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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMartin Chuzzlewit - Chapter FIFTY-FOUR
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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter FIFTY-FOUR Post by :bowwow Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :January 2011 Read :826

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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter FIFTY-FOUR



Todger's was in high feather, and mighty preparations for a late

breakfast were astir in its commercial bowers. The blissful morning

had arrived when Miss Pecksniff was to be united in holy matrimony,

to Augustus.


Miss Pecksniff was in a frame of mind equally becoming to herself

and the occasion. She was full of clemency and conciliation. She

had laid in several caldrons of live coals, and was prepared to

heap them on the heads of her enemies. She bore no spite nor malice

in her heart. Not the least.


Quarrels, Miss Pecksniff said, were dreadful things in families; and

though she never could forgive her dear papa, she was willing to

receive her other relations. They had been separated, she observed,

too long. It was enough to call down a judgment upon the family.

She believed the death of Jonas WAS a judgment on them for their

internal dissensions. And Miss Pecksniff was confirmed in this

belief, by the lightness with which the visitation had fallen on



By way of doing sacrifice--not in triumph; not, of course, in

triumph, but in humiliation of spirit--this amiable young person

wrote, therefore, to her kinswoman of the strong mind, and informed

her that her nuptials would take place on such a day. That she had

been much hurt by the unnatural conduct of herself and daughters,

and hoped they might not have suffered in their consciences. That,

being desirous to forgive her enemies, and make her peace with the

world before entering into the most solemn of covenants with the

most devoted of men, she now held out the hand of friendship. That

if the strong-minded women took that hand, in the temper in which it

was extended to her, she, Miss Pecksniff, did invite her to be

present at the ceremony of her marriage, and did furthermore invite

the three red-nosed spinsters, her daughters (but Miss Pecksniff did

not particularize their noses), to attend as bridesmaids.


The strong-minded women returned for answer, that herself and

daughters were, as regarded their consciences, in the enjoyment of

robust health, which she knew Miss Pecksniff would be glad to hear.

That she had received Miss Pecksniff's note with unalloyed delight,

because she never had attached the least importance to the paltry

and insignificant jealousies with which herself and circle had been

assailed; otherwise than as she had found them, in the

contemplation, a harmless source of innocent mirth. That she would

joyfully attend Miss Pecksniff's bridal; and that her three dear

daughters would be happy to assist, on so interesting, and SO VERY

UNEXPECTED--which the strong-minded woman underlined--SO VERY

UNEXPECTED an occasion.


On the receipt of this gracious reply, Miss Pecksniff extended her

forgiveness and her invitations to Mr and Mrs Spottletoe; to Mr

George Chuzzlewit the bachelor cousin; to the solitary female who

usually had the toothache; and to the hairy young gentleman with

the outline of a face; surviving remnants of the party that had once

assembled in Mr Pecksniff's parlour. After which Miss Pecksniff

remarked that there was a sweetness in doing our duty, which

neutralized the bitter in our cups.


The wedding guests had not yet assembled, and indeed it was so early

that Miss Pecksniff herself was in the act of dressing at her

leisure, when a carriage stopped near the Monument; and Mark,

dismounting from the rumble, assisted Mr Chuzzlewit to alight. The

carriage remained in waiting; so did Mr Tapley. Mr Chuzzlewit

betook himself to Todger's.


He was shown, by the degenerate successor of Mr Bailey, into the

dining-parlour; where--for his visit was expected--Mrs Todgers

immediately appeared.


'You are dressed, I see, for the wedding,' he said.


Mrs Todgers, who was greatly flurried by the preparations, replied

in the affirmative.


'It goes against my wishes to have it in progress just now, I assure

you, sir,' said Mrs Todgers; 'but Miss Pecksniff's mind was set upon

it, and it really is time that Miss Pecksniff was married. That

cannot be denied, sir.'


'No,' said Mr Chuzzlewit, 'assuredly not. Her sister takes no part

in the proceedings?'


'Oh, dear no, sir. Poor thing!' said Mrs Todgers, shaking her

head, and dropping her voice. 'Since she has known the worst, she

has never left my room; the next room.'


'Is she prepared to see me?' he inquired.


'Quite prepared, sir.'


