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Life And Adventures Of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens

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to a cold, dull, awful, sweat-bedabbled blue. In that short
whisper, all these changes fell upon the face of Jonas Chuzzlewit;
and when at last he laid his hand upon the whisperer's mouth,
appalled, lest any syllable of what he said should reach the ears of
the third person present, it was as bloodless and as heavy as the
hand of Death.

He drew his chair away, and sat a spectacle of terror, misery, and
rage. He was afraid to speak, or look, or move, or sit still.
Abject, crouching, and miserable, he was a greater degradation to
the form he bore, than if he had been a loathsome wound from head to
heel.

His companion leisurely resumed his dressing, and completed it,
glancing sometimes with a smile at the transformation he had
effected, but never speaking once.

'You'll not object,' he said, when he was quite equipped, 'to
venture further with us, Chuzzlewit, my friend?'

His pale lips faintly stammered out a 'No.'

'Well said! That's like yourself. Do you know I was thinking
yesterday that your father-in-law, relying on your advice as a man
of great sagacity in money matters, as no doubt you are, would join
us, if the thing were well presented to him. He has money?'

'Yes, he has money.'

'Shall I leave Mr Pecksniff to you? Will you undertake for Mr
Pecksniff.'

'I'll try. I'll do my best.'

'A thousand thanks,' replied the other, clapping him upon the
shoulder. 'Shall we walk downstairs? Mr Nadgett! Follow us, if
you please.'

They went down in that order. Whatever Jonas felt in reference to
Montague; whatever sense he had of being caged, and barred, and
trapped, and having fallen down into a pit of deepest ruin;
whatever thoughts came crowding on his mind even at that early time,
of one terrible chance of escape, of one red glimmer in a sky of
blackness; he no more thought that the slinking figure half-a-dozen
stairs behind him was his pursuing Fate, than that the other figure
at his side was his Good Angel.

CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

CONTAINING SOME FURTHER PARTICULARS OF THE DOMESTIC ECONOMY OF THE
PINCHES; WITH STRANGE NEWS FROM THE CITY, NARROWLY CONCERNING TOM

Pleasant little Ruth! Cheerful, tidy, bustling, quiet little Ruth!
No doll's house ever yielded greater delight to its young mistress,
than little Ruth derived from her glorious dominion over the
triangular parlour and the two small bedrooms.

To be Tom's housekeeper. What dignity! Housekeeping, upon the
commonest terms, associated itself with elevated responsibilities of
all sorts and kinds; but housekeeping for Tom implied the utmost
complication of grave trusts and mighty charges. Well might she
take the keys out of the little chiffonier which held the tea and
sugar; and out of the two little damp cupboards down by the
fireplace, where the very black beetles got mouldy, and had the
shine taken out of their backs by envious mildew; and jingle them
upon a ring before Tom's eyes when he came down to breakfast! Well
might she, laughing musically, put them up in that blessed little
pocket of hers with a merry pride! For it was such a grand novelty
to be mistress of anything, that if she had been the most relentless
and despotic of all little housekeepers, she might have pleaded just
that much for her excuse, and have been honourably acquitted.

So far from being despotic, however, there was a coyness about her
very way of pouring out the tea, which Tom quite revelled in. And
when she asked him what he would like to have for dinner, and
faltered out 'chops' as a reasonably good suggestion after their
last night's successful supper, Tom grew quite facetious, and
rallied her desperately.

'I don't know, Tom,' said his sister, blushing, 'I am not quite
confident, but I think I could make a beef-steak pudding, if I
tried, Tom.'

'In the whole catalogue of cookery, there is nothing I should like
so much as a beef-steak pudding!' cried Tom, slapping his leg to
give the greater force to this reply.

'Yes, dear, that's excellent! But if it should happen not to come
quite right the first time,' his sister faltered; 'if it should
happen not to be a pudding exactly, but should turn out a stew, or a
soup, or something of that sort, you'll not be vexed, Tom, will
you?'

The serious way in which she looked at Tom; the way in which Tom
looked at her; and the way in which she gradually broke into a merry
laugh at her own expense, would have enchanted you.

'Why,' said Tom 'this is capital. It gives us a new, and quite an
uncommon interest in the dinner. We put into a lottery for a
beefsteak pudding, and it is impossible to say what we may get. We
may make some wonderful discovery, perhaps, and produce such a dish
as never was known before.'

'I shall not be at all surprised if we do, Tom,' returned his
sister, still laughing merrily, 'or if it should prove to be such a
dish as we shall not feel very anxious to produce again; but the
meat must come out of the saucepan at last, somehow or other, you
know. We can't cook it into nothing at all; that's a great comfort.
So if you like to venture, I will.'

'I have not the least doubt,' rejoined Tom, 'that it will come out
an excellent pudding, or at all events, I am sure that I shall think
it so. There is naturally something so handy and brisk about you,
Ruth, that if you said you could make a bowl of faultless turtle
soup, I should believe you.'

And Tom was right. She was precisely that sort of person. Nobody
ought to have been able to resist her coaxing manner; and nobody had
any business to try. Yet she never seemed to know it was her manner
at all. That was the best of it.

Well! she washed up the breakfast cups, chatting away the whole
time, and telling Tom all sorts of anecdotes about the brass-and-
copper founder; put everything in its place; made the room as neat
as herself;--you must not suppose its shape was half as neat as hers
though, or anything like it--and brushed Tom's old hat round and
round and round again, until it was as sleek as Mr Pecksniff. Then
she discovered, all in a moment, that Tom's shirt-collar was frayed
at the edge; and flying upstairs for a needle and thread, came
flying down again with her thimble on, and set it right with
wonderful expertness; never once sticking the needle into his face,
although she was humming his pet tune from first to last, and
beating time with the fingers of her left hand upon his neckcloth.
She had no sooner done this, than off she was again; and there she
stood once more, as brisk and busy as a bee, tying that compact
little chin of hers into an equally compact little bonnet; intent
on bustling out to the butcher's, without a minute's loss of time;
and inviting Tom to come and see the steak cut, with his own eyes.
As to Tom, he was ready to go anywhere; so off they trotted, arm-in-
arm, as nimbly as you please; saying to each other what a quiet
street it was to lodge in, and how very cheap, and what an airy
situation.

To see the butcher slap the steak, before he laid it on the block,
and give his knife a sharpening, was to forget breakfast instantly.
It was agreeable, too--it really was--to see him cut it off, so
smooth and juicy. There was nothing savage in the act, although the
knife was large and keen; it was a piece of art, high art; there was
delicacy of touch, clearness of tone, skillful handling of the
subject, fine shading. It was the triumph of mind over matter;
quite.

Perhaps the greenest cabbage-leaf ever grown in a garden was wrapped
about this steak, before it was delivered over to Tom. But the
butcher had a sentiment for his business, and knew how to refine
upon it. When he saw Tom putting the cabbage-leaf into his pocket
awkwardly, he begged to be allowed to do it for him; 'for meat,' he
said with some emotion, 'must be humoured, not drove.'

Back they went to the lodgings again, after they had bought some
eggs, and flour, and such small matters; and Tom sat gravely down to
write at one end of the parlour table, while Ruth prepared to make
the pudding at the other end; for there was nobody in the house but
an old woman (the landlord being a mysterious sort of man, who went
out early in the morning, and was scarcely ever seen); and saving in
mere household drudgery, they waited on themselves.

'What are you writing, Tom?' inquired his sister, laying her hand
upon his shoulder.

'Why, you see, my dear,' said Tom, leaning back in his chair, and
looking up in her face, 'I am very anxious, of course, to obtain
some suitable employment; and before Mr Westlock comes this
afternoon, I think I may as well prepare a little description of
myself and my qualifications; such as he could show to any friend of
his.'

'You had better do the same for me, Tom, also,' said his sister,
casting down her eyes. 'I should dearly like to keep house for you
and take care of you always, Tom; but we are not rich enough for
that.'

'We are not rich,' returned Tom, 'certainly; and we may be much
poorer. But we will not part if we can help it. No, no; we will
make up our minds Ruth, that unless we are so very unfortunate as to
render me quite sure that you would be better off away from me than
with me, we will battle it out together. I am certain we shall be
happier if we can battle it out together. Don't you think we
shall?'

'Think, Tom!'

'Oh, tut, tut!' interposed Tom, tenderly. 'You mustn't cry.'

'No, no; I won't, Tom. But you can't afford it, dear. You can't,
indeed.'

'We don't know that,' said Tom. 'How are we to know that, yet
awhile, and without trying? Lord bless my soul!'--Tom's energy
became quite grand--'there is no knowing what may happen, if we try
hard. And I am sure we can live contentedly upon a very little--if
we can only get it.'

'Yes; that I am sure we can, Tom.'

'Why, then,' said Tom, 'we must try for it. My friend, John
Westlock, is a capital fellow, and very shrewd and intelligent.
I'll take his advice. We'll talk it over with him--both of us
together. You'll like John very much, when you come to know him, I
am certain. Don't cry, don't cry. YOU make a beef-steak pudding,
indeed!' said Tom, giving her a gentle push. 'Why, you haven't
boldness enough for a dumpling!'

'You WILL call it a pudding, Tom. Mind! I told you not!'

'I may as well call it that, till it proves to be something else,'
said Tom. 'Oh, you are going to work in earnest, are you?'

Aye, aye! That she was. And in such pleasant earnest, moreover,
that Tom's attention wandered from his writing every moment. First,
she tripped downstairs into the kitchen for the flour, then for the
pie-board, then for the eggs, then for the butter, then for a jug of
water, then for the rolling-pin, then for a pudding-basin, then for
the pepper, then for the salt; making a separate journey for
everything, and laughing every time she started off afresh. When
all the materials were collected she was horrified to find she had
no apron on, and so ran UPstairs by way of variety, to fetch it.
She didn't put it on upstairs, but came dancing down with it in her
hand; and being one of those little women to whom an apron is a most
becoming little vanity, it took an immense time to arrange; having
to be carefully smoothed down beneath--Oh, heaven, what a wicked
little stomacher!--and to be gathered up into little plaits by the
strings before it could be tied, and to be tapped, rebuked, and
wheedled, at the pockets, before it would set right, which at last
it did, and when it did--but never mind; this is a sober chronicle.
And then, there were her cuffs to be tucked up, for fear of flour;
and she had a little ring to pull off her finger, which wouldn't
come off (foolish little ring!); and during the whole of these
preparations she looked demurely every now and then at Tom, from
under her dark eyelashes, as if they were all a part of the pudding,
and indispensable to its composition.

