Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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le you were pelting away, hammer and tongs ! It'll be the
th of the little bullfinch in the shop, that draws his own water,
his fright, lie's been a straining himself all to bits, drawing
■e water than he could drink in a twelvemonth. He must
e thought it was Fire ! "

Mrs. Gamp had in the meanwhile sunk into lier chair, from
mce, turning up her overiiowiiig eyes, and clasping her hands,
delivered the following lamentation :

"Oh, Mr. Sweedlepipes, which Mr. AVestlock also, if my eyes
not deceive me, and a friend not haviu' tlie pleasure of bein'
iiown, wot I have took from Betsey Prig this blessed night, no
•tiul creetur knows ! If she had abuged nie, bein' in li(iuor,
ch I thought I smelt her wen she come, but could not so
eve, not bein' used myself" — Mrs. Gamp, by the way, was
tty far gone, and the fragrance of the tea-pot was strong in the
in — "I could have bore it with a thankful art. But the words
s[K)ke of Mrs. Harris, lambs couhl not forgive. No, Betsey !"
1 Mrs. Gamp, in a violent burst of feeling, " nor worms forget ! "
The little barl)er scratched his head, and shook it, and hujkeil
tlie tea-pot, and gradually got out of the room. John "West
<, taking a chair, sat down on one side of Mrs. Gamp. Martin,
ing the foot of the bed, supported her on the otlier.
"You wonder what we want, I dare say," observed John. " I'll
you presently, when you have recovered. It's not pressing,
a few minutes or so. How do you find yourself? Better?"
Mrs. Gamp shed more tears, shook her head, and feebly pro-
meed Mrs. Harris's name.

■' Have a little — " John was at a loss what to call it.
•S A


"Tea," suggested Martin.

" It ain't tea," said Mis. Gamp.

" Physic of some sort, I suppose," cried John. " Have a litt

Mrs. Gamp was prevailed upon to take a glassful. "
condition," she passionately observed, " as Betsey never'
another stroke of work from me."

" Certainly not," said John. " She shall never help to m

"To think," said Mrs. Gamp, "as she should ever have hel
to nuss that friend of yourn, and been so near of hearing tin
that— Ah ! "

John looked at Martin.

"Yes," he said. "That was a narrow escape, Mrs. Gamp."

" Narrer, in-deed ! " she returned. "It was only my hav
the night, and hearin' of him in his wanderins ; and her the d
that saved it. Wot would she have said and done, if she 1
know'd what / know ; that perfeejus Avretch ! Yet, oh g
gracious me ! " cried Mrs. Gamp, trampling on the floor, in
absence of Mrs. Prig, " that I should hear from that sa
woman's lips what I have heerd her speak of Mrs. Harris 1 "

"Never mind," said John. "You know it is not true."

"Isn't true!" cried Mrs. Gamp. "True! Don't I knov
that dear woman is expecting of me at this minnit, Mr. Westli
and is a lookin' out of winder down the street, with little Ton
Harris in her arras, as calls me his own Gammy, and truly r;
for bless the mottled little legs of that there precious child (
Canterbury Brawn his own dear father says, whicli so they
his own I have been, ever since I found him, Mr. Westlock, v
his small red worsted shoe a gurglin' in his throat, where he '
put it in his play, a chick, wile they was leavin' of him on
floor a looking for it through the ouse and him a choakin' swc ,
in the parlour ! Oh, Betsey Prig, what wickedness you've she '
this night, but never shall you darken Sairey's doors agen, ■'
twining serpiant ! "

" You were always so kind to her, too ! " said John, consolir:)'

" That's the cuttin part. That's where it hurts me, 'i
Westlock," Mrs. Gamp replied ; holding out her glass unconscioi'J
while Martin filled it. i

" Chosen to help you with IMr. Lewsome ! " said John. " Ch'Ji
to help you with Mr. Chufley ! "

"Chose once, but chose no more," cried Mrs. Gamp. '^^
pardnership with Betsey Prig agen. Sir ! "

"No, no," said John. " That would never do."

