Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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iomething like a field had been marked out, where, among the
itumps and ashes of burnt trees, a scanty crop of Indian corn was
,'rowing. In some quarters, a snake or zigzag fence had been
jegun, but in no instance had it been coinpleted ; and the fallen
og.s, half hidden in the soil, lay mouldering away. Three or four
ueagre dog.s, wasted and vexed with hunger ; some long-legged
)igs, wandering away into tlie woods in search of food ; some
children, nearly naked, gazing at him from the huts ; were all the
iving things he saw. A fetid vajjour, hot and sickening as the
Oreath of an oven, rose up from tlic earth, and liung on everything


aroimd ; and as his foot-prints sank into the marshy ground, a
black ooze started forth to blot them out.

Their own land was mere forest. The trees had grown so
thick and close that they shouldered one another out of their
places, and the weakest, forced into shapes of strange distortion,
languished like cripples. The best were stunted, from the pressure
and the want of room ; and high about the stems of all, grew long
rank grass, dank weeds, and frowsy underwood ; not divisible into
their separate kinds, but tangled all together in a heap ; a jungle
deep and dark, with neither earth nor water at its roots, but
putrid matter, formed of the pulpy offal of the two, and of their
own corruption.

He went down to the landing-place where they had left their
goods last night ; and there he found some half-dozen men — wan,
and forlorn to look at, but ready enough to assist — who helped
him to carry them to the log-house. They shook their heads in
speaking of the settlement, and had no comfort to give him. Those
who had the means of going away, had all deserted it. They who
were left, had lost their wives, their children, friends, or brothers
there, and suffered much themselves. Most of them were ill then ;
none were the men they had been once. They frankly offered
their assistance and advice, and, leaving him for that time, went
sadly oft' upon their several tasks.

Martin was by this time stirring ; but he had greatly changed,
even in one night. He Avas very pale and languid ; he spoke ot
pains and weakness in his limbs, and complained that his sight was
dim, and his voice feeble. Increasing in his own briskness as the
prospect grew more and more dismal, Mark brought away a dooi
from one of the deserted houses, and fitted it to their own habita-
tion ; then went back again for a rude bench he had observed, witl)
which he presently returned in triumph ; and having put thi.'
piece of furniture outside the house, arranged the notable tin-po1
and other such movables upon it, that it might represent a dressei
or a sideboard. Greatly satisfied with this arrangement, he nexl
rolled their cask of flour into the house, and set it up on end ir
one corner, where it served for aside-table. No better diuing-tabh
could be required than the chest, which he solemnly devoted t(
that useful service thenceforth. Their blankets, clothes, and th(
like, he hung on pegs and nails. And lastly, he brought forth i
great placard (which Martin in the exultation of his heart ha(
prepared with his own hands at the National Hotel), bearing th<'
inscription, Chuzzlewit & Co., Architects and Sukveyoes
wiiich he displayed upon the most conspicuous part of tlie premises.
Avith as much gravity as if the thriving city of Eden had lia'


a real existence, and they expected to he overwhelmed witli

" These here tools," said Mark, bringing forward Martin's case
of instruments, and sticking the compasses upright in a stump
before the door, " shall be set out in the open air to show that
we come provided. And now, if any gentleman wants a house
built, he'd better give his orders, afore we're other ways bespoke."

Considering the intense heat of the weather, this was not a
bad morning's work ; but without pausing for a moment, though
he was streaming at every pore, Mark vanished into the house
again, and presently reappeared with a hatchet : intent on per-
forming some impossibilities with that implement.

" Here's a ugly old tree in the way. Sir," he observed, " which '11
be all the better down. We can build the oven in the afternoon.
There never was such a handy spot for clay as Eden is. That's
convenient, anyhow."

But Martin gave him no answer. He had sat the whole time
with his head upon his hands, gazing at the current as it rolled
swiftly by ; tliinking, perhaps, how fast it moved towards the
open sea, the high road to the home he never would behold again.

Not even the vigorous strokes which Mark dealt at the
tree, awoke him from his mournful meditation. Finding all his
endeavours to rouse him of no use, Mark stopped in his work
and came towards him.

" Don't give in. Sir," said Mr. Tapley.

"Oh, Mark," returned his friend, "what have I done in all
my life that has deserved this heavy fate 1 "

'"Why, Sir," returned Mark, "for the matter of that, ev'rybody
as is here might say the same thing ; many of 'em with better
reason p'raps than you or me. Hold up, Sir. Do something.
Couldn't you ease your mind, now, don't you tliink, by making
some personal obserwations in a letter to Scadder 1 "

"No," said Martin, shaking his head sorrowfully: "I am
past that."