'Then let us lose no time.'


Mrs Todgers conducted him into the little back chamber commanding

the prospect of the cistern; and there, sadly different from when it

had first been her lodging, sat poor Merry, in mourning weeds. The

room looked very dark and sorrowful; and so did she; but she had one

friend beside her, faithful to the last. Old Chuffey.


When Mr Chuzzlewit sat down at her side, she took his hand and put

it to her lips. She was in great grief. He too was agitated; for

he had not seen her since their parting in the churchyard.


'I judged you hastily,' he said, in a low voice. 'I fear I judged

you cruelly. Let me know that I have your forgiveness.'


She kissed his hand again; and retaining it in hers, thanked him in

a broken voice, for all his kindness to her since.


'Tom Pinch,' said Martin, 'has faithfully related to me all that you

desired him to convey; at a time when he deemed it very improbable

that he would ever have an opportunity of delivering your message.

Believe me, that if I ever deal again with an ill-advised and

unawakened nature, hiding the strength it thinks its weakness, I will

have long and merciful consideration for it.'


'You had for me; even for me,' she answered. 'I quite believe it.

I said the words you have repeated, when my distress was very sharp

and hard to bear; I say them now for others; but I cannot urge them

for myself. You spoke to me after you had seen and watched me day

by day. There was great consideration in that. You might have

spoken, perhaps, more kindly; you might have tried to invite my

confidence by greater gentleness; but the end would have been the



He shook his head in doubt, and not without some inward self-



'How can I hope,' she said, 'that your interposition would have

prevailed with me, when I know how obdurate I was! I never thought

at all; dear Mr Chuzzlewit, I never thought at all; I had no

thought, no heart, no care to find one; at that time. It has grown

out of my trouble. I have felt it in my trouble. I wouldn't recall

my trouble such as it is and has been--and it is light in comparison

with trials which hundreds of good people suffer every day, I know--

I wouldn't recall it to-morrow, if I could. It has been my friend,

for without it no one could have changed me; nothing could have

changed me. Do not mistrust me because of these tears; I cannot

help them. I am grateful for it, in my soul. Indeed I am!'


'Indeed she is!' said Mrs Todgers. 'I believe it, sir.'


'And so do I!' said Mr Chuzzlewit. 'Now, attend to me, my dear.

Your late husband's estate, if not wasted by the confession of a

large debt to the broken office (which document, being useless to

the runaways, has been sent over to England by them; not so much for

the sake of the creditors as for the gratification of their dislike

to him, whom they suppose to be still living), will be seized upon

by law; for it is not exempt, as I learn, from the claims of those

who have suffered by the fraud in which he was engaged. Your

father's property was all, or nearly all, embarked in the same

transaction. If there be any left, it will be seized on, in like

manner. There is no home THERE.'


'I couldn't return to him,' she said, with an instinctive reference

to his having forced her marriage on. 'I could not return to him.'


'I know it,' Mr Chuzzlewit resumed; 'and I am here because I know

it. Come with me! From all who are about me, you are certain (I

have ascertained it) of a generous welcome. But until your health

is re-established, and you are sufficiently composed to bear that

welcome, you shall have your abode in any quiet retreat of your own

choosing, near London; not so far removed but that this kind-hearted

lady may still visit you as often as she pleases. You have suffered

much; but you are young, and have a brighter and a better future

stretching out before you. Come with me. Your sister is careless

of you, I know. She hurries on and publishes her marriage, in a

spirit which (to say no more of it) is barely decent, is unsisterly,

and bad. Leave the house before her guests arrive. She means to

give you pain. Spare her the offence, and come with me!'


Mrs Todgers, though most unwilling to part with her, added her

persuasions. Even poor old Chuffey (of course included in the

project) added his. She hurriedly attired herself, and was ready to

depart, when Miss Pecksniff dashed into the room.


Miss Pecksniff dashed in so suddenly, that she was placed in an

embarrassing position. For though she had completed her bridal

toilette as to her head, on which she wore a bridal bonnet with

orange flowers, she had not completed it as to her skirts, which

displayed no choicer decoration than a dimity bedgown. She had

dashed in, in fact, about half-way through, to console her sister,

in her affliction, with a sight of the aforesaid bonnet; and being

quite unconscious of the presence of a visitor, until she found Mr

Chuzzlewit standing face to face with her, her surprise was an

uncomfortable one.


