Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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, j would have established her claim to the title, and have sliown
J herself, mentally speaking, a perfect Sampson, by shutting up
j;j her brother-in law in a private mad-house, until he proved his

! complete sanity by loving her very much. Beside her sat her
spinster daughters, three in number, and of gentlemanly deport-
ment, who had so mortified themselves with tight stays, that their
tempers were reduced to something less than their waists, and
sharp lacing was expressed in their very noses. Then there was
a j'oung gentleman, grand-nephew of i\Ir. ]\Iartin Chuzzlewit, very
dark and very hairy, and apparently born for no particular pui-pose
but to save looking-glasses tlie trouble of reflecting more than just
the first idea and sketchy notion of a f;xce, which had never been
carried out. Then there was a solitary female cousin Avho was
remarkable for nothing but being very deaf, and living by herself,
and always having the tooth-ache. Then there was George
j Chuzzlewit, a gay bachelor cousin, who claimed to be young but
had been younger, and was inclined to corpulency, and rather
over-fed himself: to that extent, indeed, that his eyes were strained
in their sockets, as if with constant surprise ; and he had such an
obvious disposition to pimples, that the bright spots on his cravat,
[i the rich pattern on his waistcoat, and even his glittering trinkets,
!* seemed to have broken out upon him, and not to have come into
existence comfortably. Last of all, there were present Mr. Chevy
Slyme and his friend Tigg. And it is worthy of remark, that
although each person present disliked the other mainly because he
or she cfid belong to the family, they one and all concurred in
hating Mr. Tigg because he didn't.

Such was the pleasant little family circle now assembled in
Mr. Pecksniff''s best parlour, agreealily prepared (o fall foul of Mr.
Pecksniff or anybody else who might venture to say anything
whatever upon any subject.

"This," said Mr. Pecksniff rising, and looking round upon
them, with folded hands, "does me good. It does my daughters

ifev' 'if f'?"




-.lod. "We tliaiik you for assembling lierc. We are grateful to
y.ui with our whole hearts. It is a blessed distinction that you
have conferred upon us, and believe uie " — it is imiiossible to
conceive how he smiled here — " we shall not easily forget it."

'■ I am sorry to interrupt you, Pecksniti"," remarked Mr.
SjHittletoe, with his Avhiskers iu a very portentous state ; " but
you are assuming too much to yourself, Sir. "Who do you imagine
has it ia contemplation to confer a distinction upon yo?/., Sir'?"

A general murmur echoed this inquiry, and applauded it.

"If you are about to pursue the course with which you have
Itegun, Sir," pursued Mr. Spottletoc in a great heat, and giving a
violent rap on the table with his knuckles, " the sooner you desist,
and tiiis assembly separates, the better. I am no stranger. Sir, to
your preposterous desire to be regarded as the head of this family,
liuc I can tell you, Sir — "

Oh yes indeed! lie tell. He! "What? He was the head,
^\\ts he 1 From the strong-minded woman downwards everybody
fell, that instant, u^jon Mr. Spottletoc, who after vainly attempting
tu be heard in silence was fain to sit down again, folding his arms
and shaking his head, most wrathfuUy, and giving Mrs. Spottletoe
to understand in dumb show that that scoiuidrel Pecksniff might go
on for the present, but he would cut in presently, and annihilate him.

''I am not sorry," said Mr. Pecksniff in resumption of his
address, " I am really not sorry that this little incident has
happened. It is good to feel that Ave are met here without
ilis^ It is good to know that we have no reserve before
LMch other, but are appearing freely in our own characters."

Here, the eldest daughter of the strong-minded woman rose a
little way from her seat, and trembling violently from heail to
tnot, more as it seemed with passion than timidity, expressed a
.ULiieral hope that some people would appear in their own cliaracteis,
if it were only for such a proceeding having the attraction of
novelty to recommend it ; and that when they (meaning the some
licojjle before mentioned) talked about their relations, they Avould
be careful to observe who was present in company at the time ;
otherwise it might come round to those relations' ears, in a way
they little e.xpected ; and as to red noses (she observed) she had
yet to learn that a red nose was any disgrace, inasmuch as people
in.ither made nor coloured their own noses, but had that feature
provided for them without being first consulted ; though even
upon that branch of the .subject she had great doubts whether
certain noses Avere redder than other noses, or indeed half as red
as some. This remark being received with a shrill titter by the
two sisters of the speaker, IMiss Charity Pecksniff begged with


