Part 1 out of 20
Life And Adventures Of Martin Chuzzlewit
by Charles Dickens
What is exaggeration to one class of minds and perceptions,
is plain truth to another. That which is commonly called a long-sight,
perceives in a prospect innumerable features and bearings
non-existent to a short-sighted person. I sometimes ask myself
whether there may occasionally be a difference of this kind between
some writers and some readers; whether it is ALWAYS the writer
who colours highly, or whether it is now and then the reader
whose eye for colour is a little dull?
On this head of exaggeration I have a positive experience, more
curious than the speculation I have just set down. It is this:
I have never touched a character precisely from the life, but some
counterpart of that character has incredulously asked me: "Now
really, did I ever really, see one like it?"
All the Pecksniff family upon earth are quite agreed, I believe,
that Mr. Pecksniff is an exaggeration, and that no such character
ever existed. I will not offer any plea on his behalf to so
powerful and genteel a body, but will make a remark on the
character of Jonas Chuzzlewit.
I conceive that the sordid coarseness and brutality of Jonas
would be unnatural, if there had been nothing in his early
education, and in the precept and example always before him,
to engender and develop the vices that make him odious. But,
so born and so bred, admired for that which made him hateful,
and justified from his cradle in cunning, treachery, and avarice;
I claim him as the legitimate issue of the father upon whom those
vices are seen to recoil. And I submit that their recoil upon
that old man, in his unhonoured age, is not a mere piece of
poetical justice, but is the extreme exposition of a direct truth.
I make this comment, and solicit the reader's attention to it in
his or her consideration of this tale, because nothing is more
common in real life than a want of profitable reflection on the
causes of many vices and crimes that awaken the general horror.
What is substantially true of families in this respect, is true
of a whole commonwealth. As we sow, we reap. Let the reader go
into the children's side of any prison in England, or, I grieve
to add, of many workhouses, and judge whether those are monsters
who disgrace our streets, people our hulks and penitentiaries, and
overcrowd our penal colonies, or are creatures whom we have
deliberately suffered to be bred for misery and ruin.
The American portion of this story is in no other respect a
caricature than as it is an exhibition, for the most part (Mr.
Bevan expected), of a ludicrous side, ONLY, of the American
character--of that side which was, four-and-twenty years ago,
from its nature, the most obtrusive, and the most likely to be
seen by such travellers as Young Martin and Mark Tapley. As I
had never, in writing fiction, had any disposition to soften what
is ridiculous or wrong at home, so I then hoped that the
good-humored people of the United States would not be generally
disposed to quarrel with me for carrying the same usage abroad.
I am happy to believe that my confidence in that great nation was
When this book was first published, I was given to understand, by
some authorities, that the Watertoast Association and eloquence
were beyond all bounds of belief. Therefore I record the fact
that all that portion of Martin Chuzzlewit's experiences is a
literal paraphrase of some reports of public proceedings in the
United States (especially of the proceedings of a certain Brandywine
Association), which were printed in the Times Newspaper in June
and July, 1843--at about the time when I was engaged in writing
those parts of the book; and which remain on the file of the Times
Newspaper, of course.
In all my writings, I hope I have taken every available opportunity
of showing the want of sanitary improvements in the neglected
dwellings of the poor. Mrs. Sarah Gamp was, four-and-twenty years
ago, a fair representation of the hired attendant on the poor in
sickness. The hospitals of London were, in many respects, noble
Institutions; in others, very defective. I think it not the least
among the instances of their mismanagement, that Mrs. Betsey Prig
was a fair specimen of a Hospital Nurse; and that the Hospitals,
with their means and funds, should have left it to private humanity
and enterprise, to enter on an attempt to improve that class of
persons--since, greatly improved through the agency of good women.
At a Public Dinner given to me on Saturday the 18th of April, 1868,
in the city of New York, by two hundred representatives of the Press
of the United States of America, I made the following observations,
"So much of my voice has lately been heard in the land, that I
might have been contented with troubling you no further from my
present standing-point, were it not a duty with which I henceforth
charge myself, not only here but on every suitable occasion,
whatsoever and wheresoever, to express my high and grateful sense
of my second reception in America, and to bear my honest testimony
to the national generosity and magnanimity. Also, to declare how
astounded I have been by the amazing changes I have seen around me
on every side--changes moral, changes physical, changes in the
amount of land subdued and peopled, changes in the rise of vast
new cities, changes in the growth of older cities almost out of
recognition, changes in the graces and amenities of life, changes
in the Press, without whose advancement no advancement can take
place anywhere. Nor am I, believe me, so arrogant as to suppose
that in five-and-twenty years there have been no changes in me,
and that I had nothing to learn and no extreme impressions to
correct when I was here first. And this brings me to a point on
which I have, ever since I landed in the United States last November,
observed a strict silence, though sometimes tempted to break it,
but in reference to which I will, with your good leave, take you
into my confidence now. Even the Press, being human, may be
sometimes mistaken or misinformed, and I rather think that I have
in one or two rare instances observed its information to be not
strictly accurate with reference to myself. Indeed, I have, now
and again, been more surprised by printed news that I have read of
myself, than by any printed news that I have ever read in my present
state of existence. Thus, the vigour and perseverance with which
I have for some months past been collecting materials for, and
hammering away at, a new book on America has much astonished me;
seeing that all that time my declaration has been perfectly well
known to my publishers on both sides of the Atlantic, that no
consideration on earth would induce me to write one. But what
I have intended, what I have resolved upon (and this is the
confidence I seek to place in you), is, on my return to England,
in my own person, in my own Journal, to bear, for the behoof of my
countrymen, such testimony to the gigantic changes in this country
as I have hinted at to-night. Also, to record that wherever I have
been, in the smallest places equally with the largest, I have been
received with unsurpassable politeness, delicacy, sweet temper,
hospitality, consideration, and with unsurpassable respect for
the privacy daily enforced upon me by the nature of my avocation
here and the state of my health. This testimony, so long as I live,
and so long as my descendants have any legal right in my books,
I shall cause to be republished, as an appendix to every copy of
those two books of mine in which I have referred to America.
And this I will do and cause to be done, not in mere love and
thankfulness, but because I regard it as an act of plain justice
I said these words with the greatest earnestness that I could lay
upon them, and I repeat them in print here with equal earnestness.
So long as this book shall last, I hope that they will form a part
of it, and will be fairly read as inseparable from my experiences
and impressions of America.
INTRODUCTORY, CONCERNING THE PEDIGREE OF THE CHUZZLEWIT FAMILY
As no lady or gentleman, with any claims to polite breeding, can
possibly sympathize with the Chuzzlewit Family without being first
assured of the extreme antiquity of the race, it is a great
satisfaction to know that it undoubtedly descended in a direct line
from Adam and Eve; and was, in the very earliest times, closely
connected with the agricultural interest. If it should ever be
urged by grudging and malicious persons, that a Chuzzlewit, in any
period of the family history, displayed an overweening amount of
family pride, surely the weakness will be considered not only
pardonable but laudable, when the immense superiority of the house
to the rest of mankind, in respect of this its ancient origin, is
taken into account.
It is remarkable that as there was, in the oldest family of which we
have any record, a murderer and a vagabond, so we never fail to
meet, in the records of all old families, with innumerable
repetitions of the same phase of character. Indeed, it may be laid
down as a general principle, that the more extended the ancestry,
the greater the amount of violence and vagabondism; for in ancient
days those two amusements, combining a wholesome excitement with a
promising means of repairing shattered fortunes, were at once the
ennobling pursuit and the healthful recreation of the Quality of
Consequently, it is a source of inexpressible comfort and happiness
to find, that in various periods of our history, the Chuzzlewits
were actively connected with divers slaughterous conspiracies and
bloody frays. It is further recorded of them, that being clad from
head to heel in steel of proof, they did on many occasions lead
their leather-jerkined soldiers to the death with invincible
courage, and afterwards return home gracefully to their relations
There can be no doubt that at least one Chuzzlewit came over with
William the Conqueror. It does not appear that this illustrious
ancestor 'came over' that monarch, to employ the vulgar phrase, at
any subsequent period; inasmuch as the Family do not seem to have
been ever greatly distinguished by the possession of landed estate.
And it is well known that for the bestowal of that kind of property
upon his favourites, the liberality and gratitude of the Norman were
as remarkable as those virtues are usually found to be in great men
when they give away what belongs to other people.
Perhaps in this place the history may pause to congratulate itself
upon the enormous amount of bravery, wisdom, eloquence, virtue,
gentle birth, and true nobility, that appears to have come into
England with the Norman Invasion: an amount which the genealogy of
every ancient family lends its aid to swell, and which would beyond
all question have been found to be just as great, and to the full as
prolific in giving birth to long lines of chivalrous descendants,
boastful of their origin, even though William the Conqueror had been
William the Conquered; a change of circumstances which, it is quite
certain, would have made no manner of difference in this respect.
There was unquestionably a Chuzzlewit in the Gunpowder Plot, if
indeed the arch-traitor, Fawkes himself, were not a scion of this
remarkable stock; as he might easily have been, supposing another
Chuzzlewit to have emigrated to Spain in the previous generation,
and there intermarried with a Spanish lady, by whom he had issue,
one olive-complexioned son. This probable conjecture is
strengthened, if not absolutely confirmed, by a fact which cannot
fail to be interesting to those who are curious in tracing the
progress of hereditary tastes through the lives of their unconscious
inheritors. It is a notable circumstance that in these later times,
many Chuzzlewits, being unsuccessful in other pursuits, have,
without the smallest rational hope of enriching themselves, or any
conceivable reason, set up as coal-merchants; and have, month after
month, continued gloomily to watch a small stock of coals, without
in any one instance negotiating with a purchaser. The remarkable
similarity between this course of proceeding and that adopted by
their Great Ancestor beneath the vaults of the Parliament House at
Westminster, is too obvious and too full of interest, to stand in
need of comment.
It is also clearly proved by the oral traditions of the Family, that
there existed, at some one period of its history which is not
distinctly stated, a matron of such destructive principles, and so
familiarized to the use and composition of inflammatory and
combustible engines, that she was called 'The Match Maker;' by which
nickname and byword she is recognized in the Family legends to this
day. Surely there can be no reasonable doubt that this was the
Spanish lady, the mother of Chuzzlewit Fawkes.
But there is one other piece of evidence, bearing immediate
reference to their close connection with this memorable event in
English History, which must carry conviction, even to a mind (if
such a mind there be) remaining unconvinced by these presumptive
There was, within a few years, in the possession of a highly
respectable and in every way credible and unimpeachable member of
the Chuzzlewit Family (for his bitterest enemy never dared to hint
at his being otherwise than a wealthy man), a dark lantern of
undoubted antiquity; rendered still more interesting by being, in
shape and pattern, extremely like such as are in use at the present
day. Now this gentleman, since deceased, was at all times ready to
make oath, and did again and again set forth upon his solemn
asseveration, that he had frequently heard his grandmother say, when
contemplating this venerable relic, 'Aye, aye! This was carried by
my fourth son on the fifth of November, when he was a Guy Fawkes.'
