Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Life And Adventures Of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens

Part 4 out of 20

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 2.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Surely there never was, in any other borough, city, or hamlet in the
world, such a singular sort of a place as Todgers's. And surely
London, to judge from that part of it which hemmed Todgers's round
and hustled it, and crushed it, and stuck its brick-and-mortar
elbows into it, and kept the air from it, and stood perpetually
between it and the light, was worthy of Todgers's, and qualified to
be on terms of close relationship and alliance with hundreds and
thousands of the odd family to which Todgers's belonged.

You couldn't walk about Todgers's neighbourhood, as you could in any
other neighbourhood. You groped your way for an hour through lanes
and byways, and court-yards, and passages; and you never once
emerged upon anything that might be reasonably called a street. A
kind of resigned distraction came over the stranger as he trod those
devious mazes, and, giving himself up for lost, went in and out and
round about and quietly turned back again when he came to a dead
wall or was stopped by an iron railing, and felt that the means of
escape might possibly present themselves in their own good time, but
that to anticipate them was hopeless. Instances were known of
people who, being asked to dine at Todgers's, had travelled round
and round for a weary time, with its very chimney-pots in view; and
finding it, at last, impossible of attainment, had gone home again
with a gentle melancholy on their spirits, tranquil and
uncomplaining. Nobody had ever found Todgers's on a verbal
direction, though given within a few minutes' walk of it. Cautious
emigrants from Scotland or the North of England had been known to
reach it safely, by impressing a charity-boy, town-bred, and
bringing him along with them; or by clinging tenaciously to the
postman; but these were rare exceptions, and only went to prove the
rule that Todgers's was in a labyrinth, whereof the mystery was
known but to a chosen few.

Several fruit-brokers had their marts near Todgers's; and one of the
first impressions wrought upon the stranger's senses was of oranges
--of damaged oranges--with blue and green bruises on them, festering
in boxes, or mouldering away in cellars. All day long, a stream of
porters from the wharves beside the river, each bearing on his back
a bursting chest of oranges, poured slowly through the narrow
passages; while underneath the archway by the public-house, the
knots of those who rested and regaled within, were piled from
morning until night. Strange solitary pumps were found near
Todgers's hiding themselves for the most part in blind alleys, and
keeping company with fire-ladders. There were churches also by
dozens, with many a ghostly little churchyard, all overgrown with
such straggling vegetation as springs up spontaneously from damp,
and graves, and rubbish. In some of these dingy resting-places
which bore much the same analogy to green churchyards, as the pots
of earth for mignonette and wall-flower in the windows overlooking
them did to rustic gardens, there were trees; tall trees; still
putting forth their leaves in each succeeding year, with such a
languishing remembrance of their kind (so one might fancy, looking
on their sickly boughs) as birds in cages have of theirs. Here,
paralysed old watchmen guarded the bodies of the dead at night, year
after year, until at last they joined that solemn brotherhood; and,
saving that they slept below the ground a sounder sleep than even
they had ever known above it, and were shut up in another kind of
box, their condition can hardly be said to have undergone any
material change when they, in turn, were watched themselves.

Among the narrow thoroughfares at hand, there lingered, here and
there, an ancient doorway of carved oak, from which, of old, the
sounds of revelry and feasting often came; but now these mansions,
only used for storehouses, were dark and dull, and, being filled
with wool, and cotton, and the like--such heavy merchandise as
stifles sound and stops the throat of echo--had an air of palpable
deadness about them which, added to their silence and desertion,
made them very grim. In like manner, there were gloomy courtyards
in these parts, into which few but belated wayfarers ever strayed,
and where vast bags and packs of goods, upward or downward bound,
were for ever dangling between heaven and earth from lofty cranes
There were more trucks near Todgers's than you would suppose whole
city could ever need; not active trucks, but a vagabond race, for
ever lounging in the narrow lanes before their masters' doors and
stopping up the pass; so that when a stray hackney-coach or
lumbering waggon came that way, they were the cause of such an
uproar as enlivened the whole neighbourhood, and made the bells in
the next churchtower vibrate again. In the throats and maws of dark
no-thoroughfares near Todgers's, individual wine-merchants and
wholesale dealers in grocery-ware had perfect little towns of their
own; and, deep among the foundations of these buildings, the ground
was undermined and burrowed out into stables, where cart-horses,
troubled by rats, might be heard on a quiet Sunday rattling their
halters, as disturbed spirits in tales of haunted houses are said to
clank their chains.

To tell of half the queer old taverns that had a drowsy and secret
existence near Todgers's, would fill a goodly book; while a second
volume no less capacious might be devoted to an account of the
quaint old guests who frequented their dimly lighted parlours.
These were, in general, ancient inhabitants of that region; born,
and bred there from boyhood. who had long since become wheezy and
asthmatical, and short of breath, except in the article of story-
telling; in which respect they were still marvellously long-winded.
These gentry were much opposed to steam and all new-fangled ways,
and held ballooning to be sinful, and deplored the degeneracy of the
times; which that particular member of each little club who kept the
keys of the nearest church, professionally, always attributed to the
prevalence of dissent and irreligion; though the major part of the
company inclined to the belief that virtue went out with hair-
powder, and that Old England's greatness had decayed amain with
barbers.

As to Todgers's itself--speaking of it only as a house in that
neighbourhood, and making no reference to its merits as a commercial
boarding establishment--it was worthy to stand where it did. There
was one staircase-window in it, at the side of the house, on the
ground floor; which tradition said had not been opened for a hundred
years at least, and which, abutting on an always dirty lane, was so
begrimed and coated with a century's mud, that no one pane of glass
could possibly fall out, though all were cracked and broken twenty
times. But the grand mystery of Todgers's was the cellarage,
approachable only by a little back door and a rusty grating; which
cellarage within the memory of man had had no connection with the
house, but had always been the freehold property of somebody else,
and was reported to be full of wealth; though in what shape--whether
in silver, brass, or gold, or butts of wine, or casks of gun-powder--
was matter of profound uncertainty and supreme indifference to
Todgers's and all its inmates.

The top of the house was worthy of notice. There was a sort of
terrace on the roof, with posts and fragments of rotten lines, once
intended to dry clothes upon; and there were two or three tea-chests
out there, full of earth, with forgotten plants in them, like old
walking-sticks. Whoever climbed to this observatory, was stunned at
first from having knocked his head against the little door in coming
out; and after that, was for the moment choked from having looked
perforce, straight down the kitchen chimney; but these two stages
over, there were things to gaze at from the top of Todgers's, well
worth your seeing too. For first and foremost, if the day were
bright, you observed upon the house-tops, stretching far away, a
long dark path; the shadow of the Monument; and turning round, the
tall original was close beside you, with every hair erect upon his
golden head, as if the doings of the city frightened him. Then
there were steeples, towers, belfries, shining vanes, and masts of
ships; a very forest. Gables, housetops, garret-windows, wilderness
upon wilderness. Smoke and noise enough for all the world at once.

After the first glance, there were slight features in the midst of
this crowd of objects, which sprung out from the mass without any
reason, as it were, and took hold of the attention whether the
spectator would or no. Thus, the revolving chimney-pots on one
great stack of buildings seemed to be turning gravely to each other
every now and then, and whispering the result of their separate
observation of what was going on below. Others, of a crook-backed
shape, appeared to be maliciously holding themselves askew, that
they might shut the prospect out and baffle Todgers's. The man who
was mending a pen at an upper window over the way, became of
paramount importance in the scene, and made a blank in it,
ridiculously disproportionate in its extent, when he retired. The
gambols of a piece of cloth upon the dyer's pole had far more
interest for the moment than all the changing motion of the crowd.
Yet even while the looker-on felt angry with himself for this, and
wondered how it was, the tumult swelled into a roar; the hosts of
objects seemed to thicken and expand a hundredfold, and after gazing
round him, quite scared, he turned into Todgers's again, much more
rapidly than he came out; and ten to one he told M. Todgers
afterwards that if he hadn't done so, he would certainly have come
into the street by the shortest cut; that is to say, head-foremost.

So said the two Miss Pecksniffs, when they retired with Mrs Todgers
from this place of espial, leaving the youthful porter to close the
door and follow them downstairs; who, being of a playful temperament,
and contemplating with a delight peculiar to his sex and time of
life, any chance of dashing himself into small fragments, lingered
behind to walk upon the parapet.

It being the second day of their stay in London, the Miss Pecksniffs
and Mrs Todgers were by this time highly confidential, insomuch that
the last-named lady had already communicated the particulars of
three early disappointments of a tender nature; and had furthermore
possessed her young friends with a general summary of the life,
conduct, and character of Mr Todgers. Who, it seemed, had cut his
matrimonial career rather short, by unlawfully running away from his
happiness, and establishing himself in foreign countries as a
bachelor.

'Your pa was once a little particular in his attentions, my dears,'
said Mrs Todgers, 'but to be your ma was too much happiness denied
me. You'd hardly know who this was done for, perhaps?'

She called their attention to an oval miniature, like a little
blister, which was tacked up over the kettle-holder, and in which
there was a dreamy shadowing forth of her own visage.

'It's a speaking likeness!' cried the two Miss Pecksniffs.

'It was considered so once,' said Mrs Todgers, warming herself in a
gentlemanly manner at the fire; 'but I hardly thought you would have
known it, my loves.'

They would have known it anywhere. If they could have met with it
in the street, or seen it in a shop window, they would have cried
'Good gracious! Mrs Todgers!'

'Presiding over an establishment like this, makes sad havoc with the
features, my dear Miss Pecksniffs,' said Mrs Todgers. 'The gravy
alone, is enough to add twenty years to one's age, I do assure you.'

'Lor'!' cried the two Miss Pecksniffs.

'The anxiety of that one item, my dears,' said Mrs Todgers, 'keeps
the mind continually upon the stretch. There is no such passion in
human nature, as the passion for gravy among commercial gentlemen.
It's nothing to say a joint won't yield--a whole animal wouldn't
yield--the amount of gravy they expect each day at dinner. And what
I have undergone in consequence,' cried Mrs Todgers, raising her
eyes and shaking her head, 'no one would believe!'

'Just like Mr Pinch, Merry!' said Charity. 'We have always noticed
it in him, you remember?'

'Yes, my dear,' giggled Merry, 'but we have never given it him, you
know.'

'You, my dears, having to deal with your pa's pupils who can't help
themselves, are able to take your own way,' said Mrs Todgers; 'but in
a commercial establishment, where any gentleman may say any Saturday
evening, "Mrs Todgers, this day week we part, in consequence of the
cheese," it is not so easy to preserve a pleasant understanding.
Your pa was kind enough,' added the good lady, 'to invite me to take
a ride with you to-day; and I think he mentioned that you were going
to call upon Miss Pinch. Any relation to the gentleman you were
speaking of just now, Miss Pecksniff?'

'For goodness sake, Mrs Todgers,' interposed the lively Merry,
'don't call him a gentleman. My dear Cherry, Pinch a gentleman!
The idea!'