For the life and soul of him, Tom could get no further in his writing
than, 'A respectable young man, aged thirty-five,' and this,
notwithstanding the show she made of being supernaturally quiet, and
going about on tiptoe, lest she should disturb him; which only
served as an additional means of distracting his attention, and
keeping it upon her.

'Tom,' she said at last, in high glee. 'Tom!'

'What now?' said Tom, repeating to himself, 'aged thirty-five!'

'Will you look here a moment, please?'

As if he hadn't been looking all the time!

'I am going to begin, Tom. Don't you wonder why I butter the inside
of the basin?' said his busy little sister.

'Not more than you do, I dare say,' replied Tom, laughing. 'For I
believe you don't know anything about it.'

'What an infidel you are, Tom! How else do you think it would turn
out easily when it was done! For a civil-engineer and land-surveyor
not to know that! My goodness, Tom!'

It was wholly out of the question to try to write. Tom lined out
'respectable young man, aged thirty-five;' and sat looking on, pen
in hand, with one of the most loving smiles imaginable.

Such a busy little woman as she was! So full of self-importance and
trying so hard not to smile, or seem uncertain about anything! It
was a perfect treat to Tom to see her with her brows knit, and her
rosy lips pursed up, kneading away at the crust, rolling it out,
cutting it up into strips, lining the basin with it, shaving it off
fine round the rim, chopping up the steak into small pieces, raining
down pepper and salt upon them, packing them into the basin, pouring
in cold water for gravy, and never venturing to steal a look in his
direction, lest her gravity should be disturbed; until, at last, the
basin being quite full and only wanting the top crust, she clapped
her hands all covered with paste and flour, at Tom, and burst out
heartily into such a charming little laugh of triumph, that the
pudding need have had no other seasoning to commend it to the taste
of any reasonable man on earth.

'Where's the pudding?' said Tom. For he was cutting his jokes, Tom
was.

'Where!' she answered, holding it up with both hands. 'Look at it!'

'THAT a pudding!' said Tom.

'It WILL be, you stupid fellow, when it's covered in,' returned his
sister. Tom still pretending to look incredulous, she gave him a
tap on the head with the rolling-pin, and still laughing merrily,
had returned to the composition of the top crust, when she started
and turned very red. Tom started, too, for following her eyes, he
saw John Westlock in the room.

'Why, my goodness, John! How did YOU come in?'

'I beg pardon,' said John--' your sister's pardon especially--but I
met an old lady at the street door, who requested me to enter here;
and as you didn't hear me knock, and the door was open, I made bold
to do so. I hardly know,' said John, with a smile, 'why any of us
should be disconcerted at my having accidentally intruded upon such
an agreeable domestic occupation, so very agreeably and skillfully
pursued; but I must confess that I am. Tom, will you kindly come to
my relief?'

'Mr John Westlock,' said Tom. 'My sister.'

'I hope that, as the sister of so old a friend,' said John, laughing
'you will have the goodness to detach your first impressions of me
from my unfortunate entrance.'

'My sister is not indisposed perhaps to say the same to you on her
own behalf,' retorted Tom.

John said, of course, that this was quite unnecessary, for he had
been transfixed in silent admiration; and he held out his hand to
Miss Pinch; who couldn't take it, however, by reason of the flour
and paste upon her own. This, which might seem calculated to
increase the general confusion and render matters worse, had in
reality the best effect in the world, for neither of them could help
laughing; and so they both found themselves on easy terms
immediately.

'I am delighted to see you,' said Tom. 'Sit down.'

'I can only think of sitting down on one condition,' returned his
friend; 'and that is, that your sister goes on with the pudding, as
if you were still alone.'

'That I am sure she will,' said Tom. 'On one other condition, and
that is, that you stay and help us to eat it.'

Poor little Ruth was seized with a palpitation of the heart when Tom
committed this appalling indiscretion, for she felt that if the dish
turned out a failure, she never would be able to hold up her head
before John Westlock again. Quite unconscious of her state of mind,
John accepted the invitation with all imaginable heartiness; and
after a little more pleasantry concerning this same pudding, and the
tremendous expectations he made believe to entertain of it, she
blushingly resumed her occupation, and he took a chair.

'I am here much earlier than I intended, Tom; but I will tell you,
what brings me, and I think I can answer for your being glad to hear
it. Is that anything you wish to show me?'

'Oh dear no!' cried Tom, who had forgotten the blotted scrap of
paper in his hand, until this inquiry brought it to his
recollection. '"A respectable young man, aged thirty-five"--The
beginning of a description of myself. That's all.'

'I don't think you will have occasion to finish it, Tom. But how is
it you never told me you had friends in London?'

Tom looked at his sister with all his might; and certainly his
sister looked with all her might at him.

'Friends in London!' echoed Tom.

'Ah!' said Westlock, 'to be sure.'

'Have YOU any friends in London, Ruth, my dear!' asked Tom.

'No, Tom.'

'I am very happy to hear that I have,' said Tom, 'but it's news to
me. I never knew it. They must be capital people to keep a secret,
John.'

'You shall judge for yourself,' returned the other. 'Seriously,
Tom, here is the plain state of the case. As I was sitting at
breakfast this morning, there comes a knock at my door.'

'On which you cried out, very loud, "Come in!"' suggested Tom.

'So I did. And the person who knocked, not being a respectable
young man, aged thirty-five, from the country, came in when he was
invited, instead of standing gaping and staring about him on the
landing. Well! When he came in, I found he was a stranger; a grave,
business-like, sedate-looking, stranger. "Mr Westlock?" said he.
"That is my name," said I. "The favour of a few words with you?"
said he. "Pray be seated, sir," said I.'

Here John stopped for an instant, to glance towards the table, where
Tom's sister, listening attentively, was still busy with the basin,
which by this time made a noble appearance. Then he resumed:

'The pudding having taken a chair, Tom--'

'What!' cried Tom.

'Having taken a chair.'

'You said a pudding.'

'No, no,' replied John, colouring rather; 'a chair. The idea of a
stranger coming into my rooms at half-past eight o'clock in the
morning, and taking a pudding! Having taken a chair, Tom, a chair--
amazed me by opening the conversation thus: "I believe you are
acquainted, sir, with Mr Thomas Pinch?"

'No!' cried Tom.

'His very words, I assure you. I told him I was. Did I know where
you were at present residing? Yes. In London? Yes. He had
casually heard, in a roundabout way, that you had left your
situation with Mr Pecksniff. Was that the fact? Yes, it was. Did
you want another? Yes, you did.'

'Certainly,' said Tom, nodding his head.

'Just what I impressed upon him. You may rest assured that I set
that point beyond the possibility of any mistake, and gave him
distinctly to understand that he might make up his mind about it.
Very well.'

"Then," said he, "I think I can accommodate him."'

Tom's sister stopped short.

'Lord bless me!' cried Tom. 'Ruth, my dear, "think I can
accommodate him."'

'Of course I begged him,' pursued John Westlock, glancing at Tom's
sister, who was not less eager in her interest than Tom himself, 'to
proceed, and said that I would undertake to see you immediately. He
replied that he had very little to say, being a man of few words,
but such as it was, it was to the purpose--and so, indeed, it turned
out--for he immediately went on to tell me that a friend of his was
in want of a kind of secretary and librarian; and that although the
salary was small, being only a hundred pounds a year, with neither
board nor lodging, still the duties were not heavy, and there the
post was. Vacant, and ready for your acceptance.'

'Good gracious me!' cried Tom; 'a hundred pounds a year! My dear
John! Ruth, my love! A hundred pounds a year!'

'But the strangest part of the story,' resumed John Westlock, laying
his hand on Tom's wrist, to bespeak his attention, and repress his
ecstasies for the moment; 'the strangest part of the story, Miss
Pinch, is this. I don't know this man from Adam; neither does this
man know Tom.'

'He can't,' said Tom, in great perplexity, 'if he's a Londoner. I
don't know any one in London.'

'And on my observing,' John resumed, still keeping his hand upon
Tom's wrist, 'that I had no doubt he would excuse the freedom I took
in inquiring who directed him to me; how he came to know of the
change which had taken place in my friend's position; and how he
came to be acquainted with my friend's peculiar fitness for such an
office as he had described; he drily said that he was not at liberty
to enter into any explanations.'

'Not at liberty to enter into any explanations!' repeated Tom,
drawing a long breath.

'"I must be perfectly aware," he said,' John added, '"that to any
person who had ever been in Mr Pecksniff's neighbourhood, Mr Thomas
Pinch and his acquirements were as well known as the Church steeple,
or the Blue Dragon."'

'The Blue Dragon!' repeated Tom, staring alternately at his friend
and his sister.

'Aye, think of that! He spoke as familiarly of the Blue Dragon, I
give you my word, as if he had been Mark Tapley. I opened my eyes,
I can tell you, when he did so; but I could not fancy I had ever
seen the man before, although he said with a smile, "You know the
Blue Dragon, Mr Westlock; you kept it up there, once or twice,
yourself." Kept it up there! So I did. You remember, Tom?'

Tom nodded with great significance, and, falling into a state of
deeper perplexity than before, observed that this was the most
unaccountable and extraordinary circumstance he had ever heard of
in his life.

'Unaccountable?' his friend repeated. 'I became afraid of the man.
Though it was broad day, and bright sunshine, I was positively
afraid of him. I declare I half suspected him to be a supernatural
visitor, and not a mortal, until he took out a common-place
description of pocket-book, and handed me this card.'

'Mr Fips,' said Tom, reading it aloud. 'Austin Friars. Austin
Friars sounds ghostly, John.'

'Fips don't, I think,' was John's reply. 'But there he lives, Tom,
and there he expects us to call this morning. And now you know as
much of this strange incident as I do, upon my honour.'

Tom's face, between his exultation in the hundred pounds a year, and
his wonder at this narration, was only to be equalled by the face of
his sister, on which there sat the very best expression of blooming
surprise that any painter could have wished to see. What the beef-
steak pudding would have come to, if it had not been by this time
finished, astrology itself could hardly determine.

'Tom,' said Ruth, after a little hesitation, 'perhaps Mr Westlock,
in his friendship for you, knows more of this than he chooses to
tell.'

'No, indeed!' cried John, eagerly. 'It is not so, I assure you. I
wish it were. I cannot take credit to myself, Miss Pinch, for any
such thing. All that I know, or, so far as I can judge, am likely
to know, I have told you.'

