Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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sister up stairs ; and the house-door being at the same time
t behind them ; he followed without quite knowing whetlier it
i well or ill-judged so to do.

"Merry, my darling!" said the fair Miss Pecksniff, opening
door of the usual sitting-room. " Here are Mr. Pinch and his
;er come to see you ! I thought w^e should find you here, Mrs.
Igers ! How do you do, Mrs. Gamp 1 And how do you do,
. Chuffey, though it's of no use asking you the question, I am
11 aware."

Honouring each of these parties, as she severally addres.sed
ai, witli an acid smile. Miss Charity presented Mr. Moddle.
"I believe you have seen hhu before," she pleasantly observed,
uigustus, my sweet child, bring me a chair."
The sweet child did as he was told ; and was then about to
ire into a corner to mourn in secret, when Miss Charity, calling
II in an audible whisper "a little pet," gave him leave to come
I sit beside her. It is to be hoped, for tlie general cheerfidnes.s
mankind, that such a doleful little pet was never seen as Mr.
•ddle looked when he comi)lied. So despondent was liis temper,
it he showed no outward thrill of ecstasy, wlien Miss Pecksniff
iced her lily hand in his, and concealed this mark of her favour
in the \'nlgar gaze, by covering it with a corner of lier shawl,
deed, he was infinitelv more rueful then than he had been


before ; and, sitting nncomfortably upright iu bis chaii-, survey
the company with watery eyes, which seemed to say. without t
aid of language, ''Oh, good gracioa? I look here I Won't soi
kind Christian help me 1 "

But the ecstasies of Mrs. Gamp were sufficient to have furnish
forth a score of young lovers ; and they were chiefly awakened
the sight of Tom Pinch and his sister. l^Irs. Gamp was a lady
that happy temperament which can be ecstatic without any ott
stimulating cause than a general desire to establish a large a;
profitable connection. She added daily so many strings to her bo
that she made a perfect harp of it : and upon that instrument s
now began to jjerform an extemporaneous concerto.

'■ Why, goodness me I " she said, '• Mrs. Chuzzlewit ! To thi
as I should see beneath this blessed ouse, which well I know
Miss Pecksniff, my sweet young lady, to be a ouse as there is i
a many like, worse luck and wishiu' it ware not so, which tl
this tearful walley would be changed into a flowerin' guardian, I
Chuffey ; to think as I shoidd see beneath this iudiwidgle re
identically comin', Mr. Pinch (I take the liberty, though aim
unbeknown), and do assiu-e you of it, Sir, the smiliuest and sweet
face as ever, Mrs. Chuzzlewit, I see, exceptin' yourn, my dear gi
lady, and your good lady's too, Sir, Mr. Moddle, if I may make
lx)ld as speak so plain of what is plain enough to them as nee^
look through millstones, Mrs. Todgers, to find out wot is wi
ui)on the wall behind. Which no offence is meant, ladies ii
gentlemen : none bein' took, I hope. To think as I should •?
that smilinest and sweetest face which me and another frienc'i
mine, took notige of among the packages down London Bridge i
this promiscous place, is a sm-prige in-deed ! " ;

Haviug contrived, in this happy manner, to invest even.- men:,r
of her audience with an individual shai'e and immediate pers(,.l
interest in her address, IVIi's. Gamp drop})ed several curtseys o
Ruth, and smilingly shaking her head a great many times, purs J
the thread of her discourse :

" Now, ain't we rich in beauty this here joyful arteraoon, ,ii
sure ! I knows a lady, which her name, 111 not deceive you, I'-
Chuzzlewit, is Harris, her husband's brother bein' six foot iY■^
and marked with a mad bull in Wellintou boots ujion his lefli^it
on account of his precious mother havin' been Avorrited by le
into a shoemaker's shop, when in a sitiwation which blessed is i«
man as has his quiver full of sech, as many times I've saiito
Gamp when words has roge betwixt us on account of the exp*
— and often have I said to Mrs. Harris, ' Oh, Mrs. Harris, ma/i!
your countenance is quite a angel's ! ' Which, but for PimpU i^


