff's
house — ' "

Mr. Pecksniff suddenly became full of interest.

" ' Without going by the Dragon 1 ' When I said there was,
and said how hapjDy I should be to show it 'em, they sent the
carriage on by the road, and came with me across the meadows.
I left 'em at the turnstile to nm forward and tell you they were
coming, and they'll be here. Sir, in — in less than a minute's time,
I should say," added Tom, fetching his breath with difficulty.

"Now, who," said Mr. Pecksniff, pondering, "who may these
people be ! "

" Bless my soul. Sir ! " cried Tom, " I meant to mention that
at first, I thought I had. I knew them — her, I mean — directly.
The gentleman who was ill at the Dragon, Sir, last winter ; and
the young lady who attended him."

Tom's teeth chattered in his head, and he positively staggered
with amazement, at witnessing the extraordinary effect produced
on Mr. Pecksniff by these simple words. The dread of losing the
old man's favour almost as soon as they were reconciled, through
the mere fact of having Jonas in the house ; the impossibility of
dismissing Jonas, or shutting him up, or tying him hand and foot
and putting him in the coal-cellar, without offending him beyond
recall ; the horrible discordance prevailing in the establishment,
and the impossibility of reducing it to decent harmony, with
Charity in loud hysterics, Mercy in the utmost disorder, Jonas in
the parlour, and Martin Chuzzlewit and his young charge upon
the very door-stejis ; the total hopelessness of being able to disguise
or feasibly explain this state of rampant confusion ; the sudden
accumulation over his devoted head of every complicated perplexity
and entanglement — for his extrication from which he had trusted
to time, good fortune, chance, and his own plotting — so filled the
entrapped architect with dismay, that if Tom could have been a
Gorgon staring at i\Ir. Pecksniff, and Mr. Pecksniff could have
been a Gorgon staring at Tom, they could not have horrified each
other half so much as in their own bewildered persons.

"Dear, dear! "cried Tom, "what have I donel I hoped it
would be a pleasant surprise, Sir. I thought you would like to

But at that moment a loud knocking was heard at the hall-




The knocking at Mr. Pecksniff's door, though loud enough,
bore no resemblance whatever to the noise of an American railway-
train at full speed. It may be well to begin the present chapter
witli tliis frank admission, lest the reader should imagine that the
sounds now deafening this history's ears have any connexion with
the knocker on Mr. Pecksniff's door, or with the great amount of
agitation pretty equally divided between that worthy man and Mr.
Pinch, of which its strong iDcrformance was the cause.

]Mr. Pecksniti"'s house is more than a thousand leagues away •
and again this happy chronicle has Liberty and Moi-al Sensibility
for its high companions. Again it breathes the blessed air of Inde-
pendence ; again it contemplates with pious awe that moral sense
which renders unto Caesar nothing that is his ; again inhales that
sacred atmosphere which was the life of him — oh noble patriot,
witli many followers ! — who dreamed of Freedom in a slave's
embrace, and waking sold her offspring and his own in public

How the wheels clank and rattle, and the tram-road shakes,
as the train rushes on ! And now the engine yells, as it were
lashed and tortured like a living labourer, and writhed in agony.
A poor fancy; for steel and iron are of infinitely greater account,
in this cummon wealth, than flesh and blood. If the cunning
work of man be urged beyond its power of endurance, it has within
it the elements of its own revenge ; whereas the wretched
mechanism of the Divine Hand is dangerous with no such property,
but may be tampered with, and crushed, and broken, at tlie
driver's pleasure. Look at that engine! It shall cost a man
iiinrc dollars in the way^ of penalty and fine, iTinT salisfarfiTTri (if the
iiuti-a;j;ed law, to deface in wantonness that smscli^s.s mass nf metal,
than to take the lives of twenty human crcatiui's ! Thus the stars
wink upon the bloody stripes ; and Liberty pulls down her cap
upon her eyes, and owns Oppression in its vilest aspect, for her


The engiue-driver of the train whose noise awoke us to the
present chapter, was certainly troubled with no such reflections as
these ; nor is it very probable that his mind was disturbed by any
reflections at all. He leaned with folded arms and crossed legs
against the side of the carriage, smoking; and, except when he
expressed, by a grunt as short as hLs pipe, his approval of some
particularly dexterous aim on the part of his colleague, the fireman,
who beguiled his leisure by throwing logs of wood from the tender
at the numerous stray cattle on the line, he preserved a composure
so immovable, and an indifference so complete, that if the loco-
motive had been a sucking-pig, he could not have been more
perfectly indiflfereut to its doings. Notwithstanding the tranquil
state of this officer, and his imbroken peace of mind, the train was
proceeding with tolerable rapidity ; and the rails being but poorly
laid, the jolts and bumps it met with in its progress were neither
slight nor few.

