Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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working ; the i^it was of his own digging ; the gloom tl
gathered round him, was the shadow of his own life.

His wife had closed the door, and thrown herself before it,
the ground, upon her knees. She held up her liands to him iv
and besought him not to be harsh with her, for she had interpo
in fear of bloodshed. '.

" So, so ! " said Jonas, looking down upon her, as he fetcl.
his breath. " These are your friends, are they, when I am aw;
You plot and tamper with this sort of people, do you ? "

"No, indeed! I have no knowledge of these secrets, and
clue to their meaning. I have never seen him since I left hi
but once — but twice — before to-day."

" Oh ! " sneered Jonas, catching at this correction. " i
once, but twice, eh ? Which do you mean 1 Twice and o
perhaps. Three times ! How many more, you lying jade?"

As he made an angry motion with his hand, she shrank di i
hastily. A suggestive action ! Full of a cruel truth !

"How many more times T' he repeated. |

" No more. The other morning, and to-day, and once besidf

He was about to retort upon her, when the clock struck, je
started, stopped, and listened : appearing to revert to some engii-
ment, or to some other subject, a secret within his own bre,:,
recalled to him by this record of the progress of the hours. ;

" Don't lie there. Get up ! "

Having helped her to rise, or rather hauled her up by the .'.'i
he went on to say :

" Listen to me, young lady ; and don't whine when you l'*-'
no occasion, or I may make some for you. If I find him in k)'
house again, or find that you have seen him in anybody e''s
house, you'll repent it. If you are not deaf and dumb to e^y-
thing that concerns me, unless you have my leave to hear w
speak, you'll I'epent it. If you don't obey exactly what I oi Ti
you'll repent it. Now, attend. "What's the time ? " ,

"It struck Eight a minute ago."


'e looked towards her intently ; and said, vitli a laboured
ictness, as if he had got the words oft' by licart :
I have been travelling day and night, and am tired. I have
ionie money, and that don't improve me. Put my sujiper in
ittle oft-room below, and have the truckle-bed made. I shall
there to-night, and maybe to-morrow night ; and if I can
all day to-morrow, so much the better, for I've got trouble
?ep oft', if I can. Keep the house quiet, and don't call me.
I ! Don't call me. Don't let anybody call me. Let me

he said it should l)e done. "Was that all 1
"What 1 You nuist be prying and questioning '? '" he angrily
ted. ""What more do you want to knowl"
I want to know nothing, Jonas, but what you tell me. All
of confidence between us has long deserted me."
Ecod, I should hope so ! " he muttered.
But if you will tell me what you wish, I will be obedient,
will try to please you. I make no merit of that, for I have
riend in my father or my sister, but am C[uite alone. I am
humble and submissive. You told me you would break my
:, and you have done so. Do not break my heart too ! "
he ventured, as she said these words, to lay her hand upon
houlder. He suft'ered it to rest there, in his exidtation ; and
vhole mean, abject, sordid, pitiful soul of the man, looked at
for the moment, through his wicked eyes,
or the moment only : for, with the same hurried return to
thing within hunself, he bade her, in a surly tone, show her
ience by executing his commands without delay. "When she
withdrawn, he paced up and down the room several times ;
dways with his right hand clenched, as if it held something ;
h it did not, being empty. When he was tired of this, he
V himself into a chair, and thoughtfully turned up the sleeve
is right arm, as if he were rather mu.sing aljout its strength
examining it ; but even then, he kept the hand clenched,
le was brooding in this chair, with his eyes cast down ujiuii
,Tound, when Mrs. Gamp came in to tell him that the little
I was ready. Not being quite sure of her reception after
fering in the quarrel, Mrs. Gam]), as a means of interesting
projjitiatiug her patron, attected a deep solicitude in Mr.

How is he now, Sir ? " she said.

Who]" cried Jonas, raising his head, and staring at her.
To be sure ?" returned the matron with a smile and a curtsey,
iiat am I a thinking of '. You w^asn't here, Sir, when he was


took so strange. I never see a poor dear creetur took so strai
in all my life, except a patient much about the same age, as
once nussed, which his calling was the custom-'us, and his na
was Mrs. Harris's own father, as pleasant a singer, Mr. Chuzzle^^
as ever you heerd, with a voice like a Jew's-harp in the bass not
that it took six men to hold at sech times, foaming frightful."