Id be. ' Xo, Sairey Gami^,' says she, ' you best of hard-working
industrious creeturs as ever was underpaid at any price, which
3rpaid you are, quite diff"rent. Harris liad it done afore
riage at ten and six,' she says, 'and wore it faithful next his
•t 'till the colour run, when the money was declined to be give
:, and no arrangement could be come to. But he never said it

a angel's, Sairey, wotever he might have thought.' If Mr.s.
ri-s's husband was here now," said Mrs. Gamp, looking round,

chuckling as she dropi^ed a general curtsey, " he'd speak out
II, he would, and his dear wife would be tlie last to blame him !

if ever a woman lived as know'd not wot it was to form a
1 to pizon them as had good looks, and had no reagiou give

by the best of husbands, Mrs. Harris is that ev'uly dis-
iciau ! "

iVith these words the worthy woman, who appeared to have
iped in to take tea as a delicate little attention, rather than to
e any engagement on tlie premises in an official capacity, crossed
\Ir. C'hutfey, who was seated in the same corner as of old, and
)k him by the shoulder.

'Rouge yourself, and look up I Come!" said Mrs. Gamp,
ere's comijany, Mr. Chuftey."

' I am sorry for it," cried the old man, looking humlily round the
n. " I know I'm in the way. I ask pardon, but I've nowliere

to go to. Where is she ? "
Merry went to him immediately.
■'Ah I" said the old man, patting her on the cheek. "Here

is. Here she is I She's never hard on poor old Cluiftey.
r old Chuff!"
\s slie took her seat upon a low chair by the old man's side,

put herself within the reach of his hand, she looked uj) once
Pom. It was a sad look that she cast upon him, though tliere
i a faint smile trembling on her foce. It was a speaking look,

Tom knew what it said. "You see how misery has cliangeil
I can feel for a dependant now, and set some value on his

"Ay ay!" cried Chuffey in a sootliing tone. "Ay, ay, ay!
rer mind him. It's liard to bear, but never nund liim. He'll

one day. There are three hundred and sixty-five days in the
r — three hundred and sixty-six in leap year — and he may die
iiny one of 'em."

" You're a wearing old soul, and that's the sacred truth," said
3. Gamp, contemplating him from a little distance with anything

favour, as he continued to mutter to himself. " It's a ))ity
t you don't know wot you say, for you'll tin- your own patience


out if you did, and fret yourself into a happy releage for all
knows you.'

"His son," murmured the old man lifting up his hand. "1
son I "

"Well I'm sure !" said Mrs. Gamp. "You're a settlin' of
Mr. Chuffey. To your satigefaction, Sir, I hope. But I would
lay a new pin-cushion on it myself, Sir, though you are so v
informed. Drat the old creetur, he's a layiu' down the ]
tolerable confideut, too ! A deal he knows of sons ! Or dart
either ! Suppose you was to favour us with some remarks
twins. Sir, ivould you be so good I "

The bitter and indignant sarcasm which Mrs. Gamp convc
into these taunts was altogether lost on the unconscious Chuf
who appeared to be as little cognizant of their delivery as of
having given Mrs. Gamp offence. But that high-minded won
being sensitively alive to any invasion of her professional provii
and imagining that Mr. Chuffey had given utterance to S(
prediction on the subject of sous, which ought to have emau;
in the first instance from herself as the only lawful authority
which should at least have been on no account proclaimed witl
her sanction and concurrence, Avas not so easily appeased,
continued to sidle at Mr. Chufiey with looks of sharp hosti!
and to defy him with many other ironical remarks, uttered in 1
low key which commonly denotes suppressed indignation ; v
the entrance of the tea-board, and a request from Mrs. Jonas
she would make tea at a side-table for the party that
unexpectedly assembled, restored her to herself. She smiled a^
and entered on her ministration with her own particular urban .