'So, young lady!' said the old man, eyeing her with strong

disfavour. 'You are to be married to-day!'


'Yes, sir,' returned Miss Pecksniff, modestly. 'I am. I--my dress

is rather--really, Mrs Todgers!'


'Your delicacy,' said old Martin, 'is troubled, I perceive. I am

not surprised to find it so. You have chosen the period of your

marriage unfortunately.'


'I beg your pardon, Mr Chuzzlewit,' retorted Cherry; very red and

angry in a moment; 'but if you have anything to say on that subject,

I must beg to refer you to Augustus. You will scarcely think it

manly, I hope, to force an argument on me, when Augustus is at all

times ready to discuss it with you. I have nothing to do with any

deceptions that may have been practiced on my parent,' said Miss

Pecksniff, pointedly; 'and as I wish to be on good terms with

everybody at such a time, I should have been glad if you would have

favoured us with your company at breakfast. But I will not ask you

as it is; seeing that you have been prepossessed and set against me

in another quarter. I hope I have my natural affections for another

quarter, and my natural pity for another quarter; but I cannot

always submit to be subservient to it, Mr Chuzzlewit. That would be

a little too much. I trust I have more respect for myself, as well

as for the man who claims me as his Bride.'


'Your sister, meeting--as I think; not as she says, for she has said

nothing about it--with little consideration from you, is going away

with me,' said Mr Chuzzlewit.


'I am very happy to find that she has some good fortune at last,'

returned Miss Pecksniff, tossing her head. 'I congratulate her, I

am sure. I am not surprised that this event should be painful to

her--painful to her--but I can't help that, Mr Chuzzlewit. It's

not my fault.'


'Come, Miss Pecksniff!' said the old man, quietly. 'I should like

to see a better parting between you. I should like to see a better

parting on your side, in such circumstances. It would make me your

friend. You may want a friend one day or other.'


'Every relation of life, Mr Chuzzlewit, begging your pardon; and

every friend in life,' returned Miss Pecksniff, with dignity, 'is

now bound up and cemented in Augustus. So long as Augustus is my

own, I cannot want a friend. When you speak of friends, sir, I must

beg, once for all, to refer you to Augustus. That is my impression

of the religious ceremony in which I am so soon to take a part at

that altar to which Augustus will conduct me. I bear no malice at

any time, much less in a moment of triumph, towards any one; much

less towards my sister. On the contrary, I congratulate her. If

you didn't hear me say so, I am not to blame. And as I owe it to

Augustus, to be punctual on an occasion when he may naturally be

supposed to be--to be impatient--really, Mrs Todgers!--I must beg

your leave, sir, to retire.'


After these words the bridal bonnet disappeared; with as much state

as the dimity bedgown left in it.


Old Martin gave his arm to the younger sister without speaking; and

led her out. Mrs Todgers, with her holiday garments fluttering in

the wind, accompanied them to the carriage, clung round Merry's neck

at parting, and ran back to her own dingy house, crying the whole

way. She had a lean, lank body, Mrs Todgers, but a well-conditioned

soul within. Perhaps the good Samaritan was lean and lank, and

found it hard to live. Who knows!


Mr Chuzzlewit followed her so closely with his eyes, that, until she

had shut her own door, they did not encounter Mr Tapley's face.


'Why, Mark!' he said, as soon as he observed it, 'what's the



'The wonderfulest ewent, sir!' returned Mark, pumping at his voice

in a most laborious manner, and hardly able to articulate with all

his efforts. 'A coincidence as never was equalled! I'm blessed if

here ain't two old neighbours of ourn, sir!'


'What neighbours?' cried old Martin, looking out of window.



'I was a-walkin' up and down not five yards from this spot,' said Mr

Tapley, breathless, 'and they come upon me like their own ghosts, as

I thought they was! It's the wonderfulest ewent that ever happened.

Bring a feather, somebody, and knock me down with it!'


'What do you mean!' exclaimed old Martin, quite as much excited by

the spectacle of Mark's excitement as that strange person was

himself. 'Neighbours, where?'