'What a wicked girl you are!' cried Mrs Todgers, embracing her with
great affection. 'You are quite a quiz, I do declare! My dear Miss
Pecksniff, what a happiness your sister's spirits must be to your pa
and self!'

'He's the most hideous, goggle-eyed creature, Mrs Todgers, in
existence,' resumed Merry: 'quite an ogre. The ugliest, awkwardest
frightfullest being, you can imagine. This is his sister, so I
leave you to suppose what SHE is. I shall be obliged to laugh
outright, I know I shall!' cried the charming girl, 'I never shall
be able to keep my countenance. The notion of a Miss Pinch
presuming to exist at all is sufficient to kill one, but to see her
--oh my stars!'

Mrs Todgers laughed immensely at the dear love's humour, and
declared she was quite afraid of her, that she was. She was so very
severe.

'Who is severe?' cried a voice at the door. 'There is no such thing
as severity in our family, I hope!' And then Mr Pecksniff peeped
smilingly into the room, and said, 'May I come in, Mrs Todgers?'

Mrs Todgers almost screamed, for the little door of communication
between that room and the inner one being wide open, there was a
full disclosure of the sofa bedstead in all its monstrous
impropriety. But she had the presence of mind to close this portal
in the twinkling of an eye; and having done so, said, though not
without confusion, 'Oh yes, Mr Pecksniff, you can come in, if you
please.'

'How are we to-day,' said Mr Pecksniff, jocosely. 'and what are our
plans? Are we ready to go and see Tom Pinch's sister? Ha, ha, ha!
Poor Thomas Pinch!'

'Are we ready,' returned Mrs Todgers, nodding her head with
mysterious intelligence, 'to send a favourable reply to Mr Jinkins's
round-robin? That's the first question, Mr Pecksniff.'

'Why Mr Jinkins's robin, my dear madam?' asked Mr Pecksniff, putting
one arm round Mercy, and the other round Mrs Todgers, whom he
seemed, in the abstraction of the moment, to mistake for Charity.
'Why Mr Jinkins's?'

'Because he began to get it up, and indeed always takes the lead in
the house,' said Mrs Todgers, playfully. 'That's why, sir.'

'Jinkins is a man of superior talents,' observed Mr Pecksniff. 'I
have conceived a great regard for Jinkins. I take Jinkins's desire
to pay polite attention to my daughters, as an additional proof of
the friendly feeling of Jinkins, Mrs Todgers.'

'Well now,' returned that lady, 'having said so much, you must say
the rest, Mr Pecksniff; so tell the dear young ladies all about it.'

With these words she gently eluded Mr Pecksniff's grasp, and took
Miss Charity into her own embrace; though whether she was impelled
to this proceeding solely by the irrepressible affection she had
conceived for that young lady, or whether it had any reference to a
lowering, not to say distinctly spiteful expression which had been
visible in her face for some moments, has never been exactly
ascertained. Be this as it may, Mr Pecksniff went on to inform his
daughters of the purport and history of the round-robin aforesaid,
which was in brief, that the commercial gentlemen who helped to make
up the sum and substance of that noun of multitude signifying
many, called Todgers's, desired the honour of their presence at the
general table, so long as they remained in the house, and besought
that they would grace the board at dinner-time next day, the same
being Sunday. He further said, that Mrs Todgers being a consenting
party to this invitation, he was willing, for his part, to accept
it; and so left them that he might write his gracious answer, the
while they armed themselves with their best bonnets for the utter
defeat and overthrow of Miss Pinch.

Tom Pinch's sister was governess in a family, a lofty family;
perhaps the wealthiest brass and copper founders' family known to
mankind. They lived at Camberwell; in a house so big and fierce,
that its mere outside, like the outside of a giant's castle, struck
terror into vulgar minds and made bold persons quail. There was a
great front gate; with a great bell, whose handle was in itself a
note of admiration; and a great lodge; which being close to the
house, rather spoilt the look-out certainly but made the look-in
tremendous. At this entry, a great porter kept constant watch and
ward; and when he gave the visitor high leave to pass, he rang a
second great bell, responsive to whose note a great footman appeared
in due time at the great halldoor, with such great tags upon his
liveried shoulder that he was perpetually entangling and hooking
himself among the chairs and tables, and led a life of torment which
could scarcely have been surpassed, if he had been a blue-bottle in
a world of cobwebs.

To this mansion Mr Pecksniff, accompanied by his daughters and Mrs
Todgers, drove gallantly in a one-horse fly. The foregoing
ceremonies having been all performed, they were ushered into the
house; and so, by degrees, they got at last into a small room with
books in it, where Mr Pinch's sister was at that moment instructing
her eldest pupil; to wit, a premature little woman of thirteen years
old, who had already arrived at such a pitch of whalebone and
education that she had nothing girlish about her, which was a source
of great rejoicing to all her relations and friends.

'Visitors for Miss Pinch!' said the footman. He must have been an
ingenious young man, for he said it very cleverly; with a nice
discrimination between the cold respect with which he would have
announced visitors to the family, and the warm personal interest
with which he would have announced visitors to the cook.

'Visitors for Miss Pinch!'

Miss Pinch rose hastily; with such tokens of agitation as plainly
declared that her list of callers was not numerous. At the same
time, the little pupil became alarmingly upright, and prepared
herself to take mental notes of all that might be said and done.
For the lady of the establishment was curious in the natural history
and habits of the animal called Governess, and encouraged her
daughters to report thereon whenever occasion served; which was, in
reference to all parties concerned, very laudable, improving, and
pleasant.

It is a melancholy fact; but it must be related, that Mr Pinch's
sister was not at all ugly. On the contrary, she had a good face; a
very mild and prepossessing face; and a pretty little figure--slight
and short, but remarkable for its neatness. There was something of
her brother, much of him indeed, in a certain gentleness of manner,
and in her look of timid trustfulness; but she was so far from being
a fright, or a dowdy, or a horror, or anything else, predicted by
the two Miss Pecksniffs, that those young ladies naturally regarded
her with great indignation, feeling that this was by no means what
they had come to see.

Miss Mercy, as having the larger share of gaiety, bore up the best
against this disappointment, and carried it off, in outward show at
least, with a titter; but her sister, not caring to hide her
disdain, expressed it pretty openly in her looks. As to Mrs
Todgers, she leaned on Mr Pecksniff's arm and preserved a kind of
genteel grimness, suitable to any state of mind, and involving any
shade of opinion.

'Don't be alarmed, Miss Pinch,' said Mr Pecksniff, taking her hand
condescendingly in one of his, and patting it with the other. 'I
have called to see you, in pursuance of a promise given to your
brother, Thomas Pinch. My name--compose yourself, Miss Pinch--is
Pecksniff.'

The good man emphasised these words as though he would have said,
'You see in me, young person, the benefactor of your race; the
patron of your house; the preserver of your brother, who is fed with
manna daily from my table; and in right of whom there is a
considerable balance in my favour at present standing in the books
beyond the sky. But I have no pride, for I can afford to do without
it!'

The poor girl felt it all as if it had been Gospel truth. Her
brother writing in the fullness of his simple heart, had often told
her so, and how much more! As Mr Pecksniff ceased to speak, she hung
her head, and dropped a tear upon his hand.

'Oh very well, Miss Pinch!' thought the sharp pupil, 'crying before
strangers, as if you didn't like the situation!'

'Thomas is well,' said Mr Pecksniff; 'and sends his love and this
letter. I cannot say, poor fellow, that he will ever be
distinguished in our profession; but he has the will to do well,
which is the next thing to having the power; and, therefore, we must
bear with him. Eh?'

'I know he has the will, sir,' said Tom Pinch's sister, 'and I know
how kindly and considerately you cherish it, for which neither he
nor I can ever be grateful enough, as we very often say in writing
to each other. The young ladies too,' she added, glancing
gratefully at his two daughters, 'I know how much we owe to them.'

'My dears,' said Mr Pecksniff, turning to them with a smile:
'Thomas's sister is saying something you will be glad to hear, I
think.'

'We can't take any merit to ourselves, papa!' cried Cherry, as they
both apprised Tom Pinch's sister, with a curtsey, that they would
feel obliged if she would keep her distance. 'Mr Pinch's being so
well provided for is owing to you alone, and we can only say how
glad we are to hear that he is as grateful as he ought to be.'

'Oh very well, Miss Pinch!' thought the pupil again. 'Got a
grateful brother, living on other people's kindness!'

'It was very kind of you,' said Tom Pinch's sister, with Tom's own
simplicity and Tom's own smile, 'to come here; very kind indeed;
though how great a kindness you have done me in gratifying my wish
to see you, and to thank you with my own lips, you, who make so
light of benefits conferred, can scarcely think.'

'Very grateful; very pleasant; very proper,' murmured Mr Pecksniff.

'It makes me happy too,' said Ruth Pinch, who now that her first
surprise was over, had a chatty, cheerful way with her, and a
single-hearted desire to look upon the best side of everything,
which was the very moral and image of Tom; 'very happy to think that
you will be able to tell him how more than comfortably I am situated
here, and how unnecessary it is that he should ever waste a regret
on my being cast upon my own resources. Dear me! So long as I heard
that he was happy, and he heard that I was,' said Tom's sister, 'we
could both bear, without one impatient or complaining thought, a
great deal more than ever we have had to endure, I am very certain.'
And if ever the plain truth were spoken on this occasionally false
earth, Tom's sister spoke it when she said that.

'Ah!' cried Mr Pecksniff whose eyes had in the meantime wandered to
the pupil; 'certainly. And how do YOU do, my very interesting
child?'

'Quite well, I thank you, sir,' replied that frosty innocent.

'A sweet face this, my dears,' said Mr Pecksniff, turning to his
daughters. 'A charming manner!'

Both young ladies had been in ecstasies with the scion of a wealthy
house (through whom the nearest road and shortest cut to her parents
might be supposed to lie) from the first. Mrs Todgers vowed that
anything one quarter so angelic she had never seen. 'She wanted but
a pair of wings, a dear,' said that good woman, 'to be a young
syrup'--meaning, possibly, young sylph, or seraph.

'If you will give that to your distinguished parents, my amiable
little friend,' said Mr Pecksniff, producing one of his professional
cards, 'and will say that I and my daughters--'

'And Mrs Todgers, pa,' said Merry.

'And Mrs Todgers, of London,' added Mr Pecksniff; 'that I, and my
daughters, and Mrs Todgers, of London, did not intrude upon them, as
our object simply was to take some notice of Miss Pinch, whose
brother is a young man in my employment; but that I could not leave
this very chaste mansion, without adding my humble tribute, as an
Architect, to the correctness and elegance of the owner's taste, and
to his just appreciation of that beautiful art to the cultivation of
which I have devoted a life, and to the promotion of whose glory and
advancement I have sacrified a--a fortune--I shall be very much
obliged to you.'

'Missis's compliments to Miss Pinch,' said the footman, suddenly
appearing, and speaking in exactly the same key as before, 'and begs
to know wot my young lady is a-learning of just now.'

