Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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Tom thanked him ; but was too much occupied with his o^
speculations, and John Westlock's looks, to be very talkative,
the meantime, Mr. Fips opened the door, which yielded to his ha
very unwillingly, and with a horribly discordant sound. He to
the key out when he had done so, and gave it to Tom.


^y, ay ! " said Mr. Fips. " Tlie dust lies rather thick liere."

lUy, it did. IMr. Fips might have gone so far as to say, very

It had accumuhited everywhere ; lay deep on everything ;

I one part, where a ray of sun slione through a crevice in the
T and struck upon the opposite wall, it went twirling round
)und like a gigantic squirrel-cage.

ist was tlie only thing in tlie place that had any motion
it. When their conductor admitted the liglit i'recly, and
up the heavy window-sash, let in the summer air, he showed
juldering furniture, discoloured wainscoting and ceiling, rusty
and ashy hearth, in all their inert neglect. Close to tlie
;here stood a candlestick, with an extinguisher upon it, as
last man who had been there, had paused, after securing a
t, to take a parting look at the dreariness he left behind,
len had shut out light and life together, and closed the place
e a tomb,

ere were two rooms on that floor ; and in the first or outer
narrow staircase, leading to two more above. These last
fitted up as bed-chambers. Neither in them, nor in the
below, was any scarcity of convenient furniture observable,
gh the fittings were of a by-gone fashion ; but solitude and
of use seemed to have rendered it unfit for any purjioses of
rt, and to have given it a grisly, haunted air.
)veables of every kind lay strewn about, without the least
pt at order, and were intermixed with boxes, hampers, and
ts of lumber. On all the floors were i)iles of books, to the
it perhaps of some thousands of volumes : these still in
those Avrapped in paper, as they had been purchased :
scattered singly or in heaps : not one upon the shelves
lined the walls. To these, Mr. Fips called Tom's attention.
Jefore anything else can be done, we must have them put in
catalogued, and ranged upon the book-shelves, Mr. Pinch,
.vill do to begin witli, I think. Sir."

II rubbed his hands in the pleasant anticipation of a task so
lial to his taste, and said :

m occupation full of interest for me, I assure ynu. It will

' me, i)erhaps, until Mr. "

'ntil Mr. " repeated Fips; as much as to ask Tom

lie was sto}ipiiig for.

forgot tliat you had not mentioned the gentleman's name,''


•h ! " cried Mr. Fips, pulling on his glove, " didn't 1 1 No,

-bye, I don't think I did. Ah ! I dare say he'll be here

You will get on very well together, I have no doubt. I


wish you success, I am sure. You won't forget to shut the door
It'll lock of itself if you slam it. Half-past uine, you know. Le
us say from half-past nine to four, or half-past four, or thereabouts
one day perhaps a little earlier, another day perhaps a little later
according as you feel disposed, and as you arrange your work
Mr. Tips, Austin Friars, of course you'll remember? And yoi
won't forget to slam the door, if you please V

He said all this in such a comfortable, easy manner, that Ton
could only rub his hands, and nod his head, and smile in acquies
cence, which he was still doing, when Mr. Fips walked coolly out

" Why, he's gone ! " cried Tom.

" And what's more, Tom," said John Westlock, seating himsel
upon a pile of books, and looking up at his astonished friend, " h-
is evidently not coming back again : so here you are installed
Under rather singular circumstances, Tom ! "

It was such an odd affair throughout, and Tom standing ther
among the books with his hat in one hand and the key in th
other, looked so prodigiously confounded, that his friend could m
help laughing heartily, Tom himself was tickled : no less by tb
hilarity of his friend, than by the recollection of the sudde
manner in which he had been brought to a stoji, in the very heigl
of his urbane conference with Mr. Fips ; so by degrees Tom bur:
out laughing too ; and each making the other laugh more, tht
ftiirly roared.

When they had had their laugh out, which did not happen vei
soon, for, give John an inch in that way, and he was sure to tal
several ells, being a jovial, good-tempered fellow, they looked abc
them more closely, groping among the lumber for any stray mea'
of enlightenment that might turn up. But no scrap or shred
information could they find. The books were marked with
variety of owners' names, having, no doubt, been bought at salt
and collected here and there at different times ; but whether a .,
one of these names belonged to Tom's employer, and, if so, whil
of them, they had no means Avhatever of determining. It occuri
to John as a very bright thouglit, to make inquiry at the stewal
office, to whom the chambers belonged, or by whom they
held ; but he came back no wiser than he went, the answer ben
"Mr. Fips, of Austin Friars."