much politeness to be informed wliether any of those very low
observations were levelled at her; and receiving no more
exi)lanatory answer than was conveyed in tlie adage " Those the
cap fits, let them wear it," immediately commenced a somewhat
acrimonious and personal retort, wherein she was much comforted
and abetted by her sister Mercy, who laughed at the same with
great heartiness : indeed far more naturally than life. And it
being quite impossible that any difference of opinion can take
place among women without every woman who is within hearing
taking active part in it, the strong-minded lady and her two
daughters, and Mrs. Spottletoe, and the deaf cousin (who was not
at all disqualified from joining in the dispute by reason of being
perfectly unacquainted with its merits), one and all iDluuged into
the quarrel directly.

The two ]\Iiss Pecksniffs being a pretty good match for the
three ]\Iiss Chuzzlewits, and all five young ladies liaving, in the
figurative language of tlie day, a great amount of steam to dispose
of, the altercation would no doubt have been a long one but for
the high valour and prowess of the strong-minded woman, who, in
right of her reputation for powers of sarcasm, did so belabour and
l^ummel Mrs. Spottletoe Avith taunting words that that poor lady,
before the engagement was two minutes old, had no refuge but in
tears. These she shed so plentifull}', and so much to the agitation
and grief of I\Ir. Spottletoe, that tliat gentleman, after liolding his
clenched fist close to LIr. Pecksniff's eyes, as if it were some
natural curiosity from the near inspection whereof he was likely
to derive high gratification and improvement, and after offering
(for no particular reason that anybody could discover) to kick Mr.
George Chuzzlewit for, and in consideration of, the trifling sum of
sixpence, took his wife under his arm, and indignantly withdrew.
This diversion, by distracting the attention of the combatants, put
an end to the strife, wliich, after breaking out afresh some twice
or thrice in certain inconsiderable spirts and dashes, died away in

It was then that ]\[r. Pecksniff" once more rose from his chair.
It was tlien that the two Miss Pecksniffs compcsed tliemselves to
look as if there were no such beings — not to say present, but in the
whole compass of the world — as the three Miss Chuzzlewits : while
the three ]\Iiss Chuzzlewits became equally luiconscious of the
existence of the two Miss Pecksniff's.

"It is to be lamented," said Mr. Pecksniff, with a forgiving
recollection of ]\Ir. Spottletoe's fist, "that our friend should have
withdrawn liimself so very hastily, though we have cause for
mutual congratulation even in tiiat, since -we are assured that he


is not distrustful of us in regaid to anytliing we niny say or do,
wliile he is absent. Now, tliat is very sootliiug, is it not 1 "

"Pei'ksuitf'," said Antlionj'^, wlio liad been watdiing the whole
party with peculiar keenness from tiie first — "don't you be a

"A wjiat, my good Sir?" demanded Mr. Pecksniff.

"A liypocrite."

" Charity, my dear," said Mr. Pecksniff, " when I take my
chamber candlestick to night, remind me to be more than usually
particular in praying for Mr. Anthony Chuzzlewit ; who has done
me an injustice."

Tills was said in a very bland voice, and aside, as being
addressed to his daughter's private ear. With a cheerfulness of
conscience, prompting almost a sprightly demeanour, he then
resumed :

"All our thoughts centring in our very dear, but unkind
relative, and he being as it were beyond our reach, we arc met
to-day, really as if we Averc a funeral party, except — a blessed
exception — that there is no body in the house."

The strong-minded lady was not at all sure that this was a
bles.sed exception. Quite the contrary.

" Well, my dear madam ! '' said Mr. Pecksniff. " Be that as
it may, here we are ; and being here, we are to consider wdiethcr
it is possible by any justifiable means — "

"Why, you know as well as I," said the strong-minded lady,
"that any means are justifiable in such a case, don't you?"

" Very good, my dear madam, very good — whether it is possible
by (till/ means, we will say by an?/ means, to open the eyes of our
valued relative to his present infatuation. Whether it is possible
to make him acquainted by any means with the real character and
purpose of that young female whose strange, Avhose very strange
position, in reference to himself" — here Mr. Pecksniff sank his
voice to an impressive whisper — "really casts a shadow of disgrace
and shame upon this family ; and who, we know " — here he
raised his voice again— "else why is she his companion 1 harbours
the very basest designs upon his weakness and his property."