There were three great caravans or cars attached. The ladies'
car, the gentlemen's car, and the car for negroes : the latter painted
black, as an appropriate compliment to its company. IMartin and
Mark Tapley were in the first, as it was the most comfortable ;
and, being far from full, received other gentlemen who, like them,
were unblessed by the society of ladies of their own. They were
seated side by side, and were engaged in earnest conversation.

" And so, Mark," said Martin, looking at him with an anxious
expression, — " and so you are glad we have left New York far
behind us, are you 1 "

"Yes, Sir," said Mark. "lam. Precious glad."

"Were you not 'jolly' there?" asked Martin.

" On the coutrairy. Sir," returned Mark. " The joUiest week
as ever I spent in my life, was that there week at Pawkins's."

" What do you think of our prospects 1 " inquired Martin, Avith
au air that plainly said he had avoided the question for some time.

" Uncommon bright, Sir," returned Mark. " Imjjossible for a
place to have a better name. Sir, than the Walley of Eden. No
man couldn't think of settling in a better place than the Walley of
Eden, And I'm told," added Mark after a pause, "as there's lots
of serpents there, so we shall come out, quite complete and

So far from dwelling upon this agreeable piece of information
with the least dismay, Mark's face grew radiant as he called it to
mind : so very radiant, that a stranger might have supposed he
had all his life been yearning for the society of serpents, and now
hailed with delight the ai^proaching consummation of his fondest


"Who told you that?" asked Martin, sternly.

" A military otticcr," said Mark.

" (.'oiifound you for a ridiculous fellow ! " cried Martin, lau^uhini,'
heartily iu spite of himself. "What military otHcer'? Yuu know
they .«ipring up in every field — "

"As thick as scarecrows iu England, Sir," interposed ]\Iark,
" which is a sort of militia themselves, being entirely coat and
wescoat, with a stick inside. Ha, ha ! — Don't mind me, Sir ; it's
my way sometimes. I can't help being jolly. — Why it was one of
them inwading conquerors at Pawkins's, as told me. 'Am I
rightly informed,' he says — not exactly through his nose, but as if
he'd got a stoppage in it, very high up — ' that you're a going to the
Walley of Eden V 'I heard some talk on it,' I told him. ' Oh ! '
says he, ' if you should ever happen to go to bed there — you maT/,
you know,' he says, 'in course of time as civilisation progresses —
don't forget to take a axe with you.' I looks at him tolerable
hard. 'Fleas?' says I. 'And more,' says he. 'Wampires?'
says I. 'And more,' says he. 'Musquitoes, perhaps?' says I.
'And more,' says he. 'What more? 'says I. 'Snakes more,'
says he ; ' rattlesnakes. You're right to a certain extent, stranger ;
there air some catawampous chawers in the small way too, as
graze upon a human 2)retty strong ; but don't mind the7)i — they're
company. It's snakes,' he says, 'as you'll object to : and whenever
you wake and see one in a upright poster on your bed,' he says,
'like a corkscrew with the handle oft' a sittiu' on its bottom ring,
cut him down, for he means wenom.'"

"Why didn't you tell me this before I " cried Martin, with an
ex2)ression of face which set off" the cheerfulness of Mark's visage
to great advantage.

"I never thought on it. Sir," said Mark. "It come in at one
car, and went out at the other. But Lord love us, he was one of
another Company I dare say, and only made up the story that we
might go to his Eden, and not the opposition one."

"There's some probability in that," observed Martin. " I can
honestly say that I hope so, with all my heart."

"I've not a doubt about it. Sir," returned Mark, wlm, full nf
the insj)iriting influence of the anecdote upon himself, had for the
moment forgotten its probal)lc etfect upon his master: "anyhow,
we must live, you know. Sir."

"Live!" cried Martin. "Yes, it's to say live; but if
we should happen not to wake when rattlesnakes are making cork-
screws of themselves upon our beds, it may be not so easy to do it."