'Oh!' said Mr Pecksniff, 'Here is the young man. HE will take the
card. With my compliments, if you please, young man. My dears, we
are interrupting the studies. Let us go.'

Some confusion was occasioned for an instant by Mrs Todgers's
unstrapping her little flat hand-basket, and hurriedly entrusting
the 'young man' with one of her own cards, which, in addition to
certain detailed information relative to the terms of the commercial
establishment, bore a foot-note to the effect that M. T. took that
opportunity of thanking those gentlemen who had honoured her with
their favours, and begged they would have the goodness, if satisfied
with the table, to recommend her to their friends. But Mr
Pecksniff, with admirable presence of mind, recovered this document,
and buttoned it up in his own pocket.

Then he said to Miss Pinch--with more condescension and kindness
than ever, for it was desirable the footman should expressly
understand that they were not friends of hers, but patrons:

'Good morning. Good-bye. God bless you! You may depend upon my
continued protection of your brother Thomas. Keep your mind quite
at ease, Miss Pinch!'

'Thank you,' said Tom's sister heartily; 'a thousand times.'

'Not at all,' he retorted, patting her gently on the head. 'Don't
mention it. You will make me angry if you do. My sweet child'--to
the pupil--'farewell! That fairy creature,' said Mr Pecksniff,
looking in his pensive mood hard at the footman, as if he meant him,
'has shed a vision on my path, refulgent in its nature, and not
easily to be obliterated. My dears, are you ready?'

They were not quite ready yet, for they were still caressing the
pupil. But they tore themselves away at length; and sweeping past
Miss Pinch with each a haughty inclination of the head and a curtsey
strangled in its birth, flounced into the passage.

The young man had rather a long job in showing them out; for Mr
Pecksniff's delight in the tastefulness of the house was such that
he could not help often stopping (particularly when they were near
the parlour door) and giving it expression, in a loud voice and very
learned terms. Indeed, he delivered, between the study and the
hall, a familiar exposition of the whole science of architecture as
applied to dwelling-houses, and was yet in the freshness of his
eloquence when they reached the garden.

'If you look,' said Mr Pecksniff, backing from the steps, with his
head on one side and his eyes half-shut that he might the better
take in the proportions of the exterior: 'If you look, my dears, at
the cornice which supports the roof, and observe the airiness of its
construction, especially where it sweeps the southern angle of the
building, you will feel with me--How do you do, sir? I hope you're
well?'

Interrupting himself with these words, he very politely bowed to a
middle-aged gentleman at an upper window, to whom he spoke--not
because the gentleman could hear him (for he certainly could not),
but as an appropriate accompaniment to his salutation.

'I have no doubt, my dears,' said Mr Pecksniff, feigning to point
out other beauties with his hand, 'that this is the proprietor. I
should be glad to know him. It might lead to something. Is he
looking this way, Charity?'

'He is opening the window pa!'

'Ha, ha!' cried Mr Pecksniff softly. 'All right! He has found I'm
professional. He heard me inside just now, I have no doubt. Don't
look! With regard to the fluted pillars in the portico, my dears--'

'Hallo!' cried the gentleman.

'Sir, your servant!' said Mr Pecksniff, taking off his hat. 'I am
proud to make your acquaintance.'

'Come off the grass, will you!' roared the gentleman.

'I beg your pardon, sir,' said Mr Pecksniff, doubtful of his having
heard aright. 'Did you--?'

'Come off the grass!' repeated the gentleman, warmly.

'We are unwilling to intrude, sir,' Mr Pecksniff smilingly began.

'But you ARE intruding,' returned the other, 'unwarrantably
intruding. Trespassing. You see a gravel walk, don't you? What
do you think it's meant for? Open the gate there! Show that party
out!'

With that he clapped down the window again, and disappeared.

Mr Pecksniff put on his hat, and walked with great deliberation and
in profound silence to the fly, gazing at the clouds as he went,
with great interest. After helping his daughters and Mrs Todgers
into that conveyance, he stood looking at it for some moments, as if
he were not quite certain whether it was a carriage or a temple; but
having settled this point in his mind, he got into his place, spread
his hands out on his knees, and smiled upon the three beholders.

But his daughters, less tranquil-minded, burst into a torrent of
indignation. This came, they said, of cherishing such creatures as
the Pinches. This came of lowering themselves to their level. This
came of putting themselves in the humiliating position of seeming to
know such bold, audacious, cunning, dreadful girls as that. They
had expected this. They had predicted it to Mrs Todgers, as she
(Todgers) could depone, that very morning. To this, they added,
that the owner of the house, supposing them to be Miss Pinch's
friends, had acted, in their opinion, quite correctly, and had done
no more than, under such circumstances, might reasonably have been
expected. To that they added (with a trifling inconsistency), that
he was a brute and a bear; and then they merged into a flood of
tears, which swept away all wandering epithets before it.

Perhaps Miss Pinch was scarcely so much to blame in the matter as
the Seraph, who, immediately on the withdrawal of the visitors, had
hastened to report them at head-quarters, with a full account of
their having presumptuously charged her with the delivery of a
message afterwards consigned to the footman; which outrage, taken in
conjunction with Mr Pecksniff's unobtrusive remarks on the
establishment, might possibly have had some share in their
dismissal. Poor Miss Pinch, however, had to bear the brunt of it
with both parties; being so severely taken to task by the Seraph's
mother for having such vulgar acquaintances, that she was fain to
retire to her own room in tears, which her natural cheerfulness and
submission, and the delight of having seen Mr Pecksniff, and having
received a letter from her brother, were at first insufficient to
repress.

As to Mr Pecksniff, he told them in the fly, that a good action was
its own reward; and rather gave them to understand, that if he could
have been kicked in such a cause, he would have liked it all the
better. But this was no comfort to the young ladies, who scolded
violently the whole way back, and even exhibited, more than once, a
keen desire to attack the devoted Mrs Todgers; on whose personal
appearance, but particularly on whose offending card and hand-
basket, they were secretly inclined to lay the blame of half their
failure.

Todgers's was in a great bustle that evening, partly owing to some
additional domestic preparations for the morrow, and partly to the
excitement always inseparable in that house from Saturday night,
when every gentleman's linen arrived at a different hour in its own
little bundle, with his private account pinned on the outside.
There was always a great clinking of pattens downstairs, too, until
midnight or so, on Saturdays; together with a frequent gleaming of
mysterious lights in the area; much working at the pump; and a
constant jangling of the iron handle of the pail. Shrill
altercations from time to time arose between Mrs Todgers and unknown
females in remote back kitchens; and sounds were occasionally heard,
indicative of small articles of iron mongery and hardware being
thrown at the boy. It was the custom of that youth on Saturdays, to
roll up his shirt sleeves to his shoulders, and pervade all parts of
the house in an apron of coarse green baize; moreover, he was more
strongly tempted on Saturdays than on other days (it being a busy
time), to make excursive bolts into the neighbouring alleys when he
answered the door, and there to play at leap-frog and other sports
with vagrant lads, until pursued and brought back by the hair of his
head or the lobe of his ear; thus he was quite a conspicuous feature
among the peculiar incidents of the last day in the week at Todgers's.

He was especially so on this particular Saturday evening, and
honoured the Miss Pecksniffs with a deal of notice; seldom passing
the door of Mrs Todgers's private room, where they sat alone before
the fire, working by the light of a solitary candle, without putting
in his head and greeting them with some such compliments as, 'There
you are agin!' 'An't it nice?'--and similar humorous attentions.

'I say,' he whispered, stopping in one of his journeys to and fro,
'young ladies, there's soup to-morrow. She's a-making it now. An't
she a-putting in the water? Oh! not at all neither!'

In the course of answering another knock, he thrust in his head
again.

'I say! There's fowls to-morrow. Not skinny ones. Oh no!'

Presently he called through the key-hole:

'There's a fish to-morrow. Just come. Don't eat none of him!' And,
with this special warning, vanished again.

By-and-bye, he returned to lay the cloth for supper; it having been
arranged between Mrs Todgers and the young ladies, that they should
partake of an exclusive veal-cutlet together in the privacy of that
apartment. He entertained them on this occasion by thrusting the
lighted candle into his mouth, and exhibiting his face in a state of
transparency; after the performance of which feat, he went on with
his professional duties; brightening every knife as he laid it on
the table, by breathing on the blade and afterwards polishing the
same on the apron already mentioned. When he had completed his
preparations, he grinned at the sisters, and expressed his belief
that the approaching collation would be of 'rather a spicy sort.'

'Will it be long, before it's ready, Bailey?' asked Mercy.

'No,' said Bailey, 'it IS cooked. When I come up, she was dodging
among the tender pieces with a fork, and eating of 'em.'

But he had scarcely achieved the utterance of these words, when he
received a manual compliment on the head, which sent him staggering
against the wall; and Mrs Todgers, dish in hand, stood indignantly
before him.

'Oh you little villain!' said that lady. 'Oh you bad, false boy!'

'No worse than yerself,' retorted Bailey, guarding his head, on a
principle invented by Mr Thomas Cribb. 'Ah! Come now! Do that
again, will yer?'

'He's the most dreadful child,' said Mrs Todgers, setting down the
dish, 'I ever had to deal with. The gentlemen spoil him to that
extent, and teach him such things, that I'm afraid nothing but
hanging will ever do him any good.'

'Won't it!' cried Bailey. 'Oh! Yes! Wot do you go a-lowerin the
table-beer for then, and destroying my constitooshun?'

'Go downstairs, you vicious boy,' said Mrs Todgers, holding the
door open. 'Do you hear me? Go along!'

After two or three dexterous feints, he went, and was seen no more
that night, save once, when he brought up some tumblers and hot
water, and much disturbed the two Miss Pecksniffs by squinting
hideously behind the back of the unconscious Mrs Todgers. Having
done this justice to his wounded feelings, he retired underground;
where, in company with a swarm of black beetles and a kitchen
candle, he employed his faculties in cleaning boots and brushing
clothes until the night was far advanced.

Benjamin was supposed to be the real name of this young retainer but
he was known by a great variety of names. Benjamin, for instance,
had been converted into Uncle Ben, and that again had been corrupted
into Uncle; which, by an easy transition, had again passed into
Barnwell, in memory of the celebrated relative in that degree who
was shot by his nephew George, while meditating in his garden at
Camberwell. The gentlemen at Todgers's had a merry habit, too, of
bestowing upon him, for the time being, the name of any notorious
malefactor or minister; and sometimes when current events were flat
they even sought the pages of history for these distinctions; as Mr
Pitt, Young Brownrigg, and the like. At the period of which we
write, he was generally known among the gentlemen as Bailey junior;
a name bestowed upon him in contradistinction, perhaps, to Old
Bailey; and possibly as involving the recollection of an unfortunate
lady of the same name, who perished by her own hand early in life,
and has been immortalised in a ballad.