"I don't know as it ever would have done, Sir," Mrs. Cin]


0(1, witli tlio solemnity peculiar to a certain stage of intoxicu-
'• Xow tliat the marks,'' hy wliicli Mrs. Gamp is supposed
live meant mask, "is oft' that creetur's face, I do not think it
would have done. There are reagions in families for keeping
gs a secret, Mr. Westlock, and havin' only them about you as
knows you can repoge in. Who could repoge in Betsey Prig,
r her words of Mrs. Hari'is, setting in that chair afore my

'Quite true,"' said John: "quite. I hope you have time to
another assistant, Mrs. Gamp ? "'

between her indignation and the tea-pot, her powers of corn-
ending what was said to her began to fail. She looked at
1 with tearful eyes, and murnuiring the w^'ll-rememberod name
?h !Mrs. Prig had challenged — as if it were a talisman against
■arthly sorrows — seemed to wander in her mind.
'I hoj)e," repeated John, "that you have time to find another
;tant ? '"

' Which short it is, indeed,'' cried Mrs. Gamp, turning up her
;uid eyes, and clasping Mr. Westlock's wrist with matronly
^tion. " To-morrow evenin'. Sir, I waits upon his friends.
Chuzzlewit apinted it from nine to ten."

' From nine to ten," said John, with a significant glance at
•tin ; " and then Mr. Chuftey retires into safe keeping, does he 1 "
' He needs to be kep safe, I do assure you," Mrs. Gamp replied,
I a mysterious air. " Other people besides me has liad a
py deliverance from Betsey Prig. I little know'd that woman,
'tl have let it out ! "
' Let him out, you mean," said John.
'Do I ! " retorted Mrs. Gamp. " Oh ! "

riie severely ironical character of this reply was strengthened
I very slow nod, and a still slower drawing down of the corners
Mrs. Gani])'s mouth. She added witli extreme statelinesa of
nier, afti'r indulging in a short doze :

" P>ut I am a keepin' of you gentlemen, and time is preciou.s."
Mingling with that delusion of the tea-pot which inspired her
li tlie belief that tiiey wanted her to go somewhere immediately,
hrewd avoidance of any further reference to the topics into
'•h she had lately strayed, ]\Irs. Gamp ; and jmtting away
tea-pot in its accustomed place, and locking the cupl)oard with
•Ii gravity, proceeded to attire herself for a proffssional visit.
This preparation was easily made, as it retpiired nothing nmre
n the snuffy Ijlack bonnet, the snuffy black shawl, the pattens,
the indispensable umbrella, without which neither a lying-in
a laying-out could by any possibility be attempted. When


Mrs. Gamp liad invested herself with tliese appendages
returned to her chair, and sitting down again, declared he
quite ready.

"It's a appiness to know as one can benefit the poor si
creetur," she observed, "I'm sure. It isn"t all as can.
torters Betsey Prig inflicts is frightful."

Closing her eyes as she made this remark, in the acutene;
her commiseration for Betsey's patients, she forgot to open t
again until she dropped a patten. Her nap was also broke
intervals, like the fabled slumbers of Friar Bacon, by the drop-
of the other patten, and of the umbrella ; but when she had
rid of both of those incumbrances, her sleep was peaceful.

The two young men looked at each other, ludicrously enoi
and Martin, stifling his disposition to laugh, whispered in J
Westlock's ear :

" What shall we do now ? ""

" Stay here," he replied.

Mrs. Gamp was heard to murmur " Mrs. Harris I '' in her s'

"Rely upon it," whispered John, looking cautiously tow
her, " that you shall question this old clerk, though you go as
Harris herself. We know quite enough to carry her our own
now, at all events ; thanks to this quarrel, which confirms th(
saying that, when rogues fall out, honest people get what
want. Let Jonas Chuzzlewit look to himself ; and let her
as long as she likes. We shall ffain our end in good time."



It was the next evening ; and Tom and his sister were ?i
together before tea, talking, in their usual quiet way, about a
many things, but not at all about Lewsome's story or any
connected with it ; for John Westlock — really John, for so \
a man, was one of the most considerate fellows in the world-
particularly advised Tom not to mention it to his sister jus '
in case it should disquiet her. " And I wouldn't, Tom," he i
with a little hesitation, " I wouldn't have a shadow on her 1 •]
face, or an uneasy thought in her gentle heart, for all the wj
and honours of the universe ! " Really John was uncomi n


; extraordinarily kind. If he had been her fathei-, Toui said,
mid not have taken a greater interest in her.
lit although Tom and his. sister were extremely conversational,
were less lively, and less cheerful, than usual. Tom had no
that this originated with Kuth, but took it for granted that
rt^ rather dull himself. In truth he was ; for the lightest

I upon the heaven of her quiet mind, cast its shadow upon

.nd there was a cloud on little Ruth that evening. Yes,
;d. When Tom was looking in another direction, her bright
stealing on towards his face, would sparkle still more brightly
their custom was, and then grow dim. "When Tom was
t, looking out upon the summer w^eather, she would sometimes
i a hasty movement, as if she were about to throw herself
his neck ; then check the impulse, and when he looked round,
■ a laughing face, and speak to him very merrily. When she
anything to give Tom, or had any excuse for coming near him,
would flutter about him, and lay her little bashful hand upon
•boulder, and not be willing to withdraw it ; and would show

