Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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very artful ! "

As he finished this whisper, he advanced, before the hostess ;
and at the same time the young lady, hearing footsteps, rose.
Mr. Pecksnirt' glanced at the volume she held, and whispered Mrs.
Lupin again : if possible, with increased despondency.

"Yes, Ma'am," he said, "it is a good book, I was fearful of
that beforehand. I am apprehensive that this is a veiy deep thing
indeed ! "

"What gentleman is this?" inquired the object of his virtuous

" Hush ! don't trouble yourself, Ma'am," said Mr. Pecksniff, as
the landlady was about to answer. " This young " — in spite of
himself he hesitated when ' person ' rose to his lips, and substituted
another word : " this young stranger, Mrs. Lupin, will excuse me
for replying briefly, that I reside in this village ; it may be in an
influential manner, however undeserved ; and that I have been
summoned here, by you. I am here, as I am everywhere, I hope,
in sympathy for the sick and sorry."

With these impressive words, Mr. Pecksniff passed over to the
bedside, where, after patting the counterpane once or twice in a
very solemn manner, as if by that means he gained a clear insight
into the patient's disorder, he took his seat in a large arm-chair,
and in an attitude of some thoughtfulness and much comfort,
waited for his waking. Whatever objection the young lady urged
to Mrs. Lupin went no further, for nothing more was said to Mr.
Pecksniff, and Mr. Pecksniff' said nothing more to anybody else.

Full hal fan-hour elapsed before tlie old man stirred, but at
length he turned himself in bed, and, though not yet awake, gave
tokens that his sleep was drawing to an end. By little and little


he removed the bed-clothes from about his head, and turned still
more towards the side ■where ]\Ir. Pecksniti' sat. In course of time
his eyes opened ; and he lay for a few moments as j)eople newly
roused sometimes -will, gazing indolently at his visitor, without
any distinct consciousness of his presence.

There was nothing remarkable in these ijroceedings, except the
influence they worked on Mr. Pecksniff, which could hardly have
been surpassed by the most marvellous of natural phenomena.
Gradually his hands became tightly clasped u»j<3n the elbows of
the chair, his eyes dilated with surprise, his mouth opened, his
hair stood more erect upon his forehead than its custom was,
until, at length, when the old man rose in bed, and stared at him
with scarcely less emotion than he showed himself, the Pecksuitf
doubts were all resolved, and he exclaimed aloud :

"You are Martin Chuzzlewit ! "

His consternation of surprise was so genuine, that the old man,
with all the disposition that he clearly entertained to believe it
assumed, was convinced of its reality.

" I am Martin Chuzzlewit," he said, bitterly : " and Martin
Chuzzlewit wishes you had been hanged, before you had come here
to disturb him in his sleep. Why, I dreamed of this fellow ! " he
said, lying down again, and turning away his face, "before I knew
that he was near me ! "

" ]\Iy good cousin — " said I\Ir. Pecksniff.

" Tliere ! His very first words ! " cried the old man, shaking
his gray head to and fro upon the pillow, and throwing up his
hands. " In his very first words he asserts his relationship ! I
knew he would : they all do it ! Kear or distant, blood or water,
it's all one. Ugh ! What a calendar of deceit, and lying, and false-
witnessing, the sound of any. word of kindred opens before me ! "

"Pray do not be hasty, Mr. Chuzzlewit," said Pecksniff, in a
tone that was^t once in the sublimest degree compassionate and
dispassionate ; for he had by this time recovered from his surprise,
and was in full possession of his virtuous self " You will regret
being hasty, I know you will."

" Yoii know ! " said Martin, contemptuously.

"Yes," retorted Mr. Pecksniff. "Ay, ay, Mr. Chuzzlewit:
and don't imagine that I mean to court or flatter you : for nothing
is further from my intention. Neither, Sir, need you entertain
the least misgiving that I shall repeat that obnoxious word wiiich
has given you so much offence already. Why should I ? What
do I expect or want from you? Tiiere is nothing in your posses-
sion that / know of, I\Ir. Chuzzlewit, which is much to be coveted
for the happiness it brings you."


" That's true enough/' muttered the old man.

"A2)art from that consideration," said Mr. Pecksniff', watchful
of the effect he made, "it must l)e plain to you (I am sure) by
this time, that if I had Avished to insinuate myself into your
good opinion, I should have been, of all things, careful not to
address you as a relative : knowing your humour, and being
quite certain beforehand that I could not have a worse letter of

Martin made not any verbal answer ; but he as clearly implied,
though only by a motion of his legs beneath the bedclothes, that
there was reason in this and he could not di.spute it, as if he had
said as much in good set terms.

