Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

. (page 40 of 80)
Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 40 of 80)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

know a man's in real earnest, you pretend to think he's joking, so
that you may turn it off. But that won't do with me. It's too
stale. Now just attend to me for a bit, Mr. Pitch, or Witch, or
Stitch, or whatever your name is."

" My name is Pinch," observed Tom. " Have the goodness to
call me by it."

" What ! You mustn't even be called out of your name,
mustn't you ! " cried Jonas. " Pauper 'prentices are looking up, I
think. Ecod, we manage 'em a little better in the City ! "

" Never mind what you do in the City," said Tom. " What ;
have you got to say to me 1 " ^

" Just this, Mister Pinch," retorted Jonas, thrusting his flice \
so close to Tom's that Tom was obliged to retreat a step, "I J
advise you to keep your own counsel, and to avoid tittle-tattle,;
and not to cut in where you're not wanted. I've heard something!
of you, my friend, and your meek ways; and I recommend you to
forget 'em till I am married to one of Pecksniff's gals, and not'
to curry favour among my relations, but to leave the course clear. |
You know, when curs won't leave the course clear, they're wliippedj
off; so this is kind advice. Do you understand ? Eh? Damme,!
who are you," cried Jonas, with increased contempt, "that yow
should walk home with thnn, unless it was behind 'em, like any;
other servant out of livery ? " -



"Come!" cried Tom, ''I see that you hud better get off the
tile, and let me ^lursue my way home. Make room for me, if
•on please."

"Don't think it ! "" said Jonas, spreading out his legs. "Not
ill I choose. And I don't choose now. What ! You're afraid
if my making you split upon some of your babbling just now, are
'^ou, Sneak 1"

"I am not afraid of many tilings, I hope," said Tom; "and
;ertainly not of anything that you will do. I am not a tale-bearer,
md I despise all meanness. You quite mistake me. Ah ! " cried
Com, indignautlj\ " Is this manly from one in your position to
me in mine ? Please to make room for me to pass. The less I
;ay, the better."

" The less you say ! " retorted Jonas, dangling his legs the
nore, and taking no heed of this request. " You say very little,
lon't you 1 Ecod, I should like to know what goes on between
rou and a vagabond member of my family. There's very little in
:hat too, I daresay ! "

"I know no vagabond member of your family," cried Tom,

" You do ! " said Jonas.

"I don't," said Tom. "Your uncle's namesake, if you mean
lim, is no vagabond. Any comparison between you and him " —
Fom snapped his fingers at him, for he was rising fast in wrath —
' is immeasurably to your disadvantage."

"Oh indeed !" sneered Jonas. "And what do you think of
lis deary — his beggarly leavings, eh. Mister Pinch 1 "

" I don't mean to say another word, or stay here another
instant," replied Tom.

"As I told you before, you're a liar," said Jonas, coolly.
'* You'll stay here till I give you leave to go. Now, keep where
you are, will you ? "

He flourished his stick over Tom's head ; but in a moment it
ivas spinning harmlessly in the air, and Jonas himself lay sprawl-
ing in the ditch. In the momentary struggle for the stick, Tom
had brought it into violent contact with his opponent's forehead ;
md the blood welled out profusely from a deep cut on the temple.
Pom was first apprised of this by seeing that he pressed his hand-
kerchief to the wounded part, and staggered as he rose : being

" Are you hurt ? " said Tom. " I am very sorry. Loan on me
for a moment. You can do that without forgiving me, if you
still bear me malice. But I don't know why ; for I Jiever oftended
j'ou before we met on this spot."


He made him no answer : not appearing at first to understand
him, or even to know that he was hurt, though he several times
took his handkerchief from the cut to look vacantly at the blood
upon it. After one of these examinations, he looked at Tom, and
then there was an expression iu his features, which showed that
he understood what had taken place, and would remember it.

Nothing more passed between them as they went home. Jonas
kept a little in advance, and Tom Pinch sadly followed : thinking
of the grief which the knowledge of this quarrel must occasion his
excellent benefactor. When Jonas knocked at the door, Tom's
heart beat high ; higher when Miss Mercy answered it, and seeing
her wounded lover, shrieked aloud ; higher when he followed them
into the fomily parlour ; higher than at any other time when
Jonas spoke.