'Couldn't you know more, if you thought proper?' said Ruth, scraping
the pie-board industriously.

'No,' retorted John. 'Indeed, no. It is very ungenerous in you to
be so suspicious of me when I repose implicit faith in you. I have
unbounded confidence in the pudding, Miss Pinch.'

She laughed at this, but they soon got back into a serious vein, and
discussed the subject with profound gravity. Whatever else was
obscure in the business, it appeared to be quite plain that Tom was
offered a salary of one hundred pounds a year; and this being the
main point, the surrounding obscurity rather set it off than
otherwise.

Tom, being in a great flutter, wished to start for Austin Friars
instantly, but they waited nearly an hour, by John's advice, before
they departed. Tom made himself as spruce as he could before
leaving home, and when John Westlock, through the half-opened
parlour door, had glimpses of that brave little sister brushing the
collar of his coat in the passage, taking up loose stitches in his
gloves and hovering lightly about and about him, touching him up
here and there in the height of her quaint, little, old-fashioned
tidiness, he called to mind the fancy-portraits of her on the wall
of the Pecksniffian workroom, and decided with uncommon indignation
that they were gross libels, and not half pretty enough; though, as
hath been mentioned in its place, the artists always made those
sketches beautiful, and he had drawn at least a score of them with
his own hands.

'Tom,' he said, as they were walking along, 'I begin to think you
must be somebody's son.'

'I suppose I am,' Tom answered in his quiet way.

'But I mean somebody's of consequence.'

'Bless your heart,' replied Tom, 'my poor father was of no
consequence, nor my mother either.'

'You remember them perfectly, then?'

'Remember them? oh dear yes. My poor mother was the last. She
died when Ruth was a mere baby, and then we both became a charge
upon the savings of that good old grandmother I used to tell you of.
You remember! Oh! There's nothing romantic in our history, John.'

'Very well,' said John in quiet despair. 'Then there is no way of
accounting for my visitor of this morning. So we'll not try, Tom.'

They did try, notwithstanding, and never left off trying until they
got to Austin Friars, where, in a very dark passage on the first
floor, oddly situated at the back of a house, across some leads,
they found a little blear-eyed glass door up in one corner, with MR.
FIPS painted on it in characters which were meant to be transparent.
There was also a wicked old sideboard hiding in the gloom hard by,
meditating designs upon the ribs of visitors; and an old mat, worn
into lattice work, which, being useless as a mat (even if anybody
could have seen it, which was impossible), had for many years
directed its industry into another channel, and regularly tripped up
every one of Mr Fips's clients.

Mr Fips, hearing a violent concussion between a human hat and his
office door, was apprised, by the usual means of communication, that
somebody had come to call upon him, and giving that somebody
admission, observed that it was 'rather dark.'

'Dark indeed,' John whispered in Tom Pinch's ear. 'Not a bad place
to dispose of a countryman in, I should think, Tom.'

Tom had been already turning over in his mind the possibility of
their having been tempted into that region to furnish forth a pie;
but the sight of Mr Fips, who was small and spare, and looked
peaceable, and wore black shorts and powder, dispelled his doubts.

'Walk in,' said Mr Fips.

They walked in. And a mighty yellow-jaundiced little office Mr Fips
had of it; with a great, black, sprawling splash upon the floor in
one corner, as if some old clerk had cut his throat there, years
ago, and had let out ink instead of blood.

'I have brought my friend Mr Pinch, sir,' said John Westlock.

'Be pleased to sit,' said Mr Fips.

They occupied the two chairs, and Mr Fips took the office stool from
the stuffing whereof he drew forth a piece of horse-hair of immense
length, which he put into his mouth with a great appearance of
appetite.

He looked at Tom Pinch curiously, but with an entire freedom from
any such expression as could be reasonably construed into an unusual
display of interest. After a short silence, during which Mr Fips
was so perfectly unembarrassed as to render it manifest that he
could have broken it sooner without hesitation, if he had felt
inclined to do so, he asked if Mr Westlock had made his offer fully
known to Mr Pinch.

John answered in the affirmative.

'And you think it worth your while, sir, do you?' Mr Fips inquired
of Tom.

'I think it a piece of great good fortune, sir,' said Tom. 'I am
exceedingly obliged to you for the offer.'

'Not to me,' said Mr Fips. 'I act upon instructions.'

'To your friend, sir, then,' said Tom. 'To the gentleman with whom
I am to engage, and whose confidence I shall endeavour to deserve.
When he knows me better, sir, I hope he will not lose his good
opinion of me. He will find me punctual and vigilant, and anxious
to do what is right. That I think I can answer for, and so,'
looking towards him, 'can Mr Westlock.'

'Most assuredly,' said John.

Mr Fips appeared to have some little difficulty in resuming the
conversation. To relieve himself, he took up the wafer-stamp, and
began stamping capital F's all over his legs.

'The fact is,' said Mr Fips, 'that my friend is not, at this present
moment, in town.'

Tom's countenance fell; for he thought this equivalent to telling
him that his appearance did not answer; and that Fips must look out
for somebody else.

'When do you think he will be in town, sir?' he asked.

'I can't say; it's impossible to tell. I really have no idea.
But,' said Fips, taking off a very deep impression of the wafer-
stamp upon the calf of his left leg, and looking steadily at Tom, 'I
don't know that it's a matter of much consequence.'

Poor Tom inclined his head deferentially, but appeared to doubt
that.

'I say,' repeated Mr Fips, 'that I don't know it's a matter of much
consequence. The business lies entirely between yourself and me, Mr
Pinch. With reference to your duties, I can set you going; and with
reference to your salary, I can pay it. Weekly,' said Mr Fips,
putting down the wafer-stamp, and looking at John Westlock and Tom
Pinch by turns, 'weekly; in this office; at any time between the
hours of four and five o'clock in the afternoon.' As Mr Fips said
this, he made up his face as if he were going to whistle. But he
didn't.

'You are very good,' said Tom, whose countenance was now suffused
with pleasure; 'and nothing can be more satisfactory or
straightforward. My attendance will be required--'

'From half-past nine to four o'clock or so, I should say,'
interrupted Mr Fips. 'About that.'

'I did not mean the hours of attendance,' retorted Tom, 'which are
light and easy, I am sure; but the place.'

'Oh, the place! The place is in the Temple.'

Tom was delighted.

'Perhaps,' said Mr Fips, 'you would like to see the place?'

'Oh, dear!' cried Tom. 'I shall only be too glad to consider myself
engaged, if you will allow me; without any further reference to the
place.'

'You may consider yourself engaged, by all means,' said Mr Fips;
'you couldn't meet me at the Temple Gate in Fleet Street, in an hour
from this time, I suppose, could you?'

Certainly Tom could.

'Good,' said Mr Fips, rising. 'Then I will show you the place; and
you can begin your attendance to-morrow morning. In an hour,
therefore, I shall see you. You too, Mr Westlock? Very good. Take
care how you go. It's rather dark.'

With this remark, which seemed superfluous, he shut them out upon
the staircase, and they groped their way into the street again.
The interview had done so little to remove the mystery in which
Tom's new engagement was involved, and had done so much to thicken
it, that neither could help smiling at the puzzled looks of the
other. They agreed, however, that the introduction of Tom to his
new office and office companions could hardly fail to throw a light
upon the subject; and therefore postponed its further consideration
until after the fulfillment of the appointment they had made with Mr
Fips.

After looking at John Westlock's chambers, and devoting a few spare
minutes to the Boar's Head, they issued forth again to the place of
meeting. The time agreed upon had not quite come; but Mr Fips was
already at the Temple Gate, and expressed his satisfaction at their
punctuality.

He led the way through sundry lanes and courts, into one more quiet
and more gloomy than the rest, and, singling out a certain house,
ascended a common staircase; taking from his pocket, as he went, a
bunch of rusty keys. Stopping before a door upon an upper story,
which had nothing but a yellow smear of paint where custom would
have placed the tenant's name, he began to beat the dust out of one
of these keys, very deliberately, upon the great broad handrail of
the balustrade.

'You had better have a little plug made,' he said, looking round at
Tom, after blowing a shrill whistle into the barrel of the key.
'It's the only way of preventing them from getting stopped up.
You'll find the lock go the better, too, I dare say, for a little
oil.'

Tom thanked him; but was too much occupied with his own
speculations, and John Westlock's looks, to be very talkative. In
the meantime Mr Fips opened the door, which yielded to his hand very
unwillingly, and with a horribly discordant sound. He took the key
out, when he had done so, and gave it to Tom.

'Aye, aye!' said Mr Fips. 'The dust lies rather thick here.'

Truly, it did. Mr Fips might have gone so far as to say, very
thick. It had accumulated everywhere; lay deep on everything, and
in one part, where a ray of sun shone through a crevice in the
shutter and struck upon the opposite wall, it went twirling round
and round, like a gigantic squirrel-cage.

Dust was the only thing in the place that had any motion about it.
When their conductor admitted the light freely, and lifting up the
heavy window-sash, let in the summer air, he showed the mouldering
furniture, discoloured wainscoting and ceiling, rusty stove, and
ashy hearth, in all their inert neglect. Close to the door there
stood a candlestick, with an extinguisher upon it; as if the last
man who had been there had paused, after securing a retreat, to take
a parting look at the dreariness he left behind, and then had shut
out light and life together, and closed the place up like a tomb.

There were two rooms on that floor; and in the first or outer one a
narrow staircase, leading to two more above. These last were fitted
up as bed-chambers. Neither in them, nor in the rooms below, was
any scarcity of convenient furniture observable, although the
fittings were of a bygone fashion; but solitude and want of use
seemed to have rendered it unfit for any purposes of comfort, and to
have given it a grisly, haunted air.

Movables of every kind lay strewn about, without the least attempt
at order, and were intermixed with boxes, hampers, and all sorts of
lumber. On all the floors were piles of books, to the amount,
perhaps, of some thousands of volumes: these, still in bales; those,
wrapped in paper, as they had been purchased; others scattered
singly or in heaps; not one upon the shelves which lined the walls.
To these Mr Fips called Tom's attention.

'Before anything else can be done, we must have them put in order,
catalogued, and ranged upon the book-shelves, Mr Pinch. That will
do to begin with, I think, sir.'

Tom rubbed his hands in the pleasant anticipation of a task so
congenial to his taste, and said:

'An occupation full of interest for me, I assure you. It will
occupy me, perhaps, until Mr.--'

'Until Mr.--' repeated Fips; as much as to ask Tom what he was
stopping for.