"But if you're past that already," returned Mark, "you must
be ill, and ought to be attended to."

"Don't mind me," said Martin. "Do the best you can for
yourself You'll soon have only yourself to consider. And then
God speed you home, and forgive me for bringing you here ! I
am destined to die in this place. I felt it the instant I set foot
upon the shore. Sleeping or waking, Mark, I dreamed it all
last night."

"I said you must be ill," returned IMark, tenderly, "and now
I'm sure of it. A touch of fever and ague caught on these rivers,



daresay ; but bless yon, t/ixt's nothing. It's only ,-i seasoning- ;
ntl we must all be seasoned, one way or another. Tliat's religion,
hat is, you know," said Mark.

He only sighed and shook his head.

"Wait half a minute," said Mark cheerily, "till I run up to
ne of our neighbours and ask what's best to be took, and borrow
, little of it to give you ; and to-morrow you'll find yourself as
trong as ever again. I won't be gone a minute. Don't give in,
rhile I'm away, whatever you do ! "

Throwing down his hatchet, he sped away immediately, but
topped when he had gone a little distance, and looked l)ack : then
lurried on again.

" Now, Mr. Tapley," said Mark, giving himself a tremendous
ilow in the chest by way of reviver, "just you attend to what
've got to say. Things is looking about as bad as they can look,
■oung man. You'll not have such another opportunity for showing
our jolly disposition, my fine fellow, as long as you live. And
herefore, Tapley, Now's your time to come out strong ; or
'fever ! "



" Hallo, Pecksniff' ! " cried Mr. Jonas from the parlour. " Isn't
iomebody a going to open that precious old door of yours 1 "

"Immediately, Mr. Jonas. Immediately."

" Ecod," muttered the orphan, " not before it's time neither.
Whoever it is, has knocked three times, and each one loud enough
;o wake the — " he had such a repugnance to the idea of waking
:he Dead, that he stopped even then with the words upon his
tongue, and said, instead, " the Seven Sleepers."

" Immediately, LIr. Jonas ; immediately," repeated Pecksniff'.
"Thoma.s Pinch "^ — he couldn't make up his mind, in his great
agitation, whether to call Tom his dear friend or a villain, so he
shook his fist at him 2)ro tern. — "go up to my daughters' room,
and tell them who is here. Say, Silence. Silence ! Do you
hear me. Sir ? "

" Directly, Sir ! " cried Tom, departing, in a state of much
amazement, on his errand.

" You'll — ha ha ha ! — you'll excuse me, Mr. Jonas, if I close


this door a moment, will you 1 " said Pecksniff. " This may be
a professional call. Indeed I am pretty sure it is. Thank you."
Then Mr. Pecksniff, gently warbling a rustic stave, put on his
garden hat, seized a spade, and opened the street door : calmly
appearing on the threshold, as if he thought he had, from his
vineyard, heard a modest rap, but was not quite certain.

Seeing a gentleman and lady before him, he started back in
as much confusion as a good man with a crystal conscience might
betray in mere surprise. Recognition came upon him the next
moment, and he cried :

" Mr. Chuzzlewit ! Can I believe my eyes ! ]My dear Sir ;
my good Sir ! A joyful hour ; a happy hour indeed. Pray, my
dear Sir, walk in. You find me in my garden-dress. You will
excuse it, I know. It is an ancient pursuit, gardening. Primitive,
my dear Sir ; for, if I am not mistaken, Adam was the first of
our calling. Mi/ Eve, I grieve to say, is no more, Sir ; but " —
here he pointed to his spade, and shook his head, as if he were
not cheerful without an effort — "but I do a little bit of Adam

He had by this time got them into the best parlour, where the
portrait by Spiller, and the bust by Spoker, were.

"My daughters," said Mr. Pecksniff", "will be overjoyed. If
I could feel weary upon such a theme, I should have been worn
out long ago, my dear Sir, by their constant anticipation of this
happiness, and their repeated allusions to our meeting at Mrs.
Todgers's. Their fair young friend, too," said Mr. Pecksniff,
"whom they so desire to know and love — indeed to know her,
is to love— I hope I see her well. I hope in saying, ' Welcome
to my humble roof ! ' I find some echo in her own sentiments.
If features are an index to the heart, I have no fears of that.
An extremely engaging expression of countenance, Mr. Chuzzlewit,
my dear Sir — very much so ! "

" Mary," said the old man, " Mr. Pecksniff flatters you. But
flattery from him is worth the having. He is not a dealer in it,;
and it comes from his heart. We thought Mr. "

"Pinch," said Mary.