" Don't make a noise about it," he said. " It's nothing worth
mentioning. I didn't know the road ; the night's very dark ; and
just as I came up with Mr. Pinch " — he turned his face towards
Tom, but not his eyes — " I ran against a tree. It's only skin

" Cold water, Merry, my child ! " cried Mr. Pecksniff. " Brown
paper ! Scissors ! A piece of old linen ! Charity, my dear,
make a bandage. Bless me, Mr. Jonas ! "

" Oh, bother your nonsense," returned the gracious son-in-law
elect. "Be of some use if you can. If you can't, get out ! "

Miss Charity, though called upon to lend her aid, sat upright
in one corner, with a smile upon her face, and didn't move a finger.
Though Mercy laved the wound herself; and Mr. Pecksniff' held
the patient's head between his two hands, as if without that
assistance it must inevitably come in half; and Tom Pinch, in his
guilty agitation, shook a bottle of Dutch Drops until they werei
nothing but English Froth, and in his other hand sustained a]
formidable carving-knife, really intended to reduce the swelling,
but apparently designed for the ruthless infliction of another wound
as soon as that was dressed ; Charity rendered not the least assist-
ance, nor uttered a word. But when Mr. Jonas's head was bound
up, and he had gone to bed, and everybody else had retired, and
the house was quiet, Mr. Pinch, as he sat mournfully on his bed-
stead, ruminating, heard a gentle tap at his door ; and opening it,
saw her, to his great astonishment, standing before him with hex
finger on her lip,

" Mr. Pinch," she whispered. " Dear Mr. Pinch ! tell me
the truth ! You did that ? There was some quarrel between you,
and you struck him 1 I am sure of it ! "

It was the first time she had ever spoken kindly to Tom, in al



the many years they had passed together. He Avas stupetied with

" Was it so, or not ? " she eagerly demanded.

" I was very much provoked," said Tom.

" Then it was ? " cried Charity, with sparkling eyes.

" Ye-yes. We had a struggle for the path," said Tom. " But
I didn't mean to hurt him so much."

" JSTot so much ! " she repeated, clenching her hand and stamp-
ing her foot, to Tom's great wonder. " Don't say that. It was
brave of you. I honour you for it. If you should ever quarrel
again, don't spare him for the world, but beat him down and set
your shoe upon him. Not a word of this to anybody. Dear Mr.
Pinch, I am your friend from to-night. I am always your friend
from this time."

She turned her flushed face upon Tom to confirm her words bj
its kindling expression ; and seizing his right hand, pressed it tc^
her breast, and kissed it. And there was nothing personal in thiij
to render it at all embarrassing, for even Tom, wliose power o|
observation was by no means remarkable, knew from the energ;f
with which she did it that she would have fondled any hand, u-
matter how bedaubed or dyed, that had broken the head of Jona

Tom went into his room, and went to bed, full of uncomfortabl
thoughts. That there should be any such tremendous division i
the family as he knew must have taken place to convert Charit
Pecksniff into his friend, for any reason, but, above all, for thf
which was clearly the real one ; that Jonas, wdio had assailed hii
with such exceeding coarseness, should have been sufficient!
magnanimous to keep the secret of their quarrel ; and that ar'
train of circumstances should have led to the commission of S'.
assault and battery by Thomas Pinch upon any man calling hw\
self the friend of Seth Pecksniff'; were matters of such deep ai-
painful cogitation, that he could not close his eyes. His ov,
violence, in particular, so preyed upon the generous mind of Toi!
that coupling it with the many former occasions on which he hi;
given Mr. Pecksnifi" pain and anxiety (occasions of which th.
gentleman often reminded him), he really began to regard hims<
as destined by a mysterious fate to be the evil genius and b'
angel of his patron. But he fell asleep at last, and dreamed — ml
source of waking uneasiness — that he had betrayed his trust, a ■
run away with Mary Graham.

It must be acknowledged that, asleep or awake, Tom's positii
in reference to this young lady w^as full of uneasiness. The m(,!
he saw of her, the more he admired her beauty, her intelligen;,


e amiable <iualities that even won on the divided house uf Peck-
itt", and in a few days restored at all events the semblance of
irmony and kindness between the angry sisters. When she
oke, Tom held his breath, so eagerly he listened ; when she
ng, he sat like one entranced. She touched his organ, and
)ni that bright epoch even it, the old companion of his happiest
lurs. incapable as he had thought of elevation, began a new and
itied existence.