'Here, sir!' replied Mr Tapley. 'Here in the city of London! Here

upon these very stones! Here they are, sir! Don't I know 'em? Lord

love their welcome faces, don't I know 'em!'


With which ejaculations Mr Tapley not only pointed to a decent-

looking man and woman standing by, but commenced embracing them

alternately, over and over again, in Monument Yard.


'Neighbours, WHERE? old Martin shouted; almost maddened by his

ineffectual efforts to get out at the coach-door.


'Neighbours in America! Neighbours in Eden!' cried Mark.

'Neighbours in the swamp, neighbours in the bush, neighbours in the

fever. Didn't she nurse us! Didn't he help us! Shouldn't we both

have died without 'em! Haven't they come a-strugglin' back, without

a single child for their consolation! And talk to me of neighbours!'


Away he went again, in a perfectly wild state, hugging them, and

skipping round them, and cutting in between them, as if he were

performing some frantic and outlandish dance.


Mr Chuzzlewit no sooner gathered who these people were, than he

burst open the coach-door somehow or other, and came tumbling out

among them; and as if the lunacy of Mr Tapley were contagious, he

immediately began to shake hands too, and exhibit every demonstration

of the liveliest joy.


'Get up, behind!' he said. 'Get up in the rumble. Come along with

me! Go you on the box, Mark. Home! Home!'


'Home!' cried Mr Tapley, seizing the old man's hand in a burst of

enthusiasm. 'Exactly my opinion, sir. Home for ever! Excuse the

liberty, sir, I can't help it. Success to the Jolly Tapley! There's

nothin' in the house they shan't have for the askin' for, except a

bill. Home to be sure! Hurrah!'


Home they rolled accordingly, when he had got the old man in again,

as fast as they could go; Mark abating nothing of his fervour by the

way, by allowing it to vent itself as unrestrainedly as if he had

been on Salisbury Plain.


And now the wedding party began to assemble at Todgers's. Mr

Jinkins, the only boarder invited, was on the ground first. He wore

a white favour in his button-hole, and a bran new extra super

double-milled blue saxony dress coat (that was its description in the

bill), with a variety of tortuous embellishments about the pockets,

invented by the artist to do honour to the day. The miserable

Augustus no longer felt strongly even on the subject of Jinkins. He

hadn't strength of mind enough to do it. 'Let him come!' he had

said, in answer to Miss Pecksniff, when she urged the point. 'Let

him come! He has ever been my rock ahead through life. 'Tis meet he

should be there. Ha, ha! Oh, yes! let Jinkins come!'


Jinkins had come with all the pleasure in life, and there he was.

For some few minutes he had no companion but the breakfast, which

was set forth in the drawing-room, with unusual taste and ceremony.

But Mrs Todgers soon joined him; and the bachelor cousin, the hairy

young gentleman, and Mr and Mrs Spottletoe, arrived in quick



Mr Spottletoe honoured Jinkins with an encouraging bow. 'Glad to

know you, sir,' he said. 'Give you joy!' Under the impression that

Jinkins was the happy man.


Mr Jinkins explained. He was merely doing the honours for his

friend Moddle, who had ceased to reside in the house, and had not

yet arrived.


'Not arrived, sir!' exclaimed Spottletoe, in a great heat.


'Not yet,' said Mr Jinkins.


'Upon my soul!' cried Spottletoe. 'He begins well! Upon my life and

honour this young man begins well! But I should very much like to

know how it is that every one who comes into contact with this

family is guilty of some gross insult to it. Death! Not arrived

yet. Not here to receive us!'


The nephew with the outline of a countenance, suggested that perhaps

he had ordered a new pair of boots, and they hadn't come home.


'Don't talk to me of Boots, sir!' retorted Spottletoe, with immense

indignation. 'He is bound to come here in his slippers then; he is

bound to come here barefoot. Don't offer such a wretched and

evasive plea to me on behalf of your friend, as Boots, sir.'


'He is not MY friend,' said the nephew. 'I never saw him.'


'Very well, sir,' returned the fiery Spottletoe. 'Then don't talk

to me!'


