Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

. (page 9 of 80)
Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 9 of 80)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

sight of the turnpike, and was — Oh a long way off! — he saw the
tollman's wife, who had that moment checked a waggon, run back
into the little house again like mad, to say (he knew) that Mr.
Pinch was coming up. And he was right, for when lie drew
within hail of the gate, forth rushed the tollman's children,
shrieking in tiny chorus, "Mr. Pinch!" — to Tom's intense
delight. The very tollman, though an ugly chap in general, and
one whom folks were rather shy of handling, came out himself to
take the toll, and give him rough good morning : and what with
all this, and a glimpse of the family breakfast on a little round
table before the fire, the crust Tom Pinch had brought away with
him acquired as rich a flavour as though it had been cut from a
fairy loaf

But there was more than this. It was not only the married
people and the children who gave Tom Pinch a welcome as he
passed. No, no. Sparkling eyes and snowy breasts came
hurriedly to many an upper casement as he clattered by, and
gave him back his greeting: not stinted either, but sevenfold,
good measure. They were all merry. They all laughed. And
some of the wickedst among them even kis.sed their hands as Tom
looked back. For who minded poor Mr. Pinch ? There was no
harm in him.


And now the morning grew so fair, and all things were so
wide awake and gay, that the sun seeming to say — Tom had no
doubt he said — " I can't stand it any longer : I must have a
look " — streamed out in radiant majesty. The mist, too shy and
gentle for such lusty company, fled off, quite scared, before it ;
and as it swept away, the hills and mounds and distant pastuie
lands, teeming with placid sheep and noisy crows, came out as
bright as though they were unrolled bran new for the occasinn.
In compliment to which discovery, the brook stood still no lonc:er,
but ran briskly off to bear the tidings to the water-mill, thn >■
miles away.

Mr. Pinch was jogging along, full of pleasant thoughts and
cheerfid influences, when he saw, upon the path before him, going
iu the same direction with himself, a traveller on foot, who
walked with a light, quick step, and sang as he went — for certain
in a very loud voice, but not unmusically. He was a young
fellow, of some five or six-and-twenty perhaps, and was drest in
such a free and fly-away fashion, that the long ends of his loose
red neckcloth were streaming out behind him quite as often as
before ; and the bunch of bright winter berries in the buttonhole
of his velveteen coat, was as visible to j\Ii-. Pinch's rearward
observation, a.s if he had worn that garment wrong side foremost.
He continued to sing with so much energy, that he did not hear
the sound of wheels until it was close behind him ; when he
turned a whimsical face and very merry pair of blue eyes on Mr.
Pinch, and checked himself directly.

"Why, Mark!" said Tom Pinch, stopping. " ^^'ho'd have
thought of seeing you here 1 Well ! this is surprising ! "

]\Iark touched his hat, and said, with a very sudden decrease
of vivacity, that he was going to Salisbury.

"And how spruce you are, too!" said Mr. Pinch, surveying
him with great pleasure. "Really I didn't think you were half
such a tight-made fellow, IMark ! "

" Thankee, Mr. Pinch. Pretty well for that, I believe. It's
not my fault, you know. With regard to being spruce. Sir,
that's where it is, you see." And here he looked particularly

" Where what is 1 " J\lr. Pinch demanded.

" Where the aggravation of it is. Any man may be in good
spirits and good temper when he's well drest. There ain't nuich
credit in that. If I was very ragged and very jolly, thou I should
begin to feel I had gained a point, ]\Ir. Pinch."

" So you were singing just now, to bear up, as it were, against
being well dres.sed, eh, Markl" said Pinch.


"Your conversation's always equal to j^rint, Sir," rejoined
Mark, with a broad grin. "That was it."

"Well!" cried Pinch, "you are the strangest j'oung man,
Mark, I ever knew in my life. I always thought so ; but now I
am quite certain of it. I am going to Salisbury, too. Will you
get in? I shall be very glad of your company."

The young fellow made his acknowledgments and accepted the
offer; stepping into the carriage directly, and seating himself on
the very edge of the seat with his body half out of it, to express
his being there on sufferance, and by the politeness of Mr. Pinch.
As they went along, the conversation proceeded after this manner.

"I more than half believed, just now, seeing you so very
smart," said Pinch, " that you nuist be going to be married,

"Well, Sir, Pve thought of that, too," he replied. "There
might be some credit in being jolly with a wife, 'specially if the
children had the measles and that, and was very fractious indeed.
But Pm a'most afraid to try it. I don't see my way clear."