God's love upon thy patience, Tom ! Who that had beheld
ee, for three summer weeks, poring through half the deadlong
^ht over the jingling anatomy of that inscrutable old harpsichord
the back parlour, could have missed the entrance to thy secret
art : albeit it was dimly known to thee ! Who that had seen
e glow upon thy cheek when leaning down to listen, after hours
labour, for the sound of one incorrigible note, thou foundest that
had a voice at last, and wheezed out a flat something distantly
in to what it ought to be, — would not have known that it was
stiued for no common touch, but one that smote, though gently

an angel's hand, upon the deepest chord witliin thee ! And if
friendly glance — ay, even though it Avere as guileless as thine
^n, dear Tom — could but have pierced the twilight of that
ening, when, in a voice well tempered to the time, sad, sweet,
d low, yet hopeful, she first sang to the altered instrument, and
)udered at the change ; and thou, sitting apart at the open
ndow, kept a glad silence and a swelling heart — must not tliat
ince have read perforce the dawning of a story, Tom, that it
ire well for thee had never been begun !

T(jni Pinch's situation was not made the less dangerous or
fficult, by the fact of no one word passing between them in
ference to Martin. Honourably mindful of his promise, Tom
ve her opportunities of all Icinds. Early and late he was in the
ureh ; iu her favourite walks ; in the village, in the garden, in
e meadows ; and iu any or all of these places he might have
okeu freely. But no : at all such times she carefully avoided
in, or never came in liis way unaccompanied. It could not bn
at she disliked or distrusted him, for by a tliousand little
licate means, too slight for any notice but his own, slie singled
m out when others were present, and showed lierself the very
ul of kindness. Could it be that she had broken with ]\rartin,

had never returned his affection, save in his own bold and
ighteiied fancy? Tom's cheek grew red with self-rein-oach, as
' di.smissed tlie thought.

All this time old Martin came and went in his own strange
anncr, or sat among the rest aUsorbed witliiu liim.self, and


holding little intercourse with any one. Although he was unsocial
he was not wilful in other things, or troublesome, or morose : bein:
never better pleased than when they left him quite vmuoticed a
his book, and pursued their own amusements in his presence
unreserved. It was impossible to discern in whom he took a:
interest, or whether he had an interest in any of them. Uules
they spoke to him directly, he never showed that he had ears c
eyes for anything that passed.

One day the lively Merry, sitting with downcast eyes under
shady tree in the churchyard, whither she had retired aftf
fatiguing herself by the imposition of sundry trials on the tempt
of Mr. Jonas, felt that a new shadow came between her ami th
sun. Raising her eyes in the expectation of seeing her betrothd:
she was not a little surprised to see old Martin instead. Hii
surprise was not diminished when lie took his seat upon the tu;
beside her, and opened a conversation thus : i

" When are you to be married 1 " ■

"Oh! dear Mr. Chuzzlewit, my goodness me! I'm sure'
don't know. Not yet awhile, I hope." '

" You hope 1 " said the old man.

It was very gravely said, but she took it for banter, a:
giggled excessively.

'■ Come ! " said the old man, with uuusual kindness, " you i
young, good-looking, and I think good-natured ! Frivolous y
are, and love to be, undoubtedly; but you must have some hear;

"I have not given it all away, I can tell you," said Meri
nodding her head shrewdly, and plucking up the grass.

" Hare you parted with any of it V

She threw the grass about, and looked another way, but s 1

Martin repeated his question.

" Lor, my dear Mr. Chuzzlewit ! really you must excuse u !
How very odd you are."

" If it be odd in me to desire to know whether you love e
young man whom I understand you are to marry, I cmi very od,"
said Martin. "For that is certainly my wish."

"He's such a monster, you know," said Merry, pouting.

" Then you don't love him 1 " returned the old man. " Is t it
your meaning 1 "

"Why, my dear Mr. Chuzzlewit, I'm sure I tell him a hunc d
times a day that I hate him. You must have heard me tell ai

" Often," said Martin. ,,

"And so I do," cried Merry. " I do positively." I


" Being at the same time engaged to marry him," observed the

"Oil j'es," said Merry. "But I told the wretch — my dear Mr.
jzzlewit, I told him when he asked me — that if I ever did
■ry him, it should only be that I might hate and tease him all

She had a suspicion that the old man regarded Jonas with
thing but favour, and intended these remarks to be extremely
tivating. He did not appear, however, to regard them in that
it by any means ; for when he spoke again, it was in a tone of

"Look about you," he said, pointing to the graves; "and
lember that from your bridal hour to the day which sees you
ught as low as these, and laid in such a bed, there will be no
)eal against him. Think, and speak, and act, for once, like an
ountable creature. Is any control put upon your inclinations 1
I you forced into this match 1 Are you insidiously advised or
ipted to contract it, by any one 1 I will not ask by whom : by
r one ? "

" No," said Merry, shrugging her shoulders. " I don't know
it I am."