" And quite a family it is to make tea for," said Mrs. Ga
" and wot a happiness to do it ! My good young 'ooman " — to,"
servant-girl — "p'raps somebody w^ould like to try a new-laid,;^
or two, not biled too hard. Likeways, a few rounds o' butt -J
toast, first cuttin' off the crust, in consequence of tender teeth, i«l
not too many of 'em ; which Gamp himself, J\lrs. Chuzzlewi »l
one blow, being in liquor, struck out four, two single, and /c
double, as was took by Mrs. Harris for a keepsake, and is cai hI
in her pocket at this present hour, along with two cramp-bon' f
bit o' ginger, and a grater like a blessed infant's shoe, in tin, t'l
a little heel to put the nutmeg in : as many times I've seen"!
said, and used for caudle when required, Mithin the month."

As the privileges of the side-table; besides including the siH
prerogatives of sitting next the toast, ami taking two cups o ea
to other people's one, and always taking tlieni at a crisis, that to
say, before putting freshwater into the tea-pot, ami after it ad


standing for some time ; also comprehendetl a full view of
inipany, and an opportunity of addressing them as from a
ni, ^Irs. Gani}) discharged the functions entrusted to her
extreme good-luimour and affability. Sometimes, resting her
• on the palm of her outspread hand, and supporting her
on the table, she stopped between her sips of tea to favour
rcle with a smile, a wink, a roll of the head, or some other
of notice ; and at those periods, her countenance was lighted
th a degree of intelligence and vivacity, whicli it was almost im-
ile to separate from the benignant influence of distilled waters.
it for Mrs. Gamp, it would have been a curiously silent party.
Pecksniff only spoke to her Augustus, and to him in
ers. Augustus spoke to nobody, but sighed for every one,
ccasionally gave himself such a sounding slap upon the fore-
as would make Mrs. Todgers, who was rather nervous, start

her chair with an involuntary exclamation. Mrs. Todgers
ecupied in knitting, and seldom spoke. Poor Merry held the
of cheerful little Ruth between her own, and listening with
it pleasure to all she said, but rarely speaking herself,
iraes smiled, and sometimes kissed her on the cheek, ami
imes turned aside to hide the tears that trembled in her eyes,
felt this change in her so much, and was so glad to see how
rly Ruth dealt with her, and how she knew and answered to
it he had not the heart to make any movement towards their
ture, although he had long since given utterance to all he
to say.

le old clerk, subsiding into his usual state, remained profoundly
, while the rest of the little assembly were thus occupied,
; upon the dreams, whatever they might be, which hardly
d to stir the surface of his .sluggish thoughts. The bent of
dull ftincies combining probably witli the silent feasting that
;oing on about him, and some struggling recollection of the
ipproach to revelry he had witnessed, suggested a strange
ion to his mind. He looked round upon a sudden, and said,
\iVho's lying dead up stairs ? "

N'o one," said Merry, turning to him. "What is tlie matter'?
re all here."
A.11 here ! " cried the old man, " All here ! Where is he then

old master, Mr. Chuzzlewit, who had the only son 1 Where

Hush : Hush ! " said Merry, speaking kindly to him. " That
'ned long ago. Don't you recollect ? "

Uecollect ! " rejoined the old man, with a cry of grief " As
ould forget ! As if I ever could forget ! "



le put lii.s IkukI up to his face for u moment ; ami then

atod, turning round exactly as before,

' "Who's lying dead up stairs 1 "

' Xo one ! "' said Merry.