The usual Sunday dinner-hour at Todgers's was two o'clock--a
suitable time, it was considered for all parties; convenient to Mrs
Todgers, on account of the bakers; and convenient to the gentlemen
with reference to their afternoon engagements. But on the Sunday
which was to introduce the two Miss Pecksniffs to a full knowledge
of Todgers's and its society, the dinner was postponed until five,
in order that everything might be as genteel as the occasion
demanded.

When the hour drew nigh, Bailey junior, testifying great excitement,
appeared in a complete suit of cast-off clothes several sizes too
large for him, and in particular, mounted a clean shirt of such
extraordinary magnitude, that one of the gentlemen (remarkable for
his ready wit) called him 'collars' on the spot. At about a quarter
before five, a deputation, consisting of Mr Jinkins, and another
gentleman, whose name was Gander, knocked at the door of Mrs
Todgers's room, and, being formally introduced to the two Miss
Pecksniffs by their parent who was in waiting, besought the honour
of conducting them upstairs.

The drawing-room at Todgers's was out of the common style; so much
so indeed, that you would hardly have taken it to be a drawingroom,
unless you were told so by somebody who was in the secret. It was
floor-clothed all over; and the ceiling, including a great beam in
the middle, was papered. Besides the three little windows, with
seats in them, commanding the opposite archway, there was another
window looking point blank, without any compromise at all about it
into Jinkins's bedroom; and high up, all along one side of the wall
was a strip of panes of glass, two-deep, giving light to the
staircase. There were the oddest closets possible, with little
casements in them like eight-day clocks, lurking in the wainscot and
taking the shape of the stairs; and the very door itself (which was
painted black) had two great glass eyes in its forehead, with an
inquisitive green pupil in the middle of each.

Here the gentlemen were all assembled. There was a general cry of
'Hear, hear!' and 'Bravo Jink!' when Mr Jinkins appeared with
Charity on his arm; which became quite rapturous as Mr Gander
followed, escorting Mercy, and Mr Pecksniff brought up the rear with
Mrs Todgers.

Then the presentations took place. They included a gentleman of a
sporting turn, who propounded questions on jockey subjects to the
editors of Sunday papers, which were regarded by his friends as
rather stiff things to answer; and they included a gentleman of a
theatrical turn, who had once entertained serious thoughts of
'coming out,' but had been kept in by the wickedness of human
nature; and they included a gentleman of a debating turn, who was
strong at speech-making; and a gentleman of a literary turn, who
wrote squibs upon the rest, and knew the weak side of everybody's
character but his own. There was a gentleman of a vocal turn, and a
gentleman of a smoking turn, and a gentleman of a convivial turn;
some of the gentlemen had a turn for whist, and a large proportion
of the gentlemen had a strong turn for billiards and betting. They
had all, it may be presumed, a turn for business; being all
commercially employed in one way or other; and had, every one in his
own way, a decided turn for pleasure to boot. Mr Jinkins was of a
fashionable turn; being a regular frequenter of the Parks on
Sundays, and knowing a great many carriages by sight. He spoke
mysteriously, too, of splendid women, and was suspected of having
once committed himself with a Countess. Mr Gander was of a witty
turn being indeed the gentleman who had originated the sally about
'collars;' which sparkling pleasantry was now retailed from mouth to
mouth, under the title of Gander's Last, and was received in all
parts of the room with great applause. Mr Jinkins it may be added,
was much the oldest of the party; being a fish-salesman's book-
keeper, aged forty. He was the oldest boarder also; and in right of
his double seniority, took the lead in the house, as Mrs Todgers had
already said.

There was considerable delay in the production of dinner, and poor
Mrs Todgers, being reproached in confidence by Jinkins, slipped in
and out, at least twenty times to see about it; always coming back
as though she had no such thing upon her mind, and hadn't been out
at all. But there was no hitch in the conversation nevertheless;
for one gentleman, who travelled in the perfumery line, exhibited an
interesting nick-nack, in the way of a remarkable cake of shaving
soap which he had lately met with in Germany; and the gentleman of a
literary turn repeated (by desire) some sarcastic stanzas he had
recently produced on the freezing of the tank at the back of the
house. These amusements, with the miscellaneous conversation
arising out of them, passed the time splendidly, until dinner was
announced by Bailey junior in these terms:

'The wittles is up!'

On which notice they immediately descended to the banquet-hall; some
of the more facetious spirits in the rear taking down gentlemen as
if they were ladies, in imitation of the fortunate possessors of the
two Miss Pecksniffs.

Mr Pecksniff said grace--a short and pious grace, involving a
blessing on the appetites of those present, and committing all
persons who had nothing to eat, to the care of Providence; whose
business (so said the grace, in effect) it clearly was, to look
after them. This done, they fell to with less ceremony than
appetite; the table groaning beneath the weight, not only of the
delicacies whereof the Miss Pecksniffs had been previously
forewarned, but of boiled beef, roast veal, bacon, pies and
abundance of such heavy vegetables as are favourably known to
housekeepers for their satisfying qualities. Besides which, there
were bottles of stout, bottles of wine, bottles of ale, and divers
other strong drinks, native and foreign.

All this was highly agreeable to the two Miss Pecksniffs, who were
in immense request; sitting one on either hand of Mr Jinkins at the
bottom of the table; and who were called upon to take wine with some
new admirer every minute. They had hardly ever felt so pleasant,
and so full of conversation, in their lives; Mercy, in particular,
was uncommonly brilliant, and said so many good things in the way of
lively repartee that she was looked upon as a prodigy. 'In short,'
as that young lady observed, 'they felt now, indeed, that they were
in London, and for the first time too.'

Their young friend Bailey sympathized in these feelings to the
fullest extent, and, abating nothing of his patronage, gave them
every encouragement in his power; favouring them, when the general
attention was diverted from his proceedings, with many nods and
winks and other tokens of recognition, and occasionally touching his
nose with a corkscrew, as if to express the Bacchanalian character
of the meeting. In truth, perhaps even the spirits of the two Miss
Pecksniffs, and the hungry watchfulness of Mrs Todgers, were less
worthy of note than the proceedings of this remarkable boy, whom
nothing disconcerted or put out of his way. If any piece of
crockery, a dish or otherwise, chanced to slip through his hands
(which happened once or twice), he let it go with perfect good
breeding, and never added to the painful emotions of the company by
exhibiting the least regret. Nor did he, by hurrying to and fro,
disturb the repose of the assembly, as many well-trained servants
do; on the contrary, feeling the hopelessness of waiting upon so
large a party, he left the gentlemen to help themselves to what they
wanted, and seldom stirred from behind Mr Jinkins's chair, where,
with his hands in his pockets, and his legs planted pretty wide
apart, he led the laughter, and enjoyed the conversation.

The dessert was splendid. No waiting either. The pudding-plates
had been washed in a little tub outside the door while cheese was
on, and though they were moist and warm with friction, still there
they were again, up to the mark, and true to time. Quarts of
almonds; dozens of oranges; pounds of raisins; stacks of biffins;
soup-plates full of nuts.--Oh, Todgers's could do it when it chose!
mind that.

Then more wine came on; red wines and white wines; and a large china
bowl of punch, brewed by the gentleman of a convivial turn, who
adjured the Miss Pecksniffs not to be despondent on account of its
dimensions, as there were materials in the house for the decoction
of half a dozen more of the same size. Good gracious, how they
laughed! How they coughed when they sipped it, because it was so
strong; and how they laughed again when somebody vowed that but for
its colour it might have been mistaken, in regard of its innocuous
qualities, for new milk! What a shout of 'No!' burst from the
gentlemen when they pathetically implored Mr Jinkins to suffer them
to qualify it with hot water; and how blushingly, by little and
little, did each of them drink her whole glassful, down to its very
dregs!

Now comes the trying time. The sun, as Mr Jinkins says (gentlemanly
creature, Jinkins--never at a loss!), is about to leave the
firmament. 'Miss Pecksniff!' says Mrs Todgers, softly, 'will
you--?' 'Oh dear, no more, Mrs Todgers.' Mrs Todgers rises; the
two Miss Pecksniffs rise; all rise. Miss Mercy Pecksniff looks
downward for her scarf. Where is it? Dear me, where CAN it be?
Sweet girl, she has it on; not on her fair neck, but loose upon
her flowing figure. A dozen hands assist her. She is all confusion.
The youngest gentleman in company thirsts to murder Jinkins. She
skips and joins her sister at the door. Her sister has her arm
about the waist of Mrs Todgers. She winds her arm around her
sister. Diana, what a picture! The last things visible are a
shape and a skip. 'Gentlemen, let us drink the ladies!'

The enthusiasm is tremendous. The gentleman of a debating turn
rises in the midst, and suddenly lets loose a tide of eloquence
which bears down everything before it. He is reminded of a toast--a
toast to which they will respond. There is an individual present;
he has him in his eye; to whom they owe a debt of gratitude. He
repeats it--a debt of gratitude. Their rugged natures have been
softened and ameliorated that day, by the society of lovely woman.
There is a gentleman in company whom two accomplished and delightful
females regard with veneration, as the fountain of their existence.
Yes, when yet the two Miss Pecksniffs lisped in language scarce
intelligible, they called that individual 'Father!' There is great
applause. He gives them 'Mr Pecksniff, and God bless him!' They all
shake hands with Mr Pecksniff, as they drink the toast. The
youngest gentleman in company does so with a thrill; for he feels
that a mysterious influence pervades the man who claims that being
in the pink scarf for his daughter.

What saith Mr Pecksniff in reply? Or rather let the question be,
What leaves he unsaid? Nothing. More punch is called for, and
produced, and drunk. Enthusiasm mounts still higher. Every man
comes out freely in his own character. The gentleman of a
theatrical turn recites. The vocal gentleman regales them with a
song. Gander leaves the Gander of all former feasts whole leagues
behind. HE rises to propose a toast. It is, The Father of
Todgers's. It is their common friend Jink--it is old Jink, if he
may call him by that familiar and endearing appellation. The
youngest gentleman in company utters a frantic negative. He won't
have it--he can't bear it--it mustn't be. But his depth of feeling
is misunderstood. He is supposed to be a little elevated; and
nobody heeds him.

Mr Jinkins thanks them from his heart. It is, by many degrees, the
proudest day in his humble career. When he looks around him on the
present occasion, he feels that he wants words in which to express
his gratitude. One thing he will say. He hopes it has been shown
that Todgers's can be true to itself; and that, an opportunity
arising, it can come out quite as strong as its neighbours--perhaps
stronger. He reminds them, amidst thunders of encouragement, that
they have heard of a somewhat similar establishment in Cannon
Street; and that they have heard it praised. He wishes to draw no
invidious comparisons; he would be the last man to do it; but when
that Cannon Street establishment shall be able to produce such a
combination of wit and beauty as has graced that board that day, and
shall be able to serve up (all things considered) such a dinner as
that of which they have just partaken, he will be happy to talk to
it. Until then, gentlemen, he will stick to Todgers's.