"Chuffey, eh?" said Jonas carelessly, seeing that she went
to the old clerk, and looked at him. " Ha ! "

"The creetur's head's so hot," said Mrs. Gamp, "that j
might eat a flat-iron at it. And no wonder, I am sure, consider
the things he said ! "

" Said I " cried Jonas. " What did he say 1 "

Mrs. Gamp laid her hand upon her heart, to put some ch(
upon its palpitations, and turning up her eyes replied in a fa
voice :

" The aw^ullest things, Mr. Chuzzlewit, as ever I heei
Which Mrs. Harris's father never spoke a word when took
some does and some don't, except sayin' when he come rou;
' Where is Sairej'' Gamp ? ' But raly, Sir, when Mr. Chuf
comes to ask who's lyin' dead up stairs, and "

" Who's lying dead up stairs ! " repeated Jonas, stand

Mrs. Gamp nodded, made as if she were swallowing, ;
Avent on.

" Who's lying dead up stairs ; sech was his Bible langua
and where was Mr. Chuzzlewit as had the only son ; and wher
goes up stairs a looking in the beds and wandering about
rooms, and comes down again a whisperin' softly to his-self al i
foul play and that ; it give me sich a turn, I don't deny it,
Chuzzlewit, that I never could have kep myself up but for a 1
drain of spirits, which I seldom touches, but could always wisl
know where to find, if so dispoged, never knowin' wot may hajn
next, the world bein' so uncertain." ;

" Why, the old fool's mad ! " cried Jonas, much disturbed.

"That's my opinion, Sir," said Mrs. Gamp, "and I will .'t
deceive you. I believe as Mr. Chuffey, Sir, rekwires attentio i^
I may make so bold), and should not have his liberty to wex'il
worrit your sweet lady as he does."

" Why, who minds what he says ? " retorted Jonas.

"Still he is worn tin', Sir," said Mrs. Gamp. "No one c't
mind him, but he is a ill conwenience."

" Ecod you're right," said Jonas, looking doubtfully atli«
subject of tliis conversation. " I have half a mind to shut m


Irs. Ciauip rubbed her huiitls, ;uul smiled, and shook her head,
snirt'ed expressively, as scentiny a job.

■ Could you — could you take care of such an idiot, now, in
; spare room up stairs 1 "' asked Jonas.

■Me and a frieud of mine, one off, one on, could do it, Mr.
zzlewit,' replied the nurse ; " our charges not bein' high, but
in' they was lower, and allowance made considerin' not
igers. Me and Betsey Prig, Sir, would undertake Mr.
ffey, reasonable," said Mrs. Gamp, looking at hira with her
L on one side, as if he had beeu-a piece of goods, for which she
driving a bargain f^^and give every satigefaction. Betsey
has nussed a many lunacies, and well she knows their ways,
;h puttin' 'em right close afore the tire, when fractious, is the
liuest and most compoging."

Vhile Mrs. Gamp discoursed to this effect, Jonas was walking
ind down the room again : glancing covertly at the old clerk,
6 did so. He now made a stop, and said :
'I nuist look after him, I su2:)pose, or I may have him doing
i mischief. What say you 1 "

' Nothin' more likely ! " Mrs. Gamp replied. " As well I have
irienged, I do assure you. Sir."

' Well ! Look after him, for the present, and — let me see —
6 days from this time let the other woman come here, and
I see if we can make a bargain of it. About nine or ten
ick at night, say. Keep your eye upon him in the meanwhile,
don't talk about it. He's as mad as a [March hare ! '"
'Madder ! " cried Mrs. Gamp. "A deal madder ! "
'See to him, then; take care that he does no harm: and
Uect what I have told you."

-.eaving I\Irs. Gamp in the act of repeating all she had Ix'cn
, and of producing in support of her memory and trust-
thiness, many commendations selected from among the most
iirkable opinions of the celebrated Mrs. Harris, he descended
lie little room prepared for him, and pulling off his coat and
boots, put them outside the door before he locked it. In
ing it, he was careful so to adjust the key, as to baffle any
ous jjerson who might try to peep in through the keyhole ; and
u he had taken these precautions, he sat down to his supper.
'Mr. Chuff," he muttered, "it'll be pretty easy to be even
1 you. It's of no use doing things by halves, and as long a.s I
» here, I'll take good care of you. When I'm off, you may say
it you But it's a d — d strange thing," he ailded,
liing away his untouched plate, and striding moodily to and
"that his drivelliugs should have taken this turn just now."


After iDaciug- the little room from end to end several times,
sat down in another chair.

