Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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rely down to write, at one end of the parlour table, while Ruth
lared to make the pudding, at tlie otlier end : for there was
ody in the house but an old woman (the landlord being a
iterious sort of man, who went out early in the morning, and

scarcely ever seen) ; and, saving in mere household drudgery,
r waited on themselves.

■' What are you writing, Tom 1 '' inquired his sister, laying her
d upon his shoulder.
■'Why, you see, my dear," said Tom, leaning back in his cliair,

looking up in her foce, " I am very anxious, of course, to
lin some suitable employment ; and, before Mr. Westlock
es this afternoon, I tliink I may as well prepare a little
;ription of myself and my qualifications ; such as he could show
ny friend of his."

'You had better do the same for me, Tom, also," .said his
?r, casting down her eyes. "I should dearly like ti> keep
se for you, and take care of you, always, Tom ; but we are not

enough for that."

'We are not rich," returned Tom. " certaiidy ; ;uid we may be


much poorer. But we will not part, if we can help it. No, ii(
we will make up our minds, Ruth, that, unless we are so vei
unfortunate as to render me quite sure that you would be bett
off away from me than with me, we will battle it out together,
am certain we shall be happier if we can battle it out togethe
Don't you think we shalH"

"Think, Tom!^'

"Oh, tut, tut r' interposed Tom, tenderly. "You mustr

" No, no ; I won't, Tom. But you can't afford it, dear. Y(
can't, indeed."

"We don't know that," said Tom. "How are we to kno
that yet awhile, and without trying 1 Lord bless my soul
Tom's energy became quite grand. "There is no knowing wh
may happen, if we try hard. And I am sure we can live co
tentedly upon a very little — if we can only get it."

"Yes : that I am sure we can, Tom."

"Why, then," said Tom, " AVe must try for it. My frien
John Westlock, is a capital fellow, and very shrewd and intelligei
ril take his advice. We'll talk it over with him — both of
together. You'll like John very much, when yoii come to knc
him, I am certain. Don't cry, don't cry. You make a beef-ste
pudding, indeed!" said Tom, giving her a gentle "Wl
you haven't boldness enough for a dumpling ! "

"You win call it a pudding, Tom. Mind ! I told you not !'

" I may as well call it that, till it proves to be something eh
said Tom. "Oh, you are going to work in earnest, are you?"

Ay, ay ! That she was. And in such pleasant earnest, mo
over, that Tom's attention wandered from his writing evi
moment. Fii'st, she tripped down stairs into the kitchen for I
flour, then for the pie-board, then for the eggs, then for the butt
then for a jug of water, then for the rolling-pin, then for a puddii
basin, then for the pepper, then for the salt ; making a separ
journey for everything, and laughing every time she started
afresh. When all the materials were collected, she was horril
to find she had no apron on, and so ran tq) stairs, by way
variety, to fetch it. She didn't put it on up stairs, but ca
dancing down with it in her hand ; and being one of those lit
women to whom an apron is a most becoming little vanity, it ti
an immense time to arrange ; having to be carefully smootl
down beneath — Oh, heaven, what a wicked little stomacher
and to be gathered up into little plaits by the strings before
could be tied, and to be tapped, rebuked, and wheedled, at '
pockets, before it woidd set right, which at last it did, and W; i


il — but never mind ; this is a sober chronicle. C»li, never
[ ! And then there were her cuffs to be tucked \\\), for fear
our : and she had a little ring to pull off her finger, w hicii
dn't come off (foolish little ring!); and during the -whole nf
; preparations she looked demurely every now and then at
, from under her dark eye-lashes, as if they were all a part of
nulding, and indispensable to its composition,
'or the life and soul of him Tom could get no further in his
ing than, "A respectable young man, aged thirty-five,'' and
notwithstanding the show she made of being supernaturally
t, and going about on tiptoe, lest she should disturb liim :
h only served as an additional means of distracting iiis
ition, and keeping it upon her.
Tom," she said at last, in high glee. " Tom ! "
What now?" said Tom, repeating to himself, "nged thirty-
Will you look here a moment, please ? '
lS if he hadn't been looking all the time !
I am going to begin, Tom. Don't you wonder why I butter
inside of the basin "? " said his busy little sister. " Eh, Tom ? ''
' Not more than you do, I dare say," replied Tom, laughing.
r I believe you don't know anything about it."
•What an infidel you are, Tom! How else do you think it
Id turn out easily when it was done ? For a civil engineer
land-surveyor not to know that I My goodness, Tom ! "
t was wholly out of the question to try to write. Tom