" After all, Tom, I begin to think it lies no deeper than tbj
Fips is an eccentric man ; has some knowledge of Pecksnij
despises him, of course ; has heard or seen enough of you to knl
that you are the man he wants ; and engages you in his o'
whimsical manner."

" But why in his own whimsical manner ?" asked Tom.



" Oh ! why does any man entertain lii.s own whimsical taste
Why does Mr. Tips wear shorts and powder, and Mr. Fips's uex
door neighbour boots and a wig 1 "

Tom, being in that state of mind in which any explanation :
a great relief, adopted this last one (which indeed was quite f
feasible as any other) readily, and said he had no doubt of i
Nor was his faith at all shaken by his having said exactly tl
same thing to each suggestion of his friend's in turn, and beiti
perfectly ready to say it again if he had had any new solution t

As he had not, Tom drew down the window-sash, and foldt
the shutter ; and they left the rooms. He closed the door heavil
as Mr. Fips had desired him ; tried it, found it all fast, and pi
the key in his pocket.

They made a pretty wide circuit in going back to Islington,
they had time to spare ; and Tom was never tired of looking abo
him. It was well he had John Wcstlock for his companion, t
most people would have been weary of his perpetual stoppages
shop-windows, and his frequent dashes into the crowded carriai
way at the peril of his life, to get the better view of chiir
steeples, and other public buildings. But John was charmed
see him so much interested, and every time Tom came back wi
a beaming face from among the wheels of carts and hackut
coaches, wholly unconscious of the personal congratulatic
addressed to him by the drivers, John seemed to like him bet
tlian before.

There was no flour on Ruth's hands when she received them,
tlie triangular parlour, but there were pleasant smiles upon 1
face, and a crowd of welcomes shining out of every one, and glea.
ing in her bright eyes. By-the-bye, how bright they we'
Looking into them for but a moment, when you took her ha'
you saw in each such a capital miniature of yourself, represent^
you as such a restless, flashing, eager, brilliant little fellow —

Ah ! if you could only have kept them for your own miniatu
But wicked, roving, restless, too impartial eyes, it was enough
any one to stand before them, and straightway, there he dau'i
and sparkled quite as merrily as you. ,

The table was already spread for dinner; and though it *
spread with nothing very choice in the way of glass or linen, ,'1
with green-handled knives, and very mountebanks of two-proD 1
forks, wliich seemed to be trying how for asunder they C( i
possibly stretch their legs, without converting themselves "
double the number of iron toothpicks ; it wanted neither dami>)
silver, gold, nor china ; no, nor any other garniture at all. TI*


(i.s : and, being tliere, notliing else would have done as

lie success of that initiative dish : that first experiment of
in cookery : was so entire, so unalloyed and perfect, that
Westlock and Tom agreed she must have been studying the
n secret for a long time past ; and urged her to make a full
ssion of the fact. They were exceedingly merry over this
and many smart things were said concerning it ; but John
lot as fair in his beliaviour as might have been expected, for,
luring Tom Pinch on for a long time, he suddenly went over
le enemj', and swore everything his sister said. However, as
observed the same night before going to bed, it was only in
and John had always been famous for being polite to ladies,
when he was quite a boy. Ruth said, " Oh ! indeed ! '' She
t say anything else.

; is astonishing how much three people may find to talk about,
scarcely left off talking once. And it was not all lively chat
h occupied them ; for, when Tom related how he had seen
Pecksniff's daughters, and what a change had fallen on the
ger, they were very serious.

9hn Westlock became quite absorbed in her fortunes ; asking
r questions of Tom Pinch about her marriage, inquiring
her lier husband was the gentleman whom Tom had brought
ine with him at Salisbury ; in what degree of relationship
stood towards each other, being different persons ; and tak-
in sliort, the greatest interest in the subject. Tom then went
it, at full length ; he told how Martin had gone abroad, and
not l^een heard of for a long time ; how Dragon Mark had
3 him company ; how ]\rr. Pecksnifi" had got the poDr old
ig grandfather into his power ; and how he basely sought the
of ]\Iary Graham. But not a word said Tom of what lay
m in his heart ; his heart, so deep, and true, and full of
ur, and yet with so much room for every gentle and luiselfish
ght ; not a word.

om, Tom ! The man in all this world most confident in his
;ity and shrewdness ; the man in all this world most proud of
li.strust of other men, and having most to show in gold and
r as tlie gains belonging to his creed ; the meekest favourer of
wise doctrine, Every man for himself, and God for us all
•e being high wisdom in the thought that the Eternal l\Iajesty
[eaven ever was, or can be, on the side of selfish lust and
!) : shall never find, oh, never find, be sure of that, the time
! home to him, when all his wisdom is an idiot's folly, weighed
ist a simple heart !