More punch, more enthusiasm, more speeches. Everybody's health is
drunk, saving the youngest gentleman's in company. He sits apart,
with his elbow on the back of a vacant chair, and glares
disdainfully at Jinkins. Gander, in a convulsing speech, gives them
the health of Bailey junior; hiccups are heard; and a glass is
broken. Mr Jinkins feels that it is time to join the ladies. He
proposes, as a final sentiment, Mrs Todgers. She is worthy to be
remembered separately. Hear, hear. So she is; no doubt of it.
They all find fault with her at other times; but every man feels
now, that he could die in her defence.

They go upstairs, where they are not expected so soon; for
Mrs Todgers is asleep, Miss Charity is adjusting her hair, and
Mercy, who has made a sofa of one of the window-seats is in a
gracefully recumbent attitude. She is rising hastily, when Mr
Jinkins implores her, for all their sakes, not to stir; she looks
too graceful and too lovely, he remarks, to be disturbed. She
laughs, and yields, and fans herself, and drops her fan, and there
is a rush to pick it up. Being now installed, by one consent, as
the beauty of the party, she is cruel and capricious, and sends
gentlemen on messages to other gentlemen, and forgets all about them
before they can return with the answer, and invents a thousand
tortures, rending their hearts to pieces. Bailey brings up the tea
and coffee. There is a small cluster of admirers round Charity; but
they are only those who cannot get near her sister. The youngest
gentleman in company is pale, but collected, and still sits apart;
for his spirit loves to hold communion with itself, and his soul
recoils from noisy revellers. She has a consciousness of his
presence and adoration. He sees it flashing sometimes in the corner
of her eye. Have a care, Jinkins, ere you provoke a desperate man
to frenzy!

Mr Pecksniff had followed his younger friends upstairs, and taken a
chair at the side of Mrs Todgers. He had also spilt a cup of coffee
over his legs without appearing to be aware of the circumstance; nor
did he seem to know that there was muffin on his knee.

'And how have they used you downstairs, sir?' asked the hostess.

'Their conduct has been such, my dear madam,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'as
I can never think of without emotion, or remember without a tear.
Oh, Mrs Todgers!'

'My goodness!' exclaimed that lady. 'How low you are in your
spirits, sir!'

'I am a man, my dear madam,' said Mr Pecksniff, shedding tears and
speaking with an imperfect articulation, 'but I am also a father. I
am also a widower. My feelings, Mrs Todgers, will not consent to be
entirely smothered, like the young children in the Tower. They are
grown up, and the more I press the bolster on them, the more they
look round the corner of it.'

He suddenly became conscious of the bit of muffin, and stared at it
intently; shaking his head the while, in a forlorn and imbecile
manner, as if he regarded it as his evil genius, and mildly
reproached it.

'She was beautiful, Mrs Todgers,' he said, turning his glazed eye
again upon her, without the least preliminary notice. 'She had a
small property.'

'So I have heard,' cried Mrs Todgers with great sympathy.

'Those are her daughters,' said Mr Pecksniff, pointing out the young
ladies, with increased emotion.

Mrs Todgers had no doubt about it.

'Mercy and Charity,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'Charity and Mercy. Not
unholy names, I hope?'

'Mr Pecksniff!' cried Mrs Todgers. 'What a ghastly smile! Are you
ill, sir?'

He pressed his hand upon her arm, and answered in a solemn manner,
and a faint voice, 'Chronic.'

'Cholic?' cried the frightened Mrs Todgers.

'Chron-ic,' he repeated with some difficulty. 'Chron-ic. A chronic
disorder. I have been its victim from childhood. It is carrying me
to my grave.'

'Heaven forbid!' cried Mrs Todgers.

'Yes, it is,' said Mr Pecksniff, reckless with despair. 'I am
rather glad of it, upon the whole. You are like her, Mrs Todgers.'

'Don't squeeze me so tight, pray, Mr Pecksniff. If any of the
gentlemen should notice us.'

'For her sake,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Permit me--in honour of her
memory. For the sake of a voice from the tomb. You are VERY like
her Mrs Todgers! What a world this is!'

'Ah! Indeed you may say that!' cried Mrs Todgers.

'I'm afraid it is a vain and thoughtless world,' said Mr Pecksniff,
overflowing with despondency. 'These young people about us. Oh!
what sense have they of their responsibilities? None. Give me
your other hand, Mrs Todgers.'

The lady hesitated, and said 'she didn't like.'

'Has a voice from the grave no influence?' said Mr Pecksniff, with,
dismal tenderness. 'This is irreligious! My dear creature.'

'Hush!' urged Mrs Todgers. 'Really you mustn't.'

'It's not me,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Don't suppose it's me; it's the
voice; it's her voice.'

Mrs Pecksniff deceased, must have had an unusually thick and husky
voice for a lady, and rather a stuttering voice, and to say the
truth somewhat of a drunken voice, if it had ever borne much
resemblance to that in which Mr Pecksniff spoke just then. But
perhaps this was delusion on his part.

'It has been a day of enjoyment, Mrs Todgers, but still it has been
a day of torture. It has reminded me of my loneliness. What am I
in the world?'

'An excellent gentleman, Mr Pecksniff,' said Mrs Todgers.

'There is consolation in that too,' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'Am I?'

'There is no better man living,' said Mrs Todgers, 'I am sure.'

Mr Pecksniff smiled through his tears, and slightly shook his head.
'You are very good,' he said, 'thank you. It is a great happiness
to me, Mrs Todgers, to make young people happy. The happiness of my
pupils is my chief object. I dote upon 'em. They dote upon me too--
sometimes.'

'Always,' said Mrs Todgers.

'When they say they haven't improved, ma'am,' whispered Mr
Pecksniff, looking at her with profound mystery, and motioning to
her to advance her ear a little closer to his mouth. 'When they say
they haven't improved, ma'am, and the premium was too high, they
lie! I shouldn't wish it to be mentioned; you will understand me;
but I say to you as to an old friend, they lie.'

'Base wretches they must be!' said Mrs Todgers.

'Madam,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'you are right. I respect you for that
observation. A word in your ear. To Parents and Guardians. This
is in confidence, Mrs Todgers?'

'The strictest, of course!' cried that lady.

'To Parents and Guardians,' repeated Mr Pecksniff. 'An eligible
opportunity now offers, which unites the advantages of the best
practical architectural education with the comforts of a home, and
the constant association with some, who, however humble their sphere
and limited their capacity--observe!--are not unmindful of their
moral responsibilities.'

Mrs Todgers looked a little puzzled to know what this might mean, as
well she might; for it was, as the reader may perchance remember, Mr
Pecksniff's usual form of advertisement when he wanted a pupil; and
seemed to have no particular reference, at present, to anything.
But Mr Pecksniff held up his finger as a caution to her not to
interrupt him.

'Do you know any parent or guardian, Mrs Todgers,' said Mr
Pecksniff, 'who desires to avail himself of such an opportunity for
a young gentleman? An orphan would be preferred. Do you know of
any orphan with three or four hundred pound?'

Mrs Todgers reflected, and shook her head.

'When you hear of an orphan with three or four hundred pound,' said
Mr Pecksniff, 'let that dear orphan's friends apply, by letter post-
paid, to S. P., Post Office, Salisbury. I don't know who he is
exactly. Don't be alarmed, Mrs Todgers,' said Mr Pecksniff, falling
heavily against her; 'Chronic--chronic! Let's have a little drop of
something to drink.'

'Bless my life, Miss Pecksniffs!' cried Mrs Todgers, aloud, 'your
dear pa's took very poorly!'

Mr Pecksniff straightened himself by a surprising effort, as every
one turned hastily towards him; and standing on his feet, regarded
the assembly with a look of ineffable wisdom. Gradually it gave
place to a smile; a feeble, helpless, melancholy smile; bland,
almost to sickliness. 'Do not repine, my friends,' said Mr
Pecksniff, tenderly. 'Do not weep for me. It is chronic.' And
with these words, after making a futile attempt to pull off his
shoes, he fell into the fireplace.

The youngest gentleman in company had him out in a second. Yes,
before a hair upon his head was singed, he had him on the hearth-
rug--her father!

She was almost beside herself. So was her sister. Jinkins consoled
them both. They all consoled them. Everybody had something to say,
except the youngest gentleman in company, who with a noble self-
devotion did the heavy work, and held up Mr Pecksniff's head without
being taken notice of by anybody. At last they gathered round, and
agreed to carry him upstairs to bed. The youngest gentleman in
company was rebuked by Jinkins for tearing Mr Pecksniff's coat!
Ha, ha! But no matter.

They carried him upstairs, and crushed the youngest gentleman at
every step. His bedroom was at the top of the house, and it was a
long way; but they got him there in course of time. He asked them
frequently on the road for a little drop of something to drink. It
seemed an idiosyncrasy. The youngest gentleman in company proposed
a draught of water. Mr Pecksniff called him opprobious names for
the suggestion.

Jinkins and Gander took the rest upon themselves, and made him as
comfortable as they could, on the outside of his bed; and when he
seemed disposed to sleep, they left him. But before they had all
gained the bottom of the staircase, a vision of Mr Pecksniff,
strangely attired, was seen to flutter on the top landing. He
desired to collect their sentiments, it seemed, upon the nature of
human life.

'My friends,' cried Mr Pecksniff, looking over the banisters, 'let
us improve our minds by mutual inquiry and discussion. Let us be
moral. Let us contemplate existence. Where is Jinkins?'

'Here,' cried that gentleman. 'Go to bed again'

'To bed!' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Bed! 'Tis the voice of the sluggard,
I hear him complain, you have woke me too soon, I must slumber
again. If any young orphan will repeat the remainder of that simple
piece from Doctor Watts's collection, an eligible opportunity now
offers.'

Nobody volunteered.

'This is very soothing,' said Mr Pecksniff, after a pause.
'Extremely so. Cool and refreshing; particularly to the legs! The
legs of the human subject, my friends, are a beautiful production.
Compare them with wooden legs, and observe the difference between
the anatomy of nature and the anatomy of art. Do you know,' said Mr
Pecksniff, leaning over the banisters, with an odd recollection of
his familiar manner among new pupils at home, 'that I should very
much like to see Mrs Todgers's notion of a wooden leg, if perfectly
agreeable to herself!'

As it appeared impossible to entertain any reasonable hopes of him
after this speech, Mr Jinkins and Mr Gander went upstairs again,
and once more got him into bed. But they had not descended to the
second floor before he was out again; nor, when they had repeated
the process, had they descended the first flight, before he was out
again. In a word, as often as he was shut up in his own room, he
darted out afresh, charged with some new moral sentiment, which he
continually repeated over the banisters, with extraordinary relish,
and an irrepressible desire for the improvement of his fellow
creatures that nothing could subdue.

Under these circumstances, when they had got him into bed for the
thirtieth time or so, Mr Jinkins held him, while his companion went
downstairs in search of Bailey junior, with whom he presently
returned. That youth having been apprised of the service required
of him, was in great spirits, and brought up a stool, a candle, and
his supper; to the end that he might keep watch outside the bedroom
door with tolerable comfort.