In their strong feeling on this point, they, who agreed in
nothing else, all concurred as one mind. Good Heaven, that she
should harbour designs upon his property ! The strong-minded
lady was for poison, her three daughters were for Bridewell and
bread-and-water, the cousin with the tooth-ache advocated Botany
Bay, the two Miss Pecksniffs suggested flogging. Nobody but
Mr. Tigg, who, notwithstanding his extreme sliabbiness, was still
understood to be in some sort a lady's man, in right of his upper


lip and his fiogs, indicated a doubt of the justifiable nature of
tiiese measures ; and he only ogled the three IMiss Chuzzlewits
with the least admixture of banter in his admiration, as though
he would observe, "You are positively down upon her to too great
an extent, my sweet creatures, upon my soul you are ! ''

" Now," said ]\Ir. Pecksniff, crossing his two fore-fingers in a
manner which w^as at once conciliatory and argumentative : " I
will not, upon the one hand, go so far as to say that she deserves
all the inflictions which have been so very forcibly and hilariously
suggested;" one of his ornamental sentences; " nor will I, upon
the other, on any account compromise my common understanding
as a n)an by making the assertion that she does not. What I
would observe is, that I think some practical means might be
devised of induchig our respected — shall I say our revered — 1''

" Xo ! "' interposed the strong-minded woman in a loud voice.

"Then I will not," said Mr. Pecksniff. "You are quite right,
my dear nuidam, and I appreciate and thank you for, your di^
criminating objection — -our respected relative, to dispose himselt'
to listen to the promptings of nature, and not to the — "

" Go on, pa ! " cried Mercy.

" Why, the truth is, my dear," said Mr. Pecksnifi', smiling upon
his assembled kindred, "that I am at a loss for a word. The
name of those fobulous animals (pagan, I regret to say) who used
to sing in the water, has cpiite escaped me."

Mr. George Chuzzlewit suggested " Swans."'

" Iso," said Mr. Pecksnifi". " Xot swans. Very like swans,
too. Tliank you."'

The nephew with the outline of a countenance, speaking for
the first and last time on that occasion, propounded " Oysters."

"No," said ]\[r. Pecksnifi", with his own peculiar urbanity,
" nor oysters. But by no means unlike oysters ; a very excellent
idea ; thank you, my clear Sir, very much. Wait ! Sirens. Dear
me ! sirens, of course. I think, I say, that means might be
devised of disposing our respected relative to listen to the
promi)tiugs of nature, and not to the siren-like delusions of art.
Now we must not lose sight of the fact that our esteemed friend
has a grandson, to whom he Avas, until lately, very much attached,
and whom I could have wished to see here to-day, for I have a
real and deep regard for him. A fine young man : a very fine
young man ! I would submit to you, whether we might not
remove I\Ir. Chuzzlewit's distrust of us, and vindicate our own
disinterestedness by — "

" If Mr. George Chuzzlewit has anything to say to me,"
interposed the strong-minded woman, sternly, " I bog him to S2)eak


out, like a man ; ami not to look at nie and my daughters as if lie
coiiltl eat us."

'' As to looking, I have heard it said, Mrs. Ned," returned I\Ir.
George, angrily, " that a cat is free to contemplate a monarch ;
and therefore I hope I have some right, having been born a
member of this fomily, to look at a person who only came into it
by marriage. As to eating, I beg to say, whatever bitterness your
jealousies and disappointed expectations may suggest to you, that
I am not a cannibal, ma'am."

" I don't know that ! " cried the strong-minded woman.

"At all events, if I was a cannibal," said Mr. George Chuzzlewit,
greatly stimulated by this retort, " I think it would occur to me
that a lady who had outlived three husbands and suffered so very
little from their loss, must be most uncommonly tough."

The strong-minded woman immediately rose.

"And I will further add," said Mr. George, nodding his head
violently at every second syllable ; " naming no names, and there-
fore hurting nobody but those whose consciences tell them they
are alluded to, that I think it would be much more decent and
becoming, if those who hooked and crooked themselves into this
fiimily by getting on the blind side of some of its members before
marriage, and manslaughtering them afterwards by crowing over
them to that strong pitch that they were glad to die, would refrain
from acting the part of vultures in regard to other meml.iers of
this family wlio are living. I think it would be full as well, if
not better, if those individuals would keep at home, contenting
themselves with what they have got (luckily for them) already;
instead of hovering about, and thrusting their fingers into, a family
pie, which they flavour much more than enough, I can tell them,
when they are fifty miles away."