'I forgot that you had not mentioned the gentleman's name,' said
Tom.

'Oh!' cried Mr Fips, pulling on his glove, 'didn't I? No, by-the-
bye, I don't think I did. Ah! I dare say he'll be here soon. You
will get on very well together, I have no doubt. I wish you success
I am sure. You won't forget to shut the door? It'll lock of itself
if you slam it. Half-past nine, you know. Let us say from half-
past nine to four, or half-past four, or thereabouts; one day,
perhaps, a little earlier, another day, perhaps, a little later,
according as you feel disposed, and as you arrange your work. Mr
Fips, Austin Friars of course you'll remember? And you won't forget
to slam the door, if you please!'

He said all this in such a comfortable, easy manner, that Tom could
only rub his hands, and nod his head, and smile in acquiescence
which he was still doing, when Mr Fips walked coolly out.

'Why, he's gone!' cried Tom.

'And what's more, Tom,' said John Westlock, seating himself upon a
pile of books, and looking up at his astonished friend, 'he is
evidently not coming back again; so here you are, installed. Under
rather singular circumstances, Tom!'

It was such an odd affair throughout, and Tom standing there among
the books with his hat in one hand and the key in the other, looked
so prodigiously confounded, that his friend could not help laughing
heartily. Tom himself was tickled; no less by the hilarity of his
friend than by the recollection of the sudden manner in which he had
been brought to a stop, in the very height of his urbane conference
with Mr Fips; so by degrees Tom burst out laughing too; and each
making the other laugh more, they fairly roared.

When they had had their laugh out, which did not happen very soon,
for give John an inch that way and he was sure to take several ells,
being a jovial, good-tempered fellow, they looked about them more
closely, groping among the lumber for any stray means of
enlightenment that might turn up. But no scrap or shred of
information could they find. The books were marked with a variety
of owner's names, having, no doubt, been bought at sales, and
collected here and there at different times; but whether any one of
these names belonged to Tom's employer, and, if so, which of them,
they had no means whatever of determining. It occurred to John as a
very bright thought to make inquiry at the steward's office, to whom
the chambers belonged, or by whom they were held; but he came back
no wiser than he went, the answer being, 'Mr Fips, of Austin
Friars.'

'After all, Tom, I begin to think it lies no deeper than this. Fips
is an eccentric man; has some knowledge of Pecksniff; despises him,
of course; has heard or seen enough of you to know that you are the
man he wants; and engages you in his own whimsical manner.'

'But why in his own whimsical manner?' asked Tom.

'Oh! why does any man entertain his own whimsical taste? Why does
Mr Fips wear shorts and powder, and Mr Fips's next-door neighbour
boots and a wig?'

Tom, being in that state of mind in which any explanation is a great
relief, adopted this last one (which indeed was quite as feasible as
any other) readily, and said he had no doubt of it. Nor was his
faith at all shaken by his having said exactly the same thing to
each suggestion of his friend's in turn, and being perfectly ready
to say it again if he had any new solution to propose.

As he had not, Tom drew down the window-sash, and folded the
shutter; and they left the rooms. He closed the door heavily, as Mr
Fips had desired him; tried it, found it all safe, and put the key
in his pocket.

They made a pretty wide circuit in going back to Islington, as they
had time to spare, and Tom was never tired of looking about him. It
was well he had John Westlock for his companion, for most people
would have been weary of his perpetual stoppages at shop-windows,
and his frequent dashes into the crowded carriage-way at the peril
of his life, to get the better view of church steeples, and other
public buildings. But John was charmed to see him so much
interested, and every time Tom came back with a beaming face from
among the wheels of carts and hackney-coaches, wholly unconscious of
the personal congratulations addressed to him by the drivers, John
seemed to like him better than before.

There was no flour on Ruth's hands when she received them in the
triangular parlour, but there were pleasant smiles upon her face,
and a crowd of welcomes shining out of every smile, and gleaming in
her bright eyes. By the bye, how bright they were! Looking into
them for but a moment, when you took her hand, you saw, in each,
such a capital miniature of yourself, representing you as such a
restless, flashing, eager, brilliant little fellow--

Ah! if you could only have kept them for your own miniature! But,
wicked, roving, restless, too impartial eyes, it was enough for any
one to stand before them, and, straightway, there he danced and
sparkled quite as merrily as you!

The table was already spread for dinner; and though it was spread
with nothing very choice in the way of glass or linen, and with
green-handled knives, and very mountebanks of two-pronged forks,
which seemed to be trying how far asunder they could possibly
stretch their legs without converting themselves into double the
number of iron toothpicks, it wanted neither damask, silver, gold,
nor china; no, nor any other garniture at all. There it was; and,
being there, nothing else would have done as well.

The success of that initiative dish; that first experiment of hers
in cookery; was so entire, so unalloyed and perfect, that John
Westlock and Tom agreed she must have been studying the art in
secret for a long time past; and urged her to make a full confession
of the fact. They were exceedingly merry over this jest, and many
smart things were said concerning it; but John was not as fair in
his behaviour as might have been expected, for, after luring Tom
Pinch on for a long time, he suddenly went over to the enemy, and
swore to everything his sister said. However, as Tom observed the
same night before going to bed, it was only in joke, and John had
always been famous for being polite to ladies, even when he was
quite a boy. Ruth said, 'Oh! indeed!' She didn't say anything else.

It is astonishing how much three people may find to talk about.
They scarcely left off talking once. And it was not all lively chat
which occupied them; for when Tom related how he had seen Mr
Pecksniff's daughters, and what a change had fallen on the younger,
they were very serious.

John Westlock became quite absorbed in her fortunes; asking many
questions of Tom Pinch about her marriage, inquiring whether her
husband was the gentleman whom Tom had brought to dine with him at
Salisbury; in what degree of relationship they stood towards each
other, being different persons; and taking, in short, the greatest
interest in the subject. Tom then went into it, at full length; he
told how Martin had gone abroad, and had not been heard of for a
long time; how Dragon Mark had borne him company; how Mr Pecksniff
had got the poor old doting grandfather into his power; and how he
basely sought the hand of Mary Graham. But not a word said Tom of
what lay hidden in his heart; his heart, so deep, and true, and full
of honour, and yet with so much room for every gentle and unselfish
thought; not a word.

Tom, Tom! The man in all this world most confident in his sagacity
and shrewdness; the man in all this world most proud of his distrust
of other men, and having most to show in gold and silver as the
gains belonging to his creed; the meekest favourer of that wise
doctrine, Every man for himself, and God for us all (there being
high wisdom in the thought that the Eternal Majesty of Heaven ever
was, or can be, on the side of selfish lust and love!); shall never
find, oh, never find, be sure of that, the time come home to him,
when all his wisdom is an idiot's folly, weighed against a simple
heart!

Well, well, Tom, it was simple too, though simple in a different
way, to be so eager touching that same theatre, of which John said,
when tea was done, he had the absolute command, so far as taking
parties in without the payment of a sixpence was concerned; and
simpler yet, perhaps, never to suspect that when he went in first,
alone, he paid the money! Simple in thee, dear Tom, to laugh and cry
so heartily at such a sorry show, so poorly shown; simple to be so
happy and loquacious trudging home with Ruth; simple to be so
surprised to find that merry present of a cookery-book awaiting her
in the parlour next morning, with the beef-steak-pudding-leaf turned
down and blotted out. There! Let the record stand! Thy quality of
soul was simple, simple, quite contemptible, Tom Pinch!

CHAPTER FORTY

THE PINCHES MAKE A NEW ACQUAINTANCE, AND HAVE FRESH OCCASION FOR
SURPRISE AND WONDER

There was a ghostly air about these uninhabited chambers in the
Temple, and attending every circumstance of Tom's employment there,
which had a strange charm in it. Every morning when he shut his
door at Islington, he turned his face towards an atmosphere of
unaccountable fascination, as surely as he turned it to the London
smoke; and from that moment it thickened round and round him all day
long, until the time arrived for going home again, and leaving it,
like a motionless cloud, behind.

It seemed to Tom, every morning, that he approached this ghostly
mist, and became enveloped in it, by the easiest succession of
degrees imaginable. Passing from the roar and rattle of the streets
into the quiet court-yards of the Temple, was the first preparation.
Every echo of his footsteps sounded to him like a sound from the old
walls and pavements, wanting language to relate the histories of the
dim, dismal rooms; to tell him what lost documents were decaying in
forgotten corners of the shut-up cellars, from whose lattices such
mouldy sighs came breathing forth as he went past; to whisper of
dark bins of rare old wine, bricked up in vaults among the old
foundations of the Halls; or mutter in a lower tone yet darker
legends of the cross-legged knights, whose marble effigies were in
the church. With the first planting of his foot upon the staircase
of his dusty office, all these mysteries increased; until, ascending
step by step, as Tom ascended, they attained their full growth in
the solitary labours of the day.

Every day brought one recurring, never-failing source of
speculation. This employer; would he come to-day, and what would he
be like? For Tom could not stop short at Mr Fips; he quite believed
that Mr Fips had spoken truly, when he said he acted for another;
and what manner of man that other was, became a full-blown flower of
wonder in the garden of Tom's fancy, which never faded or got
trodden down.

At one time, he conceived that Mr Pecksniff, repenting of his
falsehood, might, by exertion of his influence with some third
person have devised these means of giving him employment. He found
this idea so insupportable after what had taken place between that
good man and himself, that he confided it to John Westlock on the
very same day; informing John that he would rather ply for hire as a
porter, than fall so low in his own esteem as to accept the smallest
obligation from the hands of Mr Pecksniff. But John assured him
that he (Tom Pinch) was far from doing justice to the character of
Mr Pecksniff yet, if he supposed that gentleman capable of
performing a generous action; and that he might make his mind quite
easy on that head until he saw the sun turn green and the moon
black, and at the same time distinctly perceived with the naked eye,
twelve first-rate comets careering round those planets. In which
unusual state of things, he said (and not before), it might become
not absolutely lunatic to suspect Mr Pecksniff of anything so
monstrous. In short he laughed the idea down completely; and Tom,
abandoning it, was thrown upon his beam-ends again, for some other
solution.

In the meantime Tom attended to his duties daily, and made
considerable progress with the books; which were already reduced to
some sort of order, and made a great appearance in his fairly-
written catalogue. During his business hours, he indulged himself
occasionally with snatches of reading; which were often, indeed, a
necessary part of his pursuit; and as he usually made bold to carry
one of these goblin volumes home at night (always bringing it back
again next morning, in case his strange employer should appear and
ask what had become of it), he led a happy, quiet, studious kind of
life, after his own heart.