These remarkable words wrought (as well they might) a strong
impression on his mind, and he was in the habit of repeating them
very often. The just interpretation which they bear, and the
conclusion to which they lead, are triumphant and irresistible. The
old lady, naturally strong-minded, was nevertheless frail and
fading; she was notoriously subject to that confusion of ideas, or,
to say the least, of speech, to which age and garrulity are liable.
The slight, the very slight, confusion apparent in these expressions
is manifest, and is ludicrously easy of correction. 'Aye, aye,'
quoth she, and it will be observed that no emendation whatever is
necessary to be made in these two initiative remarks, 'Aye, aye!
This lantern was carried by my forefather'--not fourth son, which is
preposterous--'on the fifth of November. And HE was Guy Fawkes.'
Here we have a remark at once consistent, clear, natural, and in
strict accordance with the character of the speaker. Indeed the
anecdote is so plainly susceptible of this meaning and no other,
that it would be hardly worth recording in its original state, were
it not a proof of what may be (and very often is) affected not only
in historical prose but in imaginative poetry, by the exercise of a
little ingenious labour on the part of a commentator.
It has been said that there is no instance, in modern times, of a
Chuzzlewit having been found on terms of intimacy with the Great.
But here again the sneering detractors who weave such miserable
figments from their malicious brains, are stricken dumb by evidence.
For letters are yet in the possession of various branches of the
family, from which it distinctly appears, being stated in so many
words, that one Diggory Chuzzlewit was in the habit of perpetually
dining with Duke Humphrey. So constantly was he a guest at that
nobleman's table, indeed; and so unceasingly were His Grace's
hospitality and companionship forced, as it were, upon him; that we
find him uneasy, and full of constraint and reluctance; writing his
friends to the effect that if they fail to do so and so by bearer,
he will have no choice but to dine again with Duke Humphrey; and
expressing himself in a very marked and extraordinary manner as one
surfeited of High Life and Gracious Company.
It has been rumoured, and it is needless to say the rumour
originated in the same base quarters, that a certain male
Chuzzlewit, whose birth must be admitted to be involved in some
obscurity, was of very mean and low descent. How stands the proof?
When the son of that individual, to whom the secret of his father's
birth was supposed to have been communicated by his father in his
lifetime, lay upon his deathbed, this question was put to him in a
distinct, solemn, and formal way: 'Toby Chuzzlewit, who was your
grandfather?' To which he, with his last breath, no less distinctly,
solemnly, and formally replied: and his words were taken down at the
time, and signed by six witnesses, each with his name and address in
full: 'The Lord No Zoo.' It may be said--it HAS been said, for human
wickedness has no limits--that there is no Lord of that name, and
that among the titles which have become extinct, none at all
resembling this, in sound even, is to be discovered. But what is
the irresistible inference? Rejecting a theory broached by some
well-meaning but mistaken persons, that this Mr Toby Chuzzlewit's
grandfather, to judge from his name, must surely have been a
Mandarin (which is wholly insupportable, for there is no pretence of
his grandmother ever having been out of this country, or of any
Mandarin having been in it within some years of his father's birth;
except those in the tea-shops, which cannot for a moment be regarded
as having any bearing on the question, one way or other), rejecting
this hypothesis, is it not manifest that Mr Toby Chuzzlewit had
either received the name imperfectly from his father, or that he had
forgotten it, or that he had mispronounced it? and that even at the
recent period in question, the Chuzzlewits were connected by a bend
sinister, or kind of heraldic over-the-left, with some unknown noble
and illustrious House?
From documentary evidence, yet preserved in the family, the fact is
clearly established that in the comparatively modern days of the
Diggory Chuzzlewit before mentioned, one of its members had attained
to very great wealth and influence. Throughout such fragments of
his correspondence as have escaped the ravages of the moths (who, in
right of their extensive absorption of the contents of deeds and
papers, may be called the general registers of the Insect World), we
find him making constant reference to an uncle, in respect of whom
he would seem to have entertained great expectations, as he was in
the habit of seeking to propitiate his favour by presents of plate,
jewels, books, watches, and other valuable articles. Thus, he
writes on one occasion to his brother in reference to a gravy-spoon,
the brother's property, which he (Diggory) would appear to have
borrowed or otherwise possessed himself of: 'Do not be angry, I have
parted with it--to my uncle.' On another occasion he expresses
himself in a similar manner with regard to a child's mug which had
been entrusted to him to get repaired. On another occasion he says,
'I have bestowed upon that irresistible uncle of mine everything I
ever possessed.' And that he was in the habit of paying long and
constant visits to this gentleman at his mansion, if, indeed, he did
not wholly reside there, is manifest from the following sentence:
'With the exception of the suit of clothes I carry about with me,
the whole of my wearing apparel is at present at my uncle's.' This
gentleman's patronage and influence must have been very extensive,
for his nephew writes, 'His interest is too high'--'It is too much'
--'It is tremendous'--and the like. Still it does not appear (which
is strange) to have procured for him any lucrative post at court or
elsewhere, or to have conferred upon him any other distinction than
that which was necessarily included in the countenance of so great a
man, and the being invited by him to certain entertainment's, so
splendid and costly in their nature, that he calls them 'Golden
It is needless to multiply instances of the high and lofty station,
and the vast importance of the Chuzzlewits, at different periods.
If it came within the scope of reasonable probability that further
proofs were required, they might be heaped upon each other until
they formed an Alps of testimony, beneath which the boldest
scepticism should be crushed and beaten flat. As a goodly tumulus
is already collected, and decently battened up above the Family
grave, the present chapter is content to leave it as it is: merely
adding, by way of a final spadeful, that many Chuzzlewits, both male
and female, are proved to demonstration, on the faith of letters
written by their own mothers, to have had chiselled noses,
undeniable chins, forms that might have served the sculptor for a
model, exquisitely-turned limbs and polished foreheads of so
transparent a texture that the blue veins might be seen branching
off in various directions, like so many roads on an ethereal map.
This fact in itself, though it had been a solitary one, would have
utterly settled and clenched the business in hand; for it is well
known, on the authority of all the books which treat of such
matters, that every one of these phenomena, but especially that of
the chiselling, are invariably peculiar to, and only make themselves
apparent in, persons of the very best condition.
This history having, to its own perfect satisfaction, (and,
consequently, to the full contentment of all its readers,) proved
the Chuzzlewits to have had an origin, and to have been at one time
or other of an importance which cannot fail to render them highly
improving and acceptable acquaintance to all right-minded
individuals, may now proceed in earnest with its task. And having
shown that they must have had, by reason of their ancient birth, a
pretty large share in the foundation and increase of the human
family, it will one day become its province to submit, that such of
its members as shall be introduced in these pages, have still many
counterparts and prototypes in the Great World about us. At present
it contents itself with remarking, in a general way, on this head:
Firstly, that it may be safely asserted, and yet without implying
any direct participation in the Manboddo doctrine touching the
probability of the human race having once been monkeys, that men do
play very strange and extraordinary tricks. Secondly, and yet
without trenching on the Blumenbach theory as to the descendants of
Adam having a vast number of qualities which belong more
particularly to swine than to any other class of animals in the
creation, that some men certainly are remarkable for taking uncommon
good care of themselves.
WHEREIN CERTAIN PERSONS ARE PRESENTED TO THE READER, WITH WHOM HE
MAY, IF HE PLEASE, BECOME BETTER ACQUAINTED
It was pretty late in the autumn of the year, when the declining sun
struggling through the mist which had obscured it all day, looked
brightly down upon a little Wiltshire village, within an easy
journey of the fair old town of Salisbury.
Like a sudden flash of memory or spirit kindling up the mind of an
old man, it shed a glory upon the scene, in which its departed youth
and freshness seemed to live again. The wet grass sparkled in the
light; the scanty patches of verdure in the hedges--where a few
green twigs yet stood together bravely, resisting to the last the
tyranny of nipping winds and early frosts--took heart and brightened
up; the stream which had been dull and sullen all day long, broke
out into a cheerful smile; the birds began to chirp and twitter on
the naked boughs, as though the hopeful creatures half believed that
winter had gone by, and spring had come already. The vane upon the
tapering spire of the old church glistened from its lofty station in
sympathy with the general gladness; and from the ivy-shaded windows
such gleams of light shone back upon the glowing sky, that it seemed
as if the quiet buildings were the hoarding-place of twenty summers,
and all their ruddiness and warmth were stored within.
Even those tokens of the season which emphatically whispered of the
coming winter, graced the landscape, and, for the moment, tinged its
livelier features with no oppressive air of sadness. The fallen
leaves, with which the ground was strewn, gave forth a pleasant
fragrance, and subduing all harsh sounds of distant feet and wheels
created a repose in gentle unison with the light scattering of seed
hither and thither by the distant husbandman, and with the
noiseless passage of the plough as it turned up the rich brown
earth, and wrought a graceful pattern in the stubbled fields. On
the motionless branches of some trees, autumn berries hung like
clusters of coral beads, as in those fabled orchards where the
fruits were jewels; others stripped of all their garniture, stood,
each the centre of its little heap of bright red leaves, watching
their slow decay; others again, still wearing theirs, had them all
crunched and crackled up, as though they had been burnt; about the
stems of some were piled, in ruddy mounds, the apples they had borne
that year; while others (hardy evergreens this class) showed
somewhat stern and gloomy in their vigour, as charged by nature with
the admonition that it is not to her more sensitive and joyous
favourites she grants the longest term of life. Still athwart their
darker boughs, the sunbeams struck out paths of deeper gold; and the
red light, mantling in among their swarthy branches, used them as
foils to set its brightness off, and aid the lustre of the dying
A moment, and its glory was no more. The sun went down beneath the
long dark lines of hill and cloud which piled up in the west an airy
city, wall heaped on wall, and battlement on battlement; the light
was all withdrawn; the shining church turned cold and dark; the
stream forgot to smile; the birds were silent; and the gloom of
winter dwelt on everything.
An evening wind uprose too, and the slighter branches cracked and
rattled as they moved, in skeleton dances, to its moaning music.
The withering leaves no longer quiet, hurried to and fro in search
of shelter from its chill pursuit; the labourer unyoked his horses,
and with head bent down, trudged briskly home beside them; and from
the cottage windows lights began to glance and wink upon the
Then the village forge came out in all its bright importance. The
lusty bellows roared Ha ha! to the clear fire, which roared in turn,
and bade the shining sparks dance gayly to the merry clinking of the
hammers on the anvil. The gleaming iron, in its emulation, sparkled
too, and shed its red-hot gems around profusely. The strong smith
and his men dealt such strokes upon their work, as made even the
melancholy night rejoice, and brought a glow into its dark face as
it hovered about the door and windows, peeping curiously in above
the shoulders of a dozen loungers. As to this idle company, there
they stood, spellbound by the place, and, casting now and then a
glance upon the darkness in their rear, settled their lazy elbows
more at ease upon the sill, and leaned a little further in: no more
disposed to tear themselves away than if they had been born to
cluster round the blazing hearth like so many crickets.