II such means that there was something on her heart which in
p"eat love she longed to say to him, but had not the courage

they were sitting, she with her work before her, but not
;ing, and Tom with his book beside him, but not reading,

1 Martin knocked at the door. Anticipating who it was, Tom
: to oi)en it ; and he and Martin came back into the room
:her. Tom looked surprised, for in answer to his cordial
:iug Martin had hardly spoken a word.

luth also saw that there was something strange in the manner
leir mitor, and raised her eyes inquiringly to Tom's face, as if
were seeking an explanation there. Tom shook his head, and
c the same mute appeal to Martin.

lartin did not sit down, but walked up to the window, and
1 there, looking out. He turned round after a few moments
leuk, but hastily averted his head again, without doing so.

What has happened, Martin?" Tom anxiously inquired.
k' dear fellow, wliat bad news do you bring ? "

Oh Tom : " replied Martin, in a tone of deep reproacli. "T<»

you feign that interest in anytliing that happens to mc, hurts
■ven more than your ungenerous dealing."

My ungenerous dealing ! Martin ! My — " Tom couKl get no

How could you Tom, how could you suffer mc to thank you
LTveutly and sincerely for your friendship; and not tell me,


like a man, that you had deserted me ! AVas it true, Tom ! "\
it honest ! Was it worthy of Avhat you used to be : of wh;
am sure yoi; used to be : to tempt me, when you had turned agai
me, into pouring out niy lieart ! Oh Tom ! "

His tone was one of sucli strong injury and yet of so nuich g
for the loss of a friend he had trusted in ; it expressed such h
past love for Tom, and so nuich sorrow and compassion for
supposed unworthiness ; that Tom, for a moment, put his h
before his face, and had no more power of justifying himself, tl
if he had been a monster of deceit and falsehood.

" I protest, as I must die," said Martin, " that I grieve o
tlie loss of what I thought you ; and have no anger in
recollection of my own injuries. It is only at such a time, ;
after such a discovery, that Ave know the full measure of our
regard for the subject of it. And I swear, little as I showed
little as I know I showed it ; that when I had the least cousidi
tion for you, Tom, I loved you like a brother."

Tom was composed by this time, and might have been
Sjurit of Truth, in a homely dress — it very often w-ears a hoii
dress, thank God ! — when he replied to him :

"Martin," he said, "I don't know what is in your niiud
who has abused it, or by what extraordinary means. But
means are false. There is no truth whatever in the inipre^^;
under which you labour. It is a delusion from first to last ;
I warn you that you will deeply regret the wrong you do uie.
can honestly say that I have been true to you, and to my
You Avill be very sorry for this. Indeed, you will be veiy .s
for it, Martin."

" I am sorry," returned Martin, shaking his head. " I n
knew what it Avas to be sorry in my heart, until now."

" At least," said Tom, "if I had always been what you cli
me with being now, and had never had a place in your regard,
had always been despised by you, and had always deserved it,
would tell me in what you have found me to be treacherous ; i
on what grounds you proceed. I do not intreat you, therefor i
give me that satisfaction as a favour, Martin ; but I ask it ot^
as a right."

"My own eyes are my witnesses," returned Martin. '^ M
to believe them 1 " i

" No," said Tom, calmly. " Not if they accuse me.'' \

" Your own words. Your own manner," pursued Martin. ' I'
I to believe them ?" i

" Xo," replied Tom, calmly. " Not if they accuse me. .'i
they never have accused me. AVlioever has perverted thei t


h a jnirpose, has wronged me, almost as cruolly ; " his cahiiiiess

lier failed him here; "as you have done."'

"I came here," said Martin ; "and I appeal to your good sister

near me — ''

"Not to her," interrupted Tom. "* Fray, do nnt appeal to her.

; will never believe you."

He drew her arm through his own, as he said it.

••/believe it, Tom ! "

'•No, no," cried Tom, " of course not. I said so. AVliy, tut,

, tut. What a silly little thing you are ! "

"I never meant," said Martin, hastily, "to appeal to you

inst your brother. Do not think me so unmanly and unkind.

lerely appealed to you to hear my declaration, that I came here

no purpose of reproach : I have not one to vent : but in deep

ret. You could not know in what bitterness of regret, unless

. knew how often I have thought of Tom ; how long in almost

leless circumstances, I have looked forward to the better estima-

1 of his friendship ; and how steadfastly I have believed and

sted in him."