But though the books were never so interesting, and never so full of
novelty to Tom, they could not so enchain him, in those mysterious
chambers, as to render him unconscious, for a moment, of the
lightest sound. Any footstep on the flags without set him listening
attentively and when it turned into that house, and came up, up, up
the stairs, he always thought with a beating heart, 'Now I am coming
face to face with him at last!' But no footstep ever passed the
floor immediately below: except his own.

This mystery and loneliness engendered fancies in Tom's mind, the
folly of which his common sense could readily discover, but which
his common sense was quite unable to keep away, notwithstanding;
that quality being with most of us, in such a case, like the old
French Police--quick at detection, but very weak as a preventive
power. Misgivings, undefined, absurd, inexplicable, that there was
some one hiding in the inner room--walking softly overhead, peeping
in through the door-chink, doing something stealthy, anywhere where
he was not--came over him a hundred times a day, making it pleasant
to throw up the sash, and hold communication even with the sparrows
who had built in the roof and water-spout, and were twittering about
the windows all day long.

He sat with the outer door wide open, at all times, that he might
hear the footsteps as they entered, and turned off into the chambers
on the lower floor. He formed odd prepossessions too, regarding
strangers in the streets; and would say within himself of such or
such a man, who struck him as having anything uncommon in his dress
or aspect, 'I shouldn't wonder, now, if that were he!' But it never
was. And though he actually turned back and followed more than one
of these suspected individuals, in a singular belief that they were
going to the place he was then upon his way from, he never got any
other satisfaction by it, than the satisfaction of knowing it was
not the case.

Mr Fips, of Austin Friars, rather deepened than illumined the
obscurity of his position; for on the first occasion of Tom's
waiting on him to receive his weekly pay, he said:

'Oh! by the bye, Mr Pinch, you needn't mention it, if you please!'

Tom thought he was going to tell him a secret; so he said that he
wouldn't on any account, and that Mr Fips might entirely depend upon
him. But as Mr Fips said 'Very good,' in reply, and nothing more,
Tom prompted him:

'Not on any account,' repeated Tom.

Mr Fips repeated: 'Very good.'

'You were going to say'--Tom hinted.

'Oh dear no!' cried Fips. 'Not at all.' However, seeing Tom
confused, he added, 'I mean that you needn't mention any particulars
about your place of employment, to people generally. You'll find it
better not.'

'I have not had the pleasure of seeing my employer yet, sir,'
observed Tom, putting his week's salary in his pocket.

'Haven't you?' said Fips. 'No, I don't suppose you have though.'

'I should like to thank him, and to know that what I have done so
far, is done to his satisfaction,' faltered Tom.

'Quite right,' said Mr Fips, with a yawn. 'Highly creditable. Very
proper.'

Tom hastily resolved to try him on another tack.

'I shall soon have finished with the books,' he said. 'I hope that
will not terminate my engagement, sir, or render me useless?'

'Oh dear no!' retorted Fips. 'Plenty to do; plen-ty to do! Be
careful how you go. It's rather dark.'

This was the very utmost extent of information Tom could ever get
out of HIM. So it was dark enough in all conscience; and if Mr Fips
expressed himself with a double meaning, he had good reason for
doing so.

But now a circumstance occurred, which helped to divert Tom's
thoughts from even this mystery, and to divide them between it and a
new channel, which was a very Nile in itself.

The way it came about was this. Having always been an early riser
and having now no organ to engage him in sweet converse every
morning, it was his habit to take a long walk before going to the
Temple; and naturally inclining, as a stranger, towards those parts
of the town which were conspicuous for the life and animation
pervading them, he became a great frequenter of the market-places,
bridges, quays, and especially the steam-boat wharves; for it was
very lively and fresh to see the people hurrying away upon their
many schemes of business or pleasure, and it made Tom glad to think
that there was that much change and freedom in the monotonous
routine of city lives.

In most of these morning excursions Ruth accompanied him. As their
landlord was always up and away at his business (whatever that might
be, no one seemed to know) at a very early hour, the habits of the
people of the house in which they lodged corresponded with their
own. Thus they had often finished their breakfast, and were out in
the summer air, by seven o'clock. After a two hours' stroll they
parted at some convenient point; Tom going to the Temple, and his
sister returning home, as methodically as you please.

Many and many a pleasant stroll they had in Covent Garden Market;
snuffing up the perfume of the fruits and flowers, wondering at the
magnificence of the pineapples and melons; catching glimpses down
side avenues, of rows and rows of old women, seated on inverted
baskets, shelling peas; looking unutterable things at the fat bundles
of asparagus with which the dainty shops were fortified as with a
breastwork; and, at the herbalist's doors, gratefully inhaling
scents as of veal-stuffing yet uncooked, dreamily mixed up with
capsicums, brown-paper, seeds, even with hints of lusty snails and
fine young curly leeches. Many and many a pleasant stroll they had
among the poultry markets, where ducks and fowls, with necks
unnaturally long, lay stretched out in pairs, ready for cooking;
where there were speckled eggs in mossy baskets, white country
sausages beyond impeachment by surviving cat or dog, or horse or
donkey; new cheeses to any wild extent, live birds in coops and
cages, looking much too big to be natural, in consequence of those
receptacles being much too little; rabbits, alive and dead,
innumerable. Many a pleasant stroll they had among the cool,
refreshing, silvery fish-stalls, with a kind of moonlight effect
about their stock-in-trade, excepting always for the ruddy lobsters.
Many a pleasant stroll among the waggon-loads of fragrant hay,
beneath which dogs and tired waggoners lay fast asleep, oblivious of
the pieman and the public-house. But never half so good a stroll as
down among the steamboats on a bright morning.

There they lay, alongside of each other; hard and fast for ever, to
all appearance, but designing to get out somehow, and quite
confident of doing it; and in that faith shoals of passengers, and
heaps of luggage, were proceeding hurriedly on board. Little steam-
boats dashed up and down the stream incessantly. Tiers upon tiers
of vessels, scores of masts, labyrinths of tackle, idle sails,
splashing oars, gliding row-boats, lumbering barges, sunken piles,
with ugly lodgings for the water-rat within their mud-discoloured
nooks; church steeples, warehouses, house-roofs, arches, bridges,
men and women, children, casks, cranes, boxes horses, coaches,
idlers, and hard-labourers; there they were, all jumbled up
together, any summer morning, far beyond Tom's power of separation.

In the midst of all this turmoil there was an incessant roar from
every packet's funnel, which quite expressed and carried out the
uppermost emotion of the scene. They all appeared to be perspiring
and bothering themselves, exactly as their passengers did; they
never left off fretting and chafing, in their own hoarse manner,
once; but were always panting out, without any stops, 'Come along do
make haste I'm very nervous come along oh good gracious we shall
never get there how late you are do make haste I'm off directly come
along!'

Even when they had left off, and had got safely out into the
current, on the smallest provocation they began again; for the
bravest packet of them all, being stopped by some entanglement in
the river, would immediately begin to fume and pant afresh, 'oh
here's a stoppage what's the matter do go on there I'm in a hurry
it's done on purpose did you ever oh my goodness DO go on here!' and
so, in a state of mind bordering on distraction, would be last seen
drifting slowly through the mist into the summer light beyond, that
made it red.

Tom's ship, however; or, at least, the packet-boat in which Tom and
his sister took the greatest interest on one particular occasion;
was not off yet, by any means; but was at the height of its
disorder. The press of passengers was very great; another steam-
boat lay on each side of her; the gangways were choked up;
distracted women, obviously bound for Gravesend, but turning a deaf
ear to all representations that this particular vessel was about to
sail for Antwerp, persisted in secreting baskets of refreshments
behind bulk-heads, and water-casks, and under seats; and very great
confusion prevailed.

It was so amusing, that Tom, with Ruth upon his arm, stood looking
down from the wharf, as nearly regardless as it was in the nature of
flesh and blood to be, of an elderly lady behind him, who had
brought a large umbrella with her, and didn't know what to do with
it. This tremendous instrument had a hooked handle; and its
vicinity was first made known to him by a painful pressure on the
windpipe, consequent upon its having caught him round the throat.
Soon after disengaging himself with perfect good humour, he had a
sensation of the ferule in his back; immediately afterwards, of the
hook entangling his ankles; then of the umbrella generally,
wandering about his hat, and flapping at it like a great bird; and,
lastly, of a poke or thrust below the ribs, which give him such
exceeding anguish, that he could not refrain from turning round to
offer a mild remonstrance.

Upon his turning round, he found the owner of the umbrella
struggling on tip-toe, with a countenance expressive of violent
animosity, to look down upon the steam-boats; from which he inferred
that she had attacked him, standing in the front row, by design, and
as her natural enemy.

'What a very ill-natured person you must be!' said Tom.

The lady cried out fiercely, 'Where's the pelisse!'--meaning the
constabulary--and went on to say, shaking the handle of the umbrella
at Tom, that but for them fellers never being in the way when they
was wanted, she'd have given him in charge, she would.

'If they greased their whiskers less, and minded the duties which
they're paid so heavy for, a little more,' she observed, 'no one
needn't be drove mad by scrouding so!'

She had been grievously knocked about, no doubt, for her bonnet was
bent into the shape of a cocked hat. Being a fat little woman, too,
she was in a state of great exhaustion and intense heat. Instead of
pursuing the altercation, therefore, Tom civilly inquired what boat
she wanted to go on board of?

'I suppose,' returned the lady, 'as nobody but yourself can want to
look at a steam package, without wanting to go a-boarding of it, can
they! Booby!'

'Which one do you want to look at then?' said Tom. 'We'll make room
for you if we can. Don't be so ill-tempered.'

'No blessed creetur as ever I was with in trying times,' returned
the lady, somewhat softened, 'and they're a many in their numbers,
ever brought it as a charge again myself that I was anythin' but
mild and equal in my spirits. Never mind a contradicting of me, if
you seem to feel it does you good, ma'am, I often says, for well you
know that Sairey may be trusted not to give it back again. But I
will not denige that I am worrited and wexed this day, and with good
reagion, Lord forbid!'

By this time, Mrs Gamp (for it was no other than that experienced
practitioner) had, with Tom's assistance, squeezed and worked
herself into a small corner between Ruth and the rail; where, after
breathing very hard for some little time, and performing a short
series of dangerous evolutions with her umbrella, she managed to
establish herself pretty comfortably.

