Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

. (page 49 of 80)
Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 49 of 80)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

lice.s, and ah'cady knew tlie topic they discussed. Looking like
e small end of a guillotined man, with his chin on a level with
e top of the pew, so that he might duck down immediately in
se of either of them turning round, he listened. Listened with
eh concentrated eagerness, that his very hair and shirt-collar
ood bristling up to help liim.

"No," cried Tom. "No letters have ever reached me, except
at one from New York. But don't be uneasy on that account,
r it's very likely they have gone away to some for-off place,
aere the posts are neither regular nor frequent. He said in that
ry letter that it might be so, even in that city to which they
ought of travelling — Eden, you know."

" It is a great weight upon my mind," said Mary.

"Oh, but you mustn't let it be," said Tom. "There's a true
ying that nothing travels so fast as ill news ; and if the slightest
irra had happened to Martin, you may be sure you would have
ard of it long ago. I have often wished to say this to you,"
)ra continued with an embarrassment that became him very well,
but you have never given me an opportunity."

" I have sometimes been almost afraid," said Mary, " that you
ight suppose I hesitated to confide in you, Mr. Pinch."

"No," Tom stammered, "I — I am not aware that I ever
pposed that. I am sure that if I have, I have checked the
ought directly, as an injustice to you. I feel the delicacy of
lur situatifin in having to confide in me at all," said Tom, "but
would my life to save you from one day's uneasiness : indeed
would ! '

Poor Tom !

"I have dreaded sometimes," Tom continued, "that I might
ive displeased you by — by having the boldness to try and antici-
ite your wishes now and then. At other times I have fancied
at your kindness prompted you to keep aloof from me."


" It was very foolish : very presumptuous and ridiculous : to
ink so," Tom pursued : " but I feared you might supj)ose it
•ssible that I — I — should admire you too much for my own
:ace ; and so denied yourself the slight assistance you would
herwise have accepted from me. If such an idea has ever pre-
ated itself to you," faltered Tom, " pray dismiss it. I am easily
ade happy : and I shall live contented here long after you and
artin have forgotten me. I am a poor, shy, awkward creature :
?t at all a man of the world : and you should tliink no more of
k bless you, than if I were an old friar ! "


If friars bear such hearts as thine, Tom, let friars multiply
though thej'' have no such rule in all their stern arithmetic.

" Dear Mr. Pinch ! " said Mary, giving him her hand ; " I can
not tell you how your kindness moves me. I have never wrongei
you by the lightest doubt, and have never for an instant ceasei
to feel that you were all ; much more than all ; that IMartin foun(
you. Without the silent care and friendship I have experiencei
from you, my life here would have been unhappy. But you hav
been a good angel to me ; filling me with gratitude of heart, hope
and courage."

" I am as little like an angel, I am afraid," replied Ton
shaking his head, " as any stone cherubim among the gravestones
and I don't think there are many real angels of that pattern. Bu
I should like to know (if you will tell me) why you have been s!
very silent about Martin." j

"Because I have been afraid," .-^aid Mary, " of injuring you." j

" Of injuring me ! " cried Tom. (

"Of doing you an injury with your employer."

The gentleman in question dived.

"With Pecksniff!" rejoined Tom, with cheerful confidenci
" Oh dear, he'd never think of us ! He's the best of men. Th
more at ease you were, the happier he would be. Oh dear, yo
needn't be afraid of Pecksniff. He is not a spy."

Many a man in Mr. Pecksniff's place, if he could have dive
through the floor of the pew of state and come out at Calcutta c
any inhabited region on the other side of the earth, would haA
done it instantly. ]\Ir. Pecksnift" sat down upon a hassock, ai
listening more attentively than ever, smiled.