" I might have been prepared for this ! " cried the strong-
minded woman, looking about her with a disdainful smile as she
moved towards the door, followed liy her three daughters : " indeed
I was fully prepared for it, from the first. "What else could I
expect in such an atmosphere as this ! "

" Don't direct your half-jiay-officer's gaze at me, ma'am, if you," interposed Miss Charity; "for I won't bear it."

This was a smart stab at a pension enjoyed by the strong-
luinded woman, during her second widowhood and before her last
coverture. It told immensely.

" I passed from the memory of a grateful country, you very
miserable minx," said Mrs. Ned, "when I entered this family;
and I feel now, though I did not feel then, that it served me
right, and that I lost my claim upon the United Kingdom of


Great Britain and Ireland when I so degraded myself. Now
my dears, if you're quite ready, and have sufficiently improved
yourselves by taking to heart the genteel example of these two
young ladies, I think we'll go. Mr. Pecksniff, we are very much
obliged to you, really. We came to be entertained, and you have
far surpassed our utmost expectations, in the amusement you have
l^rovided for us. Thank you. Good bye ! "

With sucli dejiarting words, did this strong-minded female
paralyse the Pcclisniftian energies ; and so she swept out of tlie
room, and out of the house, attended by her daughters, who, as
with one accord, elevated their three noses in the air, and joined
in a contemptuous titter. As they passed the parlour window on
the outside, they were seen to counterfeit a perfect transport of
deliglit among themselves ; and with this final blow and great
discouragement for those within, they vanislied.

Before Mr. Pecksniff or any of his remaining visitors could
offer a remark, another figure passed this window, coming, at a
great rate, in the opposite direction : and immediately afterwards,
Mr. Spottletoe burst into the chamber. Compared with his
present state of heat, he had gone out a man of snow or ice. His
head distilled such oil upon his whiskers, that they were rich and
clogged with unctuous drops ; his face was violently inflamed, his
limbs trembled ; and he gasped and strove for breath.

" IMy good Sir ! " cried Mr. Pecksniff".

" Oh yes ! " returned the other : " Oh yes, certainly ! Oh to
be sure! Oh of course! You hear him? You hear him 1 all
of you ! "

"What's the matter ! " cried several voices.

" Oh nothing ! " cried Spottletoe, still gasping. " Nothing at
all ! It's of no consequence ! Ask him ! //e'll tell you ! "

" I do not understand our friend," said Mr. Pecksniff", looking
about him in utter amazement. " I assure you that he is quite
unintelligible to me."

" Unintelligible, Sir ! " cried the other. "Unintelligible! Do
you mean to say. Sir, that you don't know what lias happened !
That you haven't decoyed us here, and laid a plot and a plan
against us ! Will you venture to say that you didn't know Mr.
Chuzzlewit was going, Sir, and that you don't know he's gone,

"Gone ! " was the general cry.

"Gone," echoed Mr. Spottletoe. "Gone while we were sitting
here. Gone. Nobody knows where he's gone. Oh of course
not ! Nobody knew he was going. Oh of course not ! The
landlady thought up to the very last moment that they were


merely going for a ride ; she liad no otlier suspicion. Oh of
course not ! Slie's not tliis fellow's creature. Oh of course not ! '"'

Adding to these exclamations a kind of ironical howl, and
gazing upon the company for one brief instant afterwards, in a
sudden silence, the irritated gentleman started oft" again at the
same tremendous pace, and was seen no more.

It was in vain for Mr. Pecksnift' to assure them that this new
and opportune evasion of the family was at least as great a shock
and surprise to him, as to anybody else. Of all the bullyings and
denunciations that were ever heajjed on one unlucky head, none
can ever have exceeded in energy and heartiness those with which
he was complimented by each of his remaining relatives, singly,
upon bidding him farewell.

The moral jiosition taken by Mr. Tigg was something quite
tremendous; and the deaf cousin, who had had the complicated
aggravation of seeing all the proceedings and hearing nothing but
the catastrophe, actually scraped her shoes upon the scraper, and
afterwards distributed impressions of them all over the top step,
in token that she shook the dust from her feet before quitting that
dissembling and perfidious mansion.