Out upon the angry wind! how from sighing, it began to bluster round
the merry forge, banging at the wicket, and grumbling in the
chimney, as if it bullied the jolly bellows for doing anything to
order. And what an impotent swaggerer it was too, for all its
noise; for if it had any influence on that hoarse companion, it was
but to make him roar his cheerful song the louder, and by
consequence to make the fire burn the brighter, and the sparks to
dance more gayly yet; at length, they whizzed so madly round and
round, that it was too much for such a surly wind to bear; so off it
flew with a howl giving the old sign before the ale-house door such
a cuff as it went, that the Blue Dragon was more rampant than usual
ever afterwards, and indeed, before Christmas, reared clean out of
its crazy frame.
It was small tyranny for a respectable wind to go wreaking its
vengeance on such poor creatures as the fallen leaves, but this wind
happening to come up with a great heap of them just after venting
its humour on the insulted Dragon, did so disperse and scatter them
that they fled away, pell-mell, some here, some there, rolling over
each other, whirling round and round upon their thin edges, taking
frantic flights into the air, and playing all manner of
extraordinary gambols in the extremity of their distress. Nor was
this enough for its malicious fury; for not content with driving
them abroad, it charged small parties of them and hunted them into
the wheel wright's saw-pit, and below the planks and timbers in the
yard, and, scattering the sawdust in the air, it looked for them
underneath, and when it did meet with any, whew! how it drove them
on and followed at their heels!
The scared leaves only flew the faster for all this, and a giddy
chase it was; for they got into unfrequented places, where there was
no outlet, and where their pursuer kept them eddying round and round
at his pleasure; and they crept under the eaves of houses, and clung
tightly to the sides of hay-ricks, like bats; and tore in at open
chamber windows, and cowered close to hedges; and, in short, went
anywhere for safety. But the oddest feat they achieved was, to take
advantage of the sudden opening of Mr Pecksniff's front-door, to
dash wildly into his passage; whither the wind following close upon
them, and finding the back-door open, incontinently blew out the
lighted candle held by Miss Pecksniff, and slammed the front-door
against Mr Pecksniff who was at that moment entering, with such
violence, that in the twinkling of an eye he lay on his back at the
bottom of the steps. Being by this time weary of such trifling
performances, the boisterous rover hurried away rejoicing, roaring
over moor and meadow, hill and flat, until it got out to sea, where
it met with other winds similarly disposed, and made a night of it.
In the meantime Mr Pecksniff, having received from a sharp angle in
the bottom step but one, that sort of knock on the head which lights
up, for the patient's entertainment, an imaginary general
illumination of very bright short-sixes, lay placidly staring at his
own street door. And it would seem to have been more suggestive in
its aspect than street doors usually are; for he continued to lie
there, rather a lengthy and unreasonable time, without so much as
wondering whether he was hurt or no; neither, when Miss Pecksniff
inquired through the key-hole in a shrill voice, which might have
belonged to a wind in its teens, 'Who's there' did he make any
reply; nor, when Miss Pecksniff opened the door again, and shading
the candle with her hand, peered out, and looked provokingly round
him, and about him, and over him, and everywhere but at him, did he
offer any remark, or indicate in any manner the least hint of a
desire to be picked up.
'I see you,' cried Miss Pecksniff, to the ideal inflicter of a
runaway knock. 'You'll catch it, sir!'
Still Mr Pecksniff, perhaps from having caught it already, said
'You're round the corner now,' cried Miss Pecksniff. She said it at
a venture, but there was appropriate matter in it too; for Mr
Pecksniff, being in the act of extinguishing the candles before
mentioned pretty rapidly, and of reducing the number of brass knobs
on his street door from four or five hundred (which had previously
been juggling of their own accord before his eyes in a very novel
manner) to a dozen or so, might in one sense have been said to be
coming round the corner, and just turning it.
With a sharply delivered warning relative to the cage and the
constable, and the stocks and the gallows, Miss Pecksniff was about
to close the door again, when Mr Pecksniff (being still at the
bottom of the steps) raised himself on one elbow, and sneezed.
'That voice!' cried Miss Pecksniff. 'My parent!'
At this exclamation, another Miss Pecksniff bounced out of the
parlour; and the two Miss Pecksniffs, with many incoherent
expressions, dragged Mr Pecksniff into an upright posture.
'Pa!' they cried in concert. 'Pa! Speak, Pa! Do not look so wild my
But as a gentleman's looks, in such a case of all others, are by no
means under his own control, Mr Pecksniff continued to keep his
mouth and his eyes very wide open, and to drop his lower jaw,
somewhat after the manner of a toy nut-cracker; and as his hat had
fallen off, and his face was pale, and his hair erect, and his coat
muddy, the spectacle he presented was so very doleful, that neither
of the Miss Pecksniffs could repress an involuntary screech.
'That'll do,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'I'm better.'
'He's come to himself!' cried the youngest Miss Pecksniff.
'He speaks again!' exclaimed the eldest.
With these joyful words they kissed Mr Pecksniff on either cheek;
and bore him into the house. Presently, the youngest Miss Pecksniff
ran out again to pick up his hat, his brown paper parcel, his
umbrella, his gloves, and other small articles; and that done, and
the door closed, both young ladies applied themselves to tending Mr
Pecksniff's wounds in the back parlour.
They were not very serious in their nature; being limited to
abrasions on what the eldest Miss Pecksniff called 'the knobby
parts' of her parent's anatomy, such as his knees and elbows, and to
the development of an entirely new organ, unknown to phrenologists,
on the back of his head. These injuries having been comforted
externally, with patches of pickled brown paper, and Mr Pecksniff
having been comforted internally, with some stiff brandy-and-water,
the eldest Miss Pecksniff sat down to make the tea, which was all
ready. In the meantime the youngest Miss Pecksniff brought from the
kitchen a smoking dish of ham and eggs, and, setting the same before
her father, took up her station on a low stool at his feet; thereby
bringing her eyes on a level with the teaboard.
It must not be inferred from this position of humility, that the
youngest Miss Pecksniff was so young as to be, as one may say,
forced to sit upon a stool, by reason of the shortness of her legs.
Miss Pecksniff sat upon a stool because of her simplicity and
innocence, which were very great, very great. Miss Pecksniff sat
upon a stool because she was all girlishness, and playfulness, and
wildness, and kittenish buoyancy. She was the most arch and at the
same time the most artless creature, was the youngest Miss
Pecksniff, that you can possibly imagine. It was her great charm.
She was too fresh and guileless, and too full of child-like
vivacity, was the youngest Miss Pecksniff, to wear combs in her
hair, or to turn it up, or to frizzle it, or braid it. She wore it
in a crop, a loosely flowing crop, which had so many rows of curls
in it, that the top row was only one curl. Moderately buxom was her
shape, and quite womanly too; but sometimes--yes, sometimes--she
even wore a pinafore; and how charming THAT was! Oh! she was indeed
'a gushing thing' (as a young gentleman had observed in verse, in
the Poet's Corner of a provincial newspaper), was the youngest Miss
Mr Pecksniff was a moral man--a grave man, a man of noble sentiments
and speech--and he had had her christened Mercy. Mercy! oh, what a
charming name for such a pure-souled Being as the youngest Miss
Pecksniff! Her sister's name was Charity. There was a good thing!
Mercy and Charity! And Charity, with her fine strong sense and her
mild, yet not reproachful gravity, was so well named, and did so
well set off and illustrate her sister! What a pleasant sight was
that the contrast they presented; to see each loved and loving one
sympathizing with, and devoted to, and leaning on, and yet
correcting and counter-checking, and, as it were, antidoting, the
other! To behold each damsel in her very admiration of her sister,
setting up in business for herself on an entirely different
principle, and announcing no connection with over-the-way, and if the
quality of goods at that establishment don't please you, you are
respectfully invited to favour ME with a call! And the crowning
circumstance of the whole delightful catalogue was, that both the
fair creatures were so utterly unconscious of all this! They had no
idea of it. They no more thought or dreamed of it than Mr Pecksniff
did. Nature played them off against each other; THEY had no hand in
it, the two Miss Pecksniffs.
It has been remarked that Mr Pecksniff was a moral man. So he was.
Perhaps there never was a more moral man than Mr Pecksniff,
especially in his conversation and correspondence. It was once said
of him by a homely admirer, that he had a Fortunatus's purse of good
sentiments in his inside. In this particular he was like the girl
in the fairy tale, except that if they were not actual diamonds
which fell from his lips, they were the very brightest paste, and
shone prodigiously. He was a most exemplary man; fuller of virtuous
precept than a copy book. Some people likened him to a direction-
post, which is always telling the way to a place, and never goes
there; but these were his enemies, the shadows cast by his
brightness; that was all. His very throat was moral. You saw a
good deal of it. You looked over a very low fence of white cravat
(whereof no man had ever beheld the tie for he fastened it behind),
and there it lay, a valley between two jutting heights of collar,
serene and whiskerless before you. It seemed to say, on the part of
Mr Pecksniff, 'There is no deception, ladies and gentlemen, all is
peace, a holy calm pervades me.' So did his hair, just grizzled with
an iron-grey which was all brushed off his forehead, and stood bolt
upright, or slightly drooped in kindred action with his heavy
eyelids. So did his person, which was sleek though free from
corpulency. So did his manner, which was soft and oily. In a word,
even his plain black suit, and state of widower and dangling double
eye-glass, all tended to the same purpose, and cried aloud, 'Behold
the moral Pecksniff!'
The brazen plate upon the door (which being Mr Pecksniff's, could
not lie) bore this inscription, 'PECKSNIFF, ARCHITECT,' to which Mr
Pecksniff, on his cards of business, added, AND LAND SURVEYOR.' In
one sense, and only one, he may be said to have been a Land Surveyor
on a pretty large scale, as an extensive prospect lay stretched out
before the windows of his house. Of his architectural doings,
nothing was clearly known, except that he had never designed or
built anything; but it was generally understood that his knowledge
of the science was almost awful in its profundity.
Mr Pecksniff's professional engagements, indeed, were almost, if not
entirely, confined to the reception of pupils; for the collection of
rents, with which pursuit he occasionally varied and relieved his
graver toils, can hardly be said to be a strictly architectural
employment. His genius lay in ensnaring parents and guardians, and
pocketing premiums. A young gentleman's premium being paid, and the
young gentleman come to Mr Pecksniff's house, Mr Pecksniff borrowed
his case of mathematical instruments (if silver-mounted or otherwise
valuable); entreated him, from that moment, to consider himself one
of the family; complimented him highly on his parents or guardians,
as the case might be; and turned him loose in a spacious room on the
two-pair front; where, in the company of certain drawing-boards,
parallel rulers, very stiff-legged compasses, and two, or perhaps
three, other young gentlemen, he improved himself, for three or five
years, according to his articles, in making elevations of Salisbury
Cathedral from every possible point of sight; and in constructing in
the air a vast quantity of Castles, Houses of Parliament, and other
Public Buildings. Perhaps in no place in the world were so many
gorgeous edifices of this class erected as under Mr Pecksniff's
auspices; and if but one-twentieth part of the churches which were
built in that front room, with one or other of the Miss Pecksniffs
at the altar in the act of marrying the architect, could only be
made available by the parliamentary commissioners, no more churches
would be wanted for at least five centuries.