When he had completed his arrangements, they locked Mr Pecksniff in,
and left the key on the outside; charging the young page to listen
attentively for symptoms of an apoplectic nature, with which the
patient might be troubled, and, in case of any such presenting
themselves, to summon them without delay. To which Mr Bailey
modestly replied that 'he hoped he knowed wot o'clock it wos in
gineral, and didn't date his letters to his friends from Todgers's
for nothing.'

CHAPTER TEN

CONTAINING STRANGE MATTER, ON WHICH MANY EVENTS IN THIS HISTORY MAY,
FOR THEIR GOOD OR EVIL INFLUENCE, CHIEFLY DEPEND

But Mr Pecksniff came to town on business. Had he forgotten that?
Was he always taking his pleasure with Todgers's jovial brood,
unmindful of the serious demands, whatever they might be, upon his
calm consideration? No.

Time and tide will wait for no man, saith the adage. But all men
have to wait for time and tide. That tide which, taken at the
flood, would lead Seth Pecksniff on to fortune, was marked down in
the table, and about to flow. No idle Pecksniff lingered far
inland, unmindful of the changes of the stream; but there, upon the
water's edge, over his shoes already, stood the worthy creature,
prepared to wallow in the very mud, so that it slid towards the
quarter of his hope.

The trustfulness of his two fair daughters was beautiful indeed.
They had that firm reliance on their parent's nature, which taught
them to feel certain that in all he did he had his purpose straight
and full before him. And that its noble end and object was himself,
which almost of necessity included them, they knew. The devotion of
these maids was perfect.

Their filial confidence was rendered the more touching, by their
having no knowledge of their parent's real designs, in the present
instance. All that they knew of his proceedings was, that every
morning, after the early breakfast, he repaired to the post office
and inquired for letters. That task performed, his business for the
day was over; and he again relaxed, until the rising of another sun
proclaimed the advent of another post.

This went on for four or five days. At length, one morning, Mr
Pecksniff returned with a breathless rapidity, strange to observe in
him, at other times so calm; and, seeking immediate speech with his
daughters, shut himself up with them in private conference for two
whole hours. Of all that passed in this period, only the following
words of Mr Pecksniff's utterance are known:

'How he has come to change so very much (if it should turn out as I
expect, that he has), we needn't stop to inquire. My dears, I have
my thoughts upon the subject, but I will not impart them. It is
enough that we will not be proud, resentful, or unforgiving. If he
wants our friendship he shall have it. We know our duty, I hope!'

That same day at noon, an old gentleman alighted from a hackney-coach
at the post-office, and, giving his name, inquired for a letter
addressed to himself, and directed to be left till called for. It
had been lying there some days. The superscription was in Mr
Pecksniff's hand, and it was sealed with Mr Pecksniff's seal.

It was very short, containing indeed nothing more than an address
'with Mr Pecksniff's respectful, and (not withstanding what has
passed) sincerely affectionate regards.' The old gentleman tore off
the direction--scattering the rest in fragments to the winds--and
giving it to the coachman, bade him drive as near that place as he
could. In pursuance of these instructions he was driven to the
Monument; where he again alighted, and dismissed the vehicle, and
walked towards Todgers's.

Though the face, and form, and gait of this old man, and even his
grip of the stout stick on which he leaned, were all expressive of a
resolution not easily shaken, and a purpose (it matters little
whether right or wrong, just now) such as in other days might have
survived the rack, and had its strongest life in weakest death;
still there were grains of hesitation in his mind, which made him
now avoid the house he sought, and loiter to and fro in a gleam of
sunlight, that brightened the little churchyard hard by. There may
have been, in the presence of those idle heaps of dust among the
busiest stir of life, something to increase his wavering; but there
he walked, awakening the echoes as he paced up and down, until the
church clock, striking the quarters for the second time since he had
been there, roused him from his meditation. Shaking off his
incertitude as the air parted with the sound of the bells, he walked
rapidly to the house, and knocked at the door.

Mr Pecksniff was seated in the landlady's little room, and his
visitor found him reading--by an accident; he apologised for it--an
excellent theological work. There were cake and wine upon a little
table--by another accident, for which he also apologised. Indeed he
said, he had given his visitor up, and was about to partake of that
simple refreshment with his children, when he knocked at the door.

'Your daughters are well?' said old Martin, laying down his hat and
stick.

Mr Pecksniff endeavoured to conceal his agitation as a father when
he answered Yes, they were. They were good girls, he said, very
good. He would not venture to recommend Mr Chuzzlewit to take the
easy-chair, or to keep out of the draught from the door. If he made
any such suggestion, he would expose himself, he feared, to most
unjust suspicion. He would, therefore, content himself with
remarking that there was an easy-chair in the room, and that the
door was far from being air-tight. This latter imperfection, he
might perhaps venture to add, was not uncommonly to be met with in
old houses.

The old man sat down in the easy-chair, and after a few moments'
silence, said:

'In the first place, let me thank you for coming to London so
promptly, at my almost unexplained request; I need scarcely add, at
my cost.'

'At YOUR cost, my good sir!' cried Mr Pecksniff, in a tone of great
surprise.

'It is not,' said Martin, waving his hand impatiently, 'my habit to
put my--well! my relatives--to any personal expense to gratify my
caprices.'

'Caprices, my good sir!' cried Mr Pecksniff

'That is scarcely the proper word either, in this instance,' said
the old man. 'No. You are right.'

Mr Pecksniff was inwardly very much relieved to hear it, though he
didn't at all know why.

'You are right,' repeated Martin. 'It is not a caprice. It is
built up on reason, proof, and cool comparison. Caprices never are.
Moreover, I am not a capricious man. I never was.'

'Most assuredly not,' said Mr Pecksniff.

'How do you know?' returned the other quickly. 'You are to begin to
know it now. You are to test and prove it, in time to come. You
and yours are to find that I can be constant, and am not to be
diverted from my end. Do you hear?'

'Perfectly,' said Mr Pecksniff.

'I very much regret,' Martin resumed, looking steadily at him, and
speaking in a slow and measured tone; 'I very much regret that you
and I held such a conversation together, as that which passed
between us at our last meeting. I very much regret that I laid open
to you what were then my thoughts of you, so freely as I did. The
intentions that I bear towards you now are of another kind; deserted
by all in whom I have ever trusted; hoodwinked and beset by all who
should help and sustain me; I fly to you for refuge. I confide in
you to be my ally; to attach yourself to me by ties of Interest and
Expectation'--he laid great stress upon these words, though Mr
Pecksniff particularly begged him not to mention it; 'and to help me
to visit the consequences of the very worst species of meanness,
dissimulation, and subtlety, on the right heads.'

'My noble sir!' cried Mr Pecksniff, catching at his outstretched
hand. 'And YOU regret the having harboured unjust thoughts of me!
YOU with those grey hairs!'

'Regrets,' said Martin, 'are the natural property of grey hairs; and
I enjoy, in common with all other men, at least my share of such
inheritance. And so enough of that. I regret having been severed
from you so long. If I had known you sooner, and sooner used you as
you well deserve, I might have been a happier man.'

Mr Pecksniff looked up to the ceiling, and clasped his hands in
rapture.

'Your daughters,' said Martin, after a short silence. 'I don't know
them. Are they like you?'

'In the nose of my eldest and the chin of my youngest, Mr
Chuzzlewit,' returned the widower, 'their sainted parent (not
myself, their mother) lives again.'

'I don't mean in person,' said the old man. 'Morally, morally.'

''Tis not for me to say,' retorted Mr Pecksniff with a gentle smile.
'I have done my best, sir.'

'I could wish to see them,' said Martin; 'are they near at hand?'

They were, very near; for they had in fact been listening at the
door from the beginning of this conversation until now, when they
precipitately retired. Having wiped the signs of weakness from his
eyes, and so given them time to get upstairs, Mr Pecksniff opened
the door, and mildly cried in the passage,

'My own darlings, where are you?'

'Here, my dear pa!' replied the distant voice of Charity.

'Come down into the back parlour, if you please, my love,' said Mr
Pecksniff, 'and bring your sister with you.'

'Yes, my dear pa,' cried Merry; and down they came directly (being
all obedience), singing as they came.

Nothing could exceed the astonishment of the two Miss Pecksniffs
when they found a stranger with their dear papa. Nothing could
surpass their mute amazement when he said, 'My children, Mr
Chuzzlewit!' But when he told them that Mr Chuzzlewit and he were
friends, and that Mr Chuzzlewit had said such kind and tender words
as pierced his very heart, the two Miss Pecksniffs cried with one
accord, 'Thank Heaven for this!' and fell upon the old man's neck.
And when they had embraced him with such fervour of affection that
no words can describe it, they grouped themselves about his chair,
and hung over him, as figuring to themselves no earthly joy like
that of ministering to his wants, and crowding into the remainder
of his life, the love they would have diffused over their whole
existence, from infancy, if he--dear obdurate!--had but consented
to receive the precious offering.

The old man looked attentively from one to the other, and then at Mr
Pecksniff, several times.

'What,' he asked of Mr Pecksniff, happening to catch his eye in its
descent; for until now it had been piously upraised, with something
of that expression which the poetry of ages has attributed to a
domestic bird, when breathing its last amid the ravages of an
electric storm: 'What are their names?'

Mr Pecksniff told him, and added, rather hastily; his caluminators
would have said, with a view to any testamentary thoughts that might
be flitting through old Martin's mind; 'Perhaps, my dears, you had
better write them down. Your humble autographs are of no value in
themselves, but affection may prize them.'

'Affection,' said the old man, 'will expend itself on the living
originals. Do not trouble yourselves, my girls, I shall not so
easily forget you, Charity and Mercy, as to need such tokens of
remembrance. Cousin!'

'Sir!' said Mr Pecksniff, with alacrity.

'Do you never sit down?'

'Why--yes--occasionally, sir,' said Mr Pecksniff, who had been
standing all this time.

'Will you do so now?'

'Can you ask me,' returned Mr Pecksniff, slipping into a chair
immediately, 'whether I will do anything that you desire?'

'You talk confidently,' said Martin, 'and you mean well; but I fear
you don't know what an old man's humours are. You don't know what
it is to be required to court his likings and dislikings; to adapt
yourself to his prejudices; to do his bidding, be it what it may; to
bear with his distrusts and jealousies; and always still be zealous
in his service. When I remember how numerous these failings are in
me, and judge of their occasional enormity by the injurious thoughts
I lately entertained of you, I hardly dare to claim you for my
friend.'

'My worthy sir,' returned his relative, 'how CAN you talk in such a
painful strain! What was more natural than that you should make one
slight mistake, when in all other respects you were so very correct,
and have had such reason--such very sad and undeniable reason--to
judge of every one about you in the worst light!'

'True,' replied the other. 'You are very lenient with me.'

'We always said, my girls and I,' cried Mr Pecksniff with increasing
obsequiousness, 'that while we mourned the heaviness of our
misfortune in being confounded with the base and mercenary, still we
could not wonder at it. My dears, you remember?'

Oh vividly! A thousand times!

'We uttered no complaint,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Occasionally we had
the presumption to console ourselves with the remark that Truth
would in the end prevail, and Virtue be triumphant; but not often.
My loves, you recollect?'

