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Life And Adventures Of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens

Part 8 out of 20

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Possibly this general phrase supplied the place of grave, or tomb,
or sepulchre, or cemetery, or mausoleum, or other such word which
the filial tenderness of Mr Jonas made him delicate of pronouncing.
He pursued the theme no further; for Chuffey, somehow discovering,
from his old corner by the fireside, that Anthony was in the
attitude of a listener, and that Jonas appeared to be speaking,
suddenly cried out, like one inspired:

'He is your own son, Mr Chuzzlewit. Your own son, sir!'

Old Chuffey little suspected what depth of application these words
had, or that, in the bitter satire which they bore, they might have
sunk into the old man's very soul, could he have known what words
here hanging on his own son's lips, or what was passing in his
thoughts. But the voice diverted the current of Anthony's
reflections, and roused him.

'Yes, yes, Chuffey, Jonas is a chip of the old block. It is a very
old block, now, Chuffey,' said the old man, with a strange look of
discomposure.

'Precious old,' assented Jonas

'No, no, no,' said Chuffey. 'No, Mr Chuzzlewit. Not old at all,
sir.'

'Oh! He's worse than ever, you know!' cried Jonas, quite disgusted.
'Upon my soul, father, he's getting too bad. Hold your tongue, will
you?'

'He says you're wrong!' cried Anthony to the old clerk.

'Tut, tut!' was Chuffey's answer. 'I know better. I say HE'S
wrong. I say HE'S wrong. He's a boy. That's what he is. So are
you, Mr Chuzzlewit--a kind of boy. Ha! ha! ha! You're quite a boy
to many I have known; you're a boy to me; you're a boy to hundreds
of us. Don't mind him!'

With which extraordinary speech--for in the case of Chuffey this was
a burst of eloquence without a parallel--the poor old shadow drew
through his palsied arm his master's hand, and held it there, with
his own folded upon it, as if he would defend him.

'I grow deafer every day, Chuff,' said Anthony, with as much
softness of manner, or, to describe it more correctly, with as
little hardness as he was capable of expressing.

'No, no,' cried Chuffey. 'No, you don't. What if you did? I've
been deaf this twenty year.'

'I grow blinder, too,' said the old man, shaking his head.

'That's a good sign!' cried Chuffey. 'Ha! ha! The best sign in the
world! You saw too well before.'

He patted Anthony upon the hand as one might comfort a child, and
drawing the old man's arm still further through his own, shook his
trembling fingers towards the spot where Jonas sat, as though he
would wave him off. But, Anthony remaining quite still and silent,
he relaxed his hold by slow degrees and lapsed into his usual niche
in the corner; merely putting forth his hand at intervals and
touching his old employer gently on the coat, as with the design of
assuring himself that he was yet beside him.

Mr Jonas was so very much amazed by these proceedings that he could
do nothing but stare at the two old men, until Chuffey had fallen
into his usual state, and Anthony had sunk into a doze; when he gave
some vent to his emotions by going close up to the former personage,
and making as though he would, in vulgar parlance, 'punch his head.'

'They've been carrying on this game,' thought Jonas in a brown
study, 'for the last two or three weeks. I never saw my father take
so much notice of him as he has in that time. What! You're legacy
hunting, are you, Mister Chuff? Eh?'

But Chuffey was as little conscious of the thought as of the bodily
advance of Mr Jonas's clenched fist, which hovered fondly about his
ear. When he had scowled at him to his heart's content, Jonas took
the candle from the table, and walking into the glass office,
produced a bunch of keys from his pocket. With one of these he
opened a secret drawer in the desk; peeping stealthily out, as he
did so, to be certain that the two old men were still before the
fire.

'All as right as ever,' said Jonas, propping the lid of the desk
open with his forehead, and unfolding a paper. 'Here's the will,
Mister Chuff. Thirty pound a year for your maintenance, old boy,
and all the rest to his only son, Jonas. You needn't trouble
yourself to be too affectionate. You won't get anything by it.
What's that?'

It WAS startling, certainly. A face on the other side of the glass
partition looking curiously in; and not at him but at the paper in
his hand. For the eyes were attentively cast down upon the writing,
and were swiftly raised when he cried out. Then they met his own,
and were as the eyes of Mr Pecksniff.

Suffering the lid of the desk to fall with a loud noise, but not
forgetting even then to lock it, Jonas, pale and breathless, gazed
upon this phantom. It moved, opened the door, and walked in.

'What's the matter?' cried Jonas, falling back. 'Who is it? Where
do you come from? What do you want?'

'Matter!' cried the voice of Mr Pecksniff, as Pecksniff in the flesh
smiled amiably upon him. 'The matter, Mr Jonas!'

'What are you prying and peering about here for?' said Jonas,
angrily. 'What do you mean by coming up to town in this way, and
taking one unawares? It's precious odd a man can't read the--the
newspaper--in his own office without being startled out of his wits
by people coming in without notice. Why didn't you knock at the
door?'

'So I did, Mr Jonas,' answered Pecksniff, 'but no one heard me. I
was curious,' he added in his gentle way as he laid his hand upon
the young man's shoulder, 'to find out what part of the newspaper
interested you so much; but the glass was too dim and dirty.'

Jonas glanced in haste at the partition. Well. It wasn't very
clean. So far he spoke the truth.

'Was it poetry now?' said Mr Pecksniff, shaking the forefinger of
his right hand with an air of cheerful banter. 'Or was it politics?
Or was it the price of stock? The main chance, Mr Jonas, the main
chance, I suspect.'

'You ain't far from the truth,' answered Jonas, recovering himself
and snuffing the candle; 'but how the deuce do you come to be in
London again? Ecod! it's enough to make a man stare, to see a
fellow looking at him all of a sudden, who he thought was sixty or
seventy mile away.'

'So it is,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'No doubt of it, my dear Mr Jonas.
For while the human mind is constituted as it is--'

'Oh, bother the human mind,' interrupted Jonas with impatience 'what
have you come up for?'

'A little matter of business,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'which has arisen
quite unexpectedly.'

'Oh!' cried Jonas, 'is that all? Well. Here's father in the next
room. Hallo father, here's Pecksniff! He gets more addle-pated
every day he lives, I do believe,' muttered Jonas, shaking his
honoured parent roundly. 'Don't I tell you Pecksniff's here,
stupid-head?'

The combined effects of the shaking and this loving remonstrance
soon awoke the old man, who gave Mr Pecksniff a chuckling welcome
which was attributable in part to his being glad to see that
gentleman, and in part to his unfading delight in the recollection
of having called him a hypocrite. As Mr Pecksniff had not yet taken
tea (indeed he had, but an hour before, arrived in London) the
remains of the late collation, with a rasher of bacon, were served
up for his entertainment; and as Mr Jonas had a business appointment
in the next street, he stepped out to keep it; promising to return
before Mr Pecksniff could finish his repast.

'And now, my good sir,' said Mr Pecksniff to Anthony; 'now that we
are alone, pray tell me what I can do for you. I say alone, because
I believe that our dear friend Mr Chuffey is, metaphysically
speaking, a--shall I say a dummy?' asked Mr Pecksniff with his
sweetest smile, and his head very much on one side.

'He neither hears us,' replied Anthony, 'nor sees us.'

'Why, then,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'I will be bold to say, with the
utmost sympathy for his afflictions, and the greatest admiration of
those excellent qualities which do equal honour to his head and to
his heart, that he is what is playfully termed a dummy. You were
going to observe, my dear sir--?'

'I was not going to make any observation that I know of,' replied
the old man.

'I was,' said Mr Pecksniff, mildly.

'Oh! YOU were? What was it?'

'That I never,' said Mr Pecksniff, previously rising to see that the
door was shut, and arranging his chair when he came back, so that it
could not be opened in the least without his immediately becoming
aware of the circumstance; 'that I never in my life was so
astonished as by the receipt of your letter yesterday. That you
should do me the honour to wish to take counsel with me on any
matter, amazed me; but that you should desire to do so, to the
exclusion even of Mr Jonas, showed an amount of confidence in one to
whom you had done a verbal injury--merely a verbal injury, you were
anxious to repair--which gratified, which moved, which overcame me.'

He was always a glib speaker, but he delivered this short address
very glibly; having been at some pains to compose it outside the
coach.

Although he paused for a reply, and truly said that he was there at
Anthony's request, the old man sat gazing at him in profound silence
and with a perfectly blank face. Nor did he seem to have the least
desire or impulse to pursue the conversation, though Mr Pecksniff
looked towards the door, and pulled out his watch, and gave him many
other hints that their time was short, and Jonas, if he kept his
word, would soon return. But the strangest incident in all this
strange behaviour was, that of a sudden, in a moment, so swiftly
that it was impossible to trace how, or to observe any process of
change, his features fell into their old expression, and he cried,
striking his hand passionately upon the table as if no interval at
all had taken place:

'Will you hold your tongue, sir, and let me speak?'

Mr Pecksniff deferred to him with a submissive bow; and said within
himself, 'I knew his hand was changed, and that his writing
staggered. I said so yesterday. Ahem! Dear me!'

'Jonas is sweet upon your daughter, Pecksniff,' said the old man, in
his usual tone.

'We spoke of that, if you remember, sir, at Mrs Todgers's,' replied
the courteous architect.

'You needn't speak so loud,' retorted Anthony. 'I'm not so deaf as
that.'

Mr Pecksniff had certainly raised his voice pretty high; not so much
because he thought Anthony was deaf, as because he felt convinced
that his perceptive faculties were waxing dim; but this quick
resentment of his considerate behaviour greatly disconcerted him,
and, not knowing what tack to shape his course upon, he made another
inclination of the head, yet more submissive that the last.

'I have said,' repeated the old man, 'that Jonas is sweet upon your
daughter.'

'A charming girl, sir,' murmured Mr Pecksniff, seeing that he waited
for an answer. 'A dear girl, Mr Chuzzlewit, though I say it, who
should not.'

'You know better,' cried the old man, advancing his weazen face at
least a yard, and starting forward in his chair to do it. 'You
lie! What, you WILL be a hypocrite, will you?'

'My good sir,' Mr Pecksniff began.

'Don't call me a good sir,' retorted Anthony, 'and don't claim to be
one yourself. If your daughter was what you would have me believe,
she wouldn't do for Jonas. Being what she is, I think she will. He
might be deceived in a wife. She might run riot, contract debts,
and waste his substance. Now when I am dead--'

His face altered so horribly as he said the word, that Mr Pecksniff
really was fain to look another way.

'--It will be worse for me to know of such doings, than if I was
alive; for to be tormented for getting that together, which even
while I suffer for its acquisition, is flung into the very kennels of
the streets, would be insupportable torture. No,' said the old man,
hoarsely, 'let that be saved at least; let there be something
gained, and kept fast hold of, when so much is lost.'

'My dear Mr Chuzzlewit,' said Pecksniff, 'these are unwholesome
fancies; quite unnecessary, sir, quite uncalled for, I am sure. The
truth is, my dear sir, that you are not well!'