" Don't know that you are ! Are you ? "
" No," replied JNIerry. " Nobody ever said anything to me
mt it. If any one had tried to make me have him, I wouldn't
7e had him at all."

" I am told that he was at first supposed to be your sister's
Hirer," said Martin.

" Oh, good gracious ! My dear Mr. Chuzzlewit, it would be
7 hard to make him, though he is a monster, accountable for
ler people's vanity," said Merry. "And poor dear Cherry is the
inest darling ! "
" It was her mistake then ? "

"I hope it was," cried Merry; "but, all along, the dear child
s been so dreadfully jealous and so cross, that, upon my word
(1 honour, it's impossible to j^lease her, and it's of no use

"Not forced, persuaded, or controlled," said IMartin, thoughtfully,
^nd that's true, I see. There is one chance yet. You may have
ised into this engagement in very giddiness. It may have been
e wanton act of a light head. Is that so ?"
" My dear Mr. Chuzzlewit," simpered INIerry, " as to light-
adincs.s, there never was such a feather of a head as mine. It's
perfect balloon, I declare ! You never rlifl, you know ! "
He waited ((uietly till she had finished, and then said, steadily


and slowly, and in a softened voice, as if he would still invite her
confidence :

" Have you any wish — or is there anything within your breast
that whispers you may form the wish, if you have time to think —
to be released ifrom this engagement '?"

Again Miss Merry pouted, and looked down, and plucked the
grass, and shrugged her shordders. No. She didn't know that
she had. She was pretty sure she hadn't. Quite sure, she might'
say. She " didn't mind it."

" Has it ever occurred to you," said Martin, " that your
married life may perhaps be miserable, full of bitterness, and most
unhappy ? "

Merry looked down again ; and now she tore the grass up by
the roots.

" My dear Mr. Chuzzlewit, what shocking words ! Of course,
I shall quarrel with him : I should quarrel with any husband.
Married people always quarrel, I believe. But as to being miser-
able, and bitter, and all those dreadful things, you know, why I
couldn't be absolutely that, unless he always had the best of it;
and I mean to have the best of it myself. I always do now," cried
Merry, nodding her head, and giggling very much; "for I make a
perfect slave of the ci'eature."

" Let it go on," said Martin, rising. " Let it go on ! I sought
to know your mind, my dear, and you have shown it me. I wisli
you joy. Joy ! " he repeated, looking full upon her, and pointing ti
the wicket-gate, where Jonas entered at the moment. And then,
without waiting for his nephew, he passed out at another gate, am
went away.

" Oh you terrible old man ! " cried the facetious Merry t(
herself. " What a perfectly hideous monster to be wanderini
about churchyards in the broad daylight, frightening people out o
their wits ! Don't come here. Griffin, or I'll go away directly."

Mr. Jonas was the Oriffin. He sat down upon the grass at hei!
side, in spite of this warning, and sulkily in(|uired :

" What's my uncle been a talking about 1" '

" About you," rejoined Merrj'. " He says you're not half go(
enough for me."

"Oh yes, I dare .say ! We all know that. He means to gr
you some present worth having, I hope. I)id he say anythin
that looked like it ? "

" That he didn't ! " cried Merry, most decisively.

" A stingy old dog he is," said Jonas. " Well 1 "

" Ciriffin ! " cried Miss Mercy, in counterfeit amazement ; " wh(
are you doing, Oriffin 1 "


''Only giving you a squeeze," said tlic discomfited Jonas.
There's no harm in tliat, I suppo.^e ? "

" But there is a great deal of harm in it, if I don't consider it
greeablo," returned his cousin. "Do go along, will you? You
lake me so hot ! "

Mr. Jonas withdrew his arm ; and for a moment looked at her
lore like a murderer than a lover. But he cleared his brow by
egrees, and broke silence with :

" I say, Mel ! "

"What do yuu say, you vulgar thing — you low savage T' cried
is fair betrothed.

"When is it to bel I can't afford to go on dawdling about
ere half my life, I needn't tell you, and Pecksnift" says that
ither's being so lately dead makes very little odds ; for we can be
larried as quiet as we please down here, and my being lonely is a
Dod reason to the neighbours for taking a wife home so soon,
specially one that he knew. As to crossbones (my uncle, I mean),
e's sure not to put a spoke in the wheel, wliatever we settle on,
)r he told Pecksniff only this morning, that if you liked it, he'd
othing at all to say. So, IMel," said Jonas, venturing on another
jueeze ; " when shall it be ? "

" Upon my word," cried Merry.