" No," said Mr. Pecksniff, keeping his hand in his Avaistcoat as
though he were ready, on the shortest notice, to produce his heart
for Martin Chuzzlewit's inspection, " I came here to offer my
services to a stranger. I make no offer of them to you, because I
know you would distrust me if I did. But lying on that bed. Sir,
I regard you as a stranger, and I have just that amount of interest
in you which I hope I should feel in any stranger, circumstanced
as you are. Beyond that, I am ciuite as indifferent to you, Mr.
Chuzzlewit, as you are to me."

Having said which, JNIr. Pecksniff threw himself back in the
easy-chair : so radiant with ingenuous honesty, that Mrs. Lupin
almost wondered not to see a stained-glass Glory, such as the Saint
wore in the church, shining about his head.

A long pause succeeded. The old man, with increased restless-
ness, changed his posture several times. Mrs. Lupin and the
young lady gazed in silence at the counterpane. Mr. Pecksniff
toyed abstractedly with his eye-glass, and kept his eyes shut, that
he might ruminate the better.

" Eh ? " he said at last : opening them suddenly, and looking
towards the bed. "I beg your i^ardon. I thought you spoke.
Mrs. Lupin," he continued, slowly rising, " I am not aware that I
can be of any service to you here. The gentleman is better, and
you are as good a nurse as he can have. Eh ? "

This last note of interrogation bore reference to another change
of posture on the old man's part, which brought his face towards
Mr, Pecksniff for the first time since he had turned away from

" If you desire to speak to me before I go, Sir," continued that
gentleman, after another pause, " you may command my leisure ;
but I must stipulate, in justice to myself, that you do so as to a
stranger : strictly as to a stranger."

Now if Mr. Pecksniff knew, from anything ]\Lartin Chuzzlewit


had expressed in gestures, that lie \vantc(l to speak to Iiiin, he
could only have found it out on some sueh principle as prevails in
melodramas, and in virtue of which the elderly farmer with the
comic son always knows what the dumb-girl means when she takes
refuge in his garden, and relates her personal memoirs in incom-
prehensible pantomime. But without stopping to make any inquiry
on this point, JMartin Chuzzlewit signed to his young companion
to withdraw, which she immediately did, along with the landlady :
leaving him and I\Ir. Pecksniif alone together. For some time
they looked at each other in silence; or rather the old man
looked at Mr. Pecksniff", and ]\Ir. Pecksniff", again closing his
eyes on all outward objects, took an inward survey of his own
breast. That it amply repaid him for his trouble, and aff"orded a
delicious and enchanting prospect, was clear from the expression of
his foce.

"You wish me to speak to you as to a total stranger," said the
old man, "do you?"

Mr. Pecksniff" replied, by a shrug of his shoulders and a,n
apparent turning-round of his eyes in their sockets before he opened
them, that he was still reduced to the necessity of eutertaijiing
that desire.

"You shall be gratified," said Martin. " Sir, I am a rich man.
Not so rich as some suppose, perhaps, but yet wealthy. I am not
a raiser. Sir, though even that charge is made against me, as I
hear, and currently believed. I have no pleasure in hoarding. I
have no plea.sure in the possession of money. The devil that we
call by that name can give me nothing but unhappines.s."

It would be no description of Mr. Pecksnift"'s gentleness of
manner to adopt the common parlance, and say, that he looked at
this moment as if butter wouldn't melt in his month. He rather
looked as if any quantity of butter might have been made out of
him, by churning the milk of human kindness, as it spouted up-
wards from his heart.

" For the same reason that I am not a hoarder of money," saiil
the old man, "I am not lavish of it. Some people find their
gratification in storing it up ; and others theirs in parting with it ;
but I have no gratification connected with tlie thing. Pain and
bitterness are the only goods it ever could procure for me. I hate
it. It is a spectre walking before me through the world, and
making every social pleasure hideous."