'Not dying though!' cried Anthony, with something like the snarl of
a wild animal. 'Not yet! There are years of life in me. Why, look
at him,' pointing to his feeble clerk. 'Death has no right to leave
him standing, and to mow me down!'

Mr Pecksniff was so much afraid of the old man, and so completely
taken aback by the state in which he found him, that he had not even
presence of mind enough to call up a scrap of morality from the
great storehouse within his own breast. Therefore he stammered out
that no doubt it was, in fairness and decency, Mr Chuffey's turn to
expire; and that from all he had heard of Mr Chuffey, and the little
he had the pleasure of knowing of that gentleman, personally, he
felt convinced in his own mind that he would see the propriety of
expiring with as little delay as possible.

'Come here!' said the old man, beckoning him to draw nearer. 'Jonas
will be my heir, Jonas will be rich, and a great catch for you. You
know that. Jonas is sweet upon your daughter.'

'I know that too,' thought Mr Pecksniff, 'for you have said it often
enough.'

'He might get more money than with her,' said the old man, 'but she
will help him to take care of what they have. She is not too young
or heedless, and comes of a good hard griping stock. But don't you
play too fine a game. She only holds him by a thread; and if you
draw it too tight (I know his temper) it'll snap. Bind him when
he's in the mood, Pecksniff; bind him. You're too deep. In your
way of leading him on, you'll leave him miles behind. Bah, you man
of oil, have I no eyes to see how you have angled with him from the
first?'

'Now I wonder,' thought Mr Pecksniff, looking at him with a wistful
face, 'whether this is all he has to say?'

Old Anthony rubbed his hands and muttered to himself; complained
again that he was cold; drew his chair before the fire; and, sitting
with his back to Mr Pecksniff, and his chin sunk down upon his
breast, was, in another minute, quite regardless or forgetful of his
presence.

Uncouth and unsatisfactory as this short interview had been, it had
furnished Mr Pecksniff with a hint which, supposing nothing further
were imparted to him, repaid the journey up and home again. For the
good gentleman had never (for want of an opportunity) dived into the
depths of Mr Jonas's nature; and any recipe for catching such a son-
in-law (much more one written on a leaf out of his own father's
book) was worth the having. In order that he might lose no chance
of improving so fair an opportunity by allowing Anthony to fall
asleep before he had finished all he had to say, Mr Pecksniff, in
the disposal of the refreshments on the table, a work to which he
now applied himself in earnest, resorted to many ingenious
contrivances for attracting his attention; such as coughing,
sneezing, clattering the teacups, sharpening the knives, dropping
the loaf, and so forth. But all in vain, for Mr Jonas returned, and
Anthony had said no more.

'What! My father asleep again?' he cried, as he hung up his hat, and
cast a look at him. 'Ah! and snoring. Only hear!'

'He snores very deep,' said Mr Pecksniff.

'Snores deep?' repeated Jonas. 'Yes; let him alone for that. He'll
snore for six, at any time.'

'Do you know, Mr Jonas,' said Pecksniff, 'that I think your father
is--don't let me alarm you--breaking?'

'Oh, is he though?' replied Jonas, with a shake of the head which
expressed the closeness of his dutiful observation. 'Ecod, you
don't know how tough he is. He ain't upon the move yet.'

'It struck me that he was changed, both in his appearance and
manner,' said Mr Pecksniff.

'That's all you know about it,' returned Jonas, seating himself with
a melancholy air. 'He never was better than he is now. How are
they all at home? How's Charity?'

'Blooming, Mr Jonas, blooming.'

'And the other one; how's she?'

'Volatile trifler!' said Mr Pecksniff, fondly musing. 'She is well,
she is well. Roving from parlour to bedroom, Mr Jonas, like a bee,
skimming from post to pillar, like the butterfly; dipping her young
beak into our currant wine, like the humming-bird! Ah! were she a
little less giddy than she is; and had she but the sterling
qualities of Cherry, my young friend!'

'Is she so very giddy, then?' asked Jonas.

'Well, well!' said Mr Pecksniff, with great feeling; 'let me not be
hard upon my child. Beside her sister Cherry she appears so. A
strange noise that, Mr Jonas!'

'Something wrong in the clock, I suppose,' said Jonas, glancing
towards it. 'So the other one ain't your favourite, ain't she?'

The fond father was about to reply, and had already summoned into
his face a look of most intense sensibility, when the sound he had
already noticed was repeated.

'Upon my word, Mr Jonas, that is a very extraordinary clock,' said
Pecksniff.

It would have been, if it had made the noise which startled them;
but another kind of time-piece was fast running down, and from that
the sound proceeded. A scream from Chuffey, rendered a hundred
times more loud and formidable by his silent habits, made the house
ring from roof to cellar; and, looking round, they saw Anthony
Chuzzlewit extended on the floor, with the old clerk upon his knees
beside him.

He had fallen from his chair in a fit, and lay there, battling for
each gasp of breath, with every shrivelled vein and sinew starting
in its place, as if it were bent on bearing witness to his age, and
sternly pleading with Nature against his recovery. It was frightful
to see how the principle of life, shut up within his withered frame,
fought like a strong devil, mad to be released, and rent its ancient
prison-house. A young man in the fullness of his vigour, struggling
with so much strength of desperation, would have been a dismal
sight; but an old, old, shrunken body, endowed with preternatural
might, and giving the lie in every motion of its every limb and
joint to its enfeebled aspect, was a hideous spectacle indeed.

They raised him up, and fetched a surgeon with all haste, who bled
the patient and applied some remedies; but the fits held him so long
that it was past midnight when they got him--quiet now, but quite
unconscious and exhausted--into bed.

'Don't go,' said Jonas, putting his ashy lips to Mr Pecksniff's ear
and whispered across the bed. 'It was a mercy you were present when
he was taken ill. Some one might have said it was my doing.'

'YOUR doing!' cried Mr Pecksniff.

'I don't know but they might,' he replied, wiping the moisture from
his white face. 'People say such things. How does he look now?'

Mr Pecksniff shook his head.

'I used to joke, you know,' said. Jonas: 'but I--I never wished him
dead. Do you think he's very bad?'

'The doctor said he was. You heard,' was Mr Pecksniff's answer.

'Ah! but he might say that to charge us more, in case of his getting
well' said Jonas. 'You mustn't go away, Pecksniff. Now it's come
to this, I wouldn't be without a witness for a thousand pound.'

Chuffey said not a word, and heard not a word. He had sat himself
down in a chair at the bedside, and there he remained, motionless;
except that he sometimes bent his head over the pillow, and seemed
to listen. He never changed in this. Though once in the dreary
night Mr Pecksniff, having dozed, awoke with a confused impression
that he had heard him praying, and strangely mingling figures--not
of speech, but arithmetic--with his broken prayers.

Jonas sat there, too, all night; not where his father could have
seen him, had his consciousness returned, but hiding, as it were,
behind him, and only reading how he looked, in Mr Pecksniff's eyes.
HE, the coarse upstart, who had ruled the house so long--that
craven cur, who was afraid to move, and shook so, that his very
shadow fluttered on the wall!

It was broad, bright, stirring day when, leaving the old clerk to
watch him, they went down to breakfast. People hurried up and down
the street; windows and doors were opened; thieves and beggars took
their usual posts; workmen bestirred themselves; tradesmen set forth
their shops; bailiffs and constables were on the watch; all kinds of
human creatures strove, in their several ways, as hard to live, as
the one sick old man who combated for every grain of sand in his
fast-emptying glass, as eagerly as if it were an empire.

'If anything happens Pecksniff,' said Jonas, 'you must promise me to
stop here till it's all over. You shall see that I do what's
right.'

'I know that you will do what's right, Mr Jonas,' said Pecksniff.

'Yes, yes, but I won't be doubted. No one shall have it in his
power to say a syllable against me,' he returned. 'I know how
people will talk. Just as if he wasn't old, or I had the secret of
keeping him alive!'

Mr Pecksniff promised that he would remain, if circumstances should
render it, in his esteemed friend's opinion, desirable; they were
finishing their meal in silence, when suddenly an apparition stood
before them, so ghastly to the view that Jonas shrieked aloud, and
both recoiled in horror.

Old Anthony, dressed in his usual clothes, was in the room--beside
the table. He leaned upon the shoulder of his solitary friend; and
on his livid face, and on his horny hands, and in his glassy eyes,
and traced by an eternal finger in the very drops of sweat upon his
brow, was one word--Death.

He spoke to them--in something of his own voice too, but sharpened
and made hollow, like a dead man's face. What he would have said,
God knows. He seemed to utter words, but they were such as man had
never heard. And this was the most fearful circumstance of all, to
see him standing there, gabbling in an unearthly tongue.

'He's better now,' said Chuffey. 'Better now. Let him sit in his
old chair, and he'll be well again. I told him not to mind. I said
so, yesterday.'

They put him in his easy-chair, and wheeled it near the window;
then, swinging open the door, exposed him to the free current of
morning air. But not all the air that is, nor all the winds that
ever blew 'twixt Heaven and Earth, could have brought new life to
him.

Plunge him to the throat in golden pieces now, and his heavy fingers
shall not close on one!

CHAPTER NINETEEN

THE READER IS BROUGHT INTO COMMUNICATION WITH SOME PROFESSIONAL
PERSONS, AND SHEDS A TEAR OVER THE FILAIL PIETY OF GOOD MR JONAS

Mr Pecksniff was in a hackney cabriolet, for Jonas Chuzzlewit had
said 'Spare no expense.' Mankind is evil in its thoughts and in its
base constructions, and Jonas was resolved it should not have an
inch to stretch into an ell against him. It never should be charged
upon his father's son that he had grudged the money for his father's
funeral. Hence, until the obsequies should be concluded, Jonas had
taken for his motto 'Spend, and spare not!'

Mr Pecksniff had been to the undertaker, and was now upon his way to
another officer in the train of mourning--a female functionary, a
nurse, and watcher, and performer of nameless offices about the
persons of the dead--whom he had recommended. Her name, as Mr
Pecksniff gathered from a scrap of writing in his hand, was Gamp;
her residence in Kingsgate Street, High Holborn. So Mr Pecksniff,
in a hackney cab, was rattling over Holborn stones, in quest of Mrs
Gamp.

This lady lodged at a bird-fancier's, next door but one to the
celebrated mutton-pie shop, and directly opposite to the original
cat's-meat warehouse; the renown of which establishments was duly
heralded on their respective fronts. It was a little house, and
this was the more convenient; for Mrs Gamp being, in her highest
walk of art, a monthly nurse, or, as her sign-board boldly had it,
'Midwife,' and lodging in the first-floor front, was easily
assailable at night by pebbles, walking-sticks, and fragments of
tobacco-pipe; all much more efficacious than the street-door
knocker, which was so constructed as to wake the street with ease,
and even spread alarms of fire in Holborn, without making the
smallest impression on the premises to which it was addressed.