"Mr. Pinch would have arrived before us, Pecksniff'."

" He did arrive before you, my dear Sir," retorted Pecksniff,)
raising his voice for the edification of Tom upon the stairs, " and'
was about, I dare say, to tell me of your coming, when I begged
him first to knock at my daughters' chamber, and inquire aftei
Charity, my dear child, who is not so well as I could wish. No,'
said ]\Ir. Pecksniff, answering their looks, " I am sorry to say, she |
is not. It is merely an hysterical affection ; nothing more. I an:


)t uneasy. Mr. Pinch ! Thomas ! " exclaimed Pecksnift", in his
mlest accents. "Pray come in. I sliall make no stranger of
)u. Thomas is a friend of mine of rather long standing, Mr.
huzzlewit, you must know."

" Thank you, Sir," said Tom. " You introduce nie very kindly,
id speak of me in terms of which I am very proud."

" Old Thomas ! " cried his master, pleasantly, " God bless
)u ! "

Tom reported that the young ladies would appear directly, and
lat the best refreshments which the house attbrded were even
lea in preparation, under their joint superintendence. While he
as speaking, the old man looked at him intently, though with
ss harshness than was common to him ; nor did the mutual
nbarrassment of Tom and the young lady, to whatever cause he
itributed it, seem to escape his observation.

"Pecksniff"," he said after a pause, rising and taking him aside
iwards the window, "I was much shocked on hearing of my
•other's death. We had been strangers for many years. My
ily comfort is, that he must have lived the happier and better
an for having associated no hopes or schemes with me. Peace
I his memory ! We were playfellows once ; and it would have
;en better for us both if we had died then."

Finding him in this gentle mood, Mr. Pecksniff began to see
lother way out of his difficulties, besides the casting overboard of

" That any man, my dear Sir, could possibly be the happier for
Dt knowing you," he returned, "you will excuse my doubting,
ut that ]\Ir. Anthony, in the evening of his life, was happy in the
fection of his excellent son — a pattern, my dear Sir, a pattern to
.1 sons — and in the care of a distant reLation, who, however lowly
i his means of serving him, had no boimds to his inclination ;
can inform you."

" How's this 1 " said the old man. " You are not a legatee 1 "

"You don't," said Mr. Pecksniff, with a melancholy pressure of
is hand, "quite understand my nature yet, I find. No, Sir, I am
at a legatee. I am proud to say I am not a legatee. I am proud
) say tliat neither of my children is a legatee. And yet. Sir, I
as with him at his own request. He understood me somewhat
3tter, Sir. He wrote and said, 'I am sick. I am sinking. Come
) me ! ' I went to him. I sat beside his bed. Sir, and I stood
3side his grave. Yes, at the risk of offending even t/ou, I did it,
ir. Though the avowal should lead to our instant separation,
id to the severing of those tender ties between us which have
'cently been formed, I make it. But I am not a legatee," said



Mr. Pecksniff, smiling dispassionately; "and I never expected to
be a legatee. I knew better ! "

" His son a pattern ! " cried old Martin. " How can you tell
me that 1 My brother had in his wealth the usual doom of wealth,
and root of misery. He carried his corrupting influence with liim,
go where he would ; and shed it round him, even on liis hearth.
It made of his own child a greedy expectant, who measured
every day and horn- the lessening distance between his father
and the grave, and cursed his tardy progress on that dismal

" No ! " cried Mr. Pecksniff, boldly. " Not at all, Sir : "

" But I saw that shadow in his house," said Martin Chuzzlewit,
" the last time we met, and warned him of its presence. I know
it when I see it, do I not ? I, who have lived within it all these
years ! "

"I deny it," Mr. Pecksniff answered, warmly. "I deny it
altogether. That bereaved young man is now in this house. Sir,
seeking in change of scene the peace of mind he has lost. Shall I
be backward in doing justice to that young man, when even under-
takers and coffin-makers have been moved by the conduct he has
exhibited; when even mutes have spoken in his praise, and the
medical man hasn't known what to do witii himself in the excite-
ment of his feelings ! There is a person of the name of Gamp,
Sir — Mrs. Gamp — ask her. She saw Mr. Jonas in a trying time.
Ask her, Sir. She is respectable, but not sentimental, and will
state the fact. A line addressed to Mrs. Gamp, at the Bird-shop.
Kingsgate Street, High Holborn, London, will meet with every
attention, I have no doubt. Let her be examined, my good Sir
Strike, but hear ! Leap, Mr. Chuzzlewit, but look ! Forgive me
my dear Sir," said Mr. Pecksniff" taking both his hands, " if I an
warm ; but I am honest, and must state the truth."