A thought arose in Mr. Peck.sniff"'s mind, wliich must have in-
stantly mounted to his face, or Martin Chuzzlewit would not have
resumed as quickly and as sternly as he did :

"You would advise me for my peace of mind, to get rid of this


source of misery, and transfer it to some one mIh, could bear it
better. Even you, perhaps, would rid me of a burden under which
I suffer so grievously. But, kind stranger," said the old man
slraTaP^S '"'' ^^-^-kened as he spoke, "good Christian
strangei, that is a mam part of my trouble. In other hands I
have known money do good; in other hands I have known' it
numphed m, and boasted of with reason, as the master-key to all
the brazen gates that close upon the paths to worldly honour
lortune, and enjoyment. To what man or woman ; to what
worthy, honest, incorruptible creature; shall I confide such a
talisman either now or when I die? Do you know any such
person? Your virtues are of course inestimable, but can you tell
wi'th myself ?"'' "° '''''*"'' '''^"' ""'" ^'^' ^''' *''*■ of contact
"Of contact with yourself. Sir?" echoed Mr Pecksniff
"Ay," returne.1 the old man, "the test of contact with me-
^^■l h me. You have heard of him whose misery (the gratification
of his own foolish wish) was, that he turned every thing he touched
to gold. _ The curse of my existence, and the realization of my own
mad desire, is that by the golden standard which I bear about me

amrhoHow'' *° ^'''' ^''' '"'^'^ ""^ '"" °^'''' '"'"' '"'^ ^"'^ '^ ^^'^^
i^Ir. Pecksnift- shook his head, and said, "You think «o "
"Oh yes," cried the old man, "I think so! and in your tellino-
me I think so, I recognise the true unworldly ring of yo»r metal!
I tell you, man," he added, with increasing bitterness "that I
have gone a rich man, among people of all grades and kinds-
relatives, friends, and strangers ; among people in whom, when I
was poor, I had confidence, and justly, for they never once deceived
me then, or, to me, wronged each otiier. But I have never found
one nature, no, not one, in which, being wealthy and alone, I was
not forced to detect the latent corruption that lay hi.l within it
waiting for such as I to bring it forth. Treacherv. deceit, and low
design; hatred of competitors, real or fancied, 7or my fovonr •
meannes.s, falsehood, baseness, and servility; or," and here he
looked closely m his cousin's eyes, "or an a.ssumption of honest
independence, almost worse than all; these are the beantio. whi.l,
my wealth has brought to light. Brother against brother child
against parent, friends treading on the faces of friends this is the
social company by which my way has been attended. There are
stones told-they may be true or false-of ri,-h men, who, in the
garb of poverty, have found out virtue and rewarde.l it Thev
were dolts and idiots for their pains. They should have made the
search in their own characters. They should have shown them-



selves fit objects to be robbed ami preyed upon and plotted against
and adulated by any knaves, wlio, but for joy, would have s]iat
upon their coffins when they died their dupes ; and tiien their
search would have ended as mine has done, and they would be
what I am."

]\[r. PecksniH', not at all knowing what it niight be best to
say in tlie momentary pause Avhieh ensued upon tliese remarks,
made an elaborate demonstration of intending to deliver some-
thing very oracular indeed : trusting to tlie certainty of the old
man interrupting him, before he sliould utter a word. Nor was
lie mistaken, for jMartin Chuzzlewit having taken breath, weni
on to say :

" Hear me to an end ; judge what profit you are like to gain
from any repetition of this visit ; and leave me. I have so
corrupted and changed tlie nature of all those wdio have ever
attended on me, by breeding avaricious plots and hopes within
them ; I have engendered sucli domestic strife and discord, by
tarrying even with members of my own family ; I have been sucli
a lighted torch in peaceful homes, kindling up all the bad gases
and vapours in tlieir moral atmosphere, which, but for me, might
have proved harmless to the end ; that I have, I may say, fled
from all who knew me, and taking refuge in secret places have
lived, of late, the life of one who is hunted. The young girl wliom
you just now saw — what ! your eye lightens when I talk of her I
You hate her already, do you?"

" Upon my w^ord, Sir ! " said ]\Ir. Pecksniff, laying his hand
upon his breast, and dropping his eyelids.

"I forgot," cried the old man, looking at him with a keenness
wliich the other seemed to feel, altliough he did not raise his eyes
so as to see it : "I ask your pardon. I forgot you were a stranger.
For tlie moment you reminded me of one Pecksniff, a cousin of
mine. As I was saying — the young girl whom you just now saw,
is an orphan child, wliom, with one steady purpose, I have bred
and educated, or, if you prefer the word, adopted. For a year or
more siie has been my constant companion, and she is my only one.
I have taken, as she knows, a solemn oath never to leave her
sixpence when I die, but while I live, I make her an annual
allowance : not extravagant in its amount and yet not stinted.
There is a compact between us that no term of affectionate cajolery
shall ever be addressed by either to the other, but that slie call mc
always by my Christian name, I her, by hers. She is bound to
me in life by ties of interest, and losing by my death, and having
no expectation disappointed, will moiu-n it, perhaps : though for
that I care little. This is the only kind of friend I have or will


have. Judge from such premises what a profitable hour you havi
spent in coming here, and leave me : to return no more."