I out " A respectable young man, aged thirty-five ; " and sat
ing on, pen in hand, with one of the most loving smiles

Inch a busy little woman as she was ! So full of self-im-
ance, and trying so hard not to smile, or seem uncertain about
hing ! It was a perfect treat to Tom to see her with her
rs knit, and lier rosy lips pursed up, kneading away at the
t, rolling it out, cutting it up into strips, lining the basin with
having it off fine round the rim ; chopping up the steak into

II pieces, raining down pepper and salt upon them, j)ackitig
II into the basin, pouring in cold water for gravy ; and never
;uring to steal a look in his direction, lest her gravity should
listurbed ; until at last, the basin being quite full and only
ting the top cnist, she clapped her hands, all covered with
e and flour, at Tom, and burst out heartily into such a
ming little laugh of triumph, that the pudding need have had
ther seasoning to commend it to the taste of any reasonable

on earth.


"Where's the pudding?" said Tom. For he was cutting
jokes, Tom was.

" Where ! " she answered, holding it up with both han
"Look at it !"

" That a pudding ! " said Tom.

" It will be, you stupid fellow, when it's covered in," retun
Ills sister. Tom still pretending to look incredulous, she gave li
a tap on the head with the rolling-])in, and still laughing merri
had returned to the composition of the top-crust, when she stan
and turned very red. Tom started, too, for following her eyes,
saw John Westlock in the room.

" Why, my goodness, John ! How did you come in ? "'

"I beg pardon," said John — " your sister's pardon especial
but I met an old lady at the street door, who requested me
enter here ; and as you didu't hear me knock, and the door ■^
open, I made bold to do so. I hardly know," said John, w
a smile, " why any of us should be disconcerted at my hav
accidentally intruded upon such an agreeable domestic occupati
so very agreeably and skilfully pursued • but I must confess t
/ am. Tom, will you kindly come to my relief?"

"Mr. John Westlock," said Tom. "My sister."

" I hope, that as the sister of so old a friend," said Jo
laughing, " you will have the goodness to detach yoiu" first imp'
sions of me from my unfortunate entrance." \

" My sister is not indisposed perhaps to say the same to youi
her own behalf," retorted Tom. r

John said, of course, that this was quite unnecessary, for.
had been transfixed in silent admiration ; and he held out his li
to Miss Pinch ; who couldn't take it, however, by reason of
flour and paste upon her own. This, which might seem calcuL
to increase the general confusion and render matters worse, hat
reality the best eftect in the world, for neither of them could 1
laughing ; and so they both found themselves on easy te ^

" I am delighted to see you," said Tom. " Sit down." |

" I can only tliink of sitting down, on one condition," returji
his friend : " and that is, that yoiu- sister goes on with {(
pudding, as if you were still alone." j

"That I am sure she will," said Tom. "On one other t
dition, and that is, that you stay and help us to eat it." ;

Poor little Ruth was seized with a jjalpitatiou of the hii
when Tom committed this appalling indiscretion, for she felt it
if the dish turned out a failure, she never would be able to 1 ^
up her head before John Westlock again. Quite uneonsciou -'*

>":■ I'iNcir A.M. nuTH, unconscious of a visr-n


her state of mind, John accepted the mvitation with all imagin;
heartiness ; and after a little more pleasantry concerning this si
pudding, and the tremendous expectations he made believe
entertain of it, she blushingly resumed her occupation, and
took a chair.

" I am here much earlier than I intended, Tom ; but I will
you what brings me, and I think I can answer for your being |
to hear it. Is that anything you wish to show me 1 "

" Oh dear no ! " cried Tom, who had forgotten the blotted s(
of paper in his hand, until this inquiry brought it to his recollect
" 'A respectable young man, aged thirty-five' — The beginnin;
a description of myself. That's all."

" I don't think you will have occasion to finish it, Tom.
how is it you never told me you had friends in London 1 "

Tom looked at his sister with all his might ; and certainly
sister looked with all her might at him.

" Friends in London ! " echoed Tom.

" Ah ! " said Westlock, " to be sure."

"Have 7/071 any friends in London, Ruth, my dearf ail
Tom. ' '

" No, Tom."

"I am very happy to hear that / have," said Tom, "but
news to me. I never knew it. They must be capital peopl
keep a secret, John."

" You shall judge for yourself," returned the other. " Serio
Tom, here is the plain state of the case. As I was sittiu :
breakfast this morning, there comes a knock at my door."