It chanced on this particular occasion, that Mrs Gamp had been up
all the previous night, in attendance upon a ceremony to which the
usage of gossips has given that name which expresses, in two
syllables, the curse pronounced on Adam. It chanced that Mrs Gamp
had not been regularly engaged, but had been called in at a crisis,
in consequence of her great repute, to assist another professional
lady with her advice; and thus it happened that, all points of
interest in the case being over, Mrs Gamp had come home again to the
bird-fancier's and gone to bed. So when Mr Pecksniff drove up in
the hackney cab, Mrs Gamp's curtains were drawn close, and Mrs Gamp
was fast asleep behind them.

If the bird-fancier had been at home, as he ought to have been,
there would have been no great harm in this; but he was out, and his
shop was closed. The shutters were down certainly; and in every
pane of glass there was at least one tiny bird in a tiny bird-cage,
twittering and hopping his little ballet of despair, and knocking
his head against the roof; while one unhappy goldfinch who lived
outside a red villa with his name on the door, drew the water for
his own drinking, and mutely appealed to some good man to drop a
farthing's-worth of poison in it. Still, the door was shut. Mr
Pecksniff tried the latch, and shook it, causing a cracked bell
inside to ring most mournfully; but no one came. The bird-fancier
was an easy shaver also, and a fashionable hair-dresser also, and
perhaps he had been sent for, express, from the court end of the
town, to trim a lord, or cut and curl a lady; but however that might
be, there, upon his own ground, he was not; nor was there any more
distinct trace of him to assist the imagination of an inquirer, than
a professional print or emblem of his calling (much favoured in the
trade), representing a hair-dresser of easy manners curling a lady
of distinguished fashion, in the presence of a patent upright grand
pianoforte.

Noting these circumstances, Mr Pecksniff, in the innocence of his
heart, applied himself to the knocker; but at the first double knock
every window in the street became alive with female heads; and
before he could repeat the performance whole troops of married
ladies (some about to trouble Mrs Gamp themselves very shortly) came
flocking round the steps, all crying out with one accord, and with
uncommon interest, 'Knock at the winder, sir, knock at the winder.
Lord bless you, don't lose no more time than you can help--knock at
the winder!'

Acting upon this suggestion, and borrowing the driver's whip for the
purpose, Mr Pecksniff soon made a commotion among the first floor
flower-pots, and roused Mrs Gamp, whose voice--to the great
satisfaction of the matrons--was heard to say, 'I'm coming.'

'He's as pale as a muffin,' said one lady, in allusion to Mr
Pecksniff.

'So he ought to be, if he's the feelings of a man,' observed
another.

A third lady (with her arms folded) said she wished he had chosen
any other time for fetching Mrs Gamp, but it always happened so with
HER.

It gave Mr Pecksniff much uneasiness to find, from these remarks,
that he was supposed to have come to Mrs Gamp upon an errand
touching--not the close of life, but the other end. Mrs Gamp
herself was under the same impression, for, throwing open the
window, she cried behind the curtains, as she hastily attired
herself--

'Is it Mrs Perkins?'

'No!' returned Mr Pecksniff, sharply. 'Nothing of the sort.'

'What, Mr Whilks!' cried Mrs Gamp. 'Don't say it's you, Mr Whilks,
and that poor creetur Mrs Whilks with not even a pincushion ready.
Don't say it's you, Mr Whilks!'

'It isn't Mr Whilks,' said Pecksniff. 'I don't know the man.
Nothing of the kind. A gentleman is dead; and some person being
wanted in the house, you have been recommended by Mr Mould the
undertaker.'

As she was by this time in a condition to appear, Mrs Gamp, who had
a face for all occasions, looked out of the window with her mourning
countenance, and said she would be down directly. But the matrons
took it very ill that Mr Pecksniff's mission was of so unimportant a
kind; and the lady with her arms folded rated him in good round
terms, signifying that she would be glad to know what he meant by
terrifying delicate females 'with his corpses;' and giving it as her
opinion that he was quite ugly enough to know better. The other
ladies were not at all behind-hand in expressing similar sentiments;
and the children, of whom some scores had now collected, hooted
and defied Mr Pecksniff quite savagely. So when Mrs Gamp appeared,
the unoffending gentleman was glad to hustle her with very little
ceremony into the cabriolet, and drive off, overwhelmed with
popular execration.

Mrs Gamp had a large bundle with her, a pair of pattens, and a
species of gig umbrella; the latter article in colour like a faded
leaf, except where a circular patch of a lively blue had been
dexterously let in at the top. She was much flurried by the haste
she had made, and laboured under the most erroneous views of
cabriolets, which she appeared to confound with mail-coaches or
stage-wagons, inasmuch as she was constantly endeavouring for the
first half mile to force her luggage through the little front
window, and clamouring to the driver to 'put it in the boot.' When
she was disabused of this idea, her whole being resolved itself into
an absorbing anxiety about her pattens, with which she played
innumerable games at quoits on Mr Pecksniff's legs. It was not
until they were close upon the house of mourning that she had enough
composure to observe--

'And so the gentleman's dead, sir! Ah! The more's the pity.'
She didn't even know his name. 'But it's what we must all come to.
It's as certain as being born, except that we can't make our
calculations as exact. Ah! Poor dear!'

She was a fat old woman, this Mrs Gamp, with a husky voice and a
moist eye, which she had a remarkable power of turning up, and only
showing the white of it. Having very little neck, it cost her some
trouble to look over herself, if one may say so, at those to whom
she talked. She wore a very rusty black gown, rather the worse for
snuff, and a shawl and bonnet to correspond. In these dilapidated
articles of dress she had, on principle, arrayed herself, time out
of mind, on such occasions as the present; for this at once
expressed a decent amount of veneration for the deceased, and
invited the next of kin to present her with a fresher suit of weeds;
an appeal so frequently successful, that the very fetch and ghost of
Mrs Gamp, bonnet and all, might be seen hanging up, any hour in the
day, in at least a dozen of the second-hand clothes shops about
Holborn. The face of Mrs Gamp--the nose in particular--was somewhat
red and swollen, and it was difficult to enjoy her society without
becoming conscious of a smell of spirits. Like most persons who
have attained to great eminence in their profession, she took to
hers very kindly; insomuch that, setting aside her natural
predilections as a woman, she went to a lying-in or a laying-out
with equal zest and relish.

'Ah!' repeated Mrs Gamp; for it was always a safe sentiment in cases
of mourning. 'Ah dear! When Gamp was summoned to his long home, and
I see him a-lying in Guy's Hospital with a penny-piece on each eye,
and his wooden leg under his left arm, I thought I should have
fainted away. But I bore up.'

If certain whispers current in the Kingsgate Street circles had any
truth in them, she had indeed borne up surprisingly; and had exerted
such uncommon fortitude as to dispose of Mr Gamp's remains for the
benefit of science. But it should be added, in fairness, that this
had happened twenty years before; and that Mr and Mrs Gamp had long
been separated on the ground of incompatibility of temper in their
drink.

'You have become indifferent since then, I suppose?' said Mr
Pecksniff. 'Use is second nature, Mrs Gamp.'

'You may well say second nater, sir,' returned that lady. 'One's
first ways is to find sich things a trial to the feelings, and so is
one's lasting custom. If it wasn't for the nerve a little sip of
liquor gives me (I never was able to do more than taste it), I never
could go through with what I sometimes has to do. "Mrs Harris," I
says, at the very last case as ever I acted in, which it was but a
young person, "Mrs Harris," I says, "leave the bottle on the
chimley-piece, and don't ask me to take none, but let me put my lips
to it when I am so dispoged, and then I will do what I'm engaged to
do, according to the best of my ability." "Mrs Gamp," she says, in
answer, "if ever there was a sober creetur to be got at eighteen
pence a day for working people, and three and six for gentlefolks--
night watching,"' said Mrs Gamp with emphasis, '"being a extra
charge--you are that inwallable person." "Mrs Harris," I says to
her, "don't name the charge, for if I could afford to lay all my
feller creeturs out for nothink, I would gladly do it, sich is the
love I bears 'em. But what I always says to them as has the
management of matters, Mrs Harris"'--here she kept her eye on Mr
Pecksniff--'"be they gents or be they ladies, is, don't ask me
whether I won't take none, or whether I will, but leave the bottle
on the chimley-piece, and let me put my lips to it when I am so
dispoged."'

The conclusion of this affecting narrative brought them to the
house. In the passage they encountered Mr Mould the undertaker; a
little elderly gentleman, bald, and in a suit of black; with a
notebook in his hand, a massive gold watch-chain dangling from his
fob, and a face in which a queer attempt at melancholy was at odds
with a smirk of satisfaction; so that he looked as a man might, who,
in the very act of smacking his lips over choice old wine, tried to
make believe it was physic.

'Well, Mrs Gamp, and how are YOU, Mrs Gamp?' said this gentleman, in
a voice as soft as his step.

'Pretty well, I thank you, sir,' dropping a curtsey.

'You'll be very particular here, Mrs Gamp. This is not a common
case, Mrs Gamp. Let everything be very nice and comfortable, Mrs
Gamp, if you please,' said the undertaker, shaking his head with a
solemn air.

'It shall be, sir,' she replied, curtseying again. 'You knows me of
old, sir, I hope.'

'I hope so, too, Mrs Gamp,' said the undertaker. 'and I think so
also.' Mrs Gamp curtseyed again. 'This is one of the most
impressive cases, sir,' he continued, addressing Mr Pecksniff, 'that
I have seen in the whole course of my professional experience.'

'Indeed, Mr Mould!' cried that gentleman.

'Such affectionate regret, sir, I never saw. There is no
limitation, there is positively NO limitation'--opening his eyes
wide, and standing on tiptoe--'in point of expense! I have orders,
sir, to put on my whole establishment of mutes; and mutes come very
dear, Mr Pecksniff; not to mention their drink. To provide silver-
plated handles of the very best description, ornamented with angels'
heads from the most expensive dies. To be perfectly profuse in
feathers. In short, sir, to turn out something absolutely gorgeous.'

'My friend Mr Jonas is an excellent man,' said Mr Pecksniff.

'I have seen a good deal of what is filial in my time, sir,'
retorted Mould, 'and what is unfilial too. It is our lot. We come
into the knowledge of those secrets. But anything so filial as
this; anything so honourable to human nature; so calculated to
reconcile all of us to the world we live in; never yet came under my
observation. It only proves, sir, what was so forcibly observed by
the lamented theatrical poet--buried at Stratford--that there is
good in everything.'

'It is very pleasant to hear you say so, Mr Mould,' observed
Pecksniff.