"Tut, tut," said Tom, stopping her as she was about to speak.

[e is mistaken. He is deceived. Why should you mind 1 He

ure to be set right at last."

" Heaven bless the day that sets me right ! " cried Martin, " if

ould ever come I "

"Amen I" said Tom. "And it will 1"

^lartin paused, and then said in a still milder voice :

" You have chosen for yourself, Tom, and will be relieved by our

ting. It is not an angry one. There is no auger on my side — "

"There is none on mine," said Tom.

'• — It is merely what you have brought about, and workt-d to

ig about. I say again, you have chosen for yourself You

e made the choice that might have been expected in most

pie situated as you are, but which I did not expect in you.

• that, perhaps, I should blame my own judgment more than

!. There is wealth and favour worth having, on one side ; and

re is the worthless friendship of an abandoned, struggling

r>w, on the other. You were free to niak<? your election, and

I made it; and the choice was not diHicult. But th.)sc who

e not the courage to resist such temptaticn.s, slmuld have the

rage to avow that they have yielded to them ; and I do blame

I for this, Turn : that you received me witli a show of warmth,

ijuragcd me to be frank and plain-spoken, tempted me to confide

you, and professed that you were able to be mine ; when you

I sold yourself to others. I do not believe, " .-^aid Martin, with


great emotion : " hear me say it from my heart • I ccmtiot believe
Tom, now that I am standing face to face with you, that it woiili
have been in your nature to do me any serious liarm, even thoiig;
I had not discovered, by chance, in whose employment you were
But I should have encumbered you ; I should have led you iiit
more double-dealing ; I should have hazarded your retaining tli
favour for which you have paid so high a price, bartering awa.
your former self ; and it is best for both of us that I have foum
out what you so much desired to keep secret."

" Be just," said Tom ; who had not removed his mild gaze froii
Martin's face since the commencement of this last address; "h.
just even in your injustice, Martin. You forget. You have no
yet told me what your accusation is ! "

"Why should 11" returned Martin, waving his hand, am
moving towards the door. "You could not know it the hettc
for my dwelling on it, and though it would be really none tli
worse, it might seem to me to be. No, Tom. Bygones shall hj
bygones between us. I can take leave of you at this niomeutj
and in this place : in which you are so amiable and so good : aj
heartily, if not as cheerfully, as ever I have done since we firsj
met. All good go with you, Tom ! — I — " I

"You leave me so 1 You can leave me so, can you 1 " said Touij

"I — you — you liave chosen for yourself, Tom! I — I hope i
was a rash choice," Martin faltered. " I think it was. I am sur
it was ! Grood bye ! "

And he was gone.

Tom led his little sister to her chair, and sat down in his own
He took his book, and read, or seemed to read. Presently ho saii
aloud: turning a leaf as he spoke: "He will be very sorry fo
this." And a tear stole down his face, and dropped upon the pagi

Ruth nestled down beside hini on her knees, and clasped In
arms about his neck.

" No, Tom ! No, no ! Be comforted ! Dear Tom ! "

"I am quite — comforted," said Tom. "It will be set right.''

" Such a cruel, bad return ! " cried Ruth.

"No, no," said Tom. "He believes it. I cannot iniagin
why. But it will be set right."

More closely yet, she nestled down about him ; and wej>t as i
her heart would break.

"Don't. Don't," said Tom. "Why do you hide your fact
my dear ! "

Then in a burst of tears, it all broke out at last.

" Oh Tom, dear Tom, I know your secret heart. I have fouiu
it out ; you couldn't hide the truth from me. Why didn't yoi


iC? I am sure I could have made you liappior, if you liad !
ove her, Tom, so dearly ! "

m made a motion witli his hand as if he would have put his
hurriedly away ; but it clasped upon hers, and all his little
y was ■written in the action. All its pathetic elociuencc was
: silent touch.

[n spite of that," said Ruth, "you have been so faithful and
od, dear ; in spite of that, you have been so true and self-
Qg, and have struggled with yourself; in spite of that, you
been so gentle, and so kind, and even-tempered, that I have
seen you give a hasty look, or heard you say one irritable
In spite of all, you have been so cruelly mistaken. Oh
dear Tom, loved as no other brother can be, will this be set
too ! Will it, Tom ! Will you always have this sorrow in your
; : you who deserve to be so happy : or is there any hope ! "
id still she hid her face from Tom, and clasped him round
?ck, and wept for him, and poured out all her woman's heart
3ul in the relief and pain of this disclosure.
was not very long before she and Tom were sitting side by
^nd she Avas looking with an earnest quietness in Tom's face.
Tom spoke to her thus : cheerily, though gravely.
[ am very glad, my dear, that this has passed between us.
:iecause it assures me of your tender affection (for I was well
!d of that before), but because it relieves my uiind of a great

im's eyes glistened when he spoke of her affection ; and lie
i her on the cheek.

