Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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to it hanging down her back ; in conjunction with wliom,
instantly began to lay the cloth for dinner, polishing up the \
glasses with his own hands, brightening the silver top of
pepper-castor on his coat-sleeve, drawing corks and filling decani
with a skill and expedition that were quite dazzling. And a i
in the course of his rubbing and polishing, he had rubbed
enchanted lamp or a magic ring, obedient to which there '
twenty thousand supernatural slaves at least, suddenly tr
appeared a being in a white waistcoat, carrying under his ar
napkin, and attended by another being with an oblong box i )i
his head, from which a banquet, piping hot, was taken out an(*e
upon tlie table.

Salmon, lamb, peas, innocent young potatoes, a cool salad, sei
cucumber, guinea fowl, and tart — all there. They all cama
the right time. Where they came from didn't appear; butji'
oblong box was constantly going and coming, and
arrival known to the man in the white waistcoat by bun"!
modestly against the outside of the door ; for, after its rs
appearance, it entered the room no more. He was never .ir
prised, tliis man ; he never seemed to wonder at the f ra
ordinary things he found in the box ; but took them out with i »c<
expressive of a steady purpose and impenetrable character, an')iii
them on the table. He was a kind man ; gentle in his mar'rs
and much interested in what they ate and drank. He \'i >'
learned man, and knew the flavour of John Westlock's p:at(
sauces, which he softly and feelingly described, as he hande-tbt
little bottles round. He was a grave man, and a noiseless foi
dinner being done, and wine and fruit arranged upon the boa. w
vanished, box and all, like something that had never been.


Didirt I say he was a tremendous fellow in his housekeeping'?"
Tom. ''Bless my soul I It's wonderful.''
Ah, jNIiss Pinch,"' said John. " This is the bright side of the
ve lead in such a place. It would be a dismal life, indeed, if
.In't brighten up to-day."

Don't believe a word he says,'' cried Tom. " He lives here
a monarch, and wouldn't change his mode of life for any con-
ation. He only pretends to grumble."

lO, John really did not appear to pretend ; for he was uncom-
.y earnest in his desire to have it imderstood, that he was as
solitary, and uncomfortable on ordinary occasions as an unfor-
te young man could, in reason, be. It was a wretched life,
aid, a miserable life. He thought of getting rid of the
ibers as soon as possible ; and meant, in fact, to })ut a bill up

Well :" said Tom Pinch, "I don't know where you can go,
I, to be more comfortable. That's all I can say. What do
say, Ruth ? "

Uith trifled with the cherries on her plate, and said that she
ght ilr. Westlock ought to be quite happy, and that she had
oubt he was.

ih, foolish, panting, fri^litened little heart, how timidly she

■ But you are forgetting what you had to tell, Tom : what
rred this morning," she added in the same breath.
'So I am," said Tom. "We have been so talkative on other
;s, that I declare I have not had time to think of it. I'll tell
m at once, John, in case I should forget it altogether."
)ii Tom's relating what had passed upon the wharf, his friend
very much surprised, and took such a great interest in the
ative as Tom could not quite understand. He believed he
v the old lady whose acquaintance they had made, he said ;
that he might venture to say, from their description of her,
her name was Gamp. But of what nature the communication
il have been which Tom had borne so unexpectedly ; why its
.•ery had been entrusted to him ; how it happened tiiat the
ies were involved together ; and what secret lay at the bottom
he whole affair ; perplexed him very much. Tom had been
of his taking some interest in the matter; but was not ]ire-
d for the strong interest he showed. It held John Westlock
lie subject, even after Ptuth had left the room ; and evidently
e him anxious to pursue it further than as a mere subject of
'I shall remonstrate with mv landlord, uf course," said Tom :


" though he is a very singular secret sort of man, and not lil-^ely
iittbrd me much satisfaction ; even if he Icnew wliat was in t

" Which you may swear he did," John interposed.

" You think so?"

" I am certain of it."

"Well !" said Tom, "I shall remonstrate with him when I s
him (he goes in and out in a strange way, but I will try to cat
him to-morrow morning), on his having asked me to execute sii
an unpleasant commission. And I have been thinking, Jolni, tl
if I went down to Mrs. What's-her-name's in the City, where
was before, you know — Mrs. Todgers's — to-morrow morning,
might find poor Mercy Pecksniff there, perhaps, and be able
explain to her how I came to have any hand in the business."