" On which you cried out, very loud, ' Come in ! ' " sugg t

"So I did. And the person who knocked, not beh
respectable young man, aged thirty-five, from the country, 'i
in when he was invited, Tom, instead of standing gaping 'n
staring about him on the landing. Well ! When he came ,
found he was a stranger; a gi'ave, business-like, sedate-loi n
stranger. 'Mr. Westlock T said he. 'That is my name,' s; ■
' The favour of a few words with you 1 ' said he. ' Pray be S(ie(
Sir,' said I." ,

Here John stopped for an instant, to glance towards the )li
where Tom's sister, listening attentively, was still busy wit.itli
basin, which by this time made a noble appearance. Th' 1^
resumed :

" The pudding having taken a chair, Tom " —

" What ! " cried Tom. i

" Having taken a chair." *


You said a pudding."

No, no," replied John, colourintj; rather ; "a chair. The idea
stranger coming into my rooms at half-past eight o'clock in
iiorning, and taking a pudding ! Having taken a chair, Tom,
jr — amazed me by opening the conversation thus : ' I believe
ire acquainted. Sir, with Mr. Thomas Pinch T "
No ! " cried Tom.

His very words, I assure you. I told him that I was. Did
DW where you were at present residing ? Yes. In London 1
He had casually heard, in a roundabout way, that you had
your situation with jMr. Pecksuitf. Was that the foct ?
it was. Did you want another? Yes, you did."
Certaiidy," said Tom, nodding his head.
Just what I impressed upon him. You may rest assured
I set that point beyond the possibility of any mistake, and

him distinctly to understand that he might make up his
L about it. Very well.''

'Then,' said he, 'I think I can accommodate him.'"
om's sister stopped short.

Lord bless me ! " cried Tom. " Paith, my dear, ' think I can
nmodate him.' "

Of course I begged him," pursued John Westlock, glancing
^m's sister, who was not less eager in her interest than Tom
elf, " to proceed, and said that I would undertake to see you
?diately. He replied that he had very little to say, being a
of few- words, but such as it was, it was to the purpose : and
ideed, it turned out : for he immediately went on to tell me

a friend of his was in want of a kind of secretary and
nan ; and that although the salary was small, being only a
Ired pounds a year, with neither board nor lodging, still the
'8 were not heavy, and there the post was. Vacant, and
f for j'our acceptance."

Good gracious me ! " cried Tom ; " a hundred pounds a year !
lear John ! Ptuth, my love ! A hundred pounds a year ! "
But the strangest part of the story," resumed John "Westlock,
g his hand on Tom's wrist, to bespeak his attention, and
'ss his ecstacies for the moment : " the strangest part of tiie
■, Miss Pinch, is this. I don't know this man from Adam ;
ler does this man know Tom."

He can't," said Tom, in great perplexity, "if he's a Londoner,
n't know any one in London."

And on my observing," John resumed, still keeping his liand
I Tom's wrist, "that I had no doubt he would excuse the
lorn I took, in inquiring who directed him to me ; how he


came to know of the change which had taken place in my friend
position ; and how he came to be acquainted with my friend
peculiar fitness for such an office as he had described ; he dri
said that he was not at liberty to enter into any explanations."

" Not at liberty to enter into any explanations ! " repeat<
Tom, drawing a long breath.

" 'I must be perfectly aware,' he said," John added, " 'that
any person who had ever been in Mr. Pecksniff's neighbourhoo
Mr. Thomas Pinch and his acquirements were as well known
the Church steeple, or the Blue Dragon.' "

" The Blue Dragon ! " rej^eated Tom, staring alternately at I
friend and his sister.

" Ay ; think of that ! He spoke as familiarly of the Bl
Dragon, I give you my word, as if he had been Mark Tapley.
opened my eyes, I can tell you, when he did so ; but I could i
fancy I had ever seen the man before, although he said witl
smile, ' You know the Blue Dragon, Mr. Westlock ; you kept
up there, once or twice, yourself.' Kept it up there ! So I d
You remember, Tom '? "

Tom nodded with great significance, and, falling into a state
deeper perplexity than before, observed that this was the ni
unaccountable and extraordinary circumstance he had ever he
of in his life.

" Unaccountable ! " his friend repeated. " I became afraid
the man. Though it was broad day, and bright sunshine, I '
positively afraid of him. I declare I half suspected him to 1
supernatural visitor, and not a mortal, imtil he took on
commonplace description of pocket-book, and handed me

"Mr. Fips," said Tom, reading it aloud. "Austin Fri ■
Austin Friars sounds ghostly, John."