'You are very kind, sir. And what a man Mr Chuzzlewit was, sir! Ah!
what a man he was. You may talk of your lord mayors,' said Mould,
waving his hand at the public in general, 'your sheriffs, your
common councilmen, your trumpery; but show me a man in this city who
is worthy to walk in the shoes of the departed Mr Chuzzlewit. No,
no,' cried Mould, with bitter sarcasm. 'Hang 'em up, hang 'em up;
sole 'em and heel 'em, and have 'em ready for his son against he's
old enough to wear 'em; but don't try 'em on yourselves, for they
won't fit you. We knew him,' said Mould, in the same biting vein,
as he pocketed his note-book; 'we knew him, and are not to be
caught with chaff. Mr Pecksniff, sir, good morning.'

Mr Pecksniff returned the compliment; and Mould, sensible of having
distinguished himself, was going away with a brisk smile, when he
fortunately remembered the occasion. Quickly becoming depressed
again, he sighed; looked into the crown of his hat, as if for
comfort; put it on without finding any; and slowly departed.

Mrs Gamp and Mr Pecksniff then ascended the staircase; and the
former, having been shown to the chamber in which all that remained
of Anthony Chuzzlewit lay covered up, with but one loving heart, and
that a halting one, to mourn it, left the latter free to enter the
darkened room below, and rejoin Mr Jonas, from whom he had now been
absent nearly two hours.

He found that example to bereaved sons, and pattern in the eyes of
all performers of funerals, musing over a fragment of writing-paper
on the desk, and scratching figures on it with a pen. The old man's
chair, and hat, and walking-stick, were removed from their
accustomed places, and put out of sight; the window-blinds as yellow
as November fogs, were drawn down close; Jonas himself was so
subdued, that he could scarcely be heard to speak, and only seen to
walk across the room.

'Pecksniff,' he said, in a whisper, 'you shall have the regulation
of it all, mind! You shall be able to tell anybody who talks about
it that everything was correctly and nicely done. There isn't any
one you'd like to ask to the funeral, is there?'

'No, Mr Jonas, I think not.'

'Because if there is, you know,' said Jonas, 'ask him. We don't
want to make a secret of it.'

'No,' repeated Mr Pecksniff, after a little reflection. 'I am not
the less obliged to you on that account, Mr Jonas, for your liberal
hospitality; but there really is no one.'

'Very well,' said Jonas; 'then you, and I, and Chuffey, and the
doctor, will be just a coachful. We'll have the doctor, Pecksniff,
because he knows what was the matter with him, and that it couldn't
be helped.'

'Where is our dear friend, Mr Chuffey?' asked Pecksniff, looking
round the chamber, and winking both his eyes at once--for he was
overcome by his feelings.

But here he was interrupted by Mrs Gamp, who, divested of her bonnet
and shawl, came sidling and bridling into the room; and with some
sharpness demanded a conference outside the door with Mr Pecksniff.

'You may say whatever you wish to say here, Mrs Gamp,' said that
gentleman, shaking his head with a melancholy expression.

'It is not much as I have to say when people is a-mourning for the
dead and gone,' said Mrs Gamp; 'but what I have to say is TO the
pint and purpose, and no offence intended, must be so considered. I
have been at a many places in my time, gentlemen, and I hope I knows
what my duties is, and how the same should be performed; in course,
if I did not, it would be very strange, and very wrong in sich a
gentleman as Mr Mould, which has undertook the highest families in
this land, and given every satisfaction, so to recommend me as he
does. I have seen a deal of trouble my own self,' said Mrs Gamp,
laying greater and greater stress upon her words, 'and I can feel
for them as has their feelings tried, but I am not a Rooshan or a
Prooshan, and consequently cannot suffer Spies to be set over me.'

Before it was possible that an answer could be returned, Mrs Gamp,
growing redder in the face, went on to say:

'It is not a easy matter, gentlemen, to live when you are left a
widder woman; particular when your feelings works upon you to that
extent that you often find yourself a-going out on terms which is a
certain loss, and never can repay. But in whatever way you earns
your bread, you may have rules and regulations of your own which
cannot be broke through. Some people,' said Mrs Gamp, again
entrenching herself behind her strong point, as if it were not
assailable by human ingenuity, 'may be Rooshans, and others may be
Prooshans; they are born so, and will please themselves. Them which
is of other naturs thinks different.'

'If I understand this good lady,' said Mr Pecksniff, turning to
Jonas, 'Mr Chuffey is troublesome to her. Shall I fetch him down?'

'Do,' said Jonas. 'I was going to tell you he was up there, when
she came in. I'd go myself and bring him down, only--only I'd
rather you went, if you don't mind.'

Mr Pecksniff promptly departed, followed by Mrs Gamp, who, seeing
that he took a bottle and glass from the cupboard, and carried it in
his hand, was much softened.

'I am sure,' she said, 'that if it wasn't for his own happiness, I
should no more mind him being there, poor dear, than if he was a
fly. But them as isn't used to these things, thinks so much of 'em
afterwards, that it's a kindness to 'em not to let 'em have their
wish. And even,' said Mrs Gamp, probably in reference to some
flowers of speech she had already strewn on Mr Chuffey, 'even if one
calls 'em names, it's only done to rouse 'em.'

Whatever epithets she had bestowed on the old clerk, they had not
roused HIM. He sat beside the bed, in the chair he had occupied all
the previous night, with his hands folded before him, and his head
bowed down; and neither looked up, on their entrance, nor gave any
sign of consciousness, until Mr Pecksniff took him by the arm, when
he meekly rose.

'Three score and ten,' said Chuffey, 'ought and carry seven. Some
men are so strong that they live to four score--four times ought's
an ought, four times two's an eight--eighty. Oh! why--why--why
didn't he live to four times ought's an ought, and four times two's
an eight, eighty?'

'Ah! what a wale of grief!' cried Mrs Gamp, possessing herself of
the bottle and glass.

'Why did he die before his poor old crazy servant?' said Chuffey,
clasping his hands and looking up in anguish. 'Take him from me,
and what remains?'

'Mr Jonas,' returned Pecksniff, 'Mr Jonas, my good friend.'

'I loved him,' cried the old man, weeping. 'He was good to me. We
learnt Tare and Tret together at school. I took him down once, six
boys in the arithmetic class. God forgive me! Had I the heart to
take him down!'

'Come, Mr Chuffey,' said Pecksniff. 'Come with me. Summon up your
fortitude, Mr Chuffey.'

'Yes, I will,' returned the old clerk. 'Yes. I'll sum up my forty
--How many times forty--Oh, Chuzzlewit and Son--Your own son Mr
Chuzzlewit; your own son, sir!'

He yielded to the hand that guided him, as he lapsed into this
familiar expression, and submitted to be led away. Mrs Gamp, with
the bottle on one knee, and the glass on the other, sat upon a
stool, shaking her head for a long time, until, in a moment of
abstraction, she poured out a dram of spirits, and raised it to her
lips. It was succeeded by a second, and by a third, and then her
eyes--either in the sadness of her reflections upon life and death,
or in her admiration of the liquor--were so turned up, as to be
quite invisible. But she shook her head still.

Poor Chuffey was conducted to his accustomed corner, and there he
remained, silent and quiet, save at long intervals, when he would
rise, and walk about the room, and wring his hands, or raise some
strange and sudden cry. For a whole week they all three sat about
the hearth and never stirred abroad. Mr Pecksniff would have walked
out in the evening time, but Mr Jonas was so averse to his being
absent for a minute, that he abandoned the idea, and so, from
morning until night, they brooded together in the dark room, without
relief or occupation.

The weight of that which was stretched out, stiff and stark, in the
awful chamber above-stairs, so crushed and bore down Jonas, that he
bent beneath the load. During the whole long seven days and nights,
he was always oppressed and haunted by a dreadful sense of its
presence in the house. Did the door move, he looked towards it with
a livid face and starting eye, as if he fully believed that ghostly
fingers clutched the handle. Did the fire fiicker in a draught of
air, he glanced over his shoulder, as almost dreading to behold some
shrouded figure fanning and flapping at it with its fearful dress.
The lightest noise disturbed him; and once, in the night, at the
sound of a footstep overhead, he cried out that the dead man was
walking--tramp, tramp, tramp--about his coffin.

He lay at night upon a mattress on the floor of the sitting-room;
his own chamber having been assigned to Mrs Gamp; and Mr Pecksniff
was similarly accommodated. The howling of a dog before the house,
filled him with a terror he could not disguise. He avoided the
reflection in the opposite windows of the light that burned above,
as though it had been an angry eye. He often, in every night, rose
up from his fitful sleep, and looked and longed for dawn; all
directions and arrangements, even to the ordering of their daily
meals, he abandoned to Mr Pecksniff. That excellent gentleman,
deeming that the mourner wanted comfort, and that high feeding was
likely to do him infinite service, availed himself of these
opportunities to such good purpose, that they kept quite a dainty
table during this melancholy season; with sweetbreads, stewed
kidneys, oysters, and other such light viands for supper every
night; over which, and sundry jorums of hot punch, Mr Pecksniff
delivered such moral reflections and spiritual consolation as might
have converted a Heathen--especially if he had had but an imperfect
acquaintance with the English tongue.

Nor did Mr Pecksniff alone indulge in the creature comforts during
this sad time. Mrs Gamp proved to be very choice in her eating, and
repudiated hashed mutton with scorn. In her drinking too, she was
very punctual and particular, requiring a pint of mild porter at
lunch, a pint at dinner, half-a-pint as a species of stay or
holdfast between dinner and tea, and a pint of the celebrated
staggering ale, or Real Old Brighton Tipper, at supper; besides the
bottle on the chimney-piece, and such casual invitations to refresh
herself with wine as the good breeding of her employers might prompt
them to offer. In like manner, Mr Mould's men found it necessary to
drown their grief, like a young kitten in the morning of its
existence, for which reason they generally fuddled themselves before
they began to do anything, lest it should make head and get the
better of them. In short, the whole of that strange week was a
round of dismal joviality and grim enjoyment; and every one, except
poor Chuffey, who came within the shadow of Anthony Chuzzlewit's
grave, feasted like a Ghoul.

At length the day of the funeral, pious and truthful ceremony that
it was, arrived. Mr Mould, with a glass of generous port between
his eye and the light, leaned against the desk in the little glass
office with his gold watch in his unoccupied hand, and conversed
with Mrs Gamp; two mutes were at the house-door, looking as mournful
as could be reasonably expected of men with such a thriving job in
hand; the whole of Mr Mould's establishment were on duty within the
house or without; feathers waved, horses snorted, silk and velvets
fluttered; in a word, as Mr Mould emphatically said, 'Everything
that money could do was done.'

'And what can do more, Mrs Gamp?' exclaimed the undertaker as he
emptied his glass and smacked his lips.

'Nothing in the world, sir.'

'Nothing in the world,' repeated Mr Mould. 'You are right,
Mrs.Gamp. Why do people spend more money'--here he filled his glass
again--'upon a death, Mrs Gamp, than upon a birth? Come, that's in
your way; you ought to know. How do you account for that now?'

'Perhaps it is because an undertaker's charges comes dearer than a
nurse's charges, sir,' said Mrs Gamp, tittering, and smoothing down
her new black dress with her hands.