"You are perfectly right, Tom," returned his friend, afteij
short interval of reflection. " You cannot do better. It is quj
clear to me that whatever the business is, there is little good'
it ; and it is so desirable for you to disentangle yourself from i\
appearance of wilful connection with it, that I would counsel ;ii
to see her husband, if you can, and wash your hands of it, b':
plain statement of the facts. I have a misgiving that then
something dark at work here, Tom. I will tell you why,
another time : when I have made an inquiry or two myself."

All this sounded very mysterious to Tom Pinch. But as
knew he could rely upon his friend, he resolved to follow |S
advice. !

Ah, but it would have been a good thing to have had a coa"i
invisibility, wherein to have watched little Ruth, when she is
left to herself in John Westlock's chambers, and John and ii'
brother were talking thus, over their wine ! The gentle waiH
which she tried to get up a little conversation with the
matron in the crunched bonnet, who was waiting to attend 1 :
after making a desperate rally in regard of her dress, and attig
herself in a washed-out yellow gown with sprigs of the same i '"
it, so that it looked like a tesselated work of pats of butter, '^it
would have been pleasant. The grim and griffin-like inflexib,-)'
with which the fiery-faced matron repelled these engaging ad vai s,
as proceeding from a jiostile and dangerous power, who could '^'^
no business there, unless it were to deprive her of a custome:or
suggest what became of the self-consuming tea and sugar, "i
other general trifles. That would have been agreeable, l'^'
bashful, winning, glorious curiosity, with which little Ruth, Ven
fiery-fice was gone, peeped into the books and nick-nacks that -i'"
lying about, and had a particular interest in some delicate p er-


bes on the chimney-piece : wondering who could have made
. Tliat would have been worth seeing. The faltering hand
which she tied those flowers together ; with which, almost
ling at her own fair self as imaged in the glass, she arranged

in her breast, and looking at them with her head aside, now
resolved to take tlieni out again, now half resolved to leave

where they were. That would have been delightful !
j\m seemed to think it all delightful : for coming in with Tom
a, he took his seat beside her like a man enchanted. And
I the tea-service had been removed, and Tom, sitting down at
jiano, became absorbed in some of his old organ tunes, he
still beside her at the open window, looking out upuu the

here is little enough to see, in Furnival's Inn. It is a shady,
i place, echoing to the footsteps of the stragglers who have
less there ; and rather monotonous and gloomy on summer
ings. What gave it such a charm to them, that they remained
e window as unconscious of the flight of time as Tom himself,
Ireanier, while the melodies which had so often soothed his
t, were liovering again about him ! What power infused into
"ading light, the gathering darkness ; the stars that here and
! appeared ; the evening air, the City's hum and stir, the very
ing of the old church clocks ; such excpiisite enthralment, that
livinest regions of the earth spread out before their eyes could
lave held them captive in a stronger chain ?
he shadows deepened, deepened, and the room became (piite
. Still Tom's lingers wandered over the keys of the piano ;
still the window had its pair of tenants.

.t length, her hand upon his shoulder, and her breath u\)on
orehead, roused Tom from his reverie.

Dear me !" he cried, desisting with a start. "I am afraid I

been very inconsiderate and unpolite."

um little thought how much consideration and politeness he
shown !

Sing something to us, my dear,"' said Tom. "Let us hear

voice. Come ! "

ohn Westlock added his entreaties, with such earnestness that
iity heart alone could have resisted them. Hers was not a
f heart. Oh dear no ! Quite another thing.
down she sat, and in a pleasant voice began to sing tlic
'Is T'lm loved well. Old rhyming stories, with here ami
; a pause for a few simple chords, such as a liari»cr might have
ded in the ancient time while looking upward for the current
)me half-remembered legend ; words of old poets, wedded to


such measures that the strain of music might have been the poe
breath, giviug utterance and expression to his thoughts ; and n(
a melody so joyous and light-hearted, that the singer seemed :
capable of sadness, until in her inconstancy (oh wicked little singe;
she relapsed, and broke the listeners' hearts again : these were t
simple means she used to please them. And that these simj
lueans prevailed, and she did please them, let the still darken
chamber, and its long-deferred illumination witness !

The candles came at last, and it was time for moving homewai
Cutting paper carefully, and rolling it about the stalks of th(
same flowers, occasioned some delay ; but even this was done
time, and Ruth was ready.

" Good night !' said Tom. " A memorable and delightful vis
John ! " Good night ! "

John thought he woidd walk with them.

"No, no. Don't!" said Tom. "What nonsense! We (
get home very well alone. I couldn't think of taking you out.'