Well, well, Tom, it was simple too, though simple in a differen
way, to be so eager touching that same theatre, of which Johi
said, when tea was done, he had the absolute command, so far a
taking parties in without the paj'ment of a sixpence, was concerned
and simpler yet, perhaps, never to suspect that when he weu
in first, alone, he paid the money ! Simple in thee, dear Tom, t
laugh and cry so heartily, at such a sorry show, so poorly shown
simple, to be so happy and locpiacious trudging home with Euth
simple, to be so surprised to find that merry present of a cooken
book, awaiting her in the parlour next morning, with the bee;
steak-pudding-leaf turned down, and blotted out. There ! Le
the record stand ! Thy quality of soul was simple, simple ; quit
contemptible, Tom Pinch !



There was a ghostly air about these uninhabited chambers
the Temple, and attending every circumstance of Tom's emplo
ment there, which had a strange charm in it. Every mornii
when he shut his door at Islington, he turned his face towards ;
atmosphere of unaccountable fascination, as surely as he turned
to the London smoke ; and from that moment, it thickened roui
and round him all day long, until the time arrived for going her
again, and leaving it, like a motionless cloud, behind.

It seemed to Tom, every morning, that he approached tl
ghostly mist, and became enveloped in it, by the easiest success!'
of degrees imaginable. Passing from the roar and rattle of t
streets into the quiet court-yards of the Temple, Avas the first pi
paration. Every echo of his footsteps sounded to him like a sou;
from the old walls and pavements, wanting language to relate t
histories of the dim, dismal rooms ; to tell liim what lost doc
ments were decaying in forgotten corners of the shut-up cella
from whose lattices such mouldy sighs came breathing forth as
went past ; to whisper of dark bins of rare old wine, bricked
in vaults among the old foundations of the Halls ; or mutter in
lower tone yet darker legends of the cross-legged knights, whc
marble effigies were in the church. With the first planting of 1
foot upon the staircase of his dusty office, all these myster


ised ; until ascending step by step, as Tom ascended, they
led their full growth in the solitary labours of the day.
rery day brought one recurring, never -failing source of
lation. This employer; would he come to-day, and what
I he be like ? For Tom could not stop short at Mr. Fips ;
lite believed that i\Ir. Fips had spoken truly, when he said
ted for another ; and what manner of man that other was,
16 a full-blown flower of wonder in the garden of Tom's fancy,
I never faded or got trodden down.

b one time he conceived that Mr. Pecksniff', repenting of his
lood, might, by exertion of his influence with some third
Q, have devised these means of giving him employment.
3und this idea so insupportable after what had taken place
?en that good man and himself, that he confided it to John
lock on the very same day ; informing John that he would
r ply for hire as a porter, than fall so low in his own esteem
accept the smallest obligation from the hands of Mr. Peck-
But John assured him that he (Tom Pinch) was far from
■ justice to the character of Mr. Pecksniff" yet, if he supposed
gentleman capable of performing a generous action ; and that
ight make his mind cpiite easy on that head, until he saw
im turn green and the moon black, and at the same time dis-
y perceived with the naked eye, twelve first-rate comets
ring round those planets. In which unusual state of things,
id (and not before), it might become not absolutely lunatic
spect Mr. Pecksniff of anything so monstrous. In short he
led the idea down, completely ; and Tom, abandoning it, was
vn upon his beam-ends again for some other solution.
I the meantime Tom attended to his duties daily, and made
Jerable progress with the books : which were already re(hiccd
me sort of order, and made a great appearance in his fairly-
en catalogue. During his business hours, he indulged himself
ionally with snatches of reading ; which were often indeed a
sary part of his pursuit ; and as he usually made bold to carry
if these goblin volumes home at night (always bringing it back
1 next morning, in case his strange employer should ajipcar
isk what had become of it), he led a happy, quiet, studious
of life, after his own heart.