'Ha, ha!' laughed Mr Mould. 'You have been breakfasting at
somebody's expense this morning, Mrs Gamp.' But seeing, by the aid
of a little shaving-glass which hung opposite, that he looked merry,
he composed his features and became sorrowful.

'Many's the time that I've not breakfasted at my own expense along
of your recommending, sir; and many's the time I hope to do the
same in time to come,' said Mrs Gamp, with an apologetic curtsey.

'So be it,' replied Mr Mould, 'please Providence. No, Mrs Gamp;
I'll tell you why it is. It's because the laying out of money with
a well-conducted establishment, where the thing is performed upon the
very best scale, binds the broken heart, and sheds balm upon the
wounded spirit. Hearts want binding, and spirits want balming when
people die; not when people are born. Look at this gentleman to-
day; look at him.'

'An open-handed gentleman?' cried Mrs Gamp, with enthusiasm.

'No, no,' said the undertaker; 'not an open-handed gentleman in
general, by any means. There you mistake him; but an afflicted
gentleman, an affectionate gentleman, who knows what it is in the
power of money to do, in giving him relief, and in testifying his
love and veneration for the departed. It can give him,' said Mr
Mould, waving his watch-chain slowly round and round, so that he
described one circle after every item; 'it can give him four horses
to each vehicle; it can give him velvet trappings; it can give him
drivers in cloth cloaks and top-boots; it can give him the plumage
of the ostrich, dyed black; it can give him any number of walking
attendants, dressed in the first style of funeral fashion, and
carrying batons tipped with brass; it can give him a handsome tomb;
it can give him a place in Westminster Abbey itself, if he choose to
invest it in such a purchase. Oh! do not let us say that gold is
dross, when it can buy such things as these, Mrs Gamp.'

'But what a blessing, sir,' said Mrs Gamp, 'that there are such as
you, to sell or let 'em out on hire!'

'Aye, Mrs Gamp, you are right,' rejoined the undertaker. 'We should
be an honoured calling. We do good by stealth, and blush to have it
mentioned in our little bills. How much consolation may I--even I,'
cried Mr Mould, 'have diffused among my fellow-creatures by means of
my four long-tailed prancers, never harnessed under ten pund ten!'

Mrs Gamp had begun to make a suitable reply, when she was
interrupted by the appearance of one of Mr Mould's assistants--his
chief mourner in fact--an obese person, with his waistcoat in closer
connection with his legs than is quite reconcilable with the
established ideas of grace; with that cast of feature which is
figuratively called a bottle nose; and with a face covered all over
with pimples. He had been a tender plant once upon a time, but from
constant blowing in the fat atmosphere of funerals, had run to seed.

'Well, Tacker,' said Mr Mould, 'is all ready below?'

'A beautiful show, sir,' rejoined Tacker. 'The horses are prouder
and fresher than ever I see 'em; and toss their heads, they do, as
if they knowed how much their plumes cost. One, two, three, four,'
said Mr Tacker, heaping that number of black cloaks upon his left
arm.

'Is Tom there, with the cake and wine?' asked Mr Mould.

'Ready to come in at a moment's notice, sir,' said Tacker.

'Then,' rejoined Mr Mould, putting up his watch, and glancing at
himself in the little shaving-glass, that he might be sure his face
had the right expression on it; 'then I think we may proceed to
business. Give me the paper of gloves, Tacker. Ah, what a man he
was! Ah, Tacker, Tacker, what a man he was!'

Mr Tacker, who from his great experience in the performance of
funerals, would have made an excellent pantomime actor, winked at
Mrs Gamp without at all disturbing the gravity of his countenance,
and followed his master into the next room.

It was a great point with Mr Mould, and a part of his professional
tact, not to seem to know the doctor; though in reality they were
near neighbours, and very often, as in the present instance, worked
together. So he advanced to fit on his black kid gloves as if he
had never seen him in all his life; while the doctor, on his part,
looked as distant and unconscious as if he had heard and read of
undertakers, and had passed their shops, but had never before been
brought into communication with one.

'Gloves, eh?' said the doctor. 'Mr Pecksniff after you.'

'I couldn't think of it,' returned Mr Pecksniff.

'You are very good,' said the doctor, taking a pair. 'Well, sir, as
I was saying--I was called up to attend that case at about half-past
one o'clock. Cake and wine, eh? Which is port? Thank you.'

Mr Pecksniff took some also.

'At about half-past one o'clock in the morning, sir,' resumed the
doctor, 'I was called up to attend that case. At the first pull of
the night-bell I turned out, threw up the window, and put out my
head. Cloak, eh? Don't tie it too tight. That'll do.'

Mr Pecksniff having been likewise inducted into a similar garment,
the doctor resumed.

'And put out my head--hat, eh? My good friend, that is not mine.
Mr Pecksniff, I beg your pardon, but I think we have unintentionally
made an exchange. Thank you. Well, sir, I was going to tell you--'

'We are quite ready,' interrupted Mould in a low voice.

'Ready, eh?' said the doctor. 'Very good, Mr Pecksniff, I'll take
an opportunity of relating the rest in the coach. It's rather
curious. Ready, eh? No rain, I hope?'

'Quite fair, sir,' returned Mould.

'I was afraid the ground would have been wet,' said the doctor, 'for
my glass fell yesterday. We may congratulate ourselves upon our
good fortune.' But seeing by this time that Mr Jonas and Chuffey
were going out at the door, he put a white pocket-handkerchief to
his face as if a violent burst of grief had suddenly come upon him,
and walked down side by side with Mr Pecksniff.

Mr Mould and his men had not exaggerated the grandeur of the
arrangements. They were splendid. The four hearse-horses,
especially, reared and pranced, and showed their highest action, as
if they knew a man was dead, and triumphed in it. 'They break us,
drive us, ride us; ill-treat, abuse, and maim us for their
pleasure--But they die; Hurrah, they die!'

So through the narrow streets and winding city ways, went Anthony
Chuzzlewit's funeral; Mr Jonas glancing stealthily out of the coach-
window now and then, to observe its effect upon the crowd; Mr Mould
as he walked along, listening with a sober pride to the exclamations
of the bystanders; the doctor whispering his story to Mr Pecksniff,
without appearing to come any nearer the end of it; and poor old
Chuffey sobbing unregarded in a corner. But he had greatly
scandalized Mr Mould at an early stage of the ceremony by carrying
his handkerchief in his hat in a perfectly informal manner, and
wiping his eyes with his knuckles. And as Mr Mould himself had said
already, his behaviour was indecent, and quite unworthy of such an
occasion; and he never ought to have been there.

There he was, however; and in the churchyard there he was, also,
conducting himself in a no less unbecoming manner, and leaning for
support on Tacker, who plainly told him that he was fit for nothing
better than a walking funeral. But Chuffey, Heaven help him! heard
no sound but the echoes, lingering in his own heart, of a voice for
ever silent.

'I loved him,' cried the old man, sinking down upon the grave when
all was done. 'He was very good to me. Oh, my dear old friend and
master!'

'Come, come, Mr Chuffey,' said the doctor, 'this won't do; it's a
clayey soil, Mr Chuffey. You mustn't, really.'

'If it had been the commonest thing we do, and Mr Chuffey had been a
Bearer, gentlemen,' said Mould, casting an imploring glance upon
them, as he helped to raise him, 'he couldn't have gone on worse
than this.'

'Be a man, Mr Chuffey,' said Pecksniff.

'Be a gentleman, Mr Chuffey,' said Mould.

'Upon my word, my good friend,' murmured the doctor, in a tone of
stately reproof, as he stepped up to the old man's side, 'this is
worse than weakness. This is bad, selfish, very wrong, Mr Chuffey.
You should take example from others, my good sir. You forget that
you were not connected by ties of blood with our deceased friend;
and that he had a very near and very dear relation, Mr Chuffey.'

'Aye, his own son!' cried the old man, clasping his hands with
remarkable passion. 'His own, own, only son!'

'He's not right in his head, you know,' said Jonas, turning pale.
'You're not to mind anything he says. I shouldn't wonder if he was
to talk some precious nonsense. But don't you mind him, any of you.
I don't. My father left him to my charge; and whatever he says or
does, that's enough. I'll take care of him.'

A hum of admiration rose from the mourners (including Mr Mould and
his merry men) at this new instance of magnanimity and kind feeling
on the part of Jonas. But Chuffey put it to the test no farther.
He said not a word more, and being left to himself for a little
while, crept back again to the coach.

It has been said that Mr Jonas turned pale when the behaviour of the
old clerk attracted general attention; his discomposure, however,
was but momentary, and he soon recovered. But these were not the
only changes he had exhibited that day. The curious eyes of Mr
Pecksniff had observed that as soon as they left the house upon
their mournful errand, he began to mend; that as the ceremonies
proceeded he gradually, by little and little, recovered his old
condition, his old looks, his old bearing, his old agreeable
characteristics of speech and manner, and became, in all respects,
his old pleasant self. And now that they were seated in the coach
on their return home; and more when they got there, and found the
windows open, the light and air admitted, and all traces of the late
event removed; he felt so well convinced that Jonas was again the
Jonas he had known a week ago, and not the Jonas of the intervening
time, that he voluntarily gave up his recently-acquired power
without one faint attempt to exercise it, and at once fell back into
his former position of mild and deferential guest.

Mrs Gamp went home to the bird-fancier's, and was knocked up again
that very night for a birth of twins; Mr Mould dined gayly in the
bosom of his family, and passed the evening facetiously at his club;
the hearse, after standing for a long time at the door of a
roistering public-house, repaired to its stables with the feathers
inside and twelve red-nosed undertakers on the roof, each holding on
by a dingy peg, to which, in times of state, a waving plume was
fitted; the various trappings of sorrow were carefully laid by in
presses for the next hirer; the fiery steeds were quenched and quiet
in their stalls; the doctor got merry with wine at a wedding-dinner,
and forgot the middle of the story which had no end to it; the
pageant of a few short hours ago was written nowhere half so legibly
as in the undertaker's books.

Not in the churchyard? Not even there. The gates were closed; the
night was dark and wet; the rain fell silently, among the stagnant
weeds and nettles. One new mound was there which had not been there
last night. Time, burrowing like a mole below the ground, had
marked his track by throwing up another heap of earth. And that was
all.

CHAPTER TWENTY

IS A CHAPTER OF LOVE

'Pecksniff,' said Jonas, taking off his hat, to see that the black
crape band was all right; and finding that it was, putting it on
again, complacently; 'what do you mean to give your daughters when
they marry?'

'My dear Mr Jonas,' cried the affectionate parent, with an ingenuous
smile, 'what a very singular inquiry!'

'Now, don't you mind whether it's a singular inquiry or a plural
one,' retorted Jonas, eyeing Mr Pecksniff with no great favour, 'but
answer it, or let it alone. One or the other.'