My dear girl," said Tom : " with whatever feeling I regard
' they seemed to avoid the name by mutual consent ; " I
long ago — I am sure I may say from the very first— looked
it as a dream. As something that might possibly have
:ned under very different circumstances, but which cau never
Now, tell me. What would you have set right 1 "
le gave Tom such a significant little look, that he was obliged
ce it for an answer whether he would or no ; and to go on.
By her own choice and free consent, my love, she is betrothed
[artui • and was, long before cither of them knew of my
iiice. You would have her betrothed to me 1 "
Ves," she said directly.

Yes," rejoined Tom, "but that might be setting it wrong,
id of right. Do you think,"' said Tom, with a grave smile,
t even if she had never seen him, it is very likely she would
fallen in love with Me 1 "
Why not, dear Tom 1 "


Tom shook his head, and smiled again.

"You think of me, Ruth," said Tom, "and it is very natun
that you should, as if I were a character in a book ; and you iiiak
it a sort oi' poetical justice that I should, by some impossibl
means or other, come, at last, to marry the person I love. Bi
there is a much higher justice than poetical justice, my dear, au
it does not order events upon the same principle. Accordiugl
people who read about heroes in books, and choose to make hcro(
of themselves out of books, consider it a veiy fine thing to be di
contented and gloomy, and misanthropical, and perhaps a litt
blasphemous, because they cannot have everything ordered li
their individual accommodation. Would you like me to becoii
one of that sort of people 1 "

"No, Tom. But still I know,"' she added timidly, "that tli
is a sorrow to you in your own better way."

Tom thought of disputing the position. But it would h;u
been mere folly, and he gave it up.

" ]My dear," said Tom, " I will repay your affection with tl
Truth, and all the Truth. It is a sorrow to me. I have provi
it to be so sometimes, though I have always striven against i
But somebody who is precious to you may die, and you may drea
that you ai'e in heaven with the departed spirit, and you may fii
it a sorrow to wake to the life on earth, which is no harder to "
borne than Avhen you fell asleep. It is sorrowful to me to co
template my dream, Avhich I always knew was a dream, even wL'
it first presented itself; but the realities about me are not
blame. They are the same as they were. My sister, my swi
companion, who makes this place so dear, is she less devoted
me, Ruth, than she would have been, if this vision had ncv
troubled me? My old friend John, who might so easily lia
treated me with coldness and neglect, is he less cordial to m
The world about me, is there less good in that ? Are my wor
to be harsli and my looks to be sour, and is my heart to gr<
cold, because there has fallen in my way a good and beautil
creature, who but for the selfish regret that I cannot call hen,
own, would, like all other good and beautiful creatm-es, make i
happier and better ! No, my dear sister. No," said Tom, stouti'
" Remembering all my means of happiness, I hardly dare to c|
this lurking something, a sorrow ; but whatever name it ui:
justly bear, I thank Heaven that it renders me more sensible
affection and attachment, and softens me in fifty ways. Not l''
happy. Not less happy, Ruth ! "'

She couLl not speak to him, but she loved him, as he ^^■
deserved. Even iis he deserved, she loved him.


She will open IMartiu's eyes," said Tom, witli a i^low of pride,
1 tliat (which is indeed wrong) will be sot right. Nothing
persuade lier, I know, that I have betrayed him. It will be
•iglit through her, and he will be very sorry for it. Our
t, Ruth, is our own, and lives and dies with us. I don't
ve I ever could have told it you," said Tom, with a smile,
; how glad I am to think you have found it out ! "
hey had never taken such a pleasant walk as they took that
;. Tom told her all so freely, and so simply, and was so
ous to return her tenderness with his fullest confidence, that
prolonged it fiir beyond their usual hour, and sat up late when
came home. And when they parted for the night there was
a tranquil, beautiful expression in Tom's face, that she could
)ear to shut it out, but going back on tip-toe to his chamber-
looked in, and stood there till he saw her, and then embracing
again, withdrew. And in her prayers, and in her sleep — good
5 to be remembered with such fervour, Tom ! — his name was

/'hen he was left alone, Tom pondered very nuu-h mi this
very of hers, and greatly wondered what had led her to it.
:ause," thought Tom, " I have been so very careful. It was
ih and unnecessary in me, as I clearly sec now, when I am so
red by her knowing it ; but I have been so very careful to

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 73 of 80)