'Even the worldly goods of which we have just disposed,' said Mr
Pecksniff, glancing round the table when he had finished, 'even
cream, sugar, tea, toast, ham--'
'And eggs,' suggested Charity in a low voice.
'And eggs,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'even they have their moral. See how
they come and go! Every pleasure is transitory. We can't even eat,
long. If we indulge in harmless fluids, we get the dropsy; if in
exciting liquids, we get drunk. What a soothing reflection is
'Don't say WE get drunk, Pa,' urged the eldest Miss Pecksniff.
'When I say we, my dear,' returned her father, 'I mean mankind in
general; the human race, considered as a body, and not as
individuals. There is nothing personal in morality, my love. Even
such a thing as this,' said Mr Pecksniff, laying the fore-finger of
his left hand upon the brown paper patch on the top of his head,
'slight casual baldness though it be, reminds us that we are but'--
he was going to say 'worms,' but recollecting that worms were not
remarkable for heads of hair, he substituted 'flesh and blood.'
'Which,' cried Mr Pecksniff after a pause, during which he seemed to
have been casting about for a new moral, and not quite successfully,
'which is also very soothing. Mercy, my dear, stir the fire and
throw up the cinders.'
The young lady obeyed, and having done so, resumed her stool,
reposed one arm upon her father's knee, and laid her blooming cheek
upon it. Miss Charity drew her chair nearer the fire, as one
prepared for conversation, and looked towards her father.
'Yes,' said Mr Pecksniff, after a short pause, during which he had
been silently smiling, and shaking his head at the fire--'I have
again been fortunate in the attainment of my object. A new inmate
will very shortly come among us.'
'A youth, papa?' asked Charity.
'Ye-es, a youth,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'He will avail himself of the
eligible opportunity which now offers, for uniting the advantages of
the best practical architectural education with the comforts of a
home, and the constant association with some who (however humble
their sphere, and limited their capacity) are not unmindful of their
'Oh Pa!' cried Mercy, holding up her finger archly. 'See
'Playful--playful warbler,' said Mr Pecksniff. It may be observed
in connection with his calling his daughter a 'warbler,' that she was
not at all vocal, but that Mr Pecksniff was in the frequent habit of
using any word that occurred to him as having a good sound, and
rounding a sentence well without much care for its meaning. And he
did this so boldly, and in such an imposing manner, that he would
sometimes stagger the wisest people with his eloquence, and make
them gasp again.
His enemies asserted, by the way, that a strong trustfulness in
sounds and forms was the master-key to Mr Pecksniff's character.
'Is he handsome, Pa?' inquired the younger daughter.
'Silly Merry!' said the eldest: Merry being fond for Mercy. 'What
is the premium, Pa? tell us that.'
'Oh, good gracious, Cherry!' cried Miss Mercy, holding up her hands
with the most winning giggle in the world, 'what a mercenary girl
you are! oh you naughty, thoughtful, prudent thing!'
It was perfectly charming, and worthy of the Pastoral age, to see
how the two Miss Pecksniffs slapped each other after this, and then
subsided into an embrace expressive of their different dispositions.
'He is well looking,' said Mr Pecksniff, slowly and distinctly;
'well looking enough. I do not positively expect any immediate
premium with him.'
Notwithstanding their different natures, both Charity and Mercy
concurred in opening their eyes uncommonly wide at this
announcement, and in looking for the moment as blank as if their
thoughts had actually had a direct bearing on the main chance.
'But what of that!' said Mr Pecksniff, still smiling at the fire.
'There is disinterestedness in the world, I hope? We are not all
arrayed in two opposite ranks; the OFfensive and the DEfensive.
Some few there are who walk between; who help the needy as they go;
and take no part with either side. Umph!'
There was something in these morsels of philanthropy which reassured
the sisters. They exchanged glances, and brightened very much.
'Oh! let us not be for ever calculating, devising, and plotting for
the future,' said Mr Pecksniff, smiling more and more, and looking
at the fire as a man might, who was cracking a joke with it: 'I am
weary of such arts. If our inclinations are but good and open-
hearted, let us gratify them boldly, though they bring upon us Loss
instead of Profit. Eh, Charity?'
Glancing towards his daughters for the first time since he had begun
these reflections, and seeing that they both smiled, Mr Pecksniff
eyed them for an instant so jocosely (though still with a kind of
saintly waggishness) that the younger one was moved to sit upon his
knee forthwith, put her fair arms round his neck, and kiss him
twenty times. During the whole of this affectionate display she
laughed to a most immoderate extent: in which hilarious indulgence
even the prudent Cherry joined.
'Tut, tut,' said Mr Pecksniff, pushing his latest-born away and
running his fingers through his hair, as he resumed his tranquil
face. 'What folly is this! Let us take heed how we laugh without
reason lest we cry with it. What is the domestic news since
yesterday? John Westlock is gone, I hope?'
'Indeed, no,' said Charity.
'And why not?' returned her father. 'His term expired yesterday.
And his box was packed, I know; for I saw it, in the morning,
standing in the hall.'
'He slept last night at the Dragon,' returned the young lady, 'and
had Mr Pinch to dine with him. They spent the evening together, and
Mr Pinch was not home till very late.'
'And when I saw him on the stairs this morning, Pa,' said Mercy with
her usual sprightliness, 'he looked, oh goodness, SUCH a monster!
with his face all manner of colours, and his eyes as dull as if they
had been boiled, and his head aching dreadfully, I am sure from the
look of it, and his clothes smelling, oh it's impossible to say how
strong, oh'--here the young lady shuddered--'of smoke and punch.'
'Now I think,' said Mr Pecksniff with his accustomed gentleness,
though still with the air of one who suffered under injury without
complaint, 'I think Mr Pinch might have done better than choose for
his companion one who, at the close of a long intercourse, had
endeavoured, as he knew, to wound my feelings. I am not quite sure
that this was delicate in Mr Pinch. I am not quite sure that this
was kind in Mr Pinch. I will go further and say, I am not quite
sure that this was even ordinarily grateful in Mr Pinch.'
'But what can anyone expect from Mr Pinch!' cried Charity, with as
strong and scornful an emphasis on the name as if it would have
given her unspeakable pleasure to express it, in an acted charade,
on the calf of that gentleman's leg.
'Aye, aye,' returned her father, raising his hand mildly: 'it is
very well to say what can we expect from Mr Pinch, but Mr Pinch is a
fellow-creature, my dear; Mr Pinch is an item in the vast total of
humanity, my love; and we have a right, it is our duty, to expect in
Mr Pinch some development of those better qualities, the possession
of which in our own persons inspires our humble self-respect. No,'
continued Mr Pecksniff. 'No! Heaven forbid that I should say,
nothing can be expected from Mr Pinch; or that I should say, nothing
can be expected from any man alive (even the most degraded, which Mr
Pinch is not, no, really); but Mr Pinch has disappointed me; he has
hurt me; I think a little the worse of him on this account, but not
if human nature. Oh, no, no!'
'Hark!' said Miss Charity, holding up her finger, as a gentle rap
was heard at the street door. 'There is the creature! Now mark my
words, he has come back with John Westlock for his box, and is going
to help him to take it to the mail. Only mark my words, if that
isn't his intention!'
Even as she spoke, the box appeared to be in progress of conveyance
from the house, but after a brief murmuring of question and answer,
it was put down again, and somebody knocked at the parlour door.
'Come in!' cried Mr Pecksniff--not severely; only virtuously. 'Come
An ungainly, awkward-looking man, extremely short-sighted, and
prematurely bald, availed himself of this permission; and seeing
that Mr Pecksniff sat with his back towards him, gazing at the fire,
stood hesitating, with the door in his hand. He was far from
handsome certainly; and was drest in a snuff-coloured suit, of an
uncouth make at the best, which, being shrunk with long wear, was
twisted and tortured into all kinds of odd shapes; but
notwithstanding his attire, and his clumsy figure, which a great
stoop in his shoulders, and a ludicrous habit he had of thrusting
his head forward, by no means redeemed, one would not have been
disposed (unless Mr Pecksniff said so) to consider him a bad fellow
by any means. He was perhaps about thirty, but he might have been
almost any age between sixteen and sixty; being one of those strange
creatures who never decline into an ancient appearance, but look
their oldest when they are very young, and get it over at once.
Keeping his hand upon the lock of the door, he glanced from Mr
Pecksniff to Mercy, from Mercy to Charity, and from Charity to Mr
Pecksniff again, several times; but the young ladies being as intent
upon the fire as their father was, and neither of the three taking
any notice of him, he was fain to say, at last,
'Oh! I beg your pardon, Mr Pecksniff: I beg your pardon for
'No intrusion, Mr Pinch,' said that gentleman very sweetly, but
without looking round. 'Pray be seated, Mr Pinch. Have the
goodness to shut the door, Mr Pinch, if you please.'
'Certainly, sir,' said Pinch; not doing so, however, but holding it
rather wider open than before, and beckoning nervously to somebody
without: 'Mr Westlock, sir, hearing that you were come home--'
'Mr Pinch, Mr Pinch!' said Pecksniff, wheeling his chair about, and
looking at him with an aspect of the deepest melancholy, 'I did not
expect this from you. I have not deserved this from you!'
'No, but upon my word, sir--' urged Pinch.
'The less you say, Mr Pinch,' interposed the other, 'the better. I
utter no complaint. Make no defence.'
'No, but do have the goodness, sir,' cried Pinch, with great
earnestness, 'if you please. Mr Westlock, sir, going away for good
and all, wishes to leave none but friends behind him. Mr Westlock
and you, sir, had a little difference the other day; you have had
many little differences.'
'Little differences!' cried Charity.
'Little differences!' echoed Mercy.
'My loves!' said Mr Pecksniff, with the same serene upraising of his
hand; 'My dears!' After a solemn pause he meekly bowed to Mr Pinch,
as who should say, 'Proceed;' but Mr Pinch was so very much at a
loss how to resume, and looked so helplessly at the two Miss
Pecksniffs, that the conversation would most probably have
terminated there, if a good-looking youth, newly arrived at man's
estate, had not stepped forward from the doorway and taken up the
thread of the discourse.
'Come, Mr Pecksniff,' he said, with a smile, 'don't let there be any
ill-blood between us, pray. I am sorry we have ever differed, and
extremely sorry I have ever given you offence. Bear me no ill-will
at parting, sir.'
'I bear,' answered Mr Pecksniff, mildly, 'no ill-will to any man on
'I told you he didn't,' said Pinch, in an undertone; 'I knew he
didn't! He always says he don't.'
'Then you will shake hands, sir?' cried Westlock, advancing a step
or two, and bespeaking Mr Pinch's close attention by a glance.