"And that's a fact," said a voice so close iu his ear that it
tickled him. "That's dreadful true."


Martin looked round, and found that a gentleman, on the seat
behind, had thrust his head between himself and ]\Iark, and sat
with his chin resting on the back rail of their little bench, enter-
taining himself with their conversation. He was as languid and
listless in his looks, as most of the gentlemen they had seen ; his
cheeks were so hollow that he seemed to be always sucking them
in ; and the sun had burnt him — not a wholesome red or brown,
but dirty yellow. He had bright dark eyes, which he kept half
closed ; only peeping out of the corners, and even then with a
glance that seemed to say, " Now you won't overreach me : you
want to, but you won't." His arms rested carelessly on his knees
as he leant forward ; in the palm of his left hand, as English
rustics have their slice of cheese, he had a cake of tobacco ; in his
right a penknife. He struck into the dialogue with as little
reserve as if he had been specially called in, days before, to hear
the arguments on both sides, and favour them with his opinion ;
and he no more contemplated or cared for the possibility of their
not desiring the honour of his acquaintance or interference in their
private affairs, than if he had been a bear or a buffalo.

"That," he repeated, nodding condescendingly to Martin, as to
an outer barbarian and foreigner, "is dreadful true. Darn all
manner of vermin."

Martin could not help frowning for a moment, as if he were
disposed to insinuate that the gentleman had unconsciously
"darned" himself. But remembering the wisdom of donig at
Rome as Romans do, he smiled with the pleasantest expression he
could assume upon so short a notice.

Their new friend said no more just then, being busily employed
in cutting a quid or plug from his cake of tobacco, and whistling
softly to himself the while. When he had shaped it to his liking,
he took out his old plug, and deposited the same on the back of
the seat between Mark and Martin, while he thrust the new one
into the hollow of his cheek, where it looked like a large walnut,
or tolerable pippin. Finding it quite satisfactory, he struck the
point of his knife into the old plug, and holding it out for their
inspection, remarked with the air of a man who had not lived in
vain, that it was " used up considerable." Then he tossed it away ; i
put his knife into one pocket and his tobacco into another; rested i!
his cliin upon the rail as before ; and approving of the pattern on '
Martin's waistcoat, reached out his hand to feel the texture of
that garment.

" What do you call this now ? " he asked.

" Upon my word," said Martin, " I don't know what it's called."

"It'll cost a dollar or more a yard, I reckon?"


" I really don't know,"

" In my country," said the gentleman, " we know the cost of
our own produce."

Martin not discussing the question, there was a iianse.

" Well ! " resumed tiieir new friend, after staring at them
intently during the whole interval of silence : " how's the unnat'ral
old parent by this time 1 "

Mr. Tapley, regarding this enquiry as only another version of
the impertinent English question — " How's your mother ! " — would
have resented it instantly, but for Martin's prompt interposition.

" You mean the old country 1 " he said.

" Ah ! " was the reply. " How's she ? Progressing back'ards,
I expect, as usual 1 Well ! How's Queen Victoria 1 "

" In good health, I believe," said Martin.

" Queen Victoria won't shake in her royal shoes at all, when
she hears to-morrow named," observed the stranger. " No."

" Not that I am aware of. Why should she 1 "

"She won't be taken with a cold chill, when she realises what
is being done in these diggings," said the stranger. " No."

"No," said Martin. "I think I could take my oath of that."

The strange gentleman looked at him as if in pity for his
ignorance or prejudice, and said :

" Well, Sir, I tell you this — there ain't a en-gine with its biler
bust, in God A'mighty's free U-nited States, so fixed, and nipped,
and frizzled to a most e-tarnal smash, as that young critter, in her
luxurious location in the Tower of London, will be, when she reads
the next double-extra Watertoast Gazette."

Several other gentlemen had left their seats and gathered round
during the foregoing dialogue. They were highly delighted with
this speech. One very lank gentleman, in a loose limp white
cravat, a long white waistcoat, and a black great-coat, who seemed
to be in authority among them, felt called upon to acknowledge it.

" Hem ! Mr. La Fayette Kettle," he saitl, taking off his hat.

Tliere was a grave murmur of " Hush ! "

" Mr. La Fayette Kettle ! Sir ! "

jMr. Kettle bowed.