" I say just now, but for anything I know, he may have b
carrying on the same game all along. Old dog ! He shall

He paced the room again in the same restless and uuste;
way ; and then sat down uijou the bedstead, leaning his chin u]
his hand, and looking at the table. When he had looked at it
a long time, he remembered his supper ; and resuming the cl
he had first occupied, began to eat with great rapacity : not Uk
hungry man, but as if he were determined to do it. He dri
too, roundly ; sometimes stopping in the middle of a draught
walk, and change his seat and walk again, and dart back to
table and fall to, in a ravenous hurry, as before.

It was now growing dark. As the gloom of evening, deepen
into night, came on, another dark shade emerging from wit
him seemed to overspread his face, and slowly change it. Slov
slowly ; darker and darker ; more and more haggard ; creep
over him by little and little ; until it was black night within 1
and without.

The room in which he had shut himself up, was on the grc
floor, at the back of the house. It was liglited by a dirty skyhi
and had a door in the wall, opening into a narrow covered pa£^
or blind-alley, very little frequented after five or six o'clock in
evening, and not in much use as a thoroughfare at any hour,
it had an outlet in a neighbouring street.

The ground on which this chamber stood, had, at one time,
within his recollection, been a yard ; and had been convertei
its present purpose, for use as an office. But the occasion fo i
died with the man who built it ; and saving that it had someti
served as an apology for a spare bed-room, and that the old c I
had once held it (but that was years ago) as his recognised a] t
ment ; it had been little troubled by Anthony Chuzzlewit and i
It was a blotched, stained, mouldering room, like a vault; i»
there were water-pipes running through it, which at unexpe '<
times in the night, when other things were quiet, clicked »
gurgled suddenly, as if they were choking.

The door into the court had not been open for a long, 'il
time; but the key had always hung in one place, and the i
hung now. He was prepared for its being rusty ; for he h '
little bottle of oil in his pocket and the feather of a pen, t'
which he lubricated the key, and the lock too, carefullj'. All 'i'
while he had been without his coat, and had nothing on his.iC'
but his stockings. He now got softly into bed, in the same ste


tossed from side to side to tumble it. In liis restless condition,
was easily done.

riien he arose, he took from his portmanteau, whicli he had
ed to be carried into that place when he came home, a pair of
isy shoes, and put them on his feet ; also a pair of leather
ngs, sucli as countrymen are used to wear, with strai)s to
n them to the waistband; in which he dressed himself at
re. Lastly, he took out a common frock of coarse dark jean,
h he drew over his own underclothing ; and a felt hat — he
purposely left his own up stairs. He then sat down by the
, with the key in his hand : waiting.

[e had no light ; the time was dreary, long, and awful. The
>rs were practising in a neighbouring church, and the clashing
le bells was almost maddening. Curse the clamouring bells,
seemed to know that he was listening at the door, and to
laim it in a crowd of voices to all the town ! "Would they
r be still ?

'hey ceased at last ; and then the silence was so new and
ble that it seemed the prelude to some dreadful noise. Foot-
; in the coiu-t ! Two men. He fell back from the door on
e, as if they could have seen him through its wooden panels,
'hey passed on, talking (he could make out) about a skeleton
h had been dug up yesterday, in some work of excavation near
uid, and was supposed to be that of a murdered man. " So
ler is not always found out, you see," they said to one another
ley tinned the corner,
[ush !

le put the key into the lock, and turned it. The door resisted
I wiiile, but soon came stiffly open : mingling with the sense
•ver in his mouth, a taste of rust, and dust, and earth, and
ng wood. He looked out ; passed out ; locked it after him.
.11 wa-s clear and quiet, as he fled away.



>ID no men passing through the dim streets shrink witliout
ving why, when he came stealing up behind them 'i As he
■d on, had no child in its sleep an indistinct perception of a
y shadow falling on its bed, that troubled its innocent rest?


Did no dog howl, and strive to break its rattling chain, that
might tear him ; no bm-rowing rat, scenting the work he had
hand, essay to gnaw a passage after him, that it might holi
greedy revel at the feast of his providing 1 When he looked ha
across his shoulder, was it to see if his quick footsteps still fell
upon the dusty pavement, or were already moist and clogged \i
the red mrre that stained the naked feet of Cain 1

He shaped his course for the main western road, and b<
reached it : riding a part of the way, then alighting and walk
on again. He travelled for a considerable distance upon the i
of a stage-coach, which came up while he was a-foot ; and whei
turned out of his road, bribed the driver of a return post-chais(
take him on with him ; and then made across the country a
run, and saved a mile or two before he struck again into the r(
At last, as his plan was, he came up with a certain lumber"
slow, night-coach, which stopped wherever it could, and
stopping then at a public-house, while the guard and coachi
ate and drank within.