'Umph!' said Mr Pecksniff, in his most winning tone.
'You will shake hands, sir.'
'No, John,' said Mr Pecksniff, with a calmness quite ethereal; 'no,
I will not shake hands, John. I have forgiven you. I had already
forgiven you, even before you ceased to reproach and taunt me. I
have embraced you in the spirit, John, which is better than shaking
'Pinch,' said the youth, turning towards him, with a hearty disgust
of his late master, 'what did I tell you?'
Poor Pinch looked down uneasily at Mr Pecksniff, whose eye was fixed
upon him as it had been from the first; and looking up at the
ceiling again, made no reply.
'As to your forgiveness, Mr Pecksniff,' said the youth, 'I'll not
have it upon such terms. I won't be forgiven.'
'Won't you, John?' retorted Mr Pecksniff, with a smile. 'You must.
You can't help it. Forgiveness is a high quality; an exalted
virtue; far above YOUR control or influence, John. I WILL forgive
you. You cannot move me to remember any wrong you have ever done
'Wrong!' cried the other, with all the heat and impetuosity of his
age. 'Here's a pretty fellow! Wrong! Wrong I have done him! He'll
not even remember the five hundred pounds he had with me under false
pretences; or the seventy pounds a year for board and lodging that
would have been dear at seventeen! Here's a martyr!'
'Money, John,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'is the root of all evil. I
grieve to see that it is already bearing evil fruit in you. But I
will not remember its existence. I will not even remember the
conduct of that misguided person'--and here, although he spoke like
one at peace with all the world, he used an emphasis that plainly
said "I have my eye upon the rascal now"--'that misguided person who
has brought you here to-night, seeking to disturb (it is a happiness
to say, in vain) the heart's repose and peace of one who would have
shed his dearest blood to serve him.'
The voice of Mr Pecksniff trembled as he spoke, and sobs were heard
from his daughters. Sounds floated on the air, moreover, as if two
spirit voices had exclaimed: one, 'Beast!' the other, 'Savage!'
'Forgiveness,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'entire and pure forgiveness is
not incompatible with a wounded heart; perchance when the heart is
wounded, it becomes a greater virtue. With my breast still wrung
and grieved to its inmost core by the ingratitude of that person, I
am proud and glad to say that I forgive him. Nay! I beg,' cried Mr
Pecksniff, raising his voice, as Pinch appeared about to speak, 'I
beg that individual not to offer a remark; he will truly oblige me
by not uttering one word, just now. I am not sure that I am equal
to the trial. In a very short space of time, I shall have
sufficient fortitude, I trust to converse with him as if these
events had never happened. But not,' said Mr Pecksniff, turning
round again towards the fire, and waving his hand in the direction
of the door, 'not now.'
'Bah!' cried John Westlock, with the utmost disgust and disdain the
monosyllable is capable of expressing. 'Ladies, good evening.
Come, Pinch, it's not worth thinking of. I was right and you were
wrong. That's small matter; you'll be wiser another time.'
So saying, he clapped that dejected companion on the shoulder,
turned upon his heel, and walked out into the passage, whither poor
Mr Pinch, after lingering irresolutely in the parlour for a few
seconds, expressing in his countenance the deepest mental misery and
gloom followed him. Then they took up the box between them, and
sallied out to meet the mail.
That fleet conveyance passed, every night, the corner of a lane at
some distance; towards which point they bent their steps. For some
minutes they walked along in silence, until at length young Westlock
burst into a loud laugh, and at intervals into another, and another.
Still there was no response from his companion.
'I'll tell you what, Pinch!' he said abruptly, after another
lengthened silence--'You haven't half enough of the devil in you.
Half enough! You haven't any.'
'Well!' said Pinch with a sigh, 'I don't know, I'm sure. It's
compliment to say so. If I haven't, I suppose, I'm all the better
'All the better!' repeated his companion tartly: 'All the worse, you
mean to say.'
'And yet,' said Pinch, pursuing his own thoughts and not this last
remark on the part of his friend, 'I must have a good deal of what
you call the devil in me, too, or how could I make Pecksniff so
uncomfortable? I wouldn't have occasioned him so much distress--
don't laugh, please--for a mine of money; and Heaven knows I could
find good use for it too, John. How grieved he was!'
'HE grieved!' returned the other.
'Why didn't you observe that the tears were almost starting out of
his eyes!' cried Pinch. 'Bless my soul, John, is it nothing to see
a man moved to that extent and know one's self to be the cause! And
did you hear him say that he could have shed his blood for me?'
'Do you WANT any blood shed for you?' returned his friend, with
considerable irritation. 'Does he shed anything for you that you DO
want? Does he shed employment for you, instruction for you, pocket
money for you? Does he shed even legs of mutton for you in any
decent proportion to potatoes and garden stuff?'
'I am afraid,' said Pinch, sighing again, 'that I am a great eater;
I can't disguise from myself that I'm a great eater. Now, you know
'You a great eater!' retorted his companion, with no less
indignation than before. 'How do you know you are?'
There appeared to be forcible matter in this inquiry, for Mr Pinch
only repeated in an undertone that he had a strong misgiving on the
subject, and that he greatly feared he was.
'Besides, whether I am or no,' he added, 'that has little or nothing
to do with his thinking me ungrateful. John, there is scarcely a
sin in the world that is in my eyes such a crying one as
ingratitude; and when he taxes me with that, and believes me to be
guilty of it, he makes me miserable and wretched.'
'Do you think he don't know that?' returned the other scornfully.
'But come, Pinch, before I say anything more to you, just run over
the reasons you have for being grateful to him at all, will you?
Change hands first, for the box is heavy. That'll do. Now, go on.'
'In the first place,' said Pinch, 'he took me as his pupil for much
less than he asked.'
'Well,' rejoined his friend, perfectly unmoved by this instance of
generosity. 'What in the second place?'
'What in the second place?' cried Pinch, in a sort of desperation,
'why, everything in the second place. My poor old grandmother died
happy to think that she had put me with such an excellent man. I
have grown up in his house, I am in his confidence, I am his
assistant, he allows me a salary; when his business improves, my
prospects are to improve too. All this, and a great deal more, is
in the second place. And in the very prologue and preface to the
first place, John, you must consider this, which nobody knows better
than I: that I was born for much plainer and poorer things, that I
am not a good hand for his kind of business, and have no talent for
it, or indeed for anything else but odds and ends that are of no use
or service to anybody.'
He said this with so much earnestness, and in a tone so full of
feeling, that his companion instinctively changed his manner as he
sat down on the box (they had by this time reached the finger-post
at the end of the lane); motioned him to sit down beside him; and
laid his hand upon his shoulder.
'I believe you are one of the best fellows in the world,' he said,
'Not at all,' rejoined Tom. 'If you only knew Pecksniff as well as
I do, you might say it of him, indeed, and say it truly.'
'I'll say anything of him, you like,' returned the other, 'and not
another word to his disparagement.'
'It's for my sake, then; not his, I am afraid,' said Pinch, shaking
his head gravely.
'For whose you please, Tom, so that it does please you. Oh! He's a
famous fellow! HE never scraped and clawed into his pouch all your
poor grandmother's hard savings--she was a housekeeper, wasn't she,
'Yes,' said Mr Pinch, nursing one of his large knees, and nodding
his head; 'a gentleman's housekeeper.'
'HE never scraped and clawed into his pouch all her hard savings;
dazzling her with prospects of your happiness and advancement, which
he knew (and no man better) never would be realised! HE never
speculated and traded on her pride in you, and her having educated
you, and on her desire that you at least should live to be a
gentleman. Not he, Tom!'
'No,' said Tom, looking into his friend's face, as if he were a
little doubtful of his meaning. 'Of course not.'
'So I say,' returned the youth, 'of course he never did. HE didn't
take less than he had asked, because that less was all she had, and
more than he expected; not he, Tom! He doesn't keep you as his
assistant because you are of any use to him; because your wonderful
faith in his pretensions is of inestimable service in all his mean
disputes; because your honesty reflects honesty on him; because your
wandering about this little place all your spare hours, reading in
ancient books and foreign tongues, gets noised abroad, even as far
as Salisbury, making of him, Pecksniff the master, a man of learning
and of vast importance. HE gets no credit from you, Tom, not he.'
'Why, of course he don't,' said Pinch, gazing at his friend with a
more troubled aspect than before. 'Pecksniff get credit from me!
'Don't I say that it's ridiculous,' rejoined the other, 'even to
think of such a thing?'
'Why, it's madness,' said Tom.
'Madness!' returned young Westlock. 'Certainly it's madness. Who
but a madman would suppose he cares to hear it said on Sundays, that
the volunteer who plays the organ in the church, and practises on
summer evenings in the dark, is Mr Pecksniff's young man, eh, Tom?
Who but a madman would suppose it is the game of such a man as he,
to have his name in everybody's mouth, connected with the thousand
useless odds and ends you do (and which, of course, he taught you),
eh, Tom? Who but a madman would suppose you advertised him
hereabouts, much cheaper and much better than a chalker on the walls
could, eh, Tom? As well might one suppose that he doesn't on all
occasions pour out his whole heart and soul to you; that he doesn't
make you a very liberal and indeed rather an extravagant allowance;
or, to be more wild and monstrous still, if that be possible, as
well might one suppose,' and here, at every word, he struck him
lightly on the breast, 'that Pecksniff traded in your nature, and
that your nature was to be timid and distrustful of yourself, and
trustful of all other men, but most of all, of him who least
deserves it. There would be madness, Tom!'
Mr Pinch had listened to all this with looks of bewilderment, which
seemed to be in part occasioned by the matter of his companion's
speech, and in part by his rapid and vehement manner. Now that he
had come to a close, he drew a very long breath; and gazing
wistfully in his face as if he were unable to settle in his own mind
what expression it wore, and were desirous to draw from it as good a
clue to his real meaning as it was possible to obtain in the dark,
was about to answer, when the sound of the mail guard's horn came
cheerily upon their ears, putting an immediate end to the
conference; greatly as it seemed to the satisfaction of the younger
man, who jumped up briskly, and gave his hand to his companion.
'Both hands, Tom. I shall write to you from London, mind!'
'Yes,' said Pinch. 'Yes. Do, please. Good-bye. Good-bye. I can
hardly believe you're going. It seems, now, but yesterday that you
came. Good-bye! my dear old fellow!'
John Westlock returned his parting words with no less heartiness of
manner, and sprung up to his seat upon the roof. Off went the mail
at a canter down the dark road; the lamps gleaming brightly, and the
horn awakening all the echoes, far and wide.
'Go your ways,' said Pinch, apostrophizing the coach; 'I can hardly
persuade myself but you're alive, and are some great monster who
visits this place at certain intervals, to bear my friends away into
the world. You're more exulting and rampant than usual tonight, I
think; and you may well crow over your prize; for he is a fine lad,
an ingenuous lad, and has but one fault that I know of; he don't
mean it, but he is most cruelly unjust to Pecksniff!'