'Hum! The question, my dear friend,' said Mr Pecksniff, laying his
hand tenderly upon his kinsman's knee, 'is involved with many
considerations. What would I give them? Eh?'

'Ah! what would you give 'em?' repeated Jonas.

'Why, that, 'said Mr Pecksniff, 'would naturally depend in a great
measure upon the kind of husbands they might choose, my dear young
friend.'

Mr Jonas was evidently disconcerted, and at a loss how to proceed.
It was a good answer. It seemed a deep one, but such is the wisdom
of simplicity!'

'My standard for the merits I would require in a son-in-law,' said
Mr Pecksniff, after a short silence, 'is a high one. Forgive me, my
dear Mr Jonas,' he added, greatly moved, 'if I say that you have
spoiled me, and made it a fanciful one; an imaginative one; a
prismatically tinged one, if I may be permitted to call it so.'

'What do you mean by that?' growled Jonas, looking at him with
increased disfavour.

'Indeed, my dear friend,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'you may well inquire.
The heart is not always a royal mint, with patent machinery to work
its metal into current coin. Sometimes it throws it out in strange
forms, not easily recognized as coin at all. But it is sterling
gold. It has at least that merit. It is sterling gold.'

'Is it?' grumbled Jonas, with a doubtful shake of the head.

'Aye!' said Mr Pecksniff, warming with his subject 'it is. To be
plain with you, Mr Jonas, if I could find two such sons-in-law as
you will one day make to some deserving man, capable of appreciating
a nature such as yours, I would--forgetful of myself--bestow upon my
daughters portions reaching to the very utmost limit of my means.'

This was strong language, and it was earnestly delivered. But who
can wonder that such a man as Mr Pecksniff, after all he had seen
and heard of Mr Jonas, should be strong and earnest upon such a
theme; a theme that touched even the worldly lips of undertakers
with the honey of eloquence!

Mr Jonas was silent, and looked thoughtfully at the landscape. For
they were seated on the outside of the coach, at the back, and were
travelling down into the country. He accompanied Mr Pecksniff home
for a few days' change of air and scene after his recent trials.

'Well,' he said, at last, with captivating bluntness, 'suppose you
got one such son-in-law as me, what then?'

Mr Pecksniff regarded him at first with inexpressible surprise; then
gradually breaking into a sort of dejected vivacity, said:

'Then well I know whose husband he would be!'

'Whose?' asked Jonas, drily.

'My eldest girl's, Mr Jonas,' replied Pecksniff, with moistening
eyes. 'My dear Cherry's; my staff, my scrip, my treasure, Mr Jonas.
A hard struggle, but it is in the nature of things! I must one day
part with her to a husband. I know it, my dear friend. I am
prepared for it.'

'Ecod! you've been prepared for that a pretty long time, I should
think,' said Jonas.

'Many have sought to bear her from me,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'All
have failed. "I never will give my hand, papa"--those were her
words--"unless my heart is won." She has not been quite so happy as
she used to be, of late. I don't know why.'

Again Mr Jonas looked at the landscape; then at the coachman; then
at the luggage on the roof; finally at Mr Pecksniff.

'I suppose you'll have to part with the other one, some of these
days?' he observed, as he caught that gentleman's eye.

'Probably,' said the parent. 'Years will tame down the wildness of
my foolish bird, and then it will be caged. But Cherry, Mr Jonas,
Cherry--'

'Oh, ah!' interrupted Jonas. 'Years have made her all right enough.
Nobody doubts that. But you haven't answered what I asked you. Of
course, you're not obliged to do it, you know, if you don't like.
You're the best judge.'

There was a warning sulkiness in the manner of this speech, which
admonished Mr Pecksniff that his dear friend was not to be trifled
with or fenced off, and that he must either return a straight-
forward reply to his question, or plainly give him to understand
that he declined to enlighten him upon the subject to which it
referred. Mindful in this dilemma of the caution old Anthony had
given him almost with his latest breath, he resolved to speak to the
point, and so told Mr Jonas (enlarging upon the communication as a
proof of his great attachment and confidence), that in the case he
had put; to wit, in the event of such a man as he proposing for his
daughter's hand, he would endow her with a fortune of four thousand
pounds.

'I should sadly pinch and cramp myself to do so,' was his fatherly
remark; 'but that would be my duty, and my conscience would reward
me. For myself, my conscience is my bank. I have a trifle invested
there--a mere trifle, Mr Jonas--but I prize it as a store of value,
I assure you.'

The good man's enemies would have divided upon this question into
two parties. One would have asserted without scruple that if Mr
Pecksniff's conscience were his bank, and he kept a running account
there, he must have overdrawn it beyond all mortal means of
computation. The other would have contended that it was a mere
fictitious form; a perfectly blank book; or one in which entries
were only made with a peculiar kind of invisible ink to become
legible at some indefinite time; and that he never troubled it at
all.

'It would sadly pinch and cramp me, my dear friend,' repeated Mr
Pecksniff, 'but Providence--perhaps I may be permitted to say a
special Providence--has blessed my endeavours, and I could guarantee
to make the sacrifice.'

A question of philosophy arises here, whether Mr Pecksniff had or
had not good reason to say that he was specially patronized and
encouraged in his undertakings. All his life long he had been
walking up and down the narrow ways and by-places, with a hook in
one hand and a crook in the other, scraping all sorts of valuable
odds and ends into his pouch. Now, there being a special Providence
in the fall of a sparrow, it follows (so Mr Pecksniff, and only
such admirable men, would have reasoned), that there must also
be a special Providence in the alighting of the stone or stick,
or other substance which is aimed at the sparrow. And Mr
Pecksniff's hook, or crook, having invariably knocked the sparrow
on the head and brought him down, that gentleman may have been
led to consider himself as specially licensed to bag sparrows,
and as being specially seized and possessed of all the birds he
had got together. That many undertakings, national as well as
individual--but especially the former--are held to be specially
brought to a glorious and successful issue, which never could be
so regarded on any other process of reasoning, must be clear to
all men. Therefore the precedents would seem to show that Mr
Pecksniff had (as things go) good argument for what he said and
might be permitted to say it, and did not say it presumptuously,
vainly, or arrogantly, but in a spirit of high faith and great
wisdom.

Mr Jonas, not being much accustomed to perplex his mind with
theories of this nature, expressed no opinion on the subject. Nor
did he receive his companion's announcement with one solitary
syllable, good, bad, or indifferent. He preserved this taciturnity
for a quarter of an hour at least, and during the whole of that time
appeared to be steadily engaged in subjecting some given amount to
the operation of every known rule in figures; adding to it, taking
from it, multiplying it, reducing it by long and short division;
working it by the rule-of-three direct and inversed; exchange or
barter; practice; simple interest; compound interest; and other
means of arithmetical calculation. The result of these labours
appeared to be satisfactory, for when he did break silence, it
was as one who had arrived at some specific result, and freed
himself from a state of distressing uncertainty.

'Come, old Pecksniff!'--Such was his jocose address, as he slapped
that gentleman on the back, at the end of the stage--'let's have
something!'

'With all my heart,' said Mr Pecksniff.

'Let's treat the driver,' cried Jonas.

'If you think it won't hurt the man, or render him discontented with
his station--certainly,' faltered Mr Pecksniff.

Jonas only laughed at this, and getting down from the coach-top with
great alacrity, cut a cumbersome kind of caper in the road. After
which, he went into the public-house, and there ordered spirituous
drink to such an extent, that Mr Pecksniff had some doubts of his
perfect sanity, until Jonas set them quite at rest by saying, when
the coach could wait no longer:

'I've been standing treat for a whole week and more, and letting you
have all the delicacies of the season. YOU shall pay for this
Pecksniff.' It was not a joke either, as Mr Pecksniff at first
supposed; for he went off to the coach without further ceremony, and
left his respected victim to settle the bill.

But Mr Pecksniff was a man of meek endurance, and Mr Jonas was his
friend. Moreover, his regard for that gentleman was founded, as we
know, on pure esteem, and a knowledge of the excellence of his
character. He came out from the tavern with a smiling face, and
even went so far as to repeat the performance, on a less expensive
scale, at the next ale-house. There was a certain wildness in the
spirits of Mr Jonas (not usually a part of his character) which was
far from being subdued by these means, and, for the rest of the
journey, he was so very buoyant--it may be said, boisterous--that Mr
Pecksniff had some difficulty in keeping pace with him.

They were not expected--oh dear, no! Mr Pecksniff had proposed in
London to give the girls a surprise, and had said he wouldn't write
a word to prepare them on any account, in order that he and Mr Jonas
might take them unawares, and just see what they were doing, when
they thought their dear papa was miles and miles away. As a
consequence of this playful device, there was nobody to meet them at
the finger-post, but that was of small consequence, for they had
come down by the day coach, and Mr Pecksniff had only a carpetbag,
while Mr Jonas had only a portmanteau. They took the portmanteau
between them, put the bag upon it, and walked off up the lane
without delay; Mr Pecksniff already going on tiptoe as if, without
this precaution, his fond children, being then at a distance of a
couple of miles or so, would have some filial sense of his approach.

It was a lovely evening in the spring-time of the year; and in the
soft stillness of the twilight, all nature was very calm and
beautiful. The day had been fine and warm; but at the coming on of
night, the air grew cool, and in the mellowing distance smoke was
rising gently from the cottage chimneys. There were a thousand
pleasant scents diffused around, from young leaves and fresh buds;
the cuckoo had been singing all day long, and was but just now
hushed; the smell of earth newly-upturned, first breath of hope to
the first labourer after his garden withered, was fragrant in the
evening breeze. It was a time when most men cherish good resolves,
and sorrow for the wasted past; when most men, looking on the
shadows as they gather, think of that evening which must close on
all, and that to-morrow which has none beyond.

'Precious dull,' said Mr Jonas, looking about. 'It's enough to make
a man go melancholy mad.'

'We shall have lights and a fire soon,' observed Mr Pecksniff.

'We shall need 'em by the time we get there,' said Jonas. 'Why the
devil don't you talk? What are you thinking of?'

'To tell you the truth, Mr Jonas,' said Pecksniff with great
solemnity, 'my mind was running at that moment on our late dear
friend, your departed father.'

Mr Jonas immediately let his burden fall, and said, threatening him
with his hand:

'Drop that, Pecksniff!'

Mr Pecksniff not exactly knowing whether allusion was made to the
subject or the portmanteau, stared at his friend in unaffected
surprise.

'Drop it, I say!' cried Jonas, fiercely. 'Do you hear? Drop it,
now and for ever. You had better, I give you notice!'

'It was quite a mistake,' urged Mr Pecksniff, very much dismayed;
'though I admit it was foolish. I might have known it was a tender
string.'

'Don't talk to me about tender strings,' said Jonas, wiping his
forehead with the cuff of his coat. 'I'm not going to be crowed
over by you, because I don't like dead company.'