'And which of all them smoking monsters is the Ankworks boat, I
wonder. Goodness me!' cried Mrs Gamp.

'What boat did you want?' asked Ruth.

'The Ankworks package,' Mrs Gamp replied. 'I will not deceive you,
my sweet. Why should I?'

'That is the Antwerp packet in the middle,' said Ruth.

'And I wish it was in Jonadge's belly, I do,' cried Mrs Gamp;
appearing to confound the prophet with the whale in this miraculous
aspiration.

Ruth said nothing in reply; but, as Mrs Gamp, laying her chin
against the cool iron of the rail, continued to look intently at the
Antwerp boat, and every now and then to give a little groan, she
inquired whether any child of hers was going aboard that morning?
Or perhaps her husband, she said kindly.

'Which shows,' said Mrs Gamp, casting up her eyes, 'what a little
way you've travelled into this wale of life, my dear young creetur!
As a good friend of mine has frequent made remark to me, which her
name, my love, is Harris, Mrs Harris through the square and up the
steps a-turnin' round by the tobacker shop, "Oh Sairey, Sairey,
little do we know wot lays afore us!" "Mrs Harris, ma'am," I says,
"not much, it's true, but more than you suppoge. Our calcilations,
ma'am," I says, "respectin' wot the number of a family will be,
comes most times within one, and oftener than you would suppoge,
exact." "Sairey," says Mrs Harris, in a awful way, "Tell me wot is
my indiwidgle number." "No, Mrs Harris," I says to her, "ex-cuge me,
if you please. My own," I says, "has fallen out of three-pair
backs, and had damp doorsteps settled on their lungs, and one was
turned up smilin' in a bedstead unbeknown. Therefore, ma'am," I
says, "seek not to proticipate, but take 'em as they come and as
they go." Mine,' says Mrs Gamp, 'mine is all gone, my dear young
chick. And as to husbands, there's a wooden leg gone likeways home
to its account, which in its constancy of walkin' into wine vaults,
and never comin' out again 'till fetched by force, was quite as weak
as flesh, if not weaker.'

When she had delivered this oration, Mrs Gamp leaned her chin upon
the cool iron again; and looking intently at the Antwerp packet,
shook her head and groaned.

'I wouldn't,' said Mrs Gamp, 'I wouldn't be a man and have such a
think upon my mind!--but nobody as owned the name of man, could do
it!'

Tom and his sister glanced at each other; and Ruth, after a moment's
hesitation, asked Mrs Gamp what troubled her so much.

'My dear,' returned that lady, dropping her voice, 'you are single,
ain't you?'

Ruth laughed blushed, and said 'Yes.'

'Worse luck,' proceeded Mrs Gamp, 'for all parties! But others is
married, and in the marriage state; and there is a dear young
creetur a-comin' down this mornin' to that very package, which is no
more fit to trust herself to sea, than nothin' is!'

She paused here to look over the deck of the packet in question, and
on the steps leading down to it, and on the gangways. Seeming to
have thus assured herself that the object of her commiseration had
not yet arrived, she raised her eyes gradually up to the top of the
escape-pipe, and indignantly apostrophised the vessel:

'Oh, drat you!' said Mrs Gamp, shaking her umbrella at it, 'you're a
nice spluttering nisy monster for a delicate young creetur to go and
be a passinger by; ain't you! YOU never do no harm in that way, do
you? With your hammering, and roaring, and hissing, and lamp-iling,
you brute! Them Confugion steamers,' said Mrs Gamp, shaking her
umbrella again, 'has done more to throw us out of our reg'lar work
and bring ewents on at times when nobody counted on 'em (especially
them screeching railroad ones), than all the other frights that ever
was took. I have heerd of one young man, a guard upon a railway,
only three years opened--well does Mrs Harris know him, which indeed
he is her own relation by her sister's marriage with a master
sawyer--as is godfather at this present time to six-and-twenty
blessed little strangers, equally unexpected, and all on 'um named
after the Ingeines as was the cause. Ugh!' said Mrs Gamp, resuming
her apostrophe, 'one might easy know you was a man's inwention,
from your disregardlessness of the weakness of our naturs, so
one might, you brute!'

It would not have been unnatural to suppose, from the first part of
Mrs Gamp's lamentations, that she was connected with the
stage-coaching or post-horsing trade. She had no means of judging of
the effect of her concluding remarks upon her young companion; for
she interrupted herself at this point, and exclaimed:

'There she identically goes! Poor sweet young creetur, there she
goes, like a lamb to the sacrifige! If there's any illness when that
wessel gets to sea,' said Mrs Gamp, prophetically, 'it's murder, and
I'm the witness for the persecution.'

She was so very earnest on the subject, that Tom's sister (being as
kind as Tom himself) could not help saying something to her in
reply.

'Pray, which is the lady,' she inquired, 'in whom you are so much
interested?'

'There!' groaned Mrs Gamp. 'There she goes! A-crossin' the little
wooden bridge at this minute. She's a-slippin' on a bit of
orangepeel!' tightly clutching her umbrella. 'What a turn it give
me.'

'Do you mean the lady who is with that man wrapped up from head to
foot in a large cloak, so that his face is almost hidden?'

'Well he may hide it!' Mrs Gamp replied. 'He's good call to be
ashamed of himself. Did you see him a-jerking of her wrist, then?'

'He seems to be hasty with her, indeed.'

'Now he's a-taking of her down into the close cabin!' said Mrs Gamp,
impatiently. 'What's the man about! The deuce is in him, I think.
Why can't he leave her in the open air?'

He did not, whatever his reason was, but led her quickly down and
disappeared himself, without loosening his cloak, or pausing on the
crowded deck one moment longer than was necessary to clear their way
to that part of the vessel.

Tom had not heard this little dialogue; for his attention had been
engaged in an unexpected manner. A hand upon his sleeve had caused
him to look round, just when Mrs Gamp concluded her apostrophe to
the steam-engine; and on his right arm, Ruth being on his left, he
found their landlord, to his great surprise.

He was not so much surprised at the man's being there, as at his
having got close to him so quietly and swiftly; for another person
had been at his elbow one instant before; and he had not in the
meantime been conscious of any change or pressure in the knot of
people among whom he stood. He and Ruth had frequently remarked how
noiselessly this landlord of theirs came into and went out of his
own house; but Tom was not the less amazed to see him at his elbow
now.

'I beg your pardon, Mr Pinch,' he said in his ear. 'I am rather
infirm, and out of breath, and my eyes are not very good. I am not
as young as I was, sir. You don't see a gentleman in a large cloak
down yonder, with a lady on his arm; a lady in a veil and a black
shawl; do you?'

If HE did not, it was curious that in speaking he should have
singled out from all the crowd the very people whom he described;
and should have glanced hastily from them to Tom, as if he were
burning to direct his wandering eyes.

'A gentleman in a large cloak!' said Tom, 'and a lady in a black
shawl! Let me see!'

'Yes, yes!' replied the other, with keen impatience. 'A gentleman
muffled up from head to foot--strangely muffled up for such a
morning as this--like an invalid, with his hand to his face at this
minute, perhaps. No, no, no! not there,' he added, following Tom's
gaze; 'the other way; in that direction; down yonder.' Again he
indicated, but this time in his hurry, with his outstretched finger,
the very spot on which the progress of these persons was checked at
that moment.

'There are so many people, and so much motion, and so many objects,'
said Tom, 'that I find it difficult to--no, I really don't see
a gentleman in a large cloak, and a lady in a black shawl.
There's a lady in a red shawl over there!'

'No, no, no!' cried his landlord, pointing eagerly again, 'not
there. The other way; the other way. Look at the cabin steps. To
the left. They must be near the cabin steps. Do you see the cabin
steps? There's the bell ringing already! DO you see the steps?'

'Stay!' said Tom, 'you're right. Look! there they go now. Is that
the gentleman you mean? Descending at this minute, with the folds
of a great cloak trailing down after him?'

'The very man!' returned the other, not looking at what Tom pointed
out, however, but at Tom's own face. 'Will you do me a kindness,
sir, a great kindness? Will you put that letter in his hand? Only
give him that! He expects it. I am charged to do it by my
employers, but I am late in finding him, and, not being as young as
I have been, should never be able to make my way on board and off
the deck again in time. Will you pardon my boldness, and do me that
great kindness?'

His hands shook, and his face bespoke the utmost interest and
agitation, as he pressed the letter upon Tom, and pointed to its
destination, like the Tempter in some grim old carving.

To hesitate in the performance of a good-natured or compassionate
office was not in Tom's way. He took the letter; whispered Ruth to
wait till he returned, which would be immediately; and ran down the
steps with all the expedition he could make. There were so many
people going down, so many others coming up, such heavy goods in
course of transit to and fro, such a ringing of bell, blowing-off of
steam, and shouting of men's voices, that he had much ado to force
his way, or keep in mind to which boat he was going. But he reached
the right one with good speed, and going down the cabin-stairs
immediately, described the object of his search standing at the
upper end of the saloon, with his back towards him, reading some
notice which was hung against the wall. As Tom advanced to give him
the letter, he started, hearing footsteps, and turned round.

What was Tom's astonishment to find in him the man with whom he had
had the conflict in the field--poor Mercy's husband. Jonas!

Tom understood him to say, what the devil did he want; but it was
not easy to make out what he said; he spoke so indistinctly.

'I want nothing with you for myself,' said Tom; 'I was asked, a
moment since, to give you this letter. You were pointed out to me,
but I didn't know you in your strange dress. Take it!'

He did so, opened it, and read the writing on the inside. The
contents were evidently very brief; not more perhaps than one line;
but they struck upon him like a stone from a sling. He reeled back
as he read.

His emotion was so different from any Tom had ever seen before that
he stopped involuntarily. Momentary as his state of indecision was,
the bell ceased while he stood there, and a hoarse voice calling
down the steps, inquired if there was any to go ashore?

'Yes,' cried Jonas, 'I--I am coming. Give me time. Where's that
woman! Come back; come back here.'

He threw open another door as he spoke, and dragged, rather than
led, her forth. She was pale and frightened, and amazed to see her
old acquaintance; but had no time to speak, for they were making a
great stir above; and Jonas drew her rapidly towards the deck.

'Where are we going? What is the matter?'

'We are going back,' said Jonas. 'I have changed my mind. I can't
go. Don't question me, or I shall be the death of you, or some one
else. Stop there! Stop! We're for the shore. Do you hear? We're
for the shore!'