IN WHICH CERTAIN OTHER PERSONS ARE INTRODUCED; ON THE SAME TERMS AS
IN THE LAST CHAPTER
Mention has been already made more than once, of a certain Dragon
who swung and creaked complainingly before the village alehouse
door. A faded, and an ancient dragon he was; and many a wintry storm
of rain, snow, sleet, and hail, had changed his colour from a gaudy
blue to a faint lack-lustre shade of grey. But there he hung;
rearing, in a state of monstrous imbecility, on his hind legs;
waxing, with every month that passed, so much more dim and
shapeless, that as you gazed at him on one side of the sign-board it
seemed as if he must be gradually melting through it, and coming out
upon the other.
He was a courteous and considerate dragon, too; or had been in his
distincter days; for in the midst of his rampant feebleness, he kept
one of his forepaws near his nose, as though he would say, 'Don't
mind me--it's only my fun;' while he held out the other in polite
and hospitable entreaty. Indeed it must be conceded to the whole
brood of dragons of modern times, that they have made a great
advance in civilisation and refinement. They no longer demand a
beautiful virgin for breakfast every morning, with as much
regularity as any tame single gentleman expects his hot roll, but
rest content with the society of idle bachelors and roving married
men; and they are now remarkable rather for holding aloof from the
softer sex and discouraging their visits (especially on Saturday
nights), than for rudely insisting on their company without any
reference to their inclinations, as they are known to have done in
days of yore.
Nor is this tribute to the reclaimed animals in question so wide a
digression into the realms of Natural History as it may, at first
sight, appear to be; for the present business of these pages in with
the dragon who had his retreat in Mr Pecksniff's neighbourhood, and
that courteous animal being already on the carpet, there is nothing
in the way of its immediate transaction.
For many years, then, he had swung and creaked, and flapped himself
about, before the two windows of the best bedroom of that house of
entertainment to which he lent his name; but never in all his
swinging, creaking, and flapping, had there been such a stir within
its dingy precincts, as on the evening next after that upon which
the incidents, detailed in the last chapter occurred; when there was
such a hurrying up and down stairs of feet, such a glancing of
lights, such a whispering of voices, such a smoking and sputtering
of wood newly lighted in a damp chimney, such an airing of linen,
such a scorching smell of hot warming-pans, such a domestic bustle
and to-do, in short, as never dragon, griffin, unicorn, or other
animal of that species presided over, since they first began to
interest themselves in household affairs.
An old gentleman and a young lady, travelling, unattended, in a
rusty old chariot with post-horses; coming nobody knew whence and
going nobody knew whither; had turned out of the high road, and
driven unexpectedly to the Blue Dragon; and here was the old
gentleman, who had taken this step by reason of his sudden illness
in the carriage, suffering the most horrible cramps and spasms, yet
protesting and vowing in the very midst of his pain, that he
wouldn't have a doctor sent for, and wouldn't take any remedies but
those which the young lady administered from a small medicine-chest,
and wouldn't, in a word, do anything but terrify the landlady out of
her five wits, and obstinately refuse compliance with every
suggestion that was made to him.
Of all the five hundred proposals for his relief which the good
woman poured out in less than half an hour, he would entertain but
one. That was that he should go to bed. And it was in the
preparation of his bed and the arrangement of his chamber, that all
the stir was made in the room behind the Dragon.
He was, beyond all question, very ill, and suffered exceedingly; not
the less, perhaps, because he was a strong and vigorous old man,
with a will of iron, and a voice of brass. But neither the
apprehensions which he plainly entertained, at times, for his life,
nor the great pain he underwent, influenced his resolution in the
least degree. He would have no person sent for. The worse he grew,
the more rigid and inflexible he became in his determination. If
they sent for any person to attend him, man, woman, or child, he
would leave the house directly (so he told them), though he quitted
it on foot, and died upon the threshold of the door.
Now, there being no medical practitioner actually resident in the
village, but a poor apothecary who was also a grocer and general
dealer, the landlady had, upon her own responsibility, sent for him,
in the very first burst and outset of the disaster. Of course it
followed, as a necessary result of his being wanted, that he was not
at home. He had gone some miles away, and was not expected home
until late at night; so the landlady, being by this time pretty well
beside herself, dispatched the same messenger in all haste for Mr
Pecksniff, as a learned man who could bear a deal of responsibility,
and a moral man who could administer a world of comfort to a
troubled mind. That her guest had need of some efficient services
under the latter head was obvious enough from the restless
expressions, importing, however, rather a worldly than a spiritual
anxiety, to which he gave frequent utterance.
From this last-mentioned secret errand, the messenger returned with
no better news than from the first; Mr Pecksniff was not at home.
However, they got the patient into bed without him; and in the
course of two hours, he gradually became so far better that there
were much longer intervals than at first between his terms of
suffering. By degrees, he ceased to suffer at all; though his
exhaustion was occasionally so great that it suggested hardly less
alarm than his actual endurance had done.
It was in one of his intervals of repose, when, looking round with
great caution, and reaching uneasily out of his nest of pillows, he
endeavoured, with a strange air of secrecy and distrust, to make use
of the writing materials which he had ordered to be placed on a
table beside him, that the young lady and the mistress of the Blue
Dragon found themselves sitting side by side before the fire in the
The mistress of the Blue Dragon was in outward appearance just what
a landlady should be: broad, buxom, comfortable, and good looking,
with a face of clear red and white, which, by its jovial aspect, at
once bore testimony to her hearty participation in the good things
of the larder and cellar, and to their thriving and healthful
influences. She was a widow, but years ago had passed through her
state of weeds, and burst into flower again; and in full bloom she
had continued ever since; and in full bloom she was now; with roses
on her ample skirts, and roses on her bodice, roses in her cap,
roses in her cheeks,--aye, and roses, worth the gathering too, on
her lips, for that matter. She had still a bright black eye, and
jet black hair; was comely, dimpled, plump, and tight as a
gooseberry; and though she was not exactly what the world calls
young, you may make an affidavit, on trust, before any mayor or
magistrate in Christendom, that there are a great many young ladies
in the world (blessings on them one and all!) whom you wouldn't like
half as well, or admire half as much, as the beaming hostess of the
As this fair matron sat beside the fire, she glanced occasionally
with all the pride of ownership, about the room; which was a large
apartment, such as one may see in country places, with a low roof
and a sunken flooring, all downhill from the door, and a descent of
two steps on the inside so exquisitely unexpected, that strangers,
despite the most elaborate cautioning, usually dived in head first,
as into a plunging-bath. It was none of your frivolous and
preposterously bright bedrooms, where nobody can close an eye with
any kind of propriety or decent regard to the association of ideas;
but it was a good, dull, leaden, drowsy place, where every article
of furniture reminded you that you came there to sleep, and that you
were expected to go to sleep. There was no wakeful reflection of
the fire there, as in your modern chambers, which upon the darkest
nights have a watchful consciousness of French polish; the old
Spanish mahogany winked at it now and then, as a dozing cat or dog
might, nothing more. The very size and shape, and hopeless
immovability of the bedstead, and wardrobe, and in a minor degree of
even the chairs and tables, provoked sleep; they were plainly
apoplectic and disposed to snore. There were no staring portraits
to remonstrate with you for being lazy; no round-eyed birds upon the
curtains, disgustingly wide awake, and insufferably prying. The
thick neutral hangings, and the dark blinds, and the heavy heap of
bed-clothes, were all designed to hold in sleep, and act as
nonconductors to the day and getting up. Even the old stuffed
fox upon the top of the wardrobe was devoid of any spark of
vigilance, for his glass eye had fallen out, and he slumbered
as he stood.
The wandering attention of the mistress of the Blue Dragon roved to
these things but twice or thrice, and then for but an instant at a
time. It soon deserted them, and even the distant bed with its
strange burden, for the young creature immediately before her, who,
with her downcast eyes intently fixed upon the fire, sat wrapped in
She was very young; apparently no more than seventeen; timid and
shrinking in her manner, and yet with a greater share of self
possession and control over her emotions than usually belongs to a
far more advanced period of female life. This she had abundantly
shown, but now, in her tending of the sick gentleman. She was short
in stature; and her figure was slight, as became her years; but all
the charms of youth and maidenhood set it off, and clustered on her
gentle brow. Her face was very pale, in part no doubt from recent
agitation. Her dark brown hair, disordered from the same cause, had
fallen negligently from its bonds, and hung upon her neck; for which
instance of its waywardness no male observer would have had the
heart to blame it.
Her attire was that of a lady, but extremely plain; and in her
manner, even when she sat as still as she did then, there was an
indefinable something which appeared to be in kindred with her
scrupulously unpretending dress. She had sat, at first looking
anxiously towards the bed; but seeing that the patient remained
quiet, and was busy with his writing, she had softly moved her chair
into its present place; partly, as it seemed, from an instinctive
consciousness that he desired to avoid observation; and partly that
she might, unseen by him, give some vent to the natural feelings she
had hitherto suppressed.
Of all this, and much more, the rosy landlady of the Blue Dragon
took as accurate note and observation as only woman can take of
woman. And at length she said, in a voice too low, she knew, to
reach the bed:
'You have seen the gentleman in this way before, miss? Is he used
to these attacks?'
'I have seen him very ill before, but not so ill as he has been
'What a Providence!' said the landlady of the Dragon, 'that you had
the prescriptions and the medicines with you, miss!'
'They are intended for such an emergency. We never travel without
'Oh!' thought the hostess, 'then we are in the habit of travelling,
and of travelling together.'
She was so conscious of expressing this in her face, that meeting
the young lady's eyes immediately afterwards, and being a very
honest hostess, she was rather confused.
'The gentleman--your grandpapa'--she resumed, after a short pause,
'being so bent on having no assistance, must terrify you very much,
'I have been very much alarmed to-night. He--he is not my
'Father, I should have said,' returned the hostess, sensible of
having made an awkward mistake.
'Nor my father' said the young lady. 'Nor,' she added, slightly
smiling with a quick perception of what the landlady was going to
add, 'Nor my uncle. We are not related.'
'Oh dear me!' returned the landlady, still more embarrassed than
before; 'how could I be so very much mistaken; knowing, as anybody
in their proper senses might that when a gentleman is ill, he looks
so much older than he really is? That I should have called you
"Miss," too, ma'am!' But when she had proceeded thus far, she
glanced involuntarily at the third finger of the young lady's left
hand, and faltered again; for there was no ring upon it.
'When I told you we were not related,' said the other mildly, but
not without confusion on her own part, 'I meant not in any way. Not
even by marriage. Did you call me, Martin?'
'Call you?' cried the old man, looking quickly up, and hurriedly
drawing beneath the coverlet the paper on which he had been writing.
She had moved a pace or two towards the bed, but stopped
immediately, and went no farther.
'No,' he repeated, with a petulant emphasis. 'Why do you ask me?
If I had called you, what need for such a question?'
