Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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might be ; and turned him loose in a spacious room on the two-
pair front; wdiere, in the company of certain drawing-boards,
parallel rulers, very stiff-legged compasses, and two, or perhaps
three, other yoimg gentlemen, he improved himself, for three or
five years, according to his articles, in making elevations of
Salisbury Cathedral from every possible point of sight ; and in
constructing in the air a vast quantity of Castles, Houses of
Parliament, and other Public Buildings. Perhaps in no place
in the world were so many gorgeous edifices of this class erected
as under Mr. Pecksnift''s auspices ; and if but one-twentieth part
of the churches which were built in that front room, with one or
other of the Miss Pecksniff's at the altar in the act of marrying
the architect, could only be made available by the parliamentary
commissioners, no more churches would be wanted for at least
five centuries.

" Even the w^orldly goods of which we have just disposed."
said Mr. Pecksniff, glancing round the table when he had finished,
"even cream, sugar, tea, toast, ham, — "

" And eggs," suggested Charity in a low voice.

" And eggs," said Mr. Pecksniff, " even they have their moral.
See how they come and go ! Every pleasure is transitory, ^^'e
can't even eat, long. If we indulge in harmless fluids, we get
the dropsy ; if in exciting liquids, we get drunk. AVhat a sooth-
ing reflection is that ! "

"Don't say ive get drunk. Pa," urged tlio eldest ]\Iiss Pecksniff.

"When I say, we, my dear," returned her father, "I mean
mankind in general ; the human race, considered as a body, and
not as individuals. There is nothing personal in morality, my



love. Even such a thing as this," said j\Ir. Pecksniff, haying the^
forefinger of his left hand upon the brown-paper patcli on the|
top of his head, " slight casualty, baldness though it be, remindsj
us that we are but" — he was going to say " woi'ms," but recollect-;
ing that worms Avere not remarkable for heads of liair, he;
substituted " tlesh and blood." ,

"Which," cried Mr. Pecksniff" after a pause, during which hel
seemed to have been casting about for a new moral, and not
quite successfully, "which is also very sootliing. Mercy, myi
dear, stir the fire and throw up the cinders." i

The young lady obeyed, and having done so, resumed heri
stool, reposed one arm upon lier father's knee, and laid her bloom-!
ing cheek upon it. Miss Cliarity drew her chair nearer the fire,'
as one prepared for conversation, and looked towards her father. ;

"Yes," said Mr. Pecksniff", after a short pause, during wliiclp
he had been silently smiling, and shaking his head at the fire — ■
" I have again been fortunate in tlie attainment of my object. A '
new inmate will very shortly come among us."

"A youth, papa?" asked Charity.

" Ye-es, a youth," said Mr. Pecksniff". "He will avail himself |
of the eligible opportunity which now off'ers, for uniting the'
advantages of the best practical architectural education, with the '
comforts of a home, and the constant association with some who
(however humble their sphere, and limited their capacity) are
not unmindful of their moral resijonsibilities."

" Oh Pa ! " cried Mercy, holding up her finger arclily. " See
advertisement ! "

" Playful — playful warbler," said Mr. Pecksniff". It may be
observed in connexion with his calling his daughter " a warbler,"
that she was not at all vocal, but that Mr. Pecksniff" was in the
frequent habit of using any word that occurred to him as having
a good sound, and rounding a sentence well, without much care
for its meaning. And he did this so boldly, and in such an
imposing manner, tiiat he would sometimes stagger the wisest
people witii his eloquence, and make them gasp again.

His enemies asserted, by the way, that a strong trustfulness in
sounds and forms, Avas the master-key to Mr. Pecksniff"'s character.

"Is he handsome. Fill" inquired the younger daugliter.

" Silly Merry ! " said the eldest : ]\Ierry being fond for Mercy.
"What is tiie premium, Pa? tell us that."

" Oil good gracious, Cherry ! " cried Miss Mercy, holding up
her hands with the most winning giggle in the world, " what a
mercenary girl you are ! oh you naughty, though.tful, prudent
thing 1 "


It was perfectly clianning, and wortliy of tlie Pastoral age, to see
how the two J\Iiss Pecksniffs slajjped each other after this, and then
subsided into an embrace expressive of their different dispositions.

" He is well looking," saiil Mr. Pecksniff, slowly and distinctly :
"well looking enough. I do not positively expect any immediate
premium with him."

Notwithstanding their different natures, both Charity and
Mercy concurred in opening their eyes uncommonly wide at this
announcement, and in looking for the moment as blank as if their
thoughts had actually had a direct bearing on the main-chance.