He turned, even in the madness of his hurry, and scowling darkly
back at Tom, shook his clenched hand at him. There are not many
human faces capable of the expression with which he accompanied that
gesture.

He dragged her up, and Tom followed them. Across the deck, over the
side, along the crazy plank, and up the steps, he dragged her
fiercely; not bestowing any look on her, but gazing upwards all the
while among the faces on the wharf. Suddenly he turned again, and
said to Tom with a tremendous oath:

'Where is he?'

Before Tom, in his indignation and amazement, could return an answer
to a question he so little understood, a gentleman approached Tom
behind, and saluted Jonas Chuzzlewit by name. He has a gentleman of
foreign appearance, with a black moustache and whiskers; and
addressed him with a polite composure, strangely different from his
own distracted and desperate manner.

'Chuzzlewit, my good fellow!' said the gentleman, raising his hat in
compliment to Mrs Chuzzlewit, 'I ask your pardon twenty thousand
times. I am most unwilling to interfere between you and a domestic
trip of this nature (always so very charming and refreshing, I know,
although I have not the happiness to be a domestic man myself, which
is the great infelicity of my existence); but the beehive, my dear
friend, the beehive--will you introduce me?'

'This is Mr Montague,' said Jonas, whom the words appeared to choke.

'The most unhappy and most penitent of men, Mrs Chuzzlewit,' pursued
that gentleman, 'for having been the means of spoiling this
excursion; but as I tell my friend, the beehive, the beehive. You
projected a short little continental trip, my dear friend, of
course?'

Jonas maintained a dogged silence.

'May I die,' cried Montague, 'but I am shocked! Upon my soul I am
shocked. But that confounded beehive of ours in the city must be
paramount to every other consideration, when there is honey to be
made; and that is my best excuse. Here is a very singular old
female dropping curtseys on my right,' said Montague, breaking off
in his discourse, and looking at Mrs Gamp, 'who is not a friend of
mine. Does anybody know her?'

'Ah! Well they knows me, bless their precious hearts!' said Mrs
Gamp, 'not forgettin' your own merry one, sir, and long may it be
so! Wishin' as every one' (she delivered this in the form of a toast
or sentiment) 'was as merry, and as handsome-lookin', as a little
bird has whispered me a certain gent is, which I will not name for
fear I give offence where none is doo! My precious lady,' here she
stopped short in her merriment, for she had until now affected to be
vastly entertained, 'you're too pale by half!'

'YOU are here too, are you?' muttered Jonas. 'Ecod, there are
enough of you.'

'I hope, sir,' returned Mrs Gamp, dropping an indignant curtsey, 'as
no bones is broke by me and Mrs Harris a-walkin' down upon a public
wharf. Which was the very words she says to me (although they was
the last I ever had to speak) was these: "Sairey," she says, "is it
a public wharf?" Mrs Harris," I makes answer, "can you doubt it?
You have know'd me now, ma'am, eight and thirty year; and did you
ever know me go, or wish to go, where I was not made welcome, say
the words." "No, Sairey," Mrs Harris says, "contrairy quite." And
well she knows it too. I am but a poor woman, but I've been sought
after, sir, though you may not think it. I've been knocked up at
all hours of the night, and warned out by a many landlords, in
consequence of being mistook for Fire. I goes out workin' for my
bread, 'tis true, but I maintains my independency, with your kind
leave, and which I will till death. I has my feelins as a woman,
sir, and I have been a mother likeways; but touch a pipkin as
belongs to me, or make the least remarks on what I eats or drinks,
and though you was the favouritest young for'ard hussy of a servant-
gal as ever come into a house, either you leaves the place, or me.
My earnins is not great, sir, but I will not be impoged upon. Bless
the babe, and save the mother, is my mortar, sir; but I makes so
free as add to that, Don't try no impogician with the Nuss, for she
will not abear it!'

Mrs Gamp concluded by drawing her shawl tightly over herself with
both hands, and, as usual, referring to Mrs Harris for full
corroboration of these particulars. She had that peculiar trembling
of the head which, in ladies of her excitable nature, may be taken
as a sure indication of their breaking out again very shortly; when
Jonas made a timely interposition.

'As you ARE here,' he said, 'you had better see to her, and take her
home. I am otherwise engaged.' He said nothing more; but looked at
Montague as if to give him notice that he was ready to attend him.

'I am sorry to take you away,' said Montague.

Jonas gave him a sinister look, which long lived in Tom's memory,
and which he often recalled afterwards.

'I am, upon my life,' said Montague. 'Why did you make it
necessary?'

With the same dark glance as before, Jonas replied, after a moment's
silence:

'The necessity is none of my making. You have brought it about
yourself.'

He said nothing more. He said even this as if he were bound, and in
the other's power, but had a sullen and suppressed devil within him,
which he could not quite resist. His very gait, as they walked away
together, was like that of a fettered man; but, striving to work out
at his clenched hands, knitted brows, and fast-set lips, was the
same imprisoned devil still.

They got into a handsome cabriolet which was waiting for them and
drove away.

The whole of this extraordinary scene had passed so rapidly and the
tumult which prevailed around as so unconscious of any impression
from it, that, although Tom had been one of the chief actors, it was
like a dream. No one had noticed him after they had left the
packet. He had stood behind Jonas, and so near him, that he could
not help hearing all that passed. He had stood there, with his
sister on his arm, expecting and hoping to have an opportunity of
explaining his strange share in this yet stranger business. But
Jonas had not raised his eyes from the ground; no one else had even
looked towards him; and before he could resolve on any course of
action, they were all gone.

He gazed round for his landlord. But he had done that more than
once already, and no such man was to be seen. He was still pursuing
this search with his eyes, when he saw a hand beckoning to him from
a hackney-coach; and hurrying towards it, found it was Merry's. She
addressed him hurriedly, but bent out of the window, that she might
not be overheard by her companion, Mrs Gamp.

'What is it?' she said. 'Good heaven, what is it? Why did he tell
me last night to prepare for a long journey, and why have you
brought us back like criminals? Dear Mr Pinch!' she clasped her
hands distractedly, 'be merciful to us. Whatever this dreadful
secret is, be merciful, and God will bless you!'

'If any power of mercy lay with me,' cried Tom, 'trust me, you
shouldn't ask in vain. But I am far more ignorant and weak than
you.'

She withdrew into the coach again, and he saw the hand waving
towards him for a moment; but whether in reproachfulness or
incredulity or misery, or grief, or sad adieu, or what else, he
could not, being so hurried, understand. SHE was gone now; and Ruth
and he were left to walk away, and wonder.

Had Mr Nadgett appointed the man who never came, to meet him upon
London Bridge that morning? He was certainly looking over the
parapet, and down upon the steamboat-wharf at that moment. It could
not have been for pleasure; he never took pleasure. No. He must
have had some business there.

CHAPTER FORTY-ONE

MR JONAS AND HIS FRIEND, ARRIVING AT A PLEASANT UNDERSTANDING, SET
FORTH UPON AN ENTERPRISE

The office of the Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life
Assurance Company being near at hand, and Mr Montague driving Jonas
straight there, they had very little way to go. But the journey
might have been one of several hours' duration, without provoking a
remark from either; for it was clear that Jonas did not mean to break
the silence which prevailed between them, and that it was not, as
yet, his dear friend's cue to tempt them into conversation.

He had thrown aside his cloak, as having now no motive for
concealment, and with that garment huddled on his knees, sat as far
removed from his companion as the limited space in such a carriage
would allow. There was a striking difference in his manner,
compared with what it had been, within a few minutes, when Tom
encountered him so unexpectedly on board the packet, or when the
ugly change had fallen on him in Mr Montague's dressing-room. He
had the aspect of a man found out and held at bay; of being baffled,
hunted, and beset; but there was now a dawning and increasing
purpose in his face, which changed it very much. It was gloomy,
distrustful, lowering; pale with anger and defeat; it still was
humbled, abject, cowardly and mean; but, let the conflict go on
as it would, there was one strong purpose wrestling with every
emotion of his mind, and casting the whole series down as they arose.

Not prepossessing in appearance at the best of times, it may be
readily supposed that he was not so now. He had left deep marks of
his front teeth in his nether lip; and those tokens of the agitation
he had lately undergone improved his looks as little as the heavy
corrugations in his forehead. But he was self-possessed now;
unnaturally self-possessed, indeed, as men quite otherwise than
brave are known to be in desperate extremities; and when the carriage
stopped, he waited for no invitation, but leapt hardily out, and
went upstairs.

The chairman followed him; and closing the board-room door as soon
as they had entered, threw himself upon a sofa. Jonas stood before
the window, looking down into the street; and leaned against the
sash, resting his head upon his arms.

'This is not handsome, Chuzzlewit!' said Montague at length. 'Not
handsome upon my soul!'

'What would you have me do?' he answered, looking round abruptly;
'What do you expect?'

'Confidence, my good fellow. Some confidence!' said Montague in an
injured tone.

'Ecod! You show great confidence in me,' retorted Jonas. 'Don't
you?'

'Do I not?' said his companion, raising his head, and looking at
him, but he had turned again. 'Do I not? Have I not confided to
you the easy schemes I have formed for our advantage; OUR advantage,
mind; not mine alone; and what is my return? Attempted flight!'

'How do you know that? Who said I meant to fly?'

'Who said? Come, come. A foreign boat, my friend, an early hour, a
figure wrapped up for disguise! Who said? If you didn't mean to
jilt me, why were you there? If you didn't mean to jilt me, why did
you come back?'

'I came back,' said Jonas, 'to avoid disturbance.'

'You were wise,' rejoined his friend.

Jonas stood quite silent; still looking down into the street, and
resting his head upon his arms.

'Now, Chuzzlewit,' said Montague, 'notwithstanding what has passed I
will be plain with you. Are you attending to me there? I only see
your back.'

'I hear you. Go on!'

'I say that notwithstanding what has passed, I will be plain with
you.'

'You said that before. And I have told you once I heard you say it.
Go on.'

'You are a little chafed, but I can make allowance for that, and am,
fortunately, myself in the very best of tempers. Now, let us see
how circumstances stand. A day or two ago, I mentioned to you, my
dear fellow, that I thought I had discovered--'

'Will you hold your tongue?' said Jonas, looking fiercely round, and
glancing at the door.