In proof of the character he gave himself, Mr. Pecksniff suttere(
tears of honesty to ooze out of his eyes.

The old man gazed at liim for a moment with a look of wondei
repeating to himself, "Here now! In this house!" But h
mastered his surprise, and said, after a pause :

" Let me sec him."

"In a friendly spirit, I hope?" said Mr. Pecksniff. " Forgi\
me. Sir, but he is in the receipt of my humble hospitality."

"I said," replied the old man, "let me see him. If I we)
disposed to regard him in any other than a friendly spirit, I shoa
have said, keep us apart."

" Certainly, my dear Sir. So you would. You are frankne
itself, I know. I will break this happiness to him," said M


^ccksnift* ns he left the room, '•if you will excuse me for a minute

He paved the way to the disclosure so very gently, that a
[uarter of an hour elapsed before he returned with Mr. Jonas,
n the meantime the young ladies had made their appearance, and
he table had been set out for the refreshment of the travellers.

Now, however well Mr. Pecksniff, in his morality, had taught
Fonas the lesson of dutiful behaviour to his uncle, and however
)erfect]y Jonas, in the cunning of his nature, had learnt it, that
'oung man's bearing, when presented to his father's brother, was
inything but manly or engaging. Perhaps, indeed, so singular a
iiixture of defiance and obsequiousness, of fear and hardihood, of
logged suUenness and an attempt at cringing and propitiation,
lever was expressed in any one human figure as in that of Jonas,
vhen, having raised his downcast eyes to Martin's face, he let
hem fall again, and uneasily closing and unclosing his hands
without a moment's intermission, stood swinging himself from side
.0 side, waiting to be addressed.

"Nephew," said the old man. "You have been a dutiful son,
'. hear."

"As dutifid as sons in general, I suppose," returned Jonas,
coking up and down once more. " I don't brag to have been any
)etter than other sons ; but I haven't been any worse, I dare say.''

" A pattern to all .?ons, I am told," said the old man, glancing
;owards Mr. Pecksniff.

" Ecod ! " said Jonas, looking up again for a moment, and
shaking his head, " I've been as good a son as ever you were a
jrothcr. It's the pot and the kettle, if you come to that."

"You s^Deak bitterly, in the violence of your regret," said
Martin, after a pause. "Give me your hand."

Jonas did so, and was almost at his case. " Pccksnift"," he
ivhispered, as they drew their chairs about the table ; " I gave
iiim as good as he brought, eh ? He had better look at home,
before he looks out of window, I think?"

Mr. Pecksniff oidy answered by a nudge of the elbow, which
might either be construed into an indignant remonstrance or a
:ordial a.ssent ; but which, in any case, was an emphatic admoni-
tion to his chosen son-in-law to be silent. He then proceede<l
to do the honours of the house witii his accustomed ease and

But not even Mr. Pecksniff's guileless merriment could set such
a party at their ease, or reconcile materials so utterly discordant
and conflicting as those with which he had to deal. The unspeak-
able and hatred wliich tliat night's explanation had sown


in Charitj^'s lireast, was not to be so easily kept down ; and more
than once it showed itself in such intensity, as seemed to render a
fnll disclosm-e of all the circumstances then and there, impossible
to be avoided. The beauteous Merry, too, with all the glory of
her conquest fresh upon her, so probed and lanced the rankling
disappointment of her sister by her capricious airs and thousand
little trials of Mr. Jonas's obedience, that she almost goaded her
into a fit of madness, and obliged her to retire from table in a
burst of passion, hardly less vehement than that to which she had
abandoned herself in the first tumult of her wrath. The constraint
imposed upon the family by the presence among them for the first
time of Mary Graham (for by that name old Martin Chuzzlewit
had introduced her) did not at all improve this state of things :
gentle and quiet though her manner was. Mr. Pecksnifi^s situa-
tion was peculiarly trying : for, what with having constantly to
keep the peace between his daughters ; to maintain a reasonable
show of affection and unity in his household ; to curb the growing
ease and gaiety of Jonas, which vented itself in sundry insolences
towards Mr. Pinch, and an indefinable coarseness of manner in
reference to Mary (they being the two dependants) ; to make no
mention at all of his having perpetually to conciliate his rich old
relative, and to smooth down, or explain away, some of the ten
thousand bad appearances and combinations of bad appearances,
by which they were suiTounded on that unlucky evening — what
with having to do this, and it would be difficult to sum up how
much more, without the least relief or assistance from anybody, it
may be easily imagined that Mr. Pecksniff had in his enjoyment
something more than that usual portion of alloy which is mixed
up with the best of men's delights. Perhaps he had never in his
life felt such relief as when old Martin, looking at his watch,
announced that it was time to go.