He bargained for a seat outside this coach, and took it. .
he quitted it no more until it was within a few miles of,
1 destination, but occupied the same place all night. j

[ All night ! It is a common fancy that nature seems to s!

by night. It is a false fancy, as who should know better than

The fishes slumbered in the cold, bright, glistening streams
rivers, perhaps ; and the birds roosted on the branches of
trees ; and in their stalls and pastures beasts were quiet ;
human creatures slept. But what of that, when the solemn n
was watching, when it never winked, when its darkness wati •
no less than its light 1 The stately trees, the moon and shi i
stars, the softly-stirring wind, the over-shadowed lane, the hi
bright country-side, they all kept watch. There was not a 1
of growing grass or corn, but watched ; and the c^uieter it
the more intent and fixed its watch upon him seemed to be.

And yet he slept. Riding on among these sentinels of Goi :
slept, and did not change the purpose of his journey. If he fc i
it in his troubled dreams, it came up steadily, and woke i
But it never woke him to remorse, or to abandonment ol'ii
design. I

He dreamed at one time that he was lying calmly in his "(
thinking of a moonlight night and the noise of wheels, when li
old clerk jnit his head in at the door, and beckoned him. At n
signal he arose immediately: being already dressed, in the cl(i(
he actually wore at that time : and accompanied him into a sti g
ritv, where the names of the streets were written on the wal i


•acters quite now to him ; which gave him no surprise or
isiness, for he remembered in his dream to liave been tliere
ire. Although these streets were very precipitous, insoniucli
; to get from one to another, it was necessary to descend great
;hts by ladders that were too short, and ropes that moved deeji
s, and swung and swayed as they were clung to, the danger
3 him little emotion beyond the first thrill of terror ; his
ieties being concentrated on his dress, which was quite unfitted
some festival that was about to be holden there, and in which
lad come to take a part. Already, great crowds began to fill
streets, and in one direction myriads of people came rushing
■u an interminable perspective strewing flowers and making
• for others on Avhite horses, when a terrible figure started from
throng, and cried out that it was the Last Day for all the
Id. The cry being spread, there was a wild hurrying on to
gment ; and tlie press became so great that he and his com-
ion (who was constantly changing, and was never the same
1 two minutes together, though he never saw one man come
another go), stood aside in a porch, fearfully surveying the
titude ; in which there were many faces that he knew, and
ly that he did not know, but dreamed he did ; when all at
e a struggling head rose up among the rest— livid and deadly,
the same as he had known it — and denounced him as having
Glinted that direful day to happen. They closed together. As
"trove to free the hand in which he held a club, and strike the
*v he had so often thought of, he started to the knowledge of
waking purpose and the rising of the sun.
The sun was welcome to him. There were life, and motion,
a world astir, to divide the attention of Day. It was the eye
S'ight : of wakeful, watchful, silent, and attentive Night, with
nuch leisure for the observation of his wicked thoughts : that
dreaded mf)st. There is no glare in the night. Even Glory
ws to small advantage in the night, upon a crowded battle-field.
\v then shows Glory's blood-relation, bastard Murder !
Ay ! He made no compromise, and held no secret with himself
i^. Murder ! He had come to do it.
" Let me get down here," he said.
" Short of the town, eh 1 " observed the coachman. •
" I may get down where I please, I suppose."
"You got up to please yourself, and may get down to please
irself. It won't break our hearts to lose you, and it wouldn't
e broken 'em if we'd never found you. Be a little quicker,
it's all."
The guard had alighted, and was waiting in the road to take


his money. In the jealousy and distrust of what he couteniplat(
he tliought this man looked at hiiu with more tlian comni

" What are you staring at ? " said Jonas.

" Not at a handsome man," returned the guard. " If you wa
your fortune told, I'll tell you a bit of it. You won't be drown(
That's a consolation for you."

Before he could retort, or turn away, the coachman put an e
to the dialogue by giving him a cut with his whip, and bid hira f
out for a surly dog. The guard jumped up to his seat at the sai
moment, and they drove off, laughing ; leaving him to stand in t
road, and shake his fist at them. He was not displeased thorn
on second thoughts, to have been taken for an ill-conditioi)
common country fellow ; but rather congratulated himself upon
as a proof that he was well disguised.