'It was the creaking of the sign outside, sir, I dare say,' observed
the landlady; a suggestion by the way (as she felt a moment after
she had made it), not at all complimentary to the voice of the old
'No matter what, ma'am,' he rejoined: 'it wasn't I. Why how you
stand there, Mary, as if I had the plague! But they're all afraid of
me,' he added, leaning helplessly backward on his pillow; 'even she!
There is a curse upon me. What else have I to look for?'
'Oh dear, no. Oh no, I'm sure,' said the good-tempered landlady,
rising, and going towards him. 'Be of better cheer, sir. These are
only sick fancies.'
'What are only sick fancies?' he retorted. 'What do you know about
fancies? Who told you about fancies? The old story! Fancies!'
'Only see again there, how you take one up!' said the mistress of
the Blue Dragon, with unimpaired good humour. 'Dear heart alive,
there is no harm in the word, sir, if it is an old one. Folks in
good health have their fancies, too, and strange ones, every day.'
Harmless as this speech appeared to be, it acted on the traveller's
distrust, like oil on fire. He raised his head up in the bed, and,
fixing on her two dark eyes whose brightness was exaggerated by the
paleness of his hollow cheeks, as they in turn, together with his
straggling locks of long grey hair, were rendered whiter by the
tight black velvet skullcap which he wore, he searched her face
'Ah! you begin too soon,' he said, in so low a voice that he seemed
to be thinking it, rather than addressing her. 'But you lose no
time. You do your errand, and you earn your fee. Now, who may be
The landlady looked in great astonishment at her whom he called
Mary, and finding no rejoinder in the drooping face, looked back
again at him. At first she had recoiled involuntarily, supposing
him disordered in his mind; but the slow composure of his manner,
and the settled purpose announced in his strong features, and
gathering, most of all, about his puckered mouth, forbade the
'Come,' he said, 'tell me who is it? Being here, it is not very
hard for me to guess, you may suppose.'
'Martin,' interposed the young lady, laying her hand upon his arm;
'reflect how short a time we have been in this house, and that even
your name is unknown here.'
'Unless,' he said, 'you--' He was evidently tempted to express a
suspicion of her having broken his confidence in favour of the
landlady, but either remembering her tender nursing, or being moved
in some sort by her face, he checked himself, and changing his
uneasy posture in the bed, was silent.
'There!' said Mrs Lupin; for in that name the Blue Dragon was
licensed to furnish entertainment, both to man and beast. 'Now, you
will be well again, sir. You forgot, for the moment, that there
were none but friends here.'
'Oh!' cried the old man, moaning impatiently, as he tossed one
restless arm upon the coverlet; 'why do you talk to me of friends!
Can you or anybody teach me to know who are my friends, and who my
'At least,' urged Mrs Lupin, gently, 'this young lady is your
friend, I am sure.'
'She has no temptation to be otherwise,' cried the old man, like one
whose hope and confidence were utterly exhausted. 'I suppose she
is. Heaven knows. There, let me try to sleep. Leave the candle
where it is.'
As they retired from the bed, he drew forth the writing which had
occupied him so long, and holding it in the flame of the taper burnt
it to ashes. That done, he extinguished the light, and turning his
face away with a heavy sigh, drew the coverlet about his head, and
lay quite still.
This destruction of the paper, both as being strangely inconsistent
with the labour he had devoted to it, and as involving considerable
danger of fire to the Dragon, occasioned Mrs Lupin not a little
consternation. But the young lady evincing no surprise, curiosity,
or alarm, whispered her, with many thanks for her solicitude and
company, that she would remain there some time longer; and that she
begged her not to share her watch, as she was well used to being
alone, and would pass the time in reading.
Mrs Lupin had her full share and dividend of that large capital of
curiosity which is inherited by her sex, and at another time it
might have been difficult so to impress this hint upon her as to
induce her to take it. But now, in sheer wonder and amazement at
these mysteries, she withdrew at once, and repairing straightway to
her own little parlour below stairs, sat down in her easy-chair with
unnatural composure. At this very crisis, a step was heard in the
entry, and Mr Pecksniff, looking sweetly over the half-door of the
bar, and into the vista of snug privacy beyond, murmured:
'Good evening, Mrs Lupin!'
'Oh dear me, sir!' she cried, advancing to receive him, 'I am so
very glad you have come.'
'And I am very glad I have come,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'if I can be of
service. I am very glad I have come. What is the matter, Mrs
'A gentleman taken ill upon the road, has been so very bad upstairs,
sir,' said the tearful hostess.
'A gentleman taken ill upon the road, has been so very bad upstairs,
has he?' repeated Mr Pecksniff. 'Well, well!'
Now there was nothing that one may call decidedly original in this
remark, nor can it be exactly said to have contained any wise
precept theretofore unknown to mankind, or to have opened any
hidden source of consolation; but Mr Pecksniff's manner was so
bland, and he nodded his head so soothingly, and showed in
everything such an affable sense of his own excellence, that anybody
would have been, as Mrs Lupin was, comforted by the mere voice and
presence of such a man; and, though he had merely said 'a verb must
agree with its nominative case in number and person, my good
friend,' or 'eight times eight are sixty-four, my worthy soul,' must
have felt deeply grateful to him for his humanity and wisdom.
'And how,' asked Mr Pecksniff, drawing off his gloves and warming
his hands before the fire, as benevolently as if they were somebody
else's, not his; 'and how is he now?'
'He is better, and quite tranquil,' answered Mrs Lupin.
'He is better, and quite tranquil,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Very well!
Here again, though the statement was Mrs Lupin's and not Mr
Pecksniff's, Mr Pecksniff made it his own and consoled her with it.
It was not much when Mrs Lupin said it, but it was a whole book when
Mr Pecksniff said it. 'I observe,' he seemed to say, 'and through
me, morality in general remarks, that he is better and quite
'There must be weighty matters on his mind, though,' said the
hostess, shaking her head, 'for he talks, sir, in the strangest way
you ever heard. He is far from easy in his thoughts, and wants some
proper advice from those whose goodness makes it worth his having.'
'Then,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'he is the sort of customer for me.' But
though he said this in the plainest language, he didn't speak a
word. He only shook his head; disparagingly of himself too.
'I am afraid, sir,' continued the landlady, first looking round to
assure herself that there was nobody within hearing, and then
looking down upon the floor. 'I am very much afraid, sir, that his
conscience is troubled by his not being related to--or--or even
married to--a very young lady--'
'Mrs Lupin!' said Mr Pecksniff, holding up his hand with something
in his manner as nearly approaching to severity as any expression of
his, mild being that he was, could ever do. 'Person! young person?'
'A very young person,' said Mrs Lupin, curtseying and blushing; '--I
beg your pardon, sir, but I have been so hurried to-night, that I
don't know what I say--who is with him now.'
'Who is with him now,' ruminated Mr Pecksniff, warming his back (as
he had warmed his hands) as if it were a widow's back, or an
orphan's back, or an enemy's back, or a back that any less excellent
man would have suffered to be cold. 'Oh dear me, dear me!'
'At the same time I am bound to say, and I do say with all my
heart,' observed the hostess, earnestly, 'that her looks and manner
almost disarm suspicion.'
'Your suspicion, Mrs Lupin,' said Mr Pecksniff gravely, 'is very
Touching which remark, let it be written down to their confusion,
that the enemies of this worthy man unblushingly maintained that he
always said of what was very bad, that it was very natural; and that
he unconsciously betrayed his own nature in doing so.
'Your suspicion, Mrs Lupin,' he repeated, 'is very natural, and I
have no doubt correct. I will wait upon these travellers.'
With that he took off his great-coat, and having run his fingers
through his hair, thrust one hand gently in the bosom of his waist-
coat and meekly signed to her to lead the way.
'Shall I knock?' asked Mrs Lupin, when they reached the chamber
'No,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'enter if you please.'
They went in on tiptoe; or rather the hostess took that precaution
for Mr Pecksniff always walked softly. The old gentleman was still
asleep, and his young companion still sat reading by the fire.
'I am afraid,' said Mr Pecksniff, pausing at the door, and giving
his head a melancholy roll, 'I am afraid that this looks artful. I
am afraid, Mrs Lupin, do you know, that this looks very artful!'
As he finished this whisper, he advanced before the hostess; and at
the same time the young lady, hearing footsteps, rose. Mr Pecksniff
glanced at the volume she held, and whispered Mrs Lupin again; if
possible, with increased despondency.
'Yes, ma'am,' he said, 'it is a good book. I was fearful of that
beforehand. I am apprehensive that this is a very deep thing
'What gentleman is this?' inquired the object of his virtuous
'Hush! don't trouble yourself, ma'am,' said Mr Pecksniff, as the
landlady was about to answer. 'This young'--in spite of himself he
hesitated when "person" rose to his lips, and substituted another
word: 'this young stranger, Mrs Lupin, will excuse me for replying
briefly, that I reside in this village; it may be in an influential
manner, however, undeserved; and that I have been summoned here by
you. I am here, as I am everywhere, I hope, in sympathy for the
sick and sorry.'
With these impressive words, Mr Pecksniff passed over to the
bedside, where, after patting the counterpane once or twice in a
very solemn manner, as if by that means he gained a clear insight
into the patient's disorder, he took his seat in a large arm-chair,
and in an attitude of some thoughtfulness and much comfort, waited
for his waking. Whatever objection the young lady urged to Mrs
Lupin went no further, for nothing more was said to Mr Pecksniff,
and Mr Pecksniff said nothing more to anybody else.
Full half an hour elapsed before the old man stirred, but at length
he turned himself in bed, and, though not yet awake, gave tokens
that his sleep was drawing to an end. By little and little he
removed the bed-clothes from about his head, and turned still more
towards the side where Mr Pecksniff sat. In course of time his eyes
opened; and he lay for a few moments as people newly roused
sometimes will, gazing indolently at his visitor, without any
distinct consciousness of his presence.
There was nothing remarkable in these proceedings, except the
influence they worked on Mr Pecksniff, which could hardly have been
surpassed by the most marvellous of natural phenomena. Gradually
his hands became tightly clasped upon the elbows of the chair, his
eyes dilated with surprise, his mouth opened, his hair stood more
erect upon his forehead than its custom was, until, at length, when
the old man rose in bed, and stared at him with scarcely less
emotion than he showed himself, the Pecksniff doubts were all
resolved, and he exclaimed aloud:
'You ARE Martin Chuzzlewit!'
His consternation of surprise was so genuine, that the old man, with
all the disposition that he clearly entertained to believe it
assumed, was convinced of its reality.
'I am Martin Chuzzlewit,' he said, bitterly: 'and Martin Chuzzlewit
wishes you had been hanged, before you had come here to disturb him
in his sleep. Why, I dreamed of this fellow!' he said, lying down
again, and turning away his face, 'before I knew that he was near
'My good cousin--' said Mr Pecksniff.
'There! His very first words!' cried the old man, shaking his grey
head to and fro upon the pillow, and throwing up his hands. 'In his
very first words he asserts his relationship! I knew he would; they
all do it! Near or distant, blood or water, it's all one. Ugh! What
a calendar of deceit, and lying, and false-witnessing, the sound of
any word of kindred opens before me!'