With these words, the old man fell slowly back upon h
pillow. Mr. Pecksniff as slowly rose, and, with a prefatory hem,
began as follows :

" Mr. Chuzzlewit."

"There. Go!" interposed the other. "Enough of this. I
am weary of you."

"I am sorry for that. Sir," rejoined Mr. Pecksniff, "because I
have a duty to discharge, from which, depend upon it, I shall not
shrink. No, Sir, I shall not shrink."

It is a lamentable fact, that as Mr. Pecksniff stood erect beside
the bed, in all the dignity of Goodness, and addressed him thus,
the old man cast an angry glance towards the candlestick, as if he
were possessed by a strong inclination to launch it at his cousin's
head. But he constrained himself, and pointing with his finger to
the door, informed him that his road lay there.

" Thank you," said Mr. Pecksniff, " I am aware of that ; I am
going. But before I go, I crave your leave to speak, and more
than that, Mr. Chuzzlewit, I must and will — yes indeed, I repeat
it, must and will — be heard. I am not surprised. Sir, at anything
you have told me to-night. It is natural, very natural, and the
greater part of it was known to me before. I will not say,"
continued Mr. Pecksniff, drawing out his pocket-handkercliief, and
Avinking with both eyes at once, as it were, against his will, " I
will not say that you are mistaken in me. While you are in your
present mood I would not say so for the world. I almost wish,
indeed, that I had a different nature, that I might repress even
this slight confession of weakness : which I cannot disguise from
you: which I feel is humiliating: but which you will have the
goodness to excuse. We will say, if you please," added Mr.
Pecksniff, witli great tenderness of manner, " that it arises from a
cold in tlie head, or is attributable to snuff, or smelHng-salts, or
onions, or anything but the real cause."

Here he paused for an instant, and concealed his face behind
his pocket-handkerchief Then, smiling faintly, and holding the
bed-furniture with one hand, he resumed :

"But, Mr. Chuzzlewit, while I am forgetful of myself, I owe it
to myself, and to my character — ay, Sir, and I hare a character
which is very dear to me, and \fi\\ be the best inheritance of my
two daughters — to tell you, on behalf of another, that your conduct
is wrong, unnatural, indefensible, monstrous. And I tell you. Sir,"
said Mr. Pecksniff, towering on tii)toe among the curtains, as if he
were literally rising above all worldly considerations, and were



fjiin to hold on tight, to keep liimsolf from darting skyward.s like
a rocket, " I tell you witliout fear or favonr, tiiat it will not do
for yoii to be unmindful of your grandson, young Martin, who has
the strongest natural claim upon you. It will not do. Sir,"
repeated Mr. Pecksniff, sliaking his head. "You may think it
will do, but it Avon't. You must provide for that young man ;
you shall provide for him ; you ivill provide for him. I believe,"
said Mr. Pecksniff, glancing at the pen and iidc, "that in secret
you have already done so. Bless j'ou for doing so. Bless you for
doing right. Sir. Bless you for hating me. And good night ! "

So saying, IMr. Pecksniff waved his right hand Avith much
solemnity ; and once more inserting it in his waistcoat, departed.
There was emotion in his manner, but his step was firm. Subject
to human weaknesses, he was upheld by conscience.

Martin lay for some time, with an expression on his face of
silent wonder, not uumi.xed with rage : at length he muttered in a
whisper :

" What does this mean ? Can the false-hearted boy have
chosen such a tool as yonder fellow Avho has just gone out 1 Why
not ! He has conspired against me, like the rest, and they but
birds of one feather. A r.ew plot ; a new plot ! Oh self, self,
self! At every turn nothing but self! ''

He fell to trifling, as he ceased to speak, with the ashes
of the burnt paper in the candlestick. He did so, at first
in pure abstraction, but they presently became the subject of his