'Well, well!' said Montague. 'Judicious! Quite correct! My
discoveries being published, would be like many other men's
discoveries in this honest world; of no further use to me. You see,
Chuzzlewit, how ingenuous and frank I am in showing you the weakness
of my own position! To return. I make, or think I make, a certain
discovery which I take an early opportunity of mentioning in your
ear, in that spirit of confidence which I really hoped did prevail
between us, and was reciprocated by you. Perhaps there is something
in it; perhaps there is nothing. I have my knowledge and opinion on
the subject. You have yours. We will not discuss the question.
But, my good fellow, you have been weak; what I wish to point out to
you is, that you have been weak. I may desire to turn this little
incident to my account (indeed, I do--I'll not deny it), but my
account does not lie in probing it, or using it against you.'

'What do you call using it against me?' asked Jonas, who had not yet
changed his attitude.

'Oh!' said Montague, with a laugh. 'We'll not enter into that.'

'Using it to make a beggar of me. Is that the use you mean?'

'No.'

'Ecod,' muttered Jonas, bitterly. 'That's the use in which your
account DOES lie. You speak the truth there.'

'I wish you to venture (it's a very safe venture) a little more with
us, certainly, and to keep quiet,' said Montague. 'You promised me
you would; and you must. I say it plainly, Chuzzlewit, you MUST.
Reason the matter. If you don't, my secret is worthless to me: and
being so, it may as well become the public property as mine; better,
for I shall gain some credit, bringing it to light. I want you,
besides, to act as a decoy in a case I have already told you of.
You don't mind that, I know. You care nothing for the man (you care
nothing for any man; you are too sharp; so am I, I hope); and could
bear any loss of his with pious fortitude. Ha, ha, ha! You have
tried to escape from the first consequence. You cannot escape it, I
assure you. I have shown you that to-day. Now, I am not a moral
man, you know. I am not the least in the world affected by anything
you may have done; by any little indiscretion you may have
committed; but I wish to profit by it if I can; and to a man of your
intelligence I make that free confession. I am not at all singular
in that infirmity. Everybody profits by the indiscretion of his
neighbour; and the people in the best repute, the most. Why do you
give me this trouble? It must come to a friendly agreement, or an
unfriendly crash. It must. If the former, you are very little
hurt. If the latter--well! you know best what is likely to happen
then.'

Jonas left the window, and walked up close to him. He did not look
him in the face; it was not his habit to do that; but he kept his
eyes towards him--on his breast, or thereabouts--and was at great
pains to speak slowly and distinctly in reply. Just as a man in a
state of conscious drunkenness might be.

'Lying is of no use now,' he said. 'I DID think of getting away
this morning, and making better terms with you from a distance.'

'To be sure! to be sure!' replied Montague. 'Nothing more natural.
I foresaw that, and provided against it. But I am afraid I am
interrupting you.'

'How the devil,' pursued Jonas, with a still greater effort, 'you
made choice of your messenger, and where you found him, I'll not ask
you. I owed him one good turn before to-day. If you are so
careless of men in general, as you said you were just now, you are
quite indifferent to what becomes of such a crop-tailed cur as that,
and will leave me to settle my account with him in my own manner.'

If he had raised his eyes to his companion's face, he would have
seen that Montague was evidently unable to comprehend his meaning.
But continuing to stand before him, with his furtive gaze directed
as before, and pausing here only to moisten his dry lips with his
tongue, the fact was lost upon him. It might have struck a close
observer that this fixed and steady glance of Jonas's was a part of
the alteration which had taken place in his demeanour. He kept it
riveted on one spot, with which his thoughts had manifestly nothing
to do; like as a juggler walking on a cord or wire to any dangerous
end, holds some object in his sight to steady him, and never wanders
from it, lest he trip.

Montague was quick in his rejoinder, though he made it at a
venture. There was no difference of opinion between him and his
friend on THAT point. Not the least.

'Your great discovery,' Jonas proceeded, with a savage sneer that
got the better of him for the moment, 'may be true, and may be
false. Whichever it is, I dare say I'm no worse than other men.'

'Not a bit,' said Tigg. 'Not a bit. We're all alike--or nearly
so.'

'I want to know this,' Jonas went on to say; 'is it your own?
You'll not wonder at my asking the question.'

'My own!' repeated Montague.

'Aye!' returned the other, gruffly. 'Is it known to anybody else?
Come! Don't waver about that.'

'No!' said Montague, without the smallest hesitation. 'What would
it be worth, do you think, unless I had the keeping of it?'

Now, for the first time, Jonas looked at him. After a pause, he put
out his hand, and said, with a laugh:

'Come! make things easy to me, and I'm yours. I don't know that I
may not be better off here, after all, than if I had gone away this
morning. But here I am, and here I'll stay now. Take your oath!'

He cleared his throat, for he was speaking hoarsely and said in a
lighter tone:

'Shall I go to Pecksniff? When? Say when!'

'Immediately!' cried Montague. 'He cannot be enticed too soon.'

'Ecod!' cried Jonas, with a wild laugh. 'There's some fun in
catching that old hypocrite. I hate him. Shall I go to-night?'

'Aye! This,' said Montague, ecstatically, 'is like business! We
understand each other now! To-night, my good fellow, by all means.'

'Come with me,' cried Jonas. 'We must make a dash; go down in
state, and carry documents, for he's a deep file to deal with, and
must be drawn on with an artful hand, or he'll not follow. I know
him. As I can't take your lodgings or your dinners down, I must
take you. Will you come to-night?'

His friend appeared to hesitate; and neither to have anticipated
this proposal, nor to relish it very much.

'We can concert our plans upon the road,' said Jonas. 'We must not
go direct to him, but cross over from some other place, and turn out
of our way to see him. I may not want to introduce you, but I must
have you on the spot. I know the man, I tell you.'

'But what if the man knows me?' said Montague, shrugging his
shoulders.

'He know!' cried Jonas. 'Don't you run that risk with fifty men a
day! Would your father know you? Did I know you? Ecod! You were
another figure when I saw you first. Ha, ha, ha! I see the rents
and patches now! No false hair then, no black dye! You were another
sort of joker in those days, you were! You even spoke different
then. You've acted the gentleman so seriously since, that you've
taken in yourself. If he should know you, what does it matter?
Such a change is a proof of your success. You know that, or you
would not have made yourself known to me. Will you come?'

'My good fellow,' said Montague, still hesitating, 'I can trust you
alone.'

'Trust me! Ecod, you may trust me now, far enough. I'll try to go
away no more--no more!' He stopped, and added in a more sober tone,
'I can't get on without you. Will you come?'

'I will,' said Montague, 'if that's your opinion.' And they shook
hands upon it.

The boisterous manner which Jonas had exhibited during the latter
part of this conversation, and which had gone on rapidly increasing
with almost every word he had spoken, from the time when he looked
his honourable friend in the face until now, did not now subside,
but, remaining at its height, abided by him. Most unusual with him
at any period; most inconsistent with his temper and constitution;
especially unnatural it would appear in one so darkly circumstanced;
it abided by him. It was not like the effect of wine, or any ardent
drink, for he was perfectly coherent. It even made him proof
against the usual influence of such means of excitement; for,
although he drank deeply several times that day, with no reserve or
caution, he remained exactly the same man, and his spirits neither
rose nor fell in the least observable degree.

Deciding, after some discussion, to travel at night, in order that
the day's business might not be broken in upon, they took counsel
together in reference to the means. Mr Montague being of opinion
that four horses were advisable, at all events for the first stage,
as throwing a great deal of dust into people's eyes, in more senses
than one, a travelling chariot and four lay under orders for nine
o'clock. Jonas did not go home; observing, that his being obliged
to leave town on business in so great a hurry, would be a good
excuse for having turned back so unexpectedly in the morning. So he
wrote a note for his portmanteau, and sent it by a messenger, who
duly brought his luggage back, with a short note from that other
piece of luggage, his wife, expressive of her wish to be allowed to
come and see him for a moment. To this request he sent for answer,
'she had better;' and one such threatening affirmative being
sufficient, in defiance of the English grammar, to express a
negative, she kept away.

Mr Montague being much engaged in the course of the day, Jonas
bestowed his spirits chiefly on the doctor, with whom he lunched in
the medical officer's own room. On his way thither, encountering Mr
Nadgett in the outer room, he bantered that stealthy gentleman on
always appearing anxious to avoid him, and inquired if he were
afraid of him. Mr Nadgett slyly answered, 'No, but he believed it
must be his way as he had been charged with much the same kind of
thing before.'

Mr Montague was listening to, or, to speak with greater elegance, he
overheard, this dialogue. As soon as Jonas was gone he beckoned
Nadgett to him with the feather of his pen, and whispered in his
ear.

'Who gave him my letter this morning?'

'My lodger, sir,' said Nadgett, behind the palm of his hand.

'How came that about?'

'I found him on the wharf, sir. Being so much hurried, and you not
arrived, it was necessary to do something. It fortunately occurred
to me, that if I gave it him myself I could be of no further use. I
should have been blown upon immediately.'

'Mr Nadgett, you are a jewel,' said Montague, patting him on the
back. 'What's your lodger's name?'

'Pinch, sir. Thomas Pinch.'

Montague reflected for a little while, and then asked:

'From the country, do you know?'

'From Wiltshire, sir, he told me.'

They parted without another word. To see Mr Nadgett's bow when
Montague and he next met, and to see Mr Montague acknowledge it,
anybody might have undertaken to swear that they had never spoken to
each other confidentially in all their lives.

In the meanwhile, Mr Jonas and the doctor made themselves very
comfortable upstairs, over a bottle of the old Madeira and some
sandwiches; for the doctor having been already invited to dine below
at six o'clock, preferred a light repast for lunch. It was
advisable, he said, in two points of view: First, as being healthy
in itself. Secondly as being the better preparation for dinner.

'And you are bound for all our sakes to take particular care of your
digestion, Mr Chuzzlewit, my dear sir,' said the doctor smacking his
lips after a glass of wine; 'for depend upon it, it is worth
preserving. It must be in admirable condition, sir; perfect
chronometer-work. Otherwise your spirits could not be so
remarkable. Your bosom's lord sits lightly on its throne, Mr
Chuzzlewit, as what's-his-name says in the play. I wish he said it
in a play which did anything like common justice to our profession,
by the bye. There is an apothecary in that drama, sir, which is a
low thing; vulgar, sir; out of nature altogether.'

Mr Jobling pulled out his shirt-frill of fine linen, as though he
would have said, 'This is what I call nature in a medical man, sir;'
and looked at Jonas for an observation.

Jonas not being in a condition to pursue the subject, took up a case
of lancets that was lying on the table, and opened it.

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