Wandering into a copse by the road-side — but not in that pla(
two or three miles off — he tore out from a fence a thick, ha
knotted stake ; and, sitting down beneath a hay-riek, spent so
time in shaping it, in peeling oft" the bark, and fashioning its jagi
head, with his knife.

The day passed on. Noon, afternoon, evening. Sunset.

At that serene and peaceful time two men, riding in a gig, ca
out of the city by a road not much frequented. It was the day
which Mr. Pecksniff had agreed to dine with Montague. He 1
kept his appointment, and was now going home. His host ^
riding with him for a short distance ; meaning to return ]>}
pleasant track, which Mr. Pecksniff had engaged to show li
through some fields. Jonas knew their plans. He had hung ah
the inn-yard while they were at dinner and had heard tlieir on

They were loud and merry in tlieir conversation, and mi
have been heard at some distance : f\ir above the sound of tl:i
carriage wheels or horses' hoofs. They came on noisily, to wl|(
a stile and footpath indicated their point of separation. Here tjj

"It's too soon. Much too soon," said Mr. Pecksniff. " I'l
this is the place, my dear Sir. Keep the path, and go strai'i
through the little wood you'll come to. The path is narrol^i
there, but you can't miss it. When shall I see you again 1 S(;))
I hope 1 "

"I hope so," replied Montague.

"Good-night!" :

" Good-night. And a pleasant ride ! " ;

So long as Mr. Pecksnift'was in sight, and turned his head it


vals, to salute him, Montague stood in the road .sniilintj, and
ng his hand. But Avhen his new partner had disappeared, and
show was no longer necessary, he sat down on the stile with
> so altered, that he might have grown ten years older in tho

[e was flushed with wine, but not gay. His scheme iiad
>eded, but he showed no triumph. The efibrt of sustaining hia
ult part before his late companion had fatigued him, perhaps,
may be, that the evening whispered to his conscience, or it may
IS it has been) that a shadowy veil was dropping round him,
iig out all thoughts but the presentiment and vague foreknow-
' of impending doom.

f there be fluids, as we know there are, which, conscious of a
ng wind, or rain, or frost, will shrink and strive to hide them-
s in their glass arteries ; may not that subtle liquor of the
I perceive by properties within itself, that hands are raised to
e and spill it ; and in the veins of men ruu cold and dull as his
in that hour !

cold, although the air was warm : so dull, although the sky
bright : that he rose up shivering, from his seat, and hastily
ued his walk. He checked himself as hastily : undecided
her to pursue the footpath which was lonely and retired, or to
ick by the road,
[e took the footpath.

he glory of the departing sun was on his face. The music of
jirds was in his ears. Sweet wild flowers bloomed about him.
ched roofs of poor men's homes were in the distance ; and an
^•ey spire, surmounted by a cross, rose up between him and the
ng night.

[e had never read the lesson which these things conveyed ; he
ever mocked and turned away fiom it ; but, before going down
a liollow place, he looked round once upon the evening prospect
iwfully. Then he went down, down, down, into the dell,
t brought him to the wood ; a close, thick, shadowy wood,
iigh which the path went winding on, dwindling away into a
ler sheep-track. He pau.<ed before entering ; for the stillness
lis spot almost daunted him.

'he last rays of the sun were shining in, aslant, making a path
nlden light along the stems and brandies in its range, wiiich
as he looked began to die away : yielding gently to tlie twilight
came creeping on. It was so very quiet that the soft and
thy moss about the trunks of some old trees, seemed to have
n out of the silence, and to be its proper offspring. Those
r trees which were subdued by blasts of wind in winter time,


had not quite tumbled down, but being caught by others, la
bare and scathed across their leafy arms, as if unwilling to dis
the general repose by the crash of their fall. Vistas of sil
opened everywhere, into the heart and innermost recesses of
wood : beginning with tlie likeness of an aisle, a cloister, or a
open to the sky ; then tangling off into a deep green rns
mystery, through which gnarled trunks, and twisted boughs,
ivy-covered stems, and trembling leaves, and bark-stripped h(
of old trees stretched out at length, were f;iintly seen in bean

As the sunlight died away, and evening fell upon the wooc
entered it. Moving here and there a bramble or a drooping b'
which stretched across his path, he slowly disappeared,
intervals a narrow opening showed him passing on, or the s
cracking of some tender branch denoted where he went : the

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 69 of 80)