"Another will made and destroyed," he said, "nothing deter-
mined on, nothing done, and I might have died to-night ! I
plainly see to Avhat foul uses all this money will be put at last,"
lie cried, almost writhing in the bed : "after filling me with cares
and miseries all my life, it will perpetuate discord and bad passions
when I am dead. So it always is. What lawsuits grow out of
tiie graves of rich men, every day : sowing perjury, hatred, and
lies among near kindred, where there should be nothing but love !
Heaven help u.s, we have much to answer for ! Oh self, self, self!
Every man for himself, and no creature for me ! "

Universal self! Was there nothing of its shadow in these
reflections, and in the history of Martin Chuzzlewit, on his OAvn







That worthy man Mv. Pecksniff having taken leave of his '
cousin in the solemn terms recited in the last chapter, withdrew to 1
his own home, and remained there three whole days : not so much
as going out for a walk beyond the boundaries of his own garden, ,
lest he should be hastily summoned to the bedside of his penitent I
and remorseful relative, Avhom, in his ample benevolence, he had ■
made up his mind to forgive unconditionally, and to love on any ■
terms. But such was the obstinacy and such the bitter nature of
that stern old man, that no repentant summons came ; and the j
fourth day found Mr. Pecksniff apparently much farther from his
Christian object than the first.

During the whole of this interval, he haunted the Dragon at |
all times and seasons in the day and night, and, returning good
for evil, evinced the deepest solicitude in the progress of the
obdurate invalid ; insomuch that ]\Irs. Lupin was fairly melted
by his disinterested anxiety (for he often particularly required
her to take notice that he would do the same by any stranger or
pauper in the like condition), and shed many tears of admiration
and delight.

]\Ieantime, old i\Iartin Chuzzlewit remained shut up in his own
chamber, and saw no person but his young companion, saving the
hostess of the Blue Dragon, who was, at certain times, admitted
to his presence. So surely as she came into the room, however,
Martin feigned to fall asleep. It was only when he and the young
lady were alone, that he woidd utter a woi-d, even in answer to
the simplest inquiry ; though ]Mr. Pecksniff could make out, by
hard listening at the door, that they two being left together, he
was talkative enough.

It happened on the fourth evening, that ^Ir. Pecksniff' walking,
as usual, into the bar of the Dragon and finding no Mrs. Lupin
there, went straight upstairs : purposing, in the fervour of his
affectionate zeal, to apply his ear once more to the keyhole, and
quiet his mind by assuring himself that the hard-hearted patient
was going on well. It happened that ]\Ir. Pecksnift" coming softly


upon the dark passage into which a si)iial ray of li,i;ht iisually
(hirted through this same keyhole, was astonished to find no such
ray visible ; and it happened that Mr. Pecksniff, wlien lie had ielt
liis way to tlie chamber-door, stooping hurriedly down to ascertain
by personal inspection whether the jealousy of the old man had
caused this keyhole to be stopped on the inside, bro\ight his
head into such violent contact with another head, that he could
not help uttering in an audible voice the monosyllable " Oh ! "
whicli was, as it were, sharply unscrewed and jerked out of him
by very anguish. It happened then, and lastly, tliat Mr. Pecksniff"
found himself immediately collared by something which smelt like
several damp umbrellas, a barrel of beer, a cask of warm brandy-
and-water, and a small parlour-full of stale tobacco smoke, mi.\ed ;
and was straightway led down stairs into the bar from which he
had lately come, where he found himself standing opposite to, and
in the grasp of, a perfectly strange gentleman of still stranger
appearance, who, with his disengaged hand, rubbed his own head
very hard, and looked at him, Pecksniff", with an evil counten-

The gentleman was of that order of appearance, which is
currently termed shabby-genteel, though in respect of his dress he
can hardly be said to have been in any extremities, as his fingers
were a long way out of his gloves, and the soles of his feet were
at an inconvenient distance from the upper leather of his boots.
His nether garments were of a bluish gray — violent in its colours
once, but sobered now by age and dinginess — and were so stretched
and strained in a tough conflict bet\veen his braces and his straps,
tliat they appeared every moment in danger of flying asunder at
the knees. His coat, in colour blue and of a military cut, was
buttoned and frogged, up to his chin. His cravat was, in hue
and pattern, like one of those mantles which hair-dressers are
accustomed to wrap about their client^ during the progress of the
professional mysteries. His hat had arrived at such a i)ass tiiat it
would have been hard to determine wliether it was originally white
or black. But he wore a moustache — a shaggy moustache too :
nothing in the meek and merciful way, but quite in the fierce and
scornful style : the regular Satanic sort of thing — and he wore,
besides, a vast quanity of unbrushed hair. He was very dirty

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 6 of 80)