"Fips don't, I think," was John's reply. "But there he 11.
Tom, and there he expects us to call this morning. And now i
know as much of this strange incident as I do, upon my houoii

Tom's flice, between his exultation in the hundred pounc i
year, and his wonder at this narration, was only to be equf '
by the face of his sister, on which there sat the very ^
expression of blooming surprise that any painter could 1 ^
wished to see. What the beef-steak pudding would have com *i
if it had not been by this time finished, astrology itself c «
hardly determine.

"Tom," said Ruth, after a little hesitation, "perhaps ''■
Westlock, in his friendship for you, knows more of this tha "'
chooses to tell."


Jfo, indeed!" cried John, eagerly. "It is not so, I assure
I wish it were. I cannot take credit to myself, Miss Pincli,
y such thing-. All that I know, or, so far as I can judge,
cely to know, I have told you."

[^^ouldn't you know more, if you thought proper ? " said Ruth,
ng the ])ie-board industriously.

So," retorted John. " Indeed, no. It is very ungenerous
1, to be so suspicious of me, when I repose implicit fiiitli in
I have unbounded confidence in the pudding, ]\iiss Pinch."
e laughed at this, but they soon got back into a serious
and discussed the subject with profound gravity. Whatever
\'as obscure in the business, it appeared to be quite plain
Pom was offered a salary of one hundred i^ouuds a year ; and
)eiug tlie main point, the surrounding obscurity rather set it
in otherwise.

an, being in a great flutter, wished to start for Austin
i instantly, but they waited nearly an hour, by John's
?, before they dejiarted. Tom made himself as spruce as he
before leaving home, and when John Westlock, through the
pened ])arlour door, had glimpses of that brave little sister
ing the collar of liis coat in the passage, taking up loose
es in his gloves, and hovering lightly about and about him,
ing him up here and there in the height of her quaint, little,
shioned tidiness, he called to mind the fancy-portraits of her
16 wall of the Pecksniffian work-room, and decided with
imon indignation that they were gross libels, and not half
' enougli : though, as hath been mentioned in its place, the
5 always made those sketches beautiful, and he had drawn at
a score of them with his own hands.

Com," he said, as they were walking along, " I begin to
you must be somebody's son."
[ suppose I am," Tom answered in his quiet way.
But I mean somebody's of consequence."
Bless your heart," replied Tom. "My poor father was of no
luencc, nor my mother either."
^ou remember tliem perfectly, then ? "

tlemendjer tliem 1 oh dear yes. ]\Iy poor motlier was the
Slie died wlien Rutli was a mere baby, and then we botli
le a charge upon the savings of that good old grandmother I
to tell you of. You remember ! Oh ! There's nothing
itic in our history, John."

Very well," said John in quiet despair. " Tiien there is no
Df accounting for my visitor of this morning. So we'll not


They did try notwithstanding, and never left off trying un
they got to Austin Friars, where, in a very dark passage on t
first floor, oddly situated at the back of a house, across some leai
they found a little blear-eyed glass door up in one corner, wi
Mr. Fips painted on it in characters which were meant to
transparent. There was also a wicked old sideboard hiding
the gloom hard by, meditating designs upon the ribs of visitor
and an old mat, Avorn into lattice work, which, being useless as
mat (even if anybody could have seen it, whicli was impossibL
had for many years directed its industry into another channel, a:
regularly tripped up every one of Mr. Fips's clients.

Mr. Fips, hearing a violent concussion between a human li
and his oflice door, was apprised, by the usual means of co;
munication, that somebody had come to call upon him, and givi
that somebody admission, observed that it was "rather dark."

"Dark indeed," John wdiispered in Tom Pinch's ear. "Noi
bad i^lace to dispose of a countryman in, I shoidd think, Tom."

Tom had been already turning over in his mind the possibil
of their having been tempted into that region to furnish fortl
pie ; but the sight of Mr. Fips, who was small and spare, a
looked peaceable, and wore black shorts and powder, dispel
his doubts.

" Walk in," said I\Ir. Fips.

They walked in. And a mighty yellow-jaundiced little oti
Mr. Fips had of it : with a great black, sijrawling splash u)
the floor in one corner, as if some old clerk had cut his thr
there, years ago, and had let out ink instead of blood.

" I have brought my friend Mr. Pinch, Sir," said J(

" Be pleased to sit," said Mr. Fips.

They occupied the two chairs, and Mr. Fips took the ot
stool, from the stufling whereof he drew forth a piece of ho
hair of immense length, which he put into his mouth M'itl
great appearance of appetite.

He looked at Tom Pinch curiously, but with an entire freet!
from any sucii expression as could be reasonably construed into i
unusual display of interest. After a short silence, during wl •'
Mr. Fips was so perfectly unembarrassed as to render it mani jt
that lie could have broken it sooner without hesitation, if he .;i
felt inclined to do so, he asked if Mr. Westlock had made f
offer fully known to IMr. Pinch. !