Mary seemed to have expressed some dissent in the meanwhil
for Tom went on to say, with honest energy :

" Well, I don't know how it is, but it always happens, whe
ever I express myself in this way, to anybody almost, that I fii
they won't do justice to Pecksniff'. It is one of the most extr
ordinary circumstances that ever came within my knowledge, h
it is so. There's John Westlock, who used to be a pupil liei
one of the best-hearted young men in the world, in all oth
matters — I really believe John would have Pecksniff" flogged
the cart's tail if he could. And John is not a solitary case, f
every pupil we have had in my time has gone away with the .sar
inveterate hatred of him. Tliere was Mark Tapley, too, quite
another station of life," said Tom : " tlie mockery he used to ma
of Pecksniff' when he was at the Dragon was shocking. ]\Iart
too : Martin was than any of 'em. But I forgot. \
prepared you to dislike Pecksniff", of course. So you cai


;li 11 prejudice, you know, Miss Graham, and are not a lair

Tom triumphed very much in tliis discovery, and rubbed h'is
lids with great satisfaction.
"Mr. Pinch," said Mary, ''you mistake him.''
" jS'o, no ! " cried Tom. " You mistake him. But," he added,
;h a rai)id change in his tone, "what is the mailer? Miss
aham, what is the matter ? "

Mr. Pecksuiti" brought up to the top of the pew, by slow
;Tees, his hair, his forehead, his eyebrow, his eye. She was
ting on a bench beside the door with her hands before her face ;
1 Tom was bending over her.

"What is the matter!" cried Tom. "Have I said anything
hurt you 1 Has any one said anytliing to hurt you 1 Don't
'. Pray tell me what it is. I cannot bear to see you so dis-
ssed. Mercy on us, I never was so surprised and grieved in
my life ! "

Mr. Pecksniff kept his eye in the same place. He could have
ived it now for nothing short of a gimlet or a red-hot wire,
"I wouldn't have told you, Mr. Pinch," said Mary, "if I could
ve helped it ; but your delusion is so absorbing, and it is so
pessary that we should be upon our guard ; that you should
t be compromised ; and to that end that you should know by
lom I am beset ; that no alternative is left me. I came here
rposely to tell you, but I think I should have wanted courage
you had not chanced to lead me so directly to the object of my

Tom gazed at her steadfastly, and seemed to say, " What else 1 "
it he said not a word.

" That person whom you think the best of men," said Mary,
iking up, and speaking with a quivering lip and flashing

" Lord bless me I " muttered Tom, staggering back. " Wait a
)ment. Tiiat person whom I think the best of men ! You
;an Pecksniff, of course. Yes, I see you mean Pecksniff. Good
icious me, don't speak without authority. What has he done 1
he is not the best of men, what is he 1 "

"The worst. The falsest, craftiest, meanest, cruellest, most
rdid, most shameless," said the trembling girl — trembling with
r indignation.

Tona sat down on a seat, and clasped his hands.

"What is he," said Mary, "who receiving me in his as
i guest : his unwilling guest : knowing my hi.story, and how
fenceless and alone I am, presumes before his daughters to


affrout me so that if I had a brother but a child, who saw it, h(
would instinctively have helped me 1 "

" He is a scoundrel ! "' exclaimed Tom. "Whoever he may be
he is a scoundrel."

j\Ir. Fecksuiff dived again.

"What is he," said Mary, "who, when my only friend : a deai
and kind one too : was in full health of mind, humbled himsel
before him, but was spurned away (for he knew him then) like ;
dog. Who, in his forgiving spirit, now that that friend is suul
into a failing state, can crawl about him again, and use the in
flueuce he basely gains, for every base and wicked inu-pose, au(
not for one — not one — that's true or good?"

" I .say he is a scoundrel ! " answered Tom.