The door was thrown open at this juncture, and Miss Pecksniff

entered, tottering, and supported by her three bridesmaids. The

strong-minded woman brought up the rear; having waited outside until

now, for the purpose of spoiling the effect.


'How do you do, ma'am!' said Spottletoe to the strong-minded woman

in a tone of defiance. 'I believe you see Mrs Spottletoe, ma'am?'


The strong-minded woman with an air of great interest in Mrs

Spottletoe's health, regretted that she was not more easily seen.

Nature erring, in that lady's case, upon the slim side.


'Mrs Spottletoe is at least more easily seen than the bridegroom,

ma'am,' returned that lady's husband. 'That is, unless he has

confined his attentions to any particular part or branch of this

family, which would be quite in keeping with its usual proceedings.'


'If you allude to me, sir--' the strong-minded woman began.


'Pray,' interposed Miss Pecksniff, 'do not allow Augustus, at this

awful moment of his life and mine, to be the means of disturbing

that harmony which it is ever Augustus's and my wish to maintain.

Augustus has not been introduced to any of my relations now present.

He preferred not.'


'Why, then, I venture to assert,' cried Mr Spottletoe, 'that the man

who aspires to join this family, and "prefers not" to be introduced

to its members, is an impertinent Puppy. That is my opinion of



The strong-minded woman remarked with great suavity, that she was

afraid he must be. Her three daughters observed aloud that it was



'You do not know Augustus,' said Miss Pecksniff, tearfully, 'indeed

you do not know him. Augustus is all mildness and humility. Wait

till you see Augustus, and I am sure he will conciliate your



'The question arises,' said Spottletoe, folding his arms: 'How long

we are to wait. I am not accustomed to wait; that's the fact. And

I want to know how long we are expected to wait.'


'Mrs Todgers!' said Charity, 'Mr Jinkins! I am afraid there must be

some mistake. I think Augustus must have gone straight to the



As such a thing was possible, and the church was close at hand, Mr

Jinkins ran off to see, accompanied by Mr George Chuzzlewit the

bachelor cousin, who preferred anything to the aggravation of

sitting near the breakfast, without being able to eat it. But they

came back with no other tidings than a familiar message from the

clerk, importing that if they wanted to be married that morning they

had better look sharp, as the curate wasn't going to wait there all



The bride was now alarmed; seriously alarmed. Good Heavens, what

could have happened! Augustus! Dear Augustus!


Mr Jinkins volunteered to take a cab, and seek him at the newly-

furnished house. The strong-minded woman administered comfort to

Miss Pecksniff. 'It was a specimen of what she had to expect. It

would do her good. It would dispel the romance of the affair.' The

red-nosed daughters also administered the kindest comfort. 'Perhaps

he'd come,' they said. The sketchy nephew hinted that he might have

fallen off a bridge. The wrath of Mr Spottletoe resisted all the

entreaties of his wife. Everybody spoke at once, and Miss

Pecksniff, with clasped hands, sought consolation everywhere and

found it nowhere, when Jinkins, having met the postman at the door,

came back with a letter, which he put into her hand.


Miss Pecksniff opened it, uttered a piercing shriek, threw it down

upon the ground, and fainted away.


They picked it up; and crowding round, and looking over one

another's shoulders, read, in the words and dashes following, this








'Wednesday night


'EVER INJURED MISS PECKSNIFF--Ere this reaches you, the undersigned

will be--if not a corpse--on the way to Van Dieman's Land. Send

not in pursuit. I never will be taken alive!


'The burden--300 tons per register--forgive, if in my distraction, I

allude to the ship--on my mind--has been truly dreadful. Frequently

--when you have sought to soothe my brow with kisses--has self-

destruction flashed across me. Frequently--incredible as it may

seem--have I abandoned the idea.


'I love another. She is Another's. Everything appears to be

somebody else's. Nothing in the world is mine--not even my

Situation--which I have forfeited--by my rash conduct--in running



'If you ever loved me, hear my last appeal! The last appeal of a

miserable and blighted exile. Forward the inclosed--it is the key

of my desk--to the office--by hand. Please address to Bobbs and

Cholberry--I mean to Chobbs and Bolberry--but my mind is totally

unhinged. I left a penknife--with a buckhorn handle--in your

work-box. It will repay the messenger. May it make him happier than

ever it did me!