Mr Pecksniff had got out the words 'Crowed over, Mr Jonas!' when
that young man, with a dark expression in his countenance, cut him
short once more:

'Mind!' he said. 'I won't have it. I advise you not to revive the
subject, neither to me nor anybody else. You can take a hint, if
you choose as well as another man. There's enough said about it.
Come along!'

Taking up his part of the load again, when he had said these words,
he hurried on so fast that Mr Pecksniff, at the other end of the
portmanteau, found himself dragged forward, in a very inconvenient
and ungraceful manner, to the great detriment of what is called by
fancy gentlemen 'the bark' upon his shins, which were most
unmercifully bumped against the hard leather and the iron buckles.
In the course of a few minutes, however, Mr Jonas relaxed his speed,
and suffered his companion to come up with him, and to bring the
portmanteau into a tolerably straight position.

It was pretty clear that he regretted his late outbreak, and that he
mistrusted its effect on Mr Pecksniff; for as often as that
gentleman glanced towards Mr Jonas, he found Mr Jonas glancing at
him, which was a new source of embarrassment. It was but a short-
lived one, though, for Mr Jonas soon began to whistle, whereupon Mr
Pecksniff, taking his cue from his friend, began to hum a tune
melodiously.

'Pretty nearly there, ain't we?' said Jonas, when this had lasted
some time.

'Close, my dear friend,' said Mr Pecksniff.

'What'll they be doing, do you suppose?' asked Jonas.

'Impossible to say,' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'Giddy truants! They may
be away from home, perhaps. I was going to--he! he! he!--I was
going to propose,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'that we should enter by the
back way, and come upon them like a clap of thunder, Mr Jonas.'

It might not have been easy to decide in respect of which of their
manifold properties, Jonas, Mr Pecksniff, the carpet-bag, and the
portmanteau, could be likened to a clap of thunder. But Mr Jonas
giving his assent to this proposal, they stole round into the back
yard, and softly advanced towards the kitchen window, through which
the mingled light of fire and candle shone upon the darkening night.

Truly Mr Pecksniff is blessed in his children--in one of them, at
any rate. The prudent Cherry--staff and scrip, and treasure of her
doting father--there she sits, at a little table white as driven
snow, before the kitchen fire, making up accounts! See the neat
maiden, as with pen in hand, and calculating look addressed towards
the ceiling and bunch of keys within a little basket at her side,
she checks the housekeeping expenditure! From flat-iron, dish-cover,
and warming-pan; from pot and kettle, face of brass footman, and
black-leaded stove; bright glances of approbation wink and glow upon
her. The very onions dangling from the beam, mantle and shine like
cherubs' cheeks. Something of the influence of those vegetables
sinks into Mr Pecksniff's nature. He weeps.

It is but for a moment, and he hides it from the observation of his
friend--very carefully--by a somewhat elaborate use of his pocket-
handkerchief, in fact; for he would not have his weakness known.

'Pleasant,' he murmured, 'pleasant to a father's feelings! My dear
girl! Shall we let her know we are here, Mr Jonas?'

'Why, I suppose you don't mean to spend the evening in the stable,
or the coach-house,' he returned.

'That, indeed, is not such hospitality as I would show to YOU, my
friend,' cried Mr Pecksniff, pressing his hand. And then he took a
long breath, and tapping at the window, shouted with stentorian
blandness:

'Boh!'

Cherry dropped her pen and screamed. But innocence is ever bold, or
should be. As they opened the door, the valiant girl exclaimed in a
firm voice, and with a presence of mind which even in that trying
moment did not desert her, 'Who are you? What do you want? Speak!
or I will call my Pa.'

Mr Pecksniff held out his arms. She knew him instantly, and rushed
into his fond embrace.

'It was thoughtless of us, Mr Jonas, it was very thoughtless,' said
Pecksniff, smoothing his daugther's hair. 'My darling, do you see
that I am not alone!'

Not she. She had seen nothing but her father until now. She saw Mr
Jonas now, though; and blushed, and hung her head down, as she gave
him welcome.

But where was Merry? Mr Pecksniff didn't ask the question in
reproach, but in a vein of mildness touched with a gentle sorrow.
She was upstairs, reading on the parlour couch. Ah! Domestic
details had no charms for HER. 'But call her down,' said Mr
Pecksniff, with a placid resignation. 'Call her down, my love.'

She was called and came, all flushed and tumbled from reposing on
the sofa; but none the worse for that. No, not at all. Rather the
better, if anything.

'Oh my goodness me!' cried the arch girl, turning to her cousin when
she had kissed her father on both cheeks, and in her frolicsome
nature had bestowed a supernumerary salute upon the tip of his nose,
'YOU here, fright! Well, I'm very thankful that you won't trouble ME
much!'

'What! you're as lively as ever, are you?' said Jonas. 'Oh! You're
a wicked one!'

'There, go along!' retorted Merry, pushing him away. 'I'm sure I
don't know what I shall ever do, if I have to see much of you. Go
along, for gracious' sake!'

Mr Pecksniff striking in here, with a request that Mr Jonas would
immediately walk upstairs, he so far complied with the young lady's
adjuration as to go at once. But though he had the fair Cherry on
his arm, he could not help looking back at her sister, and
exchanging some further dialogue of the same bantering description,
as they all four ascended to the parlour; where--for the young
ladies happened, by good fortune, to be a little later than usual
that night--the tea-board was at that moment being set out.

Mr Pinch was not at home, so they had it all to themselves, and were
very snug and talkative, Jonas sitting between the two sisters, and
displaying his gallantry in that engaging manner which was peculiar
to him. It was a hard thing, Mr Pecksniff said, when tea was done,
and cleared away, to leave so pleasant a little party, but having
some important papers to examine in his own apartment, he must beg
them to excuse him for half an hour. With this apology he withdrew,
singing a careless strain as he went. He had not been gone five
minutes, when Merry, who had been sitting in the window, apart from
Jonas and her sister, burst into a half-smothered laugh, and skipped
towards the door.

'Hallo!' cried Jonas. 'Don't go.'

'Oh, I dare say!' rejoined Merry, looking back. 'You're very
anxious I should stay, fright, ain't you?'

'Yes, I am,' said Jonas. 'Upon my word I am. I want to speak to
you.' But as she left the room notwithstanding, he ran out after
her, and brought her back, after a short struggle in the passage
which scandalized Miss Cherry very much.

'Upon my word, Merry,' urged that young lady, 'I wonder at you!
There are bounds even to absurdity, my dear.'

'Thank you, my sweet,' said Merry, pursing up her rosy Lips. 'Much
obliged to it for its advice. Oh! do leave me alone, you monster,
do!' This entreaty was wrung from her by a new proceeding on the
part of Mr Jonas, who pulled her down, all breathless as she was,
into a seat beside him on the sofa, having at the same time Miss
Cherry upon the other side.

'Now,' said Jonas, clasping the waist of each; 'I have got both arms
full, haven't I?'

'One of them will be black and blue to-morrow, if you don't let me
go,' cried the playful Merry.

'Ah! I don't mind YOUR pinching,' grinned Jonas, 'a bit.'

'Pinch him for me, Cherry, pray,' said Mercy. 'I never did hate
anybody so much as I hate this creature, I declare!'

'No, no, don't say that,' urged Jonas, 'and don't pinch either,
because I want to be serious. I say--Cousin Charity--'

'Well! what?' she answered sharply.

'I want to have some sober talk,' said Jonas; 'I want to prevent any
mistakes, you know, and to put everything upon a pleasant
understanding. That's desirable and proper, ain't it?'

Neither of the sisters spoke a word. Mr Jonas paused and cleared
his throat, which was very dry.

'She'll not believe what I am going to say, will she, cousin?' said
Jonas, timidly squeezing Miss Charity.

'Really, Mr Jonas, I don't know, until I hear what it is. It's
quite impossible!'

'Why, you see,' said Jonas, 'her way always being to make game of
people, I know she'll laugh, or pretend to--I know that, beforehand.
But you can tell her I'm in earnest, cousin; can't you? You'll
confess you know, won't you? You'll be honourable, I'm sure,'
he added persuasively.

No answer. His throat seemed to grow hotter and hotter, and to be
more and more difficult of control.

'You see, Cousin Charity,' said Jonas, 'nobody but you can tell her
what pains I took to get into her company when you were both at the
boarding-house in the city, because nobody's so well aware of it, you
know. Nobody else can tell her how hard I tried to get to know you
better, in order that I might get to know her without seeming to
wish it; can they? I always asked you about her, and said where
had she gone, and when would she come, and how lively she was, and
all that; didn't I, cousin? I know you'll tell her so, if you
haven't told her so already, and--and--I dare say you have, because
I'm sure you're honourable, ain't you?'

Still not a word. The right arm of Mr Jonas--the elder sister sat
upon his right--may have been sensible of some tumultuous throbbing
which was not within itself; but nothing else apprised him that his
words had had the least effect.

'Even if you kept it to yourself, and haven't told her,' resumed
Jonas, 'it don't much matter, because you'll bear honest witness
now; won't you? We've been very good friends from the first;
haven't we? and of course we shall be quite friends in future, and
so I don't mind speaking before you a bit. Cousin Mercy, you've
heard what I've been saying. She'll confirm it, every word; she
must. Will you have me for your husband? Eh?'

As he released his hold of Charity, to put this question with better
effect, she started up and hurried away to her own room, marking her
progress as she went by such a train of passionate and incoherent
sound, as nothing but a slighted woman in her anger could produce.

'Let me go away. Let me go after her,' said Merry, pushing him off,
and giving him--to tell the truth--more than one sounding slap upon
his outstretched face.

'Not till you say yes. You haven't told me. Will you have me for
your husband?'

'No, I won't. I can't bear the sight of you. I have told you so a
hundred times. You are a fright. Besides, I always thought you
liked my sister best. We all thought so.'

'But that wasn't my fault,' said Jonas.

'Yes it was; you know it was.'

'Any trick is fair in love,' said Jonas. 'She may have thought I
liked her best, but you didn't.'

'I did!'

'No, you didn't. You never could have thought I liked her best,
when you were by.'

'There's no accounting for tastes,' said Merry; 'at least I didn't
mean to say that. I don't know what I mean. Let me go to her.'

'Say "Yes," and then I will.'

'If I ever brought myself to say so, it should only be that I might
hate and tease you all my life.'

'That's as good,' cried Jonas, 'as saying it right out. It's a
bargain, cousin. We're a pair, if ever there was one.'

This gallant speech was succeeded by a confused noise of kissing and
slapping; and then the fair but much dishevelled Merry broke away,
and followed in the footsteps of her sister.

Now whether Mr Pecksniff had been listening--which in one of his
character appears impossible; or divined almost by inspiration what
the matter was--which, in a man of his sagacity is far more
probable; or happened by sheer good fortune to find himself in
exactly the right place, at precisely the right time--which, under
the special guardianship in which he lived might very reasonably
happen; it is quite certain that at the moment when the sisters came
together in their own room, he appeared at the chamber door. And a
marvellous contrast it was--they so heated, noisy, and vehement; he
so calm, so self-possessed, so cool and full of peace, that not a
hair upon his head was stirred.