" But what is he : oh Mr. Pinch, what is he : who, thinkiuj
he could compass these designs the better Avere I his wife, assail
me with the coward's argument that if I marry him, Martin, oi
whom I have brought so much misfortune, shall be restored t
something of his former hopes ; and if I do not, shall be plungei
in deeper ruin 1 What is he who makes my very cimstancy to ou
I love with all my heart a torture to myself and wrong to him
who makes me, do what I will, the instrument to hurt a head
would heap blessings on ! What is he who, Avinding all thes
cruel snares about me, explains their purpose to me, with a smoot
tongue and a smiling face, in the broad light of day : dragging m
on the while in his embrace, and holding to his lips a hand,
pursued the agitated girl, extending it, "which I would hav
struck off, if with it I could lose the shame and degradation of b:
touch ? "

■ "1 say," cried Tom, in great excitement, "he is a scouudn
and a villain ! I don't care wlio he is, I say he is a double-dye
and most intolerable villain ! "

Covering her flice with her hands again, as if the passion whic
had sustained her through these disclosures lost itself in an ove
whelming sense of shame and grief, she abandoned herself to tear

Any sight of distress was sure to move the tenderness of Ton
but this esjjecially. Tears and sobs from her, were arrows in b
heart. He tried to comfort her ; sat down beside her ; expends
all his store of homely eloquence ; and spoke in words of ju'ai.'
and hope of Martin. Ay, though he loved her from his soul wit
such a self-denying love as woman seldom wins : he spoke fro:
first to last of Martin. Xot the wealth of the rich Indies wou'
have tempted Tom to shirk one mention of her lover's name.

When she was more composed, she imi)ressed upon Tom thi,
this man she hud described, was Pecksniff in his real colours; ai


trd by word and phrase by phrase, as well as she remembered it,
iated what had passed between them in the wood : which was

doubt a source of high gratification to that gentleman himself,
10 in his desire to see and his dread of being seen, was constantly
i'ing down into the state pew, and coming up again like the
telligeut householder in Punch's show, who avoids being knocked

the head with a cudgel. When she had concluded her account,
d had besought Tom to be very distant and unconscious in his
inner towards her after this explanation, and had thanked him
ry much, they parted on the alarm of footsteiw in the burial-
ound ; and Tom was left alone in the church again.

And niiw the full agitation and misery of the disclosure, came
shing upon Tom indeed. The star of his whole life from boy-
lod, had become, in a moment, putrid vajDOur. It was not that
jcksniff: Tom's Pecksniff: had ceased to exist, but that he
ver had existed. In his death Tom would have had the comfort

remembering what he used to be, but in this discovery, he had
e anguish of recollecting what he never was. For as Tom's
inducss in this matter had been total and not partial, so Avas his
stored sight. His Pccksniti" could never have worked the
ickedness of which he had just now heard, but any other Peck-
iff could ; and the Pecksniff' who could do that, could do any-
ing, and no doubt had been doing anything and everything
cept the right thing, all through his career. From the lofty
light on which poor Tom had placed his idol it was tumbled
iwn headlong, and

Not all the king's liorses nor all the king's lueu
Could have set Mr. Pecksniff up again.

Jgions of Titans couldn't have got him out of the mud; and
rve him right 1 But it was not he who suffered ; it was Tom.
is compass was broken, his chart destroyed, his chronometer had
opped, his masts were gone by the board ; his anchor was adrift,
a tliousand leagues away.

Mr. Pecksniff" watched him with a lively interest, for he divined
le purpose of Tom's ruminations, and was curious to see how he
nducted himself. For some time, Tom wandered up and down
le aisle like a man demented, stojjping occasionally to lean
jainst a pew and think it over ; then he stood staring at a blank
d monument bordered tastefully with skulls and cross-bones, as

it were the finest work of art he had ever seen, although at
her times he held it in unspeakable contempt ; then he sat
)wn ; and then walked to and fro again ; and then went
andering up into the organ-loft, and touched the keys. But


their miustrelsy was changed, their music gone ; aud sounding oi
long melancholy chord, Tom drooped his head upon his hand
and gave it up as hopeless.