Mr. Pecksnift" had, in short, but one comfort, and that was the
knowledge that all these his relations and friends had hated him
to the very utmost extent before ; and that he, for his part, had
not distributed among them any more love, than, with his ample
capital in that respect, he coidd comfortably aftbrd to part with.
This view of his aftairs yielded him great consolation ; and the
fact deserves to be noted, as showing with what ease a good man
may be consoled under circumstances of failure and disappointment.


containinc a full account 01-' the installation of mr.
Pecksniff's new pupil into the bosom of me. Pecksniff's


The best of architects and land surveyors kept a horse, in
whom the enemies already mentioned more than once in tliese
pages, pretended to detect a fanciful resemblance to his master.
Not in his outward person, for he was a raw-boned, haggard liorse,
always on a much shorter allowance of corn than Mr. Pecksnift";


but in his moral character, wherein, said they, he was full of
promise, but of no jjerformauce. He was always, in a mannci ,
going to go, and never going. When at his slowest rate nf
travelling, he would sometimes lift up his legs so high, and displ:i\-
such mighty action, that it was difficult to believe he was doinij,
less than fourteen miles an hour ; and he was for ever so perfectly
satisfied with his own speed, and so little disconcerted by opjjor-
tunities of comparing himself witli the fastest trotters, that the
illusion was the more difficult of resistance. He was a kind of
animal who infused into the breasts of strangers a lively sense of
hope, and possessed all those Avho knew him better with a grim
desi^air. In what respect, having these points of character, he
might be fairly likened to his master, that good man's slanderers
only can explain. But it is a melancholy truth, and a deplorable
instance of the uucharitableuess of the world, that they made the

In tills horse, and the hooded vehicle, whatever its jn-oper
name might be, to which he was usually harnessed — it was more
like a gig M'ith a tumour, than anything else — all Mr. Pinch's
thoughts and wishes centred, one bright frosty morning : for with
this gallant equipage he was about to drive to Salisbury alone,
there to meet with the new pupil, and thence to bring him home
in triumph.

Blessings on thy simple heart, Tom Pinch, how proudly dost
thou button up thy scanty coat, called by a sad misnomer, for
these many years, a "great" one; and how thoroughly as with
thy cheerful voice thou pleasantly adjurest Sam the hostler " not
to let him go yet," dost thou believe that quadruped desires to go,
and would go if he might ! Who could repress a smile — of love
for thee, Tom Pinch, and not in jest at thy expense, for thou art
l^oor enough already, Heaven knows — to tliink that such a hoHday
as lies before thee, should awaken that quick flow and hurry of
the spirits, in which thou settest down again, almost untasted, on
the kitchen window-sill, that great white mug (put by, by thy
own hands, last night, that breakfast might not hold thee late),
and layest yonder crust upon the seat beside thee, to be eaten on
the road, when thou art calmer in thy high rejoicing ! AVho, as
thou drivest oft', a happy man, and noddest with a grateful loving-
ness to Pecksniff' in his nightcap at his chamber-window, would
not cry : " Heaven speed thee, Tom, and send that thou wert
going off" for ever to some quiet home where thou mightst live at
peace, and sorrow should not touch thee ! "

AVhat better time for driving, riding, walking, moving through
the air by any means, than a fresh, frosty morning, when liope


nins cheerily tlirough the veins witli the brisk blood, and tingles
in the frame from head to foot ! This was the glad oon)mence-
ment of a bracing day iu early winter, such as may i)ut the languid
summer season (speaking of it when it can't be had) to tlie blush,
and shame the spring for being sometimes cold by halves. The
sheep-bells rang as clearly iu the vigorous air, as if they felt its
wholesome inHuence like living creatures ; the trees, in lieu of
leaves or blossoms, shed ui)on the ground a frosty rime that
sparkled as it fell, and might have been tlie dust of diamonds — so
it was, to Tom. From cottage chimneys, smoke went streaming
up high, high, as if the earth had lost its gros.sness, being so fair,
and must not be oppressed by heavy vapour. The crust of ice on
the else ri])pling brook, Avas so transparent and so thin in texture,
that the lively water might, of its ow'u free will, have stopped —
in Tom's glad mind it had — to look upon the lovely morning.
And lest the sun should break this charm too eagerly, there
moved between him and the ground a mist like that which waits
upon the moon on summer nights — the very same to Tom — and
wooed him to dissolve it gently.

Tom Pinch went on ; not fast, but with a sense of lapid
motion, which did just as well ; and as he went, all kinds of
things occurred to keep him happy. Thus wdien he came Avithin

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 8 of 80)