Recollect! Could he doubt it! Dearest pa, what strange unnecessary
questions!

'And when I saw you,' resumed Mr Pecksniff, with still greater
deference, 'in the little, unassuming village where we take the
liberty of dwelling, I said you were mistaken in me, my dear sir;
that was all, I think?'

'No--not all,' said Martin, who had been sitting with his hand upon
his brow for some time past, and now looked up again; 'you said much
more, which, added to other circumstances that have come to my
knowledge, opened my eyes. You spoke to me, disinterestedly, on
behalf of--I needn't name him. You know whom I mean.'

Trouble was expressed in Mr Pecksniff's visage, as he pressed his
hot hands together, and replied, with humility, 'Quite
disinterestedly, sir, I assure you.'

'I know it,' said old Martin, in his quiet way. 'I am sure of it.
I said so. It was disinterested too, in you, to draw that herd of
harpies off from me, and be their victim yourself; most other men
would have suffered them to display themselves in all their
rapacity, and would have striven to rise, by contrast, in my
estimation. You felt for me, and drew them off, for which I owe you
many thanks. Although I left the place, I know what passed behind
my back, you see!'

'You amaze me, sir!' cried Mr Pecksniff; which was true enough.

'My knowledge of your proceedings,' said the old man, does not stop
at this. You have a new inmate in your house.'

'Yes, sir,' rejoined the architect, 'I have.'

'He must quit it' said Martin.

'For--for yours?' asked Mr Pecksniff, with a quavering mildness.

'For any shelter he can find,' the old man answered. 'He has
deceived you.'

'I hope not' said Mr Pecksniff, eagerly. 'I trust not. I have been
extremely well disposed towards that young man. I hope it cannot be
shown that he has forfeited all claim to my protection. Deceit--
deceit, my dear Mr Chuzzlewit, would be final. I should hold myself
bound, on proof of deceit, to renounce him instantly.'

The old man glanced at both his fair supporters, but especially at
Miss Mercy, whom, indeed, he looked full in the face, with a greater
demonstration of interest than had yet appeared in his features.
His gaze again encountered Mr Pecksniff, as he said, composedly:

'Of course you know that he has made his matrimonial choice?'

'Oh dear!' cried Mr Pecksniff, rubbing his hair up very stiff upon
his head, and staring wildly at his daughters. 'This is becoming
tremendous!'

'You know the fact?' repeated Martin

'Surely not without his grandfather's consent and approbation my
dear sir!' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'Don't tell me that. For the honour
of human nature, say you're not about to tell me that!'

'I thought he had suppressed it,' said the old man.

The indignation felt by Mr Pecksniff at this terrible disclosure,
was only to be equalled by the kindling anger of his daughters.
What! Had they taken to their hearth and home a secretly contracted
serpent; a crocodile, who had made a furtive offer of his hand; an
imposition on society; a bankrupt bachelor with no effects, trading
with the spinster world on false pretences! And oh, to think that he
should have disobeyed and practised on that sweet, that venerable
gentleman, whose name he bore; that kind and tender guardian; his
more than father--to say nothing at all of mother--horrible,
horrible! To turn him out with ignominy would be treatment much too
good. Was there nothing else that could be done to him? Had he
incurred no legal pains and penalties? Could it be that the
statutes of the land were so remiss as to have affixed no punishment
to such delinquency? Monster; how basely had they been deceived!

'I am glad to find you second me so warmly,' said the old man
holding up his hand to stay the torrent of their wrath. 'I will not
deny that it is a pleasure to me to find you so full of zeal. We
will consider that topic as disposed of.'

'No, my dear sir,' cried Mr Pecksniff, 'not as disposed of, until I
have purged my house of this pollution.'

'That will follow,' said the old man, 'in its own time. I look upon
that as done.'

'You are very good, sir,' answered Mr Pecksniff, shaking his hand.
'You do me honour. You MAY look upon it as done, I assure you.'

'There is another topic,' said Martin, 'on which I hope you will
assist me. You remember Mary, cousin?'

'The young lady that I mentioned to you, my dears, as having
interested me so very much,' remarked Mr Pecksniff. 'Excuse my
interrupting you, sir.'

'I told you her history?' said the old man.

'Which I also mentioned, you will recollect, my dears,' cried Mr
Pecksniff. 'Silly girls, Mr Chuzzlewit--quite moved by it, they
were!"

'Why, look now!' said Martin, evidently pleased; 'I feared I should
have had to urge her case upon you, and ask you to regard her
favourably for my sake. But I find you have no jealousies! Well!
You have no cause for any, to be sure. She has nothing to gain from
me, my dears, and she knows it.'

The two Miss Pecksniffs murmured their approval of this wise
arrangement, and their cordial sympathy with its interesting object.

'If I could have anticipated what has come to pass between us four,'
said the old man thoughfully; 'but it is too late to think of that.
You would receive her courteously, young ladies, and be kind to her,
if need were?'

Where was the orphan whom the two Miss Pecksniffs would not have
cherished in their sisterly bosom! But when that orphan was
commended to their care by one on whom the dammed-up love of years
was gushing forth, what exhaustless stores of pure affection yearned
to expend themselves upon her!

An interval ensued, during which Mr Chuzzlewit, in an absent frame
of mind, sat gazing at the ground, without uttering a word; and as
it was plain that he had no desire to be interrupted in his
meditations, Mr Pecksniff and his daughters were profoundly silent
also. During the whole of the foregoing dialogue, he had borne his
part with a cold, passionless promptitude, as though he had learned
and painfully rehearsed it all a hundred times. Even when his
expressions were warmest and his language most encouraging, he had
retained the same manner, without the least abatement. But now
there was a keener brightness in his eye, and more expression in his
voice, as he said, awakening from his thoughtful mood:

'You know what will be said of this? Have you reflected?'

'Said of what, my dear sir?' Mr Pecksniff asked.

'Of this new understanding between us.'

Mr Pecksniff looked benevolently sagacious, and at the same time far
above all earthly misconstruction, as he shook his head, and
observed that a great many things would be said of it, no doubt.

'A great many,' rejoined the old man. 'Some will say that I dote in
my old age; that illness has shaken me; that I have lost all
strength of mind, and have grown childish. You can bear that?'

Mr Pecksniff answered that it would be dreadfully hard to bear, but
he thought he could, if he made a great effort.

'Others will say--I speak of disappointed, angry people only--that
you have lied and fawned, and wormed yourself through dirty ways
into my favour; by such concessions and such crooked deeds, such
meannesses and vile endurances, as nothing could repay; no, not the
legacy of half the world we live in. You can bear that?'

Mr Pecksniff made reply that this would be also very hard to bear,
as reflecting, in some degree, on the discernment of Mr Chuzzlewit.
Still he had a modest confidence that he could sustain the calumny,
with the help of a good conscience, and that gentleman's friendship.

'With the great mass of slanderers,' said old Martin, leaning back
in his chair, 'the tale, as I clearly foresee, will run thus: That
to mark my contempt for the rabble whom I despised, I chose from
among them the very worst, and made him do my will, and pampered and
enriched him at the cost of all the rest. That, after casting about
for the means of a punishment which should rankle in the bosoms of
these kites the most, and strike into their gall, I devised this
scheme at a time when the last link in the chain of grateful love
and duty, that held me to my race, was roughly snapped asunder;
roughly, for I loved him well; roughly, for I had ever put my trust
in his affection; roughly, for that he broke it when I loved him
most--God help me!--and he without a pang could throw me off, while I
clung about his heart! Now,' said the old man, dismissing this
passionate outburst as suddenly as he had yielded to it, 'is your
mind made up to bear this likewise? Lay your account with having it
to bear, and put no trust in being set right by me.'

'My dear Mr Chuzzlewit,' cried Pecksniff in an ecstasy, 'for such a
man as you have shown yourself to be this day; for a man so injured,
yet so very humane; for a man so--I am at a loss what precise term
to use--yet at the same time so remarkably--I don't know how to
express my meaning; for such a man as I have described, I hope it is
no presumption to say that I, and I am sure I may add my children
also (my dears, we perfectly agree in this, I think?), would bear
anything whatever!'

'Enough,' said Martin. 'You can charge no consequences on me. When
do you retire home?'

'Whenever you please, my dear sir. To-night if you desire it.'

'I desire nothing,' returned the old man, 'that is unreasonable.
Such a request would be. Will you be ready to return at the end of
this week?'

The very time of all others that Mr Pecksniff would have suggested
if it had been left to him to make his own choice. As to his
daughters--the words, 'Let us be at home on Saturday, dear pa,' were
actually upon their lips.

'Your expenses, cousin,' said Martin, taking a folded slip of paper
from his pocketbook, 'may possibly exceed that amount. If so, let
me know the balance that I owe you, when we next meet. It would be
useless if I told you where I live just now; indeed, I have no fixed
abode. When I have, you shall know it. You and your daughters may
expect to see me before long; in the meantime I need not tell you
that we keep our own confidence. What you will do when you get home
is understood between us. Give me no account of it at any time; and
never refer to it in any way. I ask that as a favour. I am
commonly a man of few words, cousin; and all that need be said just
now is said, I think.'

'One glass of wine--one morsel of this homely cake?' cried Mr
Pecksniff, venturing to detain him. 'My dears--!'

The sisters flew to wait upon him.

'Poor girls!' said Mr Pecksniff. 'You will excuse their agitation,
my dear sir. They are made up of feeling. A bad commodity to go
through the world with, Mr Chuzzlewit! My youngest daughter is
almost as much of a woman as my eldest, is she not, sir?'

'Which IS the youngest?' asked the old man.

'Mercy, by five years,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'We sometimes venture to
consider her rather a fine figure, sir. Speaking as an artist, I
may perhaps be permitted to suggest that its outline is graceful and
correct. I am naturally,' said Mr Pecksniff, drying his hands upon
his handkerchief, and looking anxiously in his cousin's face at
almost every word, 'proud, if I may use the expression, to have a
daughter who is constructed on the best models.'

'She seems to have a lively disposition,' observed Martin.

'Dear me!' said Mr Pecksniff. 'That is quite remarkable. You have
defined her character, my dear sir, as correctly as if you had known
her from her birth. She HAS a lively disposition. I assure you, my
dear sir, that in our unpretending home her gaiety is delightful.'

'No doubt,' returned the old man.

'Charity, upon the other hand,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'is remarkable
for strong sense, and for rather a deep tone of sentiment, if the
partiality of a father may be excused in saying so. A wonderful
affection between them, my dear sir! Allow me to drink your health.
Bless you!'

'I little thought,' retorted Martin, 'but a month ago, that I should
be breaking bread and pouring wine with you. I drink to you.'

Not at all abashed by the extraordinary abruptness with which these
latter words were spoken, Mr Pecksniff thanked him devoutly.

'Now let me go,' said Martin, putting down the wine when he had
merely touched it with his lips. 'My dears, good morning!'