"Upon my soul, if you like," said Jonas. "What do you say
) next week, now "? "

" To next week ! If you had said next quarter, I should have
ondered at your impudence."

"But I didn't say next quarter," retoited Jonas. " I said next

"Then, Griffin," cried Miss Merry, i)U8hing him off, and rising.
I say no 1 not next week. It shan't be till I choose — and I may
ot choose it to be for months. There ! "

He glanced up at her from the ground, almost as darkly as he
ad looked at Tom Pinch ; but held his peace.

" No fright of a Griffin with a patch over his eye, shall dictate
) me, or have a voice in the matter," said Merry. " There ! "

Still Mr. Jonas held his peace.

" If it's next month, that shall be the very earliest ; but I won't
ly when it shall be till to-morrow : and if you don't like that, it
lall never be at all," .said Merry ; " and if you follow me about
nd won't leave me alone, it shall never be at all. There I And
' you don't do everything I order you to do, it shall never be at
11. So don't follow me. ^ There, Griffin ! "

And with that, she skipped away, among the trees.

" Ecod, my lady!" said Jonas, looking after her, and biting a


piece of straw, almost to powder ; " you'll catch it for this, whei
you are married ! It's all very well now — it keeps one on, some
how, and you know it — but I'll pay you off scot and lot by and bye
This is a plaguey dull sort of place for a man to be sitting h]
himself in. I never could abide a mouldy old churchyard."

As he turned into the avenue himself, Miss Merry, who was fa
ahead, happened to look back.

"Ah ! " said Jonas, with a sullen smile, and a nod that was no
addressed to her ; " make the most of it while it lasts. Get ii
your hay while the sun shines. Take your own way as long as it'i
in yoiu- power, my lady ! "



Mr. Mould was surrounded by his household gods. He wai
enjoying the sweets of domestic repose, and gazing on them with i
calm delight. The day being sultry, and the Avindow open, tb
legs of Mr. Mould were on the window-seat, and his back recline
against the shutter. Over his shining head a handkerchief wt
drawn, to guard his baldness from the flies. The room w;
fragrant with the smell of punch, a tumbler of which gratef
compound stood upon a small round table, convenient to the har
of Mr. Mould ; so deftly mixed, that as his eye looked down into tl
cool transparent drink, another eye, peering brightly from behir
the crisp lemon-peel, looked up at him, and twinkled like a star.

Deep in the City, and within the ward of Cheap, stood M
Mould's establishment. His Harem, or, in other words, tl
common sitting-room of Mrs. Mould and family, was at the bac
over the little counting-house behind the shop : abutting on .
churchyard, small and shady. In this domestic chamber M
Mould now sat ; gazing, a placid man, upon his punch and hon'
If, for a moment at a time, he sought a wider prospect, whence '
might return with freshened zest to these enjoyments, his mo''
glance wandered like a sunbeam through a rural screen of scar .
runners, trained on strings before the window ; and he looked dov,
with an artist's eye upon the graves.

The partner of his life, and daughters twain, were Mr. Mouli
companions. Plump as any partridge was each Miss Mould, at


Mrs. M. was plumper than the two togotlior. So rouiul and
.'huliby were their fair proportions, that they miglit have been the
bodies once belonging to the angels' faces in the shop below, grown
up, with other heads attached to make them mortal. Even their
peachy cheeks were putfed out and distended, as though they ought
)f right to be performing on celestial trumpets. The bodiless
cherubs in the shop, who were depicted as constantly blowing those
nstruments for ever and ever without any lungs, played, it is to be
presumed, entirely by ear.

Mr. Mould looked lovingly at Mrs. Mould, who sat hard by,
md was a helpmate to him in his punch as in all other things.
Each seraph daughter, too, enjoyed her share of his regards, and
smiled upon liim iu return. So bountiful were Mr. Mould's
possessions, and so large his stock in trade, that even there, within
ids household sanctuary, stood a cumbrous press, wliose mahogany
!naw was filled with shrouds, and wdnding- sheets, and other
furniture of funerals. But, though the Misses Mould had been
lirought up, as one may say, beneath his eye, it had cast no shadow
in their timid infancy or blooming youth. Sporting behind the
scenes of death and burial from cradlehood, the Misses Mould
knew better. Hatbands, to them, were but so many yards of silk
jr crape ; the final robe but such a quantity of linen. The Misses
Mould could idealize a player's habit, or a court-lady's petticoat, or
3ven an Act of Parliament. But they were not to be taken in by

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 40 of 80)