John answered in the affirmative.

"And you think it worth your while, Sir, do you?" Mr. I*
inquired of Tom.


■ I think it a piece of great good fortune, Sir," said Tom. " I
exceedingly obliged to you for the offer. "
Not to me," said Mr. Tips. "I act upon instructions."
To your friend, Sir, then," said Tom. "To the gentleman
whom I am to engage, and whose confidence I shall endeavour
2serve. "When he knows me better, Sir, I hope he will not
his good opinion of me. He will find me punctual ai^l
ant, and anxious to do what is right. That I think I can
rer for, and so," looking towards him, "can Mr. Westlock."
' Most a.ssuredly," said John.

Ir. Fips ai)peared to have some little difficulty in resuming
conversation. To relieve himself, he took up the wafer-stamp,
began stamping capital F's all over his legs.
'The foot is," said Mr. Fips, "that my friend is not, at this
?nt moment, in town."

'om's countenance fell ; for he thought this ciiuivalcnt to
jg him that his appearance did not answer; and that Fips
t look out for somebody else.

' When do you think he will be in town. Sir ? " he asked.
' I can't say ; it's impossible to tell. I really have no idea.
" said Fips, taking off a very deep impression of the wafer-
ip upon the calf of his left leg, and looking steadily at Tom,
lon't know that it's a matter of much consequence."
*oor Tom inclined his head deferentially, but appeared to
)t that.

'I say," repeated Mr. Fips, "that I don't know it's a matter
luch consequence. The business lies entirely between yourself
me, ]ilr. Pinch. With reference to your duties, I can set you
g; and with reference to your salary, I can pay it. Weekly,"
Mr. Fips, putting down the wafer-stamp, and looking at
11 Westlock and Tom Pinch by turns, " weekly ; in this ottice ;
my time between tlie hours of four and five o'clock in the
rnoon." As Mr. Fips said this, he made up his face as if he
3 going to whistle. But he didn't.

'You are very good," said Tom, whose countenance was now
ised with pleasure : " and nothing can be more satisfactory or
ightforward. My attendance will be required — "
'From half-past nine to four o'clock or so, I should say,"
rrupted Mr. Fips. "About that."

' I did not mean the hours of attendance," retorted Tom,
liich are light and easy, I am sure ; but the place."
'Oh, the place ! The place is in the Temple."
rom was delighted.
'Perhaps," said Mr. Fips, "you would like to see the place 1"


" Oh dear ! " cried Tom. •' I shall ouly be too glad to cousin
myself engaged, if you 'svill allow me ; without any furtL
reference to the place."

"You may consider yourself engaged, by all means," said M|
Fips : " you couldn't meet me at the Temple Gate in Fleet Strec
in an hour from this time, I supiwse, could you 1 '"'

Certaiidy Tom could.

" Good," said Mr. Fips, rising. " Then I will show you tl'
place; and you can begin your attendance to-morrow mornin!
In an hour, therefore. I shall see you too, Mr. Westlock 1 Ye
good. Take care how you go. It's rather dark."

With this remark, which seemed superfluous, he shut tliem o
upon the staircase, and they groped their way into the street agai

The interview had done so little to remove the mystery
which Tom's new engagement was involved, and had done
much to thicken it, that neither could help smiling at tlie puzzl
looks of the other. They agreed, however, that the introducti
of Tom to his new office and office companions could hardly fail
throw a light upon the subject ; and therefore postponed
further consideration until after the fulfilment of the appoiutnu
they had made with Mr. Fips.

After looking in at John Westlock's chambers, and devoting
few spare minutes to the boar's head, they issued forth again
the place of meeting. The time agreed upon had not quite com
but Mr. Fips Avas already at the Temple Gate, and expressed 1
satisfaction at their punctuality.

He led the way through sundry lanes and courts, into one nv
quiet and more gloomy than the rest, and, singling out a cert;
house, ascended a common staircase : taking from his pocket,
he went, a bunch of rusty keys. Stopping before a door upon
upper story, which had nothing but a yellow smear of paint wh(
custom would have placed the tenant's name, he began to beat t
dust out of one of these keys, very deliberately, upon the grt
broad hand-rail of the balustrade.

" You had better have a little plug made," he said, looki
round at Tom. after blowing a shrill whistle into the barrel of t
key. " It's the only way of preventing them from getting stopp
up. You'll find the lock go the better, too, I dare say, for a lit

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 59 of 80)