"But what of that !" said Mr. Pecksniff, still smiling at the
fire. " There is disinterestedness in the world, I hope ? We are
not all arrayed iu two opposite ranks : the q/Tensive and the
(defensive. Some few there are wlio walk between ; who help the
needy as they go ; and take no part with either side : umph 'i "

There was something iu these morsels of philanthropy which
reassured the sisters. They exchanged glances, and brightened
very much.

" Oh ! let us not be for ever calculating, devising, and plotting
for the future," said Mr. Pecksniff, smiling more and more, and
looking at the fire as a man might, who was cracking a joke with
it: "I am weary of such arts. If our inclinations are but good
and open-hearted, let us gratify them boldly, though they bring
upon us, Loss instead of Profit. Eh, Charity "? "

Glancing towards his daughters for the first time since he had
begun these reflections, and seeing that they both smiled, Mr.
Pecksniff eyed them for an instant so jocosely (though still with
a kind of saintly waggishness) that the younger one was moved
to sit upon liis knee forthwith, put her fair arms round his neck,
and kissed him twenty times. During the whole of this affec-
tionate display she laughed to a most immoderate extent : in which
hilarious indulgence even the prudent Cheri-y joined.

"Tut, tut," said Mr. Pecksniff, pushing his latest-born away,
and running his fingers through his hair, as he resumed his tranquil
face. " What folly is this ! Let us take heed how we laugh
without reason, lest we cry with it. What is the domestic news
since yesterday ? John Westlock is gone, I hope 1 "

" Indeed no," said Charity.

"And why not?" returned her father. "His terra expired
yesterday. And his box was packed, I know ; for I saw it, in
the morning, standing in the hall."

"He slept last night at the Dragon," returned the young lady,
"and had Mr. Pinch to dine with him. They spent the evening
together, and Mr. Piuch was not home till very late."


"And when I saw him on the stairs this morning, Pa," said
Mercy with her usual sprightlincss, " he looked, oh goodness, such
a monster ! with his face all manner of colDurs, and his eyes as
dull as if they had been boiled, and his head aching dreadfully,
I am sure from the look of it, and his clothes smelling, oli
it's impossible to say how strong, of" — here the young lady
shuddered — "of smoke and puncli."

" Now I think," said Mr. Pecksniff with his accustomed
gentleness, thougli still with the air of one who suffered under
injury without complaint, " I think Mr. Pinch migiit have done
better than choose for his companion one who, at tlie close of a
long intercourse, had endeavoured, as he knew, to wound my
feelings. I am not cjuite sure that this was delicate in ]\Ir. Pinch.
I am not quite sure that tliis was kind in Mr. Pinch. I will go
further and say, I am not c^uite sure that this was even ordinarily
grateful in Mr. Pinch."

" But what can anyone expect from I\Ir. Pinch ! " cried Charity,
with as strong and scornful an emphasis on the name as if it would
have given her unspeakable pleasure to express it, in an acted
charade, on tlie calf of that gentleman's leg.

"Ay, ay," returned her fother, raising his hand mildly : "it is
very well to say what can we expect from Mr. Pinch, but Mr.
Pinch is a fellow-creature, my dear ; Mr. Pinch is an item in the
vast total of humanity, my love ; and we have a right, it is our
duty, to expect in Mr. Pinch some development of those better
qualities, the possession of which in our own persons inspires
our humble self-respect. No," continued Mr. Pecksniff. "No!
Heaven fjrbid tliat I shovdd say, nothing can be expected from
Mr. Pinch ; or tliat I should say, nothing can be expected from
any man alive (even the most degraded, which Mr. Pinch is not,
no really) ; but Mr. Pinch has disappointed me : he has liurt me :
I think a little the worse of him on tliis account, but not of
liuman nature. Oil no, no ! "

" Hark ! " said Miss Charity, holding up licr finger, as a gentle
rap was heard at the street-door. " There is the creature ! Now
mark my words, he has come back with Jolni Westlock for his
box, and is going to help him to take it to tlie mail. Only mark
my words, if that isn't his intention ! "

Even as she s])oke, the box appeared to be in progress of
conveyance from the house, but after a brief murmuring of question
and answer, it was put down again, and somebody knocked at the
parlour door.