Lt first he gazed angi-ily upon her, as upon a stranger who

lavoured to deceive him ; but, peering into her face, and seeing

it was indeed she, he shook his head in sorrowful compassion.
' You think not. But they don't tell you. No, no, poor
g ! They don't tell you. Who are these, and why are they
-y-making here, if there is no one dead ? Foul play ! Go see

it is ! "
ihe made a sign to them not to speak to him, which indeed

had little inclination to do ; and remained silent herself. So
he for a short time ; but then he rejDeated the same question

I an eagerness that had a peculiar terror in it.

'There's some one dead," he said, "or dying; and I want to

iv who it is. Go see, go see ! Where's Jonas 1 "

•In the country," she replied.

rhe old man gazed at her as if he doubted what she said, or

not heard her ; and, rising from his chair, walked across the

II and up stairs, whispering as he went, " Foul play ! " They
■d his footsteps overhead, going up into that corner of the room
•hich the bed stood (it was there old Anthony had died) ; and
I they heard him coming down again immediately. His fancy

not so strong or wild that it pictured to him anything in the
rted bed-chamber which was not there ; for he returned much
ler, and appeared to have satisfied himself.
'They don't tell you," he said to Merry in his quavering voice,
le sat down again, and patted her upon the head. "They
t tell me either ; but I'll watch. 111 watch. They shall not
; you ; don't be frightened. When you have sat up watching,
five sat up watching too. Ay, ay, I have ! " he jjiped out,
ching his weak, shrivelled hand. " Many a night I have been

Fie .said this with such trembling gaps and pauses in his want
reath, and said it in his jealous secrecy so closely in her ear,
: little or nothing of it was understood by the visitors. But
r had heard and seen enough of the old man to be disquieted,

to have left their seats and gathered about him ; thereby
nling Mrs. Gamp, whose professional coolness was not so easily
urbed, an eligible opportunity for concentrating the whole
urces of her powerful mind and appetite upon the toiust and
ter, tea and eggs. She had brought them to bear upon those
ids with such vigour that her face was in the highest state of


inflammation, when she now (there being nothing left to eat
drink) saw fit to interpose.

"'\^^ly, highty tighty, Sir!" cried Mrs. Gamj), "is these yoi
manners ? You want a pitcher of cold water throw'd over you
bring you round; that's my belief ; and if you .was under Bets(
Prig you'd have it, too, I do assure you, Mr. Chuffey. Spanit
Flies is the only thing to draw this nonsense out of you ; "and
-rmybody wanted to do you a kindness, they'd clap a blister of 'e
on your head, and put a mustard poultige on your back. Whc
dead, indeed ! It wouldn't be no grievious loss if some one wa
I think ! "

"He's quiet now, Mrs. Gamp,'" said Merry. '"Don't distui

"Oh, bother the old wictim, Mrs. Chuzzlewit," replied th;
zealous lady, "I ain't no patience with him. You give him h
own way too much by half. A worritin' wexagious creeter ! "

No doubt with the view of carrying out the precepts si
enforced, and "bothering the old victim" in practice as well as
theory, Mrs. Gamp took him by the collar of his coat, and ga
him some dozen or two of hearty shakes backward and forward
his chair ; tliat exercise being considered by the disciples of t
Prig school of nursing (who are very numerous among professioi
ladies) as exceedingly conducive to repose, and highly beneficial
the performance of the nervous functions. Its efi'ect in tl
instance was to render the patient so giddy and addle-headed, tl
he could say nothing more; which Mrs. Gamp regarded as t
trimuph of her art.

"There!" she said, loosening the old man's cravat, in cod
quence of his being rather black in the face, after this sclent,
treatment. " Xow, I hope, you're easy in your mind. If y
should turn at all faint, we can soon rewive you, Sir, I prom
you. Bite a person's thumbs, or turn their fingers the wrong wa
said Mrs. Gamp, smiling with the consciousness of at o •
imparting pleasure and instruction to her auditors, " and t '
comes to, wonderful. Lord bless you ! "