" You're not very fond of anybody, perhaps 1 " said Pinch.

"Xot particular. Sir, I think."

"But the way would be, you know, Mark, according to your
views of things," said Mr. Pinch, "to marry somebody you didn't
like, and who was very disagreeable."

" So it would, Sir ; but that might be carrying out a principle
a little too far, mightn't it 1 "

" Perhaps it might," said Mr. Pinch. At which they both
laughed gaily.

"Lord bless you, Sir," said Mark, "you don't half know me,
though. I don't believe there ever was a man as could come out
so strong under circumstances that would make other men miser-
able, as I could, if I could only get a chance. But I can't get a
chance. It's my opinion, that nobody never will know half of
what's in me, unless something very unexpected turns up. And I
don't see any prospect of that. Pm a going to leave the Dragon,

"Going to leave the Dragon!" cried Mr. Pinch, looking at
him with great astonishment. "Why, Mark, you take my breatii
away ! "

"Yes, Sir," he rejoined, looking straight before him and a long
way off, as men do sometimes when they cogitate profnuidiy.
"What's the use of my stopping at the Dragon? It an't at all
the sort of place for vie. Wlien I left London (I'm a Kentish
man by birth, though), and took that sitivation here, I quite
made up my mind that it was the dullest little out-of-the-way



corner in England, and tliat there would be some credit in being
jolly under such circujnstances. But, Lord, there's no dulness at
the Dragon ! Skittles, cricket, quoits, nine -pins, comic songs,
choruses, company round the chimney corner every winter's
evening — any man could be jolly at the Dragon. There's no
credit in that."

"But if common report be true for once, Mark, as I think it is,
being able to confirm it by what I know myself," said Mr. Pinch,
"you are the cause of half this merriment, and set it going."

" There may be something in that, too. Sir," answered Mark.
"But that's no consolation."

" Well ! " said Mr. Pinch, after a short silence, his usually
subdued tone being even more subdued than ever. "I can
hardly think enough of what you tell me. Why, what will
become of Mrs. Lupin, Mark?"

Mark looked more fixedly before him, and further oft' still, as
he answered that he didn't suppose it would be much of an object
to her. There were plenty of smart young fellows as would be
glad of the place. He knew a dozen himself

" That's probable enough," said Mr. Pinch, " but I am not at
all sure that Mrs. Lupin would be glad of them. Why, I always
supposed that Mrs. Lupin and you would make a match of it,
Mark : and so did every one, as far as I know."

" I never," ]\Lark replied, in some confusion, " said nothing as
was in a direct way courting-like to her, nor she to me, but I
don't know what I mightn't do one of these odd times, and what
she mightn't say in answer. AVell, Sir, that wouldn't suit."

"Not to be landlord of the Dragon, Mark?" cried Mr. Pinch.

" No Sir, certainly not," returned the other, withdrawing his
gaze from the horizon, and looking at his fellow-traveller. "Why,
that would be the ruin of a man like me. I go and sit down
comfortably for life, and no man never finds me out. What would
be the credit of the landlord of the Dragon's being jolly 1 Why,
he couldn't help it, if he tried."

" Does Mrs. Lupin know you are going to leave her 1 " Mr.
Pinch enquired.

" I haven't broke it to her yet. Sir, but I must. I'm looking
out this morning for something new and suitable," he said, nodding
towards the city.

"Wlrat kind of thing now?" Mr. Pinch demanded.

"I was thinking," ]\Iark replied, "of something in the grave-
digging way."

" Good Gracious, Mark ! " cried ]\Ir. Pinch.

"It's a good (lamp, wormy sort of business, Sir," said Mark,


ohaking liis head, arguinontativcly, "and there might be some
credit in being jolly, Avith one's mind in that pursuit, unless
grave-diggers is usually given that way; whicli would be a
drawback. You don't happen to know how that is, in general,
do you, Sir 1 "

"No," said Mr. Pinch, "I don't indeed. I never thought
upon the subject."

"In case of that not turning out as well as one could wish,
you know," said Mark, musing again, "there's other businesses.
Undertaking now. That's gloomy. There might be credit to be
gained there. A broker's man in a poor neighbourhood wouldn't
be bad perhaps. A jailor sees a deal of misery. A doctor's man
is in the very midst of murder. A bailiff's an't a lively office
nat'rally. Even a tax-gatherer must find his feelings rather
worked upon, at times. There's lots of trades, in which I should
have an opportunity, I think 1 "

Mr. Pinch was so j-ierfectly overwlielmed by these remarks that
he could do nothing but occasionally exchange a word or two on
some indifferent subject, and cast sidelong glances at the bright
face of his odd friend (who seemed quite unconscious of his ob-
servation), until they reached a certain corner of the road, close
upon the outskirts of the city, when Mark said he would jump
down there, if he pleased.