'■ Come in ! " cried Mv. Pecksniff — not severely ; only virtuously.
" Come in ! "



An ungainly, awkward-looking man, extremely short-sighted,
and prematurely bald, availed himself of this permission ; and
seeing that Mr. Pecksniff sat with his back towards him, gazing
at the fire, stood hesitating, with the door in his hand. He avus
far from handsome certainly ; and was drest in a snuff-coloured
suit, of an uncouth make at the best, -which, being shrunken with
long wear, was twisted and tortured into all kinds of odd shapes ;
but notwithstanding his attire, and his clumsy figure, which a
great stoop in his shoulders, and a ludicrous habit he had of
thrusting his head forward, by no means redeemed, one would not
have been disposed (unless Mr. Pecksniff said so) to consider him
a bad fellow by any means. He was perhaps about thirty, Init
he might have been almost any age between sixteen and sixty :
being one of those strange creatures who never decline into an
ancient appearance, but look their oldest when they are very
young, and get it over at once.

Keeping his hand ujjon the lock of the door, he glanced from
Mr. Pecksniff to Mercy, from Mercy to Charity, and from Charity
to Mr. Pecksniff again, several times ; but the young ladies being
as intent upon the fire as their father was, and neither of the
three taking any notice of him, he was fain to say, at last,

"Oh! I beg your i^ardon, Mr. Pecksniff: I beg your pardon
for intruding ; but — "

"No intrusion, Mr. Pinch," said that gentleman very sweetly,
but wdthout looking round. " Pray be seated, Mr. Pinch. Have
the goodness to shut the door, Mr. Pinch, if you please."

" Certainly, Sir," said Pinch : not doing so, however, but
holding it rather wider open than before, and beckoning nervously
to somebody without: "Mr. Westlock, Sir, hearing that you were
come home — "

"Mr. Pinch, Mr. Pinch!" said Pecksniff, wheeling his chair
about, and looking at him with an asjDect of the deepest melancholy,
"I did not expect this from you. I have not deserved this from
you ! "

" No, but upon my word. Sir " — urged Pinch.

" The less yoii say, Mr. Pinch," interposed the other, " the
better. I utter no complaint. Make no defence."

" No, but do have the goodness, Sir," cried Pinch, with great
earnestness, "if you please. Mr. Westlock, Sir, going away for
good and all, wishes to leave none but friends behind him. Mr.
Westlock and you. Sir, had a little difference the other day ; you
have had many little differences."

" Little differences ! " cried Charity.

" Little differences ! " echoed Mercy.


"My loves!" said Mr. Pecksniff, with the same serene
upraisinf? of liis hand ; " JNIy dears ! " After a solemn pause lie
meekly bowed to Mr. Pincli, as who should say, " Proceed ; " but
Mr. Pinch was so very much at a loss how to resume, and looked
so helplessly at the two Miss Pecksniffs, that tlie conversation
would most probably have terminated tliere, if a good-looking-
youth, newly arrived at man's estate, had not stepped forward
from the doorway and taken up the thread of the discourse.

"Come, Mr. Pecksniff," he said, with a smile, "don't let there
be any ill -blood between us, pray. I am sorry we have ever
differed, and extremely sorry I have ever given you offence. Bear
me no ill-will at jDarting, Sir."

" I bear," answered Mr. Pecksniff, mildly, " no ill-will to any
man on earth."

"I told you he didn't," said Pinch in an under tone ; " I knew
he didn't ! He always says he don't."

" Then you will shake hands. Sir 1 " cried Westlock, advancing
a step or two, and bespeaking I\lr. Pinch's close attention by a

"Umph !" said Mr. Pecksniff, in his most winning tone.

"You will shake hands. Sir."

"No, John," said Mr. Pecksniff, with a calmness quite ethereal ;
"no, I will not shake hands, John. I have forgiven you. I had
already forgiven you, even before you ceased to reproach and taunt
me. I have embraced you in the spirit, John, which is better
than shaking hands."

"Pinch," said the youth, turning towards him, with a hearty
disgust of his late master, " what did I tell you 1 "

Poor Pinch looked doAvn uneasily at I\Ir. Pecksnifl', whose eye
•was fixed upon him as it liad been from the first : and looking up
at the ceiling again, made no reply.

"As to j'our forgiveness, Mr. Pecksniff," said the youth, " Fll
not have it upon such terms. I won't be forgiven."

"Won't you, Johni" retorted Mr. Pecksnift", with a smile.
"You must. You can't help it. Forgiveness is a high quality ;
an exalted virtue ; far above 7/onr control or influence, John. I
toill forgive you. You cannot move me to remember any wrong
you have ever done me, John."