As this excellent woman had been formally entrusted with '
care of Mr. Chufi"ey on a previous occasion, neither Mrs. Jonas t
anybody else had the resolution to interfere directly with r
mode of treatment : though all present (Tom Pinch and his si r
especially) appeared to be disposed to differ from her views, r
such is the boldness of the uninitiated, that they ^
frequently set up some monstrous abstract principle, such-s
humanity, or tenderness, or the like idle folly, in obstiiie
defiance of all precedent and usage; and will even venture «


atain the .same against the persons who ha\-e made the
•edents and established the usage, and wlio must therefore be
best and most impartial judges of tlie subject.
'Ah, Mr. Pinch!" said Miss Pecksniff. "It all comes of

imfortiinate marriage. If my sister had not been so
■ipitate, and had not imited herself to a "Wretch, there would
e been no Mr. Chuttey in the house."
' Hush ! " cried Tom. " She'll hear you."
'I should be very sorry if she did hear me, Mr. Pinch," said
rry, raising her voice a little : " for it is not in my nature to

to the uneasiness of any person : far less of my own sister,
low what a sister's duties are, i\Ir. Pinch, and I hope I always
,ved it in my practice. Augustus, my dear child, find my
iet-handkerchief, and give it to me."

Augustus obeyed, and took Mrs. Todgers aside to pour his
fs into her friendly bosom,

' I am sure, Mr. Pinch," said Charity, looking after her
•othed and glancing at her sister, " tliat I ought to be very
eful for tlie blessings I enjoy, and those which are yet in store
me. When I contrast Augustus " — here she was modest and
)arra.ssed — ''who, I don't mind saying to you, is all softness,
hiess, and devotion, with the detestable man who is my sister'.s
band ; and when I think, Mr. Pinch, that in the dispensations
;his world, our cases might have been reversed ; I have much
ie thankful for, indeed, and much to make me humble and

Contented she might have been, but humble she assuredly was

Her fiice and manner experienced something so widely

?rent from humility, that Tom could not help understanding

despising the base motives that were working in her breast.

turned away, and said to Ruth, that it was time for them

'I will write to your husband," said Tom to Merry, "and
lain to him, as I would have done if I had met him here, that
e has sustained any inconvenience tlirough my means, it is not
fault : a postman not being more innocent of tlie news he
igs than I was when I handed him that letter."
' I thank you ! " said Merry. " It may do some good,
iveu bless you ! "

^he parted tenderly from Ruth, who witli her l)rotlicr was in
act of leaving the room, wlien a key was lieard in tlie lock of
door below, and immediately afterwards a quick footstep iu
passage. Tom stopped, and looked at Merry. ;
It was Jonas, she said timidly.


" I had better not meet him ou the stairs, perhaps," said To:
drawing his sister's arm through his, and coming back a step
two. " I'll wait for him here a moment."

He had scarcely said it, when the door opened, and Jor
entered. His wife came forward to receive him ; but he put 1
aside with his hand, and said in a surly tone :

" I didn't know you'd got a party."

As he looked, at the same time, either by accident or desi^
towards Miss Pecksniff; and as Miss Pecksniff was only t
delighted to quarrel with him, she instantly resented it.

" Oh dear ! " she said, rising. " Pray don't let us intru
upon your domestic happiness ! That would be a pity. "\
have taken tea here. Sir, in your absence ; but if j'ou will ha
the goodness to send us a note of the expense, receipted, we sh
be happy to pay it. Augustus, my love, we will go, if you plea
Mrs. Todgers, unless you wish to remain here, we shall be hap
to take you with us. It would be a pity, indeed, to si)olI i.
bliss which this gentleman always brings with him : especiaj
into his own home." i

"Charity! Charity!" remonstrated her sister, in such
heartfelt tone that she might have been imploring her to si
the cardinal virtue whose name she bore.

"Merry, my dear, I am much obliged to you for your advii
returned Miss Pecksniff", with a stately scorn : by the way,
had not been offered any : " but / am not his slave "

"No, nor wouldn't have been if you could," interrapted Joi
" We know all about it."