'Oh, Miss Pecksniff, why didn't you leave me alone! Was it not

cruel, CRUEL! Oh, my goodness, have you not been a witness of my

feelings--have you not seen them flowing from my eyes--did you not,

yourself, reproach me with weeping more than usual on that dreadful

night when last we met--in that house--where I once was peaceful--

though blighted--in the society of Mrs Todgers!


'But it was written--in the Talmud--that you should involve yourself

in the inscrutable and gloomy Fate which it is my mission to

accomplish, and which wreathes itself--e'en now--about in temples.

I will not reproach, for I have wronged you. May the Furniture make

some amends!


'Farewell! Be the proud bride of a ducal coronet, and forget me!

Long may it be before you know the anguish with which I now

subscribe myself--amid the tempestuous howlings of the--sailors,




'Never yours,





They thought as little of Miss Pecksniff, while they greedily

perused this letter, as if she were the very last person on earth

whom it concerned. But Miss Pecksniff really had fainted away. The

bitterness of her mortification; the bitterness of having summoned

witnesses, and such witnesses, to behold it; the bitterness of

knowing that the strong-minded women and the red-nosed daughters

towered triumphant in this hour of their anticipated overthrow; was

too much to be borne. Miss Pecksniff had fainted away in earnest.



What sounds are these that fall so grandly on the ear! What

darkening room is this!


And that mild figure seated at an organ, who is he! Ah Tom, dear

Tom, old friend!


Thy head is prematurely grey, though Time has passed thee and our

old association, Tom. But, in those sounds with which it is thy

wont to bear the twilight company, the music of thy heart speaks

out--the story of thy life relates itself.


Thy life is tranquil, calm, and happy, Tom. In the soft strain

which ever and again comes stealing back upon the ear, the memory of

thine old love may find a voice perhaps; but it is a pleasant,

softened, whispering memory, like that in which we sometimes hold

the dead, and does not pain or grieve thee, God be thanked.


Touch the notes lightly, Tom, as lightly as thou wilt, but never

will thine hand fall half so lightly on that Instrument as on the

head of thine old tyrant brought down very, very low; and never will

it make as hollow a response to any touch of thine, as he does



For a drunken, begging, squalid, letter-writing man, called Pecksniff,

with a shrewish daughter, haunts thee, Tom; and when he makes

appeals to thee for cash, reminds thee that he built thy fortunes

better than his own; and when he spends it, entertains the alehouse

company with tales of thine ingratitude and his munificence towards

thee once upon a time; and then he shows his elbows worn in holes,

and puts his soleless shoes up on a bench, and begs his auditors

look there, while thou art comfortably housed and clothed. All

known to thee, and yet all borne with, Tom!


So, with a smile upon thy face, thou passest gently to another

measure--to a quicker and more joyful one--and little feet are used

to dance about thee at the sound, and bright young eyes to glance up

into thine. And there is one slight creature, Tom--her child; not

Ruth's--whom thine eyes follow in the romp and dance; who, wondering

sometimes to see thee look so thoughtful, runs to climb up on thy

knee, and put her cheek to thine; who loves thee, Tom, above the

rest, if that can be; and falling sick once, chose thee for her

nurse, and never knew impatience, Tom, when thou wert by her side.


Thou glidest, now, into a graver air; an air devoted to old friends

and bygone times; and in thy lingering touch upon the keys, and the

rich swelling of the mellow harmony, they rise before thee. The

spirit of that old man dead, who delighted to anticipate thy wants,

and never ceased to honour thee, is there, among the rest;

repeating, with a face composed and calm, the words he said to thee

upon his bed, and blessing thee!


And coming from a garden, Tom, bestrewn with flowers by children's

hands, thy sister, little Ruth, as light of foot and heart as in old

days, sits down beside thee. From the Present, and the Past, with

which she is so tenderly entwined in all thy thoughts, thy strain

soars onward to the Future. As it resounds within thee and without,

the noble music, rolling round ye both, shuts out the grosser

prospect of an earthly parting, and uplifts ye both to Heaven!


'Life And Adventures Of Martin Chuzzlewit', by Charles Dickens.

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