" Wrong ! " cried the other, with all the heat and impetuosity
of his age. " Here's a pretty fellow ! Wrong ! Wrong I have
done him ! He'll not even remember the five hundred pomids he
had with me under false pretences ; or the seventy pounds a-year
for board and lodging that would have been dear at seventeen !
Here's a martyr ! "


V* "Money, Jolni," said Mr. Pecksniff, "is the root of all evil.
I grieve to see that it is already bearing evil fruit in you. But I
will not remember its existence. I will not even remember the
conduct of that misguided person " — and here, although he spoke
like one at peace with all the world, he used an emiihasis that
plainly said 'I have my eye upon the rascal now' — "that
misguided person who has brought you here to-night, seeking to
disturb (it is a happiness to say, in vain) the heart's repose and
peace of one who would have shed his dearest blood to serve him."

The voice of Mr. Pecksniff trembled as he spoke, and sobs
were heard from his daughters. Sounds floated on the air,
moreover, as if two spirit voices had exclaimed : one, " Beast ! "
the other, " Savage ! "

" Forgiveness," said Mr. Pecksniff, " entire and pure forgiveness
is not incompatible with a wounded heart ; perchance when the
heart is wounded, it becomes a greater virtue. With my breast
still wrung and grieved to its inmost core by the ingratitude of
that person, I am proud and glad to say, that I forgive him.
Nay ! I beg," cried Mr. Pecksniff, raising his voice, as Pinch:
appeared about to speak, " I beg that individual not to offer a
remark : he will truly oblige me by not uttering one word, just
now. I am not sure that I am equal to the trial. In a very sliort
space of time, I shall liave sufficient fortitude, I trust, to converse
with him as if these events had never happened. But not," said
]\Ir. Pecksnifi', turning round again towards the fire, and waving
his hand in the direction of the door, "not now."

"Bah!" cried John Westlock, with the utmost disgust and
disdain the monosyllable is capable of expressing. " Ladies, good
evening. Come, Pinch, it's not wortli thinking of. I was riglit
and you were wrong. That's a small matter • you'll be wiser
another time."

So saying, he clapped that dejected companion on the shoulder,
turned upon his heel, and walked out into the passage, whither
poor Mr. Pinch, after lingering irresolutely in the parlour for a
few seconds, expressing in his countenance the deepest mental
misery and gloom, followed him. Then they took up the box
between them, and sallied out to meet the mail.

That fleet conveyance passed, every night, the corner of a lane
at some distance ; towards which point they bent their steps.
For some minutes they walked along in silence, until at length
young Westlock burst into a loud laugh, and at intervals into
another, and another. Still there was no response from his

"Til tell you what, Pinch!" he said abruptly, after another


lengthened silence — " You haven't half enough of the devil in
you. Half enougli ! You haven't an^'.'

"Well!" said Pinch with a sigh, "I don't know, Tni sure.
It's a compliment to say so. If I haven't, I suppose I'm all the
better for it."

'•AH the better!" repeated his companion tartly: "All the
worse, you mean to say."

" And yet," said Pinch, jnirsuing his own thoughts and not this
last remark on the part of his friend, " I must have a good deal of
what you call the devil in me, too, or how could I make Pecksnift"
so uncomfortable ? I wouldn't have occasioned him so much
distress — don't laugh, please — for a mine of money : and Heaven
knows I could find good use for it too, John. How grieved he was ! "

" He grieved ! " returned the other.

" Why didn't you observe that the tears were almost starting
out of his eyes ! " cried Pinch. " Bless my soul, John, is it nothing
to .see a man moved to that extent and know one's self to be the
cause ! And did you hear him say that he could have shed his
blood for me % "

" Do you imnt any blood shed for you \ " returned his friend,
with considerable irritation. " Does he shed anything for you
that you do want 1 Does he shed employment for you, instruction
for you, pocket-money for you ? Does he shed even legs of mutton
for you in any decent ijroportion to potatoes and garden stuff?"

'•I am afraid," said Pinch, sighing again, "that I am a great
eater : I can't disguise from myself that I'm a great eater. Now
you know that, John."

" You a great eater ! " retorted his companion, with no less
indignation than before. " How do you know you are 1"

There appeared to be forcible matter in this inquiry, for Mr.
Pinch only repeated in an under-tone that he had a strong mis-
giving on the subject, and that he greatly feared he was :

"Besides, whether I am or no," he added, "that has little or
nothing to do with his thinking me ungrateful. John, there is
scarcely a sin in the world that is in my eyes such a crying one as
ingratitude ; and when he taxes me with that, and believes me to
be guilty of it, he makes me miserable and wretched."