'Pray do not be hasty, Mr Chuzzlewit,' said Pecksniff, in a tone
that was at once in the sublimest degree compassionate and
dispassionate; for he had by this time recovered from his surprise,
and was in full possession of his virtuous self. 'You will regret
being hasty, I know you will.'
'You know!' said Martin, contemptuously.
'Yes,' retorted Mr Pecksniff. 'Aye, aye, Mr Chuzzlewit; and don't
imagine that I mean to court or flatter you; for nothing is further
from my intention. Neither, sir, need you entertain the least
misgiving that I shall repeat that obnoxious word which has given
you so much offence already. Why should I? What do I expect or
want from you? There is nothing in your possession that I know of,
Mr Chuzzlewit, which is much to be coveted for the happiness it
'That's true enough,' muttered the old man.
'Apart from that consideration,' said Mr Pecksniff, watchful of the
effect he made, 'it must be plain to you (I am sure) by this time,
that if I had wished to insinuate myself into your good opinion, I
should have been, of all things, careful not to address you as a
relative; knowing your humour, and being quite certain beforehand
that I could not have a worse letter of recommendation.'
Martin made not any verbal answer; but he as clearly implied though
only by a motion of his legs beneath the bed-clothes, that there was
reason in this, and that he could not dispute it, as if he had said
as much in good set terms.
'No,' said Mr Pecksniff, keeping his hand in his waistcoat as though
he were ready, on the shortest notice, to produce his heart for
Martin Chuzzlewit's inspection, 'I came here to offer my services to
a stranger. I make no offer of them to you, because I know you
would distrust me if I did. But lying on that bed, sir, I regard
you as a stranger, and I have just that amount of interest in you
which I hope I should feel in any stranger, circumstanced as you
are. Beyond that, I am quite as indifferent to you, Mr Chuzzlewit,
as you are to me.'
Having said which, Mr Pecksniff threw himself back in the easy-chair;
so radiant with ingenuous honesty, that Mrs Lupin almost wondered
not to see a stained-glass Glory, such as the Saint wore in the
church, shining about his head.
A long pause succeeded. The old man, with increased restlessness,
changed his posture several times. Mrs Lupin and the young lady
gazed in silence at the counterpane. Mr Pecksniff toyed
abstractedly with his eye-glass, and kept his eyes shut, that he
might ruminate the better.
'Eh?' he said at last, opening them suddenly, and looking towards
the bed. 'I beg your pardon. I thought you spoke. Mrs Lupin,' he
continued, slowly rising 'I am not aware that I can be of any
service to you here. The gentleman is better, and you are as good a
nurse as he can have. Eh?'
This last note of interrogation bore reference to another change of
posture on the old man's part, which brought his face towards Mr
Pecksniff for the first time since he had turned away from him.
'If you desire to speak to me before I go, sir,' continued that
gentleman, after another pause, 'you may command my leisure; but I
must stipulate, in justice to myself, that you do so as to a
stranger, strictly as to a stranger.'
Now if Mr Pecksniff knew, from anything Martin Chuzzlewit had
expressed in gestures, that he wanted to speak to him, he could only
have found it out on some such principle as prevails in melodramas,
and in virtue of which the elderly farmer with the comic son always
knows what the dumb girl means when she takes refuge in his garden,
and relates her personal memoirs in incomprehensible pantomime. But
without stopping to make any inquiry on this point, Martin
Chuzzlewit signed to his young companion to withdraw, which she
immediately did, along with the landlady leaving him and Mr
Pecksniff alone together. For some time they looked at each other
in silence; or rather the old man looked at Mr Pecksniff, and Mr
Pecksniff again closing his eyes on all outward objects, took an
inward survey of his own breast. That it amply repaid him for his
trouble, and afforded a delicious and enchanting prospect, was clear
from the expression of his face.
'You wish me to speak to you as to a total stranger,' said the old
man, 'do you?'
Mr Pecksniff replied, by a shrug of his shoulders and an apparent
turning round of his eyes in their sockets before he opened them,
that he was still reduced to the necessity of entertaining that
'You shall be gratified,' said Martin. 'Sir, I am a rich man. Not
so rich as some suppose, perhaps, but yet wealthy. I am not a miser
sir, though even that charge is made against me, as I hear, and
currently believed. I have no pleasure in hoarding. I have no
pleasure in the possession of money, The devil that we call by that
name can give me nothing but unhappiness.'
It would be no description of Mr Pecksniff's gentleness of manner to
adopt the common parlance, and say that he looked at this moment as
if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. He rather looked as if any
quantity of butter might have been made out of him, by churning the
milk of human kindness, as it spouted upwards from his heart.
'For the same reason that I am not a hoarder of money,' said the old
man, 'I am not lavish of it. Some people find their gratification
in storing it up; and others theirs in parting with it; but I have
no gratification connected with the thing. Pain and bitterness are
the only goods it ever could procure for me. I hate it. It is a
spectre walking before me through the world, and making every social
A thought arose in Pecksniff's mind, which must have instantly
mounted to his face, or Martin Chuzzlewit would not have resumed as
quickly and as sternly as he did:
'You would advise me for my peace of mind, to get rid of this source
of misery, and transfer it to some one who could bear it better.
Even you, perhaps, would rid me of a burden under which I suffer so
grievously. But, kind stranger,' said the old man, whose every
feature darkened as he spoke, 'good Christian stranger, that is a
main part of my trouble. In other hands, I have known money do
good; in other hands I have known it triumphed in, and boasted of
with reason, as the master-key to all the brazen gates that close
upon the paths to worldly honour, fortune, and enjoyment. To what
man or woman; to what worthy, honest, incorruptible creature; shall
I confide such a talisman, either now or when I die? Do you know
any such person? YOUR virtues are of course inestimable, but can
you tell me of any other living creature who will bear the test of
contact with myself?'
'Of contact with yourself, sir?' echoed Mr Pecksniff.
'Aye,' returned the old man, 'the test of contact with me--with me.
You have heard of him whose misery (the gratification of his own
foolish wish) was, that he turned every thing he touched into gold.
The curse of my existence, and the realisation of my own mad desire
is that by the golden standard which I bear about me, I am doomed to
try the metal of all other men, and find it false and hollow.'
Mr Pecksniff shook his head, and said, 'You think so.'
'Oh yes,' cried the old man, 'I think so! and in your telling me "I
think so," I recognize the true unworldly ring of YOUR metal. I
tell you, man,' he added, with increasing bitterness, 'that I have
gone, a rich man, among people of all grades and kinds; relatives,
friends, and strangers; among people in whom, when I was poor, I had
confidence, and justly, for they never once deceived me then, or, to
me, wronged each other. But I have never found one nature, no, not
one, in which, being wealthy and alone, I was not forced to detect
the latent corruption that lay hid within it waiting for such as I
to bring it forth. Treachery, deceit, and low design; hatred of
competitors, real or fancied, for my favour; meanness, falsehood,
baseness, and servility; or,' and here he looked closely in his
cousin's eyes, 'or an assumption of honest independence, almost
worse than all; these are the beauties which my wealth has brought
to light. Brother against brother, child against parent, friends
treading on the faces of friends, this is the social company by whom
my way has been attended. There are stories told--they may be true
or false--of rich men who, in the garb of poverty, have found out
virtue and rewarded it. They were dolts and idiots for their pains.
They should have made the search in their own characters. They
should have shown themselves fit objects to be robbed and preyed
upon and plotted against and adulated by any knaves, who, but for
joy, would have spat upon their coffins when they died their dupes;
and then their search would have ended as mine has done, and they
would be what I am.'
Mr Pecksniff, not at all knowing what it might be best to say in the
momentary pause which ensued upon these remarks, made an elaborate
demonstration of intending to deliver something very oracular
indeed; trusting to the certainty of the old man interrupting him,
before he should utter a word. Nor was he mistaken, for Martin
Chuzzlewit having taken breath, went on to say:
'Hear me to an end; judge what profit you are like to gain from any
repetition of this visit; and leave me. I have so corrupted and
changed the nature of all those who have ever attended on me, by
breeding avaricious plots and hopes within them; I have engendered
such domestic strife and discord, by tarrying even with members of
my own family; I have been such a lighted torch in peaceful homes,
kindling up all the inflammable gases and vapours in their moral
atmosphere, which, but for me, might have proved harmless to the
end, that I have, I may say, fled from all who knew me, and taking
refuge in secret places have lived, of late, the life of one who is
hunted. The young girl whom you just now saw--what! your eye
lightens when I talk of her! You hate her already, do you?'
'Upon my word, sir!' said Mr Pecksniff, laying his hand upon his
breast, and dropping his eyelids.
'I forgot,' cried the old man, looking at him with a keenness which
the other seemed to feel, although he did not raise his eyes so as
to see it. 'I ask your pardon. I forgot you were a stranger. For
the moment you reminded me of one Pecksniff, a cousin of mine. As I
was saying--the young girl whom you just now saw, is an orphan
child, whom, with one steady purpose, I have bred and educated, or,
if you prefer the word, adopted. For a year or more she has been my
constant companion, and she is my only one. I have taken, as she
knows, a solemn oath never to leave her sixpence when I die, but
while I live I make her an annual allowance; not extravagant in its
amount and yet not stinted. There is a compact between us that no
term of affectionate cajolery shall ever be addressed by either to
the other, but that she shall call me always by my Christian name; I
her, by hers. She is bound to me in life by ties of interest, and
losing by my death, and having no expectation disappointed, will
mourn it, perhaps; though for that I care little. This is the only
kind of friend I have or will have. Judge from such premises what a
profitable hour you have spent in coming here, and leave me, to
return no more.'
With these words, the old man fell slowly back upon his pillow. Mr
Pecksniff as slowly rose, and, with a prefatory hem, began as
'There. Go!' interposed the other. 'Enough of this. I am weary of
'I am sorry for that, sir,' rejoined Mr Pecksniff, 'because I have a
duty to discharge, from which, depend upon it, I shall not shrink.
No, sir, I shall not shrink.'
It is a lamentable fact, that as Mr Pecksniff stood erect beside the
bed, in all the dignity of Goodness, and addressed him thus, the old
man cast an angry glance towards the candlestick, as if he were
possessed by a strong inclination to launch it at his cousin's head.
But he constrained himself, and pointing with his finger to the
door, informed him that his road lay there.
'Thank you,' said Mr Pecksniff; 'I am aware of that. I am going.
But before I go, I crave your leave to speak, and more than that, Mr
Chuzzlewit, I must and will--yes indeed, I repeat it, must and will
--be heard. I am not surprised, sir, at anything you have told me
tonight. It is natural, very natural, and the greater part of it
was known to me before. I will not say,' continued Mr Pecksniff,
drawing out his pocket-handkerchief, and winking with both eyes at
once, as it were, against his will, 'I will not say that you are
mistaken in me. While you are in your present mood I would not say
so for the world. I almost wish, indeed, that I had a different
nature, that I might repress even this slight confession of
weakness; which I cannot disguise from you; which I feel is