But this distant form of farewell was by no means tender enough for
the yearnings of the young ladies, who again embraced him with all
their hearts--with all their arms at any rate--to which parting
caresses their new-found friend submitted with a better grace than
might have been expected from one who, not a moment before, had
pledged their parent in such a very uncomfortable manner. These
endearments terminated, he took a hasty leave of Mr Pecksniff and
withdrew, followed to the door by both father and daughters, who
stood there kissing their hands and beaming with affection until he
disappeared; though, by the way, he never once looked back, after he
had crossed the threshold.

When they returned into the house, and were again alone in Mrs
Todgers's room, the two young ladies exhibited an unusual amount of
gaiety; insomuch that they clapped their hands, and laughed, and
looked with roguish aspects and a bantering air upon their dear
papa. This conduct was so very unaccountable, that Mr Pecksniff
(being singularly grave himself) could scarcely choose but ask them
what it meant; and took them to task, in his gentle manner, for
yielding to such light emotions.

'If it was possible to divine any cause for this merriment, even the
most remote,' he said, 'I should not reprove you. But when you can
have none whatever--oh, really, really!'

This admonition had so little effect on Mercy, that she was obliged
to hold her handkerchief before her rosy lips, and to throw herself
back in her chair, with every demonstration of extreme amusement;
which want of duty so offended Mr Pecksniff that he reproved her in
set terms, and gave her his parental advice to correct herself in
solitude and contemplation. But at that juncture they were
disturbed by the sound of voices in dispute; and as it proceeded
from the next room, the subject matter of the altercation quickly
reached their ears.

'I don't care that! Mrs Todgers,' said the young gentleman who had
been the youngest gentleman in company on the day of the festival;
'I don't care THAT, ma'am,' said he, snapping his fingers, 'for
Jinkins. Don't suppose I do.'

'I am quite certain you don't, sir,' replied Mrs Todgers. 'You have
too independent a spirit, I know, to yield to anybody. And quite
right. There is no reason why you should give way to any gentleman.
Everybody must be well aware of that.'

'I should think no more of admitting daylight into the fellow,' said
the youngest gentleman, in a desperate voice, 'than if he was a
bulldog.'

Mrs Todgers did not stop to inquire whether, as a matter of
principle, there was any particular reason for admitting daylight
even into a bulldog, otherwise than by the natural channel of his
eyes, but she seemed to wring her hands, and she moaned.

'Let him be careful,' said the youngest gentleman. 'I give him
warning. No man shall step between me and the current of my
vengeance. I know a Cove--' he used that familiar epithet in his
agitation but corrected himself by adding, 'a gentleman of property,
I mean--who practices with a pair of pistols (fellows too) of his
own. If I am driven to borrow 'em, and to send at friend to Jinkins,
a tragedy will get into the papers. That's all.'

Again Mrs Todgers moaned.

'I have borne this long enough,' said the youngest gentleman but now
my soul rebels against it, and I won't stand it any longer. I left
home originally, because I had that within me which wouldn't be
domineered over by a sister; and do you think I'm going to be put
down by HIM? No.'

'It is very wrong in Mr Jinkins; I know it is perfectly inexcusable
in Mr Jinkins, if he intends it,' observed Mrs Todgers

'If he intends it!' cried the youngest gentleman. 'Don't he
interrupt and contradict me on every occasion? Does he ever fail to
interpose himself between me and anything or anybody that he sees I
have set my mind upon? Does he make a point of always pretending to
forget me, when he's pouring out the beer? Does he make bragging
remarks about his razors, and insulting allusions to people who have
no necessity to shave more than once a week? But let him look out!
He'll find himself shaved, pretty close, before long, and so I tell
him.'

The young gentleman was mistaken in this closing sentence, inasmuch
as he never told it to Jinkins, but always to Mrs Todgers.

'However,' he said, 'these are not proper subjects for ladies' ears.
All I've got to say to you, Mrs Todgers, is, a week's notice from
next Saturday. The same house can't contain that miscreant and me
any longer. If we get over the intermediate time without bloodshed,
you may think yourself pretty fortunate. I don't myself expect we
shall.'

'Dear, dear!' cried Mrs Todgers, 'what would I have given to have
prevented this? To lose you, sir, would be like losing the house's
right-hand. So popular as you are among the gentlemen; so generally
looked up to; and so much liked! I do hope you'll think better of
it; if on nobody else's account, on mine.'

'There's Jinkins,' said the youngest gentleman, moodily. 'Your
favourite. He'll console you, and the gentlemen too, for the loss
of twenty such as me. I'm not understood in this house. I never
have been.'

'Don't run away with that opinion, sir!' cried Mrs Todgers, with a
show of honest indignation. 'Don't make such a charge as that
against the establishment, I must beg of you. It is not so bad as
that comes to, sir. Make any remark you please against the
gentlemen, or against me; but don't say you're not understood in
this house.'

'I'm not treated as if I was,' said the youngest gentleman.

'There you make a great mistake, sir,' returned Mrs Todgers, in the
same strain. 'As many of the gentlemen and I have often said, you
are too sensitive. That's where it is. You are of too susceptible
a nature; it's in your spirit.'

The young gentleman coughed.

'And as,' said Mrs Todgers, 'as to Mr Jinkins, I must beg of you, if
we ARE to part, to understand that I don't abet Mr Jinkins by any
means. Far from it. I could wish that Mr Jinkins would take a
lower tone in this establishment, and would not be the means of
raising differences between me and gentlemen that I can much less
bear to part with than I could with Mr Jinkins. Mr Jinkins is not
such a boarder, sir,' added Mrs Todgers, 'that all considerations of
private feeling and respect give way before him. Quite the
contrary, I assure you.'

The young gentleman was so much mollified by these and similar
speeches on the part of Mrs Todgers, that he and that lady gradually
changed positions; so that she became the injured party, and he was
understood to be the injurer; but in a complimentary, not in an
offensive sense; his cruel conduct being attributable to his exalted
nature, and to that alone. So, in the end, the young gentleman
withdrew his notice, and assured Mrs Todgers of his unalterable
regard; and having done so, went back to business.

'Goodness me, Miss Pecksniffs!' cried that lady, as she came into
the back room, and sat wearily down, with her basket on her knees,
and her hands folded upon it, 'what a trial of temper it is to keep
a house like this! You must have heard most of what has just passed.
Now did you ever hear the like?'

'Never!' said the two Miss Pecksniffs.

'Of all the ridiculous young fellows that ever I had to deal with,'
resumed Mrs Todgers, 'that is the most ridiculous and unreasonable.
Mr Jinkins is hard upon him sometimes, but not half as hard as he
deserves. To mention such a gentleman as Mr Jinkins in the same
breath with HIM--you know it's too much! And yet he's as jealous
of him, bless you, as if he was his equal.'

The young ladies were greatly entertained by Mrs Todgers's account,
no less than with certain anecdotes illustrative of the youngest
gentleman's character, which she went on to tell them. But Mr
Pecksniff looked quite stern and angry; and when she had concluded,
said in a solemn voice:

'Pray, Mrs Todgers, if I may inquire, what does that young gentleman
contribute towards the support of these premises?'

'Why, sir, for what HE has, he pays about eighteen shillings a
week!' said Mrs Todgers.

'Eighteen shillings a week!' repeated Mr Pecksniff.

'Taking one week with another; as near that as possible,' said Mrs
Todgers.

Mr Pecksniff rose from his chair, folded his arms, looked at her,
and shook his head.

'And do you mean to say, ma'am--is it possible, Mrs Todgers--that
for such a miserable consideration as eighteen shillings a week, a
female of your understanding can so far demean herself as to wear a
double face, even for an instant?'

'I am forced to keep things on the square if I can, sir,' faltered
Mrs Todgers. 'I must preserve peace among them, and keep my
connection together, if possible, Mr Pecksniff. The profit is very
small.'

'The profit!' cried that gentleman, laying great stress upon the
word. 'The profit, Mrs Todgers! You amaze me!'

He was so severe, that Mrs Todgers shed tears.

'The profit!' repeated Mr pecksniff. 'The profit of dissimulation!
To worship the golden calf of Baal, for eighteen shillings a week!'

'Don't in your own goodness be too hard upon me, Mr Pecksniff,'
cried Mrs Todgers, taking out her handkerchief.

'Oh Calf, Calf!' cried Mr Pecksniff mournfully. 'Oh, Baal, Baal! oh
my friend, Mrs Todgers! To barter away that precious jewel, self-
esteem, and cringe to any mortal creature--for eighteen shillings a
week!'

He was so subdued and overcome by the reflection, that he
immediately took down his hat from its peg in the passage, and went
out for a walk, to compose his feelings. Anybody passing him in the
street might have known him for a good man at first sight; for his
whole figure teemed with a consciousness of the moral homily he had
read to Mrs Todgers.

Eighteen shillings a week! Just, most just, thy censure, upright
Pecksniff! Had it been for the sake of a ribbon, star, or garter;
sleeves of lawn, a great man's smile, a seat in parliament, a tap
upon the shoulder from a courtly sword; a place, a party, or a
thriving lie, or eighteen thousand pounds, or even eighteen
hundred;--but to worship the golden calf for eighteen shillings a
week! oh pitiful, pitiful!

CHAPTER ELEVEN

WHEREIN A CERTAIN GENTLEMAN BECOMES PARTICULAR IN HIS ATTENTIONS TO
A CERTAIN LADY; AND MORE COMING EVENTS THAN ONE, CAST THEIR SHADOWS
BEFORE

The family were within two or three days of their departure from Mrs
Todgers's, and the commercial gentlemen were to a man despondent and
not to be comforted, because of the approaching separation, when
Bailey junior, at the jocund time of noon, presented himself before
Miss Charity Pecksniff, then sitting with her sister in the banquet
chamber, hemming six new pocket-handkerchiefs for Mr Jinkins; and
having expressed a hope, preliminary and pious, that he might be
blest, gave her in his pleasant way to understand that a visitor
attended to pay his respects to her, and was at that moment waiting
in the drawing-room. Perhaps this last announcement showed in a
more striking point of view than many lengthened speeches could have
done, the trustfulness and faith of Bailey's nature; since he had,
in fact, last seen the visitor on the door-mat, where, after
signifying to him that he would do well to go upstairs, he had left
him to the guidance of his own sagacity. Hence it was at least an
even chance that the visitor was then wandering on the roof of the
house, or vainly seeking to extricate himself from the maze of
bedrooms; Todgers's being precisely that kind of establishment in
which an unpiloted stranger is pretty sure to find himself in some
place where he least expects and least desires to be.

'A gentleman for me!' cried Charity, pausing in her work; 'my
gracious, Bailey!'

'Ah!' said Bailey. 'It IS my gracious, an't it? Wouldn't I be
gracious neither, not if I wos him!'

The remark was rendered somewhat obscure in itself, by reason (as
the reader may have observed) of a redundancy of negatives; but
accompanied by action expressive of a faithful couple walking arm-
in-arm towards a parochial church, mutually exchanging looks of
love, it clearly signified this youth's conviction that the caller's

Book of the day: