Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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knees ! If he wants noise, he shall have enough of it ; for as s.P
as he's a shiverin' from head to foot, 111 raise a uproar at •.s
winder that shall bring half London in. Go on. Sir ! Let In
try me once, and see whether I'm a man of my word or not." ;

With that, Mark folded his arms, and took his seat upon je
window-ledge, with an air of general preparation for anyth)',
which seemed to imply that he was equally ready to jump it
himself, or to throw Jonas out, upon receiving the slightest H
that it would be agreeable to the company. ;


d Martiu turned to Lewsome :

riiis is the uian," lie said, extending his hand towards Jonas.


iTou need do uo more than look at him to be sure of that, or

3 truth of what I have said," was tlie reply. " He is my


)h, brother ! " cried old Martiu, clasping his hands and lifting

s eyes. "Oh, brother, brother! Were we strangers half

ves that you might breed a wretch like this, and I make life

;rt by withering every tiower that grew about me ! Is it the

al end of yoiu- precepts and mine, that this should be the

n-e of your rearing, training, teaching, hoarding, striving for :

the means of bringing him to punishment, when nothing can
' the wasted past ! "

3 sat down upon a chair as he spoke, and turning away his
was silent for a few moments. Then with recovered energy
Dceeded :

But the accursed harvest of our mistaken lives shall be
sn down. It is not too late for that. You are confronted
this man, yon monster there ; not to be spared, but to be
with justly. Hear what he says ! Reply, be silent, contra-
repeat, defy, do what you please. My course shall be the
Go on ! And you," he said to Chuffey, "for the love of
jld friend, speak out, good fellow ! "
[ have been silent for his love!" cried the old man. "He

me to it. He made me promise it, upon his dying bed.
er would have spoken, but for your finding out so much. I
thouglit about it ever since : I couldn't help that : and some-

I have had it all before me in a dream : but in the day-time,
a sleep. Is there such a kind of dream?" said Chuflfey,
ig anxiously in old Martin's face.

> ^lartin made him an encouraging reply, he listened
:ively to his voice ; and smiled.

ih, ay ! " he cried. " He often spoke to me like that. We
at school together, he and I. I couldn't turn against his sou,
now — his only son, Mr. Chuzzlewit I "
[ would to heaven you had been his son ! " said Martin.
Vou si)eak so like my dear old master," crio<l the old man
a childish delight, " that I almost think I hear him. I can
yon quite as well as I used to hear him. It makes me young
• He never spoke unkindly to me, and I always understood

I could always see him too, thotigh my sight was dim.

well ! He's dead, he's dead. He was very good to me, my
old master ! "


He shook his head mournfully over the brother's hand,
this moment Mark, who had been glancing out of the window,
the room.

" I couldn't turn against his only son, you know," said Chu
" He has nearly driven me to do it sometimes ; he very nearly
to-night. Ah ! " cried the old man, with a sudden recoUectio
the cause. " Where is she ! She's not come home ! "

" Do you mean his wife 1 " said Mr. Chuzzlewit.

" Yes."

" I have removed her. She is in my care, and will be sp
the present knowledge of what is passing here. She has kn
misery enough, without that addition."

Jonas heard this with a sinking heart. He knew that
were on his heels, and felt that they were resolute to run bin
destruction. Inch by inch the ground beneath him was sli
from his feet ; faster and faster the encircling ruin contracted
contracted towards himself, its wicked centre, until it should (
in and crush him.

And now he heard the voice of his accomplice stating to
face, wdth every circumstance of time and place and incident ;
openly proclaiming, with no reserve, suppression, passion,
concealment ; all the truth. The truth, which nothing would 1
down ; which blood would not smother, and earth w^ould not h
the truth, whose terrible inspiration seemed to change dotards
strong men ; and on whose avenging wings, one whom he
supposed to be at the extremest corner of the earth came swoo
down upon him.

He tried to deny it, but his tongue would not move,
conceived some desperate thought of rushing away, and tea
through the streets ; but his limbs would as little answer to
will as his stark, stiff, staring face. All this time the voice i
slowly on, denouncing him. It was as if every drop of bloO'
the wood had found a voice to jeer him with.

When it ceased, another voice took up the tale, but Strang
for the old clerk, who had watched, and listened to the whole,;
had wrung his hands from time to time, as if he knew its fc
and could confirm it, broke in with these words :

"No, no, no! you're wrong; you're w^rong — all vr
together ! Have patience, for the truth is only known to me F

"How can that be," said his old master's brother, "after \
you have heard? Besides, you said just now, above-stairs, v
I told you of the accusation against him, that you knew he wat
father's murderer."

"Ay, yes ! and so he was ! " cried Chuffey, wildly. "But


)'ou suppose — not as you suppose. Stay ! Give me a moment's
ic. I have it all here — all here ! It was foul, foul, cruel, bad ;
t not as you suppose. Stay, stay ! "

He put his haiuls up to his head, as if it throbbed or pained
Q. After looking about him in a wandering and vacant manner
some moments, his eyes rested upon Jonas, when they kindled
with sudden recollection and intelligence.
" Yes ! " cried old Chuffey, " yes ! That's how it was. It's all
in me now. He — he got up from his bed before he died, to be
e, to say that he forgave him ; and he came down -with me into
s room ; and when he saw him — his only son, the son he loved
bis speech forsook him : he had no speech for what he knew —
1 no one understood him except me. But I did — I did ! "
Old Martin regarded him in amazement ; so did his companions,
s. Gamp, who had said nothing yet ; but had kept two-thirds of
self behind the door, ready for escape, and one -third in the
m, ready for siding -with the strongest party ; came a little
ther in and remarked, with a sob, that Mr. Chuffey was " the
eetest old creetur goin'."

"He bought the stuff," said Chuffey, stretching out his arm
cards Jonas, while an unwonted fire shone in his eye, and
btened up his face ; " he bought the stuff, no doubt, as you
re heard, and brought it home. He mLxed the stuff — look at
11 ! — ■with some sweetmeat in a jar, exactly as tlie medicine for

father's cough was mixed, and put it in a drawer ; in that
iwer yonder ; in the desk ; he knows Avhich drawer I mean !

kept it there locked up. But his courage failed him, or his
irt was touched — my God ! I hope it was his heart ! He was

only son ! — and he did not jKit it in the usual place, where my
. master would have taken it twenty times a-day."
The trendjling figure of the old man shook with the strong
otioas that possessed him. But, with the same light in his
', and with his arm outstretched, and with his grey hair
rring on his head, he seemed to grow in size, and was like a
n inspired. Jonas shrank from looking at him, and cowered
ivn into the chair by which he had held. It seemed as if this
mendous Truth could make the dumb speak.
" I know it every word now ! " cried Chuffey. " Every word !
: put it in that drawer, as I have said. He went eo often there,
I was so secret, that his father took notice of it ; and when ho
s out, had it opened. "We were there together, and we found
• mixture — Mr. Chuzzlewit and I. He took it into his
^session, and made light of it at the time ; but in the niglit lie
ne to my bedside, weeping, and told me that his owu sou had


it ill liis miud to poison him. 'Oh, Chuff!' he said, 'oh, dt

» old Chiiff ! a voice came into my room to-night, and told me tt

this crime began with me. It began when I taught him to «

' too covetous of what I have to leave, and made the expectatr

\ of it his great business ! ' Those were his words ; ay, they :

his very words ! If he was a hard man now and then, it was

his only son. He loved his only sou, and he was always gc

to me ! "

Jonas listened with increased attention. Hope was breaki
in upon him.

" ' He shall not weary for my death, Chuff: ' that was what
said next," pursued the old clerk, as he wiped his eyes; "tl
was what he said next, crying like a little child : ' He shall i
weary for my death. Chuff'. He shall have it now ; he shall ma
where he has a fancy, Chuff, although it don't please me ; and ,^
and I will go away and live upon a little. I always loved hi
perhaps he'll love me then. It's a dreadful thing to have my o
child thirsting for my death. But I might have known it.
have sown, and I must reap. He shall believe that I am tak
this ; and when I see that he is sorry, and has all he wants,
tell him that I found it out, and I'll forgive him. He'll mak
better man of his own son, and be a better man himself, perha
Chuff ! "

Poor Chuffey paused to dry his eyes again. Old Martin's f
was hidden in his hands. Jonas listened still more keenly, :
his breast heaved like a swollen water, but with hope. AV
growing hope.

" My dear old master made believe next day," said Chiifl
" that he had opened the drawer by mistake with a key fi '
the bunch, which happened to fit it (we had one made and In
upon it) ; and that he had been surprised to find his fresh sui'
of cough medicine in such a place, but supposed it had been
there in a hurry when the drawer stood open. "We burnt it; :
his sou believed that he was taking it — he knows he did. Once . •
Chuzzlewit, to try him, took heart to say it had a strange tas :
and he got up directly, and went out."

Jonas gave a short, dry cough ; and, changing his position f
an easier one, folded his arms without looking at them, thoiH
they could now see his face.

"Mr. Chuzzlewit wrote to her father; I mean the fotherf
the poor thing who's his wife;" said Chuffey; "and got hin^
come up : intending to hasten on the marriage. But his mV,
like mine, went a little wrong through grief, and then his he*
broke. He sank and altered from the time when he came to



le night ; and never held up his head again. It was only a
days, but he had never changed so much in twice the years,
ire him, Chuti" ! ' he said, before he died. They were the only
is he could speak. ' Spare him, Chutf ! ' I promised him I
Id. I've tried to do it. He's his only son."
n his recollection of the last scene in his old friend's life, poor
ffey's voice, which had grown weaker and weaker, quite
rted him. Making a motion with his hand, as if he would
! said that Anthony had taken it, and had died with it in his,
etreated to the corner where he usually concealed his sorrows ;
was silent.

'onas could look at his company now, and vauntingly too.
eU ! ■"' he said, after a pause. " Are you satisfied 1 Or have

any more of your plots to broach 1 Why that fellow,
some, can invent 'em for you by the score. Is this all 1 Have
nothing else 1 "

)ld ^lartiu looked at him steadily.

' Whether you are what you seemed to be at Pecksniff's, or
something else and a mountebank, I don't know and I don't
," said Jonas, looking downward with a smile, " but I don't
t you here. You were here so often when your brother wa.s
i, and were always so fond of him (your dear, dear brother,

you would have been cuffing one another before this, ecod !),

I am not surprised at your being attached to the place ; but
place is not attached to you, and you can't leave it too soon,
igh you may leave it too late. And for my wife, old man,
i her home straight, or it will be the worse for her. Ha, ha !

carry it with a high hand too ! But it isn't hanging yet for
an to keep a penn'orth of poison for his own purpose.'^, and
i it taken from him by two old crazy jolter-heads who go and
a play about it. Ha, ha ! Do you see the door f "
3is base triumph, struggling with his cowardice, and shame,

guilt, was so detestable, that they turned away from him, as
i were some ob-scene and filthy animal, repugnant to the .siglit.
1 here that last black crime was busy with him too ; working
lin him to his perdition. But for tliat, the old clerk's story
ht have touched him, though never so lightly ; but for that,
sudden removal of so great a load might have brought about
e wholesome change even in him. Witli that deed done,
ever; with that unnecessary wasteful danger haunting him;
)air was in his very triumph and relief; wild, ungovernable,
ug despair, for the uselessness of the peril into wiiich he had
iged ; despair that hardened him and maddened him, and set
teeth a grinding in the moment of his exultation.


" My good friend 1 " said i\Iartiii, laying his band on Chuffey
sleeve. " Tliis is no place for you to remain in. Come wit

" Just his old way ! "' cried Chuffey, looking up into his fac
" I almost believe it's Mr. Chuzzlewit alive again. Yes ! Tal
me with you ! Stay, though, stay."

" For what ? " asked Martin.

" I can't leave her, poor thing ! " said Chuffey. " She has be(i
very good to me. I can't leave her, Mr. Chuzzlewit. Thank y('
kindly. I'll remain here. I haVn't long to remain ; it's no gre

As he meekly shook his poor, grey head, and thanked o
Martin in these words, Mrs. Gamp, now entirely in the room, w
affected to tears.

" The mercy as it is ! " she said, " as sech a dear, good, reverei
creetur, never got into the cludges of Betsey Prig, which but f
me he would have done, undoubted : facts bein' stubborn and n
easy drove ! "

" You heard me speak to you just now, old man," said Jon
to his uncle. " I'll have no more tampering with my people, m:
or woman. Do you see the door ? "

" Do yoii see the door 1 " returned the voice of Mark, comii
from that direction. " Look at it ! "

He looked, and his gaze was nailed there. Fatal, ill-omene
blighted threshold, cursed by his father's footsteps in his dyii
hour, cursed by his young wife's sorrowing tread, cursed by t
daily shadow of the old clerk's figure, cursed by the crossing
his murderer's feet — Avhat men were standing in the doorway !

Kadgett foremost.

Hark ! It came on, roaring like a sea ! Hawkers burst in
the street, crying it up and down ; windows were thrown op
that the inhabitants might hear it ; people stopped to listen
the road and on the pavement ; the bells, the same bells began
ring : tumbling over one another in a dance of boisterous joy
the discovery (that was the sound tliey had in his distemper
thoughts), and making their airy playground rock.

" That is the man," said Xadgett. " By the window ! "

Three others came in, laid hands upon him, and secured hi
It was so quickly done, that he had not lost sight of tlie informc
fiice for an instant when his wrists were manacled together.

" Murder," said Nadgett, looking round on the astonished grw
"Let no one interefere."

The sounding street repeated ]\Iurder. Barbarous and dreadi
Murder ; Murder, Murder, Murder. Rolling on from liouse


ise, and echoing from stone to stone, until tlie voices died away

3 the distant hum, whioli seemed to mutter the same word.

They all stood silent : listening, and gazing in each other's faces,

the noise passed on.

Martin was the first to si^eak. "What terrible history is

3 ? •' he demanded.

" Ask Am," said Nadgett. "You're his friend, Sir. He can

. you, if he will. He know^s more of it than I do, though I

)w much."

" How do you know much 1 "

" I have not been watching him so long for nothing," returned

dgett. "I never watched a man so close as I have watched


Another of the phantom forms of this terrific Truth ! Another

the many shapes in which it started up about him, out of

ancy. This man, of all men in the world, a spy upon him ;

5 man, changing his identity : casting off his shrinking, purblind,

)bservant character, and springing up into a watchful enemy !

i dead man might have come out of his g:\ave, and not

founded and appalled him so.

The game was up. The race was at an end ; the rope was

ren for his neck. If by a miracle he could escape from this

lit, he had but to turn his face another way, no matter where,

[ there would rise some new avenger front to front with him :

le infant in an hour grown old, or old man in an hour grown

ing, or blind man with his sight restored, or deaf man witii his

ring given him. There was no chance. He sank down in a

p against the wall, and never hoped again, from that moment.

"I am not his friend, although I have the dishonour to be

relative," said Mr. Chuzzlewit. "You may speak to me.
lere have you watched, and what have you seen 1"
"I have watched in many places," returned Nadgctt, "night
. day. I have watched him lately, almost without rest or
ef:" hia anxious face and bloodshot eyes confirmed it. "I
le thought to what my watching was to lead. As little as he

when he slipped out in the night, dressed in those clothes
ch he afterwards sank in a bundle at London Bridge ! "
Jonas moved upon the ground like a man in bodily torture.

uttered a suppressed groan, as if he had been wounded by
le cruel weapon; and plucked at tlio iron band upon his wrist.'*,
:hough (his hands being free) he would have torn himself.
"Steady, kinsman!" said the chief officer of the party,
on't be violent."
"Whom do you call kinsman?" a.sked old Martin sternly.


"You," said the man, "among others."

Martin turned his scrutinising gaze upon him. He was sitti-
lazily across a chair with his arms resting on the back ; eati
nuts, and throwing the shells out of window, as he cracked the;
which he still continued to do, while speaking. i

"Ay," he said, with a sulky nod. "You may deny yol
nephews till you die ; but Chevy Slyme is Chevy Slyme still, ;
the world over. Perhaps even you may feel it some disgrace
your own blood to be employed in this way. I'm to be bought of

" At every turn ? " cried Martin. " Self, self, self. Eve
one among them for himself ! "

"You had better save one or two among them the tronl
then, and be for them as well as yotirs>e\i," replied his nephe
" Look here at me ! Can you see the man of your family who li
more talent in his little finger than all the rest in their unit
brains, dressed as a police officer, without being ashamed ? I to
up with this trade on purpose to shame you. I didn't think
should have to make a capture in the family, though."

" If your debauchery, and that of your chosen friends, li
really brought you to this level," returned the old man, "keep
You are living honestly, I hope ; and that's something."

" Don't be hard upon my chosen friends," returned Slyn
"for they were sometimes your chosen friends too. Don't say y
never employed my friend Tigg, for I know better. We quarrell
upon it."

"I hired the fellow," retorted Mr. Chuzzlewit, "and I p;

"It's well you paid him," said his nephew, "for it would
too late to do so now. He has given his receipt in full : or had
forced from him rather."

The old man looked at him as if he were curious to know wl
he meant, but scorned to prolong their conversation.

"I have always expected that he and I would be brou;:
together again in the course of business," said Slyme, taking
fresh handful of nuts from his pocket, " but I thought he woi
be wanted for some swindling job : it never entered my head tl
I should hold a warrant for the apprehension of his murderer." '

^' His murderer!" cried Mr. Chuzzlewit, looking from one f
another. '

" His or Mr. Montague's," said Nadgett. " They are the sai
I am told. I accuse him yonder of the murder of Mr. Montag
who was found last night, killed, in a wood. You will ask
why I accuse him, as you have already asked me how I know '
much. I'll tell you. It can't remain a secret long."


'he ruling passion of the man expressed itself even then, in
tone of regret in whicli he deplored the approaching imblicity
hat he knew.

I told you I had watched him," he proceeded. " I Mas
acted to do so by Mr. Montague, in whose employment I
been for some time. We had our suspicions of him ; and
know what they pointed at, for you have been discussing it
« we have been waiting here, outside the room. If you care
ear, now it's all over, in what our suspicions began, I'll tell
plainly : in a quarrel (it first came to our cars tlirough a hint
is own) between him and another office in which his father's
NHS insured, and which had so much doubt and distrust upon
subject, that he compounded with them, and took half the
ey ; and was glad to do it. Bit by bit, I ferreted out more
imstances against him, and not a few. It required a little
'nee ; but it's my calling. I found the nurse — here she is to
rm me ; I found the doctor, I found the undertaker, I found
undertaker's man. I found out how the old gentleman there,
Chufiey, had behaved at the funeral ; and I found out what
man," touching Lewsome on the arm, " had talked about in
fever. I found out how he conducted himself before his
?r's death, and how since, and how at the time ; and writing
1 down, and putting it carefully together, made case enough
Jr. Montague to tax him with the crime, whi(;h (as he liim-
believed until to-night) he had committed. I was by when
was done. You see him now. He is only worse than he

)h, miserable, miserable fool ! oh, insupportable, excruciating
ire ! To find alive and active — a jjarty to it all — the Itraiu
right-hand of the secret he had thought to crush ! In wlium,
gh he had walled the murdered man up, by enchantment in a
, the story would have lived and walked abroad ! He tried
;op his ears with his fettered arms, that he might shut out the

LS he crouched upon the floor, they drew away from him a.s if
■stilence were in his breath. They fell off, one by one, from
part of the room, leaving him alone upon the ground. Even
e who had him in their keei>ing shunned him, and (with the
ption of Slyrae, who was still occupied with his nuts) kept

'From that garret-window opposite," said Nadgett, pointing
53 the narrow street, " I have watched tliis liouse and liim for
I and nights. From that garret-window opjtosite I saw him
rn home, alone, from a journey on which ho had set out with


le's ej

Mr. Montague. That was my token that Mr. Montague'i
was gained ; and I might rest easy on my watch, though I t'
not to leave it until he dismissed me. But, standing at the d
opposite, after dark that same night, I saw a countryman steal >
of this house, by a side-door in the court, who had never ente
it. I knew his walk, and that it was himself, disguised,
followed him immediately. I lost him on the western road, s
travelling westward."

Jonas looked up at him for an instant, and muttered an oatl

" I could not comprehend what this meant," said Xadge
"but, having seen so much, I resolved to see it out, and thron
And I did. Learning, on inquiry at his house from his wife, tl
he was supposed to be sleeping in the room from which I had si
him go out, and that he had given strict orders not to be disturb
I knew that he was coming back; and for his coming bacl>
watched. I kept my watch in the street — in doorways, and si
places — all that night ; at the same window, all next day ; ;
when night came on again, in the street once more. For I kii
he would come back, as he had gone out, when this part of
town was empty. He did. Early in the morning, the sa
countryman came creeping, creeping, creeping home."

" Look sharp ! " interposed Slyme, who had now finished
nuts. "This is c[uite irregular, Mr. Nadgett."

" I kept at the window all day," said Nadgett, without heed
him. " I think I never closed my eyes. At night, I saw 1
come out with a bundle. I followed him again. He went do
the steps at London Bridge, and sank it in the river. I u
began to entertain some serious fears, and made a communicat
to the Police, which caused that bundle to be — "

" To be fished up," interrupted Slyme. " Be alive, T

"It contained the dress I had seen him wear," said Nadge
"stained with clay, and spotted with blood. Information of
murder was received in town last night. The wearer of tl
dress is already known to have been seen near the place ; to h:
been lurking m that neighbourhood ; and to have alighted fror
coach coming from that part of the country, at a time exaf'

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 75 of 80)