"But bless my soul, Mark," said Mr. Pinch, who in the pro-
gress of his observation just then made the discovery that the
bosom of his companion's shirt was as much exposed as if it were
Midsummer, and was ruffled by every breath of air, " why don't
you wear a waistcoat 1 "

" What's the good of one. Sir 1 " asked Mark.

"Good of one?" said Mr. Pinch. "Why, to keep your chest
warm. "

" Lord love you. Sir ! " cried Mark, "you don't know me. J/y
chest don't want no warming. Even if it did, what would no waist
coat bring it to 1 Inflammation of the lungs, peihaps 1 Well, there'd
be some credit in being jolly, with an inflammation of the lungs."

As Mr. Pinch returned no other answer than such as was con-
veyed in his drawing his breath very hard, and opening his eyes
very wide, and nodding his head very much, ]\Iark thanked him
for his ride, and without troubling him to stop, jumped lightly
down. And away he fluttered, with his red neckerchief, and his
open coat, down a cross-lane : turning back from time to time to
nod to Mr. Pinch, and looking one of the most careless, good-
humoured, comical fellows in life. His late companion, with a
thoughtful face, pursued his way to Salisbury.


]Mr. Pincli had a shrewd notion that Salisbury was a very
desperate sort of pUice ; an exceeding wild and dissipated city;
and when he had put up the horse, and given the hostler to
understand tliat he would look in again in the course of ati hour
or two to see him take his corn, he set forth on a stroll about the
streets with a vague and not unpleasant idea that they teemed
with all kinds of mystery and bedevilment. To one of his quiet
habits this little delusion was greatly assisted by the circumstance
of its being market-day, and the thoroughfares about the market-
place being filled with carts, horses, donkeys, baskets, waggons,
garden-stuff, meat, tripe, pies, poultry, and hucksters' wares of
every opposite description and possible variety of character. Then
there were young farmers and old farmers, with smock-frocks,
brown great - coats, drab great - coats, red worsted comforters,
leather-leggings, wonderful shaped hats, hunting-whips, and rough
sticks, standing about in groups, or talking noisily together on the
tavern steps, or paying and receiving huge amounts of greasy
wealth, with the assistance of such bulky pocket-books that when
they were in their pockets it was apoplexy to get them out, and
when they were out, it was spasms to get them in again. Also
there were farmers' wives in beaver bonnets and red cloaks, riding
shaggy horses purged of all eartlily passions, who went soberly
into all manner of places without desiring to know why, and who,
if required, would have stood stock still in a china-shop, with a
complete dinner-service at each hoof. Also a great many dogs,
who were strongly interested in the state of the market and the
bargains of their masters ; and a great confusion of tongues, both
brute and human.

Mr. Pinch regarded everything exposed for sale with great
delight, and was particularly struck by the itinerant cutlery,
which he considered of the very keenest kind, insomuch that he
purchased a pocket knife with seven blades in it, and not a cut
(as he afterwards found out) among them. "When he had ex-
hausted the market-place, and watched the farmers safe into the
market dinner, he went back to look after the horse. Having
seen him eat unto his heart's content, he issued forth again, to
wander round the town and regale himself with the shop windows :
previously taking a long stare at the bank, and wondering in what
direction underground, the caverns might be, where they kept the
money ; and turning to look back at one or two young men who
passed him, whom he knew to be articled to solicitors in the town;
and who had a sort of fearful interest in his eyes, as jolly dogs
who knew a thing or two, and kept it up tremendously.

But the shops. First of all, there were the jewellers' shops.


with all the treasures of the earth displayed therein, and such
large silver watches hanging up in every pane of glass, that if
they were anything but first-rate goers it certainly was not because
the works could decently complain of want of room. In good
sooth they were big enough, and perhaps, as the saying is, ugly
enough, to be the most correct of all mechanical perforiuers ; in
I\Ir. Pinch's eyes, however, they were smaller than Geneva ware;
and when he saw one very bloated watch announced as a repeater,
gifted with the uncommon power of striking every quarter of an
hour inside the jwcket of its happy owner, he almost wished that
he were rich enough to buy it.