" What did you say. Sir 1 '' cried Miss Pecksniff, sharply.

"Didn't you hear?" retorted Jonas, lounging down upoii
chair. " I am not a-going to say it again. If you like to S'',
you may stay. If you like to go, you may go. But if u
stay, please to be civil." i

" Beast !" cried Miss Pecksniff, sweeping past him. " Angus «!
He is beneath your notice!" Augustus had been making sie
faint and sickly demonstration of shaking his fist. " Come a'?,
child," screamed ]Miss Pecksniff, " I command you ! "

The scream was elicited from her by Augustus manifestiu; ui
intention to return and grapple with him. But ]\Iiss Peck'ifl
giving the fiery youth a pull, and Mrs. Todgers giving hi n
push, they all three tumbled out of the room together, tolif
music of Miss Pecksnift''s shrill remonstrances.

All this time, Jonas had seen nothing of Tom and his srij
for they were almost behind the door when he opened it, an M
had sat down with his back towards them, and had purp^Iy


. his eyes upon the opposite side of the street duriiiij; iiis
•cation with Miss Pecksnitt', in order ti)at his seeming careless-
might increase the exasperation of that wronged young
seh His wife now faltered out that Tom had been waiting
'6 him ; and Tom advanced.
'he instant he presented himself, Jonas got up from his chair,

swearing a great oath, caught it in his grasp, as if he woukl
I felled Tom to the ground with it. As he most unquestion-

would have done, but that his very passion and surprise
e him irresolute, and gave Tom, in his calmness, an opportunity
?ing heard.

You have no cause to be violent. Sir," said Tom. "Though
t I wisli to say relates to your own attains, I know notliing of
1, and desire to know nothing of them."

onas was too enraged to sijeak. He held the door open ; and
ipiug his foot upon the ground, motioned Tom away.

As you cannot suppose," said Tom, "that I am here, with

view of conciliating you or pleasing myself, I am quite
ferent to your reception of me, or your dismissal of me.
r what I have to say, if you are not a madman. I gave you
ter the other day, when you were about to go abroad."
' You Thief, you did ! " retorted Jonas. " I'll pay you for the
age of it one day, and settle an old score besides. I will."

Tut, tut," .said Tom, "you needn't waste foul words or idle
its. I wish you to understand ; plainly because I would
er keep clear of you and everything tliat concerns you : not
use I have the least apprehension of your doing me any
•y : which would be weak indeed ; that I am no party to the
ents of that letter. That I know nothing of it. That I was
even aware that it was to be delivered to you ; and that I
it from "

By the Lord 1 " cried Jonas, fiercely catching up the chair,
I knock your brains out, if j'ou ."peak anotlicr word."
'oni, nevertheless, persisting in his intention, and opening his

to .speak again, Jonas set upon him like a savage ; and in
quickness and ferocity of his attack would have surely done

some grievous injury, defenceless as he was, and embarras.sed
laving his frightened .sister clinging to his arm, if Merry had
run between them, crying to Tom for the love of Heaven to
e the house. The agony of this poor creature, the terror of
sister, the impossibility of making himself audible, and the
.1 impossibility of bearing up against Mrs. fJamp, who threw
elf upon him like a feather-bed, and forced him l)ackwards
u the stairs by the mere oppression of her dead- weight,


prevailed. Tom shook the dust of that house off his feet, withe
having mentioned Nadgett's name.

If the name could have jjassed his lips ; if Jonas, in t
insolence of his vile nature, had never roused him to do that <
act of manliness, for which (and not for his last offence) he hat
him with such malignity ; if Jonas could have learned, as tli
he could and Avould have learned, through Tom's means, wi
unsuspected spy there was upon him ; he would have been sa\
from the commission of a Guilty Deed, then drawing on towa)
its black accomplishment. But the fatality was of his o

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 68 of 80)