ut though the books were never so interesting, and never so
af novelty to Tom, they could not so enchain him, in
erious chambers, as to render him unconscious for a moment
e lightest sound. Any footstep on the flags without, set him
ling attentively, and when it turned into that house, and
up, up, up, the .stairs, he always tliought with a beating


heart, " Now I am coming face to face with him, at last ! " ]
110 footstep ever passed the floor immediately below: except his oi

This mystery and loneliness engendered fancies in Tom's mi
the folly of which his common sense could readily discover, 1
which his common sense was quite unable to keep away, notwi
standing ; that quality being with most of us, in such a case, 1
the old French Police — quick at detection, but very weak ai
preventive power. Misgivings, undefined, absurd, inexplical
that there was some one hiding in the inner-room ; walking sol
overhead, peeping in through the door-chink ; doing sometli
stealthy, anywhere where he was not ; came over him a himd
times a day : making it i^leasant to throw up the sash, and li
communication even with the sparrows who had built in tlie i
and water spout, and were twittering about the windows all

He sat with the outer door wide open at all times, that;
might hear the footsteps as they entered, and turned oft" intoi
chambers on the lower floor. He formed odd prepossessions j
regarding strangers in the streets ; and would say within him
of such or such a man, who struck him as having anything une
mon in his dress or aspect, " I shouldn't Avonder now if that v
he ! " But it never was. And though he actually turned 1
and followed more than one of these suspected iudivduals, i
singular belief that they were going to the place he was then v i
his way from, he never got any other satisfaction by it, than
satisfaction of knowing it was not the case.

Mr. Fips, of Austin Friars, rather deepened than illumined
obscurity of his position ; for on the first occasion of Tom's wai
on him to receive his weekly pay, he said :

" Oh ! by-the-bye, Mr. Pinch, you needn't mention it, if '
please ! "

Tom thought he was going to tell him a secret ; so he said i
he wouldn't on any account, and that Mr. Fips might cut i]
depend upon him. But as Mr. Fips said "Very good," in nf
and nothing more, Tom prompted him :

" Not on any account," repeated Tom. '

Mr. Fips repeated "Very good." ,

" You were going to say " — Tom hinted.

"Oh dear no!" cried FijDS. "Not at all." However, sc'is
Tom confused, he added, " I mean that you needn't mention i]
particulars about your place of emjoloyment, to people gener }'
You'll find it better not."

" I have not had the pleasure of seeing my employer yet, :',
observed Tom, jDutting his week's salary in his pocket.


lavtMi't yon ? "' said Fips. " Xo, I don't suppose you have
1. "

should like to thank him, and to know tliat what I liave
far, is done to his satisfoction," faltered Tom.
Juite rigiit," said INIr. Fips, with a yawn. " Highly credit-
Very proper."'
in hastily resolved to try him on anotlier tack,
shall soon have finished with the books," he said. '' I hope
will not terminate my engagement, Sir, or render nie

)h dear no ! " retorted Fips. " Plenty to do : ]ilen-ty to do !
•eful how you go. It's rather dark."

is was the very utmost e.^tent of information Tom could ever
t of him. So it was dark enough in all conscience ; and if
ips expressed himself with a double meaning, he had good
for doing so.

t now a circumstance occurred, which helped to divert Tom's
its from even this mystery, and to divide them between it
new channel, which was a very Nile in itself,
e way it came about was this. Having always been an early
and having now no organ to engage him in sweet converse
morning, it was his habit to take a long walk before going
e Temple ; and naturally inclining, as a stranger, towards
parts of the town which were conspicuous for the life and
tion pervading them, he became a great frequenter of the
■t-places, bridges, quays, and especially the steamboat
es ; for it was very lively and fresh to see the people hurry-
I'ay upon their many schemes of business or pleasure ; and it
Tom glad to think that there was that much change and
im in the monotonous routine of city lives,
most of these morning excursions Rutli accompanied him.
eir landlord was always up and away at his business (what-
hat might be, no one seemed to know) at a very early hour,
abits of the people of the house in which they lodged corre-
ed with their own. Thus, they had often finished their
fast, and were out in the summer- air, by seven o'clock,
a two hours' stroll they parted at some convenient point :
going to the Temple, and his sister returning home, as
)dically as you please.