But what were even gold and silver, precious stones and clock-
work, to the bookshops, whence a pleasant smell of paper freshly
pressed came issuing forth, awakening instant recollections of
some new grammer had at school, long time ago, with "Master
Pinch, Grove House Academy," inscribed in faultless writing on
the fiy-leaf ! That whift' of Russia leather, too, and all those rows
on rows of volumes, neatly ranged within— what happiness did
they suggest ! And in the window were the spick-and-si)an new
works from London, with the title-pages, and sometimes even the
first page of the first chapter, laid wide open : tempting unwary
men to begin to read the book, and then, in the impossibility of
turning over, to rush blindly in, and buy it ! Here too M'ere the
dainty frontispiece and trim vignette, pointing like hand-posts on
the outskirts of great cities to the rich stock of incident beyond ;
and store of books, with many a grave portrait and time-honoured
name, whose matter he knew well, and would have given mines to
have, in any form, upon the narrow shelf beside his bed at Mr.
Pecksniff's. What a heart-breaking shop it was !

There was another ; not quite so bod at first, but still a trying
shop ; where children's books were sold, and where poor Robinson
Crusoe stood alone in his might, with dog and hatchet, goat-ykin
cap and fowling-pieces : calmly surveying Philip Quarll and the
host of imitators round him, and calling Mr. Pinch to witness that
he, of all the cro\yd, impressed one solitary foot-print on the shore
of boyish memory, whereof the tread of generations should not
stir the lightest grain of sand. And there two were the Persian
tales, with flying chests, and students of enchanted books shut up
for years in caverns : and there too was Abudah, the merchant,
with the terrilile little old woman hobbling out of the box in his
bedroom : and there the mighty talisman — the rare Arabian Nights
— with Cassim Baba, divided by four, like the ghost of a dreadful
sum, hanging up, all gory, in the robbers' cave. Which matchless
wonders, coming fast on Mr. Pinch's mind, did so rub up and


chafe that wonderful lamp within him, that when he turned liis
face towards the busy street, a crowd of phantoms waited on his
pleasure, and he lived again, with new delight, tlie happy days
before the Pecksnift" era.

He had less interest now in the chemists' sho^DS, with their
great glowing bottles (with smaller repositories of briglitness in
their very stoppers) ; and in their agreeable compromises between
medicine and perfumery, in the shape of tootlisome lozenges and
virgin honey. Neither had he the least regard (but he never had
much) for the tailors', where tlie newest metropolitan waistcoat
patterns were hanging up, which by some strange transformation
always looked amazing there, and never appeared at all like the
same thing anywhere else. But he stopped to read the playljill
at the theatre, and surveyed the doorway with a kind of awe,
which was not diminished when a sallow gentleman with long
dark hair came out, and told a boy to run home to his lodgings
and bring down his broadsword. Mr. Pinch stood rooted to the
spot on hearing tliis, and might have stood there until dark, but
that the old cathedral bell began to ring for vesper service, on
which he tore himself away.

Now, the organist's assistant was a friend of Mr. Pinch's, which
was a good thing, for he too was a very quiet, gentle soul, and
had been, like Tom, a kind of old-fashioned boy at school, though
well-liked by the noisy fellows too. As good luck would have it
(Tom always said he had great good luck) the assistant chanced
that very afternoon to be on duty by himself, with no one in the
dusty organ-loft but Tom : so Avhile he played, Tom helped him
with the stops ; and finally, the service being just over, Tom took
the organ himself It was then turning dark, and the yellow
light that streamed in through the ancient windows in the choir
was mingled with a murky red. As the grand tones resounded
through the church, they seemed, to Tom, to find an echo in the
depth of every ancient tomb, no less than in the deep mystery of
liis own heart. Great thoughts and hopes came crowding on his
mind as the rich music rolled upon the air, and yet among them
— something more grave and solemn in their purpose, but the
same — were all the images of that day, down to its very lightest
recollection of childhood. The feeling that the sounds awakened,
in tlie moment of their existence, seemed to include his whole life
and being ; and as the surrounding realities of stone and Avood and
glass grew dimmer in the darkness, these visions grew so nuich the
brighter that Tom might have forgotten the new pupil and the
expectant master, and have sat there pouring out his grateful
heart till midnight, but for a very earthy old verger insisting on


locking up the cathedral foitliwith. So lie tuok leave of his
friend, with many thanks, groped his way out, as well as he coidd,
into the now lanipdighted streets, and hurried otl' to get his dinner.