But John said he would rather,

"Are you sure you would rather?" said Tom. "I am afr
you only say so out of politeness."

John being quite sure, gave his arm to Ruth, and led
out. Fiery-face, who was again in attendance, acknowledged :
departure with so cold a curtsey that it was hardly visible ; ; 1
cut Tom, dead.

Their host was bent on walking the whole distance, and wc-1
not listen to Tom's dissuasions. Hapi^y time, happy walk, ha!y
parting, happy dreams ! But there are some sweet day-dreams o
there are, that put the visions of the night to shame, !

Busily the Temple fountain murmured in the moonlight, wie
Ruth lay sleeping with her flowers beside her; and John Westjk
sketched a portrait — whose 'I — from memory. j

^'- " ^ CHAPTER XLVI, \


On the next day's oflicial duties coming to a close, Tom hqieJ
home without losing any time by the way ; and, after dinnerj.nil
a short rest, sallied out again, accompanied by Ruth, to pa his


(cted visit to Todgers's. Tom took Ruth with him, not only
Lise it Avas a great pleasure to him to have her for his com-
Du whenever he could, but because he wished her to cherisli
comfort poor Merry ; which she, for her own part (having
i the wretched history of that young wife from Tom), was all
rness to do.

She was so glad to see me," said Tom, "that I am sure she
be glad to see you. Your sympathy is certain to be much
! delicate and acceptable than mine."

I am veiy far from being certain of that, Tom," she replied ;
1 indeed you do yourself an injustice. Indeed you do. But
pe she may like me, Tom."

Oh, she is sure to do that ! " cried Tom, confidently.
What a number of friends I should have, if everybody W'as of
way of thinking. Shouldn't I, Tom, dear ? " said his little
r, pinching him upon the cheek.

'om laughed, and said that with reference to this particular case
ad no doubt at all of finding a disciple in Merry. " For you
en," said Tom, " you women, my dear, are so kind, and in your
ness have such nice perception ; you know so well how to be
tionateaud full of solicitude without appearing to be; your gentle-
of feeling is like your touch : so light and easy, that the one
les you to deal with wounds of the mind as tenderly as the other

les you to deal with wounds of the body. You are such "

' My goodness, Tom ! " his sister interposed. " You ought to
in love immediately."

'cm put this observation off" good-humouredly, but somewhat
ely too ; and they w^ere soon very chatty again on some other


l3 they were passing through a street in the City, not very far
Mrs. Todgers's place of residence, Ruth checked Tom before
window of a large Upholstery and Furniture Warehouse, to
his attention to something very magnificent and ingenious,
layed there to the best advantage, for the admiration and
itation of the public. Tom had hazarded some most erroneous
extravagantly wrong guess in relation to the price of this
le, and had joined his sister in laughing heartily at his mis-
, when he pressed her arm in his, and pointed to two persons
little distance, who were looking in at the same window with
ep interest in the cliests of drawers and tables.
'Hush!" Tom whispered. "Miss Pecksnitt', and tiie young
leniau to whom she is going to be married."
' Why does he look as if he was going to be buried, Turn ? "
ired his little sister.



Why, he is uaturally ;i dismal youiii;- liOiitU'iiiaii. I lirlicvr,"

Tom : "but he is very oivil ami inoffensive."

I suppose they are furnishing their house," v/hispered Ruth.

Yes, I they are," replied Tom. "We had better
i speaking to them."

'hey could not very well avoid looking at them, ho\ve\er,
jially as some obstruction on the j^avement, at a little dis-
B, happened to detain them where they were for a few
lents. ]\Iiss Pecksniff had quite the air of having taken the
ippy Moddle ca]itive, and lirought him uj) to the contem-
on of the furniture like a lamb to the altar. He offered no
tance, but was perfectly resigned and quiet. The melancholy
3ted in the turn of his languishing head, and in his dejected
ude, was extreme ; and though there was a full-sized four-post
tead in the window, such a tear stood trembling in his eye, as
led to blot it out.

Augustus, my love," said Miss Pecksniff", "ask the price of
eight rosewood chairs, and the loo table."
■ Perhaps they are ordered already," said Augustus. " Perhaps

are Another's."

'They can make more like them, if they are," rejoined Miss

'Xo, no, they can't," said Moddle. "It's impossible ! "
le appeared, for the moment, to be quite overwhelmed and
efied by the prospect of his approaching happiness ; but
rering, entered the shc>p. He returned immediately : saying

tone of despair :

' Twenty-four pound ten ! "

liss Pecksniff, turning to receive this announcement, Ijecamc

cious of the observation of Tom Pinch and his sister.