liny and many a pleasant stroll they had in Covent-Garden
ft : siiutfing up the perfume of the fruits and flowers, wonder-
; the magnificence of the pine-apples and melons ; catching
.ses down side avenues, of rows and rows of old women, seated
i-erted baskets shelling peas ; looking unutterable things at


the fat bundles of asparagus with which the dainty shops \
fortified as with a breastwork ; and, at the herbalists' dc
gratefully inhaling scents as of veal-stuffiug yet uncooked, drear
mixed up with capsicums, brown-paper, seeds : even with hint
lusty snails and fine young curly leeches. Many and man
jDleasaut stroll they had among the poultry markets, where di
and fowls, witli necks unnaturally long, lay stretched out in p;
ready for cooking ; where there were speckled eggs in mossy baski
white country sausages beyond impeachment by surviving cai
dog, or horse or donkey ; new cheeses to any wild extent ;
birds in coops and cages, looking much too big to be natura
consequence of those receptacles being much too little ; rab
alive and dead, innumerable. Many a pleasant stroll they
among the cool, refreshing, silvery fish-stalls, with a kind of m
light effect about their stock in trade, excepting always for
ruddy lobsters. Many a pleasant stroll among the waggon-loac
fragrant hay, beneath which dogs and tired waggoners lay
asleep, oblivious of the ^iieraan and the public-house. But i
half so good a stroll, as down among the steamboats on a b:

There they lay, alongside of each other ; hard and fast for
to all appearance, but designing to get out somehow, and <
confident of doing it ; and in that faith shoals of passengers.!
heaps of luggage, were proceeding hurriedly on board, ll
steamboats dashed up and down the stream incessantly,
upon tiers of vessels, scores of masts, labyrinths of tackle,
sails, splashing oars, ghding row-boats, lumbering barges ; si
piles, with ugly lodgings for the water-rat within their mn i
coloured nooks ; church steeples, warehouses, house-roofs, a' •
bridges, men and women, children, casks, cranes, boxes, h^t
coaches, idlers, and hard-labourers : there they were, all juiil
up together, any summer morning, far beyond Tom's pofll
separation. :

In the midst of all this turmoil, there was an incessant o
from every packet's funnel, which quite expressed and carri(0
the uppermost emotion of the scene. They all appeared '
persjDiring and bothering themselves, exactly as their passi;,'f
did ; they never left off fretting and chafing, in their own u'
manner, once ; but were always panting out, without any pi
" Come along do make haste I'm very nervous come along olio'
gracious we shall never get there how late you are do make as
I'm off" directly come along ! " Even when they had left o'ai
had got safely out into the current, on the smallest prove tii
they began again ; for the bravest packet of them all, being s .)P'


inie eutangleraeut in the river, would immediately begin to
ami pant afresh, " Oh here's a stoppage wliat's the matter do
there I'm in a hurry it's done on purpose did you ever oli my
less do go on there ! " and so, in a state of mind bordering on
.ction, would be last seen drifting slowly through tlic mist into
unmer light beyond, that made it red.

)m's ship, however ; or, at least, the packet-boat in which
and his sister took the greatest interest on one particular
on ; was not oft' yet, by any means ; but was at the height
disorder. The press of passengers was very great ; another
iboat lay on each side of her ; the gangways were choked up ;
,cted women, obviously bound for Gravesend, but turning a
?ar to all representations that this particular vessel was about
1 for Antwerp, persisted in secreting baskets of refreshments
d bulk-heads and water-casks, and under seats ; and very
confusion prevailed.

was so amusing, that Tom, with Ruth upon his arm, stood
ig down from the wharf, as nearly regardless as it was in the
e of flesh and blood to be, of an elderly lady behind him, who
Drought a large umbrella with her, and didn't know what to
ith it. This tremendous instrument had a hooked handle ;
ts vicinity was first made known to him by a painful pressure
e windpipe, consequent upon its having caught him round the
t. Soon after disengaging himself with perfect good humour,
.d a sensation of the ferule in his back ; immediately after-
?, of the hook entangling his ankles; then of the umbrella
ally, wandering about his hat, and flapping at it like a great
and, lastly, of a poke or thrust below the ribs, which gave
iuch exceeding anguish, that lie could not refrain from turning
I, to ofter a mild remonstrance.

pon his turning round, he found the owner of the umbrella
gling, on tiptoe, with a countenance expressive of violent

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 60 of 80)