"Do you think he don't know that T' returned the other
scornfully. " But come. Pinch, before I say anything more to you,
just run over the. reasons you have for being grateful to him at
all, will you ? change hands first, for the box is heavy. That'll do.
Now, go on."

"In the first place," said Pinch, "he took me as his pupil for
much less than he asked."


"Well," rejoined his friend, i^erfectly unmoved by this instance
of generosity. " What in the second place 1 "

"What in the second jDlace ! " cried Pinch, in a sort of despera-
tion, " why, everything in the second place. My poor old grand-
mother died happy to tliink that she had put me with such an
excellent man. I have grown up in his house, I am in his
confidence, I am his assistant, he allows me a salary : when his
business improves, my prospects are to improve too. All this, and
a great deal more, is in the second place. And in the very prologue
and preface to the first place, John, you must consider this, wliich
nobody knows better than I : that I was born for much plainer
and poorer things, that I am not a good hand at liis kind of
business, and have no talent for it, or indeed for anything else but
odds and ends that are of no use or service to anybody."

He said this with so much earnestness, and in a tone so full of
feeling, that his companion instinctively changed his manner as he
sat down on tlie bo.x (they had by this time reached the finger-post
at the end of the lane) ; motioned him to sit down beside him ;
and laid his hand upon his shoulder.

" I believe you are one of the best fellows in the world," he
said, " Tom Pinch."

" Not at all," rejoined Tom. " If you only knew Pecksnitf
as well as I do, you might say it of him, indeed, and say it

"I'll say anything of him, you like," returned the other, "and
not another word to his disparagement."

" It's for my sake, then ; not his, I am afraid," said Pinch,
shaking liis head gravely.

" For whose you please, Tom, so that it does please you. Oh !
He's a famous fellow ! He never scraped and clawed into his
pouch all your poor grandmother's hard savings — she was a house-
keeper, wasn't she, Tom 1 "

"Yes," said Mr. Pinch, nursing one of his large knees, and
nodding his head : "a gentleman's housekeeper."

"He never scraped and clawed into his pouch all her hard
savings ; dazzling her Avith prospects of your happiness and
advancement, which he knew (and no man better) never would be
realized ! Jle never speculated and traded on her pride in you,
and her having educated you, and on her desire that you at least
should live to be a gentleman. Not lie, Tom ! "

"No," said Tom, looking into his friend's face, as if he were a
little doubtful of liis meaning ; " of course not."

" So I say," returned the youth, " of course he never did. He
didn't take less than he had asked, because that less was all she


liad, and more than he expected : not he, Tom ! He doesn't keep
you as his assistant because you are of any use to him ; because
your wonderful faith in his preteusions is of inestimable service in
all his mean disputes ; because your honesty reflects honesty on
him ; because your wandering about this little place all your spare
hours, reading in ancient books, and foreign tongues, gets noised
abroad, even as far as Salisbur)', making of him, Pecksnift" the
master, a man of learning and of vast importance. He gets no
credit from you, Tom, not he."

"Why, of course he don't," said Pinch, gazing at his friend with
a more troubled aspect than before. " Pecksnilf get credit from
me I Well ! "

"Don't I say that it's ridiculous," rejoined the other, "even to
think of such a thing 1 ''

" Why, it's madness," said Tom.

"Madness!" returned young Westlock. "Certainly, it's
madness. Who but a madman would suppose he cares to hear it
said on Sundays, that the volunteer who plays tlie organ in the
church, and practises on summer evenings in the dark, is Mr.
Pecksnift"s young man, eh, Tom 1 AVho but a madman would
suppose it is the game of such a man as he, to have his name in
everybody's mouth, connected with the thousand useless odds and
ends you do (and which, of course, he tauglit you), eh, Tom 1
Who but a madman would suppose you advertise him hereabouts,
much cheaper and much better than a chalker on the walls could,
eh, Tom ? As well might one suppose that he doesn't on all
occasions pour out his whole heart and soul to you ; that he doesn't
make you a very liberal and indeed rather an extravagant
allowance ; or, to be more wild and monstrous still, if that be
possible, as well might one suppose," and here, at every word, he
struck him lightly on the breast, " that Pecksnitt" traded in your
nature, and that your nature was, to be timid and distrustful of
yourself, and trustful of all other men, but most of all, of him who
least deserves it. There would be madness, Tom ! "

Mr. Pinch had listened to all this with looks of bewilderment,
which seemed to be in part occasioned by the matter of his
companion's speech, and in part by his rapid and vehement manner.
Now that he had come to a close, he drew a very long breath ;
and gazing wistfully in his face as if he were unable to settle in his

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 4 of 80)