'Oh, really!" cried Miss Pecksniff", glancing about her, as if

iome convenient means of sinking into the earth. " U])on my

1, I — there never was such a — to think that one should be so

—Mr. Augustus Moddle, Miss Pinch ! "

iliss Pecksniff was quite gracious to ISIiss Pinch in tliis

iiphant introduction ; exceedingly gracious. She was more

1 gracious ; she was kind and cordial. Whether the recolloc-

of the old service Tom had rendered her in knocking Mr.
IS on the head, had wrought this change in her opinions ; or
ther her separation from her parent had reconciled her to all
an-kind, or to all tiiat increasing jwrtion of human-kind wliich

not friendly to him ; or whether the delight of having some

female acquaintance to whom to communicate her interesting
pacts, was paramount to every other consideration ; cordial


aud kiud Miss Pecksniff was. And twice Miss Pecksniff kisse(
Miss Pinch iiiwu tlie clieek.

"Augustus — Mr. Piucli, you know. My dear girl I " sai(
Miss Pecksniff, aside. "I never was so ashamed in my life."'
s^Ruth begged her not to think of it.

" I mind your brother less than anybody else," simpered Mis
Pecksniff. " But the indelicacy of meeting any gentleman unde
such circumstances ! Augustus, my child, did you ■"

Here Miss Pecksniff whispered in his ear. The sufferiii;
Moddle repeated :

" Twenty-four pound ten 1 "

"Oh, you silly man! I don't mean them," said Miss Peel
sniff. " I am speaking of the "

Here she whispered him again. i

"If it's the same patterned chintz as that in the window;
thirty-two, twelve, six," said Moddle, with a sigh. "And vei

Miss Pecksniff stopped him from giving any further explauatii
by laying her hand upon his lips, and betraying a soft embarras
ment. She then asked Tom Pinch which way he was going.

" I was going to see if I could find your sister," answered Toi
" to whom I wished to say a few words. We were going to Mi
Todgers's, where I had the pleasure of seeing her, before."

"It's of no use your going on, then," said Cherry, "for •(
have not long left there ; and I know she is not at home. B
ni take you to my sister's house, if you please. Augustus — J
Moddle, I mean — and myself, are on our way to tea there, no
You needn't think of him" she added, nodding her head, as s;
observed some hesitation on Tom's part. " He is not at home."!

" Are you sure ? " asked Tom. t

" Oh, I am quite sure of that. I don't want any more reveng;
said Miss Pecksniff', expressively. " But, really, I must beg j.
two gentlemen to walk on, and allow me to follow with M;
Pinch. My dear, I never was so taken by surprise ! "

In furtherance of this bashful arrangement, Moddle gave ;i
arm to Tom ; and Miss Pecksniff linked her own in Ruth's.

" Of coiu'se, my love," said Miss Pecksniff", " it would be uselJ
for me to disguise, after what you have seen, that I am about I)
be united to the gentleman who is walking with your brother, 't
would be in vain to conceal it. What do you think of him 1 Pi!)
let me have your candid opinion."

Ruth intimated that, as far as she could judge, he was a ^ f
eligible swain.

" I am curious to know," said Miss Pecksniff, with loquaci 9


cuess, ''whether you have observed, or faiieied, in thi.s very
; space of time, that he is of a rather niehincholy turn ? ''
So very .■^hort a time," Ruth pleaded.

No, uo ; but don't let that interfere with your answer,"'
■ued Miss Pecksniff. "I am curious to hear what you say."
luth acknowledged that he had impressed her at tirst sight as
ng "rather low."