" I wouldn't have cared," said Tom Pinch, rising from his stoc
and looking down iuto the church as if he had been the clergyma
" I wouldn't have cared for anything he might have done to M'
for I have tried his patience often, aud have lived upon his sufft
ance, and have never been the help to him that others could ha-
been. I wouldn't have minded, Pecksniff," Tom continued, litt
thinking who heard him, "if you had done Me any wrong;
could have found plenty of excuses for that; and though y(
might have hurt me, could have still gone on respecting yo
But why did you ever fall so low as this in my esteem ! C
Pecksniff, Pecksniff, there is nothing I would not have given
have had you deserve my old opinion of you ; nothing ! "

Mr. Pecksniff sat upon the hassock pulling up his shirt-collf
while Tom, touched to the quick, delivered this apostrophe. Aft
a pause he heard Tom comiug down the stairs, jingling the churi
keys ; aud bringing his eye to the top of the pew again, saw hi
go slowly out, aud lock the door.

]\Ir. Pecksniff' durst not issue from his place of concealmen
for through the windows of the church, he saw Tom passing <
among the graves, and sometimes stopping at a stone, and leanii
there, as if he were a mourner who had lost a friend. Even whi'
he had left the churchyard, Mr. Pecksniff" still remained shut u]
not being at all secure but that in his restless state of mind To|
might come wandering back. At length he issued forth, ai
walked with a pleasant countenance into the vestry ; where
knew there was a window near the ground, by which he cou
release himself by merely stepping out. |

He was in a curious frame of mind, Mr. Pecksniff : being in \\
hurry to go, but rather inclining to a dilatory trifling witli the tirt'
which prompted him to open the vestry cupboard, and look
himself in the parson's little glass that hung within the dot
Seeing that his hair was rumpled, lie took the liberty of borrowii
the canonical brush and arranging it. He also took the liber
of opening another cupboard ; but he shut it up again quick)
being rather startled by the sight of a black and a white surpli
dangling against the wall ; which had very much the appearanij
of two curates who had committed suicide by hanging themselvc]
Remembering that he had seen in the first cupboard a port-wi^'
bottle aud some biscuits, he peeped into it again, and helped himsi
with much deliberation : cogitating all the time though, in a very de
and weighty uianner, as if his thoughts were otherwise employed


He soon made up his iniud, if it had ever been in doubt ; and
ttiug back the bottle and biscuits, opened the casement. He
t out into the churchyard Avithout any difficulty ; shut the
lulow after him ; and walked straight home.

" Is I\Ir. Pinch iu-doors ? " asked Mr. Pecksniff of his serving-

"Just come in, Sir."

"Just come in, eh?" repeated Mr. Pecksniff, cheerfully. " And
le up-stairs, I suppose 1 "

"Yes, Sir. Cone up-stairs. Shall I call him. Sir?"

"Xo,"said Mr. Pecksniff', "no. You needn't call liim, Jane,
ank you, Jane. How are your relations, Jane ? "

" Pretty well, I tliank you, Sir."

" I am glad to hear it. Let them know I askeil about them,
ae. Is Mr. Chuzzlewit in the way, Jane ? "

" Yes, Sir. He's in the parlour, reading."

" He's in the parlour, reading, is he, Jane?" said Mr. Pecksniff,
^ery well. Then I think I'll go and see him, Jane."

Never had Mr. Pecksniff been beheld in a more ])leasant
mour I

But when he walked into the parlour where the old man was
,'aged as Jane had said ; with pen and ink and paper on a table
se at hand (for ]\Ir. Pecksniff was always very particular to have
n well supplied with writing materials) ; he became less cheerful.
! was not angry, he was not vindictive, he was not cross, he was
t moody, but he was grieved : he was sorely grieved. As he
; down by the old man's side, two tears : not tears like those
til whicli recording angels blot their entries out, but drops so
■cious that they use them for their ink : stole down his meritorious

"What is the matter ?" asked old Martin. "Pecksniff, what
3 you, man ? "

" I am sorry to interrupt you, my dear Sir, and I am still more
•ry for the cause. J\Iy good, my worthy friend, I am deceived."