" In the name of this company. Sir, and in the name of our common
country, and in the name of that righteous cause of holy sympathy
in which we are engaged, I thank you. I thank you, Sir, in the name
of the Watertoast Sympathizers ; and I thank you. Sir, in the name
of the Watertoast Gazette ; and I thank you, Sir, in tlie name of the
star-spangled banner of the Great United States, for your elo(juent
and categorical exposition. And if, Sir," said tlie si^eakcr, jxiking
Martin with the handle of his umbrella to bespeak iiis attention, for


he was listening to a whisper from Mark ; "if, Sir, in such a place,
and at such a time, I might venture to con-elude with a senti-
ment, glancing — however slantin'dicularly — at the subject in hand,
I would say. Sir, May the British Lion have his talons eradicated
by the noble bill of the American Eagle, and be taught to play upon
the Irish Harp and the Scotch Fiddle that nuisic which is breathed
in every empty shell that lies upon the shores of green Co-lumbia ! "

Here the lank gentleman sat down again, amidst a great sensa-
tion ; and every one looked veiy grave.

" General Choke," said Mr. La Fayette Kettle, " you warm my
heart ; Sir, you warm my heart. But the British Lion is not
unrepresented here, Sir ; and I should be glad to hear his answer
to those remarks."

" Upon my word," cried Martin, laughing, " since you do me
the honour to consider me his representative, I have only to say
that I never heard of Queen Victoria reading the What's-his-name
Gazette, and that I should scarcely think it probable."

General Choke smiled upon the rest, and said, in patient and
benignant explanation :

"It is sent to her. Sir. It is sent to her. Per mail."

" But if it is addressed to the Tower of London, it would
hardly come to hand, I fear," returned Martin: "for she don't
live there."

" The Queen of England, gentlemen," observed Mr. Tapley,
affecting the greatest politeness, and regarding them with an
immovable face, "usually lives in the Mint to take care of the
money. She has lodgings, in virtue of her office, with the Lord
Mayor at the Mansion-House ; but don't often occupy them, in
consequence of the parlour chimney smoking."

"Mark," said Martin, " I shall be very much obliged to you if
you'll have the goodness not to interfere with preposterous state-
ments, however jocose they may appear to you. I was merely
remarking, gentlemen — though it's a point of very little import —
that the Queen of England does not happen to live in the Tower of

" General ! " cried Mr. La Fayette Kettle. " You hear ? "

" General ! " echoed several others. " General ! "

" Hush ! Pray, silence ! " said General Choke, holding up his
hand, and speaking with a patient and complacent benevolence tliat
was quite touching. " I have always remarked it as a very extra-
ordinary circumstance, which I impute to the natur' of British
Institutions and their tendency to suppress that popular inquiry
and information which air so widely diffused even in the trackless
forests of this vast Continent of the Western Ocean ; that the


iuowlcdge of Britishers themselves on sucli points is not to be com-
)ared with that possessed by our intelligent and locomotive citizens,
rhis is interesting, and confirms my observation. When you say,
sir," he continued, addressing Martin, " that your Queen does not
•eiside in the Tower of London, you fall into an error, not uncommon
;o your countrymen, even when their abilities and moral elements
vir such as to command respect. But, 8ir, you air wrong. Slie
loes live there — "

"When she is at the Court of Saint James's;" interpo.sed

" When she is at the Court of Saint James's, of course," returned
i;he General, in the same benignant way : " for if her location was
n Windsor Pavilion it couldn't be in London at the same time.
Vour Tower of London, Sir," pursued the General, smiling with a
mild consciousness of his knowledge, "is nat'rally your royal resi-
lence. Being located in the immediate neighbourhood of your
Parks, your Drives, your Triumphant Arciies, your Opera, and your
Royal Almacks, it nat'rally suggests itself as the place for holding
X luxurious and thoughtless court. And, consequently," said the
breueral, "consequently, the court is held there."

" Have you been in England 1 " asked Martin.

"In print I have. Sir," said the General, "not otherwise. We
xiT a reading people here. Sir. You will meet with much informa-
tion among us that will surprise you, Sir."

" I have not the least doubt of it," returned Martin. But here
lie was interrupted by Mr. La Fayette Kettle, who whispered in
his ear :

" You know General Choke 1 "

" No," returned Martin, in the same tone.

" You know what he is considered 1 "

" One of the most remarkable men in the country ? " said Martin,

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 35 of 80)