No, really 1 " said Miss Pecksniff. " Well I that is quite
rkable 1 Everybody says the same. Mrs. Todgers says the
: ; and Augustus informs me that it is quite a joke among the
.emeu ia the house. Indeed, hut for the positive commands
ire laid upon him, I believe it would have been the occasion of
:d fire-arms being resorted to more than once. What do you
: is the cause of his appearance of depression 1 "
.uth thought of several things ; such as his digestion, his
r, his mother, and the like. But, hesitating to give utterance
ly one of them, she refrained from expressing an opinion.
My dear," said Miss Pecksniff ; " I shouldn't wish it to be
ni, but I don't mind mentioning it to you, having known
brother for so many years — I refused Augustus three times.
8 of a most amiable and sensitive nature ; always ready to
tears, if you look at him, which is extremely cliarming ; and
as never recovered the effect of that cruelty. For it tvas
," said Miss Pecksniff, with a self- convicting candour that
t have adorned the diadem of her own papa. " There is no
t of it. I look back upon my conduct now with blushes. I
ys liked him. I felt that he was not to me wliat the crowd
)ung men who had made proposals had been, but something
different. Then what right had I to refuse him three times 1 "
It was a severe trial of his fidelity, no doubt," said Ruth.
My dear," returned Miss Pecksnitt". "It was wrong. But
is the caprice and thoughtlessness of our sex I Let me be a
ing to you. Don't try the feelings of any one who makes
lu offer, as I have tried the feelings of Augustus ; but if you
feel towards a person as I really felt towards him, at the very
when I was driving him to distraction, let tiiat feeling find
3ssion, if that person throws himself at your feet, as Augustus
die did at mine. Think," said Miss Pecksnifi", "what my
igs would have been, if I had goaded him to suicide, and it
got into the papers I "

luth observed that she would have been full of remorse, no

Remorse ! " cried Pecksniff, in a sort of snug and com-
ble penitence. " What my remorse is at this moment, even


after making reparation by accepting him, it would be inipossil
to tell you ! Looking back upon my giddy self, my dear, m
that I am sobered down and made thoughtful, by treading on t
very brink of matrimony ; and contemplating myself as I w
when I was like what you are now ; I shudder. I shudd
"What is the consequence of my past conduct ? Until August
leads me to the altar, he is not sure of me. I have blighted a
withered the affections of his heart to that extent that he is i
sure of me. I see that preying on his mind and feeding on 1
vitals. What are tlie reproaches of my conscience, when I f
this in the man I love 1 "

Ruth endeavoured to express some sense of her unbounded a
flattering confidence ; and presumed that she was going to
married soon.

"Very soon indeed," returned Miss Pecksniff. "As soon
our house is ready. We are furnishing now as fast as we can."

la the same vein of confidence, Miss Pecksnifi' ran througt
general inventory of the articles that were already bought, a;
the articles that remained to be purchased ; what garments f'
intended to be married in, and where the ceremony was to '
performed ; and gave Miss Pinch, in short (as she told her), e:i
and exclusive information on all points of interest connected w
the event.

While this was going forward in the rear, Tom and Mr. Moil
walked on, arm in arm, in the front, in a state of profound silei
which Tom at last broke : after thinking for a long time what
could say that should refer to an indifierent topic, in respect i
which he might rely, with some degree of certainty, on
Moddle's bosom being unruffled.

" I wonder," said Tom, " that in these crowded streets, («
foot-passengers are not ofteuer run over." i

Mr. Moddle, with a dark look, replied :

" The drivers won't do it."

" Do you mean 1 " Tom began —

"That there are some men," interrupted Moddle, with a ho «'
laugh, " wlio can't get run over. They live a charmed life. < >1
waggons recoil from them, and even cabs refuse to run them dc':i.
Ay ! " said Augustus, marking Tom's astonishment. " There re
such men. One of 'em is a friend of mine."

"Upon my word and honour," thought Tom, "this ydg
gentleman is in a state of mind, which is very serious indee "
Abandoning all idea of conversation, he did not venture to >y
another word ; but he was careful to keep a tight hold ^?^^
Augustus's arm, lest he should fly into the road, and ma^g


ther, :uul a more successful attempt, should get up a private
le Jui;-irernaut before the eyes of his lietrothed. Tom was so
lid of his committing this rash act, tiiat lie had scarcely ever
erienced sucli a mental relief as when tliey arrived in safety at
i. Jonas Chuzzlewit's house.

" Walk up, pray, Mr. Pinch," said ]\Iiss Pecksniff. For Tom
ted, irresolutely, at the door.

''I am doubtful whether I should be welcome,'' replied Tom,
•, I ought rather to say, I have no doubt about it. I will send
a message, I think."

"But what nonsense that is 1 '" returned Miss Pecksniff, speak-
apart to Tom. " He is not at home, I am certain ; I know

is not ; and Merry hasn't the least idea that you ever "

"No," interrupted Tom. "Nor would I have her know it, on
account. I am not so proud of that scuffle, I assure you."
"Ah, but then you are so modest, you see," returned Mi.<s
•ksuiff, with a smile. " But pray walk up. If you don't wish
to know it, and do wish to speak to her, pray walk up. Pray
k up, Miss Pinch. Don't stand here."

Tom still hesitated ; for he felt that he w-as in an awkward
itiou. But Cherry passing him at this juncture, and leading

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 67 of 80)