" You are deceived ! "

"Ah!" cried Mr. Pecksniff, in an agony, " deceiwd in tiie
iderest jjoint. Cruelly deceived in that quarter. Sir, in which
)laced the most unbounded confidence. Deceived, Mr. Chuzzlewit,

Thomas Pinch."

"Oh! bad, bad, bad!" .said Martin, laying down his book,
k'ery bad ! I hope not. Are you certain 1 "

" Certain, my good Sir ! ]\Iy eyes and ears are witnesses. I
'uMn't have believed it otherwise. I wouldn't have l)elieved it,
r. Chuzzlewit, if a Fiery Serpent had proclaimed it from the top


of Salisbury Cathedral. I would have said," cried Mr. Pecksiiitf,
" that the Serpent lied. Such was my faith in Thomas Pinch,
that I would have cast the falsehood back into the Serpent's teeth,
and would have taken Thomas to my heart. But I am not s
Serpent, Sir, myself, I grieve to say, and no excuse or hope if
left me."

Martin was greatly disturbed to see him so much agitated, anc
to hear such unexpected news. He begged him to compose himself
and asked upon what subject Mr. Pinch's treacliery had beei

" That is almost the worst of all. Sir," Mr. Pecksniff answered
" On a subject nearly concerning you. Oh ! is it not enough,'
said Mr. Pecksniff, looking upward, " that these blows must fal
on me, but must they also hit my friends ! "

" You alarm me," cried the old man, changing colour. "I an
not so strong as I was. You terrify me, Pecksnitf ! "

" Cheer np, my noble Sir," said Mr. Pecksniff, taking courage
"and Ave will do what is required of us. You shall know all, Sii
and shall be righted. But first excuse me. Sir, ex — cuse me.
have a duty to discharge, which I owe to society."

He rang the bell, and Jane appeared. " Send ]\Ir. Pinch hert
if you please, Jane ! "

Tom came. Constrained and altered in his manner, dowucas
and dejected, visibly confused ; not liking to look Pecksniff i
the face.

The honest man bestowed a glance on Mr. C'huzzlewit, as wli
should say "You seel" and addressed himself to Tom in thes
terms :

Mr. Pinch, I have left the vestry-window unfastened. Wi
you do me the favour to go and secure it ; then bring the keys i:
the sacred edifice to me ! "

"The vestry-window, Sir?" cried Tom.

"You miderstand me, Mr. Pinch, I think," returned his patrol
" Yes, Mr. Pincli, the vestry-window. I grieve to say that sleepiii
in the church after a fatiguing ramble, I overheard just now sou
fragments," he emphasised that word, of a dialogue between U\
parties ; and one of them locking the church when he went ou
I was obliged to leave it myself by the vestry-window. Do u
the favour to secure that vestry-window, ]\Ir. Pinch, and th(
come back to me."

No physiognomist that ever dwelt on earth could have coi
strued Tom's face when he heard these words. Wonder was :
it, and a mild look of reproach, but certainly no fear or guil^
altliough a host of strong emotions struggled to display thee


ves. He boweil, and without saying oik' word, good ur bad,

" Pecksuirt'," cried Martin, in a tremble, " wliat does all this
>an? You are not going to do anything in haste, you may
ji-et ! ■'

"No, my good Sir," said Mr. Pecksniff, firmly, "No. But I
ve a duty to discharge which I owe to society ; and it shall be
icharged, my friend, ut any cost ! "

Oh hite-remcmbered, much-forgotten, mouthing, braggart duty,
vays owed, and seldom jvaid in any other coin than punishment
d wrath, when will mankind begin to know thee ! When will
■u acknowledge thee in thy neglected cradle, and thy stunted
uth, and not begin their recognition in thy sinful manhood and
Y desolate old age ! Oh ermined Judge whose duty to society is
w to doom the ragged criminal to punishment and death, hadst
m never, Man, a duty to discharge in barring up the hundred
en gates that wooed him to the felon's dock, and throwing but
ir the portals to a decent life I Oh prelate, prelate, whose duty
society it is to mourn in melancholy phrase the sad degeneracy

these bad times in which thy lot of honours has been cast, did
thing go before thy elevation to the lofty scat, from which thou
ilest out thy homilies to other tarricrs for dead men's shoes,
lose duty to society has not begun ! Oh magistrate, so rare a
mtry gentleman and brave a squire, had you no duty to society,
fore the licks were blazing and the mob were mad ; or did it
•ing up armed and booted from the earth, a corps of yeomanry,
1-grown !

Mr. Pecksnift^s duty to society coT.Ud i;ot be paid till Tom came
L-k. The interval which preceded the return of that young man,

occupied in a close conference with his friend ; so that when
■m did arrive, he found the two quite ready to receive him.
iry was in her own room above, whither Mr. Pecksniff, always
isiderate, had besought old Martin to entreat her to remain
ne half-hour longer, that her feelings might be spared.

When Tom came back, he found old ]\Iartin sitting by the
ndow, and Mr. Pecksniff in an imposing attitude at the table.
I one side of him was his pocket-handkerchief; and on the other,
ittle heap (a very little heap) of gold and silver, and odd ]mice.
m saw, at a glance, that it was his own salaiy for the current

"Have you fastened the vestry -window, Mr. Piuch ?" said

"Yes, Sir."

"Thank you. Put down the keys if you, I\lr. Pinch."



Tom placed them on the table. He held the buuch by the ke;
of the orgau-loft (though it was one of the smallest) and looke(
hard at it as he laid it down. It had been an old, old friend o
Tom's ; a kind companion to him, many and many a day.

" Mr. Pinch," said Pecksnitf, shaking his head : " Oh Mr. Pinch
I wonder you can loot me in the face ! "

Tom did it though.; and notwithstanding that he has beei
described as stooping generally, he stood as upright then as mai
could stand.

"Mr. Pinch," said Pecksniff, taking up his liandkerchief, as i
he felt that he should want it soon, " I will not dwell upon th
past. I will spare you, and I will spare myself, that pain a

Tom's was not a very bright eye, but it was a very expressiv
one when he looked at Mr. Pecksniff, and said :

" Thank you, Sir. I am very glad you will not refer to th

" The present is enough," said Mr. Pecksniff', dropping a penn^
" and the sooner that is imst, the better. Mr. Pinch, I will nc
dismiss you without a word of explanation. Even such a court
would be quite justifiable under the circumstances ; but it migl
wear an appearance of hmiy, and I will not do it ; for I am," sai
Mr. Pecksniff", knocking down another penny, "perfectly sel
possessed. Therefore I will say to you, what I have already sai
to Mr. Chuzzlewit."

Tom glanced at the old gentleman, who nodded now and thf
as approving of Mr. Pecksniff^'s sentences and sentiments, bi
interposed between them in no other way.

" From fragments of a conversation which I overheard in tl
chui'ch, just now, Mr. Pinch," said Pecksniff", "between yourself ai
Miss Graham — I say fragments, because I was slumbering at
considerable distance from you, when I was roused by yom- voic
— and from what I saw, I ascertained (I would have given a gre
deal not to have ascertained, Mr. Pinch) that ycu, forgetful of ;
ties of duty and of honour. Sir ; regardless of the sacred laws
hospitality, to which you were pledged as an inmate of this hous
have presumed to address Miss Graham with un-returned jirofc
sions of attachment and proposals of love.'"

Tom looked at him steadily.

"Do you deny it. Sir?" asked Mr. Pecksniff, dropping o
pound two and fourpence, and making a great business of picki
it up again.

" Xo, Sir," replied Tom. "I do not.'"

"You do not," said Mr. Pecksniff", glancing at the old gent

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 49 of 80)