'Children!' said Mr Pecksniff, spreading out his hands in wonder,
but not before he had shut the door, and set his back against it.
'Girls! Daughters! What is this?'

'The wretch; the apostate; the false, mean, odious villain; has
before my very face proposed to Mercy!' was his eldest daughter's
answer.

'Who has proposed to Mercy!' asked Mr Pecksniff.

'HE has. That thing, Jonas, downstairs.'

'Jonas proposed to Mercy?' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Aye, aye! Indeed!'

'Have you nothing else to say?' cried Charity. 'Am I to be driven
mad, papa? He has proposed to Mercy, not to me.'

'Oh, fie! For shame!' said Mr Pecksniff, gravely. 'Oh, for shame!
Can the triumph of a sister move you to this terrible display, my
child? Oh, really this is very sad! I am sorry; I am surprised and
hurt to see you so. Mercy, my girl, bless you! See to her. Ah,
envy, envy, what a passion you are!'

Uttering this apostrophe in a tone full of grief and lamentation, Mr
Pecksniff left the room (taking care to shut the door behind him),
and walked downstairs into the parlour. There he found his
intended son-in-law, whom he seized by both hands.

'Jonas!' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'Jonas! the dearest wish of my heart
is now fulfilled!'

'Very well; I'm glad to hear it,' said Jonas. 'That'll do. I say!
As it ain't the one you're so fond of, you must come down with
another thousand, Pecksniff. You must make it up five. It's worth
that, to keep your treasure to yourself, you know. You get off very
cheap that way, and haven't a sacrifice to make.'

The grin with which he accompanied this, set off his other
attractions to such unspeakable advantage, that even Mr Pecksniff
lost his presence of mind for a moment, and looked at the young man
as if he were quite stupefied with wonder and admiration. But he
quickly regained his composure, and was in the very act of changing
the subject, when a hasty step was heard without, and Tom Pinch, in
a state of great excitement, came darting into the room.

On seeing a stranger there, apparently engaged with Mr Pecksniff in
private conversation, Tom was very much abashed, though he still
looked as if he had something of great importance to communicate,
which would be a sufficient apology for his intrusion.

'Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff, 'this is hardly decent. You will excuse
my saying that I think your conduct scarcely decent, Mr Pinch.'

'I beg your pardon, sir,' replied Tom, 'for not knocking at the
door.'

'Rather beg this gentleman's pardon, Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff. 'I
know you; he does not.--My young man, Mr Jonas.'

The son-in-law that was to be gave him a slight nod--not actively
disdainful or contemptuous, only passively; for he was in a good
humour.

'Could I speak a word with you, sir, if you please?' said Tom.
'It's rather pressing.'

'It should be very pressing to justify this strange behaviour, Mr
Pinch,' returned his master. 'Excuse me for one moment, my dear
friend. Now, sir, what is the reason of this rough intrusion?'

'I am very sorry, sir, I am sure,' said Tom, standing, cap in hand,
before his patron in the passage; 'and I know it must have a very
rude appearance--'

'It HAS a very rude appearance, Mr Pinch.'

'Yes, I feel that, sir; but the truth is, I was so surprised to see
them, and knew you would be too, that I ran home very fast indeed,
and really hadn't enough command over myself to know what I was
doing very well. I was in the church just now, sir, touching the
organ for my own amusement, when I happened to look round, and saw a
gentleman and lady standing in the aisle listening. They seemed to
be strangers, sir, as well as I could make out in the dusk; and I
thought I didn't know them; so presently I left off, and said, would
they walk up into the organ-loft, or take a seat? No, they said,
they wouldn't do that; but they thanked me for the music they had
heard. In fact,' observed Tom, blushing, 'they said, "Delicious
music!" at least, SHE did; and I am sure that was a greater pleasure
and honour to me than any compliment I could have had. I--I--beg
your pardon sir;' he was all in a tremble, and dropped his hat for
the second time 'but I--I'm rather flurried, and I fear I've
wandered from the point.'

'If you will come back to it, Thomas,' said Mr Pecksniff, with an
icy look, 'I shall feel obliged.'

'Yes, sir,' returned Tom, 'certainly. They had a posting carriage
at the porch, sir, and had stopped to hear the organ, they said.
And then they said--SHE said, I mean, "I believe you live with Mr
Pecksniff, sir?" I said I had that honour, and I took the liberty,
sir,' added Tom, raising his eyes to his benefactor's face, 'of
saying, as I always will and must, with your permission, that I was
under great obligations to you, and never could express my sense of
them sufficiently.'

'That,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'was very, very wrong. Take your time,
Mr Pinch.'

'Thank you, sir,' cried Tom. 'On that they asked me--she asked, I
mean--"Wasn't there a bridle road to Mr Pecksniff's house?"'

Mr Pecksniff suddenly became full of interest.

'"Without going by the Dragon?" When I said there was, and said how
happy I should be to show it 'em, they sent the carriage on by the
road, and came with me across the meadows. I left 'em at the
turnstile to run forward and tell you they were coming, and they'll
be here, sir, in--in less than a minute's time, I should say,' added
Tom, fetching his breath with difficulty.

'Now, who,' said Mr Pecksniff, pondering, 'who may these people be?'

'Bless my soul, sir!' cried Tom, 'I meant to mention that at first,
I thought I had. I knew them--her, I mean--directly. The gentleman
who was ill at the Dragon, sir, last winter; and the young lady who
attended him.'

Tom's teeth chattered in his head, and he positively staggered with
amazement, at witnessing the extraordinary effect produced on Mr
Pecksniff by these simple words. The dread of losing the old man's
favour almost as soon as they were reconciled, through the mere fact
of having Jonas in the house; the impossibility of dismissing Jonas,
or shutting him up, or tying him hand and foot and putting him in
the coal-cellar, without offending him beyond recall; the horrible
discordance prevailing in the establishment, and the impossibility
of reducing it to decent harmony with Charity in loud hysterics,
Mercy in the utmost disorder, Jonas in the parlour, and Martin
Chuzzlewit and his young charge upon the very doorsteps; the total
hopelessness of being able to disguise or feasibly explain this
state of rampant confusion; the sudden accumulation over his devoted
head of every complicated perplexity and entanglement for his
extrication from which he had trusted to time, good fortune, chance,
and his own plotting, so filled the entrapped architect with dismay,
that if Tom could have been a Gorgon staring at Mr Pecksniff, and Mr
Pecksniff could have been a Gorgon staring at Tom, they could not
have horrified each other half so much as in their own bewildered
persons.

'Dear, dear!' cried Tom, 'what have I done? I hoped it would be a
pleasant surprise, sir. I thought you would like to know.'

But at that moment a loud knocking was heard at the hall door.

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

MORE AMERICAN EXPERIENCES, MARTIN TAKES A PARTNER, AND MAKES A
PURCHASE. SOME ACCOUNT OF EDEN, AS IT APPEARED ON PAPER. ALSO OF
THE BRITISH LION. ALSO OF THE KIND OF SYMPATHY PROFESSED AND
ENTERTAINED BY THE WATERTOAST ASSOCIATION OF UNITED SYMPATHISERS

The knocking at Mr Pecksniff's door, though loud enough, bore no
resemblance whatever to the noise of an American railway train at
full speed. It may be well to begin the present chapter with this
frank admission, lest the reader should imagine that the sounds now
deafening this history's ears have any connection with the knocker on
Mr Pecksniff's door, or with the great amount of agitation pretty
equally divided between that worthy man and Mr Pinch, of which its
strong performance was the cause.

Mr Pecksniff's house is more than a thousand leagues away; and again
this happy chronicle has Liberty and Moral Sensibility for its high
companions. Again it breathes the blessed air of Independence;
again it contemplates with pious awe that moral sense which renders
unto Ceasar nothing that is his; again inhales that sacred
atmosphere which was the life of him--oh noble patriot, with many
followers!--who dreamed of Freedom in a slave's embrace, and waking
sold her offspring and his own in public markets.

How the wheels clank and rattle, and the tram-road shakes, as the
train rushes on! And now the engine yells, as it were lashed and
tortured like a living labourer, and writhed in agony. A poor
fancy; for steel and iron are of infinitely greater account, in this
commonwealth, than flesh and blood. If the cunning work of man be
urged beyond its power of endurance, it has within it the elements
of its own revenge; whereas the wretched mechanism of the Divine
Hand is dangerous with no such property, but may be tampered with,
and crushed, and broken, at the driver's pleasure. Look at that
engine! It shall cost a man more dollars in the way of penalty and
fine, and satisfaction of the outraged law, to deface in wantonness
that senseless mass of metal, than to take the lives of twenty human
creatures! Thus the stars wink upon the bloody stripes; and Liberty
pulls down her cap upon her eyes, and owns Oppression in its vilest
aspect, for her sister.

The engine-driver of the train whose noise awoke us to the present
chapter was certainly troubled with no such reflections as these;
nor is it very probable that his mind was disturbed by any
reflections at all. He leaned with folded arms and crossed legs
against the side of the carriage, smoking; and, except when he
expressed, by a grunt as short as his pipe, his approval of some
particularly dexterous aim on the part of his colleague, the
fireman, who beguiled his leisure by throwing logs of wood from the
tender at the numerous stray cattle on the line, he preserved a
composure so immovable, and an indifference so complete, that if the
locomotive had been a sucking-pig, he could not have been more
perfectly indifferent to its doings. Notwithstanding the tranquil
state of this officer, and his unbroken peace of mind, the train was
proceeding with tolerable rapidity; and the rails being but poorly
laid, the jolts and bumps it met with in its progress were neither
slight nor few.

There were three great caravans or cars attached. The ladies' car,
the gentlemen's car, and the car for negroes; the latter painted
black, as an appropriate compliment to its company. Martin and Mark
Tapley were in the first, as it was the most comfortable; and, being
far from full, received other gentlemen who, like them, were
unblessed by the society of ladies of their own. They were seated
side by side, and were engaged in earnest conversation.

'And so, Mark,' said Martin, looking at him with an anxious
expression, 'and so you are glad we have left New York far behind
us, are you?'

'Yes, sir,' said Mark. 'I am. Precious glad.'

'Were you not "jolly" there?' asked Martin.

'On the contrairy, sir,' returned Mark. 'The jolliest week as ever
I spent in my life, was that there week at Pawkins's.'

'What do you think of our prospects?' inquired Martin, with an air
that plainly said he had avoided the question for some time.

'Uncommon bright, sir,' returned Mark. 'Impossible for a place to
have a better name, sir, than the Walley of Eden. No man couldn't
think of settling in a better place than the Walley of Eden. And
I'm told,' added Mark, after a pause, 'as there's lots of serpents
there, so we shall come out, quite complete and reg'lar.'

So far from dwelling upon this agreeable piece of information with

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