" We have rooms," he said, " at the Dragon, for the present.
I have a fancy for the evening walk. The nights are dark just
now : perhaps Mr. Pinch would not object to light us home 1 "

" My dear Sir ! " cried Pecksniff", " / shall be delighted. Merry,
my child, the lantern."

" The lantern, if you please, my dear," said Martin ; " but I
couldn't think of taking your father out of doors to-night ; and, to
be brief, I won't."

Mr. Pecksnitt" already had his hat in liis hand, but it was so
emphatically said that he paused.

" I take Mr. Pinch, or go alone," said IMartin. " Which shall
it be 1 "

"It shall be Thomas, "Sir," cried Pecksnift' "since vou are sc


resolute upou it. Thomas, my friend, be very careful, if you

Tom was in some need of this injunction, for he felt so nervous,
and trembled to such a degree, that he found it ditticult to hold
the lantern. How much more difficult when, at the old man's
bidding, she drew her hand through his — Tom Pinch's — arm !

"And so, Mr. Pinch," said Martin, on the way, "you are very
comfortably situated here ; are you 1 "

Tom answered, with even more than his usual enthusiasm, that
he was under obligations to Mr. Pecksniff" which the devotion of a
lifetime would but imperfectly repay.

" How long have you known my nephew ? " asked Martin.

" Your nephew, Sir ! " faltered Tom.

" Mr. Jonas Chuzzlewit," said Mary.

" Oh dear, yes," cried Tom, greatly relieved, for his mind was
running upon Martin. " Certainly. I never spoke to him before
to-night. Sir."

" Perhaps half a lifetime will suffice for the acknowledgment
of his kindness," observed the old man.

Tom felt that this was a rebuff for him, and could not but
understand it as a left-handed hit at his employer. So he was
silent. Mary felt that Mr. Pinch was not remarkable for presence
of mind, and that he could not say too little under existing circum-
stances. So she was silent. The old man, disgusted by what in
his suspicious nature he considered a shameless and fulsome puff
of i\Ir. Pecksniff, which was a part of Tom's hired service and in
which he was determined to persevere, set him down at once for a
deceitful, servile, miserable fawner. So he was silent. And
though they were all sufficiently uncomfortable, it is fair to say
that Martin was perhaps the most so ; for he had felt kindly
towards Tom at first, and had been interested by his seeming

" You're like the rest," he thought, glancing at the face of the
unconscious Tom. " You had nearly imposed upon me, but you
have lost your labour. You are too zealous a toad-eater, and
betray yourself, Mr. Pinch."

During the whole remainder of the walk, not another word was
spoken. First among the meetings to which Tom had long looked
forward with a beating heart, it was memorable for notliing but
embarrassment and confusion. They parted at the Dragon door ;
and sighing as he extinguished the candle in the lantern, Tom
turned back again over the gloomy fields.

As he approached the first stile, which was in a lonely i)art,
made very dark by a plantation of young firs, a man .slipped past


him and went on before. Coming to the stile lie .stoi)ped, and
took his seat upon it. Tom was rather startled, and for a moment
stood still ; but he stepped forward again immediately, and went
close up to him.

It was Jonas ; swinging his legs to and fro, sucking the head
of a stick, and looking witli a sneer at Tom.

" Good gracious me ! " cried Tom, " who would have thought
of its being you ! You followed us, then ? "

" What's that to you ?" said Jonas. " Go to the devil ! "

" You are not very civil, I think," remarked Tom.

"Civil enough for you,'" retorted Jonas. "Who are you?"

" One who has as good a right to common consideration as
another," said Tom, mildly.

"You're a liar," said Jonas. "You haven't aright to any
consideration. You haven't a right to anything. You're a pretty
sort of fellow to talk about your rights, upon my soul ! Ha, ha !
— rights, too ! "

"If you proceed in this way," returned Tom, reddening, "you
will oblige me to talk about my wrongs. But I hope your joke
is over."

" It's the way with you curs," said Mr. Jonas, " that -when you

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 39 of 80)