All the farmers being by this time jogging homewards, there
was nobody in the sanded parlour of the tavern where lie had left
the horse ; so he had his little table drawn out close before the
fire, and fell to work upon a well-cooked steak and smoking hot
potatoes, with a strong appreciation of their excellence, and a very
keen sense of enjoyment. Beside him, too, there stood a jug of
most stupendous Wiltshire beer ; and the efl'ect of the whole was
so transcendent, that he was obliged every now and then to lay
down his knife and fork, rub his hands, and think about it. By
the time the cheese and celery came, Mr. Pinch had taken a book
out of his pocket, and could afford to trifle witii the viands ; now
eating a little, now drinking a little, now reading a little, and now
stopping to wonder what sort of a young man the new pupil would
turn out to be. He had passed from this latter theme and was
deep in his book again, when the door opened, and another guest
came in, bringing with him such a quantity of cold air, that he
positively seemed at first to put the fire out,

"Very hard frost to-night. Sir," said the new-comer, courteously
acknowledging Mr. Pinch's withdrawal of the little table, that he
might have place. " Don't disturb yourself, I beg."

Though he said this with a vast amount of consideration for
Mr. Pinch's comfort, he dragged one of the great leather-bottomed
chairs to the very centre of the hearth, notwitlistauding ; and sat
down in front of the fire, with a foot on each hob.

" ]\ry feet are quite numbed. Ah! Bitter cold to be sure."

" You have been in the air some considerable time, I dare say 1 "
said Mr. Pinch.

"All day. Outside a coach, too."

"That accounts for his making the room so cool," thought Mr.
Pinch. " Poor fellow ! How thoroughly chilled he must be ! "

The stranger became thoughtful, likewise, and sat for five or
ten minutes looking at the fire in silence. At length he rose and
divested himself of his shawl and great-coat, which (far ditterent
from Mr. Pinch's) was a very warm and thick one ; but he was
uot a whit more conversational out of his great-coat than in it, for
he sat down again in the same place and attitude, and leaning
back in his chair, began to bite his nails. He wms young — one-
and-twenty, perhaps — and handsome ; with a keen dark eye, and
a of look and manner wliicli made Tom sensible of a
great contrast in his own bearing, and caused him to feel even
more shy than usual.


There was a clock in tlie room, which tlie strauger often turiRM]
to look at. Tom made frequent reference to it also : partly frum
a nervous sympathy with its taciturn companion ; and partly
because the new pupil was to inquire for him at half after six, ami
tlie hands were getting on towards that hour. "Whenever the
stranger caught him looking at this clock, a kind of confusinn
came upon Tom as if he had been found out in something ; and it-
was a perception of his uneasiness which caused the younger man
to say, perhaps, with a smile :

" We both appear to be rather i)articular about the time. Tlie
fact is, I have an engagement to meet a gentleman here."

"So have I," said Mr. Pinch.

"At half-past six," said the stranger.

"At half-past six," said Tom in the very same breath ; where-
upon the other looked at him with some surjjrise.

" The young gentleman, I expect," remarked Tom, timidly,
"Avas to inquire at that time for a person of the name of Pinch."

"Dear me ! " cried the other, jumping up. "And I have been
keeping the fire from you all this while ! I had no idea you were
Mr. Pinch. I am the Mr. Martin for whom you were to inquire.
Pray excuse me. How do you do'? Oh, do draw nearer, pray !"

"Thank you," said Tom, "thank you. I am not at all cold;
and you are ; and we have a cold ride before us. Well, if you
wish it, I will. I — I am very glad," said Tom, smiling with an
embarrassed frankness peculiarly his, and which was as jjlainly a
confession of his own imperfections, and an appeal to the kindness
of the person he addressed, as if he had drawn one up in simple
language and committed it to paper : " I am very glad indeed that
you turn out to be the party I expected. I was thinking, but a
minute ago, that I could wish him to be like you."

" I am very glad to hear it," returned IMartin, shaking hands
with him again; "for I assure you, I was thinking there could be
no such luck as Mr. Pinch's turning out like ycni."

"No, really!" said Tom, with great pleasure. "Are you
serious ? "

"Upon my word I am," replied his new acquaintance. "You
and I will get on excellently well, I know : which it's no small
relief to me to feel, for to tell you the truth, I am not at all the
sort of fellow who could get on with everybody, and that's the

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 9 of 80)